Category: Night Sky

Heads-up folks the Leonid’s are here, don’t know where to look? View  sky-map here

Video below has some historical background on the Leonids:

Even more here and Happy watching!


Source:  Indiana University Media Relations

Every three years, the same phase of the moon happens on about the same date of each month. The annual Perseid meteor shower of August last happened in a moonless sky in 2007, so this year if the sky is clear when the Perseids peak before dawn on Aug. 12 and 13, there will be an unhindered display of silent fireworks.

This shower is one of the most popular every year because it happens on warm summer nights, when gazing at the starry sky is always enjoyable. There may be as many as 100 bright meteors per hour, some with smoke trails that last several seconds after the meteor has vanished.

The Perseids will be visible for most of August, though there will be fewer meteors to see the farther from the peak date you watch. If the peak on Aug. 12-13 is hidden by clouds, try looking for meteors again as soon as the night sky is clear.

To minimize the effect of local light pollution, which can obscure as many as half of the meteors, try to avoid artificial lights. Face east if you have a clear view in that direction, and look about half-way up the sky from the horizon. You won’t need binoculars or a telescope — the meteors move much too fast for that. The chances of seeing a fireball will be greatest near dawn, when Earth will be moving head-on into the meteor stream.

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Image: HubbleSite | Location of GOODS-S/ERS in the Sky

Galaxy History Revealed in This Colorful Hubble View

Source: NASA

More than 12 billion years of cosmic history are shown in this unprecedented, panoramic, full-color view of thousands of galaxies in various stages of assembly. This image, taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, was made from mosaics taken in September and October 2009 with the newly installed Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and in 2004 with the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). The view covers a portion of the southern field of a large galaxy census called the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS), a deep-sky study by several observatories to trace the evolution of galaxies.

The final image combines a broad range of colors, from the ultraviolet, through visible light, and into the near-infrared. Such a detailed multi-color view of the universe has never before been assembled in such a combination of color, clarity, accuracy, and depth.

To zoom into the GOODS-S/ERS area of the galaxy go here.

Image Credit: NASA

Image Credit: NASA

Okay, so you would have had to read Stephen’s King’s novel “the Stand” to get the title I chose for this posting but the science fiction part rings true enough this time. Believe it or not after all these years, NASA says they have found water on the Moon or at least traces of it.

The moon isn’t the dry dull place it seems. Traces of water lurk in the dirt unseen.

Three different space probes found the chemical signature of water all over the moon’s surface, surprising the scientists who at first doubted the unexpected measurement until it was confirmed independently and repeatedly.

It’s not enough moisture to foster homegrown life on the moon. But if processed in mass quantities, it might provide resources – drinking water and rocket fuel – for future moon-dwellers, scientists say. The water comes and goes during the lunar day.

The discovery, with three studies bring published in the journal Science on Thursday and a NASA briefing, could refocus interest in the moon. The appeal of the moon waned after astronauts visited 40 years ago and called it “magnificent desolation.”

The announcement comes two weeks before a NASA probe purposely smashes near the moon’s south pole to see if it can kick up buried ice. Over the last decade, astronomers have found some signs of underground ice on the moon’s poles. But this latest discovery is quite different. It finds unexpected and pervasive water clinging to the surface of soil, not absorbed into it.

“It’s sort of just sticking on the surface,” Sunshine said. “We always think of the moon as dead and this is sort of a dynamic process that’s going on.”

It’s not a lot of water. If you took a two-liter soda bottle of lunar dirt, there would probably be a medicine dropperful of water in it, said University of Maryland astronomer Jessica Sunshine, one of the scientists who discovered the water. Another way to think of it is if you want a drink of water, it would take a baseball diamond’s worth of dirt, said team leader Carle Pieters of Brown University.

NASA will hold a media briefing today (9/22) to disclose their findings and discuss the new data.

NASA will hold a media briefing at 2 p.m. EDT on Thursday, Sept. 24, to discuss new science data from the moon collected during national and international space missions. NASA Television and the agency’s Web site will provide live coverage of the briefing from the James E. Webb Memorial Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E St. SW, in Washington.

The briefing participants are:
– Jim Green, director, Planetary Science Division, Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington
– Carle Pieters, principal investigator, Moon Mineralogy Mapper, Brown University
– Rob Green, project instrument scientist, Moon Mineralogy Mapper, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
– Roger Clark, team member, Cassini spacecraft Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer and co-investigator, Moon Mineralogy Mapper, U.S. Geological Survey in Denver
– Jessica Sunshine, deputy principal investigator for NASA’s Deep Impact extended mission and co-investigator for Moon Mineralogy Mapper, Department of Astronomy, University of Maryland

For more information about NASA TV downlinks and streaming video, visit their website.

Image Credit: Hubble Servicing Mission 4 Early Release Observations

Image Credit: Hubble Servicing Mission 4 Early Release Observations

Hubble Opens New Eyes on the Universe

Source: NASA | News Release Number: STScI-2009-25

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is back in business, ready to uncover new worlds, peer ever deeper into space, and even map the invisible backbone of the universe. The first snapshots from the refurbished Hubble showcase the 19-year-old telescope’s new vision. Topping the list of exciting new views are colorful multi-wavelength pictures of far-flung galaxies, a densely packed star cluster, an eerie “pillar of creation,” and a “butterfly” nebula. With its new imaging camera, Hubble can view galaxies, star clusters, and other objects across a wide swath of the electromagnetic spectrum, from ultraviolet to near-infrared light. A new spectrograph slices across billions of light-years to map the filamentary structure of the universe and trace the distribution of elements that are fundamental to life. The telescope’s new instruments also are more sensitive to light and can observe in ways that are significantly more efficient and require less observing time than previous generations of Hubble instruments. NASA astronauts installed the new instruments during the space shuttle servicing mission in May 2009. Besides adding the instruments, the astronauts also completed a dizzying list of other chores that included performing unprecedented repairs on two other science instruments.

