Category Archives: astronomy

Happy Winter Solstice

Mercury transits Sol

Yo! It seems like we just passed the Summer Solstice. Now, the northern hemisphere will be able to gain some reprieve from the darkness. Starting today, daylight time will continue to increase until we reach the maximum in June 2010. No more 5 PM darkness! Wahoo!

For this winter’s solstice, I bring you an image of Mercury as it transits the Sol. This is a very rare and magnificent image. Many of the scifi books that I have read feature humans living in colonies on Mercury. One of the most innovative (Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson) had a city on rails that traveled around the planet staying just ahead of the direct sunlight. My question: and why would we want to do this?

Enjoy!

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GeekDad:WISE will rise on 12/11

geekdadnewlogoAnother great space telescope is set to launch on Friday morning. Tune in if you can. And be sure to show your kids the replay when they get home from school!

http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2009/12/wise-space-telescope-to-launch-on-december-11/

Transformers, Kandaharian Beasts, & Hexagons

Saw three great posts this evening in my Google Reader:

V22 In AfPak

First, the V-22 Osprey has finally taken flight in combat. The good folks over at The Danger Room has some pics of the tilt-rotor hover-to-plane transforming craft over in AfPak. I remember seeing the first flights of the Osprey and then reading about the tragic crashes that followed. It’s good to see that enough progress has been made to make the ship combat-worthy.

The now-not-so-secret RQ-170 Sentinel

Also from The Danger Room, a sharp-eyed French photog caught the above image of a “mystery” plane also in use in AfPak. Dubbed the Beast of Kandahar, the Air Force recently confirmed that the image is of a new unmanned stealth reconnaissance plane, the RQ-170 Sentinel. The question on everyone’s lips is why do you need a stealth drone for use against guys running around the mountains with Kalashnikov’s. Anything to do with Iran being right next door? Hmmmm? Inquiring minds want to know.

The Hexagon @ Saturn's North Pole

And finally over on Bad Astronomy, Phil Plait highlights a great picture from the Cassini team of Saturn’s north pole. If you have not seen the above image, then be amazed! Yes, for some reason the storm raging at the top of Saturn rotates in the form of a hexagon! Wow! Scientists are still working to explain this one. I’m baffled! I can’t wait to read the theories they develop.

And The Hits Keep Coming!

Last week it was ESA and Rosetta. This week, NASA had to go one up on the Europeans.

Waaaaay back in 2006, Cassini was able to image geysers shooting off of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Since that discovery, the Cassini team has been able to swing the orbiting robot into a few really close passes to the moon.

A few days ago, they were able to capture this fantabulous shot!

Enceladus Geysers!

Stu over at Cumbrian Sky has a nice post that sums up my feelings as well (thanks for the pic!). How I’d love to be able to see these geysers with my own eyes!

Looking Back At Home

For me, one of the saddest things in life is to see inner city gangs fighting over turf. Often just a block or two. I’ve always found that view of life so limiting.

I feel the same way about people that have never traveled outside of their city or county. There is so much about this life and this universe to discover. Now look at this picture!

Home

Home

That’s home. Home for me. Home for you. Home for all six billion humans in this universe. Everyone that you have ever loved, every person in all of history has lived on that ball of rock.

This picture was taken from a satellite that was orbiting the planet Mars. Back in 2006, it took some time out from looking down at Mars and turned its camera towards the heavens. Wow! Even more spectacular is the full image, which captures Jupiter and its moons.

Support space science and exploration! Turn your kids into space nerds!

Big ups to BA for the highlight of the original!

Obama Bringing Betelguese To Big Head Babies

starpartyOK. So I get a fail on the blog title. But I found this in my Google Reader today:

White House to Host Star Party

I can honestly say I wish I lived in D.C. right now. Then after the party, I’d move back to ‘bama. Can’t wait untilĀ  the WH releases the pics. If you can’t make it to the WH on that day, you can watch live on NASA TV.

I wonder if this is a first? If not, when was the last time?

Keep promoting that science Obama team! We need more young scientists in this country!

