Tomorrow evening, at roughly 9:50 in the evening GMT, marks the first anniversary (more or less) of the discovery of Neptune.
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.
The House appropriations panel that oversees NASA has proposed a spending bill that would cut funding for the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble and the telescope many astronomers consider the best chance to continue and expand the Hubble's legacy. Here are the Subcommittee Members.
One hundred years ago today, the Nakhla meteorite fell to earth in Abu Hommos, Egypt, bearing possible evidence of life on Mars. And possibly vaporizing a dog. [more inside]
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.
The twin Voyager probes launched by NASA in 1977 have discovered something new in the heliosheath at the edge of the solar system: it's frothy out there. Video. Press Release. Via. Voyager: Previously.
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".
French scientists have just published a paper entitled "Gliese 581d is the 1st discovered terrestrial-mass exoplanet in the habitable zone", claiming that their computer model suggests the exoplanet "will have a stable atmosphere and surface liquid water for a wide range of plausible cases." We've discovered a lot of exoplanets. And there are a lot of sites to help you keep track. Previously.
They might not teach you how to be an alligator trapper who works barefoot in Florida, but The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Becoming an Outdoors Woman program is patterned after a similar one that began in Wisconsin, and Becoming an Outdoors Woman programs are available across the U.S. and Canada. [more inside]
The discovery indicates there are many more free-floating Jupiter-mass planets that can't be seen. The team estimates there are about twice as many of them as stars. In addition, these worlds are thought to be at least as common as planets that orbit stars. This would add up to hundreds of billions of lone planets in our Milky Way galaxy alone.
The International Academy of Astronautics is holding the Planetary Defense Conference: Protecting Earth from Asteroids May 9-12, 2011. in Bucharest, Romania [more inside]
365 Days of Astronomy is a 5-minute podcast where each episode is written and recorded by volunteers. Monthly night sky surveys; the early universe; seeing far– these podcasts are made by volunteers, and more are needed.
Die Wunder Gottes in der Natur (1744) illustrates astronomical, meteorological, geological, spiritual, and psychological visions, based on the work of 16th century Alsatian encyclopedist Conrad Lycosthenes.
The cover and title page.
The cover and title page.
The Photopic Sky Survey is a 5,000 megapixel, 360 degree panorama of the entire night sky stitched together from 37,440 exposures. (via)
Andreas Cellarius was a scholar of the 17th Century who produced one of the most famous cosmological atlases of all time, Harmonia Macrocosmica, featuring 29 beautiful plates (large, high-quality scans), illustrating various aspects of the Universe as understood by the Western science of his time. It's impossible to pick favorites among them, but here are three examples: Phases of the Moon, Sizes of the Celestial Bodies and Stars and Constellations of the Northern Sky.
El Tiede: The Mountain. A timelapse of shots taken from the El Tiede mountain, known for being an excellent site for astrological observations. Includes a timelapse of the Milky Way, as seen through a sandstorm coming off from the Sahara Desert. (SLYT)
Galileo Lectures In 2009, to mark the 400th anniversary of Galileo first turning a telescope skywards, Radio New Zealand National, in partnership with the Royal Society of New Zealand, released this kickin' series of five lectures spanning the evolution of cosmology, extra-solar planets, near-earth objects, the nascent field of neutrino astronomy and prospects for the future as the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope comes online early in the next decade. It's a great listen and best of all, it's free to download as MP3 or Ogg Vorbis!
A gamma ray burst nicknamed GRB 110328A (i.e. detected 3/28/2011) appears to be the legacy of a star being torn apart by a supermassive black hole, leaving a peak brightness one trillion times the sun's brightness as it met its ancient inevitable end.
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.
Where's Tyche, the 10th 9th planet? Getting the full story. John Matese and Daniel Whitmire of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette recently made the news when they announced the possible discovery of a gas giant planet they named Tyche in the Oort Cloud, at the extreme edge of the Solar System (previously). Now ars electronica breaks down the evidence behind the announcement, what can be done to confirm or disprove its existence & how long it could take.
"Not a sun rise, but a galaxy rise. A morning filled with 400 billion suns. The rising of the Milky Way." Beautiful time-lapse of the Milky Way over Lake Tahoe.
