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Astronomy (General/Chat)

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  • New Comet: C/2017 O1 ASAS-SN Takes Earth by Surprise

    07/27/2017 10:06:47 AM PDT · by BenLurkin · 19 replies ^ | 27 Jul , 2017
    When it was discovered on July 19th, 2017 by the All Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN) system, Comet O1 ASAS-SN was at a faint magnitude +15.3 in the constellation Cetus. In just a few short days, however, the comet jumped up a hundred-fold in brightness to magnitude +10, and should be in range of binoculars now. Hopes are up that the comet will top out around magnitude +8 or so in October, as it transitions from the southern to northern hemisphere. Never heard of ASAS-SN? It’s an automated sky survey hunting for supernovae in both hemispheres, with instruments based...
  • Forget Mars: Humans may live here one day

    07/27/2017 6:22:41 AM PDT · by ETL · 66 replies ^ | July 13, 2017 | Linda Hervieux
    (Newser) – Move over, Mars: Titan could be the best place for a human colony. As far as extraterrestrial bodies go, Saturn's largest moon is surprisingly like Earth, with a dense atmosphere that could shield delicate earthlings from radiation, reports New Scientist. Titan's candidacy as a settlement isn't new, but a fresh analysis shows the yellow moon has valuable energy sources that could power a settlement. Per Science Alert, Amanda Hendrix and Yuk Yung write that once propulsion issues of getting there are tackled, Titan is the "optimal location in the solar system for an off-Earth human settlement." Some 808...
  • Boom! Powerful Cosmic Explosion May Hint at How Black Holes Form

    07/26/2017 5:53:39 PM PDT · by BenLurkin · 6 replies ^ | July 26, 2017 | Elizabeth Howell
    Two key findings emerged from the observations, gathered using several ground- and space-based telescopes. The first step was better model what happens as the dying star collapses. The data suggests that the black hole creates a strong magnetic field that initially overwhelms jets of matter and energy formed because of the explosion. Then, the magnetic field breaks down, the study authors said. In the next phase, the magnetic field diminishes, allowing matter to dominate the jets. Before, scientists thought that jets could be dominated only by the magnetic field or matter — not both. Another insight concerns what kind of...
  • New Horizons’ next target: spotted

    07/26/2017 6:38:26 AM PDT · by MtnClimber · 6 replies
    Astronomy Magazine ^ | 25 Jul, 2015 | Alison Klesman
    NASA successfully observed the Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 as it passed in front of a star — for two seconds. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft changed our view of the outer solar system forever when it flew by Pluto in 2015. Now, it’s on its way to the next destination: a Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known only as 2014 MU69. Although the spacecraft won’t reach its target until New Year’s Day in 2019, NASA is already looking ahead to learn as much about 2014 MU69 as possible, thanks to a convenient temporary alignment that recently allowed the object to pass...
  • NASA's Cassini Saturn Mission's Finale: "Something Unexpected is Awaiting Discovery"

    07/25/2017 9:47:51 PM PDT · by MtnClimber · 35 replies
    The Daily Galaxy ^ | 24 Jul, 2017
    As NASA's Cassini spacecraft makes its unprecedented series of weekly dives between Saturn and its rings, scientists are finding—so far—that the planet's magnetic field has no discernable tilt. This surprising observation, which means the true length of Saturn's day is still unknown, is just one of several early insights from the final phase of Cassini's mission, known as the Grand Finale. Other recent science highlights include promising hints about the structure and composition of the icy rings, along with high-resolution images of the rings and Saturn's atmosphere. Cassini is now in the 15th of 22 weekly orbits that pass through...
  • Jimmy Carter's note placed on the Voyager spacecraft

    07/23/2017 6:44:22 PM PDT · by LibWhacker · 37 replies
  • Bag of NASA moon dust sells for $1.8M at auction

    07/21/2017 6:01:56 AM PDT · by SMGFan · 34 replies
    Fox News ^ | July 21, 2017
    A bag of moon dust from NASA’s Apollo 11 mission – which a woman bought for $995 in 2015 -- sold for $1.8 million at a Sotheby’s auction this week following an intense court battle. The bag, filled with moon dust by astronaut Neil Armstrong during the first manned mission to the moon in July 1969, had previously been misidentified and mistakenly sold at an online government auction. NASA’s attempt to retrieve the bag failed after a federal judge in December ruled it legally belonged to a Chicago-area woman who bought it two years ago. The buyer in Tuesday’s auction...
  • Atomic Clock Sync: a free configuration utility [For PC's]

    07/20/2017 9:13:09 AM PDT · by Red Badger · 25 replies ^ | 07-20-2017 | Staff
    While can help you look up accurate times around the world, our visitors have expressed much interest in our help to keep your local computer clock accurate, too. Atomic Clock Synchronization is the best way to make this happen. Windows can do it ... Windows has a built-in "service" that allows your computer to reference an atomic clock server, such as the atomic clock servers operated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the United States. Your current computer time is compared with the current atomic time and an adjustment is made to keep your local...
  • Today is Moon day!

