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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'Cairns!'

November 25th, 2012

Earlier this month Maciej Cegłowski took a trip to Queensland, Australia to see the total eclipse of the Sun:

Tuesday, November 13

I get up early to watch the sunrise, partly because jet lag makes it easy, partly because I want to see what conditions might be like tomorrow, and mostly from my irrational fear that every one of us has done the date math wrong. The eclipse is marked on November 13 in my date book, and while I believe in the International Date Line, I don't believe in it enough to sleep in.

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Ring and Shadow Bands

November 21st, 2012

APOD: 2012 November 21 – Diamond Ring and Shadow Bands.

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Quiver Trees By Night 2

November 10th, 2012

Florian Breuer's Quiver Trees By Night 2 makes for one spectacular image of the night sky over Namibia.

For what it's worth, I prefer the pre-photoshop version of the shot that he revealed in this post discussing how he produced the final image. The tweaked version is more striking, but it's not as if the unedited image is less than breathtaking.

[Via Bad Astronomy]

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Healh & Safety: The Final Frontier

November 8th, 2012

It's elfansafety gone mad at the BBC:

[Professor Brian Cox...], the former pop star turned particle physicist, wanted to use the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire to listen in to the planet, Threapleton Holmes B, on his BBC2 series Stargazing Live.

[...]

"The BBC actually said, 'But you can't do that because we need to go through the regulations and health and safety and everything in case we discover a signal from an alien civilisation'.

"You mean we would discover the first hint that there is other intelligent life in the universe beyond Earth, live on air, and you're worried about the health and safety of it?

"It was incredible. They did have guidelines. Compliance."

Methinks Professor Cox might be stretching the truth just a tad here in the interests of having an amusing anecdote to relate when doing publicity work for his show.

Besides, we all know that the BBC nowadays would be more concerned about a) making sure that the aliens hadn't arranged for their fees for participating in the programme to go via some shady tax-efficient offshore company, b) checking that intercepting radio signals from a distant star couldn't possibly be classed as a form of phone hacking, and c) ensuring that the aliens were wearing a poppy while broadcasting their message.

[Via The Awl]

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Phobos eclipse

September 15th, 2012

A partial eclipse of the Sun by Phobos, as seen by the Mars Curiosity rover.

Not the most spectacular astronomical image you'll ever see, and not even all that rare an event,1 but even so it's pretty cool that we have a one ton, nuclear powered robot present on the Martian surface to beam the picture back to Earth.

  1. Phobos orbits Mars every 7 hours and 39 minutes, so there are frequent opportunities for it to get between the Sun and some point on the Martian surface.

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93 million miles from here

September 10th, 2012

Wow!

On August 31, 2012 a long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the sun's atmosphere, the corona, erupted out into space at 4:36 p.m. EDT. The coronal mass ejection, or CME, traveled at over 900 miles per second. The CME did not travel directly toward Earth, but did connect with Earth's magnetic environment, or magnetosphere, causing aurora to appear on the night of Monday, September 3.

Magnificent CME Erupts on the Sun - August 31

[Via Bad Astronomy]

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