Archive for the ‘Astronomy’ Category

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. …

rawstory 2017/04 key-things

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

Opposing Jupiter


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

Friday April 7, 2017, at 21:30 (or so) UTC, the Sun, Earth and Jupiter fell very nearly along a straight line in space. We call that opposition, because the Sun and Jupiter are opposite each other in the sky. …

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Jupiter on 2017-04-03, by Hubble

Farewell, Pluto


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

On July 14, 2015, just after noon UTC, the small space probe New Horizons shot past Pluto at 50,000 kilometers per hour. It took images and data as it barnstormed the tiny world just 12,500 km above the surface, and then, as it passed what for many is the final outpost of the planets, the spacecraft spun around to look back on its target, lit from behind by the Sun.

And what it saw was awe. …

blastr 2017-3-27 pluto

New Horizons: Pluto farewell

How bright is the Earth as seen from the Moon?


(Starts With A Bang!) – Ethan Siegel:

You know how bright the full Moon is. Well, from the Moon, how would the ‘full Earth’ compare? …

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Castor and Pollux, Not Really Twins


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

If you live in the northern hemisphere – and statistically speaking, there’s a 90% chance you do – then go outside and look south as soon as the sky gets dark. You’ll see Orion standing tall to the southwest, leaning a bit to his left (your right, since we assume he’s facing us), with the bright star Sirius to the lower left, and Procyon directly left of reddish Betelgeuse (Orion’s right shoulder – to your left).

Just above Procyon are two more bright stars, close together in the sky. These are Castor and Pollux, and they mark the heads of the twin brothers denoted by the constellation Gemini. If you have good eyesight you may be able to tell that Pollux (the one closer to the eastern horizon) is yellowish, while Castor is blue. …

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Gemini, by Rogelio Bernal Andreo

Does Earth Have a Trojan Horde?


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

Are there asteroids sharing Earth’s orbit around the Sun?

Cutting to the chase: Yes, there is at least one. But how many are there? There might be a lot, but we don’t know. The cool news is, we may very well know more soon. …

blastr 2017-2-14 trojan-horde

OSIRIS-REx at Earth's L4

Pluto Will Never Be A Planet Again


(Starts With A Bang!) – Ethan Siegel:

Practically everyone alive today grew up learning some way of remembering the nine planets of our Solar System in order: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Beginning in the 1990s, however, two revolutions in astronomy happened all at once: the uncovering of trans-Neptunian objects and the discoveries of worlds around other stars. These discoveries compelled us to rethink our definition of a planet, culminating in the official 2006 definition of “planet” by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Pluto was out. But with many people unhappy with the IAU’s definition, the story doesn’t end there. …

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Planetary and non-planetary status