2012 Observe The Moon Night →
(Credit: Frank Zullo)
The Astronomical Unit Gets Fixed →
The Earth–Sun distance changes from slippery equation to single number. (The new definitive value of the Astronomical Unit, in metres. Credit: Nature) “Without fanfare, astronomers have redefined one of the most important distances in the Solar System. The astronomical unit (au) — the rough distance from the Earth to the Sun — has been transformed from a confusing calculation into a...
Viewing Alert: Jupiter Impacted by a Fireball →
(George Hall, an amateur astronomer in Dallas Texas, captured the impact flash in his webcam on 10 September 2012. Credit) “From astronomer Heidi Hammel of the Space Science Institute comes news about a potential new impact on Jupiter. She reports there has been a visual sighting of an apparent fireball on Jupiter earlier today (about 10 hours ago, as of this posting) so the impact site...
Too Much, Too Little: A Tale Of Cosmic Lithium
Two recent studies find more and less lithium than expected in very different places in the Universe. (Solid metallic lithium floating in oil. Credit: Wikipedia) Lithium is the lightest naturally-occurring element found in a metallic state on Earth; only hydrogen and helium are lighter, and both are gases at our temperatures and pressures. It’s a tiny constituent of our world, only...
Moon and Jupiter close midnight to dawn September... →
See the Moon pass very close to Jupiter tonight. “he darkness after midnight and before daybreak belongs to the waning gibbous moon and the planet Jupiter tonight. These two beautiful worlds – Jupiter and our companion moon – will appear in the east after midnight on Friday night. They’ll steadily climb upward until dawn breaks Saturday morning. Jupiter outshines all the true stars in the...
In Quest of the Cosmic Origins of Silver →
New work suggests that silver and gold find their origins in different stellar explosions. (At the end of their lives, stars with ten times the mass of our sun explode as so-called supernovae. In the process, elements like silver are either hurled out into the universe or produced in the first place. The illustration is an artist’s impression of the first moments of such an explosion before the...
Starwatch: The September night sky →
Turning Blue: Friday’s Full Moon a ‘Blue Moon’ →
For the first time since March 2010, we’ll gaze upon a blue moon this Friday. (A “blue” moon. Credit: Getty Images) “This Friday, Aug. 31, might not be all that much fun for you, especially if you’re someone who vows to only do obligatory tasks once in a blue moon. Then again, if you’re a believer that good luck comes your way only once in a blue moon, Friday might be just...
Layers At The Base Of Mount Sharp →
A chapter of the layered geological history of Mars is laid bare in this postcard from NASA’s Curiosity rover. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS) “The image shows the base of Mount Sharp, the rover’s eventual science destination. This image is a portion of a larger image taken by Curiosity’s 100-millimeter Mast Camera on Aug. 23, 2012. Scientists enhanced the color in...
Robots To Go Spelunking In Martian Caves? →
Robots that rappel, hop or lower themselves by tether into Martian skylights could reshape the hunt for life beyond Earth. (A skylight opens into an underground cavern on the slopes of Mars’ Pavonis Mons volcano, as observed by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Ariz.) “Scientists are beginning to sketch out plans for NASA’s new Mars...
See The Moon And Two Planets Tonight (August 22) →
“The moon has been awesome these past few nights in the western twilight sky! It’s been moving past the very noticeable triangle there, consisting of two planets – Mars and Saturn – and the star Spica in the constellation Virgo. But of course the moon never stops moving. As darkness falls this evening in North America, the rather wide waxing crescent moon appears to the south of the...
Big Bang Was Actually a Phase Change, New Theory... →
A new theory envisions the Big Bang as the moment the familiar dimensions of our Universe “crystallized”, much as ice crystallizes suddenly as the temperature of water drops below freezing. (The Big Bang may have been the moment that a water-like universe froze to form the ice-like universe we see today, a new theory holds. Credit: Image via Shutterstock) “How did the...
A Trip To The Deep Future →
Where will you be in 10100 years? (A computer simulation of the cosmic web of dark matter and ordinary matter. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and E. Hallman, University of Colorado) “Yes, I know, we’ll all be long gone by then. But if you could somehow stick around around to experience the universe ten thousand trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion years...
