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Astronomy (General/Chat)

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  • Space Weather Causing Martian Atmospherics

    05/25/2016 11:12:02 AM PDT · by BenLurkin · 2 replies
    Strange plumes in Mars’ atmosphere first recorded by amateur astronomers four year ago have planetary scientists still scratching their heads. But new data from European Space Agency’s orbiting Mars Express points to coronal mass ejections from the Sun as the culprit. On two occasions in 2012 amateurs photographed cloud-like features rising to altitudes of over 155 miles (250 km) above the same region of Mars. By comparison, similar features seen in the past haven’t exceeded 62 miles (100 km). On March 20th of that year, the cloud developed in less than 10 hours, covered an area of up to 620...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Milky Way Over the Spanish Peaks

    05/24/2016 4:28:10 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 14 replies
    NASA ^ | Tuesday, May 24, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: That's not lightning, and it did not strike between those mountains. The diagonal band is actually the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy, while the twin peaks are actually called the Spanish Peaks -- but located in Colorado, USA. Although each Spanish peak is composed of a slightly different type of rock, both are approximately 25 million years old. This serene yet spirited image composite was meticulously created by merging a series of images all taken from the same location on one night and early last month. In the first series of exposures, the background sky was built...
  • Astronomers just discovered a rare dwarf galaxy that's loaded with precious elements

    05/23/2016 5:24:39 PM PDT · by LibWhacker · 37 replies
    Science Alert ^ | 5/23/16 | BEC CREW
    Scientists have been searching for the origin of some of the most precious metals on Earth - including gold, silver, and platinum - for almost six decades. And now we might finally have the answer. Heavy, and often valuable elements like these are called r-process elements, and they require an incredible amount of energy to produce. So far, no one's been able to explain how they came to exist in the Universe. But the discovery that an ancient dwarf galaxy called Reticulum II - about 98,000 light-years from Earth - has stars that contain a "whopping" amount of these metals...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Inside a Daya Bay Antineutrino Detector

    05/22/2016 9:30:47 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 7 replies
    NASA ^ | Monday, May 23, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Why is there more matter than antimatter in the Universe? To better understand this facet of basic physics, energy departments in China and the USA led in the creation of the Daya Bay Reactor Neutrino Experiment. Located under thick rock about 50 kilometers northeast of Hong Kong, China, eight Daya Bay detectors monitor antineutrinos emitted by six nearby nuclear reactors. Featured here, a camera looks along one of the Daya Bay detectors, imaging photon sensors that pick up faint light emitted by antineutrinos interacting with fluids in the detector. Early results indicate an unexpectedly high rate of one type...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- LL Orionis: When Cosmic Winds Collide

    05/22/2016 5:31:41 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 5 replies
    NASA ^ | Sunday, May 22, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: What created this great arc in space? This arcing, graceful structure is actually a bow shock about half a light-year across, created as the wind from young star LL Orionis collides with the Orion Nebula flow. Adrift in Orion's stellar nursery and still in its formative years, variable star LL Orionis produces a wind more energetic than the wind from our own middle-aged sun. As the fast stellar wind runs into slow moving gas a shock front is formed, analogous to the bow wave of a boat moving through water or a plane traveling at supersonic speed. The slower...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Milky Way and Planets Near Opposition

    05/21/2016 12:47:18 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 6 replies
    NASA ^ | Saturday, May 21, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: In this early May night skyscape, a mountain road near Bursa, Turkey seems to lead toward bright planets Mars and Saturn and the center of our Milky Way Galaxy, a direction nearly opposite the Sun in planet Earth's sky. The brightest celestial beacon on the scene, Mars, reaches its opposition tonight and Saturn in early June. Both will remain nearly opposite the Sun, up all night and close to Earth for the coming weeks, so the time is right for good telescopic viewing. Mars and Saturn form the tight celestial triangle with red giant star Antares just right of...
  • Mars Is Ready For Its Close-Up: Red Planet Easy To Spot This Weekend

