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.
As Earth continues its pass through the debris field left by periodic Comet Swift-Tuttle on August 11 and 12, the annual Perseid Meteor Shower could deliver a double peak and a brief period of up to 200 meteors per hour. [more inside]
Sunday morning amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley captured a photo of an apparent asteroid or comet strike on Jupiter. Alerted by the announcement on the ALPO-Jupiter email list, other amateurs soon posted follow-up images. [more inside]
Welcome to the Universe - III: The Size of Things . . .we take a breif trip through the Solar System and beyond to see the size of the Universe. A youtube video by AndromedasWake about the scale of the Universe.
If extraterrestrial civilizations are monitoring our TV broadcasts, then this is what they are currently watching.
One of the hardest things for people to understand about the universe is just how big it is. There are three approaches typically used in describing its size. The first, the song, was pioneered by Monty Python (NSFWish, wireframe of naked woman) and then done just as masterfully by the Animaniacs. The second, the zoom method has been featured twice before here on the blue. The third method is the comparison method (skip to 1:30, unless you like looking at a image of the solar system with terrible distorted orbits), yielding some truly beautiful videos (this one found via the fantastic Bad Astronomy blog). These videos go, at most, as far as looking at the local cluster or the Virgo Supercluster. There are two videos that attempt to show the size of the entire universe, one unsuccessfully (although with great music) and one successfully. (Warning, all links except the first one, are to YT videos). [more inside]
"Workmanlike" astronomy: The Vatican Observatory, among the oldest astronomical centers in the world, brings a team of Jesuits to the papal summer residence. Its scientists play a large part in the church's efforts to reconcile faith with reason. [Previously.] [more inside]
"The arc of the Milky Way seen from a truly dark location is part of our planet's natural heritage," said Connie Walker, and astronomer from the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Arizona. Yet "more than one fifth of the world population, two thirds of the U.S. population and one half of the European Union population have already lost naked eye visibility of the Milky Way." In these areas, people are effectively living in perennial moonlight. They rarely realize it because they still experience the sky to be brighter under a full moon than under new moon conditions. "Reducing the number of lights on at night could help conserve energy, protect wildlife and benefit human health," astronomer Malcolm Smith of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. One study found an increased risk of breast cancer for women living in areas with the most light pollution (abstract). Some communities are embracing their dark skies, such as the New Zealand community of Tekapo, possibly home to first "Starlight Reserve," waiting on UNESCO's official approval. Not sure where to look in the vast night sky? Follow some guidelines, or check the view in Chile, Queensland, Australia, or Texas.
The lunar orbital spacecraft Selene, better known by its Japanese name Kaguya, has been sending back some incredible HD video, including some of Earth rising and the Moon's surface. [more inside]
Solar activity normally follows an 11-year cycle. The new cycle was originally predicted to start in early 2008, but despite a few sunspots appearing last year, the Sun still features a remarkable lack of activity - the deepest minimum since 1913. However, NASA's STEREO mission has seen indications that activity is increasing again, in the form of a coronal mass ejection (video [.mov, 3.3 Mb]), with an accompanying radio burst.
Atlantis. Hubble. And a big, yellow friend. Astrophotographer Thierry Legault managed to get amazing shots of Space Shuttle Atlantis approaching the Hubble Space Telescope during a transit of the sun. [more inside]
New burst vaporizes cosmic distance record. "NASA's Swift satellite and an international team of astronomers have found a gamma-ray burst from a star that died when the universe was only 630 million years old, or less than five percent of its present age. The event, dubbed GRB 090423, is the most distant cosmic explosion ever seen."
Astronomers searching for amino acids in space have discovered something unexpected -- the center of our galaxy tastes like raspberries and smells like rum. [more inside]
Around the World in 80 Telescopes Starting at 09:00 UT on April 3 (figure out what time that is for you here) join in for a 24 hour webcast visiting 80 of the world's astronomical observatories. What are the astronomers up to? What is it like to spend a night at a telescope? [more inside]
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]
Hacking the Sky: Robert Simpson writes astronomy tools for use with Google Earth, Google Sky, and Twitter.
World of Science contains budding encyclopedias of astronomy, scientific biography, chemistry, and physics. This resource has been assembled over more than a decade by internet encyclopedist Eric Weisstein with assistance from the internet community. MeFi visited Weisstein's Mathworld a couple years ago.
