575 posts tagged with Astronomy.
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The Earth-Twin Planet That Nobody Talks About

If we found it orbiting another star, this world would surely be hailed as the most Earthlike exoplanet known: the best place yet to search for alien life. No doubt you sense there is a catch, and indeed there is. It is not orbiting another star; it is the planet closest to home right here in our own solar system. The world I’m talking about is Venus: The Earth-Twin Planet That Nobody Talks About
posted by Evilspork on Oct 2, 2015 - 73 comments

A vast ocean underlies the ice on Enceladus

Cassini Finds Global Ocean in Saturn's Moon Enceladus. "A global ocean lies beneath the icy crust of Saturn's geologically active moon Enceladus, according to new research using data from NASA's Cassini mission." The discovery of a global ocean beneath its icy rind makes Enceladus an even better potential extraterrestrial incubator than previously thought. [more inside]
posted by homunculus on Sep 21, 2015 - 29 comments

Look! Up in the sky!

Supermoon Lunar Eclipse! Coming to most of the world September 27th or 28th, 2015. There are many other cool visualizations, like this telescopic view or a view from the moon. Provided by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission of NASA.
posted by Roger Dodger on Sep 19, 2015 - 15 comments

The cold plains of infinity

Take a pixel tour of the universe with French cartoonist Boulet (previously on metafilter). Soundtrack: Le grand pan • RoxanneMessage in a Bottle. Bonus: Pixel quantum physics.
posted by moonmilk on Aug 26, 2015 - 6 comments

Next time NASA lands on Mars, they want your name on the lander.

Your name could be on Mars in the next several months. You've already paid for it, so you might as well go. In March 2016, NASA is launching its Insight lander, which will be the first Mars mission to probe beneath the surface of the Red Planet and explore its interior in-depth. (In-depth, get it? Nevermind) They're offering to micro-etch the name of any Earthling who wishes on the lander. Here's where to sign up. [more inside]
posted by Sleeper on Aug 21, 2015 - 28 comments

Birth Pictures Of A Galaxy

The Cosmic Web Imager at Palomar Observatory has been studying a system 10 billion light years away illuminated by two quasars. Now, a Caltech team has published pictures of the giant swirling disk of a protogalaxy being fed cool - 30,000 degree - gas by a filament of the cosmic web. This is the first time we have ever seen a galaxy being built, and it reveals unique new evidence about the early Universe and the still poorly-understood life and evolution of the galactic population. Abstract of letter in Nature (full paper paywalled).
posted by Devonian on Aug 13, 2015 - 11 comments

In conventional camera terms, it’s a 75mm lens at f/8.7

A story in the Atlantic about "Ralph", the camera taking the tan-and-sepia-toned high-resolution photos of Pluto.

Because different materials shrink at different rates, “We actually built the mirrors and the chassis out of aluminum so that as they shrink, they would shrink together, to maintain the same focal length."
posted by artsandsci on Jul 15, 2015 - 7 comments

There's a moon in the sky, it's called Neptune

Constellations throughout the agesSun replaced with other starsMoon replaced with other bodies
posted by Wolfdog on Jul 12, 2015 - 24 comments

The Most Beautiful Things

Thick clouds of dust and gas prevent our eyes from seeing much of our Milky Way galaxy. But infrared light travels through that dust easily. Using infrared light, the Spitzer Space Telescope has been taking high-resolution images of our galactic center since 2003. Combining over 400,000 of those images in multiple wavelengths of light reveals a new view of our galaxy. Floating along the Milky Way (in 4k60p if your computer can handle it).
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken on Jul 9, 2015 - 23 comments

The latest best image of Pluto and Charon

Raw images of Pluto document our progress to the dwarf planet! We are about 15 days away from the close encounter with Pluto. Raw images are being uploaded here, every day. Other information and goodies can be found here.
posted by amy27 on Jun 28, 2015 - 46 comments


20 years of space photos: an oral history of Astronomy Picture of the Day
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Jun 15, 2015 - 12 comments

