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
, 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]
Pickering and the Female Computers.
In 1881, Edward Pickering
, the director of the Harvard College Observatory, became so impatient with a male lab assistant’s work that he famously declared his maid could do a better job. Rather than take offense, his 24-year-old maid, Williamina Fleming
, instead took him up on the offer. She ended up working at the Observatory for the next 30 years, supervising the tedious work of cataloging photographic plates, but also discovering variable stars and novae, helping to develop a classification system—and, perhaps even more importantly
, hiring nearly 40 female assistants
, many of whom went on to have distinguished scientific careers
. [more inside]
" is the dividing line between day and night
as seen from on high. This shadow line is diffuse
and shows the gradual transition to darkness we experience as twilight
. [more inside]
An Interactive Space Simulator
"Smash planets together, introduce rogue stars, and build new worlds from spinning discs of debris. Fire a moon into a planet or destroy everything you've created with a super massive black hole. You can simulate and interact with our solar system: the 8 planets,160+ moons, and hundereds of asteroids, the nearest 1000 stars to our Sun, and our local group of galaxies." [31Mb, Windows only, sorry, but see inside for similar Mac and Linux apps] [more inside]
A liquid mirror telescope
is made by spinning
a reflective fluid
, such as mercury, at a constant rate. This rotation produces a parabolic surface
, which is an ideal shape for a telescope mirror. (You can try this
yourself.) While these mirrors can be built
to be large
and orders of magnitude cheaper than solid mirrors, they have the disadvantage that they can only look straight up. Creating mirrors this way is not new; they have a history [.ps]
that dates back to Newton. However, they have recently regained attention as the technology behind proposals to build an enormous (20m+) telescope on the moon
. (A less technical treatment here
The Great Moon Hoax of 1835
. During the last week of August 1835, the New York Sun
published a six-part article about the discovery - purportedly by renowned astronomer Sir John Herschel - of fantastical life on the moon, including herds of bison, blue unicorns, "a primitive tribe of hut-dwelling, fire-wielding biped beavers, and a race of winged humans living in pastoral harmony around a mysterious, golden-roofed temple." The public's reaction was a mix of credulity and skepticism. Read the full text of the serialized articles: Part 1
, Part 2
, Part 3
, Part 4
, Part 5
, Part 6
Five years and 800,000 images went into producing a 4 gigapixel mosaic image
of the galactic plane, which when printed out is 180 feet long. But it has been made browser-sized by GLIMPSE
, the Galactic Legacy Infrared Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire, the research group which, along with MIPSGAL
, created the image: A Glimpse of the Milky Way
Mark VandeWettering makes telescopes, and has written a set of guides
for those who would like to build their own. Francis O'Reilly has made a similar set of guides, except as a series of videos
is a simple, effective RSS scraper. For instance, here's an RSS feed
for Astronomy Picture of the Day
. A powerful feature: "You can add a button to your browser's bookmarks toolbar that will create Page2RSS feed for the page you are currently viewing."
has an interesting article
about the high probability of "space rocks" hitting the earth, possibly as high as a 1 in 10 chance of a major catastrophe each century. Not a new theme, but the article has some new developments suggesting it is more common than once thought. Includes a 10 minute video.
Leave the planet to travel into the largest structures of the universe, then plunge into the tiniest. Forty two orders of magnitude in thirty six minutes.... Cosmic Voyage
. (single link Google video via
) [more inside]
Vatican's chief astronomer states that belief in alien life does not conradict faith in God. Fr. José Gabriel Funes
, a Jesuit preist and chief astronomer for the Vatican, stated in an interview in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's official newspaper, that, "Just as we consider earthly creatures as 'a brother,' and 'sister,' why should we not talk about an 'extraterrestrial brother'? It would still be part of creation." [more inside]
Microsoft's much anticipated WorldWide Telescope
was released today (in the past hour actually). Article in New York Times
and TED speech
" It looks as if our Milky Way will be subsumed into its giant neighbour, the Andromeda galaxy...." A (not so) little trove of images of galactic collisions has been released to mark the 18th anniversary of the Hubble telescope's launch. Gravitic Mayhem
The Story of a Comet Hunter
(see also his web page
which contains a link to the story of his discover of Comet Seki-Lines in 1962).
Visual comet hunting
has a long and intriguing history
. Today visual hunters are adapting
their ways to make visual discoveries in an age of automated
searches. The amateur can still win
Now, ANYONE can discover a comet(?)
Or perhaps 1000
. A Guide for SOHO Comet Hunters
. More SOHO and Sungrazing Comet Links
See Saturn this Saturday
April 12 is the second annual International Sidewalk Astronomy Night, a worldwide event coordinated by the Sidewalk Astronomers
. The group, founded in 1968 by John Dobson
(subject of this documentary
), is dedicated to a sort of guerrilla astronomy
-- experienced stargeeks bringing their really good telescopes
out to places where people are
. So even on your way to the bars, the shows, and the honky-tonk you can see stuff like this
- like these people
Many planets have been found circling other stars, but the prevailing search techniques turn up results encouraging but bizarre
. (encouraging, previously
) Gravitational micro-lensing has made it possible to OGLE
a solar system much like our own.... You're not alone.
How far can the naked eye see? About 7.5 billion light-years.
