Archive for the ‘Astronomy’ Category

Magnificent Chaos at Jupiter’s Poles


(Syfy Wire::Bad Astronomy) – Phil Plait:

On October 24, 2017, the Juno spacecraft swung low over Jupiter’s poles for the ninth time. Accelerating by the giant planet’s powerful gravity to the nearly unbelievable velocity of 60 kilometers per second — fast enough to cross the continental United States in a minute and a half — it screamed over the cloud tops, taking scientific data to send back to Earth.

It also took a series of images using the JunoCam, a camera designed not for science but for public outreach. These shots of the solar system’s largest planet are meant primarily to excite the public about astronomy and planetary science, with the science itself being secondary. …

syfywire jupiters-poles

Jupiter's northern latitudes


The Star That Refused to Die


(Atlantic Science) – Marina Koren:

Astronomers have discovered a zombie supernova that defies every known theory of star death. …

theatlantic 2017/11 zombie-star

Supernova remnant

Spinnable Planets And Moons with Google Maps


(Planetary Blogs) – Emily Lakdawalla:

Google Maps has released several new map products that allow you to see the locations of named features on many solar system planets and non-planets. The mapped worlds include Mercury, Venus, our own Moon, Mars, Ceres, and Pluto (but not Charon, sadly). Three out of four large Jupiter moons make the list: Io, Europa, and Ganymede, but not Callisto. All but one of the round Saturnian moons is listed: Mimas, Enceladus, but not Tethys for some reason, Dione, Rhea, Titan, and Iapetus. It’s handy to be able to rotate the moons to match the aspects of space photos, though I wish the angle of illumination could be changed. But these aren’t true 3D shape models, they’re just maps stretched over spheres. …

emily-lakdawalla 2017/1027 google-moons

Google Maps: Io

5 NASA Photos that Changed the World


(Starts With A Bang!) – Ethan Siegel:

From the most beautiful to the most impactful, some of these are so powerful it’s breathtaking. …

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Apollo 8 Earthrise

One Last Look at Saturn


(Syfy Wire::Bad Astronomy) – Phil Plait:

Ian Regan reprocessed the final images Cassini took of Saturn

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Ian Regan: Cassini's last dance

Pitch Black Planet


(Syfy Wire::Bad Astronomy) – Phil Plait:

Over a thousand light-years from Earth, there is a decidedly odd planet. It orbits the star WASP-12.

This is no planet like we have in our own solar system. The closest analogue would be Jupiter; WASP-12b is about 40% more massive. But a funny thing was discovered immediately upon its discovery: It’s much larger than Jupiter, almost twice its diameter. That is very peculiar. When planets get to be around the mass of Jupiter, an odd quirk of physics called degeneracy kicks in, which changes how the material inside the planet behaves under pressure. When you add mass to such a planet, it actually gets smaller, not larger. …

And now astronomers have discovered something else that’s bizarre about the planet: It’s dark. Like really unusually so. Most planets reflect quite a bit of light that falls on them from their star; for example, Earth is about 40% reflective. However, new observations of WASP-12b show it reflects a mere 6% of the light that hits it, roughly the same albedo as asphalt. And that’s an upper limit! It might even be darker. …

syfy pitch-black-planet


Why don’t we build a telescope without mirrors or lenses?


(Starts With A Bang!) – Ethan Siegel:

Why not just put your detectors in place of a giant mirror? …

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James Webb Space Telescope

Stars That Appear Older Than The Universe


(Starts With A Bang!) – Ethan Siegel:

Something’s got to be wrong. But is it what we think about the star, the Universe, or something else? …

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Hubble Extreme Deep Field

Top 6 Discoveries of Cassini


(Starts With A Bang!) – Ethan Siegel:

On Friday, September 15th, Cassini plunged into Saturn’s atmosphere. Here are the top 6 things we learned from it while it was alive. …

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Earth (and Moon) from Saturn

Last Days of Cassini


(Discover Blogs::Out There) – Corey S. Powell:

As Cassini’s program manager and a veteran of the mission since 1993, Earl H. Maize of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory has a unique perspective on the last days of this remarkable spacecraft. There is no other comparable mission on the drawing boards; given current political realities, there may not be another like it in our lifetimes. And yet, Cassini is a beginning as well as an end. Maize notes that omnibus missions like Cassini allow more targeted follow-ups, like the upcoming Europa Clipper and (here’s hoping) future visits to the moons Enceladus and Titan.

I spoke with Maize just ahead of Cassini’s heroic final plunge. He offered an insider’s view of how it all ended. …

outthere 2017/09/16 last-days-of-cassini

Enceladus setting behind Saturn 2017-09-13