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Astronomy (General/Chat)

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  • Pondering Gravitational Waves

    02/13/2016 5:52:10 AM PST · by LibWhacker · 24 replies
    Centauri Dreams ^ | 2/11/16 | Paul Gilster
    Pondering Gravitational Wavesby Paul Gilster on February 11, 2016 "Einstein would be beaming," said National Science Foundation director France Córdova as she began this morning's news conference announcing the discovery of gravitational waves. I can hardly disagree, because we have in this discovery yet another confirmation of the reality of General Relativity. Caltech's Kip Thorne, who discussed black hole mergers way back in 1994 in his book Black Holes and Time Warps, said at the same news conference that Einstein must have been frustrated by the lack of available technologies to detect the gravitational waves his theory predicted, a lack...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Yutu on a Little Planet

    02/12/2016 11:24:09 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 9 replies
    NASA ^ | February 13, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Tracks lead to a small robot perched near the top of this bright little planet. Of course, the planet is really the Moon. The robot is the desk-sized Yutu rover, leaving its looming Chang'e 3 lander after a after a mid-December 2013 touch down in the northern Mare Imbrium. The little planet projection is a digitally warped and stitched mosaic of images from the lander's terrain camera covering 360 by 180 degrees. Ultimately traveling over 100 meters, Yutu came to a halt in January 2014. The lander's instruments are still working though, after more than two years on the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Two Black Holes Merge

    02/12/2016 12:16:11 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 31 replies
    NASA ^ | February 12, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Just press play to watch two black holes merge. Inspired by the first direct detection of gravitational waves by LIGO, this simulation video plays in slow motion but would take about one third of a second if run in real time. Set on a cosmic stage the black holes are posed in front of stars, gas, and dust. Their extreme gravity lenses the light from behind them into Einstein rings as they spiral closer and finally merge into one. The otherwise invisible gravitational waves generated as the massive objects rapidly coalesce cause the visible image to ripple and slosh...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- LIGO Detects Gravitational Waves from Merging Black Holes

    02/11/2016 4:37:17 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 30 replies
    NASA ^ | February 11, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Gravitational radiation has been directly detected. The first-ever detection was made by both facilities of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in Washington and Louisiana simultaneously last September. After numerous consistency checks, the resulting 5-sigma discovery was published today. The measured gravitational waves match those expected from two large black holes merging after a death spiral in a distant galaxy, with the resulting new black hole momentarily vibrating in a rapid ringdown. A phenomenon predicted by Einstein, the historic discovery confirms a cornerstone of humanity's understanding of gravity and basic physics. It is also the most direct detection of...
  • 100 years later scientists prove Einstein's theory

    02/11/2016 10:27:40 AM PST · by Olog-hai · 21 replies
    INN ^ | 2/11/2016, 7:22 PM | (Arutz Sheva Staff)
    It took a century, but the theory from Albert Einstein handwritten neatly on paper that is now yellowing has finally been vindicated. Israeli officials on Thursday offered a rare look at the documents where Einstein presented his ideas on gravitational waves, a display that coincided with the historic announcement that scientists had glimpsed the first direct evidence of his theory. [...] In a landmark discovery for physics and astronomy, international scientists announced in Washington on Thursday that they had glimpsed the first direct evidence of gravitational waves, or ripples in space-time. Einstein's theory states that mass warps space and time,...
  • Vesta Rules the February Dusk Skies

    02/10/2016 5:38:20 PM PST · by BenLurkin · 3 replies
    universe today ^ | 9 Feb , 2016 | by David Dickinson
    Vesta is actually the second largest asteroid belt member, and the brightest asteroid as seen from the Earth, shining at magnitude +5.5 near opposition—bright enough to see with the unaided eye-Vesta can be seen from a good dark sky site if you know exactly where to look for it. February 2016 sees Vesta about 50 degrees above the western horizon at sunset, right along the Cetus-Pisces border. Vesta is worth tracking down this month, as it moves south of and parallel to another solar system resident: +5.9 magnitude Uranus. Follow both Vesta and Uranus, and you can see the difference...
  • Meteorite probably didn't kill man in India, NASA says