The Philae Comet lander is awake after 7 months of hibernation

ESA's comet lander is awake! ESA's Philae comet lander touched down but lost contact shortly after landing about 7 months ago. The comet it landed on has traveled closer to the sun, allowing the lander to charge it's battery enough to contact Earth. Huzzah!
posted by amy27 on Jun 14, 2015 - 73 comments

You can't get your ass to Mars

Every sensate being we’ve encountered in the universe so far—from dogs and humans and mice to turtles and spiders and seahorses—has evolved to suit the cosmic accident that is Earth. The notion that we could take these forms, most beautiful and most wonderful, and hurl them into space, and that this would, to use Petranek’s formulation, constitute “our best hope,” is either fantastically far-fetched or deeply depressing.
As Impey points out, for six decades we’ve had the capacity to blow ourselves to smithereens. One of these days, we may well do ourselves in; certainly we’re already killing off a whole lot of other species. But the problem with thinking of Mars as a fallback planet (besides the lack of oxygen and air pressure and food and liquid water) is that it overlooks the obvious. Wherever we go, we’ll take ourselves with us.
Project Exodus: Elizabeth Kolbert on Mars, Earth, exploration versus science and astronautical reach exceeding grasp. [previouslyish]
posted by byanyothername on May 28, 2015 - 107 comments

Are we the only living thing in the entire universe?

Kurz Gesagt explains the Fermi Paradox (SLYT)
posted by Gelatin on May 8, 2015 - 60 comments

ancient star raises prospects of intelligent life

can life survive for billions of years longer than the expected timeline on Earth? as scientists continue to discover older and older solar systems & galaxies, it’s likely that before long we’ll find an ancient planet in a habitable zone. knowing if life is possible on this exoplanet would have immense implications for habitability and the development of ancient life according to researcher Tiago Campante's paper "An Ancient Extrasolar System with Five Sub-Earth-Size Planets". this animation starts by showing us Kepler's field-of-view in the direction of the constellations Cygnus and Lyra, and then we're taken to the vicinity of the Kepler-444 planetary system, located some 117 light years away.
posted by talaitha on May 7, 2015 - 25 comments

I was stumped. So of course, I asked Facebook.

"Let's talk about matter/anti-matter annihilation in the early Universe."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Mar 29, 2015 - 35 comments

An Einstein supernova in the sky

Astronomers using the Hubble space telescope have discovered four images of the same supernova arranged in an Einstein Cross. They've released pictures and a video to explain what we're looking at. [more inside]
posted by Athanassiel on Mar 5, 2015 - 41 comments

Close shave.

Astronomers have discovered that a red dwarf and a brown dwarf (a binary system known as Scholz's star) passed through our Solar System's Oort Cloud a mere 70,000 years ago.
posted by brundlefly on Feb 18, 2015 - 73 comments

Paper Engineering: Over 700 years of Fold, Pull, Pop & Turn

The history of paper engineering in books, or the making of "pop-up books" didn't start as a way to entertain children, but in the search for more tools to educate adults, including some proto-computers from as early as the 13th century. Let Ellen G. K. Rubin, known also as The Popup Lady, regale and inform you at length, in either the form of a 50 minute presentation for the Smithsonian Libraries, or read through her website, where she has a timeline of movable books and see the glossary for definitions of the different movements as starting points. Or you can browse the Smithsonian's digital exhibition (the physical exhibition ended a few years ago). And of course, there's plenty more online. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Feb 10, 2015 - 17 comments

A ring around the sun

"The details that we see in the light curve are incredible. The eclipse lasted for several weeks, but you see rapid changes on time scales of tens of minutes as a result of fine structures in the rings," says Kenworthy. "The star is much too far away to observe the rings directly, but we could make a detailed model based on the rapid brightness variations in the star light passing through the ring system. If we could replace Saturn's rings with the rings around J1407b, they would be easily visible at night and be many times larger than the full moon."
The first extrasolar ring system found turns out to be some 200 times larger than that of Saturn, easily eclipsing its parent star for days.
posted by MartinWisse on Jan 27, 2015 - 21 comments

