Gigantic rings

January 26th, 2015

Staying on the theme of what a big universe it is, astronomers think they've spotted a planet with a seriously big ring system:

"The star is much too far away to observe the rings directly, but we could make a detailed model based on the rapid brightness variations in the star light passing through the ring system. If we could replace Saturn's rings with the rings around J1407b, they would be easily visible at night and be many times larger than the full moon."

Big rings

[Via More Words, Deeper Hole]

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Replacement stars

January 26th, 2015

If the Sun were replaced by some other stars.

Be sure to watch to the end when we get to see Polaris up close. It's a hell of a thing.

[Via kottke.org]

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I call it the Moonbase Alpha treatment

January 13th, 2015

Super Planet Crash is a solar system simulator game that just proved what an asshole I'd be if I was in charge of the universe. There I was with my 10-planet system, chugging along nicely past the 300-year mark and I got bored and added a brown dwarf to the inner solar system.

The result:

Bye bye, Planet 10

Oh well, how many Earth-sized planets does a solar system need, really? Besides, just think how much more of the universe the inhabitants of Planet 10 will see this way (until the atmosphere freezes as they wander the interstellar depths.)

[Via APOD]

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Crescent Rhea Occults Crescent Saturn

January 7th, 2015

APOD: 2015 January 4 – Crescent Rhea Occults Crescent Saturn.

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Blackout City

December 7th, 2014

Blackout City by Nicholas Buer:

In a metropolis like London light pollution makes the night sky invisible. Only a few of the brightest stars and asterisms force their celestial light through the man made glow of the city. The night sky, one of the most beautiful of natural wonders is extinguished from view. Blackout City is an experimental timelapse film that makes the invisible, visible. It attempts to show what the night sky would look like If there were ever to be a total blackout in the South East of England on a clear, moonless, summer's night.

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Wanderers

November 30th, 2014

Wanderers, or, Life in the Solar System. Someday.1

[Via Sidelights]

  1. Not soon.

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An extraordinarily large ring of fire

September 1st, 2014

The situation could technically be labeled a Mercurian annular eclipse with an extraordinarily large ring of fire.

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Are your retinas burning?

June 10th, 2014

How to Identify that Light in the Sky:

How to identify that Light in the Sky (excerpt)

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The Scale of the Universe 2

January 12th, 2014

The Scale of the Universe 2. Best viewed in full screen mode.

[Via Astronomy Picture of the Day]

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Hot!

November 30th, 2013

Courtesy of xkcd, Oort Cloud

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Pale Blue Dot, 2013

November 16th, 2013

NASA Cassini Spacecraft Provides New View of Saturn and Earth:

Earth from Saturn

Cue Carl Sagan, reading from Pale Blue Dot.

[Via Christian Science Monitor, via The Morning News]

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Noctilucent Clouds and Aurora Over Scotland

August 26th, 2013

Noctilucent Clouds and Aurora Over Scotland.

Best viewed in full screen mode at the highest available resolution.1

  1. Actually, that should read 'Best viewed in person.' But this video is the next best option.

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ISS Transit

July 25th, 2013

ISS Transit Over The Moon:

ISS and Moon

Trust me, the full image (which you can go to by clicking on the cropped version above) is well worth a look.1

[Via kottke.org]

  1. I have to admit that at first glance one of my thoughts was "That looks like it's the NCC-1701!" I know the 'saucer section' looks to be too far back but otherwise it fits, dammit!

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Cosmos II

July 22nd, 2013

I was vaguely aware that Neil deGrasse Tyson was remaking Carl Sagan's Cosmos, but I hadn't given the project much thought. Now there's a trailer, so it's time to pay attention.

Full marks for good looking graphics – that shot of the sun shining through Saturn's rings is just glorious. There have been an awful lot of discoveries over the course of thirty-some years that render parts of Sagan's story obsolete or incomplete, but someow I can't see this having the sort of impact Sagan's original series did back in 1980, when there just weren't a lot of well-funded mainstream TV documentary series about space/astonomy etc.1.