    02/10/2016 3:42:34 PM PST · by BenLurkin · 7 replies
    fox news ^ | 02/10/2016
    The Times of India reports that the meteorite's blast left a crater 5 feet deep and 2 feet wide. Police recovered a black, pockmarked stone weighing 0.39 ounces, it said. However, NASA scientists in the U.S. said in a public statement that photos of the site were more consistent with "a land based explosion," The New York Times reports. In an email to The New York Times, NASA's Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson explained that death by meteorite impact is so rare that one has never been confirmed in recorded history. "There have been reports of injuries, but even those...
  • Scientists discover hidden galaxies behind the Milky Way (explanation for "The Great Attractor?")

    02/10/2016 10:28:26 AM PST · by LibWhacker · 18 replies
    UWA ^ | 2/10/16
    Hundreds of hidden nearby galaxies have been studied for the first time, shedding light on a mysterious gravitational anomaly dubbed the Great Attractor. Despite being just 250 million light years from Earth—very close in astronomical terms—the new galaxies had been hidden from view until now by our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Using CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope equipped with an innovative receiver, an international team of scientists were able to see through the stars and dust of the Milky Way, into a previously unexplored region of space. The discovery may help to explain the Great Attractor region, which appears to...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Galaxies in the River

    02/10/2016 12:40:02 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 11 replies
    NASA ^ | February 10, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Large galaxies grow by eating small ones. Even our own galaxy practices galactic cannibalism, absorbing small galaxies that get too close and are captured by the Milky Way's gravity. In fact, the practice is common in the universe and illustrated by this striking pair of interacting galaxies from the banks of the southern constellation Eridanus, The River. Located over 50 million light years away, the large, distorted spiral NGC 1532 is seen locked in a gravitational struggle with dwarf galaxy NGC 1531 (right of center), a struggle the smaller galaxy will eventually lose. Seen edge-on, spiral NGC 1532 spans...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Rise and Fall of Supernova 2015F

    02/09/2016 3:12:01 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 9 replies
    NASA ^ | February 09, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Sit back and watch a star explode. The actual supernova occurred back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, but images of the spectacular event began arriving last year. Supernova 2015F was discovered in nearby spiral galaxy NGC 2442 by Berto Monard in 2015 March and was unusually bright -- enough to be seen with only a small telescope. The pattern of brightness variation indicated a Type Ia supernova -- a type of stellar explosion that results when an Earth-size white dwarf gains so much mass that its core crosses the threshold of nuclear fusion, possibly caused by a lower mass...
  • More Gravitational Wave Rumors: Colliding Black Holes?

    02/09/2016 10:55:05 AM PST · by LibWhacker · 11 replies
    space.com ^ | 2/9/16 | Ian O'Neill
    More Gravitational Wave Rumors: Colliding Black Holes? By Ian O'Neill, Discovery News February 9, 2016 08:15am ET MORE This computer simulation shows the production of gravitational waves during a black hole collision.Credit: MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger-Zib More gravitational wave discovery rumors are flying, but this time they've taken a specific -- and, possibly, really exciting -- new twist. And what's more, we should find out whether the astrophysical rumor mill is correct or not by the end of this week; a National Science Foundation press announcement is planned for 10:30 a.m. ET on Thursday (Feb. 11), billed as an opportunity...
  • Announcement Thursday on Einstein's gravitational waves

    02/09/2016 12:29:36 AM PST · by WhiskeyX · 6 replies
    phys.org ^ | February 8, 2016 | AFP
    Scientists are set to make a major announcement Thursday on efforts to pinpoint the existence of gravitational waves, or ripples of space and time that transport energy across the universe. The waves themselves have never before been directly measured, though Albert Einstein said a century ago they were out there, according to his theory of general relativity. They are believed to form around massive objects like black holes and neutron stars, warping space and time. If gravitational waves have been spotted, it would mark one of the biggest scientific discoveries of our time, filling in a major gap in our...
  • Gravitational Waves and How They Distort Space

