Astronomy (General/Chat)

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  • Cosmic Kittens: Saturn Features Get Feline Names

    09/25/2017 10:45:16 AM PDT · by BenLurkin · 4 replies ^ | September 25, 2017 07:00am ET | Hanneke Weitering, Staff Writer |
    Saturn's kittens are a group of small clumps and baby moons, or moonlets, that occupy the planet's F ring. Like the rest of Saturn's rings, this thin outer ring is made up of countless particles that range in size. When enough of those particles bump into one another and stick together, they aggregate into larger clumps — and become eligible for a kitten name. So far, the list of Saturn's kitten names includes several classics, like Fluffy, Garfield, Socks and Whiskers. These are unofficial nicknames for more-complicated (and less adorable) official titles like "Alpha Leonis Rev 9" (aka, Mittens). The...
  • Vanity: We are more than halfway through September 23, and the world is still here. . . LOL!

    09/23/2017 4:27:10 PM PDT · by Swordmaker · 56 replies
    Vanity | September 23, 2017 | Swordmaker
    I just noticed that it's ¾s of the way through September 23, 2017, the day that was supposed to be the last day of the world, and I'm still here? Is everyone else still here as well, or am I and my lady all alone and everyone else already gone? What about it? Has anyone else experienced the Apocholypso Dance? Any Catastrophes out there? How about a Cat-Ass-Trophy, you know the taxidermied rear end of a cat mounted on a plaque hanging on the wall? Mild disaster? I thought not. The guy who was making the prediction when called for...
  • To find aliens, we must think of life as we don’t know it

    09/21/2017 4:33:12 PM PDT · by LibWhacker · 62 replies
    Aeon ^ | Ramin Skibba
    From blob-like jellyfish to rock-like lichens, our planet teems with such diversity of life that it is difficult to recognise some organisms as even being alive. That complexity hints at the challenge of searching for life as we don’t know it – the alien biology that might have taken hold on other planets, where conditions could be unlike anything we’ve seen before. ‘The Universe is a really big place. Chances are, if we can imagine it, it’s probably out there on a planet somewhere,’ said Morgan Cable, an astrochemist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. ‘The question is,...
  • Arecibo Observatory Remains Offline After Being Buffeted by Hurricane Maria

    09/21/2017 3:15:08 PM PDT · by BenLurkin · 10 replies ^ | September 21, 2017 03:34pm ET | Hanneke Weitering, |
    While the facility has been closed all week for the hurricane, a handful of staff members had remained inside the observatory, waiting for the storm to pass. "Most cell towers and all landlines are down," Aya Collins, a spokeswoman for the National Science Foundation (NSF), told in an email. With no power, phones or internet, the people of Puerto Rico have very limited means of communication with the outside world. "We haven't received any official communications from the Arecibo Observatory," Collins said. ... USRA update noted that "one observatory staff member located in the town of Arecibo contacted via...
  • Asteroid Odd Couple: Spitting Space-Rock Duo Is Truly Bizarre

    09/20/2017 1:36:11 PM PDT · by BenLurkin · 6 replies ^ | 9/20/2017 | Calla Cofield
    The two asteroids, collectively known as 288P, are locked in orbit around each other and are also spewing water vapor into space like comets (which originate in the region beyond Neptune). Many asteroids between Jupiter and Mars can claim one of those characteristics (orbiting one another or releasing vapor), but this is the first time that researchers have identified an object with both features... ... The peculiar rocks were initially identified as a single object, but follow-up observations by Agarwal and her team revealed that 288P consists of two asteroids, each about 1 kilometer (0.62 miles) wide, locked in orbit....
  • Idaho wants to create a 1,400-square-mile reserve for the stars

    09/16/2017 5:48:44 PM PDT · by LibWhacker · 82 replies
    The Week ^ | 9/15/17 | Jeva Lange
    Idaho is moving forward with plans to establish the first International Dark Sky Reserve in the United States, a designation for a location so remote from light pollution that you can even see the "interstellar dust clouds" of the Milky Way in the night sky, The Associated Press reports. Proponents of the reserve plan to file an application this fall to designate 1,400 square miles of central Idaho as part of the dark sky territory. Locals, who would voluntarily take measures to reduce light pollution, are almost unanimously behind the decision in part because they enjoy the celestial splendor as...
  • New theory on origin of the asteroid belt

