December 31, 2007
December 29, 2007
December 23, 2007
There's a bunch of cool stuff that is going to be going on this upcoming year in 2008. A couple notable things are:
Comets - There will be quite a few comets coming around in 2008. Four of these will likely be visible with binoculars. 8P/Tuttle will remain visible for awhile. For a complete list of comets, check resources at aerith.net and the Institute of Astronomy to see what we can look forward to in 2008.
Planets & Moon - Look forward to many solar and lunar eclipses. Also check out the many planets coming into opposition (their closest approach to Earth) and conjunctions (in which planets appear very close to each other). A full list of expected phenomena can be found at Sea and Sky.
Asteroid Events - Any dedicated asteroid hunters out there can check out Poyntsource for a complete list of all global asteroid events. This site even let's you import information into Google Earth.
Meteor Showers - According to the International Meteor Organization, " The meteor year ahead starts well for the stronger showers, with moonless maxima for the Quadrantids, α-Centaurids, η-Aquarids and δ-Aquarids, but things go somewhat awry in August with the Perseids peaking near full Moon, while the Orionids in October, the Leonids in November and the Geminids in December are even worse-placed." Check out their 2008 calendar for a full listing of what to expect when meteor hunting in 2008.
The year 2008 will be a great year for observing, and remember, 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy.
Posted by Rick at 12:03 PM
December 22, 2007
Posted by Rick at 10:25 AM
Posted by Rick at 9:07 AM
December 20, 2007
Michele from the Earth and Weather Space has beat me to the punch on a great Christmas-related article. Dwight D. Eisenhower transmitted the first broadcast through space on December 19th, 1958 from the Atlas satellite.
Check out the Earth and Weather Space to find out what he said!
Posted by Rick at 12:26 PM
I usually like to include an amateur photo of any meteor shower I've found, but I've yet to actually find any amateur astrophotography regarding the Ursids (other than the host comet 8/P Tuttle). Seems this is a difficult one to image; let me know if anyone is able to.
Happy meteor hunting!
Posted by Rick at 9:35 AM
I'd just like to apologize for the lack of posts recently. I'm going through a bit of a crisis with my home; I've lost water pressure in my well! I've been using all my non-work time to try and fix this problem. You never realize how devastating water-loss can be; no dishwashing, showers, flushing toilets, or water to make coffee and tea. It's been tough, but it should be fixed today.
Thanks for your patience!
Posted by Rick at 9:07 AM
December 18, 2007
This is a photo by Alan Dyer of what Mars looks like from Earth in an overexposed photograph. Check out how much brighter it is than Orion!
Hubble released this image yesterday of Mars at its closest point to Earth. Great time for Mars astrophotography!
December 17, 2007
Posted by Rick at 2:47 PM
December 14, 2007
December 13, 2007
December 7, 2007
Odyssey Moon, a British-based private spaceflight company, is seeking Google's $30 million X-Prize for successfully landing a rover on the Moon.
Headquartered on the tax lenient Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, the company, brainchild of CEO Robert Richards (founder of International Space University), is fixed to win this new age space race.
The company consists of many experienced space engineers, and is potentially one of the strongest competitors at this point.
The Google X-Prize requires a team to land a rover capable of moving 500 meters and transmitting back video, data, and images to qualify for the entire prize by December 31st, 2012.
Richards, confident of his company's ability, has been quoted as saying, "We believe the Google Lunar X Prize goals are achievable. And we do intend to win."
They intend to reduce the cost of moon travel "by an order of magnitude."
He describes the moon as "an eighth continent rich in energy and resources floating just offshore." Very accurate considering the Helium-3 isotope, an extremely efficient, potent, and clean fuel that could power the Earth, in its entirety, for many centuries.
Along with Carnegie Mellon and a slew of other potential teams, its great to see the competition heating up. The moon is the "gateway" to the private sector of solar system exploration.
Look out moon. We're coming back, and this time it's for good!