    02/08/2016 7:24:43 PM PST · by BenLurkin · 52 replies
    universe today ^ | 02/08/2016 | Markus Pössel
    February 11, 10:30 EST, there will be a big press conference about gravitational waves by the people running the gravitational wave detector LIGO. It's a fair bet that they will announce the first direct detection of gravitational waves, predicted by Albert Einstein 100 years ago. If all goes as the scientists hope, this will be the kick-off for an era of gravitational wave astronomy: for learning about some of the most extreme and violent events in the cosmos by measuring the tiny ripples of space distortions that emanate from them. In the words of the eminent relativist John Wheeler, Einstein’s...
  • Scientists question Tamil Nadu government's claim that meteorite blast killed bus driver in Vellore

    02/08/2016 7:25:12 AM PST · by Red Badger · 25 replies
    timesofindia.indiatimes.com ^ | Feb 8, 2016, 08.18 PM IST | Bosco Dominique & Karthikeyan Hemalatha
    Witnesses said the blast left a crater 5ft deep and 2ft wide. =================================================================================================================================== A meteorite crashed into an engineering college in Vellore district on Saturday , causing an explosion that killed one man and injured three others, the Tamil Nadu government said on Sunday. Scientists, however, said it wasn't clear how the government concluded that a meteorite strike caused the blast. There has been no established death due to a meteorite hit in recorded history, they said. If a meteorite indeed caused the death, bus driver Kamaraj will be the first person ever to have died in a meteorite strike....
  • Universal karma? Indian man believed first to be killed by meteorite

    02/07/2016 10:54:23 PM PST · by LibWhacker · 22 replies
    rt | reuters ^ | 2/8/16 | Steven Watt
    An Indian may be the first known human being to have been killed by a meteorite hit. Authorities said that a small celestial body struck a southern college campus, killing a bus driver and injuring three others in an incident initially reported as a bomb. The "mysterious explosion" that took place on Saturday in Vellore, a city in the south Indian state of Tamil, has been confirmed as a meteorite impact by Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Light Pillars over Alaska

    02/07/2016 9:21:12 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 22 replies
    NASA ^ | February 08, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: What's happening behind those houses? Pictured here are not auroras but nearby light pillars, a nearby phenomenon that can appear as a distant one. In most places on Earth, a lucky viewer can see a Sun-pillar, a column of light appearing to extend up from the Sun caused by flat fluttering ice-crystals reflecting sunlight from the upper atmosphere. Usually these ice crystals evaporate before reaching the ground. During freezing temperatures, however, flat fluttering ice crystals may form near the ground in a form of light snow, sometimes known as a crystal fog. These ice crystals may then reflect ground...
  • Pluto’s Mysterious, Floating Hills

    02/05/2016 7:38:13 PM PST · by MtnClimber · 22 replies
    NASA ^ | 4 Feb, 2016 | NASA
    The nitrogen ice glaciers on Pluto appear to carry an intriguing cargo: numerous, isolated hills that may be fragments of water ice from Pluto's surrounding uplands. These hills individually measure one to several miles or kilometers across, according to images and data from NASA's New Horizons mission. The hills, which are in the vast ice plain informally named Sputnik Planum within Pluto's 'heart,' are likely miniature versions of the larger, jumbled mountains on Sputnik Planum's western border. They are yet another example of Pluto's fascinating and abundant geological activity. Because water ice is less dense than nitrogen-dominated ice, scientists believe...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Advanced LIGO: Gravitational Wave Detectors Upgraded

    02/07/2016 10:18:53 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 32 replies
    NASA ^ | February 07, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Accelerate a charge and you'll get electromagnetic radiation: light. But accelerate any mass and you'll get gravitational radiation. Light is seen all the time, but, so far, a confirmed direct detection of gravitational radiation has been elusive. When absorbed, gravitational waves create a tiny symmetric jiggle similar to squashing a rubber ball and letting go quickly. Separated detectors can be used to discern gravitational waves from everyday bumps. Powerful astronomical sources of gravitational radiation would coincidentally jiggle even detectors on opposite ends of the Earth. Pictured here are the four-kilometer-long arms of one such detector: the LIGO Hanford Observatory...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Five Planets at Castell de Burriac

