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Astronomy Current Events

A New Moon Forming in the Rings of Saturn?
April 20, 2014 | NASA

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has documented the formation of a small icy object within the rings of Saturn that may be a new moon, and may also provide clues to the formation of the planet’s known moons.

What Causes A Blood Moon?
April 20, 2014 | National Science Foundation

A short post on the National Science Foundation website explains what causes the red color of a blood moon and why the color varies from eclipse to eclipse.

Award Winning Photos of Comet ISON
April 20, 2014 | National Science Foundation

Seven photographers from around the globe received awards for their stunning images of comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) at the Northeast Astronomy Forum held at Rockland Community College. Quoted from the National Science Foundation press release.

Observing the Milky Way from Arizona
April 17, 2014 | BLM

The Bureau of Land Management has a great image of the Milky Way from Sonoran Desert National Monument.

Higher Resolution image by Bob Wick, BLM

Watching the Total Lunar Eclipse
April 13, 2014 | National Geographic

National Geographic has an article that explains how to watch the total lunar eclipse that will occur overnight on April 14-15.

Possible Exomoon Found
April 13, 2014 | NASA

NASA-funded researchers have spotted the first signs of an “exomoon,” and though they say it’s impossible to confirm its presence, the finding is a tantalizing first step toward locating others. The discovery was made by watching a chance encounter of objects in our galaxy, which can be witnessed only once.

The Contraction of Mercury
April 10, 2014 | Carnegie Institution for Science

“Unlike Earth, with its numerous tectonic plates, Mercury has a single rigid, top rocky layer. [...] New global imaging and topographic data from MESSENGER show that the innermost planet has contracted far more than previous estimates.” Quoted from the Carnegie Institution for Science press release.

Total Lunar Eclipse: April 15
April 8, 2014 | NASA on

There will be four lunar eclipses between now and September 28, 2015. The first will be a total eclipse on April 15, 2014. It will be visible over much of the United States.

April 15, 2014
October 8, 2014
April 4 2015
September 28, 2015

A Red Mars and a Lunar Eclipse
April 1, 2014 | New Zealand Herald

This week Earth will overtake Mars in its orbit and will be at one of its closest positions to the planet. That will make Mars especially large and red in the night sky. Then, after midnight on April 15th a lunar eclipse will occur. (Details on the lunar eclipse in a Washington Post article.)

A Shower of Comet Particles for Mars?
April 1, 2014 | NASA

Comet Sliding Spring will pass very close to Mars when it approaches the planet in October 2014. It will produce a shower of particles as it flies by the planet could threaten orbiting spacecraft. There is a tiny chance that it could hit Mars.

A New Dwarf Planet?
March 27, 2014 | NASA

“Scientists using ground based observatories have discovered an object that is believed to have the most distant orbit found beyond the known edge of our solar system. Named 2012 VP113, the object is possibly a dwarf planet. [...] A dwarf planet is an object in orbit around the sun that is large enough to have its own gravity pull itself into a spherical, or nearly round, shape.” Quoted from the NASA press release.

An Asteroid with Rings??
March 27, 2014 | NASA

“Observations at many sites in South America, including ESO’s La Silla Observatory, have made the surprise discovery that the remote asteroid Chariklo is surrounded by two dense and narrow rings.” Quoted from the NASA press release.

One Second After the Big Bang!
March 25, 2014 | National Science Foundation

NSF researchers “announced that their telescope in Antarctica has allowed them to collect what they believe is the first direct evidence for cosmic inflation. Inflation is the cataclysmic event in which, in a fleeting fraction of a second following the Big Bang, the infant universe expanded exponentially, stretching far beyond the view of the best telescopes.” Quoted from the NSF press release.

Crowdsourcing Geological Tasks?
March 20, 2014 | University of Colorado Boulder

“As a group, volunteer counters who examined a particular patch of lunar real estate using NASA images did just as well in identifying individual craters as professional crater counters with five to 50 years of experience.”

The Search for Planet X Fails
March 20, 2014 | NASA

“After searching hundreds of millions of objects across our sky, NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has turned up no evidence of the hypothesized celestial body in our solar system commonly dubbed Planet X.” Quoted from the NASA press release.

Astronomers: Win $35000 From NASA
March 18, 2014 | NASA

“NASA’s Asteroid Data Hunter contest series will offer $35,000 in awards over the next six months to citizen scientists who develop improved algorithms that can be used to identify asteroids.”

Related: Google Map of Asteroid Impacts

Time-Lapse Views of Yosemite
March 18, 2014 | National Geographic

National Geographic shares Yosemite HD II, a four minute video that shows time-lapse night and day views of Yosemite National Park.

Colliding Comets
March 16, 2014 | NASA

“Astronomers exploring the disk of gas and dust around a nearby star have uncovered a compact cloud of poisonous gas formed by ongoing rapid-fire collisions among a swarm of icy, comet-like bodies. The researchers suggest the comet swarm is either the remnant of a crash between two icy worlds the size of Mars or frozen debris trapped and concentrated by the gravity of an as-yet-unseen planet.” Quoted from the NASA press release.