Milky Way's Black Hole Once Active →
Evidence continues to mount that our galaxy’s supermassive black hole was not always the quiet neighbor it is now. (NASA’s Fermi spacecraft has discovered a pair of enormous gamma-ray-emitting bubbles extending from the Milky Way’s center. Although not apparent in an all-sky gamma-ray map (upper panel), the dumbbell-shaped feature became evident after removing other...
Sun is the most perfect sphere ever observed in... →
Scaled to the size of a beach ball, say scientists, the sun’s equatorial bulge would be less than the width of a human hair (Credit: The Guardian) “The sun is the most perfectly round natural object known in the universe, say scientists who have conducted precise measurements of its dimensions. As a spinning ball of gas, astronomers had always expected our nearest star to bulge...
Glenelg: The Curiosity Rover's Palindromic First... →
“This image shows a closer view of the landing site of NASA’s Curiosity rover and a destination nearby known as Glenelg. Curiosity landed inside Gale Crater on Mars on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT) at the blue dot. It is planning on driving to an area marked with a red dot that is nicknamed Glenelg. That area marks the intersection of three kinds of terrain. Starting clockwise from the top...
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Spectrometer Detects... →
A NASA satellite has confirmed from orbit measurements of helium in the extremely thin lunar atmosphere first made in the Apollo era. (Artist’s rendering of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center) “Scientists using the Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP) spectrometer aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) have...
via Space Facts
Caveat Spectator: Why Science Can Benefit From...
A couple of Mars-related photos have been making the rounds in recent days, both on Tumblr and in the media more generally. Here’s one that seems to purport to being a Martian sunset and compares it to a scene from Star Wars Episode IV: It’s a fake. Here’s another, showing the claimed view of in the Martian sky from an unnamed NASA rover, complete with Earth, Venus, and...
Quasicrystals From Outer Space →
The beautiful and bizarre mosaic-like structures called quasicrystals are almost all made in laboratories. Just one natural sample has ever been found, in a millimetre-sized rock fragment at the Museum of Natural History in Florence, Italy. Until now. (The Florence Museum’s meteorite fragment, which holds a grain of quasicrystal. Credit: Paul J Steinhardt) “In January this year,...
How Do You Tell Time on Mars? There’s an App for... →
NASA has produced an app that helps scientists and amateurs alike keep track of time on the Red Planet (The Mars24 App’s listing of times of various locations on Mars, including the Curiosity and Opportunity Rovers. Credit: Mars24 App) “Remotely controlling a rover on Mars can get a little bit complicated. Scientists and engineers must make thousands of decisions every day on what types...
How To Observe The Perseid Meteor Shower
As a follow-up to my previous post about watching golfballs hit the moon at 100,000 miles an hour, here’s a guide to the Perseids and how to enjoy them. What are the Perseids? They are particles shed by Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, a periodic comet that last passed near Earth in 1992. Composed of mostly silicate minerals, the typical meteor particle, or meteoroid, is about the size of a grain...
Perseid Meteor Shower — And Moon Flashes — Peaks... →
How to see the 2012 Perseids over Earth, and beyond. (A Perseid meteor streaks over the Pacific Ocean south of Kauai, Hawaii. Credit: Jeffrey Berkes) “The Perseid meteor shower peaks this weekend, and thanks to relatively dark skies, the 2012 edition of the annual sky show should be well suited to naked-eye stargazing. Sky-watchers with backyard telescopes, though, might join NASA in...
NASA to Propose Flagship Astronomy Mission in 2015 →
NASA plans to wait until 2015 to lay out a proposal for its next big astrophysics mission, a senior agency official said July 30. (An engineer inspects the JWST’s primary mirror segments at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Credit: Chris Gunn/NASA) “A new flagship mission stands almost no chance of being funded until after work is finished on the...
PSA: Astronomy PhD student, Stacie Powell, will be...
Here’s a bio on (the future Dr.) Powell, and her official London 2012 page. Good luck, Stacie! astronomnomy: She attends Cambridge and studies stellar and planet formation. And is in the Olympics. Truly awe-inspiring. Suffice to say everyone in the PhD office will be cheering her on (although I hope to have left the office by that time in the evening). … Not gonna lie, the...