    05/21/2016 10:47:53 AM PDT · by BenLurkin · 15 replies
    Sometimes astronomy can be challenging, but spotting Mars this weekend should be a breeze. Step 1: Head outside right after sunset and look toward the southeastern sky. Step 2: Find the full moon. (So far, so good, right?) Step 3: Look up and to the right, and find what looks like a bright red star. That's Mars, our planetary neighbor — getting up close and personal. This weekend is the "Mars opposition," when the planet shines most brightly; at the end of the month, in a related event, we'll have the "Mars close approach," when there's the shortest distance between...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- 3D Mercury Transit

    05/20/2016 10:54:00 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 5 replies
    NASA ^ | Friday, May 20, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: On May 9, innermost planet Mercury crossed IN FRONT of the Sun. Though pictures project the event in only two dimensions, a remarkable three dimensional perspective on the transit is possible by free viewing this stereo pair. The images were made 23 minutes apart and rotated so that Mercury's position shifts horizontally between the two. As a result, Mercury's orbital motion produced an exaggerated parallax simulating binocular vision. Between the two exposures, the appropriately named planet's speedy 47.4 kilometer per second orbital velocity actually carried it over 65,000 kilometers. Taken first, the left image is intended for the right...
  • Wal-Mart profit, revenue beat expectations; US sales up more than expected (Target Down- Surprise!)

    05/19/2016 4:53:15 PM PDT · by ghosthost · 13 replies
    CNBC ^ | 5-19-2016 | Staff
    Wal-Mart Stores on Thursday reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit and revenue, as sales in the U.S. market rose and the retailing giant kept a lid on costs. Shares of Wal-Mart closed up more than 9 percent Thursday. The company posted first-quarter earnings per share of 98 cents, versus $1.03 a share in the year-earlier period. Revenue for the quarter came in at $115.9 billion, against the comparable year-earlier figure of $114.83 billion. Analysts polled by Reuters expected the retail giant to report earnings per share of 88 cents on revenue of $113.22 billion.
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Surface of Europa

    05/19/2016 10:17:59 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 11 replies
    NASA ^ | Thursday, May 19, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: An enhanced-color view, this image covers a 350 by 750 kilometer swath across the surface of Jupiter's tantalizing moon Europa. The close-up combines high-resolution image data with lower resolution color data from observations made in 1998 by the Galileo spacecraft. Smooth ice plains, long fractures, and jumbled blocks of chaos terrain are thought to hide a deep ocean of salty liquid water beneath. Though the ice-covered alien ocean world is outside the Solar System's habitable zone, new studies show the potential chemistry driving its oxygen and hydrogen production, a key indicator of the energy available for life, could produce...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Halo from Atacama

    05/18/2016 10:27:18 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 3 replies
    NASA ^ | Wednesday, May 18, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Influenced by the strong Pacific El Nino, cloudy skies have more often come to Chile's high Atacama Desert this season, despite its reputation as an astronomer's paradise. Located in one of the driest, darkest places on planet Earth, domes of the region's twin 6.5 meter Magellan telescopes of Carnegie Las Campanas Observatory were closed on May 13. Still, a first quarter Moon and bright stars shine through in this panoramic night skyscape, the lunar disk surrounded by a beautiful, bright halo. The angular radius of the halo is 22 degrees. Not determined by the brightness or phase of the...
  • Brilliant Fireball Seen Over The Northeast Coast

    05/17/2016 6:43:03 PM PDT · by sparklite2 · 29 replies
    Popular Science ^ | 5/17/2016 | Mary Beth Griggs
    In the early hours this morning, people that were awake and looking up at the sky in the northeastern United States and far eastern Canada were treated to a magnificent display as a meteorite burned up in the atmosphere, brightening the entire sky for a second as it went.The American Meteor Society, which reported the event and compiled images and videos taken by night owls and people lucky enough to have dash cams or web cams pointing in the right direction at the right time.
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Orion Nebula in Visible and Infrared

    05/17/2016 2:52:36 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 9 replies
    NASA ^ | Tuesday, May 17, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion is a colorful place. Visible to the unaided eye, it appears as a small fuzzy patch in the constellation of Orion. Long exposure, multi-wavelength images like this, however, show the Orion Nebula to be a busy neighborhood of young stars, hot gas, and dark dust. This digital composite features not only three colors of visible light but four colors of infrared light taken by NASA's orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope as well. The power behind much of the Orion Nebula (M42) is the Trapezium - four of the brightest stars in the nebula. Many of...
  • Why dying stars may be a good place to look for alien life