Now that Hubble has reopened for business, it will tackle a whole range of observations. Looking closer to Earth, such observations will include taking a census of the population of Kuiper Belt objects residing at the fringe of our solar system, witnessing the birth of planets around other stars, and probing the composition and structure of the atmospheres of other worlds. Peering much farther away, astronomers have ambitious plans to use Hubble to make the deepest-ever portrait of the universe in near-infrared light. The resulting picture may reveal never-before-seen infant galaxies that existed when the universe was less than 500 million years old. Hubble also is now significantly more well-equipped to probe and further characterize the behavior of dark energy, a mysterious and little-understood repulsive force that is pushing the universe apart at an ever-faster rate.

Image Credit: AP

Image Credit: AP

Millions from India to China, got a rare treat yesterday, (July 22, 2009) they witnessed “the longest solar eclipse of the 21st century”. The totality (peak) lasted for 6 minutes and its path began in India and crossed through Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar (Burma) and China.

For photos of the event go to, and ABC News they have slideshows of the eclipse . Looks like we will have to wait until 2017 for our turn, talk about being in the wrong place at wrong time.

North Americans must wait a bit longer for their chance at a total solar eclipse. On Aug. 21, 2017, the moon’s shadow will sweep coast to coast across the contiguous United States, from Oregon, southeastward to South Carolina. It will be the first total solar eclipse for the mainland U.S. since Feb. 26, 1979. 


Edited title 072409


Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Infrared Telescope Facility

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Infrared Telescope Facility


Object Hits Jupiter, New NASA Images Indicate

Scientists have found evidence that another object has bombarded Jupiter, exactly 15 years after the first impacts by the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9.

Shoemaker-Levy debris trail approaching Jupiter; May 17, 1994

Shoemaker-Levy debris trail approaching Jupiter; May 17, 1994

Source: ScienceDaily

Following up on a tip by an amateur astronomer, Anthony Wesley of Australia, that a new dark “scar” had suddenly appeared on Jupiter, this morning between 3 and 9 a.m. PDT (6 a.m. and noon EDT) scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., using NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility at the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii, gathered evidence indicating an impact.

New infrared images show the likely impact point was near the south polar region, with a visibly dark “scar” and bright upwelling particles in the upper atmosphere detected in near-infrared wavelengths, and a warming of the upper troposphere with possible extra emission from ammonia gas detected at mid-infrared wavelengths.

“We were extremely lucky to be seeing Jupiter at exactly the right time, the right hour, the right side of Jupiter to witness the event. We couldn’t have planned it better,” said Glenn Orton, a scientist at JPL.

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WikiSky Image: Andromeda Galaxy

WikiSky Image: Andromeda Galaxy

You are going to love this!

If you want to get a little closer to your own backyard, using your areas longitude and latitude give Stellarium a try, you can download for free. Here is the skinny on Stellarium, according to their website.

Stellarium is  a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope.
It is being used in planetarium projectors. Just set your coordinates and go.


Image: Wired Science-Cannibal Pulsar

Image: Wired Science-Cannibal Pulsar

Break out the nice Chianti, the Hannibal Lecter of pulsars has been observed, gobbling his  neighbor of course.

Source: Wired

A dying star has been caught in the act of resurrecting itself by eating its neighbor.

Together, the stars represent a previously unseen stage in the lifecycle of millisecond pulsars, the fastest-spinning objects in the universe.

“It’s really a missing link in the chain from young pulsar to old pulsar,” said Anne Archibald, a McGill University graduate student and lead author of the study published in Science Thursday.

Pulsars are a special class of neutron stars, the corpses of massive stars that exploded as supernovae. They’re born spinning quickly, up to tens of times per second, and sweep the sky with a beam of radio energy as they rotate. Eventually, they slow down to the point where they can no longer emit radio waves and die a second death.

But until now, scientists couldn’t explain how some old, dead pulsars become millisecond pulsars, which rotate hundreds of times a second. The new discovery of an intermediate step between the two appears to be the missing link.

Astronomers have long theorized that these superfast stars share their orbit with a companion star from which they leech extra material. The material settles around the pulsar’s middle in a so-called accretion disk. As material from the disk falls onto the surface of the pulsar, it imparts enough angular momentum to spin back up into what scientists call a ”recycled pulsar.”

“This is a completely new thing, seeing it go from one state to another,” said co-author Maura McLaughlin of West Virginia University. “We’ve never seen that before, ever.”

Read entire article at Wired.


I received the image above from a reader, at first I thought it was photoshopped so I dug a little deeper. To my surprise its origin was from a series of raw images from NASA’s, Mars Exploration Rover Mission. The Mars rover Opportunity took this image, I thought it was fascinating. Several images of what appears to be a wooden railroad tie can be viewed here in the first 6 images. Where did this come from? This one image could send you down a rabbit hole looking for more information. More specifically, were there trees on Mars? The next image suggest yes.


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