Astronomy (General/Chat)

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  • New, tighter timeline confirms ancient volcanism aligned with dinosaurs' extinction

    12/19/2014 11:42:56 AM PST · by Red Badger · 14 replies
    www.sciencedaily.com ^ | December 18, 2014 | Source: Princeton University
    A definitive geological timeline shows that a series of massive volcanic explosions 66 million years ago spewed enormous amounts of climate-altering gases into the atmosphere immediately before and during the extinction event that claimed Earth's non-avian dinosaurs, according to new research from Princeton University. A primeval volcanic range in western India known as the Deccan Traps, which were once three times larger than France, began its main phase of eruptions roughly 250,000 years before the Cretaceous-Paleogene, or K-Pg, extinction event, the researchers report in the journal Science. For the next 750,000 years, the volcanoes unleashed more than 1.1 million cubic...
  • NASA's Kepler spacecraft finds first alien planet of new mission

    12/19/2014 6:12:01 AM PST · by Red Badger · 19 replies
    www.foxnews.com ^ | Published December 19, 2014 | By Mike Wall
    NASA's Kepler space telescope is discovering alien planets again. The prolific spacecraft has spotted its first new alien planet since being hobbled by a malfunction in May 2013, researchers announced Dec. 18. The newly discovered world, called HIP 116454b, is a "super Earth" about 2.5 times larger than our home planet. It lies 180 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Pisces — close enough to be studied by other instruments, scientists said. "Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Kepler has been reborn and is continuing to make discoveries," study lead author Andrew Vanderburg, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- NGC 7331 and Beyond

    12/18/2014 9:13:33 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 10 replies
    NASA ^ | December 18, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Big, beautiful spiral galaxy NGC 7331 is often touted as an analog to our own Milky Way. About 50 million light-years distant in the northern constellation Pegasus, NGC 7331 was recognized early on as a spiral nebula and is actually one of the brighter galaxies not included in Charles Messier's famous 18th century catalog. Since the galaxy's disk is inclined to our line-of-sight, long telescopic exposures often result in an image that evokes a strong sense of depth. The effect is further enhanced in this sharp image from a small telescope by galaxies that lie beyond the gorgeous island...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Geminid Fireball over Mount Balang

    12/18/2014 9:08:45 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 5 replies
    NASA ^ | December 17, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: This was a sky to remember. While viewing the Geminids meteor shower a few days ago, a bright fireball was captured over Mt. Balang, China with particularly picturesque surroundings. In the foreground, a sea of light clouds slowly floated between dark mountain peaks. In the background, the constellation of Orion shone brightly, with the familiar three stars of Orion's belt visible near the image top right. Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, is visible near the image center. The bright fireball flashed for only a fraction of second on the lower right. The source of the fireball...
  • New Pictures Of Philae’s Lonely Resting Spot On The Comet Emerge

    12/17/2014 7:39:40 PM PST · by BenLurkin · 12 replies
    universetoday.com ^ | on December 17, 2014 | Elizabeth Howell
    The lander is sleeping in a shady spot on the comet’s surface after the dramatic touchdown — actually, three touchdowns — on Nov. 12, when it flew for more than two hours across the surface and bounced as high as two miles (3.2 kilometers). This was partly because harpoons expected to secure it to the surface failed to deploy, and also because the comet crust was icier than expected, according to Gizmodo.
  • NASA Rover Finds Active and Ancient Organic Chemistry on Mars

    12/16/2014 4:22:20 PM PST · by Islander7 · 22 replies
    JPL ^ | Dec 16, 2014 | Staff
    NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has measured a tenfold spike in methane, an organic chemical, in the atmosphere around it and detected other organic molecules in a rock-powder sample collected by the robotic laboratory's drill. "This temporary increase in methane -- sharply up and then back down -- tells us there must be some relatively localized source," said Sushil Atreya of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, a member of the Curiosity rover science team. "There are many possible sources, biological or non-biological, such as interaction of water and rock."
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- W5: Pillars of Star Formation

    12/16/2014 2:05:46 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 7 replies
    NASA ^ | December 16, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: How do stars form? Images of the star forming region W5 like those in the infrared by NASA's Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite provide clear clues with indications that massive stars near the center of empty cavities are older than stars near the edges. A likely reason for this is that the older stars in the center are actually triggering the formation of the younger edge stars. The triggered star formation occurs when hot outflowing gas compresses cooler gas into knots dense enough to gravitationally contract into stars. In the featured scientifically-colored infrared image, spectacular pillars, left...
  • Do we finally have proof of life on Mars?