In the wake of Brian Cox's career, how much mindspace is there for another epic space documentary series? Come to that, do we really need another series of eye candy? I hope Tyson and his script are up to the challenge and prove me wrong.2

[Via The Planetary Society]

  1. Yes, obviously, there was – and still is – The Sky at Night, but that wasn't the same thing at all.
  2. I freely acknowledge that I'm looking at this from a parochial, UK perspective. I'd just hate to see the BBC or Channel 4 stump up a ton of cash for the UK broadcast rights for this if it's only going to be pretty.

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The Game Has Changed

June 6th, 2013

Yes, it's another time lapse video featuring lots of night skies and shining cities. But to my mind the way the images and the music1 combine makes The Game Has Changed a couple of steps up from the average nighttime time lapse video.

[Via Bad Astronomy]

  1. Daft Punk, from their soundtrack for TRON: Legacy.

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Time-Lapse | Earth

May 6th, 2013

One day I'll get tired of sequences of time lapse images taken from the International Space Station. Not today.

[Via Bad Astronomy]

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A Close Encounter of the Lenticular Kind

April 20th, 2013

APOD: 2013 April 17 – Mt Hood and a Lenticular Cloud.

Mount Hood and the Lenticular Cloud

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A Different Angle on Mars

March 25th, 2013

Posting at The Planetary Society, Bill Dunford found A Different Angle on Mars by looking back at images from the Mars Global Surveyor:

Like all Mars Global Surveyor shots, these are views of the Red Planet from orbit. What's different here is the highly oblique angle of these images. In each, the powerful Mars Observer Camera is not oriented straight down for maximum resolution, but off toward the horizon.

The result is a set of views that make me think of what it might be like to be at Mars, flying over the planet in person, looking out the window. Be sure to enlarge them, and see if you enjoy them as much as I did.

I reckon the image of Olympus Mons is my favourite, just because it emphasises the sheer scale of the thing.

I know the various space agencies have to choose the sites where they land their probes so as to maximise both the chances of a successful landing and the amount of useful science they can do in their limited lifespan, but it'd be nice if at some point in the future someone could contrive to bring down a lander somewhere near the peak of Olympus Mons. The view from up there across the planet's surface would be a sight to see.

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Meteorwrongs

March 2nd, 2013

Also on an astronomical topic (sort of), Dark Flight: Meteorwrongs by Ryan Thompson

Within one of the most well-known collections of meteorites in the world, at the Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University, is a collection of rocks of mistaken identity. Once identified by professional and amateur meteorite hunters as meteorites, they were later proven to be of terrestrial origin. 'Dark Flight: Meteorwrongs' is a series of photographs of 21 of these false positives. They range in size from just a few inches to more than one foot in diameter and they all have one thing in common–they are not meteorites. The collection stands as a testament to the evolution of the science of meteoritics and to the limits of human knowledge.

[Via Pruned]

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Mars Attacked!

March 2nd, 2013

Is it wrong of me to hope that Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) does turn out to be on course to crash into Mars in October 2014?

The last time we had a ringside seat for that sort of impact it was a lot further away and nobody but scientists got to watch it live.1 This time, just think of the pictures we'd get, live on the web, from the array of spacecraft we have in orbit and on the surface of Mars.2

Joking aside, I wonder how the sight of a comet impact on that scale, that close to home would affect our views of living in the solar system. Would NASA suddenly find itself with as much funding as it wanted to design and build a comet deflector, just in case, not to mention greatly expanding existing tracking systems aimed at spotting comets while they're still way out there where there's time to nudge them away from Earth? Or would the remote chance of there being two such large-scale cometary impacts on the inner solar system in our lifetimes persuade us that we'd dodged that particular bullet and could leave the problem alone for a generation or two?

  1. Or as close to 'live' as the speed of light would allow.
  2. Alternatively, the Martian Defence Force is going to provide us with unequivocal proof that there is life on Mars, as we watch the Martian Robert Duvall and his crew set out on a mission to blow Comet Siding Spring into two pieces that will pass neatly on either side of their planet. Alternatively, it'll be the Martians from Mars Attacks! who'll step in and deflect a chunk of the comet. Of course, they'd probably do so in such a way that the comet would pass by Mars, only to cannon off Phobos at an angle that left it heading right for Earth. Ack! Ack! Ack!

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