    05/16/2016 3:15:46 PM PDT · by BenLurkin · 13 replies
    washingtonpost.com ^ | May 16 at 12:53 PM | By Sarah Kaplan
    In a paper published Monday in the Astrophysical Journal, Kaltenegger, who is director of the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell University, and her colleague Ramses Ramirez modeled the conditions under which life could exist around stars that are close to using up their fuel — ones much older and bigger than our sun. "We can find all these new places that may become habitable worlds," Kaltenegger said, in the dim, red glow of a slow-burning dwarf star, or on once-frozen planets thawed by a rapidly expanding red giant. Nearly two dozen such potentially life-sustaining suns exist right in our own...
  • Clues to ancient giant asteroid found in Australia

    05/16/2016 8:53:57 AM PDT · by JimSEA · 8 replies
    Science Daily ^ | 5/16/2016 | Australian National University
    Scientists have found evidence of a huge asteroid that struck the Earth early in its life with an impact larger than anything humans have experienced. Tiny glass beads called spherules, found in north-western Australia were formed from vaporised material from the asteroid impact, said Dr Andrew Glikson from The Australian National University (ANU). "The impact would have triggered earthquakes orders of magnitude greater than terrestrial earthquakes, it would have caused huge tsunamis and would have made cliffs crumble," said Dr Glikson, from the ANU Planetary Institute. "Material from the impact would have spread worldwide. These spherules were found in sea...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Clouds of the Carina Nebula

    05/16/2016 6:15:36 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 9 replies
    NASA ^ | Monday, May 16, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: What forms lurk in the mists of the Carina Nebula? The dark ominous figures are actually molecular clouds, knots of molecular gas and dust so thick they have become opaque. In comparison, however, these clouds are typically much less dense than Earth's atmosphere. Featured here is a detailed image of the core of the Carina Nebula, a part where both dark and colorful clouds of gas and dust are particularly prominent. The image was captured last month from Siding Spring Observatory in Australia. Although the nebula is predominantly composed of hydrogen gas -- here colored green, the image was...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Milky Way Over Quiver Tree Forest

    05/15/2016 3:40:02 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 8 replies
    NASA ^ | Sunday, May 15, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: In front of a famous background of stars and galaxies lies some of Earth's more unusual trees. Known as quiver trees, they are actually succulent aloe plants that can grow to tree-like proportions. The quiver tree name is derived from the historical usefulness of their hollowed branches as dart holders. Occurring primarily in southern Africa, the trees pictured in the above 16-exposure composite are in Quiver Tree Forest located in southern Namibia. Some of the tallest quiver trees in the park are estimated to be about 300 years old. Behind the trees is light from the small town of...
  • Kepler detects nearly 1,300 more planets orbiting distant stars

    05/14/2016 9:10:33 PM PDT · by NormsRevenge · 11 replies
    SFGate.com ^ | 5/11/16 | David Perlman
    Astronomers monitoring the Kepler space telescope have detected nearly 1,300 planets flying in orbit around distant stars, a cosmic search that began nearly 10 years ago inside a rusty old telescope dome at the Lick Observatory atop Mount Hamilton near San Jose. From the size and orbits of the new-found “exoplanets,” the astronomers said at least 550 could be rocky planets much like Earth, and at least nine are orbiting at just the right distance from their stars to lie inside their “habitable zones” where temperatures would be just right for liquid water, the one ingredient essential for life to...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Falcon 9 and Milky Way

    05/14/2016 1:08:21 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 9 replies
    NASA ^ | Saturday, May 14, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: On May 6, the after midnight launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lit up dark skies over Merritt Island, planet Earth. Its second stage bound for Earth orbit, the rocket's arc seems to be on course for the center of the Milky Way in this pleasing composite image looking toward the southeast. Two consecutive exposures made with camera fixed to a tripod were combined to follow rocket and home galaxy. A 3 minute long exposure at low sensitivity allowed the rocket's first stage burn to trace the bright orange arc and a 30 second exposure at high sensitivity...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- ISS and Mercury Too