Star Viewer ― merging Google Earth (Sky) with Hubblecast videos to learn more about what you're seeing in the night sky. [more inside]
A fascinating talk about the composition of the universe [Youtube, approx 1 hour], presented by Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist at CIT. [via] [more inside]
Astronomer Tycho Brahe was one of the more colorful characters of the scientific Renaissance. He lost his nose in a duel; flouted the rules of Danish nobility and married a commoner; built, on the island of Hven, Uraniborg, the best astronomical observatory of his day; kept a beer-drinking pet moose; and amassed the data that would ultimately allow Johannes Kepler to derive the three laws of planetary motion. His chief sponsor had been Danish king Frederick II, but Frederick's heir, Christian IV, quarreled with Tycho and kicked him out of Hven. Insulted, Brahe left Denmark for Prague and the sponsorship of Rudolph II. New evidence has emerged suggesting that the offended king may have had Tycho assassinated. [more inside]
Once every 27 years or so, the mysterious binary star system of Epsilon Aurigae undergoes an eclipse, lasting nearly two years. This gives this system the distinction of having both the longest eclipse and the longest period of any known binary system. However, it is not clear why the eclipses last so long, or even what the structure of the system actually looks like--the main star is a supergiant, with a radius as big as the distance from the earth to the sun, and yet its light is dimmed for two years by something yet bigger. The next eclipse is due to begin in August of 2009, and as part of the International Year of Astronomy in 2009, amateur astronomers are being called on to make their own observations of the changing brightness of Epsilon Aurigae. If you want to try it yourself, you can read the training guide to find out how to do your own observations and report them. In addition, the two scientists who organized observations of the previous eclipse both have webpages [1, 2] which are coordinating the organization for the upcoming observation. If you want to learn more about the science behind ε Aurigae, a good rundown with links to papers is available here.
Time to turn off the lights. "Cities needlessly shine billions of dollars directly into the sky each year and, as a result, a fifth of the world's population cannot see the Milky Way. Malcolm Smith explains why a dark sky has much to offer everyone." [Via]
Where did Venus’s water go? Water may have once been as abundant on Venus as it is on Earth. New data from the Venus Express suggests that the planet's lack of a magnetic field has allowed water in the atmosphere to be stripped apart and carried into space by the solar wind.
At dawn on the winter solstice, the passage and chamber of the megalithic passage tomb at Newgrange are illuminated for 17 minutes by a shaft of sunlight entering through the roofbox above the entrance. The builders of Newgrange achieved this precise alignment over 5,000 years ago, 1,000 years before Stonehenge. You can watch the sunrise illumination on a live webcast between 08:30 and 09:30 UTC on Sunday, December 21st.
Confused about the cosmos? Can't tell a planet from a star? Then give us just five minutes, and we'll show you what they are.
"Some people hustle pool; some people hustle cars. Then there's that man you've heard about, the one who hustles stars!" Greetings, greetings, fellow stargazers! Looking toward your computer screen today, you'll find Jack Horkheimer: Star Gazer, a five-minute show that has been in weekly production for over thirty years, airing in-betweensies on many PBS stations. Contrary to the cheeky bio on Jack's website, it wasn't always easy for Jack to "keep looking up!" This 9/19/1982 Miami Herald article reveals that he grew up as a sickly boy, eventually meandering to Florida to stumble into his avocation and vocation as Director of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium, only to watch his life's work almost crumble due to a PR nightmare. Since then, however, things have been much better: Star Gazer (originally called Star Hustler, then changed in 1997 due to internet search engines leading people to Hustler Magazine's website) has been nationally syndicated since 1985 (and internationally since 1989), chalking up over 1500 episodes. A book of his monthly cartoons has been published. The Astronomical League sponsors The Jack Horkheimer Award for Exceptional Service by a Young Astronomer. (2008's winner.) So whether you find Jack avuncular or creepy, Jack Horkheimer is, to many, the face of popular backyard astronomy. [more inside]
A sixteen year long astronomical study, led by Dr. Reinhard Genzel of the Max-Planck-Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, has provided what is considered to be the best empirical evidence yet of the existence of supermassive black holes, specifically one a relatively cozy 27,000 light years away.... "The stellar orbits [QT] in the Galactic Centre [QT] show that the central mass concentration of four million solar masses must be a black hole, beyond any reasonable doubt." [more inside]
Source Of Geysers On Saturn's Moon Enceladus May Be Underground Water. Earlier this year the Cassini spacecraft detected organic material in the geysers of Enceladus. The question now is, how's the fishing?
Discovered just last night by the Catalina Sky Survey at Mount Lemmon Observatory, asteroid 2008 TC will enter the upper atmosphere (and should explode spectacularly) over Northern Sudan in around 30 minutes.
In 1992, Aleksander Wolszczan discovered the first planets outside our solar system. Now, the Penn State professor been accused of spying for SB, the Polish Secret Police. He calls it a "smear campaign."
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]