December 6, 2007
Posted by Rick at 12:32 PM
Well fear not, because there's one astronomical discovery she will be interested in. The star formerly known as BPM 37093, located in the constellation Centaurus, is actually a large, crystallized carbon mass nearly 2,500 miles in diameter. Don't let the big words fool you: this crystallized carbon is basically a gigantic diamond!
A diamond this large is literally 10 billion-trillion-trillion carats; the number is so incredibly huge it would be followed by 34 zeroes.
The carbon core of white dwarf stars often crystallize into diamonds. This is the largest diamond yet located in the galaxy.
That should get some wives interested...
Adapted from: Daily Galaxy
Posted by Rick at 10:33 AM
December 1, 2007
Despite not having nearly any oxygen at all, the atmosphere on Titan has something very interesting in it: negative ions.
These ions act as building blocks that more complex organic molecules form from. Carbon can form using these polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PAHs, which have been mentioned in this blog before on the post Why I Think There's Life on Mars...
Check out even more details on the Astronomy Report blog which has an adapted version of the official release by University College London.
This makes one think... if Titan has the building blocks for life on it, could there be life on it? I know it rains methane on the moon and has lakes and oceans of methane and that its super-cold, however, what if water was as acidic and destructive to organisms living on Titan as liquid methane is to humans living on Earth? What if the temperature of Earth is as blazing hot to an organism on Titan as the surface of Venus is to us earthlings?
Just food for thought!
Posted by Rick at 1:21 PM
Posted by Rick at 12:18 PM
Four days ago, the first lunar pictures taken by China's Chang'e 1 lunar orbiter were released, weeks after Kaguya's HD camera took photos. So compare the two here:
While Kaguya is undoubtedly prettier, both missions, hot-on-the heels of each other, are part of a plan laid out by The Planetary Society called the Lunar Decade. Each of these missions, and India's planned mission, Chandrayaan 1, play an integral part in the plan.
- Travel to Titan would take 75-90 days.
- 24 hours to lunar orbit from low earth orbit.
- Travel to Mars would take 33-38 days.
Amazingly, these almost ridiculous travel times are accompanied by what the general public likes: an equally ridiculous low cost. Cost can be as low as these figures:
- $200 million of research, development, building, and testing.
- 2 8-gigawatt thermal fusion engines are nearly 100x less expensive than our best systems available today.
Check out a the Advanced Nanotechnology Blog for more in detail information. Definitely a must for any aspiring space junkie!I was referred to this site by the always awesome Bad Astronomy Blog.
November 30, 2007
Some of you may remember my post Fight The Light: Calling All Readers to participate in the Great World Wide Star Count.
There were over 6,600 observations by citizen scientists in over 60 countries! Here is a results map of North America... notice the diagonal string of lower star counts in the northeast region of the United States.
Posted by Rick at 10:26 AM
Johnny Horne from Sky & Telescopes Observing Blog captured this extraordinary example of comet 17P Holmes on 11/27 (when many websites reported it no longer visible to the naked eye). This is probably my favorite Holmes photo yet.
Check out the site and learn the details of how this photo was taken with a new Nikon D300 DSLR camera. Read, and learn from a truly talented astrophotographer!
Posted by Rick at 9:01 AM
November 29, 2007
Just shows how incredibly awesome a webcam photo can truly be. Check out our web cam post, and be sure to view all the technical details of this outstanding example of webcam astrophotography.
Posted by Rick at 4:10 PM
Check out other photographs from this photographer!
Truly a marvelous Venus shot, congrats!
Posted by Rick at 3:53 PM
Looks like there's a hot new real estate market opening up... acre lots on the Red Planet!
That's right friends, you too can own a piece of the red planet! For a mere $34.00, you can own an entire acre on the red planet itself.