    12/16/2014 11:00:01 AM PST · by Red Badger · 60 replies
    www.dailymail.co.uk ^ | Updated: 13:36 EST, 16 December 2014 | By Jonathan O'Callaghan
    Unexplained methane spikes suggest bacteria is living on the red planet Nasa scientists in California have revealed evidence for life on Mars They say methane spikes on the planet could be produced by bacteria And, at the moment, there is no better explanation for the spikes The signs were spotted briefly occurring by one of Curiosity's instruments Life is the chief producer of methane on Earth, although there are many non-biological processes that can also generate the gas But no such process could be ruled out during tests - suggesting there may be bacteria living on or under the surface...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Potsdam Gravity Potato

    12/15/2014 3:22:41 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 50 replies
    NASA ^ | December 15, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Why do some places on Earth have higher gravity than others? Sometimes the reason is unknown. To help better understand the Earth's surface, sensitive measurments by the orbiting satellites GRACE and CHAMP were used to create a map of Earth's gravitational field. Since a center for studying this data is in Potsdam, Germany, and since the result makes the Earth look somewhat like a potato, the resulting geoid has been referred to as the Potsdam Gravity Potato. High areas on this map, colored red, indicate areas where gravity is slightly stronger than usual, while in blue areas gravity is...
  • 10 Mysterious Underwater Cities You Haven't Heard Of

    12/14/2014 3:38:25 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 32 replies
    Listverse ^ | August 5, 2013 | Andrew Handley
  • 120-114 BC: The Cimbrian flood and the following Cimbrian war 113-101 BC

    12/14/2014 12:59:31 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 19 replies
    climate4you ^ | before 2014 | unattributed
    The Cimbrian flood (or Cymbrian flood) was a large-scale incursion of the North Sea in the region of the Jutland peninsula (Denmark) in the period 120 to 114 BC, resulting in a permanent change of coastline with much land lost. The flood was caused by one or several very strong storm(s). A high number of people living in the affected area of Jutland drowned, and the flooding apparently set off a migration of the Cimbri tribes previously settled there (Lamb 1991)... The Cimbri were a tribe from Northern Europe, who, together with the Proto-Germanic Teutones and the Ambrones threatened the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Molecular Cloud Barnard 68

    12/14/2014 8:07:43 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 16 replies
    NASA ^ | December 14, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Where did all the stars go? What used to be considered a hole in the sky is now known to astronomers as a dark molecular cloud. Here, a high concentration of dust and molecular gas absorb practically all the visible light emitted from background stars. The eerily dark surroundings help make the interiors of molecular clouds some of the coldest and most isolated places in the universe. One of the most notable of these dark absorption nebulae is a cloud toward the constellation Ophiuchus known as Barnard 68, pictured above. That no stars are visible in the center indicates...
  • Geminid Meteor Shower TONIGHT!

    12/13/2014 9:27:57 PM PST · by Jack Hydrazine · 22 replies
    Slooh ^ | 13DEC2014 | FR Staff Writer
    You can follow live coverage of the shower at the link. They are using a meteor shower radio, from their listening post in New Mexico, to listen when the meteors strike the atmosphere and leave an ionized gas trail that reflects radio waves. The radiant is located in the constellation of Gemini which is in the NW direction about 40 degrees above the horizon. Dress warmly!
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Infrared Visible Andromeda

    12/13/2014 5:49:17 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 4 replies
    NASA ^ | December 13, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: This remarkable synthetic color composite image was assembled from archives of visible light and infrared astronomy image data. The field of view spans the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), a massive spiral a mere 2.5 million light-years away. In fact, with over twice the diameter of our own Milky Way, Andromeda is the largest nearby galaxy. Andromeda's population of bright young blue stars lie along its sweeping spiral arms, with the telltale reddish glow of star forming regions traced in space- and ground-based visible light data. But infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope, also blended directly into the detailed composite's...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Crystals on Mars