NASA: Mars Curiosity rover in 'great shape' →
NASA engineers focus on making direct contact with rover, raising mast (NASA released photos taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter showing what scientists jokingly called the “crime scene.” It shows the rover surrounded by the landing sites of several of its components, such as its heat shield, parachute and sky crane. Credit: NASA) “The rover Curiosity wrapped up its...
And we're back.
Apologies for not posting anything in the last few weeks. I’m about to start my last year of grad school and my evil overlords demand productivity the pressure is turning up quickly. Summer is the time everyone in academia covets: usually no teaching duties, the chance to travel, to collaborate, to get research done, to write papers. Since May, I’ve managed to get one paper...
Astronomers crack mystery of the "monster stars" →
A group of astronomers believe these ultramassive stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud were created from the merger of lighter stars in tight binary systems. (An image of the Wolf-Rayet star R136a1, the most massive star known. Credit: Wikipedia) “n 2010, scientists discovered four monster-sized stars, with the heaviest more than 300 times as massive as our Sun. Despite their incredible...
Unusual Molecules Form Near White Dwarfs →
The incredibly strong magnetic fields surrounding white dwarfs—aged stars with the mass of our sun or greater that have collapsed to the size of a planet—could generate unusual types of chemical bonds, a new study suggests. (Matter is tidally drawn off a giant star, right, into an accretion disk around a white dwarf, center. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech) “Because the magnetic field around a...
First spiral galaxy in early Universe stuns... →
Astronomers have spotted the earliest known spiral galaxy, dating to just three billion years after the Big Bang. (The Hubble image of BX442 hints at neat spiral arms and at top left, an orbiting dwarf galaxy. Credit: Nature) “Theories of galaxy formation held that the Universe was still too chaotic a place to allow such a perfectly formed or “grand-design” spiral to form....
Asteroid Crashes Likely Gave Earth Its Water →
Asteroids from the inner solar system are the most likely source of the majority of Earth’s water, a new study suggests. (Artist’s impression of a 6-mile-wide asteroid striking the Earth. Credit: Don Davis ) “The results contradict prevailing theories, which hold that most of our planet’s water originated in the outer solar system and was delivered by comets or asteroids...
Impossibly Aligned Galaxies →
Astronomers have found an alignment of galaxies along our line of sight that’s so rare, it ought to be impossible. Is it just luck - or does it tell us something more? (A montage shows where the arc lies relative to the galaxy cluster. CREDIT: NASA, ESA, A. Gonzalez - UFlorida, A. Stanford - UC Davis and LLNL, and M. Brodwin - UMissouri and Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) ...
Dark matter: Material answers →
The Higgs boson is not the only curious form of matter whose nature has been probed this week. (Abell galaxy clusters. Credit: ESA) “A paper by Jörg Dietrich, of the University of Michigan, and his colleagues, just published by Nature, illuminates—if that is the appropriate word—a substance known as dark matter.” “Dark matter, the theory goes, is composed of particles that...
Mystery Wave in Milky Way Galaxy Suggests Recent... →
A mysterious wave discovered in the Milky Way suggests our galaxy is still ringing like a bell from a galactic collision, a crash that possibly occured within the last 100 million years, scientists say. (An illustration of our Milky Way galaxy noting its mass distribution. CREDIT: Fermilab) “Astronomers discovered that stars north and south of the midplane of the galaxy are distributed...
Solar Flare's Red Glare: Sun Unleashes Early... →
The sun erupted with a powerful solar flare Monday (July 2) in an early solar fireworks display just in time for the Fourth of July. A wave of plasma from the flare could reach Earth by the U.S. Independence Day holiday on Wednesday, July 4. (An intense M5.6-class solar flare erupts from sunspot region AR1515 on July 2, 2012 in this still from a NASA video by the Solar Dynamics Observatory....
Summer Solstice Brings Changing Seasons Wednesday →
On Wednesday (June 20), the sun will arrive at its northernmost point in the sky and herald a season change on Earth, with summer officially beginning in the Northern Hemisphere, while the winter season kicks off in the Southern Hemisphere. (The seasons are caused by Earth’s tilt. In the Northern Hemisphere it is summer when the Northern Hemisphere is tilted towards the sun. CREDIT:...