    07/20/2017 8:13:06 AM PDT · by Nateman · 32 replies
    Free Republic ^ | 7/20/1960 | Nateman
    48 years ago today life on Earth made a visit, for the first time, to another world. On July 20 , 1969 , Neil Armstrong made a small step for a man upon the lunar surface. The last such momentous event in the history of life was 240 million years ago when animals emerged from the sea to walk upon land. Unlike that ancient walk after this giant leap mankind meekly went back to Earth to concentrate instead on other ways of redistributing income.
  • One. More. Month: Our Guide to the Total Solar Eclipse

    07/19/2017 9:39:26 PM PDT · by BenLurkin · 23 replies
    universe today ^ | July 19, 2017 | David Dickinson
    Umbraphiles (those who chase eclipses) have been planning for this one for decades, and it’s already hard to find a room along the path. Fear not, as you only need to be within striking distance the day of the eclipse to reach totality, though expect the roads to be congested that Monday morn. The eclipse is indeed the first time totality touches the contiguous (“lower 48”) United States since 1979, and the first total solar eclipse to cross the United States since almost a century ago on June 8th 1918. A total solar eclipse did cross Hawaii on July 11th,...
  • Northern Lights Will Be Visible In Minnesota Sunday Night

    07/16/2017 12:56:26 PM PDT · by BenLurkin · 6 replies
    The Patch ^ | 01/16/2017 | William Bornhoft
    Mostly clear skies combined with a sizable solar flare means residents across the Twin Cities metro have a pretty good chance at seeing the Northern Lights Sunday night. The National Weather Service's Space Weather Prediction Center has issued a G2 (moderate) Geomagnetic Storm Watch. If you're in the southern half of Minnesota and you're able to avoid city lights, there should be a good outdoor show Sunday night.
  • Astronomers have detected 'strange signals' that may come from a star 11 light-years away

    07/16/2017 11:48:20 AM PDT · by Artemis Webb · 90 replies
    Business Insider ^ | 07/14/17 | Dan Mosher
    Astronomers say they've detected "strange signals" coming from the direction of a small, dim star located about 11 light-years from Earth. Researchers picked up the mysterious signals on May 12 using the Arecibo Observatory, a huge radio telescope built inside of a Puerto Rican sinkhole. The radio signals appear to be coming from Ross 128, a red dwarf star that's not yet known to have any planets and is about 2,800 times dimmer than the sun. Abel Méndez, an astrobiologist at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, said the star was observed for 10 minutes, during which time the...
  • Mesmerizing Video Shows Sunspot Larger Than Earth Rotating Toward the Planet

    07/15/2017 9:10:54 AM PDT · by BenLurkin · 25 replies
    Newsweak ^ | 7/14/17 at 12:31 PM | Stav Ziv
    It takes only 30 seconds to watch a new video released by NASA that shows the sun rotating to reveal a large sunspot. But the mesmerizing footage, captured by the agency’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, seems to go on much longer, drawing viewers in with the majestic view and sustained motion of the sun. Sunspots are particularly active areas on the sun’s surface that have “intense and complex magnetic fields,” according to NASA. “Like freckles on the face of the sun, they appear to be small features, but size is relative: The dark core of this sunspot is actually larger than...
  • New Horizons Flyover of Pluto (spectacular new 3-D perspectives, 2 min YouTube vid)

    07/15/2017 4:37:40 AM PDT · by LibWhacker · 9 replies
    YouTube ^ | 7/14/17
    Using actual New Horizons data and digital elevation models of Pluto and its largest moon Charon, mission scientists have created flyover movies that offer spectacular new perspectives of the many unusual features that were discovered and which have reshaped our views of the Pluto system – from a vantage point even closer than the spacecraft itself. This dramatic Pluto flyover begins over the highlands to the southwest of the great expanse of nitrogen ice plain informally named Sputnik Planitia. The viewer first passes over the western margin of Sputnik, where it borders the dark, cratered terrain of Cthulhu Macula, with...
  • Astronomers turn eyes to New Horizons target beyond Pluto