    05/14/2016 1:03:04 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 3 replies
    NASA ^ | Friday, May 13, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Transits of Mercury are relatively rare. Monday's leisurely 7.5 hour long event was only the 2nd of 14 Mercury transits in the 21st century. If you're willing to travel, transits of the International Space Station can be more frequent though, and much quicker. This sharp video frame composite was taken from a well-chosen location in Philadelphia, USA. It follows the space station, moving from upper right to lower left, as it crossed the Sun's disk in 0.6 seconds. Mercury too is included as the small, round, almost stationary silhouette just below center. In apparent size, the International Space Station...
  • Have you seen Mars?

    05/12/2016 4:41:57 PM PDT · by yoe · 33 replies
    Earth Sky ^ | May 12, 2016
    On May 22, Earth will fly between Mars and the sun for the first time in two years. It now appears in a triangle with Saturn and Antares. Recent images here![snip] The video above – by Jeremy Evans – shows the Milky Way Rising with Saturn, Mars, and Antares from Vermillion Cliffs National Monument near the Utah/Arizona border.
  • Cosmic dust reveals Earth's ancient atmosphere

    05/12/2016 10:00:37 AM PDT · by JimSEA · 22 replies
    Science Daily ^ | 5/11/2016 | Monash University
    Using the oldest fossil micrometeorites -- space dust -- ever found, Monash University-led research has made a surprising discovery about the chemistry of Earth's atmosphere 2.7 billion years ago. The findings of a new study published today in the journal Nature -- led by Dr Andrew Tomkins and a team from the School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment at Monash, along with scientists from the Australian Synchrotron and Imperial College, London -- challenge the accepted view that Earth's ancient atmosphere was oxygen-poor. The findings indicate instead that the ancient Earth's upper atmosphere contained about the same amount of oxygen as...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- A Transit of Mercury

    05/12/2016 4:52:01 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 9 replies
    NASA ^ | Thursday, May 12, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: On May 9, the diminutive disk of Mercury spent about seven and a half hours crossing in front of the Sun as viewed from the general vicinity of Earth. It was the second of 14 transits of the Solar System's innermost planet in the 21st century. Captured from Fulham, London, England, planet Earth the tiny silhouette shares the enormous solar disk with prominences, filaments, and active regions in this sharp image. But Mercury's round disk (left of center) appears to be the only dark spot, despite the planet-sized sunspots scattered across the Sun. Made with an H-alpha filter that...
  • Three Problems With the Big Bang

    05/11/2016 7:53:28 PM PDT · by MtnClimber · 54 replies
    Real Clear Science ^ | Ross Pomeroy
    Somewhere around 13.8 billion years ago, the Universe began with a bang. In less than a second, the four fundamental forces -- electromagnetism, gravitation, weak nuclear interaction, and strong nuclear interaction -- which initially were joined as a single even more fundamental force, separated. Suddenly, the Universe started to expand at an exponential rate. Cosmic inflation had begun. .... The Big Bang is the best theory we have to explain the birth and existence of the Universe. As astrophysicist Ethan Siegel wrote in his recent book Beyond the Galaxy: "To this very day, there is no other model that is...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- A Mercury Transit Music Video from SDO

    05/11/2016 1:52:06 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 3 replies
    NASA ^ | Wednesday, May 11, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: What's that small black dot moving across the Sun? Mercury. Possibly the clearest view of Mercury crossing in front of the Sun earlier this week was from Earth orbit. The Solar Dynamics Observatory obtained an uninterrupted vista recording it not only in optical light but also in bands of ultraviolet light. Featured here is a composite movie of the crossing set to music. Although the event might prove successful scientifically for better determining components of Mercury' ultra-thin atmosphere, the event surely proved successful culturally by involving people throughout the world in observing a rare astronomical phenomenon. Many spectacular images...
  • Star pupil finds lost Mayan city by studying ancient charts of the night sky from his bedroom