Asteroid 2004 BL86

Asteroid 2004 BL86 will safely pass about three times the distance to the moon on January 26. It will not be bright enough to view with an unaided eye; however, astronomy sites including Earthsky and Universe Today have instructions for amateur astronomers with suitable equipment. [more inside]
posted by tykky on Jan 21, 2015 - 10 comments


It almost kind of looks like what the Earth looks like when you're a bazillion miles away, from the planet moon. (SLYT, QVC)
posted by OverlappingElvis on Jan 20, 2015 - 59 comments


The Search for Starivores, Intelligent Life that Could Eat the Sun. [Via]
posted by homunculus on Jan 14, 2015 - 51 comments

Flowers of the sky

Flowers of the Sky - Depictions spanning almost a whole millennium – in chronological order – of comets, meteors, meteorites and shooting stars.
posted by nickyskye on Jan 11, 2015 - 12 comments

Lucy, in the sky, with 1x 10^12 diamonds

A trillion star flythrough of part of the Andromeda galaxy
posted by Sebmojo on Jan 7, 2015 - 18 comments

How we came to know the first dwarf planet

So if you had been reading about all this 200 years ago, there would have been at least two important differences from now. One is that your Internet connection would have been considerably slower. The other is that you might have learned in school or elsewhere that Ceres was a planet.
As the Dawn probe is only months away from reaching Ceres, chief engineer and mission director Marc Rayman provides a brief history of the discovery and study of Ceres. Bonus: The maths behind the discovery of Ceres
posted by MartinWisse on Dec 31, 2014 - 15 comments

How big is space? Interactive views of the universe in varying scales

We know space is big, but trying to understand how big is tricky. Say you stare up at the sky and identify stars and constellations in a virtual planetarium, you can't quite fathom how far away all those stars are (previously, twice). Even if you could change your point of view and zoom around in space to really see 100,000 nearby stars (autoplaying ambient music, and there are actually 119,617 stars mapped in 3D space), it's still difficult to get a sense of scale. There's this static image of various items mapped on a log scale from XKCD (previously), and an interactive horizontal journey down from the sun to the heliosphere with OMG Space (previously). You can get a bit more dynamic with this interactive Scale of the Universe webpage (also available in with some variants, if you want the sequel [ previously, twice], the swirly, gravity-optional version that takes some time to load, and the wrong version [previously]), but that's just for the scale of objects, not of space itself. If you want to get spaced out, imagine if If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel, and travel from there (previously). This past March, BBC Future put out a really big infographic, which also takes a moment to load, but then you can see all sorts of things, from the surface of Earth out to the edge of our solar system.
posted by filthy light thief on Dec 4, 2014 - 31 comments

The observer at the end of time: Of immortal watchers and imaginary data

In a Multiverse, What Are the Odds? "Testing the multiverse hypothesis requires measuring whether our universe is statistically typical among the infinite variety of universes. But infinity does a number on statistics." (previously) [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Nov 9, 2014 - 47 comments

A Disk Around a Young Star

The resolution of a telescope (how much fine detail it can see) is proportional to the wavelength of light divided by the size of the telescope. Since radio wavelengths are many times larger than optical wavelengths, radio telescopes like the GBT and Arecibo are large compared to optical telescopes. Even so, the resolution of radio telescopes is worse, and you rarely see radio images as beautiful as those produced by the Hubble Space Telscope. That has now changed. [more inside]
posted by sedna17 on Nov 6, 2014 - 31 comments

The Cosmic Distance Ladder

How do we determine distances between the earth, sun, and moon, and from the sun to other planets, stars, and distant galaxies? We can't measure these directly, but indirect methods, combined with some basic high school math, can provide convincing and accurate results. A public lecture by Fields medalist Terry Tao (SLYT)
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory on Nov 4, 2014 - 26 comments