    02/06/2016 7:12:45 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 20 replies
    NASA ^ | February 06, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: February's five planet line-up stretches across a clear sky in this predawn scene. A hilltop Castell de Burriac looms in the foreground, overlooking the town of Cabrera de Mar near Barcelona, Spain, planet Earth. The mosaicked, panoramic image looks south. It merges three different exposure times to record a bright Last Quarter Moon, planets, seaside city lights, and dark castle ruins. Seen on February 1st the Moon was near Mars on the sky. But this week early morning risers have watched it move on, passing near Saturn and finally Venus and Mercury, sliding along near the ecliptic toward the...
  • GPS LOS in Texas yeaterday

    02/06/2016 10:36:06 AM PST · by Patriot777 · 23 replies
    n/sa | Patriot777
    While traveling in the Dallas / Ft Worth area of Texas yesterday afternoon, we experienced a complete LOS on GPS. We had traveled to Irving to get a new bulb for our projection TV, and right afterward had the LOS that lasted well after 9 PM yesterday evening. We eventually were able to find 635 W and then find 80 and I20 E, which placed us back home around 12:30 AM. Needless to say, I was glad I never leave home without my oxygen concentrator--even on good days, but I still ended up getting sick in a gas station restroom...
  • 100-Foot Asteroid to Buzz Earth Next Month

    02/06/2016 2:42:17 AM PST · by LibWhacker · 32 replies
    Discovery ^ | 2/5/16 | Mike Wall
    An asteroid as long as a basketball court will give Earth a close shave next month — though scientists aren’t sure just how close. The near-Earth asteroid 2013 TX68, which is thought to be about 100 feet (30 meters) in diameter, will zoom past our planet on March 5. The space rock could come as close as 11,000 miles (17,700 kilometers) — less than 5 percent of the distance from Earth to the moon — or stay up to 9 million miles (14.5 million km) away during the flyby, NASA officials said. “The variation in possible closest-approach distances is due...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Massive Stars in NGC 6357

    02/05/2016 4:32:07 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 15 replies
    NASA ^ | February 05, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Massive stars lie within NGC 6357, an expansive emission nebula complex some 6,500 light-years away toward the tail of the constellation Scorpius. In fact, positioned near center in this ground-based close-up of NGC 6357, star cluster Pismis 24 includes some of the most massive stars known in the galaxy, stars with nearly 100 times the mass of the Sun. The nebula's bright central region also contains dusty pillars of molecular gas, likely hiding massive protostars from the prying eyes of optical instruments. Intricate shapes in the nebula are carved as interstellar winds and energetic radiation from the young and...
  • NASA's Mars Rover Found Mysterious Growths On Mars That Could Be The Biggest Discovery In Science

    02/05/2016 12:46:49 AM PST · by blam · 42 replies
    BI ^ | 2-5-2016
    NASA's Spirit Mars Rover Found Mysterious Growths On Mars That Could Be The Biggest Discovery In Science Jennifer Deal February 5, 2016 Four billion years ago, Mars looked a lot like Earth does today. So it's not surprising that a team of scientists believe that they may have discovered the first signs of ancient alien life on the planet.(click to the site to see the video)
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Dwarf Planet Ceres

    02/04/2016 3:10:39 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 28 replies
    NASA ^ | February 04, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Dwarf planet Ceres is the largest object in the Solar System's main asteroid belt, with a diameter of about 950 kilometers (590 miles). Ceres is seen here in approximately true color, based on image data from the Dawn spacecraft recorded on May 4, 2015. On that date, Dawn's orbit stood 13,642 kilometers above the surface of the small world. Two of Ceres' famous mysterious bright spots at Oxo crater and Haulani crater are near center and center right of this view. Casting a telltale shadow at the bottom is Ceres' cone-shaped, lonely mountain Ahuna Mons. Presently some 385 kilometers...
  • Wild new theory says Earth may actually be two different planets