    05/10/2016 6:51:59 PM PDT · by aMorePerfectUnion · 94 replies
    UK Telegraph ^ | 10 May 16 | Telegraph Reporters
    (Title was shortened. Add: "of the night sky from his bedroom ") A Canadian schoolboy appears to have discovered a lost Mayan city hidden deep in the jungles of Mexico using a new method of matching stars to the location of temples on earth. William Gadoury, 15, was fascinated by the ancient Central American civilization and spent hours poring over diagrams of constellations and maps of known Mayan cities. And then he made a startling realisation: the two appeared to be linked. “I was really surprised and excited when I realised that the most brilliant stars of the constellations matched...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Saturn and Mars visit Milky Way Star Clouds

    05/10/2016 4:57:55 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 4 replies
    NASA ^ | Tuesday, May 10, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Planets, stars, nebulas and a galaxy -- this impressive image has them all. Closest to home are the two planets Mars (right) and Saturn (center), visible as the two bright orange spots in the upper half of the featured image. On the central right are the colorful Rho Ophiuchus star clouds featuring the bright orange star Antares lined up below Mars. These interstellar clouds contain both red emission nebulas and blue reflection nebulas. At the top right of the image is the Blue Horsehead reflection nebula. On the lower left are many dark absorption nebulas that extend from the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Webb Telescope Mirror Rises after Assembly

    05/10/2016 4:54:25 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 10 replies
    NASA ^ | Monday, May 09, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Move over Hubble -- here comes the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). JWST promises to be the new most powerful telescope in space. In the last month, the 18-segment gold-plated primary mirror for JWST was unveiled. In the featured time-lapse video taken last week, the 6.5-meter diameter mirror was raised to a vertical position. The dramatic 30-second sequence shows NASA engineers monitoring the test as room lights glint brightly off the mirror's highly reflective surface. The beryllium mirrors have been coated with a thin film of gold to make them more reflective to infrared light. The science goals of...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Mercury's Transit: An Unusual Spot on the Sun

    05/10/2016 4:51:35 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 3 replies
    NASA ^ | Sunday, May 08, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: What's that dot on the Sun? If you look closely, it is almost perfectly round. The dot is the result of an unusual type of solar eclipse that occurred in 2006. Usually it is the Earth's Moon that eclipses the Sun. This time, the planet Mercury took a turn. Like the approach to New Moon before a solar eclipse, the phase of Mercury became a continually thinner crescent as the planet progressed toward an alignment with the Sun. Eventually the phase of Mercury dropped to zero and the dark spot of Mercury crossed our parent star. The situation could...
  • Hawking at Harvard ... tackles the contradictory qualities of black holes

    05/10/2016 1:00:09 AM PDT · by LibWhacker · 15 replies
    Harvard.edu ^ | 4/18/16 | Peter Reuell
    Hawking at Harvard At packed Sanders Theatre, theoretical physicist and cosmologist tackles the contradictory qualities of black holes April 18, 2016 | Editor's Pick Popular Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer"If determinism — the predictability of the universe — breaks down in black holes, it could break down in other situations. Even worse, if determinism breaks down, we can’t be sure of our past history either. The history books and our memories could just be illusions. It is the past that tells us who we are. Without it, we lose our identity," said Stephen Hawking. By Peter Reuell, Harvard Staff Writer Twitter...
  • New study supports natural causes, not alien activity, explain mystery star's behavior

    05/09/2016 8:56:03 PM PDT · by rdl6989 · 16 replies
    phys.org ^ | May 9, 2016 | David Salisbury
    Sorry, E.T. lovers, but the results of a new study make it far less likely that KIC 8462852, popularly known as Tabby's star, is the home of industrious aliens who are gradually enclosing it in a vast shell called a Dyson sphere. Public interest in the star, which sits about 1,480 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus, began last fall when Yale astronomer Tabetha ("Tabby") Boyajian and colleagues posted a paper on an astronomy preprint server reporting that "planet hunters" - a citizen science group formed to search data from the Kepler space telescope for evidence of exoplanets - had...
  • Pluto's Moon Coated in Nearly Pure Water Ice