- Letter of Proclamation
- Property Fact Sheet
- Full Color Photo of Mars
- Lifetime registration in the Red Planet Land Claimss database
I personally think this makes a great gift for the amatuer astronomer; however, like those "star databases", don't take it too seriously. I seriously doubt you'll ever step foot on it and I doubt you'll ever even be on any sort of semi-official map.
Still a pretty cool gift idea! (Wish I thought of that...)
Posted by Rick at 12:14 PM
Venus recently seems to be a hot topic, and for good reason: the ESA's Venus Express probe has been churning out some very interesting data. You can even check out our most recent Venus post titled The Oceans of Venus for even more information.
"An important first set of results concerns the complex dynamics and
structure of Venus's atmosphere, studied with a whole suite of instruments. The
spacecraft has revealed the structure and movements of the atmosphere, from its
upper reaches to just above the surface, and has obtained the best global map of
atmospheric temperatures to date. This is already improving our understanding of
the global dynamics and the meteorology of Venus." (Source: Astronomy Report)
November 19, 2007
November 17, 2007
The Leonid meteor shower will peak tonight at 11pm. This year will provide clear, favorable conditions for viewing the powerhouse Leonid meteor shower show. The moon is only the first quarter phase, and will have long set in the West by the time the constellation Leo, for which the Leonids are named after, climbs high in the sky to provide the best atmospheric viewing conditions.
The Leonids are the remains of the Tempel-Tuttle comet. The Earth annually passes through its dusty debris trail, which contains debris as tiny as a grain of sand, and creates an incredible light show for patient observers.
Occasionally, we pass through an unusually thick concentration of debris, and in 1999, 2000, and 2001, observers were graced with meteor showers showing more than one thousand objects per hour. The comet had passed through the inner solar system near these times, creating a much higher than expected concentration. The comet has long since vacated our region of the solar system, and these areas of high concentration are expected to be gone, creating a much more modest estimate of what to expect this year.
These bits of "debris" are actually coined meteoroids, the proper term for debris before entering Earth's atmosphere. Meteors are meteoroids that have entered the atmopshere and "lit up". Leonids never hit the ground due their brittle composition, but if one did, which is literally nearly impossible, it would be called a meteorite.
Leonids turn up the heat, literally and figuratively. The meteors can heat up to over 3000 degrees Farenheit. They also have been clocked travelling more than 80mps (that's miles per second, kids) through the atmosphere until they eventually burn up about 60 miles above us.
Leonids were once thought to be the heralds of the end of the world. Thank goodness we know different. We can just enjoy their annual wonder.
- Pick a Clear Night - This is very important. Any haze, clouds, wisps, or fog can ruin a shot. The less atmosphere you shoot through, the better the picture will be.
- Know Your Phases - Knowing the phase of the moon is crucial for what to expect in the resulting photograph. A full moon gives great pictures of features on the moon's surface, but half moons create shadows on the moon's surface that results in better definition.
- Know Your Camera Settings - The single most important fact of moon photography is a rudimentary understanding of your f stops, ISO, and shutter speed. The "auto-picture setting" features on most digital cameras will create a bright blur in the sky with absolutely no detail visible. It is possible to take great photos without the need of a tripod with the correct settings. Use a lower ISO setting to reduce noise, a shorter shutter speed to reduce blurring and negate the need for a remote shutter, and a higher aperture (f/stop) to collect as much light as possible in the short amount of time allowed by the camera to create the photograph. Focus on infinity.
- Know Where The Moon Is In The Sky - This is a basic one, but still an important one. If you have a clear view of the horizon, when the moon is rising at night time, you will get a deep orange color. As it rises it will become more of a yellowish color, and it will eventually become the bluish-white color we generally think of when we think of the moon. Depending on what you are going for, keep this in mind.
- Trial and Error - Experiment with different settings and record their results in a notebook, or even on back of the finished photographs. Get a feel for your camera; I can't provide exact settings because every camera is different. Keep this in mind: auto-picture won't work; you're gonna have to go all manual.