    12/13/2014 5:44:56 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 11 replies
    NASA ^ | December 12, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: This extreme close-up, a mosaic from the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on the Curiosity rover, spans a breathtaking 5 centimeters. It captures what appear to be elongated crystal shapes formed by the precipitation of minerals dissolved in water, a likely result of the evaporation of ancient lake or river from the Martian surface. Brushed by a dust removal tool and illuminated by white LEDs, the target rock named Mojave was found on the Pink Cliffs outcrop of the Pahrump Hills at the base of Mount Sharp. The MAHLI images were acquired on Curiosity's sol 809, known on planet...
  • The Trillion Dollar Market: Fuel in Space from Asteroids

    12/11/2014 11:56:21 PM PST · by WhiskeyX · 1 replies
    YouTube ^ | Jun 10, 2014 | Planetary Resources
    Asteroid sourced hydrogen and oxygen will literally and figuratively fuel expansion of the space economy by providing a locally sourced fuel resource that will change how industry operates in space. While existing satellites cannot be refueled directly today, space tugs fueled by asteroids that are currently being developed, will maneuver Geostationary satellites into their assigned orbit. Thus, keeping them operating and generating revenue far beyond their current life expectancy. Water from asteroids can also be used for a plethora of other applications beyond fuels in space. It can be consumed, used as a radiation shield for humans during deep space...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Moondog Night

    12/11/2014 7:16:15 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 6 replies
    NASA ^ | December 11, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: In this night scene from the early hours of November 14, light from a last quarter Moon illuminates clouds above the mountaintop domes of Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona. Bright Jupiter is just left of the overexposed lunar disk with a streak of camera lens flare immediately to the right, but that's no fireball meteor exploding near the center of the picture. Instead, from the roadside perspective a stunningly bright moondog or paraselene stands directly over Kitt Peaks's WIYN telescope. Analogous to a sundog or parhelion, a paraselene is produced by moonlight refracted through thin, hexagonal, plate-shaped...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Reddening of M71

    12/10/2014 10:07:57 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 2 replies
    NASA ^ | December 10, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Now known to be a globular star cluster at the tender age of 10 billion years, M71 is a mere 13,000 light-years away within the narrow boundaries of the faint constellation Sagitta. Close to the plane of the Milky Way galaxy in planet Earth's sky, its 10,000 or so member stars are gathered into a region about 27 light-years across near the center of this color composite view. In fact, the line-of-sight to M71 passes along the galactic plane through much intervening diffuse interstellar dust. The dust dims starlight and scatters blue light more efficiently, masking the brightness of...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Flame Nebula in Visible and Infrared

    12/10/2014 10:04:49 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 5 replies
    NASA ^ | December 09, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: What lights up the Flame Nebula? Fifteen hundred light years away towards the constellation of Orion lies a nebula which, from its glow and dark dust lanes, appears, on the left, like a billowing fire. But fire, the rapid acquisition of oxygen, is not what makes this Flame glow. Rather the bright star Alnitak, the easternmost star in the Belt of Orion visible just to the right of the nebula, shines energetic light into the Flame that knocks electrons away from the great clouds of hydrogen gas that reside there. Much of the glow results when the electrons and...
  • Fear Not: Quarter-Mile Asteroid Is No Threat To Earth, NASA Says

    12/09/2014 4:18:56 PM PST · by BenLurkin · 36 replies
    universetoday.com ^ | on December 9, 2014 | by Elizabeth Howell
    “While this approximately 400-meter sized asteroid has a three-year orbital period around the sun and returns to the Earth’s neighborhood periodically, it does not represent a threat because its orbital path does not pass sufficiently close to the Earth’s orbit … Any statements about risk for impact of discovered asteroids and comets should be verified by scientists and the media by accessing NASA’s Near Earth Object (NEO) program web site.”
  • Illustration sequence of the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxy colliding (as seen from Earth)

    12/09/2014 12:27:37 AM PST · by LibWhacker · 19 replies
  • Bigger than Apophis: Dangerous 300+ meter asteroid to cross Earth orbit every 3 years

