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 [some images ]. 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.
Arecibo Observatory, 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.
Mars and Beyond - 50 years ago, this animated episode of Tomorrowland aired on Disneyland a few months after the launch of Sputnik - an entertaining melange of astronomy, sci-fi, pop culture, science, speculation, and surreality. Walt himself and Wernher von Braun make guest appearances and clip 5 is particularly trippy. (Parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
Happy Blue Moon! A dear friend IM'd me today, and told me it was blue moon... which was funny, because we had just been talking about it the day before — oblivious of tonight's occurance. Don't know what a blue moon is? Well, wikipedia has the answer, of course... In the mood for a little music? Well, you can always download the The Marcels classic or just sing the song yourself with a little help... or throw caution to the wind, and listen to Pink Moon instead.
Scientists have discovered a planet composed of scorching hot ice. Originally thought to be a gas giant due to its mass, its actually only four times the size of Earth and most likely composed of exotic forms of ice, such as Ice VII and Ice X with s surface temperature of 300° C.
UniverseNewsFilter: Scientists claim to have detected dark matter! Here are NASA's press release, feature page and multimedia presentation. For an explanation what dark matter is, I refer you to this page. After all that excitement, you can sit down and work out how much dark matter is in the Milky Way.
Under alien skies: Start with the simply stunning Exosolar, a flash-based interface for navigating through 2,000 nearer stars in 3-D, including all discovered planets outside our solar system. See what the skies would look like from other planets and suns. Explore star maps from many science fiction universes, from Star Trek to Dune. Watch the Big Dipper change its shape over a hundred thousand years. Zoom into a face-on map of the Milky Way that would cover 16 square meters if printed, and see the Atlas of the Universe. [prev. on extrasolar planets, prev. on star maps]
Solstice/equinox calculations Been hankering to build your own Stonehenge but got stumped at the planning stage? Paul Doherty shows you the math to construct a modern ancient observatory with angles and facings correct for your latitude.
To celebrate the 17th birthday of the Hubble Space Telescope, please feast your eyes on a very detailed (Flash) picture of the Carina Nebula.
The first was found just fifteen years ago, after centuries of speculation. As of today, we're up to 227 and counting. Most are just wobbles in data, but we have pictures and exotica too. And we are looking for more (although some think we shouldn't look very hard and others are drawing some surprising conclusions). The science and technology of finding the most fascinating and elusive types demands some of the cleverest engineering, yet you can even have a go for yourself. Previously on Metafilter
Prominent cosmologist Simon D.M. White has written a provocative paper posted to the astrophysics arxiv complaining that too much time is being devoted to the quest to understand the nature of the elusive dark energy: "Dark Energy is undeniably an interesting problem to attack through astronomical observation, but it is one of many and not necessarily the one where significant progress is most likely to follow a major investment of resources." He worries generally that observational cosmology/astrophysics/astronomy may turn away from the construction of instruments of general utility (such as the Hubble Space Telescope), to concentrate on a small number of massive experiments narrowly focused on solving particular problems (such as WMAP and the Large Hadron Collider), to the detriment of the "quirky small-science" type of astronomy.
This Saturday, April 21, 2007, is Astronomy Day 2007. This annual promotion of astronomy started in California (pdf) in 1973 and has since spread around the country and the world. Science museums and observatories all over are hosting special events to celebrate Astronomy Day. Find a local club near you and start enjoying the night sky!
It's like Google Maps...for space. Wikisky is a draggable, zoomable, web-based star map. And if you click on a star or other object, it brings up a page with all the information you could want on it, including recent articles and astrophotos that contain that object. And it does lots more. Go explore.
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
The Thirteen Towers of Chankillo in Peru may be the Western Hemisphere's oldest known full-service solar observatory, showing evidence of early, sophisticated Sun cults, according to archaeoastronomy professor Clive Ruggles. The 2,300-year-old complex featured 13 towers running north to south along a ridge and spread across 980 feet to form a toothed horizon that spans the solar arc. Last year, another ancient observatory was discovered in Peru by Robert Benfer. The Temple of the Fox is 4,200 years old, making it 1,900 years older than the Chankillo site, but wasn't a complete calendar.
Super-sized cosmic double helix For all the many different (sometimes ignominious) ways in which we imitate nature, sometimes it is nice to see the dynamic change a bit - this time, in the guise of something at the heart of our essence found at the heart of our local island miniverse.