    02/04/2016 10:21:30 AM PST · by Smittie · 64 replies
    BGR News ^ | 02/03/2016 | Chris Smith
    A new theory says Earth is made of two planets, rather than just one. Apparently, our planet is the result of a collision that helped map the course of both Earth as we know it and the moon. According to new research from the University of California, Earth and a hypothesized early planet called Theia collided, and the two planets fused together 4.5 billion years ago. That impact also formed our moon, Science Alert explains. The initial working theory was that the Earth and Theia only side-swiped each other, sending the moon into orbit and then flying away into space....
  • Scientists Debate Signatures of Alien Life

    02/03/2016 7:23:06 PM PST · by LibWhacker · 19 replies
    Quanta Magazine ^ | 2/2/16 | Natalie Wolchover
    Scientists Debate Signatures of Alien Life Searching for signs of life on faraway planets, astrobiologists must decide which telltale biosignature gases to target. Photo illustration by Olena Shmahalo/Quanta Magazine February 2, 2016 Comments (5) Share this: facebooktwitterredditmail PDF Print Huddled in a coffee shop one drizzly Seattle morning six years ago, the astrobiologist Shawn Domagal-Goldman stared blankly at his laptop screen, paralyzed. He had been running a simulation of an evolving planet, when suddenly oxygen started accumulating in the virtual planet’s atmosphere. Up the concentration ticked, from 0 to 5 to 10 percent.“Is something wrong?” his wife asked.“Yeah.”The rise of...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Galaxy Wars: M81 versus M82

    02/02/2016 11:27:00 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 7 replies
    NASA ^ | February 03, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: In the lower left corner, surrounded by blue spiral arms, is spiral galaxy M81. In the upper right corner, marked by red gas and dust clouds, is irregular galaxy M82. This stunning vista shows these two mammoth galaxies locked in gravitational combat, as they have been for the past billion years. The gravity from each galaxy dramatically affects the other during each hundred million-year pass. Last go-round, M82's gravity likely raised density waves rippling around M81, resulting in the richness of M81's spiral arms. But M81 left M82 with violent star forming regions and colliding gas clouds so energetic...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Comet 67P from Spacecraft Rosetta

    02/02/2016 1:43:22 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 20 replies
    NASA ^ | February 02, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Spacecraft Rosetta continues to circle and map Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Crossing the inner Solar System for ten years to reach the vicinity of the comet in 2014, the robotic spacecraft continues to image the unusual double-lobed comet nucleus. The featured image, taken one year ago, shows dust and gas escaping from the comet's nucleus. Although appearing bright here, the comet's surface reflects only about four percent of impinging visible light, making it as dark as coal. Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko spans about four kilometers in length and has a surface gravity so low that an astronaut could jump off of it. With...
  • Massive Ariane 5 To Launch Giant NextGen Telescope In Dynamic Deployment To L2

    02/02/2016 11:31:13 AM PST · by BenLurkin · 10 replies
    universe today ^ | 02/02/2016 | Evan Gough
    The Ariane 5 rocket is a workhorse for delivering satellites and other payloads into orbit, but fitting the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) inside one is pushing the boundaries of the Ariane 5’s capabilities, and advancing our design of space observatories at the same time. The Ariane 5 is the most modern design in the ESA’s Ariane rocket series. It’s responsible for delivering things like Rosetta, the Herschel Space Observatory, and the Planck Observatory into space. The ESA is supplying an Ariane 5 to the JWST mission, and with the planned launch date for that mission less than three years...
  • The Fermi Paradox Is Not Fermi's, and It Is Not a Paradox

    02/02/2016 1:30:21 AM PST · by LibWhacker · 81 replies
    Scientific American ^ | 1/29/16 | Robert H. Gray
    Two big ideas often come up in discussions about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI. One is the Drake Equation, which estimates the number of civilizations in our Galaxy whose signals we might be able to detect--potentially thousands, according to plausible estimates. The other is the so-called Fermi paradox, which claims that we should see intelligent aliens here if they exist anywhere, because they would inevitably colonize the Galaxy by star travel--and since we don't see any obvious signs of aliens here, searching for their signals is pointless. The Drake Equation is perfectly genuine: it was created by astronomer...
  • Why Does George Washington Have Two Birthdays?

