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]
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)
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]
During the 1950's, Wernher von Braun served as technical adviser for three space-related television films produced by Disney: Man in Space, Man and the Moon and Mars and Beyond. [more inside]
Chandra Sky Map - Joe DePasquale runs through the process of creating the map and some helpful tips for using the interactive tool.
New Scientist magazine has posted a nifty interactive infographic that illustrates how many Earth-like planets might exist, based on observations from the Kepler Space Telescope. The orbital observatory has catalogued 151 exoplanets based on examination of 0.28% of the sky. [more inside]
Twelve Months in Two Minutes; Curiosity's First Year on Mars. Happy First Anniversary, Curiosity! [Previously]
Enjoy 200,000 images of Saturn, its rings and moons taken by NASA's Cassini over 8 years compressed into 4 minutes of video.
"It was one of those things that was a gift to humanity... We’re all going to lose for sure." Kepler's career is over, but not before answering one of mankind's most profound questions.
Three days prior to its planned impact on a lunar mountain, mission controllers activated the camera aboard one of NASA's GRAIL twins to take some final photos from lunar orbit. The result is some of the best footage of the moon's surface captured so far. [more inside]
eXtreme Deep Field (1.4 MB JPG) is the deepest-ever view of the universe - a new assemblage of 10 years of Hubble Space Telescope photographs focused on a small area at the center of the original Ultra Deep Field. With a cumulative exposure time of 2 million seconds, XDF shows approximately 5,500 galaxies - some of them 10 billion times too faint to be seen with the naked eye.
The United States Department of Defense has generously "decided to give NASA two telescopes as big as, and even more powerful than, the Hubble Space Telescope." They apparently had some antiquated spy satellite hardware sitting around unused and unwanted. NASA still needs to find money to outfit them with recording instruments and pay a team to manage them, which may take 8 years
NASA has announced that the latest Kepler data dump contains 1,091 extrasolar planet candidates, with 196 Earth-sized planets among them. The data shows "a clear trend toward smaller planets at longer orbital periods is evident with each new catalog release. This suggests that Earth-size planets in the habitable zone are forthcoming if, indeed, such planets are abundant." Total Kepler candidates as of February 27, 2012: 2,321. [more inside]
Astronomers using data from NASA's Kepler mission have discovered the three smallest planets yet detected orbiting a star beyond our sun. The planets orbit a single star, called KOI-961, and are 0.78, 0.73 and 0.57 times the radius of Earth. The smallest is about the size of Mars.
Today, NASA goes open source with its code, joining endeavours such as SpaceHack [previously], WorldWind and (for more worldly coders) Github, GoogleCode, and the venerable SourceForge.
King of the Cosmos (A Profile of Neil deGrasse Tyson) by Carl Zimmer. (Via) [more inside]
One of my favorite blogs happens to be local to me. Eric Berger, the Houston Chronicle's "SciGuy" usually reports on the weather. But he also posts entertaining and serious stuff as well. [more inside]
NASA's Juno spacecraft launched this morning and is en route to Jupiter (launch video). Equipped with microwave, ultraviolet, infrared, and visible light detectors Juno will investigate the origins, atmosphere, and magnetosphere of the Solar System's largest planets over one year beginning with its arrival in 2016. Using its awesome solar-powered technology Juno will show Jupiter's magnetic field in detail never before seen. We probably won't hear much from Juno again until 2013, when it makes a fly-by of Earth. You can follow Juno on Twitter, so if it types out its scream, someone will hear it. Also
screaming traveling aboard Juno are three very special LEGO mini-figurines.
Jupiter has lots. Mars has some, too, as does Neptune. Turns out Earth's got a trojan asteroid of its own. Meet 2010 TK7, the blue planet's new baby brother.
On July 5th the SOlar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) captured video of a comet, known as a sungrazer, in route to collide with our star. SOHO is equipped with an occluding coronograph that blocks direct sunlight and reveals the corona, but also prevents direct study of the terminal impact of sungrazers. But on July 6th, with the help of the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), astronomers were able to observe the comet (slyt) streaking in front of the surface of the sun for the first time in history. It likely disintegrated before impact due to extreme heat and radiation.
Sunspots, first observed by Galileo, normally follow an 11-year cycle. We are into a few years into (recorded) cycle number 24 but according to NASA it's looking rather underpowered. Nobody is certain exactly what the consequences will be, but one distinct possibility is a cold period; a previous low in solar activity, the Maunder minimum, is correlated with a brief Little Ice Age. Nobody really knows how this unusual solar weather pattern might interact with human-caused climate change. Previously, albeit somewhat controversially.
An 'armchair astronomer' named David Martines has found something on Google Mars which he believes is some kind of space station. Allegedly, NASA is investigating the image. Another theory says that what he sees is a "linear streak artifact produced by a cosmic ray".
Amateur astronomer Martin Lewis used a home-made telescope and digital camera to take a picture of the International Space Station, and caught NASA astronaut Steve Bowen on a spacewalk.
On February 14 NASA's Stardust-NExT mission revisited the comet Tempel 1. Tempel 1 was first visited by NASA's Deep Impact, which smashed into the comet back in July 2005. [more inside]
NASAs Kepler mission has discovered over 1,100 extrasolar planet candidates. Including, "68 Earth-sized, 288 super-Earth-sized, 662 Neptune-sized, and 165 Jupiter-sized planets". 54 are found in their star's habitable zone, with five of those considered "near-Earth sized" [more inside]
"The theme of this blog is not only and obviously space, but in particular places in space that a person might theoretically be able to one day visit. So for the most part, nebula, galaxies and the like are not a part of this forum. I tend to focus on “terrestrial” places or places that host such places. I suppose I would like to find out more about these places that we may one day inhabit or simply visit."