    07/11/2017 2:34:28 PM PDT · by MtnClimber · 14 replies
    Cosmos ^ | 11 Jul, 2017 | MICHAEL LUCY
    The New Horizons space probe, which made headlines around the world in 2015 when it beamed back humanity’s best-ever views of Pluto, is currently hurtling through the outer reaches of the solar system on its way to a rendezvous with a lump of ice known as MU69. New Horizons won’t get to MU69 for another year and a half – the flyby is expected to occur on 31 December 2018 or 1 January 2019 – so the spacecraft is hibernating to preserve its energy. Meanwhile, scientists on Earth are doing everything they can to find out as much as possible...
  • We’re About to Get Our Closest Look at Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

    07/11/2017 11:35:44 AM PDT · by BenLurkin · 13 replies ^ | 11 Jul , 2017 | Matt Williams
    As part of its sixth orbit of Jupiter’s turbulent cloud tops, Juno passed close to Jupiter’s center (aka. perijove), which took place at 6:55 p.m. PDT (9:55 p.m. EDT). Eleven minutes later – at 7:06 p.m. PDT (10:06 p.m. EDT) – the probe flew over the Great Red Spot. In the process, Juno was at a distance of just 9,000 km (5,600 miles) from the anticyclonic storm, which is the closest any spacecraft has ever flown to it. During the flyby, Juno had all eight of its scientific instruments (as well its imager, the JunoCam) trained directly on the storm....
  • Mayak - (Russian for Lighthouse) Satellite

    07/11/2017 6:53:26 AM PDT · by Lonesome in Massachussets · 3 replies ^ | Tuesday, July 11, 2017 | Staff
    Mayak, Russian for ‘Lighthouse or Beacon,’ is a crowd-funded 3U CubeSat developed by a group called ‘Your Sector of Space’ with support from the Moscow State University of Mechanical Engineering to create an experimental mission for establishing an artificial star – the brightest object in the night sky aside from the Moon. Mayak is expected to deploy four triangular reflectors, each with a surface of 4m², forming a large tetrahedral reflector with a reflection coefficient of 95%. Based on pre-flight analysis, Mayak will reach an optical magnitude of -10 at the beginning of the flight – surpassing the brightness of...
  • Sunspot, and chance of weekend storms

    07/08/2017 10:31:01 PM PDT · by BenLurkin · 9 replies ^ | July 7, 2017 | Deborah Byrd
    We’re approaching another minimum in the 11-year sunspot cycle, predicted for the years 2019 and 2020, and so the number of visible spots on the sun has been low. But there’s a nice, big, visible spot on the sun now, plus an Earth-facing coronal hole seen by spacecraft. Because this hole in the sun’s atmosphere faces Earth – and because it releases a high-speed solar wind – experts say there’s a 60% chance this weekend of minor G1-class geomagnetic storms, which could causes auroras. The coming full moon, of course, might interfere or might give you an opportunity for some...
  • NASA Pluto Probe's Next Target May Actually Be 'Swarm' of Objects

    07/07/2017 1:26:29 PM PDT · by BenLurkin · 4 replies ^ | July 7, 2017 06:56am ET | Mike Wall,
    The frigid, faraway body that NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will zoom by 18 months from now may actually be a cluster of small objects, new observations suggest. New Horizons — which performed the first-ever flyby of Pluto in July 2015 — will have another close encounter on Jan. 1, 2019, this time with a little-studied object called 2014 MU69. Mission scientists recently had a chance to learn more about 2014 MU69, which lies about 1 billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond the orbit of Pluto and is thought to be 12 to 25 miles (20 to 40 km) wide. On...
  • Moon Has a Close Encounter with Saturn on Thursday Night

    07/06/2017 5:54:04 AM PDT · by BenLurkin · 10 replies ^ | July 6, 2017 06:50am ET | Joe Rao
    The ringed planet appears as a bright "star" shining with a steady, sedate yellow-white glow, but it isn't as eye-catching as Venus or Jupiter. Indeed, I suspect that many neophytes to astronomy likely have passed over it visually without knowing exactly what it is. Some nearby benchmark would certainly help to guide one to it. About 1 hour after sunset, look toward the south-southeast sky. Roughly one-quarter up from the horizon to the point overhead will be a nearly full moon, 96 percent illuminated by the sun. (The moon will officially turn full during the overnight hours late next Saturday...