    12/08/2014 10:42:03 AM PST · by Red Badger · 21 replies
    Russia Today.com ^ | December 07, 2014 19:42 | Staff
    Scientists have calculated that 2014 UR116 asteroid will fly in dangerous proximity to Earth every three years. If it collides with the planet the energy of the explosion could be a thousand times greater than the impact of the Chelyabinsk meteorite. Vladimir Lipunov, a leading scientist on the team which discovered the asteroid this October, says the scientists now know its orbit and its period which is 3 years, but they cannot say precisely when the asteroid will approach the Earth. “We should track it constantly. Because if we have a single mistake, there will be a catastrophe. The consequences...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Wanderers

    12/08/2014 7:53:19 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 16 replies
    NASA ^ | December 08, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: How far out will humanity explore? If this video's fusion of real space imagery and fictional space visualizations is on the right track, then at least the Solar System. Some of the video's wondrous sequences depict future humans drifting through the rings of Saturn, exploring Jupiter from a nearby spacecraft, and jumping off a high cliff in the low gravity of a moon of Uranus. Although no one can know the future, wandering and exploring beyond boundaries -- both physical and intellectual -- is part of the human spirit and has frequently served humanity well in the past.
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Aurora Shimmer, Meteor Flash

    12/07/2014 9:13:20 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 6 replies
    NASA ^ | December 07, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Northern Lights, aurora borealis, haunted skies over the island of Kvaløya, near Tromsø Norway on 2009 December 13. This 30 second long exposure records their shimmering glow gently lighting the wintery coastal scene. A study in contrasts, it also captures the sudden flash of a fireball meteor from the excellent Geminid meteor shower in 2009 December. Streaking past familiar stars in the handle of the Big Dipper, the trail points back toward the constellation Gemini, off the top of the view. Both aurora and meteors occur in Earth's upper atmosphere at altitudes of 100 kilometers or so, but aurora...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Orion Launch

    12/06/2014 1:08:37 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 11 replies
    NASA ^ | December 06, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Headed for two orbits of planet Earth and a splashdown in the Pacific, Orion blazed into the early morning sky on Friday at 7:05am ET. The spacecraft was launched atop a United Launch Aliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Its first voyage into space on an uncrewed flight test, the Orion traveled some 3,600 miles from Earth, about 15 times higher than the orbital altitude of the International Space Station. In fact, Orion traveled farther into space than any spacecraft designed for astronauts since the Apollo missions to the Moon. The Orion...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Milky Way over Moon Valley

    12/06/2014 1:06:04 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 13 replies
    NASA ^ | December 05, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Our Milky Way Galaxy arcs over a desolate landscape in this fantastic panoramic night skyview. The otherworldly scene looks across the arid, eroded terrain of the Valle de la Luna in the Chilean Atacama desert. Just along the horizon are lights from San Pedro, Chile, as well as the small villages of Socaire and Toconao, and a tortuous road from the city of Calama to San Pedro. Taken on October 18th, the five panel mosaic also features the four galaxies easily visible from our fair planet's dark sky regions. At the far left, satellite galaxies known as the Large...
  • Are We Close to Discovering Planet X?

    12/05/2014 3:43:26 PM PST · by BenLurkin · 24 replies
    weather.com ^ | Published Dec 1 2014 12:25 PM EST | Michele Berger
    This past March, astronomers Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science and Craig Trujillo of Gemini Observatory in Hilo, Hawaii, saw a new object, the most distant known in the solar system. This object, about 200 miles in size, and several near it followed similar orbits, an unusual occurrence, according to Sheppard. “We would expect their orbits to be fairly random,” he told weather.com. “So we suspect something more massive is shepherding these.” A planet, to be exact.
  • A blue supergiant star in relation to the size of our solar system

    12/04/2014 6:05:38 PM PST · by LibWhacker · 66 replies
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Plato and the Lunar Alps

    12/04/2014 2:05:05 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 5 replies
    NASA ^ | December 04, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: The dark-floored, 95 kilometer wide crater Plato and sunlit peaks of the lunar Alps (Montes Alpes) are highlighted in this sharp digital snapshot of the Moon's surface. While the Alps of planet Earth were uplifted over millions of years as continental plates slowly collided, the lunar Alps were likely formed by a sudden collision that created the giant impact basin known as the Mare Imbrium or Sea of Rains. The mare's generally smooth, lava-flooded floor is seen below the boardering mountain range. The prominent straight feature cutting through the mountains is the lunar Alpine Valley (Vallis Alpes). Joining the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Sharpless 249 and the Jellyfish Nebula