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]
Our solar system may have a ninth planet -- or a tenth, if you're a Pluto sentimentalist. Tyche, which astronomers suspect lurks in the Oort cloud, fifteen thousand times farther away from the sun than the Earth, is thought to be a gas giant four times the size of Jupiter. We may know for sure in April.
Several months ago, Bill Rankin of Radical Cartography (previously and previouslier) created an astronomical calendar of events for New Haven, Connecticut, where he lives, featuring all of the inexorable rhythms of the Solar System in one handy PNG file. Now you can create such a calendar for any location on the planet, with information as basic as the hours of daylight or as esoteric as the tilt of Saturn's rings, all lovingly rendered in soothing translucent pastels. [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]
Haunting images of the night sky above UNESCO world heritage sites: the ruins of the Mayan city of Tikal and Easter Island by astronomer Stéphane Guisard; above Uluru by Kwon O Chul. Much more. [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!
The zodiac calendar has been corrected based on the original Babylonian setup. "When [astrologers] say that the sun is in Pisces, it's really not in Pisces," said Parke Kunkle, a board member of the Minnesota Planetarium Society. [more inside]
The Royal Society's lost women scientists. Women published in the Royal Society, 1890-1930. Most influential British women in the history of science. Women at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. Heroines of Science. Women Biochemists, 1906-1939. Women in Science. Previously: The Women of ENIAC.
Yesterday there was a partial solar eclipse over most of Europe and northwestern Asia. There were a lot of great pictures, but the most spectacular may have been the solar transit of the International Space Station during the partial eclipse, taken by French astrophotographer, Thierry Legault. Bad Astronomy has more on why he chose the Sultanate of Oman, and how he captured a picture that was possible for less than a second. Bad Astronomy also covered his picture of the lunar transit of ISS, captured December 21, 2010.
Cosmic Journeys is a documentary series on various astronomical and space-related subjects, e.g. supermassive black holes, Apollo 12, whether the universe is infinite and many more. The creators, SpaceRip have a lot of other, shorter videos online as well. They are indexed here. Most, if not all, of the videos are available in HD.
The most detailed photo of the surface of the sun looks like this. It was taken by the team at CA's Big Bear Solar Observatory. They have some other neat images of our nearest star at their website. [more inside]
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.
Amid news of new extrasolar planet discoveries, including a system with a possible 7 planets, Greg Laughlin and Sam Arbesman have released a paper that will be published next month in the open-access journal PLoS One. "A Scientometric Prediction of the Discovery of the First Potentially Habitable Planet with a Mass Similar to Earth" (pdf of full paper) boldly predicts that: "the first potentially habitable planet will be discovered, in this case, as early as May 2011, and likely by the end of 2013." NASA's Kepler mission is set to release data on hundreds of candidate planets early next year. The mission has discovered 7 so far. (Pre-vio-usly)
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.
This may just be the most peaceful, beautiful 5-1/2 minutes of your entire day: An audio slideshow look at some of the winning images, guided by one of the judges, of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich's 2010 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition. Interested in "giving it a go"? Here are some guides to photographing different aspects of the night sky.
Time lapse footage of Earth taken by Don Pettit during his time on the International Space Station. [more inside]
Asteroid Discovery From 1980 - 2010: an animation of the solar system that highlights asteroids as they are discovered. I would suggest watching it in a high resolution.
Jack Horkheimer, host of "Star Gazer" (formerly known as "Star Hustler") has died. See this excellent post on Horkheimer's work.
The Ice Fracture Explorer is Joseph Shoer's concept for an unmanned expedition into the oceans of Europa. [via]
"A moment, a moment long, it sail’d its balls of unearthly light over our heads, Then departed, dropt in the night, and was gone" Walt Whitman wrote these words in the poem Year of Meteors, 1859 ’60. Not until this year did a team of forensic astronomers at Texas State University, with the assistance of a painting from the Hudson River School, figure out what he was really talking about. [more inside]
Back in January, Dr. Megan Argo and an international team working at Jodrell Bank detected a powerful jet of energy from supernova 2007gr. Her way of announcing it? Doctor Who fan fiction describing the event from a TARDIS eye view. [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)