    05/09/2016 11:57:59 AM PDT · by BenLurkin · 29 replies
    Discovered in June 2005, Pluto’s outermost moon Hydra is thought to have formed four billion years ago during a massive impact event that created Pluto and Charon. Despite its age, this 31-mile-wide moon appeared remarkably clean and bright in New Horizons images during the spacecraft’s historic close pass through the Pluto system in July 2015. Scientists’ initial speculation was proved right when data from the spacecraft was analyzed and revealed that Hydra, like its name [??], is covered in nearly pure water ice. Measured with the Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) on New Horizons’ Ralph instrument, the spectral signature...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Three Worlds for TRAPPIST-1

    05/07/2016 5:39:19 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 3 replies
    NASA ^ | Saturday, May 07, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Three new found worlds orbit the ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1, a mere 40 light-years away. Their transits were first detected by the Belgian robotic TRAnsiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope, TRAPPIST, at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile. The newly discovered exoplanets are all similar in size to Earth. Because they orbit very close to their faint, tiny star they could also have regions where surface temperatures allow for the presence of liquid water, a key ingredient for life. Their tantalizing proximity to Earth makes them prime candidates for future telescopic explorations of the atmospheres of these potentially habitable...
  • New Horizons sets sights on its next target, a mysterious object at solar system's edge

    05/06/2016 6:37:23 PM PDT · by BenLurkin · 10 replies
    Known as 2014 MU69, the object is thought to be unchanged since the birth of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.... ... Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel submitted plans last month to NASA to fly past the relatively tiny chunk of icy matter on New Year's Day 2019. If NASA approves it, the extended New Horizon mission could give a close-up view of what has so far only appeared to scientists as a faint dot of light. ... The object is in a 300-year orbit around the sun in the Kuiper Belt, a region of space beyond...
  • Mars and Earth are getting closer (for now)

    05/06/2016 1:06:47 PM PDT · by BenLurkin · 13 replies
    The red planet will soon be closer to Earth that it has been in 11 years: On May 30, Mars will be about 46.8 million miles (75.3 million kilometers) from Earth. Yes, that’s still a long way off, but sometimes Mars is 249 million miles (400 million kilometers) from Earth. What does this close approach mean for sky watchers? It means Mars will appear bigger and brighter from May 18 until June 3, according to NASA. But you don’t have to wait. Mars already is putting on a spectacular show in the early morning sky. And you don’t need a...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- NGC 7023: The Iris Nebula

    05/06/2016 5:51:52 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 5 replies
    NASA ^ | Friday, May 06, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: These cosmic clouds have blossomed 1,300 light-years away, in the fertile starfields of the constellation Cepheus. Called the Iris Nebula, NGC 7023 is not the only nebula to evoke the imagery of flowers, though. Still, this deep telescopic image shows off the Iris Nebula's range of colors and symmetries, embedded in surrounding fields of interstellar dust. Within the Iris itself, dusty nebular material surrounds a hot, young star. The dominant color of the brighter reflection nebula is blue, characteristic of dust grains reflecting starlight. Central filaments of the reflection nebula glow with a faint reddish photoluminesence as some dust...
  • Why is space three-dimensional?

    05/05/2016 6:53:04 PM PDT · by MtnClimber · 132 replies
    Phys.org ^ | 3 May, 2016 | Lisa Zyga
    The question of why space is three-dimensional (3D) and not some other number of dimensions has puzzled philosophers and scientists since ancient Greece. Space-time overall is four-dimensional, or (3 + 1)-dimensional, where time is the fourth dimension. It's well-known that the time dimension is related to the second law of thermodynamics: time has one direction (forward) because entropy (a measure of disorder) never decreases in a closed system such as the universe. In a new paper published in EPL, researchers have proposed that the second law of thermodynamics may also explain why space is 3D. "A number of researchers in...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The SONG and the Hunter

    05/05/2016 6:49:49 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 3 replies
    NASA ^ | Thursday, May 05, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Near first quarter, the Moon in March lights this snowy, rugged landscape, a view across the top of Tenerife toward La Palma in the Canary Islands Spanish archipelago. The large Teide volcano, the highest point in Spain, looms over the horizon. Shining above are familiar bright stars of Orion, the Hunter. Adding to the dreamlike scene is the 1 meter diameter prototype telescope of the global network project called the Stellar Observations Network Group or SONG. The SONG's fully robotic observatory was captured during the 30 second exposure while the observatory dome, with slit open, was rotated across the...
  • Scientists Assemble Fresh Global Map of Pluto Comprising Sharpest Flyby Images