Introduction to Meteorites
March 13, 2014 |

Here we have the first in a series of articles by Geoffrey Notkin that provide an introduction to meteorites.

Martian Meteorites on Earth
March 13, 2014 | National Geographic

Researchers believe that the shergottite meteorites found on Earth may have originated from an impact that created the Mojave Crater on Mars.

Flows of Water on Mars?
March 6, 2014 | NASA

“NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars have returned clues for understanding seasonal features that are the strongest indication of possible liquid water that may exist today on the Red Planet.” Quoted from the NASA press release.

Related: Rocks on Mars

NASA image
Spitzer Discovers a New Supernova
March 6, 2014 | NASA

“The closest supernova of its kind to be observed in the last few decades has sparked a global observing campaign involving legions of instruments on the ground and in space.” Quoted from the NASA press release.

715 New Planets!
March 4, 2014 | NASA

“NASA’s Kepler mission announced Wednesday the discovery of 715 new planets. These newly verified worlds orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system.” Quoted from the NASA press release.

Artistic image by NASA
Lunar Impact and Afterglow Visible for 8 Seconds
March 2, 2014 | Nature

The impact of a large object onto the lunar surface in September, 2013 produced a flash and an afterglow that was bright enough to have been seen from Earth with the unaided eye for about eight seconds. The flash was the result of the tremendous impact speed generating enough heat to melt the target and impactor

Debris from a Massive Supernova Explosion
February 27, 2014 | NASA

“This artist’s concept depicts the explosive death of a massive star, followed by the creation of a disk made up of the star’s ashes. [...] Astronomers believe planets might form in this dead star’s disk.” Quoted from the NASA press release.

IRIS Spots Its Largest Solar Flare
February 27, 2014 | NASA

“On Jan. 28, 2014, NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, witnessed its strongest solar flare since it launched in the summer of 2013. Solar flares are bursts of x-rays and light that stream out into space, but scientists don’t yet know the fine details of what sets them off.” Quoted from the NASA press release.

Moving at 2.5 Million MPH
February 25, 2014 | NASA

“The red arc in this infrared image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope is a giant shock wave, created by a speeding star known as Kappa Cassiopeiae. [...]

It is a massive, hot supergiant moving at around 2.5 million mph [...]. But what really makes the star stand out in this image is the surrounding, streaky red glow of material in its path. Such structures are called bow shocks, and they can often be seen in front of the fastest, most massive stars in the galaxy.” Quoted from the NASA press release.

How Stars Explode
February 23, 2014 | NASA

“One of the biggest mysteries in astronomy, how stars blow up in supernova explosions, finally is being unraveled with the help of NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array.” Quoted from the NASA press release.

Galileo at 450 Years Old
February 23, 2014 | National Geographic

Galileo turned 450 years old last week. An article on explores some of his discoveries and accomplishments.

Geologic Map of Ganymede
February 20, 2014 |

NASA recently published a geologic map of Ganymede, the largest moon in our solar system.

NASA Image
Kepler Finds a Very Wobbly Planet
February 11, 2014 | NASA

“Imagine living on a planet with seasons so erratic you would hardly know whether to wear Bermuda shorts or a heavy overcoat. [...] The planet, designated Kepler-413b, precesses, or wobbles, wildly on its spin axis, much like a child’s top. The tilt of the planet’s spin axis can vary by as much as 30 degrees over 11 years, leading to rapid and erratic changes in seasons. In contrast, Earth’s rotational precession is 23.5 degrees over 26,000 years. Researchers are amazed that this far-off planet is precessing on a human timescale.” Quoted from the NASA press release.

Spectacular New Crater and Ejecta on Mars
February 6, 2014 |

“Space rocks hitting Mars excavate fresh craters at a pace of more than 200 per year, but few new Mars scars pack as much visual punch as one seen in a NASA image released today.” Quoted from the NASA press release (February 5, 2014).

Surprise White Rock on Mars
January 23, 2014 | NASA

While preparing to start robotic arm work on the target “Cape Elizabeth” on Sol 3541 (Jan. 8, 2014), Opportunity encountered a slight surprise — a rock had appeared in the images that had not been there before. This target that has been named “Pinnacle Island” and its origin has been the target of much speculation.

A Star that is Almost Identical to Our Sun
January 19, 2014 | ESO Observatory

A “solar twin” has been discovered in the Messier 67 star cluster by the the HARPs planet hunter.

First Meteor Shower of 2014 Peaks Friday
January 5, 2014 | Christian Science Monitor

The Quadrantid meteor shower is expected to peak on Friday afternoon in the United States, but people in other parts of the world might see 60 to 120 meteors per hour. People in the United States might see a few meteors before sunrise and after sunset.

Related: What Causes a Meteor Shower?