Photographing Today's Solar Eclipse

This afternoon/evening, North Americans will be treated to a partial solar eclipse, making for some great photography opportunities from Chicago to LA and points northward (coverages as high as ~60% in the Northwestern US and Canada) -- even if there are some clouds! Not sure how to photograph an eclipse safely? Here are some detailed guides. [more inside]
posted by Westringia F. on Oct 23, 2014 - 19 comments


This is Science Magazine; this is one of their featured front-page stories (date stamped 17 September 2014 8:00 am): "The top 50 science stars of Twitter", by Jia You. The list has 46 men and 4 women. [more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Sep 18, 2014 - 23 comments

The TZO: Light and fluffy outside, dense and crunchy inside

Binary stars are common in our galaxy. In fact, singleton star systems like ours make up only 15% of the systems in the Milky Way. In the 1970s, astronomers Kip Thorne and Anna Żytkow, imagined what might happen if a neutron star in a binary system merged with its partner, a red supergiant. Recently, a real example of this strange star-within-a-star, known as a Thorne–Żytkow object (TZO), appears to have been spotted. (Preprint.)
posted by CheeseDigestsAll on Sep 16, 2014 - 21 comments


Worried about when Betelgeuse will go supernova? Worry no more.
posted by MartinWisse on Sep 10, 2014 - 64 comments

The Complexity of What We Are Seeing is Overwhelming

Astronomers discover that our galaxy is a suburb of a supercluster of 100,000 large galaxies they have called Laniakea
posted by shoesfullofdust on Sep 3, 2014 - 63 comments

When suddenly and without warning, there was this

Great American Eclipse of 2017. [more inside]
posted by roomthreeseventeen on Aug 31, 2014 - 46 comments

Cosmic pluralism: science, religion, and possible populations on Venus

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it became possible to believe in the existence of life on other planets on scientific grounds. Once the Earth was no longer the center of the universe according to Copernicus, once Galileo had aimed his telescope at the Moon and found it a rough globe with mountains and seas, the assumption of life on other planets became much less far-fetched. In general there were no actual differences between Earth and Venus, since both planets orbited the Sun, were of similar size, and possessed mountains and an atmosphere. If there is life on Earth, one may ponder why it could not also exist on Venus. In the extraterrestrial life debate of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Moon, our closest celestial body, was the prime candidate for life on other worlds, although a number of scientists and scholars also speculated about life on Venus and on other planets, both within our solar system and beyond its frontiers. Venusians: the Planet Venus in the 18th-Century Extraterrestrial Life Debate (PDF), from The Journal of Astronomical Data (JAD) Volume 19, somewhat via NPR and their mention of amateur astronomer Thomas Dick's estimations of the populations of the other planets in our solar system (Archive.org online view of Celestial scenery, or, The Wonders of the planetary system displayed, 1845).
posted by filthy light thief on Aug 21, 2014 - 8 comments

Springtime on Saturn

Storm Chasing on Saturn with Cassini [viz. cf.] - "The sun is slowly rising over Saturn's north pole, exposing an immense six-sided hurricane. The storm, big enough to swallow four Earths, was first spotted by the Voyager missions in the early 1980s. [Cassini] will be passing directly over the north pole with its cameras pointing down later this month." (previously 1,2)
posted by kliuless on Aug 10, 2014 - 9 comments

Like Taking A Step Into a Sci-Fi Future

Captain's Log: June 30, 2014 "There are times when human language is inadequate, when emotions choke the mind, when the magnitude of events cannot properly be conveyed by the same syllables we use to navigate everyday life. Last night, the evening of June 30, 2004 was such a time." [more inside]
posted by Michele in California on Jul 15, 2014 - 4 comments