    02/01/2016 10:37:29 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 35 replies
    The FindingDulcinea Blog ^ | February 11, 2010 | Denis Cummings
    This Monday is the federal holiday Washington's Birthday, better known as Presidents Day, celebrated on the third Monday of February. If you want to know the actual birth date of George Washington, you will find two dates: Feb. 22, 1732, and Feb. 11, 1731. Both dates are correct. What accounts for the discrepancy? When Washington was born, Britain and its colonies were using the Julian calendar. Developed in first century B.C. under Julius Caesar, it had three too many leap days per 400-year period. The Catholic Church corrected the error in the 16th century by introducing a modified calendar (the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Find the Man in the Moon

    02/01/2016 8:28:44 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 16 replies
    NASA ^ | February 01, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Have you ever seen the Man on the Moon? This common question plays on the ability of humans to see pareidolia -- imagining familiar icons where they don't actually exist. The textured surface of Earth's full Moon is home to numerous identifications of iconic objects, not only in modern western culture but in world folklore throughout history. Examples, typically dependent on the Moon's perceived orientation, include the Woman in the Moon and the Rabbit in the Moon. One facial outline commonly identified as the Man in the Moon starts by imagining the two dark circular areas -- lunar maria...
  • NASA brings Ceres to life with colorful animation

    02/01/2016 7:35:06 AM PST · by WhiskeyX · 5 replies
    Fox News ^ | January 29, 2016 | NASA / JPL
    It was only a matter of time before someone made a short video with Ceres as the star. The dwarf planet, which has been the focus of the NASA’s Dawn spacecraft of late, lies between Mars and Jupiter. With an average diameter of 590 miles, there has been plenty for Dawn to study since arriving in March 2013. NASA has taken full of advantage of the fact this is the first mission to achieve orbit around a dwarf planet – releasing scores of images of Ceres and now a nearly four minute animation that gets up close and personal.
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- MWC 922: The Red Square Nebula

    01/31/2016 8:52:34 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 21 replies
    NASA ^ | January 31, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: What could cause a nebula to appear square? No one is quite sure. The hot star system known as MWC 922, however, appears to be embedded in a nebula with just such a shape. The featured image combines infrared exposures from the Hale Telescope on Mt. Palomar in California, and the Keck-2 Telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. A leading progenitor hypothesis for the square nebula is that the central star or stars somehow expelled cones of gas during a late developmental stage. For MWC 922, these cones happen to incorporate nearly right angles and be visible from the...
  • European Space Agency launches new laser communications hub

    01/30/2016 7:01:50 PM PST · by Olog-hai · 3 replies
    Associated Press ^ | Jan 30, 2016 7:55 AM EST
    The European Space Agency says a new laser terminal has been launched into orbit as part of wider efforts to develop Europe's first optical communications network, a system able to monitor natural disasters and other catastrophes. The European Data Relay System terminal, launched Friday from Kazakhstan, was released from its host satellite Saturday morning. ...
  • Pluto is covered in a lot of frozen water

    01/30/2016 6:05:47 PM PST · by BenLurkin · 22 replies
    CNN ^ | Jareen Imam,
    Pluto has way more frozen water than scientists originally thought. The dwarf planet is coated with a large amount of ice, according to a new map using previously collected data from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. This map is more sensitive than an earlier version that was created using data by New Horizons' historic fly by in 2015. The previous map was at a disadvantage because water ice can be easily masked by frozen methane. So it only showed areas with an especially large amount of frozen water. A new method, which involved NASA stitching together two infrared images captured by...
  • Lonely But Not Alone: A Planet Orbits its Star at 1 Trillion Kilometres

    01/30/2016 2:15:38 PM PST · by BenLurkin · 11 replies
    universe today ^ | 27 Jan , 2016 by | Evan Gough
    The Royal Astronomical Society (RSA) has announced the discovery of a planet that orbits its star at a distance of 1 trillion kilometres. This is easily the furthest distance between a star and a planet ever found. For comparison, that's 7,000 times further than the Earth is from the Sun. At that distance, a single orbit takes about 900,000 years, meaning that the planet has orbited its star less than 50 times. The planet itself was discovered in an infrared sky survey by US researchers, and following astronomical protocol it was given the charming name 2MASS J2126. ... A planet...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- A Five Planet Dawn [see my preemptive comment]