Hat tip to Nice Guy Mike!
Hat tip to Nice Guy Mike!
Planet Hunters lets users comb through data from the Kepler mission in search of exoplanets. [via Bad Astronomy]
A hot carbon-rich gas giant exoplanet, WASP-12b, has been discovered. As the lead author of the paper being published today, Nikku Madhusudhan, says: ""This planet reveals the astounding diversity of worlds out there". In particular, the discovery supports theories that there are likely to be planets made of diamond and graphite out there.
Emily Lakdawalla has published the first 42 of 99 Voyager Mission Status Bulletins (thanks to space fan Tom Faber). Before the days of the internet, updates on space missions were distributed via newsletter. From 1977-1990 NASA published these Voyager newsletters to update scientists and enthusiasts. Both Voyager I and Voyager II are still out there, hurtling toward the stars. Voyager I and II weekly status updates from 1995-present are currently available online. Lakdawalla will be publishing the rest of the bulletins after she indexes them.
The Ice Fracture Explorer is Joseph Shoer's concept for an unmanned expedition into the oceans of Europa. [via]
Astronomers using NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope have detected gamma-rays from a nova for the first time, a finding that stunned observers and theorists alike. (via)
On July 17th, NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite completed its first survey of the entire sky viewable from Earth. After just seven months in orbit, WISE -- a precursor to the planned James Webb Space Telescope -- has returned more than a million images that provide a close look at celestial objects ranging from distant galaxies to asteroids. The first release of WISE data, covering about 80 percent of the sky, will be delivered to the astronomical community in May of next year, but in the meantime we can see some of the images and animations that NASA has released to date: Galleries (containing just a small selection of images): 1, 2, 3, 4. Videos and Animations: 1, 2 [more inside]
Tom Taylor's Twitter project, Low Flying Rocks, scrapes the NASA Near Earth Object database, and tweets when an object passes within 0.2 AU (30 million kilometres/18.6 million miles) of the Earth - something that apparently happens "a few times a week". [more inside]
I take massive NASA images and make them easily viewable. Milky Way. Carina. To zoom, click on the pics. All Hubble Images Sorted by Resolution. Excellent Video Narrated by Morgan Freeman [clip from Cosmic Voyage]. [more inside]
Scientists at NASA will announce the first findings from the Kepler mission next month. The results have caught scientists off-guard but they aren't giving any hints as to what mission co-investigator David Latham "was not prescient enough to anticipate". [more inside]
NASA's Fluxtimator helps calculate the meteor shower activity in your area. There will be one of the biggest meteor shower events of our lifetime, the Leonid Meteor shower of 2009. Start time: this Monday November 16, 2009 at 11:00pm EST. End Time: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 at 4:00am EST (best 2am to 4 am EST). An Atomic Age song in mp3 to celebrate: What Is A Shooting Star. [more inside]
1,512 high-resolution images of Mars from the viewpoint of an airplane passenger. Previous photos: 1 2 3
Tonight NASA is scheduled to launch the Kepler Mission (named after planetary legislator Johannes Kepler) with the goal of finding Earth size planets in orbit around stars in the Cygnus-Lyra region of the sky. Over the next 3 and a half years it will maintain a nearly unblinking gaze on the approximately 100 thousand stars in the region. NASA expects it to find about 50 Earth size planets, as well as hundreds that are larger. You can watch the launch live on NASA TV. [more inside]
Mysterious New 'Dark Flow' Discovered in Space. "As if the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy weren't vexing enough, another baffling cosmic puzzle has been discovered. Patches of matter in the universe seem to be moving at very high speeds and in a uniform direction that can't be explained by any of the known gravitational forces in the observable universe. Astronomers are calling the phenomenon 'dark flow.' The stuff that's pulling this matter must be outside the observable universe, researchers conclude." [more inside]
"Somewhere on the planet are ten-year-olds who, someday, will be the first people to set foot on Mars" 300 scientists and space-experts contributed to what's billed as "a realistic vision of the first Human Mission to Mars" -- Race to Mars. Discovery Channel Canada used Hollywood special effects, but for added realism rather than ray-guns and aliens. On the website, you can argue about whether they got it right. www.racetomars.ca
Titan Sea and Lake Superior
This movie, comprised of several detailed images taken by Cassini's radar instrument, shows bodies of liquid near Titan's north pole. These images show that many of the features commonly associated with lakes on Earth, such as islands, bays, inlets and channels, are also present on this cold Saturnian moon. They offer strong evidence that larger bodies seen in infrared images are, in fact, seas. These seas are most likely liquid methane and ethane.Radar Shows Evidence of Seas
Hubble's ACS Has Died. Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys has apparently gone into safe mode, with little hope of return. The ACS was installed in 2002, and added amazing upgrades to Hubble's imaging capabilities. Though its lifespan was only projected at five years, scientists had hoped it would hold out longer. Though a final shuttle servicing mission is scheduled for 2008, the mission objectives plate is already too full to consider its repair. Alas, more of those beautiful pictures (as well as extended research capabilities) will have to wait until the James Webb Space Telescope is launched in 2013.
Stardust@home. The Stardust spacecraft (discussed recently here) should land in Utah early Saturday, carrying in its hold a sprinkling of grains of interstellar dust. Researchers are seeking the public's help in pinpointing the submicroscopic bits of dust. Participants will sift through the hundreds of thousands of pictures of the roughly square-foot collector plate.
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