Most Popular Items for December
January 2, 2014 |

The Saturn Hexagon?

The Utah Supervolcano

What is Ammolite?

Landslide on an Incredible Scale

Failure of the Midcontinent Rift

Zoom in on the San Andreas Fault

Price of Gold Falling

Size of the Yellowstone Magma Chamber Severely Underestimated?

Salaries and Employment of Recent Geoscience Graduates

The Largest Recorded Fault Slip

How Do They Steer the Horizontal Drill?

Dating Rocks on Mars
December 29, 2013 | Caltech

“Although researchers have determined the ages of rocks from other planetary bodies, the actual experiments—like analyzing meteorites and moon rocks—have always been done on Earth. Now, for the first time, researchers have successfully determined the age of a Martian rock—with experiments performed on Mars.” Quoted from the Caltech press release.

Learn About Exoplanets
December 29, 2013 | MIT on YouTube

This video provides a great introduction to exoplanets.

Megafloods in Idaho and on Mars
December 26, 2013 | Caltech

“South-central Idaho and the surface of Mars have an interesting geological feature in common: amphitheater-headed canyons. These U-shaped canyons with tall vertical headwalls are found near the Snake River in Idaho as well as on the surface of Mars. Various explanations for how these canyons formed have been offered—some for Mars, some for Idaho, some for both. [...] Kenneth A. Farley offers a plausible account that all these canyons were created by enormous floods.” Quoted from the Caltech press release.

The Temperature Mystery of Planetary Atmospheres
December 19, 2013 | University of Washington

An atmospheric peculiarity the Earth shares with Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune is likely common to billions of planets, and knowing that may help in the search for potentially habitable worlds.

Water Vapor Jets on Europa?
December 17, 2013 | NASA

“NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has observed water vapor above the frigid south polar region of Jupiter’s moon Europa, providing the first strong evidence of water plumes erupting off the moon’s surface.” Quoted from the NASA press release.

Mapping Hydrocarbon Lakes on Titan
December 17, 2013 | NASA

“NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is providing scientists with key clues about Saturn’s moon Titan, and in particular, its hydrocarbon lakes and seas.” Quoted from the NASA press release.

Related: Hydrocarbon Sand Dunes on Titan

Artistic image by NASA
Clay Minerals and a Collision with Europa?
December 15, 2013 | NASA

“A new analysis of data from NASA’s Galileo mission has revealed clay-type minerals at the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa that appear to have been delivered by a spectacular collision with an asteroid or comet. This is the first time such minerals have been detected on Europa’s surface. The types of space rocks that deliver such minerals typically also often carry organic materials.”

Related: Life on Europa?

Earth and Moon Seen by Passing Juno Spacecraft
December 15, 2013 | NASA on

“When NASA’s Juno spacecraft flew past Earth on Oct. 9, 2013, it received a boost in speed of more than 8,800 mph (about 7.3 kilometer per second), which set it on course for a July 4, 2016, rendezvous with Jupiter.

One of Juno’s sensors, a special kind of camera optimized to track faint stars, also had a unique view of the Earth-moon system. The result was an intriguing, low-resolution glimpse of what our world would look like to a visitor from afar.” Quoted from the NASA video release.

Seasonal Changes on Mars
December 12, 2013 | NASA

“NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has revealed to scientists slender dark markings — possibly due to salty water – that advance seasonally down slopes surprisingly close to the Martian equator.” Quoted from the NASA press release.

Ancient Lake in the Gale Crater on Mars?
December 10, 2013 | NASA

“This illustration depicts a concept for the possible extent of an ancient lake inside Gale Crater. The existence of a lake there billions of years ago was confirmed from examination of mudstone in the crater’s Yellowknife Bay area.”

The Planet that Should Not Be There?
December 8, 2013 | University of Arizona

“The discovery of a giant planet orbiting its star at 650 times the average Earth-Sun distance has astronomers puzzled over how such a strange system came to be.” Quoted from the University of Arizona press release.

The Saturn Hexagon?
December 6, 2013 | NASA

“NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has obtained the highest-resolution movie yet of a unique six-sided jet stream, known as the hexagon, around Saturn’s north pole.

This is the first hexagon movie of its kind, using color filters, and the first to show a complete view of the top of Saturn down to about 70 degrees latitude.” Quoted from the NASA press release.

Water Discovered on Five Planets
December 6, 2013 | NASA

“Two teams of scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope have found faint signatures of water in the atmospheres of five distant exoplanets. The planets are not the size of Earth, but rather massive worlds known as hot Jupiters because they orbit so close to their stars. ” Quoted from the NASA press release.

Ocean Currents and Life Under the Shell of Europa
December 5, 2013 | The University of Texas at Austin

“Researchers have shown that the subsurface ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa may have deep currents and circulation patterns with heat and energy transfers capable of sustaining biological life.” Quoted from The University of Texas at Austin press release.

Related: Life on Europa?

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