608 posts tagged with astronomy.
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More mysterious and more complex than we had imagined.

Astronomer Vera Rubin (1928-2016), discovered the presence of dark matter in galaxies by observing their rotation. Her groundbreaking observations demonstrated that the rotation of galaxies is faster, especially in their outskirts, than what is expected from the gravitational pull of all of their normal, luminous mass (stars, gas, etc). This pioneering observation revealed that a large part of the mass of galaxies is in the form of dark matter. [more inside]
posted by kms on Dec 26, 2016 - 31 comments

the best telescope is the one you have with you

What's that? A bong? A trench mortar? A thermos? A bomb? No, it's a parabolic Newtonian reflector on a ball type cast aluminium altazimuth mount.
It's an Astroscan! [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Dec 20, 2016 - 25 comments

A ‘Stonehenge’ in Brazil’s Jungle

A ‘Stonehenge,’ and a Mystery, in the Amazon. "The conventional belief is that only small tribes could have inhabited the Amazon jungle, but new discoveries call that into question."
posted by homunculus on Dec 15, 2016 - 25 comments

Turns out the fault actually does lie in the stars.

We think of outer space as distant and unreachable, but in fact events out in the cosmos may have helped and hindered the evolution of life on Earth.
posted by smoke on Nov 28, 2016 - 3 comments

Himmelsscheibe: The Nebra Sky Disc

In 1999, two men with metal detectors unearthed one of the most significant finds of modern archaeology: the Nebra Sky Disc, a 30-cm bronze disc inlaid with gold depicting the sun, moon, stars (including the Pleiades), and arcs that apparently represent sunrise and sunset at the solstices at Mittelberg Hill in Germany, and a holy sun boat symbol, dating from 1600 BCE or earlier. Because the illicit finders sold the disc on the black market, skepticism about its authenticity abounded for several years before scientific investigations confirmed it was a legitimate find and possibly the oldest concrete depiction of astronomical phenomena ever found. (The looters were seized by police in a sting operation in a bar in Switzerland, sentenced to prison, appealed, and got longer sentences.) [more inside]
posted by Eyebrows McGee on Nov 10, 2016 - 23 comments

A Syzygy, for you Scrabble players

On November 14 the moon will be closer to the Earth than it has been in 70 years, creating a massive "supermoon." [more inside]
posted by Mooseli on Nov 4, 2016 - 46 comments

I Have Loved the Stars Too Fondly to Be Fearful of the Night

Chinese, Ancient Greek, and modern Western skies, swappable [more inside]
posted by Eyebrows McGee on Oct 10, 2016 - 13 comments

Galactic Tick Day

September 29, 2016 is Galactic Tick Day, a celebration of our progress around the milky way.

Our planet Earth, along with the rest of the Solar System travels around the galactic center of the Milky Way Galaxy every 225 million Earth years. One centi-arcsecond of this rotation is called a Galactic Tick. A Galactic Tick happens every 633.7 days, or 1.7361 years.

Galactic Tick Day is set aside to acknowledge our Sun's motion, our progress around the home galaxy, and to celebrate humanity's knowledge of this motion.

Note: No spoons were harmed in the creation of this FPP. [more inside]
posted by Herodios on Sep 29, 2016 - 30 comments

"Ophiuchus," means "Snake Bearer"

NASASpacePlace : "When the Babylonians first invented the 12 signs of zodiac, a birthday between about July 23 and August 22 meant being born under the constellation Leo. Now, 3,000 years later, the sky has shifted because Earth's axis (North Pole) doesn't point in quite the same direction. Now Mimi's August 4 birthday would mean she was born "under the sign" of Cancer (one constellation "earlier"), not Leo. " The new 13-sign calendar plays out like this.
posted by roomthreeseventeen on Sep 28, 2016 - 61 comments

@smubgobs

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia will take your astronomical observation requests via Twitter. [more inside]
posted by Upton O'Good on Sep 9, 2016 - 5 comments

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor

After almost two weeks of speculation, it has been announced in Nature: At a distance of 1.295 parsecs, the red dwarf Proxima Centauri is the Sun’s closest stellar neighbor and one of the best-studied low-mass stars. Here we report observations that reveal the presence of a small planet with a minimum mass of about 1.3 Earth masses orbiting Proxima with a period of approximately 11.2 days at a semi-major-axis distance of around 0.05 astronomical units. Its equilibrium temperature is within the range where water could be liquid on its surface. (paywalled article w/ abstract) [more inside]
posted by AElfwine Evenstar on Aug 24, 2016 - 81 comments

My God, it's full of stars.