    09/14/2017 11:41:53 AM PDT · by BenLurkin · 47 replies ^ | September 14, 2017 | by Bob Yirka
    Abstract The asteroid belt contains less than a thousandth of Earth's mass and is radially segregated, with S-types dominating the inner belt and C-types the outer belt. It is generally assumed that the belt formed with far more mass and was later strongly depleted. We show that the present-day asteroid belt is consistent with having formed empty, without any planetesimals between Mars and Jupiter's present-day orbits. This is consistent with models in which drifting dust is concentrated into an isolated annulus of terrestrial planetesimals. Gravitational scattering during terrestrial planet formation causes radial spreading, transporting planetesimals from inside 1 to 1.5...
  • Stellar corpse sheds light on origin of cosmic rays

    09/13/2017 5:52:14 AM PDT · by SandRat · 11 replies
    TUCSON — The origin of cosmic rays, high-energy particles from outer space constantly impacting on Earth, is among the most challenging open questions in astrophysics. Now new research published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society sheds new light on the origin of those energetic particles. Discovered more than 100 years ago and considered a potential health risk to airplane crews and astronauts, cosmic rays are believed to be produced by shock waves — for example, those resulting from supernova explosions. The most energetic cosmic rays streaking across the universe carry 10 to 100 million times the...
  • Massive black hole 100,000 times bigger than the Sun discovered

    09/11/2017 8:29:48 AM PDT · by ETL · 42 replies
    The Sun, via ^ | September 08, 2017 | Aletha Adu
    An immense black hole 100,000 times bigger than the sun has been discovered at the heart of the Milky Way. The enormous void, which lies around 25,000 light years from Earth, could help scientists uncover the how stars, galaxies and even life itself came to be in the universe. ..." According to reports, this newly-discovered black hole could rank as the second largest ever seen in the Milky Way. Despite its immense size, scientists have called it a "mini me" version of its super-massive "cousin" known as Sagittitarius A*.
  • Sunspot Fires Off 6th Powerful Flare This Week

    09/09/2017 9:11:45 PM PDT · by BenLurkin · 9 replies ^ | September 8, 2017 05:09pm ET | Mike Wall, Senior Writer |
    Active Region 2673 (AR 2673) blasted out yet another solar flare early this morning (Sept. 8), its sixth intense burst of high-energy radiation since Monday (Sept. 4). The latest flare, which peaked at 3:49 a.m. EDT (0749 GMT), registered as an M8.1 on scientists' three-tiered classification scale. ("C" flares are the weakest of the three, "M" flares are 10 times stronger than C's, and "X" events are 10 times more intense than M's. There is gradation within each category, too: An M8 flare is eight times stronger than an M1, for example.) [The Sun's Wrath: Worst Solar Storms in History]...
  • Cassini's Saturn Crash 2017 – How to Watch Its 'Grand Finale

    09/07/2017 11:09:01 AM PDT · by BenLurkin · 11 replies
    , ^ | September 7, 2017 11:00am ET | Mike Wall Senior Writer |
    NASA will air a series of webcasts leading up Cassini’s final suicide plunge, which you will be able to watch here at, courtesy of NASA TV. Here’s the streaming schedule: Wednesday, Sept. 13 1 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT): News conference from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), home of Cassini’s mission control, providing a detailed preview of final mission activities. Thursday, Sept. 14 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. EDT (1700 to 2200 GMT): NASA Social event at JPL that includes a speaker program, which will be webcast live. About 11 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT on Sept. 15): Final downlink of...
  • Now We Know When Stars Will Be Passing Through the Oort Cloud

    09/07/2017 10:57:21 AM PDT · by BenLurkin · 16 replies
    universetoday ^ | 6 Sep , 2017
    To our Solar System, “close-encounters” with other stars happen regularly – the last occurring some 70,000 years ago and the next likely to take place 240,000 to 470,000 years from now. While this might sound like a “few and far between” kind of thing, it is quite regular in cosmological terms. Understanding when these encounters will happen is also important since they are known to cause disturbances in the Oort Cloud, sending comets towards Earth. Thanks to a new study by Coryne Bailer-Jones, a researcher from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, astronomers now have refined estimates on when the...
  • Asteroid Florence has two moons

    09/06/2017 6:56:18 PM PDT · by BenLurkin · 9 replies ^ | September 6, 2017
    Radar images obtained between August 29 and September 1, when Florence came closest to Earth, reveal that the asteroid is about 2.8 miles (4.5 kilometers) in size, the US space agency said. It said the two moons were probably between 300-1,000 feet (100-300 meters) across. The inner moon takes approximately eight hours to revolve around Florence while the outer moon takes between 22 and 27 hours, NASA said. NASA said the radar images of Florence, which was discovered in 1981, were obtained by the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California.
  • Massive black hole discovered near heart of the Milky Way