    12/04/2014 2:01:46 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 3 replies
    NASA ^ | December 03, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Normally faint and elusive, the Jellyfish Nebula is caught in this alluring telescopic mosaic. The scene is anchored right and left by two bright stars, Mu and Eta Geminorum, at the foot of the celestial twin while the Jellyfish Nebula is the brighter arcing ridge of emission with dangling tentacles below and right of center. In fact, the cosmic jellyfish is part of bubble-shaped supernova remnant IC 443, the expanding debris cloud from a massive star that exploded. Light from the explosion first reached planet Earth over 30,000 years ago. Like its cousin in astrophysical waters the Crab Nebula...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Eta Carinae and the Expanding Homunculus Nebula

    12/04/2014 1:59:03 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 7 replies
    NASA ^ | December 02, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: How did the Eta Carinae star system create this unusual expanding nebula? No one knows for sure. About 170 years ago, the southern star system Eta Carinae (Eta Car) mysteriously became the second brightest star system in the night sky. Twenty years later, after ejecting more mass than our Sun, Eta Car unexpectedly faded. Somehow, this outburst appears to have created the Homunculus Nebula. The three-frame video features images of the nebula taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995, 2001, and 2008. The Homunculus nebula's center is lit by light from a bright central star, while the surrounding...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Stars and Dust Pillars in NGC 7822 from WISE

    12/04/2014 1:55:52 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 4 replies
    NASA ^ | December 01, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Hot, young stars and cosmic pillars of gas and dust seem to crowd into NGC 7822. At the edge of a giant molecular cloud toward the northern constellation Cepheus, this glowing star forming region lies about 3,000 light-years away. Within the nebula, bright edges and complex dust sculptures dominate this detailed skyscape taken in infrared light by NASA's Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite. The atomic emission by the cluster's gas is powered by energetic radiation from the hot stars, whose powerful winds and light also sculpt and erode the denser pillar shapes. Stars could still be forming...
  • NASA is sending humans to Mars

    12/04/2014 12:33:27 PM PST · by Mellonkronos · 22 replies
    Science Alert ^ | December 2, 2014 | BEC CREW
    [I love the idea of going to Mars. We humans are explorers and pioneers. But if government does this, it will be just too costly, like the Apollo Moon program. Elon Musk of the private SpaceX company already has put rockets into space and he wants to send settlers to Mars, including himself. So since governments have screwed up this planet, how about reserving Mars for free people?!] Breaking: NASA is sending humans to Mars NASA has announced that a test launch of their Orion space capsule will take place on Thursday, in the first step of a mission that...
  • NASA Orion launch

    12/04/2014 3:56:22 AM PST · by cripplecreek · 115 replies
    NASATV ^ | 12/24/14 | none
    NASA TV
  • Spacecraft Bound for Pluto Set to Awake Nine Years After Launch

    12/02/2014 2:06:45 PM PST · by Red Badger · 53 replies
    ABC News ^ | Dec 1, 2014, 5:03 PM ET | By JOHN FISCHER
    NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is set to awake on Dec. 6 from the last of its 18 hibernation periods and prepare for its initial approach towards Pluto, which will take place on Jan. 15. The spacecraft is scheduled to come as close as 6,200 miles from the surface of Pluto on July 14, 2015 -- the closest any man-made object has come to the dwarf planet. The mission marks the first visit outside Neptune's orbit to the Kuiper Belt, which consists of Pluto and thousands of objects that have not yet been identified, according to Spaceflight Now, a space news...
  • Pluto’s Closeup Will Be Awesome Based On Jupiter Pics From New Horizons Spacecraft

    12/02/2014 11:01:12 AM PST · by BenLurkin · 20 replies
    universetoday.com ^ | on December 2, 2014 | Elizabeth Howell
    The spacecraft has been sleeping quietly for weeks in its last great hibernation before the dwarf planet close encounter in July. On Saturday (Dec. 6), the NASA craft will open its eyes and begin preparations for that flyby. How cool will those closeups of Pluto and its moons look? A hint comes from a swing New Horizons took by Jupiter in 2007 en route. It caught a huge volcanic plume erupting off of the moon Io, picked up new details in Jupiter’s atmosphere and gave scientists a close-up of a mysterious “Little Red Spot.”
  • Shooting “Color” in the Blackness of Space

