Archive for the ‘Astronomy’ Category

Planet Nine, so far


(Starts With A Bang!) – Ethan Siegel:

Could there be a massive, giant planet beyond Neptune? Here’s what the science says… for now. …

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Planet Nine orbits

Cassini’s ‘Grand Finale’ Saturn portrait


(Planetary) – In the early hours of April 13, 2017, Cassini captured this breathtaking and unique visage of the Saturnian system as it coasted through space in the shadow of the gas giant.

All components of the main ring system are visible, seen here illuminated from behind: a vantage point technically known as a ‘high-phase angle’. In this geometry, a peculiar reversal happens: the thinner and more translucent rings shine out brightly, while the more opaque and thicker regions are relatively dark.

Only two moons — Janus and Mimas — can be picked out in this uncalibrated and compressed data, in addition to a red-giant star in the constellation of Gemini: Tejat (μ Gem). …

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Cassini's 'Grand Finale' Saturn portrait (April 13, 2017)

March of the Milky Way


(National Geographic::No Place Like Home) – Nadia Drake:

Photographer Christian Sasse captures rare views of the galaxy as it spirals over southern Australia. …

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Christian Sasse: Milky Way march over Australia

Saturn’s Propellers


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

Having orbited Saturn now for nearly 13 years, the Cassini spacecraft has sent some pretty amazing images back to Earth. Of course, the planet, itself, the moons, and the rings have provided us with stunning portraits, but there’s been a lot of truly weird stuff as well. Like propellers. …

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Saturn's propellers, by Cassini

The Big Dipper over Chile


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

The Big Dipper is more than just a celestial boreal icon. Except for Dubhe and the last star in the tail, called Alkaid, the other stars are all at about the same distance from us, and physically associated with each other. They’re called the Ursa Major Association (or cluster), after the constellation the Big Dipper is part of. Those stars are all about 80 light years from us (Alkaid is about 100, and Dubhe 120). …

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Yuri Beletsky: Big Dipper over Chile

Why can’t I see Mercury without a telescope?


(Starts With A Bang!) – Ethan Siegel:

The most elusive naked-eye planet is downright impossible to view for billions of us on Earth. …

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Josselin Desmars: Venus and Mercury Over Paris

A Front-Row Seat at Saturn


(RawStory) – Dan Reisenfeld:

Cassini now begins one last campaign. Dubbed the Grand Finale, it will end on Sept. 15, 2017 with the probe plunging into Saturn’s atmosphere, where it will burn up. Although Saturn was visited by three spacecraft in the 1970s and 1980s, my fellow scientists and I couldn’t have imagined what the Cassini space probe would discover during its sojourn at the ringed planet when it launched 20 years ago. …

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Jupiter’s Backwards Little Friend


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

Asteroid 2015 BZ509 is very roughly three kilometers in diameter. As the name implies, it was first discovered in 2015. Right away, it was clear it was retrograde. Intriguingly, though, the orbit calculated based on the observations showed it was in a similar orbit as Jupiter. Not exactly, but close. And that is very odd, indeed. …

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BZ509 orbit

Atmosphere Around a Nearby Earth-sized Exoplanet


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

Gliese 1132 is a red dwarf, a small, cool, low-mass star. It’s so faint a star that even though it’s relatively close by at 39 light-years from Earth, you need a decent telescope to see it at all.

In 2005, though, when astronomers did point their telescopes at it, they discovered a planet orbiting it!

New observations have done something astonishing: They’ve revealed the planet has an atmosphere, potentially a thick one composed of water, hydrogen and/or methane! …

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GJ 1132b

Cannibal Galaxy


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

Even at first glance, this is an odd-looking galaxy. It’s 850 million light years from us, so we don’t get a lot of detail, but we can see enough to know it’s a spiral. The shape is distorted, with that outer arm wrapping around and somewhat kinked. But the most obvious bit is that pair of very bright blobs on the right. What are they? …

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Galaxies Was 49a and b