    01/30/2016 3:23:39 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 21 replies
    NASA ^ | January 30, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: As January closes and in the coming days of February, early morning risers can spot the five naked-eye planets before dawn. Though some might claim to see six planets, in this seaside panoramic view all five celestial wanderers were found above the horizon along with a bright waning gibbous Moon on January 27. Nearly aligned along the plane of the ecliptic, but not along a line with the Sun, the five planets are spread well over 100 degrees across the sky. Just arriving on the predawn scene, fleeting Mercury stands above the southeastern horizon in the golden light of...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Hidden Galaxy IC 342

    01/29/2016 1:47:02 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 14 replies
    NASA ^ | January 29, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Similar in size to large, bright spiral galaxies in our neighborhood, IC 342 is a mere 10 million light-years distant in the long-necked, northern constellation Camelopardalis. A sprawling island universe, IC 342 would otherwise be a prominent galaxy in our night sky, but it is hidden from clear view and only glimpsed through the veil of stars, gas and dust clouds along the plane of our own Milky Way galaxy. Even though IC 342's light is dimmed by intervening cosmic clouds, this deep telescopic image traces the galaxy's obscuring dust, blue star clusters, and glowing pink star forming regions...
  • Babylonians Were Using Geometry Centuries Earlier Than Thought

    01/28/2016 2:56:35 PM PST · by BenLurkin · 35 replies
    smithsonian ^ | 01/28/2016 | Jesse Emspak
    Mathieu Ossendrijver of Humboldt University in Berlin found the tablet while combing through the collections at the British Museum. The written record gives instructions for estimating the area under a curve by finding the area of trapezoids drawn underneath. Using those calculations, the tablet shows how to find the distance Jupiter has traveled in a given interval of time. Until now, this kind of use of trapezoids wasn't known to exist before the 14th century. ... By 400 B.C. Babylonian astronomers had worked out a coordinate system using the ecliptic, the region of the sky the sun and planets move...
  • Theorists propose a new method to probe the beginning of the universe

    01/28/2016 6:47:16 AM PST · by WhiskeyX · 12 replies
    phys.org ^ | January 25, 2016 | phys.org
    How did the universe begin? And what came before the Big Bang? Cosmologists have asked these questions ever since discovering that our universe is expanding. The answers aren't easy to determine. The beginning of the cosmos is cloaked and hidden from the view of our most powerful telescopes. Yet observations we make today can give clues to the universe's origin. New research suggests a novel way of probing the beginning of space and time to determine which of the competing theories is correct.
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Elliptical M60, Spiral NGC 4647

    01/28/2016 6:06:08 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 3 replies
    NASA ^ | January 28, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Giant elliptical galaxy M60 and spiral galaxy NGC 4647 do look like an odd couple in this sharp cosmic portrait from the Hubble Space Telescope. But they are found in a region of space where galaxies tend to gather, on the eastern side of the nearby Virgo Galaxy Cluster. About 54 million light-years distant, bright M60's simpler egg-like shape is created by its randomly swarming older stars, while NGC 4647's young blue stars, gas and dust are organized into winding arms rotating in a flattened disk. Spiral NGC 4647 is estimated to be more distant than M60, some 63...
  • Space & Alien Snowfest Conference

    01/27/2016 4:32:48 PM PST · by EveningStar · 9 replies
  • In Search of the First Rocket Man

    01/27/2016 2:19:45 PM PST · by LibWhacker · 25 replies
    Centauri Dreams ^ | 1/27/16 | Paul Gilster
    In Search of the First Rocket Manby Paul Gilster on January 27, 2016 If you're interested enough in space to be reading this site, you've probably run into the name of Wan Hu. He's the subject of a tale that may well be spurious, but it's certainly lively. It seems that some time around the year 1500 AD, Wan Hu took his fascination with rocketry to the logical limit by building a chair equipped with 47 gunpowder rockets. Lit by 47 attendants, the combined rockets took Wan Hu somewhere, but just where is unknown, as he is said to have...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- An Airglow Fan from Lake to Sky