On March 19th, a Gamma Ray Burst
was noticed by NASA's Swift satellite and given the name GRB 080319B
. It left an optical afterglow estimated at +5 apparent magnitude for 30 seconds, about that of an average star. (Sadly, no one was looking at the area with an optical telescope at that exact time.) Read the original Burst Alert, including the email address of the Burst Advocate, here
. [more inside]
Jodrell Bank observatory may shut down
according to a UK funding proposal (via Bad Astronomy
). The observatory
is comprised of several radio telescopes including Lovell
, the third largest
steerable radio telescope in the world. The proposed budget cuts would save the UK £2.5 million per year. Perhaps Lovell can be converted (again
) to an outdoor movie screen.
The World at Night
is a collection of astrophotography from around the world.
Over 30 years ago, Robert Burnham Jr. struggled to get his astronomical (in more ways than one) three volume work published. Burnham's Celestial Handbook: An Observer's Guide to the Universe Beyond the Solar System
"remains a sort of real-life hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy, a compendium with something to say about nearly every cosmic destination worth visiting. . . It is rarely compared to other books because there simply is none other like it." It remains a beloved and relevant
book among star-gazers today. Yet few know much about the life of the author, or of his sad and lonely demise: Sky Writer
The images produced by today's ordinary amateur astrophotographer rival
those produced by the big observatories only a decade or two ago. (This "Two Comets
" image alone is worth a look. <-Rollover for close-ups of the comets.) You can get very good results
with far simpler
equipment, however - even with "old-fashioned FILM
". Looking for the BEST skies for astrophotography? If you aren't a weenie, you might try Dome C, Antarctica
. [more inside]
The biggest diamond in the world
is insignificant, compared with the biggest diamond in the galaxy
. Discovered in 2004, the Center For Astrophysics
suggests that you should use the galactic one "to impress your favorite lady." Here's information
about how diamonds are formed, and where they are found.
Open Yale Courses provides free and open access to seven introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University:Astronomy, English, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, Religious Studies: a full set of class lectures produced in high-quality video, syllabi, suggested readings, and problem sets. [more inside]
hosts an exhaustive collection of information and links about space-related hobbies, including amateur astronomy
, satellite design
, and rocketry for both beginners
Astronomers find a giant hole
a billion light years across & located 8 billion light years away from us. They believe it could be evidence of another Universe
at the edge of ours.
In addition to his work on the design of the 200-inch Hale telescope
, amateur astronomer Russell W. Porter
(1871-1949) designed and produced a remarkable, bronze-cast garden telescope
in the 1920s. Fewer than 60 of these unusual Newtonian reflectors were ever made, and they're even harder to find now: earlier this year, one went for $18,000 at auction
. But a reproduction of the Porter Garden Telescope
is now available, for a mere $59,000 (it's cast bronze on a marble pedestal); a local cable station has a profile of the people behind it
. Via Sky and Telescope
Here's an excellent map if you want to see Comet Holmes/17P tonight
(the comet that, until a couple of nights ago you would have needed a pretty good-sized telescope to even see. Then (out of the blue, as it were)
it unexpectedly brightened by over 1,000,000 times
to become an easy object for your naked eye –even with the nearly full moon in the sky). I did not know about CalSky
but (despite some less-than-attractive web design) is truly the best of the web for online astronomy info and sky maps! [more inside]
Astronomy Media Player
- a generous collection of astronomy podcasts all gathered in one spot.
Using a $20,000 CCD camera and some new software, ground-based telescopes can now get images as good as the Hubble Telescope
in many situations
]. By taking many high-quality pictures quickly and taking the best parts of each, Lucky imaging
compensates for atmospheric effects to produce lovely images. You can do it too
, using free software and any webcam
, only facility on the planet able to track asteroids with enough precision to tell which ones might plow into Earth is losing funding
. NSF has told them to find outside funding for half their budget. Part of the problem? They're in PR, so they have no state senators to fight budget cuts on their behalf. Also facing a crunch, the Very Long Baseline Array
(Very Large Array
seems ok, money-wise) which stretches from Hawaii to the Virgin Islands.
"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
Not content to merely index all things terrestrial
, Google Earth now lets you set your sights on the sky
Time lapse animations of planets and satellites.
See what an amateur digital astrophotographer could do a decade ago. This is what the animated gif was designed to do.
B. H. May, CBE, as an astronomy student at Imperial College London co-authored two papers, MgI Emission in the Night Sky Spectrum
and An Investigation of the Motion of Zodiacal Dust Particles
(pdf) and was on the way to completing his doctorate when he dropped out to form a band. After a 36-year break May went back to school to get his PhD
. Last year he co-authored Bang!
the Complete History of the Universe. This year he is finishing up his thesis-"Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud" and this week is in La Palma
finishing spectographic observations. Mr May also plays guitar
Learn to navigate
using the stars in 15 minutes! OK, well maybe not navigate, but you'll know exactly where Orion, Betelgeuse, Polaris (the North Star), Cassiopeia, and Jupiter are.
The GTC (Great Telescope Canaries) sees first light today.
Apart from the sheer size
(10.4 m) of its mirror and from the science
it will deliver, the GTC
is remarkable by its location at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory
2426 m high at the rim of the Caldera de Taburiente
in the island of La Palma
La Palma is also, for a number of reasons
, also interesting for geologists. In that regard, it made headlines
a couple of years back due to a paper
about the risk of a collapse of the island which could cause a devastating tsunami.
Oh, and it's also a really nice place for a holiday
A team of astronomers needs your help.
It's not terribly easy to get computers to distinguish between galaxy shapes, but fortunately humans are not only very good at it, but seem to actually enjoy gazing out in to space. So, go to galaxyzoo.org
, look at a few pretty pictures from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey
, and help classify millions of galaxies and aid research in to how they form and evolve while you're at it.