A Little Inspiration

A picture is worth a thousand words. Or a thousand little shards of inspiration and dreams! For those of you that have space or astronomy geeklets, then this site will definitely do the trick: http://www.nasaimages.org/index.html

Here is one of my favorite pics:

The Sombrero Galaxy

The Sombrero Galaxy

Big ups to BA for the link to this great site!

Happy Autumnal Equinox

full-harvest-moon1Continuing a dance that goes back millions of years, the northern hemisphere of our beautiful planet experienced the Autumnal Equinox today. The slow march to shorter days and cold nights will continue to the end of December. Enjoy the remaining days of sunshine whilst they last.

Hubble Rocks!

For many years, the champions of Hubble lobbied NASA, the Congress, and the various Presidents to provide funding for a final space shuttle repair mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. A few of the key components had broken down over its long life span and an upgrade / repair would work wonders.

After much wrangling, the wishes were granted and STS-125 was scheduled and flew earlier this year. And now the mission is paying off. Just take a look at the spectacular picture below!

Eta Carinae

This picture shows the light spectrum from Eta Carinae, a truly massive star (100 times the size of Sol). You can see the signatures if the various elements plotted on the image. The jumbo “bubbles” on the sides of the star are gases that result from huge explosions from within. In other words, we should be glad we don’t live on a planet anywhere near here!

I’m looking forward to more great images and science from Hubble. And it can only get better with the JWST, which launches in 2014.

Kepler May Find Endor

Will we here Imperial shuttle communications?

Will we here Imperial shuttle communications?

Ok. I’m stretching a little. But, from an article over at RedOrbit, the Kepler team believes that there is no reason that NASA’s latest planet hunter should not also be able to detect a planet’s moons. I really hope that Kepler finds a boatload of potentially habitable systems. With confirmation that there are other possibly life bearing worlds, a massive launch of new science and experiments could finally listen in on a galactic conversation. These are definitely exciting times!

You can follow more Kepler news here.

Thanks Slashdot!

Will Somebody Please Buy Me A New Telescope!?!?!

So I can shoot pictures like this! Very cool! Now remember kids, this was taken from the ground and the ISS is about 215 miles up!

iss_sts_vandebergh

Gracias senor BA!

Jupiter Playing Billiards Again

In infrared, white means very hot!

In infrared, white means very hot!

Back in 1994, the world was lucky enough to capture one of the greatest fireworks shows in our solar system. Co-discovered by Eugene and Carolyn Shoemaker and David Levy, a comet that had been torn apart by Jupiter’s gravity hurled into the gas giant. Astronomers around the world had advance notice of the collision and hundreds of telescopes turned toward Jupiter to become a witness to raw power.

Late last week, it happened again (see infrared pic above). However, we did not have advance notice. Amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley of Australia was admiring Jupiter when a dark spot suddenly appeared. After posting info about the spot on a message forum, scientists in charge of the large telescopes around world also began gathering data. The result, something huge had indeed crashed into the largest planet in our solar system.

Here is the picture that Mr. Wesley captured as he was notifying the world of Jupiter’s new blemish.

The impact is the dark spot at the top of the image

The impact is the dark spot at the top of the image

All I have to say is that we need to get our stuff together here on the blue marble. This could have been us. šŸ˜¦ Support NEO detection! Support space exploration! Go NASA!

Magnificent Desolation – The Moon

If you have the download power, you HAVE to click through to the video on YouTube and watch this in HD (click the little HD icon near the sound button):

Via Bad Astronomy.

Holy Cow! I Can’t Believe It!

Holy Cow!

Holy Cow!

A few years ago, Mrs. Calrissian bought me a telescope. I get to use it every couple of weeks or so in the warm months. It’s nothing fancy, but it does its job of bringing the cosmos closer to home.

Yesterday, my daughter and I were doing a little moon and star hunting when one of the neighbor kids walked by. He was a teenager and headed to drop something off to another neighbor. Seeing us with the telescope, curiosity got the better of him:

“What’s that?”

“A telescope”

“Really?”

“Yeah, you want to take a look?”

“Sure, ok?”

After I focused back in on the moon and let him have a look:

“Holy cow! I can’t believe it!”

All it takes is a little time. Maybe I just made a new convert out of him…

NOTE: While I wish I had something so amazing to take pictures, the one in this post is not mine. Thanks PopSci.