Tag Archives | Astronomy

Annular Solar Eclipse Brings Ring Of Fire (May 20, 2012)

Photo: sancho panza (CC)

Photo: sancho panza (CC)

This Sunday brings the first annular solar eclipse visible in the western United States in almost 18 years. Mike Wall reports for Space.com:

Skywatchers in East Asia and the western United States should circle Sunday (May 20) on their calendars. That’s when a solar eclipse will block out most of the sun, leaving a spectacular “ring of fire” shining in the sky for observers located along the eclipse’s path.

The event is what’s known as an annular solar eclipse — from the Latin “annulus,” meaning “little ring” — and its full glory should be visible from much of Asia, the Pacific region and some of western North America, weather permitting. At its peak, the eclipse will block about 94 percent of the sun’s light.

Other parts of the United States and Canada will still see a partial solar eclipse, without being treated to the ring of fire effect, though the East Coast will miss the event since the sun will have set before it begins.

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SOHO Watcher Claims NASA Cover-Up of Spaceship Spotted Near Sun (Video)

Spaceship Near SunPeter Farquhar writes on the Daily Telegraph (AU):

Either we aren’t alone, or it’s nigh time NASA fixed its dodgy cameras. For the third time this year, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) has returned an image of a giant UFO hovering near, or feeding off the Sun. Maybe

In recent years, SOHO has found an extended role as a predictor of solar weather activity, helping scientists on Earth prepare for radiation bursts sent our way by solar flares. On the SOHO homepage, fans can access all sorts of Sun-related data, including images that have been built from observations from any of the dozen or so instruments onboard SOHO, and videos …

Here’s the active SOHO observer, YouTube User rob19791:

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California Meteor Found Packed With Alien Organics

Murchison MeteoriteVia the Daily Galaxy:

A sonic boom heard in California last week had an out-of-this world origin as ”a large meteoric event” according to NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. Scientists now estimate the blast measured in near 5 kilotons or roughly 1/3 the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan during World War II. Bill Cooke of the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, estimates the object was about the size of a minivan, weighed in at around 154,300 pounds.

“Most meteors you see in the night’s sky are the size of tiny stones or even grains of sand and their trail lasts all of a second or two,” said Don Yeomans of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “Fireballs you can see relatively easily in the daytime and are many times that size — anywhere from a baseball-sized object to something as big as a minivan.”

The meteor appears to be much more valuable than scientists first thought.

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Amateur Astronomers Track Spy Satellites

USA 193Jim Nash writes in Scientific American:

Earlier this year Iran’s defenseminister put the world on notice: His nation had developed the ability to “easily” watch spacewalking astronauts from the ground. The announcement was largely ignored, in part because it made the minister sound like a James Bond villain. The boast was also a bit anticlimactic, given that even amateur astronomers are already recording in detail what happens in low Earth orbit.

Both the technology involved and the techniques used to observe satellites and even the occasional astronaut perched outside the International Space Station (ISS) are improving, much to the presumed chagrin of governments looking to keep certain on orbital activity confidential.

In a development harkening back to the earliest days of desktop computing, highly skilled stargazers are hacking together optics, electronics and software to create sophisticated observatories of their own. In fact, one French astrophotographer, Emmanuel Rietsch, has begun selling software and hardware that make it possible for backyard astronomers to track and record satellites…

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We Can Survive Killer Asteroids — But It Won’t Be Easy

Celebrity astro-physicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson shares some advice on how to guard against pesky Near-Earth Objects (like the meteor that lit up California and Nevada last weekend), in Wired Science:

The chances that your tombstone will read “Killed by Asteroid” are about the same as they’d be for “Killed in Airplane Crash.”

Solar System debris rains down on Earth in vast quantities — more than a hundred tons of it a day. Most of it vaporizes in our atmosphere, leaving stunning trails of light we call shooting stars. More hazardous are the billions, likely trillions, of leftover rocks — comets and asteroids — that wander interplanetary space in search of targets.

Most asteroids are made of rock. The rest are metal, mostly iron. Some are rubble piles — gravitationally bound collections of bits and pieces. Most live between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter and will never come near Earth.

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A Universe Without Purpose

Disc CloudLawrence M. Krauss writes in the LA Times:

The illusion of purpose and design is perhaps the most pervasive illusion about nature that science has to confront on a daily basis. Everywhere we look, it appears that the world was designed so that we could flourish.

The position of the Earth around the sun, the presence of organic materials and water and a warm climate — all make life on our planet possible. Yet, with perhaps 100 billion solar systems in our galaxy alone, with ubiquitous water, carbon and hydrogen, it isn’t surprising that these conditions would arise somewhere. And as to the diversity of life on Earth — as Darwin described more than 150 years ago and experiments ever since have validated — natural selection in evolving life forms can establish both diversity and order without any governing plan.

As a cosmologist, a scientist who studies the origin and evolution of the universe, I am painfully aware that our illusions nonetheless reflect a deep human need to assume that the existence of the Earth, of life and of the universe and the laws that govern it require something more profound.

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Sun Unleashes Two Powerful ‘X-Class’ Flares (Video)

Reports Tariq Malik of SPACE.com via the Christian Science Monitor:

The sun unleashed a cosmic double whammy Tuesday (March 6), erupting with two major flares to cap a busy day of powerful solar storms. One of the flares is the most powerful solar eruption of the year, so far. Both of the huge flares ranked as X-class storms, the strongest type of solar flares the sun can have. They followed several weaker, but still powerful, sun storms on Tuesday and came just days after another major solar flare on Sunday night.

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Oxygen Discovered Around Saturn’s Icy Moon Dione

DionePallab Ghosh reports on BBC News:

A NASA spacecraft has detected oxygen around one of Saturn’s icy moons, Dione.

The discovery supports a theory that suggests all of the moons near Saturn and Jupiter might have oxygen around them.

Researchers say that their finding increases the likelihood of finding the ingredients for life on one of the moons orbiting gas giants.

The study has been published in Geophysical Research Letters. According to co-author Andrew Coates of University College London, Dione has no liquid water and so does not have the conditions to support life. But it is possible that other moons of Jupiter and Saturn do …

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