    05/04/2016 11:33:33 AM PDT · by LibWhacker · 8 replies
    Universe Today ^ | 5/1/16 | Ken Kremer
    The science team leading NASA’s New Horizons mission that unveiled the true nature of Pluto’s long hidden looks during the history making maiden close encounter last July, have published a fresh global map that offers the sharpest and most spectacular glimpse yet of the mysterious, icy world. The newly updated global Pluto map is comprised of all the highest resolution images transmitted back to Earth thus far and provides the best perspective to date. Click on the lead image above to enjoy Pluto revealed at its finest thus far. Click on this link to view the highest resolution version. Prior...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- A Mercury Transit Sequence

    05/03/2016 11:41:56 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 5 replies
    NASA ^ | Wednesday, May 04, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: This coming Monday, Mercury will cross the face of the Sun, as seen from Earth. Called a transit, the last time this happened was in 2006. Because the plane of Mercury's orbit is not exactly coincident with the plane of Earth's orbit, Mercury usually appears to pass over or under the Sun. The above time-lapse sequence, superimposed on a single frame, was taken from a balcony in Belgium shows the entire transit of 2003 May 7. The solar crossing lasted over five hours, so that the above 23 images were taken roughly 15 minutes apart. The north pole of...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Aurora over Sweden

    05/03/2016 12:44:34 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 8 replies
    NASA ^ | Tuesday, May 03, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: It was bright and green and stretched across the sky. This striking aurora display was captured last month just outside of Östersund, Sweden. Six photographic fields were merged to create the featured panorama spanning almost 180 degrees. Particularly striking aspects of this aurora include its sweeping arc-like shape and its stark definition. Lake Storsjön is seen in the foreground, while several familiar constellations and the star Polaris are visible through the aurora, far in the background. Coincidently, the aurora appears to avoid the Moon visible on the lower left. The aurora appeared a day after a large hole opened...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Crossing Mars

    05/03/2016 12:36:30 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 5 replies
    NASA ^ | Monday, May 02, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Where is NASA's rover Curiosity going on Mars? Its geographical goals are on the slopes of Mount Sharp, whose peak is seen in the background on the right. A key scientific goal, however, remains to better assess when and where conditions on Mars were once suitable for life, in particular microbial life. To further this goal, Curiosity was directed to cross the rugged terrain of Nautkluft Plateau, visible in the featured image on the foreground left. Curiosity is crossing toward smoother uphill sites with rocks containing hematite and sulfates, sites that could give the rolling rover new clues on...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Contemplating the Sun

    05/03/2016 12:35:51 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 5 replies
    NASA ^ | Sunday, May 01, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Have you contemplated your home star recently? Featured here, a Sun partially eclipsed on the top left by the Moon is also seen eclipsed by earthlings contemplating the eclipse below. The spectacular menagerie of silhouettes was taken in 2012 from the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area near Page, Arizona, USA, where park rangers and astronomers expounded on the unusual event to interested gatherers. Also faintly visible on the Sun's disk, just to the lower right of the dark Moon's disk, is a group of sunspots. Although a partial solar eclipse by the Moon is indeed a good chance to...
  • The Democrat Derby

    05/02/2016 3:47:58 PM PDT · by blueunicorn6 · 4 replies
    Das Kapital | 5/2/2016 | blueunicorn6
    Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's the first Monday in May and that means it's time again for the Prance For The Pork, The Democrat Derby! Not much of a field this year. In fact, it's an old nag versus an old goat. I've seen better fields on the carousel. And those horses were less wooden than Hillary and Bernie. Here's Barney Frank to blow the bugler. The horses are at the post. It's the Washington Post. Now you know where they got the saying, "Dumb as the Post". Oh, the colors are magnificent at The Democrat Derby. There's white....and there's...
  • A Rare Celestial Crossing: Mercury Will Transit the Sun on May 9

    05/02/2016 11:43:18 AM PDT · by BenLurkin · 10 replies
    Space.com ^ | Nola Taylor Redd,
    Although both Mercury and Venus circle between the Earth and the sun on every orbit (with Mercury passing between the two bodies three times each Earth year), the three planets don't sit in a flat orbit compared to one another. Only when Earth and a passing planet line up is the interior world visible to skywatchers as it crosses the sun. Mercury's transits currently take place in either early May or November. It is during those months that Earth's orbital plane is intersected by Mercury's, according to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. However, the orientation of the two orbital planes...
  • Will SpaceX Get People to Mars Before NASA?