Astronomy Photographer of The Year - 2016 shortlist.
posted by smoke on Jul 28, 2016 - 13 comments

Come, gentle night, come, loving, blackbrow'd night.

Night Moves: Preserving the Sublime at One of the Darkest Places in America (slVQROnline)
posted by Kitteh on Jul 12, 2016 - 3 comments

Humans to attempt insertion of Jupiter

Mission Juno Tonight, Earth species Homo sapiens sapiens, with ongoing support from photosynthesizing relatives in the Plant kingdom, will attempt the delicate task of inserting a large machine into polar orbit around the highly radioactive gas giant Jupiter. After using a slingshot maneuver around Earth and Jupiter's tremendous gravitational pull to become "one of the fastest human-made objects ever built," it is hoped Juno will collect data for 20 months, shedding light on the composition of the planet and what it can tell us about the origin of the Sol system 4.6 billion years ago. [more inside]
posted by mediareport on Jul 4, 2016 - 195 comments

Are humans unique and alone in the vast universe?

A New Empirical Constraint on the Prevalence of Technological Species in the Universe
Recent advances is exoplanet studies provide strong constraints on all astrophysical terms in the Drake Equation...We find that as long as the probability that a habitable zone planet develops a technological species is larger than ~ 10-24, then humanity is not the only time technological intelligence has evolved.
(Paper published in Astrobiology [paywalled]; preprint available on arXiv) [more inside]
posted by Existential Dread on May 21, 2016 - 57 comments

Tonight I've watched / The moon and then / the Pleiades / go down...

Astronomers crack the secret of this gorgeous poem by Sappho
posted by brundlefly on May 21, 2016 - 25 comments

"[T]he fixed stars... are the visible Armies of God"

Christopher M. Graney on the problem of what to do in 1629 if you're a Copernican and the data suggests that most stars are larger than the span of Earth's orbit. [more inside]
posted by metaquarry on May 18, 2016 - 4 comments

Mayan constellations map to Mayan cities, helping find a new one

"During his research, Gadoury examined 22 Mayan constellations and discovered that if he projected those constellations onto a map, the shapes corresponded perfectly with the locations of 117 Mayan cities. Incredibly, the 15-year-old was the first person to establish this important correlation, reported the Journal de Montreal over the weekend. Then Gadoury took it one step further. He examined a twenty-third constellation which contained three stars, yet only two corresponded to known cities." [more inside]
posted by clawsoon on May 9, 2016 - 58 comments

"...one of the scariest things they saw as children."

Children of the Stones (previously) is the revolutionary 1977 British children's television drama telling the story of an astrophysicist and his son who arrive in the village of Milbury to study the giant Neolithic stones which surround it, and the community which is held in a strange captivity by the psychic forces generated by the stones. For BBC Radio, writer and comedian Stewart Lee explores the ground breaking television series and examines its special place in the memories of those children who watched it on its initial transmission in a state of excitement and terror. [more inside]
posted by Room 641-A on Mar 4, 2016 - 70 comments

Earth May Be a 1-in-700-Quintillion Kind of Place

A new study suggests that there are around 700 quintillion planets in the universe, but only one like Earth. It’s a revelation that’s both beautiful and terrifying at the same time.
posted by veedubya on Feb 26, 2016 - 73 comments

Gravitational Waves Exist

Gravitational Waves Exist: The Inside Story of How Scientists Finally Found Them. The New York Times also has a writeup.
posted by kmz on Feb 11, 2016 - 136 comments

Oliver Morton on The Wonder of Quasars

In the far reaches of the sky there are sun-bright discs as wide as solar systems, their hearts run through by spears of radiation that outshine galaxies. The energies that feed these quasars beggar all metaphor, and their quantification seems all but meaningless. What does it serve to know that they are converting matter to energy at a rate that equates to the complete annihilation of a planet the size of the Earth ten times a second? Or that all the fires of the sun, from its birth to its death, would be a few weeks' worth of work to one of them? No human sense can be made from so inhuman a scale. Boggle, and move on. [via 3quarksdaily] [more inside]
posted by cgc373 on Feb 7, 2016 - 32 comments

Babylonian (Pre)Calculus!