    01/26/2016 9:37:28 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 5 replies
    NASA ^ | January 27, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Why would the sky look like a giant fan? Airglow. The featured intermittent green glow appeared to rise from a lake through the arch of our Milky Way Galaxy, as captured last summer next to Bryce Canyon in Utah, USA. The unusual pattern was created by atmospheric gravity waves, ripples of alternating air pressure that can grow with height as the air thins, in this case about 90 kilometers up. Unlike auroras powered by collisions with energetic charged particles and seen at high latitudes, airglow is due to chemiluminescence, the production of light in a chemical reaction. More typically...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- A Candidate for the Biggest Boom Yet Seen

    01/26/2016 9:36:04 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 11 replies
    NASA ^ | January 26, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: It is a candidate for the brightest and most powerful explosion ever seen -- what is it? The flaring spot of light was found by the All Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASASSN) in June of last year and labelled ASASSN-15lh. Located about three billion light years distant, the source appears tremendously bright for anything so far away: roughly 200 times brighter than an average supernova, and temporarily 20 times brighter than all of the stars in our Milky Way Galaxy combined. Were light emitted by ASASSN-15lh at this rate in all directions at once, it would be the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Where Your Elements Came From

    01/26/2016 9:35:12 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 23 replies
    NASA ^ | January 25, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: The hydrogen in your body, present in every molecule of water, came from the Big Bang. There are no other appreciable sources of hydrogen in the universe. The carbon in your body was made by nuclear fusion in the interior of stars, as was the oxygen. Much of the iron in your body was made during supernovas of stars that occurred long ago and far away. The gold in your jewelry was likely made from neutron stars during collisions that may have been visible as short-duration gamma-ray bursts. Elements like phosphorus and copper are present in our bodies in...
  • Don't Blame 'Planet Nine' for Earth's Mass Extinctions

    01/26/2016 8:03:21 AM PST · by BenLurkin · 21 replies
    space.com ^ | 01/25/2016 | mike wall
    Planet Nine - a newly proposed but not yet confirmed world perhaps 10 times more massive than Earth that's thought to orbit far beyond Pluto — probably could not have triggered such "death from the skies" events, researchers said. Planet Nine likely has an elliptical orbit, coming within 200 to 300 astronomical units (AU) of the sun at its closest approach and getting as far away as 600 to 1,200 AU, Brown said. (One AU is the distance from Earth to the sun - about 93 million miles, or 150 million kilometers). Neptune orbits about 30 AU from the sun,...
  • Will We Go Back to Uranus?

    01/25/2016 1:10:31 PM PST · by BenLurkin · 44 replies
    newsledge ^ | January 25, 2016 | Alex Chavers
    On January 24, 1986, NAS's Voyager 2 spacecraft reached Uranus. It was the first and only time we have ever visited the mysterious gas giant. 30 years ago, Voyager 2 closely studied the planet for 5.5 hours as it soared within 50,600 miles. "We knew Uranus would be different because it's tipped on its side, and we expected surprises," said Ed Stone, project scientist for the Voyager mission. Stone continues in his role as project scientist to this day. Much like how Pluto is surprising scientists today, Uranus stunned 30 years ago. The up-close study of the planet revealed it...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Star Cluster R136 Bursts Out

    01/24/2016 6:23:28 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 7 replies
    NASA ^ | January 24, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: In the center of star-forming region 30 Doradus lies a huge cluster containing some of the largest, hottest, and most massive stars known. These stars, known collectively as star cluster R136, were captured in the featured image in visible light by the Wide Field Camera 3 in 2009 peering through the Hubble Space Telescope. Gas and dust clouds in 30 Doradus, also known as the Tarantula Nebula, have been sculpted into elongated shapes by powerful winds and ultraviolet radiation from these hot cluster stars. The 30 Doradus Nebula lies within a neighboring galaxy known as the Large Magellanic Cloud...