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.
What Did Arthur Know … and When Did He Know it? To all you Vader haters out there . . . we'll blow your planet up! we got Death Star!
Universe Today is a news site for astronomy geeks. Don't miss its sibling, the Bad Astronomy Forum, which not only features examples of bad astronomy, but also discussions of space exploration and astrophotography. (If you like astrophotography, you're probably already aware of NASA's astronomy photo of the day.) But my favorite part of the whole site is the free astronomy eBook, What's Up 2007: 365 Days of Skywatching. If only it would only stop raining, maybe I'd grab some binoculars and go outside for some stargazing...
Last night there was a pretty cool coronal ejection that ought to be arriving shortly. When it does, expect Auroral activity as far south as Tennessee. (Or Northern Italy. Or New Zealand.) [Via MonkeyFilter]
Russell W. Porter was an amateur astronomer who helped design the 200 inch telescope for Mount Palomar observatory. His pencil sketches of the finished mechanism are remarkably beautiful.
Astronomy 161 - an introduction to Solar System Astronomy. These are a set of lectures in progress now at Ohio State University. All materials are available on line - audio resources (direct or podcast through iTunes), movies and lecture notes. If you are interested in where you live, these beautifully delivered lectures are excellent.
Fireballs are not altogether uncommon. They are often associated with known meteor showers (and other times not). They are sometimes "earth crosser" asteroids, cometary debris, or simply man-made space junk. Sometimes they are extremely well documented. The March 7, 2003 Park Forest fireball/meteorite (pdf) was recovered and recorded by police car cameras: (AVIs: 1, 2, 3) Perhaps the most incredible is the one that got away on August 10, 1972. Recorded by many still and movie cameras as it was seen in daylight over the Grand Tetons, it was also recorded by a previously secret satellite during it's 1-1/2 minute skip off the earth's atmosphere. See also: How to observe, and report fireballs.
Moon flatulence...amateur astronomers have seen puffs or flashes of light coming from the moon's surface. Although most professional observers have upheld the conclusion that the moon was inactive, such sightings have kept open a window of doubt. A gas release itself would not be visible for more than a second or so, but the dust it kicked up might stay suspended for up to 30 seconds. Nature article (subscription).
Transit of Mercury again. here Transit of Mercury again. Today -- and not for another seven years or so -- Mercury passes between the Earth and the Sun, shwoing up a speck-like black circle. But don't look. Starting times, real-time visual, ways to see it and another caution are here. rotoman
An interactive map of the 174 major meteor impact craters. The largest crater we know of is the Vredefort Dome in South Africa, caused by a meteor some 10 km in diameter. Almost as large in the Sudbury Structure, located in Ontario, which contains some of the world's richest nickel and copper reserves, and has been only confirmed recently to be a crater. Third largest is the now-famous Chicxulub crater in the Yucatan, which probably killed the dinosaurs. Then take a look at an animation of asteroids near Earth [animated gif] and the list of minor planets that could hit us. Want to find out what happens when an meteor impacts in your area? Use the handy Earth Impacts Effects Program!
The Worlds of David Darling. British astronomer and science writer David Darling has written over 10,000 articles for three massive online efforts: the Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, Astronomy, and Spaceflight, the Encyclopedia of Alternative Energy and Sustainable Living , and a related encyclopedia of concept vehicles. Though the diversity of entries can be eccentric, and some are quite short, the science seems solid: learn about the illicit corned beef sandwich of Gus Grissom, peruse a comprehensive set of advanced space propulsion concepts, and see a terrific illustrated listing of strange land and air vehicles (don't miss the Peel P50 microcar and the Volvo Gravity Car).
In Saturn's Shadow. Pictures of Saturn like none you've seen before, taken by Cassini while the planet was in between the probe and the sun. You can just make out Earth in the photos. Previously.
The clear sky clock (this one is for Boston) provides a graphical representation of seven factors that affect the clarity of stargazing: cloud cover, transparency, seeing, darkness, wind, humidity, and temperature. Once you've figured out where and when to go stargazing (probably somewhere rural) make a custom map for your location so you know what you're seeing.
The number of communicating alien civilizations = R* x fp x ne x fl x fi x fc x L. The formula is the Drake Equation, and modern estimates range from several thousand to none but us. You can solve it yourself. What is your estimate of the number of alien civilizations out there?