Archive for the ‘astronomy’ Category
(via NASA.gov, 1/25/2012) “A ‘Blue Marble’ image of the Earth taken from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA’s most recently launched Earth-observing satellite – Suomi NPP. This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth’s surface taken on January 4, 2012. The NPP satellite was renamed ‘Suomi NPP’ on January 24, 2012 to honor the late Verner E. Suomi of the University of Wisconsin.
Suomi NPP is NASA’s next Earth-observing research satellite. It is the first of a new generation of satellites that will observe many facets of our changing Earth. Suomi NPP is carrying five instruments on board. The biggest and most important instrument is The Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite or VIIRS.”
Forget men on mars; exoplanet Gliese 581d in the solar system neighboring ours may have conditions just right for supporting some forms of life. While the name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, French researchers made a pretty fascinating discovery about the planet. For a few years scientists have thought the planets orbiting the star Gliese 581 could support life, but until recently it was believed Gliese 581d was too cold. However, when the researchers simulated the atmospheric make-up of the planet, they found it rich in carbon dioxide, creating a warm enough climate to possibly support oceans and rainfall.
Though don’t get too excited (we’re looking at you, Lance Bass). The incredibly dense air on Gliese 581d makes for a red, murky atmosphere toxic to humans. It would also take roughly 300,000 years to reach the planet on a spacecraft. Visiting it may be out of the question for now, but it’s exciting and just a little scary to think about the vast and varying environments where life can exist.
While the never-ending slew of new technology that bombards us everyday can sometimes feel overwhelming, complicated, and unnecessary, every so often a product comes along that we at GLIMPSE simply love. Take for example, the SkyProdigy, a point-and-shoot telescope.
SkyProdigy is for people who would love to gaze at the stars but are hesitant to even touch a telescope for fear of breaking something very expensive. You just have to point it towards the sky, push a button, and voila! An incredible view of the moon or the North Star is at your fingertips.
While SkyProdigy doesn’t come out until July, it’s great that astronomy is being made more accessible. Citizen astronomers will love that they can now capture the stunning views their telescopes provide on their iPhones thanks to the ingenuity of the Magnilux Adapter. It seems it’s never been easier to add ‘amateur astronomer’ to your title.
Do you remember what you were doing when you were ten years old? Perhaps working through the complexities of long division or playing kickball at recess. Whatever kept you occupied, we think it’s safe to say you were not discovering a supernova, an intensely energetic explosion that occurs at the end of a star’s lifetime. Unless of course, you happen to be Kathryn Gray. Ten-year-old Gray is the youngest person to make such a discovery. With her father, an amateur astronomer, at her side she spotted the supernova 240 million light years away on New Year’s Eve. To find what NASA has deemed to be “one of the most energetic explosive events known,” astronomers use a computer program that compares different nighttime images of the sky taken from the same location. If there are any changes, there’s a good chance it’s a supernova. Most fully-grown astronomers search for thousands of hours before they discover the star. For Gray, it took fifteen minutes.
It’s quite impressive, awesome, and heartwarming to find such a young person interested in the sciences (and making history along the way). We at GLIMPSE are thrilled to see appreciators—at any age—of the art + science of seeing.
If you’re not a fan of the sub-zero temperatures the upcoming season bestows upon us, perhaps reading this NASA report about a giant eruption on the sun will warm you up. In August, an entire hemisphere of the sun exploded—NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory along with the STEREO spacecraft recorded the eruption in unbelievable detail. So what does it all mean? Well before this eruption, explosions on the sun’s surface were believed to be isolated incidents, independent of one another. But now scientists think all solar activity is interconnected. One solar physicist came to this staggering conclusion: “To predict eruptions…we have to know the surface magnetic field of practically the entire sun.” The surface area of the entire sun? Oh, about 2.3 trillion square miles. And the magnetic field is unbelievably complex, varies in strength across the sun’s surface, and extends far out into space. We have a feeling the collected thought bubble over all solar physicists’ heads right now reads ‘oy.’
We know it’s nearing 2011, but we still couldn’t help but blog about Simon C Page’s collection of retro-style astronomy posters that he created as an ode to The International Year of Astronomy 2009, a global effort initiated by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and UNESCO to help the citizens of the world rediscover their place in the Universe through the day- and night-time sky, and thereby engage a personal sense of wonder and discovery.
Check out the full collection of posters here.
Funding in flux? Assert your agency’s relevance by offering iPhone and iPad apps!
Don’t get us wrong… we love NASA. And we love apps. And the two, really, are a match made in the heavens.
Below are a few of the applications that the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration has made available for free download:
The NASA App HD: From satellite tracking to live NASA TV, the app delivers an extensive selection of dynamically updated mission information, images, videos and Twitter feeds from NASA right on your iPad.
3D Sun for iPhone: A major solar flare erupts on the sun. Before long, your phone chirps in your pocket to let you know! Pulling out your phone, you see a 3D view of the sun — a digital reconstruction of satellite images freshly downloaded from NASA’s “STEREO” satellites.
Lunar Electric Rover Simulator App for iPhone:
You don’t need a driver’s license, but you still need to buckle up as the Simulator gives you a glimpse of what it might be like to support the activities of a functioning Lunar Outpost.
We suspect these tools were quickly ushered through the Apple App Store approval process…Now, to get iPads into the hands of every school-aged child so the wonders of the universe unfold at their touch…
View all of NASA’s iPhone and iPad apps at http://www.nasa.gov/connect/apps.html
The good people of Sky & Telescope report that tonight, Monday, September 20, Jupiter will be its brightest in quite some time. The planet is especially close to earth at a mere 368 million miles away.
…But it remains nearly this close and bright (magnitude -2.9) throughout the second half of September… Also, according to legendary planetary observer Richard Schmude, Jupiter is an additional 4% or so brighter than usual because one of its brown cloud belts has gone missing.
Today, Glimpse celebrates the Hubble Space Telescope’s 20 remarkable years in orbit! Check out our Cosmos issue, where we offer a reflection on the HST’s invaluable contributions to our knowledge of the Universe.
What is your favorite Hubble image? Share your thoughts in the comments section!
We’re channeling Carl Sagan for this week’s “perspective check,” since it never hurts to take a step back once in a while.
Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar”, every “supreme leader”, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.