Faking Galileo

Art forgeries have long been the stuff of thrillers, with fake da Vincis or Vermeers fooling connoisseurs, roiling the art world, and moving millions of dollars. We don’t think of ancient books driving such grand forgery, intrigue, and schadenfreude. This is changing thanks in part to a clever forgery of Galileo’s landmark book Sidereus Nuncius, published in Venice in 1610. Arguably one of the most extraordinary scientific publications of all times, Sidereus Nuncius turned Galileo into the brightest new star of Western science. Four centuries later, a faked copy of this book has disarmed a generation of Galileo experts, and raised a host of intriguing questions about the social nature of scholarly authentication, the precariousness of truth, and the revelatory power of fakes.
posted by whyareyouatriangle on Jul 9, 2014 - 9 comments

musical mathematical journeys

Trio for Three Angles (1968) is one of many beautiful acclaimed visually-oriented short films with music by mathematical filmmakers Bruce and Katharine Cornwell, some animated by hand and some using early digital technology. It inspired three sequels: Similar Triangles (1975), Congruent Triangles (1976), and Journey to the Center of a Triangle (1978) (previously). [more inside]
posted by beryllium on Jul 6, 2014 - 5 comments

The Mother of Dark Matter

Vera Rubin and Dark Matter Vera Rubin has been quoted as saying "Does Sex Matter? Of course it does. But does it matter enough to Matter? That's a different question." She is an astronomer and mother of four who successfully combined a serious career with raising a family. She is one of the discoverers of dark matter. [more inside]
posted by Michele in California on Jul 2, 2014 - 6 comments

Tax dollars hard at work around Saturn

Ten years ago, the Cassini–Huygens spacecraft became the first to orbit the planet Saturn. After dropping off Huygens on the moon Titan, Cassini proceeded to spend its time exploring the Saturn system, watching the birth of a new moon, photographing water vents on Enceladus, discovering methane lakes on Titan, spotting hurricanes on Saturn, confirming aspects of general relativity and all sorts of other stuff. Enjoy these stunning photographs, explore the timeline of its exploration and marvel at the complex orbital mechanics that keep Cassini flying in Saturn's system with a tiny fuel supply.
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Jul 1, 2014 - 32 comments

A stellar explosion

Between 2002 and 2006, the Hubble telescope took photos of an explosion coming from a red variable star in the constellation Monoceros, about 20,000 light years from the Sun. This is a time-lapse video of those photos.
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Jun 12, 2014 - 36 comments

Close shave

Saturday's close shave by asteroid 2014 HL129 came just days after its discovery on Wednesday, April 28
posted by butterstick on May 3, 2014 - 42 comments

Mars Opposition Season 2014: Images From Around the World

Last night, Mars did not so much as attack, but rather was in opposition.
posted by vrakatar on Apr 9, 2014 - 22 comments

If you plan on taking a trip to Jupiter, this is not the map to use.

If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel is a tediously accurate model of the Solar System that Josh Worth made to explain to his daughter just how difficult it is to go on holiday to Mars.
posted by Kattullus on Mar 5, 2014 - 69 comments

That thing the sun does that makes it so hot

GLaDOS teaches fusion and fission for NASA. Ellen McLain lends her autotuned voice to IRrelevant Astronomy, a video series produced as part of the education & public outreach mandate of the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope. [via]
posted by figurant on Feb 27, 2014 - 6 comments

"Do not throw yourselves with your own hands into destruction."

The General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment has issued a fatwa banning Muslims from participating in a Mars colonization effort, citing pervasive risk for no "righteous reason." The Mars One project (previously) has penned a remarkably erudite reply.
posted by BlackLeotardFront on Feb 21, 2014 - 49 comments

Look! Up in the Sky! It's a dot! It's a speck! It's the ISS!

When can I spot the Space Station? The International Space Station can easily be spotted with the naked eye. Because of its size (110m x 100m x 30m) it reflects very much sunlight. This simple tool will tell you all of the opportunities you can view the ISS over the next ten days, along with a brightness index and a map tracing its transit across your local sky. The red line shows where the ISS is sunlit and visible. On the blue line the ISS is in the Earth's shadow and invisible or it is less than 10° above the horizon. [more inside]
posted by not_on_display on Feb 16, 2014 - 29 comments

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