Corona from Svalbard

Corona from Svalbard

During a total solar eclipse, the Sun’s extensive outer atmosphere, or corona, is an inspirational sight.

corona

Explanation: During a total solar eclipse, the Sun’s extensive outer atmosphere, or corona, is an inspirational sight. Streamers and shimmering features that engage the eye span a brightness range of over 10,000 to 1, making them notoriously difficult to capture in a single photograph. But this composite of 29 telescopic images covers a wide range of exposure times to reveal the crown of the Sun in all its glory. The aligned and stacked digital frames were recorded in the cold, clear skies above the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, Norway during the Sun’s total eclipse on March 20 and also show solar prominences extending just beyond the edge of the solar disk. Remarkably, even small details on the dark night side of the New Moon can be made out, illuminated by sunlight reflected from a Full Earth. Of course, fortunes will be reversed on April 4 as a Full Moon plunges into the shadow of a New Earth, during a total lunar eclipse.

Thanks, as always, to the amazing NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day!

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The Big Dipper Enhanced

The Big Dipper Enhanced

Do you see it?

BigDipperEnhanced

(Image Credit & Copyright: VegaStar Carpentier)

Explanation: Do you see it? This common question frequently precedes the rediscovery of one of the most commonly recognized configurations of stars on the northern sky: the Big Dipper. This grouping of stars is one of the few things that has likely been seen, and will be seen, by every human generation. In this featured image, however, the stars of the Big Dipper have been digitally enhanced — they do not really appear this much brighter than nearby stars. The image was taken earlier this month from France. The Big Dipper is not by itself a constellation. Although part of the constellation of the Great Bear (Ursa Major), the Big Dipper is an asterism that has been known by different names to different societies. Five of the Big Dipper stars are actually near each other in space and were likely formed at nearly the same time. Relative stellar motions will cause the Big Dipper to slowly change its apparent configuration over the next 100,000 years.

Thanks, as always, to the amazing NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day!

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Over the Top

OVER THE TOP

Explanation: The central bulge of our Milky Way Galaxy rises above a sea of clouds in this ethereal scene. An echo of the Milky Way’s dark dust lanes, the volcanic peak in foreground silhouette is on France’s Réunion Island in the southern Indian Ocean.

OverTheTop_Perrot(Image Credit: Luc Perrot)

 Taken in February, the photograph was voted the winner of the 2014 International Earth and Sky Photo Contest’s Beauty of the Night Sky Category. This and other winning and noteable images from the contest were selected from over a thousand entries from 55 countries around planet Earth. Also featured in the contest compilation video (vimeo), the moving images are a testament to the importance and beauty of our world at night.

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Thanks, as always, to NASA and their amazing Astronomy Picture of the Day site.

Gigantic Hurricane on Saturn

Cassini captures gigantic hurricane on Saturn in exquisite detail

Saturn, for example, has an odd hexagonal pattern in the clouds at its north pole, and when the planet tilted enough to illuminate it, the light revealed a giant hurricane embedded in the center of the hexagon. Scientists think the immense storm may have been there for years.

The photo below was taken by the Cassini orbiter in June of 2013.

saturn-hurricane(Image: NASA/JPL)

This breathtaking photo comes to us courtesy of the Jet Propulsion Laboratories at NASA.

It was taken by the Cassini orbiter in June of 2013.

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October Aurora in Prairie Skies

The recent US government shutdown meant a lot of things to a lot of people.

To me, it meant that NASA’s Astronomy Photo of the Day was not up and running!

Luckily, things are back to abnormal now so imagine my delight at seeing this photo, courtesy of NASA.

praire-northern-lights(Image Credit: Randy Halverson)

NASA’s explanation: Wind and spaceweather are transformed in this haunting night skyscape. The prairie windmill and colorful auroral display were captured on October 1, from central South Dakota, USA, as a good season for aurora hunters came with longer autumn nights. From green to rarer reddish hues, the northern lights are sparked by the geomagnetic storms caused by solar activity. These extend far above the cloud bank to altitudes well over 100 kilometers, against the backdrop of distant stars in the northern night. Visual double star Mizar, marking the middle of the Big Dipper’s handle, is easy to spot at the left edge of the frame. The dipper’s North Celestial Pole pointers Merak and Dubhe line up vertically near picture center.

Welcome back, NASA. We missed you!

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Harvest Moon

Tonight and tomorrow night, September 18 and 19, the Earth will experience the annual Harvest Moon.

firey-moon

I look forward to this particular full moon every year. It takes my breath away.

Harvest_moon

I sincerely hope, my little geeks and nerdlings, no matter where you life… in cities, towns or in the country… that you are able to share with me this most beautiful and wonderous of events.

Have a wonderful full Harvest Moon. Have a blessed spirit-filled Sukkot.

And a very happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day, mateys

Arrr!

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Oldest Known Star in the Universe

Astronomers have probably found the oldest star of the universe, i.e. nearly 13.2 billion years old, and interestingly it is located near to our Solar System.

“We believe this star is the oldest known in the Universe with a well determined age,” Howard Bond, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, who presented the finding on 10th of January at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, California, said in a statement.

This proposed oldest star is referred to as HD 140283 and is located at a distance of approximately 190 light years from us. It is known by the astronomers for more than a century. Researchers already knew that the object is almost entirely made up of hydrogen and helium showing that the star was from the early universe but the exact age of the star was not known.

oldest-star-HD-140283(Artist’s rendering – HD 140283 – approximately 190 light years from Earth)

Bond and the team members, firstly, determine the more accurate distance of the star from the Solar System with the help of 11 sets of observations recorded between 2003 and 2011 using the Hubble Space Telescope’s Fine Guidance Sensors. They then determine the brightness of the star and calculate its intrinsic brightness as the stars’ dimming brightness is always a very good indicator of their age.

Astronomers found that the star is in such phase of its life cycle in which it is draining the hydrogen at its core. They calculated the age of the star to be 13.9 ± 0.7 billion years old. Consider that this age, in the minus side i.e. 13.2 billion years, is not conflicting with the age of the universe i.e. 13.77 billion years.

The age of this star is known with more confidence than the previously known oldest star, HE 1523-0901, said Bond. HE 1523-0901 is also present in our Milky Way galaxy.

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Source: Cowen, R. (2013). Nearby star is almost as old as the Universe Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature.2013.12196