    05/02/2016 11:27:29 AM PDT · by BenLurkin · 37 replies
    discov ery ^ | 05/02/2016 | Irene Klotz
    The plan begins with a Dragon capsule, similar to one of the cargo ships now parked at the International Space Station, blasting off for Mars aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket as early as 2018. The Falcon Heavy, which will have 27 first-stage engines, compared to the nine aboard SpaceX’s current Falcon rocket, is scheduled for its first flight before the end of this year. Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful U.S. rocket to fly since NASA’s Saturn 5 moon rockets of the 1970s. ... SpaceX, which has multibillion-dollar contracts with NASA to fly cargo and crew to the...
  • These three Earth-like planets may be our best chance yet at detecting life

    05/02/2016 9:59:49 AM PDT · by JimSEA · 19 replies
    Washington Post ^ | 5/2/2016 | Rachel Feltman
    Speaking of Science These three Earth-like planets may be our best chance yet at detecting life By Rachel Feltman May 2 at 11:19 AM Artist’s impression of the surface of one of the three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star just 40 light years from Earth. (ESO/M. Kornmesser) It seems like scientists are finding potentially habitable planets all the time these days, and they are — the Kepler Space Telescope is very, very good at its job, even though it's technically broken. But the three exoplanets described Monday in the journal Nature manage to stand apart: According to the scientists...
  • NASA Research Provides New Details On Mystery of How the Moon Got ‘Inked’

    05/01/2016 11:31:11 AM PDT · by BenLurkin · 21 replies
    Lunar swirls can be tens of miles across and appear in groups or just as an isolated feature. Previous observations yielded two significant clues about their formation: First, they appear where ancient bits of magnetic field are embedded in the lunar crust (although not every “fossil” magnetic field on the moon has a lunar swirl). Second, the bright areas in the swirls appear to be less weathered than their surroundings. The space environment is harsh; many things can cause material exposed to space to change chemically and darken over time, including impacts from microscopic meteorites and the effects of the...
  • Starshot: Concept and Execution (Starchip Enterprise?)

    04/30/2016 9:25:37 PM PDT · by LibWhacker · 5 replies
    Centauri Dreams ^ | 4/22/16 | Paul Gilster
    Starshot: Concept and Execution by Paul Gilster on April 22, 2016 Because I get irritable when I don't get my walking in every day, I made sure when I arrived in Palo Alto to cram as much as I could into the day before Breakthrough Discuss began. That meant heading out from the hotel just after noon and putting in about five miles. Palo Alto is a very walkable place and I found myself ambling up and down shady streets past gardens bright with spring flowers. We had superb weather for the entire conference, but naturally when things got going,...
  • All Good Things: Countdown Begins Toward Cassini's 'Grand Finale' Around Saturn

    04/30/2016 8:42:56 PM PDT · by LibWhacker · 9 replies
    AmericaSpace ^ | 4/29/16 | Leonidas Papadopoulos
    All Good Things: Countdown Begins Toward Cassini's 'Grand Finale' Around Saturn By Leonidas Papadopoulos Artist's concept of Cassini's final orbits between the Saturn's innermost rings and the planet's cloud tops. This set of orbits will consist the last leg of Cassini's mission, called "The Grand Finale," which will culminate with a plunge on Saturn's atmosphere in September 2017. Image Credit: Image Credit: NASA/JPL It has become something of a hackneyed phrase, but in the case of NASA's Cassini spacecraft it is rather fitting: an epic mission of exploration of Saturn that has single-handedly changed our view of the ringed planet,...