Signs of Modern Astronomy Seen in Ancient Babylon - "Scientists have found a small clay tablet with markings indicating that a sort of precalculus technique was used to track Jupiter's motion in the night sky." [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Jan 29, 2016 - 15 comments

Come on, let's go for flight over the dwarf planet Ceres!

Look out the window and be sure you don't miss the neat stuff! [more inside]
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Jan 29, 2016 - 7 comments

Many Very Educated Men Just Screwed Up Nature. Possibly?

New evidence of a Ninth Planet. Astronomer Michael E Brown is more famous as "The man who killed Pluto" thinks their might be nine planets after all. [more inside]
posted by Just this guy, y'know on Jan 20, 2016 - 77 comments

This Professor Fell In Love With His Grad Student, Then Fired Her For It

Christian Ott, a young astrophysics professor at the California Institute of Technology, fell in love with one of his graduate students and then fired her because of his feelings, according to a recent university investigation. Twenty-one months of intimate online chats, obtained by BuzzFeed News, confirm that he confessed his actions to another female graduate student. [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Jan 20, 2016 - 199 comments

What have we lost now that we can no longer read the sky?

For most of human history . . . [i]t was unthinkable to ignore the stars. They were critical signposts, as prominent and useful as local hills, paths or wells. The gathering-up of stars into constellations imbued with mythological meaning allowed people to remember the sky; knowledge that might save their lives one night and guide them home. Lore of the sky bound communities together. On otherwise trackless seas and deserts, the familiar stars would also serve as a valued friend. That friendship is now broken.
posted by jason's_planet on Jan 16, 2016 - 40 comments

Light pollution will not be a factor.

Live in North America? Do you have binoculars or, at the very least, eyes? Well then, you might be able to see Venus during the day today. That is, until the jerk Moon gets in front of it. [more inside]
posted by bondcliff on Dec 7, 2015 - 40 comments

Space is smol. Really smol. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely…

Nebulae run through a tilt-shift filter come out looking tiny and adorable and precious.
posted by nebulawindphone on Nov 21, 2015 - 27 comments

None of them wanna pay taxes again. Ever.

The Asteroid Hunters
posted by zarq on Nov 17, 2015 - 23 comments

It's an asteroid! It's a comet! No, wait...

On November 13, 2015, astronomers will get the chance to observe an object that will hit earth at 6:20 UTC, around 65 kilometres from the southern tip of Sri Lanka. This little guy is rare - even though there are many pieces of space junk in orbit around the earth, none of the artificial objects in distant orbit are known to have made the return trip to Earth. [more inside]
posted by cynical pinnacle on Oct 26, 2015 - 17 comments

Post-punk Pulsar

Pop Culture Pulsar: The Science Behind Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures Album Cover
posted by zamboni on Oct 13, 2015 - 13 comments

The consequences of sexual harassment at Berkeley

Dr. Geoffrey Marcy, a prominent exoplanet researcher employed as a professor at UC Berkeley, has been found to have repeatedly violated sexual harassment policy. The full report has not been made public, but according to a report by Buzzfeed, the result is that he is to be given "clear expectations concerning his future interactions with students" or risk further punishment. Dr. Marcy has put an apology letter on his web page. Dr. Michael Eisen, a biology professor at UC Berkeley, has posted an article about the contradictions between the Berkley sexual harassment training and institutional consequences. Dr. Janet Stemwedel writes in Forbes about the differences between institutional and community responses in this case.
posted by demiurge on Oct 11, 2015 - 93 comments

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 - 30 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

OH WOW LOOK AT THAT SPACE PICTURE

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

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