Astronomy

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Category archives for Astronomy

Space has a way of inspiring the imagination more than almost any other scientific field. When we talk about making huge investments of money and brainpower to solve some looming problem–say, the need for renewable energy–we talk about making a new moon shot. And while some of the most exciting scientific discoveries are being made…

Stephen Hawking may have been the only person to play himself on Star Trek, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to sign Earth up for the United Federation of Planets. The world’s most famous living scientist recently reiterated his warning that the search for intelligent life on other worlds could lead to a scenario not…

Two Decades of Hubble

After a week of excitement?complex volcanism, the 40th Earth Day, and cinematic cephalopods?the weekend brought us the 20th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope’s launch. On April 24, 1990, Space Shuttle Discovery lugged the silvery tube of mirrors, circuitry, and solar panels into low earth orbit; now both the shuttle and telescope are in the…

Sirius History & the Future of NASA

On Starts With A Bang, Ethan Siegel presents us with an interstellar mystery. As the single brightest star in the sky, Sirius has been well-known since ancient times. But while Sirius is unmistakably blue, several historical records describe Sirius as red. Two thousand years is not enough time for a normal star to change color,…

Round and Round

Yesterday was the winter solstice, meaning the sun concluded its six-month southward course and seemed to “stand still” before beginning its journey north. Of course, this being a heliocentric neighborhood, the tilt, orbit, and rotation of Earth are what really move the sun through the sky. But don’t let that stop you from appreciating colorful…

Star Light, Star Bright…

On Aardvarchaeology, Martin Rundkvist tells us that the Geminid meteor shower is peaking tonight, so if you’ve got any wishes on the back burner, now’s your chance to make them. Of course these shooting “stars” are really bits of extinct comet 3200 Phaethon’s “sandy exhaust trail” burning up in the atmosphere—if you prefer some main…

The Buzz: Water, Water Everywhere?

On Friday, NASA scientists confirmed the discovery of water on the moon. Using spectral analysis to determine the composition of the plume resulting from last month’s LCROSS rocket collision, they found more than 100 liters of water. Steinn SigurĂ°sson on Dynamics of Cats calls the presence of water on the moon “amazing,” but cautions that…

The Buzz: Out of Sight

In Ethan Siegel’s ongoing treatment of dark energy on Starts With A Bang!, he considers a number of alternative explanations for the dimming of redshifted supernovae. Could photon-axion oscillations be to blame, or does a “grey dust” pervade our universe? In another post, Siegel appreciates that our galaxy smells like raspberries and rum, and not,…

The Buzz: Bombing the Moon

Early Friday morning, NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, collided with the Moon at a speed of 5,600 miles per hour, in hopes that debris stirred up by the impact would provide valuable data about how much water might be hidden in craters near the lunar poles. While the plume of debris…

The Buzz: Our Watery Moon

Last June, scientists were thrilled to find evidence of ice on Mars. Now, the galaxy is again proving to be more abundant in water than believed. Data from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument aboard the Indian satellite Chandrayaan-1 has revealed that the surface of the Moon may be covered in either water or closely related…