Planets Forming In Pleiades Star Cluster, Astronomers Report
ScienceDaily (2007-11-15) -- Rocky terrestrial planets, perhaps like Earth, Mars or Venus, appear to be forming or to have recently formed around a star in the Pleiades ("seven sisters") star cluster, the result of "monster collisions" of planets or planetary embryos. Astronomers using the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii and the Spitzer Space Telescope report their findings in an upcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal, the premier journal in astronomy. ... > read full article
Science Daily has released this article (along with a few other astronomy publications) about the planetary possibilities of the Pleiades. This has long been my favorite cluster because of the fantastic view it provides with or without binoculars, the ease of its locations, and the cool blue colors of these young stars. Below is a previously published photograph I took of the Pleaides:
November 16, 2007
Well, I haven't checked in awhile, but it turns out we are PageRank 2 out of a possible 10. Not bad considering we were N/A for a long time, then we were PageRank 1 for awhile, and now 2. We're growing in popularity and I'd like to thank all the other bloggers who are linking here. Thanks for your support!
Posted by Rick at 10:35 AM
November 15, 2007
Wikipedia describes the green flash phenomena as:
The reason for a green flash lies in refraction of light (as in a prism) in the atmosphere: light moves more slowly in the lower, denser air than in the thinner air above, so sunlight rays follow paths that curve slightly, in the same direction as the
curvature of the Earth. Higher frequency light (green/blue) curves more than lower frequency light (red/orange), so green/blue rays from the upper limb of the settingsun remain visible after the red rays are obstructed by the curvature of the earth. Green flashes are enhanced by atmospheric inversions, which increase the density gradient in the atmosphere, and therefore increase refraction. A green flash is more likely to be seen in clear air, when more of the light from the setting sun reaches the observer without being scattered. We might expect to see a blue flash, but the blue is preferentially scattered out of our line of sight and remaining light ends up looking green.
Other great "green flash" sites are here:
Posted by Rick at 12:56 PM
November 14, 2007
November has quite a few interesting stars that are visible in the Northern Hemisphere. Check these stars out if you find yourself being new to astronomy and without any "expensive gear":
- Altair - This is the brightest star in the constellation of Aquila, the eagle. The name Altair literally means "the flying eagle" in Arabic. It is also the apex of the Summer Triangle.
- Capella - This is the brightest star in the constellation of Auriga. It appears yellowish in color and is a spectroscopic binary.
- Deneb - This is the brightest star in Cygnus, the swan. This star is one of the most luminous stars known. It is a blue supergiant.
- Vega - This is the fifth brightest star in the sky and is of the blue-white variety. It is actually the second brightest star in the Northern Hemipshere. It is the brightest star in the constellation Lyra.
- Algol - This is the brighest star in the constellation Perseus. It means "the ghoul" in Arabic and represented the head of the Gorgon, Medusa. It is actually located quite close at the present time to Comet 17P/Holmes. This binary star flucuates magnitude frequently.
- Fomalhaut - This is a young star that is the head of the fish constellation, Piscus Austrinus.
- Pleiades - This open cluster is easily visible to the eye in the Taurus constellation. Binoculars reveal many more than the seven obvious stars in this cluster. This cluster resembles a tiny "dipper" like the Ursa constellations.
- Hyades - This is an easily visible open cluster noticed but never catalogued by Messier. Shaped like a triangle, it is very easy to locate using sky maps.
- Aldebaran - This is a red giant, and has the Alpha designation, in the constellation Taurus. It is one of the brighest stars in the night sky. It appears to be a part of the Hyades open cluster, but it is just merely in the line of sight.
- Polaris - The northen star, this is the brightest star that is closest to the celestial north pole. This keeps it position relatively uniform. It is the brightest star in Ursa Minor.
Check out the Sky Maps link in our links section. It points directly to some high quality maps that make locating all of these objects very easy.
Posted by Rick at 7:47 PM