    12/02/2014 7:50:02 AM PST · by BenLurkin · 32 replies
    universetoday.com ^ | on December 2, 2014 | Morgan Rehnberg
    If NASA is so advanced, why are their pictures in black and white? The answer, it turns out, brings us to the intersection of science and the laws of nature.
  • Spacecraft Bound for Pluto Set to Awake Nine Years After Launch

    12/01/2014 6:13:15 PM PST · by BenLurkin · 84 replies
    NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is set to awake on Dec. 6 from the last of its 18 hibernation periods and prepare for its initial approach towards Pluto, which will take place on Jan. 15. The spacecraft is scheduled to come as close as 6,200 miles from the surface of Pluto on July 14, 2015 -- the closest any man-made object has come to the dwarf planet.
  • Dawn Spacecraft Will Take Pictures Of Its Target Asteroid Today

    12/01/2014 8:55:31 AM PST · by BenLurkin · 7 replies
    universetoday.com ^ | on December 1, 2014 | Elizabeth Howell
    And today (Dec. 1) comes a special day for Dawn — when it turns its cameras to Ceres to capture the asteroid, which will appear about nine pixels across. The reason? Besides scientific curiosity, it turns out to be a perfect calibration target, according to NASA. “One final calibration of the science camera is needed before arrival at Ceres,” wrote Marc Rayman, the mission director at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a recent blog post. “To accomplish it, the camera needs to take pictures of a target that appears just a few pixels across. The endless sky that surrounds our...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Seahorse of the Large Magellanic Cloud

    11/30/2014 6:20:52 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 12 replies
    NASA ^ | November 30, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: It may look like a grazing seahorse, but the dark object toward the image right is actually a pillar of smoky dust about 20 light years long. The curiously-shaped dust structure occurs in our neighboring Large Magellanic Cloud, in a star forming region very near the expansive Tarantula Nebula. The energetic nebula is creating a star cluster, NGC 2074, whose center is visible just off the top of the image in the direction of the neck of the seahorse. The representative color image was taken last year by the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 in honor...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- 3D 67P

    11/29/2014 4:07:38 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 9 replies
    NASA ^ | November 29, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Get out your red/blue glasses and float next to a comet! The Rosetta mission lander Philae's ROLIS camera snapped the two frames used to create this stereo anaglyph for 3D viewing during its November 12 descent to the nucleus of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The comet's curious double lobed nucleus is seen nearly end on from a distance of about 3 kilometers, about 1 hour before Philae arrived at the surface. Philae's initial landing site is near the center of the front facing lobe. Part of a landing gear foot cuts across the upper right corner, in the close foreground of...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Portrait of NGC 281

    11/29/2014 4:05:48 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 4 replies
    NASA ^ | November 28, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Look through the cosmic cloud cataloged as NGC 281 and you might miss the stars of open cluster IC 1590. But, formed within the nebula, that cluster's young, massive stars ultimately power the pervasive nebular glow. The eye-catching shapes looming in this portrait of NGC 281 are sculpted columns and dense dust globules seen in silhouette, eroded by intense, energetic winds and radiation from the hot cluster stars. If they survive long enough, the dusty structures could also be sites of future star formation. Playfully called the Pacman Nebula because of its overall shape, NGC 281 is about 10,000...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Galileo's Europa Remastered

    11/29/2014 4:02:05 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 15 replies
    NASA ^ | November 27, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Looping through the Jovian system in the late 1990s, the Galileo spacecraft recorded stunning views of Europa and uncovered evidence that the moon's icy surface likely hides a deep, global ocean. Galileo's Europa image data has been newly remastered here, using improved new calibrations to produce a color image approximating what the human eye might see. Europa's long curving fractures hint at the subsurface liquid water. The tidal flexing the large moon experiences in its elliptical orbit around Jupiter supplies the energy to keep the ocean liquid. But more tantalizing is the possibility that even in the absence of...
  • Jet! Rosetta’s Comet Is Feeling The Heat As Gas and Dust Erupts From Surface

