Category Archives: News

How Large is the Universe?

The universe has long captivated us with its immense scales of distance and time. How far does it stretch? Where does it end, and what lies beyond its star fields and streams of galaxies extending as far as telescopes can see?

These questions are beginning to yield to a series of extraordinary new lines of investigation and technologies that are letting us to peer into the most distant realms of the cosmos. But also at the behavior of matter and energy on the smallest of scales. Remarkably, our growing understanding of this kingdom of the ultra-tiny, inside the nuclei of atoms, permits us to glimpse the largest vistas of space and time. In ancient times, most observers saw the stars as a sphere surrounding the earth, often the home of deities. The Greeks were the first to see celestial events as phenomena, subject to human investigation rather than the fickle whims of the Gods.

One sky-watcher, for example, suggested that meteors are made of materials found on Earth… and might have even come from the Earth. Those early astronomers built the foundations of modern science. But they would be shocked to see the discoveries made by their counterparts today. The Continue reading How Large is the Universe?

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NASA Debunks Wacky 2012 Claims

Listen up, 2012ers, it’s not really going to happen, hard as that is to bear. The issue with Dec. 21, 2012 and the predicted disasters that some folks think will come, probably started with the so-called end of the Mayan calendar. Their calendar does not end on Dec. 21, 2012. It’s just the end of the cycle and the beginning of a new one. It’s just like on Dec. 31st, our calendar comes to an end but a new calendar for the next year begins on Jan. 1st .

Niburu is supposed to be a planet that’s four times the size of the Earth. It’s going to get very close to the Earth and cause all kinds of disasters. So this enormous planet is suppose to be coming toward Earth, but if it were, we would’ve seen it long ago and if it were invisible somehow, we would’ve seen the affects of this planet on neighboring planets.

Thousands of astronomers who scan the night skies on a daily basis have not seen this. And then there’s folks who think that NASA astronomers are actually hiding this information so as to prevent panic from the populous. Can you imagine thousands of Continue reading NASA Debunks Wacky 2012 Claims

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Finding Another Earth Within Reach

From EsoCast. Planet hunters unveil the tricks of the trade for finding planets around nearby stars and scanning them for signs of life.

Are we alone? It’s the biggest question ever. And the answer is almost within reach. With so many galaxies, and each with so many stars, how could the Earth be unique?

In 1995, Swiss astronomers Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz were the first to discover an exoplanet orbiting a normal star. Since then, planet hunters have found many hundreds of alien worlds. Large and small, hot and cold, and in a wide variety of orbits. Now, we’re on the brink of discovering Earth’s twin sisters. And in the future: a planet with life — the Holy Grail of astrobiologists.

Michel Mayor’s team found hundreds of them from Cerro La Silla, ESO’s first Chilean foothold. Here’s the CORALIE spectrograph, mounted on the Swiss Leonhard Euler Telescope. It measures the tiny wobbles of stars, caused by the gravity of orbiting planets.

ESO’s venerable 3.6-metre telescope is also hunting for exoplanets. The HARPS spectrograph is the most accurate in the world. So far, it has discovered more than 150 planets. Its biggest trophy: a rich system containing at least five and Continue reading Finding Another Earth Within Reach

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Seeing Earth from Space: New International Space Station Time-lapse

We’ve all seen pictures of Earth from space, but have we really taken the time to appreciate what our planet looks like against the starscapes of the Milky Way galaxy? Here, we beckon viewers to see Earth in its cosmic context, which includes the stars, interstellar gases, the moon, the sun, and the solar winds. Be sure to watch in full HD, 1080p, and imagine you’re an astronaut aboard the International Space Station with a little time on your hands.

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Exo-Planet Hot Flareup

From HubbleCast. An international team of astronomers using data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has made an unparalleled observation, detecting significant changes in the atmosphere of a planet located beyond our solar system. The scientists conclude the atmospheric variations occurred in response to a powerful eruption on the planet’s host star, an event observed by NASA’s Swift satellite.

The exoplanet is HD 189733b, a gas giant similar to Jupiter, but about 14 percent larger and more massive. The planet circles its star at a distance of only 3 million miles, or about 30 times closer than Earth’s distance from the Sun, and completes an orbit every 2.2 days. Its star, named HD 189733A, is about 80 percent the size and mass of our Sun. Astronomers classify the planet as a “hot Jupiter.” Previous Hubble observations show that the planet’s deep atmosphere reaches a temperature of about 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit (1,030 degrees Celsius).