    09/05/2017 3:47:40 PM PDT · by LibWhacker · 25 replies
    The Guardian ^ | 9/4/17 | Ian Sample
    Astronomers find evidence of enormous black hole one hundred thousand times more massive than the sun in a gas cloud near the galaxy’s centre If confirmed, the black hole will rank as the second largest black hole ever seen in the Milky Way after the supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A*. An enormous black hole one hundred thousand times more massive than the sun has been found hiding in a toxic gas cloud wafting around near the heart of the Milky Way. If the discovery is confirmed, the invisible behemoth will rank as the second largest black hole ever...
  • A Solar Storm is Coming

    09/05/2017 4:15:50 AM PDT · by tired&retired · 21 replies ^ | Tuesday, Sep. 5, 2017
    A SOLAR STORM IS COMING: On Sept. 4th at approximately 2030 UT, active sunspot AR2673 hurled a CME toward Earth: movie. NOAA analysts are still modeling the cloud's trajectory. At first glance, the CME appears likely to reach our planet on Sept. 6th with the possibility of moderately strong (G2-class) geomagnetic storms when it arrives. Stay tuned for an updated forecast. What a difference a day can make. On Saturday, Sept. 2nd, sunspot AR2673 was an unremarkable speck largely ignored by forecasters. On Sunday, Sept. 3rd, it underwent a furious transformation. AR2673 expanded more than 10-fold in a single day,...
  • With eye toward KSC, Dream Chaser takes to California skies for tests

    09/03/2017 9:26:46 AM PDT · by rktman · 15 replies ^ | 9/1/2017 | unknown
    Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Dream Chaser spacecraft as it took off from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California for a captive carry flight test on Aug. 30, 2017.(Photo: NASA) If you blocked out the background scenery earlier this week, you could imagine the mini-shuttle was gliding through blue sky toward a landing at Kennedy Space Center, its future home. Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Dream Chaser actually was hovering above the Mojave Desert in California at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, tethered securely to a Chinook helicopter. The so-called “captive carry” test was another step toward returning a winged spacecraft to orbit,...
  • How our immune systems could stop humans reaching Mars

    09/02/2017 10:24:47 AM PDT · by LibWhacker · 48 replies
    The Telegraph ^ | 9/2/17 | Sarah Knapton
    The human immune system is so weakened by space travel that even a simple virus could prove deadly [...snip...] Yet although we now have the technological ability to leave Earth, scientists have found another stumbling block to colonising new worlds - our own immune system. Although it is said we are all made of ‘star stuff’ when it comes to travelling away from our home planet humans are far more vulnerable to the rigours of space than our interstellar origins might suggest. Billions of years of evolution has effectively backed mankind into a corner of the Solar System that it...
  • These chip-sized spacecraft are the smallest space probes yet

    08/31/2017 5:53:31 PM PDT · by ETL · 65 replies
    Prototypes ride on satellites in low Earth orbit to test how their circuitry fares in space Spacecraft have gone bite-sized. On June 23, Breakthrough Starshot, an initiative to send spacecraft to another star system, launched half a dozen probes called Sprites to test how their electronics fare in outer space. Each Sprite, built on a single circuit board, is a prototype of the tiny spacecraft that Starshot scientists intend to send to Alpha Centauri, the trio of stars closest to the sun. Those far-flung probes would be the smallest working spacecraft yet. “We’re talking about launching things that are a...

    08/31/2017 8:16:06 AM PDT · by C19fan · 55 replies
    Universe Today ^ | August 30, 2017 | Matt Williams
    In July of 2015, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced the creation of Breakthrough Listen, a decade-long project that would conduct the largest survey to date for signs of extra-terrestrial communications (ETI). As part of his non-profit organization, Breakthrough Initiatives, this survey would rely on the latest in instrumentation and software to observe the 1,000,000 closest stars and 100 closest galaxies. Using the Green Bank Radio Telescope in West Virginia, the Listen science team at UC Berkeley has been observing distant stars for over a year now. And less than a week ago, they observed 15 Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) coming...
  • $100 Million E.T. Hunt Spots 15 Mysterious Light Flashes

    08/30/2017 3:41:23 PM PDT · by BenLurkin · 42 replies ^ | August 30, 2017 | Mike Wall
    A $100 million search for intelligent aliens has spied 15 bizarre, repeating flashes of light coming from a distant galaxy. The galaxy — a dwarf known as FRB 121102 that lies 3 billion light-years from Earth — is a known source of such brief, high-energy fast radio bursts (FRBs). But the newly detected pulses stand out, astronomers said. "Bursts from this source have never been seen at this high a frequency," Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, said in a statement. Some researchers think FRBs — which...