    As the European Space Agency scurries to find the final resting place of the Philae lander, Rosetta continues normal operations above the comet and will keep tracking it through 2015. Rosetta is the first orbiter to stick around near a comet, which will allow scientists an unprecedented chance to see a comet change from up close as the Sun’s heat and particles affect it. Could there be an atmosphere starting up? “At the bottom of the mosaic, the non-illuminated part of the comet stands out as a silhouette against the broader diffuse emission coming from the comet’s coma,” ESA stated....
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Io and Callisto Mutual Event

    11/26/2014 5:23:54 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 6 replies
    NASA ^ | November 26, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: A 24 minute sequence from top to bottom, this intriguing series of telescopic frames tracks the occultation of Io by Callisto, two of Jupiter's Galilean moons, from San Pietro Polesine, Italy, planet Earth. A challenging observational project using a small telescope, the two contrasting Jovian worlds are both slightly larger than Earth's Moon. In fact, bright, volcanic Io and dark, cratered Callisto are about 3,640 and 4,820 kilometers in diameter respectively. With Earth itself now crossing near the orbital plane of Jupiter's moons, astronomers are enjoying a season of Galilean moon mutual events ranging from eclipses to occultations. The...
  • Spooky Alignment of Quasars Across Billions of Light-years — Science Release — ESO1438

    11/25/2014 10:36:03 PM PST · by Swordmaker · 34 replies
    VLT reveals alignments between supermassive black hole axes and large-scale structure New observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile have revealed alignments over the largest structures ever discovered in the Universe. A European research team has found that the rotation axes of the central supermassive black holes in a sample of quasars are parallel to each other over distances of billions of light-years. The team has also found that the rotation axes of these quasars tend to be aligned with the vast structures in the cosmic web in which they reside.See Full Size Photo Quasars are galaxies with...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Creature from the Red Lagoon

    11/25/2014 8:55:15 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 4 replies
    NASA ^ | November 25, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: What creature lurks near the red Lagoon nebula? Mars. This gorgeous color deep-sky photograph has captured the red planet passing below two notable nebulae -- cataloged by the 18th century cosmic registrar Charles Messier as M8 and M20. M20 (upper right of center), the Trifid Nebula, presents a striking contrast in red/blue colors and dark dust lanes. Just below and to the left is the expansive, alluring red glow of M8, the Lagoon Nebula. Both nebulae are a few thousand light-years distant. By comparison, temporarily situated below them both, is the dominant "local" celestial beacon Mars. Taken late last...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Soaring over Titan

    11/24/2014 12:45:57 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 8 replies
    NASA ^ | November 24, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: What would it look like to fly over Titan? Radar images from NASA's robotic Cassini satellite in orbit around Saturn have been digitally compiled to simulate such a flight. Cassini has swooped past Saturn's cloudiest moon several times since it arrived at the ringed planet in 2004. The virtual flight featured here shows numerous lakes colored black and mountainous terrain colored tan. Surface regions without detailed vertical information appear more flat, while sufficiently mapped regions have their heights digitally stretched. Among the basins visualized is Kraken Mare, Titan's largest lake which spans over 1,000 kilometers long. Titan's lakes are...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Tornado and Rainbow Over Kansas

    11/23/2014 11:41:49 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 10 replies
    NASA ^ | November 23, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: The scene might have been considered serene if it weren't for the tornado. During 2004 in Kansas, storm chaser Eric Nguyen photographed this budding twister in a different light -- the light of a rainbow. Featured here, a white tornado cloud descends from a dark storm cloud. The Sun, peeking through a clear patch of sky to the left, illuminates some buildings in the foreground. Sunlight reflects off raindrops to form a rainbow. By coincidence, the tornado appears to end right over the rainbow. Streaks in the image are hail being swept about by the high swirling winds. Over...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Solar Flare from a Sharper Sun

    11/23/2014 11:38:14 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 6 replies
    NASA ^ | November 22, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Solar active region AR2192 was the largest recorded sunspot group of the last 24 years. Before rotating off the Earth-facing side of the Sun at the end of October, it produced a whopping six energetic X-class flares. Its most intense flare was captured on October 24 in this stunning view from the orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory. The scene is a color combination of images made at three different wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light; 193 angstroms shown in blue, 171 angstroms in white, and 304 angstroms in red. The emission, from highly ionized Iron and Helium atoms, traces magnetic field...