HD 189733b periodically passes across, or transits, its parent star, and these events give astronomers an opportunity to probe its atmosphere and environment. In a previous study, a group led by Lecavelier des Etangs used Hubble to show that hydrogen gas was escaping from the planet’s upper atmosphere. The finding Continue reading Exo-Planet Hot Flareup

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Wandering Stars: a tour of the planets

A beauteous rip through the solar sytem, based on NASA’s Science on a Sphere program “The Wanderers.” In ancient times, humans watched the skies looking for clues to their future and to aid in their very survival. They soon observed that some stars were not fixed, but moved in the sky from night to night. They called these stars the wanderers.

At the center of our solar system is the sun, binding the planets with its gravitational pull. From our viewpoint on earth, the sun appears small in the sky, but in reality it dwarfs even Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system.

The distance from the sun to the small worlds traveling it are vast. Light takes eight minutes to reach earth, and nearly a day to reach the farthest known bodies. Join us now as we tour our solar system, starting with sun-baked mercury and traveling to the remotest outskirts, where small, icy bodies move with only the faintest connection to our sun.

Mercury
Mercury, the closest planet to Sun is also the smallest terrestrial planet. It orbits so swiftly that its year lasts only 88 Earth days. The airless cratered surface could almost Continue reading Wandering Stars: a tour of the planets

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Blue-Flame Plasma on the Face of the Sun

From NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio. This video takes images from the Solar Dynamics Observatory and applies additional processing to enhance the structures that are visible. The result is a beautiful, new way of looking at the sun. The original frames are in the 171 Angstrom wavelength of extreme ultraviolet. This wavelength shows plasma in the solar atmosphere, called the corona, that is around 600,000 Kelvin. The loops represent plasma held in place by magnetic fields. They are concentrated in “active regions” where the magnetic fields are the strongest. These active regions usually appear in visible light as sunspots. The events in this video represent 24 hours of activity on September 25, 2011.

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The Shrinking Expanding Moon

From NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio. New images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft show the moon’s crust is being stretched, forming minute valleys in a few small areas on the lunar surface. Scientists propose this geologic activity occurred less than 50 million years ago, which is considered recent compared to the moon’s age of more than 4.5 billion years.

A team of researchers analyzing high-resolution images obtained by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) show small, narrow trenches typically much longer than they are wide. This indicates the lunar crust is being pulled apart at these locations. These linear valleys, known as graben, form when the moon’s crust stretches, breaks and drops down along two bounding faults. A handful of these graben systems have been found across the lunar surface.

We think the moon is in a general state of global contraction because of cooling of a still hot interior,” said Thomas Watters of the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, and lead author of a paper on this research appearing in the March issue of the journal Nature Geoscience. “The graben tell us forces acting to shrink the moon were Continue reading The Shrinking Expanding Moon

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Ray Bradbury & Friends

Wind the clock back to 1971. On the eve of the Mariner 9 launch, Ray Bradbury took part in a panel discussion at Caltech with Carl Sagan, Arthur C. Clark, Bruce Murray, and Walter Sullivan.

These clips were issued by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab to commemorate Bradbury’s life. He recently passed away at the age of 91. Forgive the distorted audio… and enjoy his smart and extremely funny comments.

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Milky Way Versus Andromeda As Seen from Earth

From HubbleCast. Scientists have been using Hubble observations to predict the future of the Andromeda Galaxy and the Milky Way, and how the collision will look from Earth. Projecting the motion of Andromeda’s stars over the next 8 billion years, the astronomers now know the path that galaxy is taking through space. And it’s heading straight for us! Computer simulations based on Hubble observations show how the two galaxies will crash together in around 4 billion years’ time.

The Andromeda Galaxy, some 2.2 million light-years away, is the closest spiral galaxy to our home, the Milky Way. For around a century, astronomers have known it is moving towards us, but whether or not the two galaxies would actually collide, or simply fly past each other, remained unclear. Now, a team of astronomers has used the Hubble Space Telescope to shed light on this question, by looking at the motion stars in the Andromeda Galaxy.

We wanted to figure out how Andromeda was moving through space. So in order to do that we measured the location of the Andromeda stars relative to the background galaxies. In 2002 they were in one place, and in 2010 they were in a slightly different place. And Continue reading Milky Way Versus Andromeda As Seen from Earth

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