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)
The Perseids Meteor shower will peak Thursday night through early Friday morning. Use the Dark Sky Finder to find a good place to watch. The Perseids is visible every year, but it's easier to see during the new moon. [more inside]
Don't continue fooling yourself. The earth is growing and expanding rapidly. Despite plate tectonics' popular acceptance in the 60s, Samuel Warren Carey, the father of modern expansion tectonics, was publicly promoting his theories of an expanded earth as late as 1981. One of the theory's most prominent modern spokesmen is comics artist Neal Adams, who has created a number of informative videos about a new model of the universe that even manages to explain why the dinosaurs died out. [more inside]
Astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope have for the first time obtained a three-dimensional view of the distribution of the innermost material expelled by a recently exploded star. The original blast was not only powerful, according to the new results, it was also more concentrated in one particular direction. This is a strong indication that the supernova must have been very turbulent, supporting the most recent computer models. Super-cool zooming video.
"Heritage Sites of Astronomy and Archaeoastronomy in the Context of the World Heritage Convention" (also available here) is a collaborative study by the IAU Working Group on Astronomy and World Heritage and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). The study has been endorsed by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, at its 34th session in Brasília, Brazil, marking the first time a study in scientific heritage has been so endorsed. [more inside]
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]
The Planetary Society's Emily Lakdawalla has prepared a scale image of every asteroid and comet ever visited by a spacecraft. [more inside]
The European Space Agency's Rosetta craft has returned stunning images of the asteroid 21 Lutetia, including this one which couples Lutetia with a member of our planetary family. [more inside]
Planck telescope reveals ancient cosmic light. "The picture is the first full-sky image from Europe's Planck telescope which was sent into space last year to survey the oldest light in the cosmos. It took the 600m-euro observatory just over six months to assemble the map. It shows what is visible beyond the Earth to instruments that are sensitive to light at very long wavelengths - much longer than what we can sense with our eyes." [more inside]
The whole of Mars' surface was shaped by liquid water around four billion years ago, say scientists. Scientists with the best names possible for the job. [more inside]
The Carnegie Institution for Science reports "a much higher water content in the Moon’s interior than previous studies." For decades, the moon's water content was estimated at less than 1 part per billion; the new estimates range from 64 ppb to 5 parts per million. A scientist at Washington University said, "We can now finally begin to consider the implications—and the origin—of water in the interior of the Moon.” There's more at NASA and the BBC, and the full paper is available at PNAS (PDF).
Early this morning, local time, two amateur astronomers independently captured images of something colliding with Jupiter. Anthony Wesley (cache) in Broken Hill, Australia noticed it first. Wesley spread the word and Christopher Go (cache) in Cebu City, Philippines also found that he'd documented the event, which occurred at 20:31 June 3, Universal Time. [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]
Hubble spots a planet-eating star. The list of confirmed extrasolar planets numbers only 455; the first ones being discovered in 1990. That count is about to decrease. [more inside]
Moon Zoo is another project from Oxford astrophysicist Chris Lintott, the creator of Galaxy Zoo (previously: 1, 2, 3). Moon Zoo calls for citizen scientists to record the craters and boulders, among other things, on the Moon's surface. [more inside]
Obese, gluttonous, and cannibalistic is no way to go through life, son: profile of a multi-core galaxy 20 times larger than the Milky Way.
8 Wonders of the Solar System, Made Interactive. "What might future explorers of the solar system see? Find out by taking an interactive tour through the eyes of Hugo Award-winning artist Ron Miller. Text and narration by Ed Bell." [Via]
People have been upset about Pluto's demotion for some time now. (While classical music fans have just had a love/hate relationship with this whole process.) But astronomical hate mail has never been as cute as the missives Neil deGrasse Tyson has received over the years from tots upset at poor Pluto's ouster.
The Forests of Mars featuring an avalanche on another planet. From the Bad Astronomy Blog. [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]
Zoom around the Milky Way at different wavelengths with Chromoscope: X-Ray, Visible, Hydrogen α, Far-IR, Microwave, Radio. (You can also download it.)
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]
Reprocess of Bubble Nebula Data. NGC 7635, also called the Bubble Nebula, is an emission nebula in the constellation Cassiopeia. It's created by stellar winds from a superhot star 40 times the size of our sun which whip the cloud of gas around the star into a bubble. [Via]
...the lyrics to that last song were basically taken from an encyclopedia written in the 50s, and since the 50s, some remarkable things have happened...In 1959, a number of songs about science were released on an album called Space Songs. One of these was later covered by the band They Might Be Giants: Why Does The Sun Shine? (The Sun Is A Mass of Incandescent Gas). Only one problem: it isn't--the song was based on an incorrect text from 1951. So they wrote an answer song to themselves: Why Does The Sun Really Shine? (The Sun Is a Miasma of Incandescent Plasma). Bonus link: see for yourself! (previously)
1,512 high-resolution images of Mars from the viewpoint of an airplane passenger. Previous photos: 1 2 3
The Anatomy of Spiral Arms, shows how galaxies naturally evolve to form grand-design two-arm spirals. The Hubble Ultra Deep Field in 3D. [more inside]
Galaxy Zoo 2: Help astronomers sort through 250,000 galaxies! The Sloan Digital Sky Survey found hundreds of thousands of galaxies which needed to be accurately classified; the original Galaxy Zoo project was a collaborative effort by tens of thousands of volunteers around the world to sort these galaxies into spiral and elliptical categories. Now, it's entered its second phase: describing the details of these galaxies. Read the tutorial, and then you can jump in and start classifying. [more inside]
August 11th marks the coming of Spring to Saturn's northern hemisphere, when the 170,000 miles wide rings turn edge-on to the sun and reflect almost no sunlight. The rings are only some 10 meters (30 feet) thick and made of mud and ice. As Saturn shifts towards its once every 15 year equinox, out-of-plane structures will cast long shadows across the rings' broad expanse, making them easy to detect (previously). Though you can't see the rings with the unaided eye, professional and amateur astronomers have captured the gas giant in its transition towards the equinox.