Astro Bob 22 Apr 2018, 17:22 UTC I hope you’re having a great start to Earth Day. We’re all sunshine and 56° here in Duluth, Minn. The view through the window makes me want to get up and abandon writing this very second. Before I do, let me tell you about Venus and the Pleiades. They’re moving in each other’s direction like friends sitting down at a table.
Astrobiology Magazine 21 Apr 2018, 19:34 UTC The Danakil Depression in Ethiopia is a spectacular, hostile environment that may resemble conditions encountered on Mars and Titan -- as well as in sites containing nuclear waste.
Starts With a Bang! 21 Apr 2018, 14:01 UTC For centuries, the biggest questions about our Universe were philosophical ones. Where we came from, how we got to be here, and where we were headed in the future were questions for poet and theologians; science had no answers for the greatest cosmic mysteries of all. Over the past 100 years, all of this has changed. We know what makes up the Universe and how it came to be this way. We know about the Big Bang and have solid physical theories for what set it up. And we know about dark energy and cosmic accelerations, which determines our eventual fate. But what happens when we get there?
Astronomy Now 20 Apr 2018, 17:20 UTC Australian astronomers have collected spectra from more than 340,000 stars across the Milky Way in a project aimed at building a database that will shed light on the galaxy’s formation and evolution and allow researchers to track down stars born in the Sun’s birth cluster that have long since scattered.
New Scientist 20 Apr 2018, 16:30 UTC Astronomers have discovered one of the darkest planets ever seen. It’s so dark, they’re comparing it to charcoal. WASP-104b is a fast gas giant. It is a Jupiter-mass planet that orbits its star once every 1.75 days. The planet circles close to its star, so it receives enough radiation that its clouds are swept away, letting the potassium and sodium come out to play.
Starts With a Bang! 20 Apr 2018, 14:01 UTC For nearly 30 years, scientists have been discovering planets beyond our Solar System: the exoplanets of the Universe. We now know that practically every star has its own planetary system, and that most of them have rocky worlds that may even house liquid water on their surfaces. Where there’s water, there may be life, and finding the first evidence of life beyond Earth is still one of the holy grails of modern science. Less than two years ago, a scientific team from the European Southern Observatory announced the discovery of Proxima b, the first exoplanet ever discovered around Proxima Centauri, the closest star in the Universe to our Sun. There are many things that Proxima b experiences that would make human life on that world nearly impossible, including the existence of spectacular solar flares striking it frequently. But despite that, life may be possible there after all. Here’s how.
The Planetary Society Blog 20 Apr 2018, 11:00 UTC In late February, NASA's Opportunity rover captured its first-ever selfie to commemorate 5,000 sols on Mars. It was a yet another incredible achievement for the 14-year-old spacecraft, which was designed to last just 90 sols. This is the story of how that selfie came to be.
ESO Blog 20 Apr 2018, 10:00 UTC Scheduled for first light in the 2020s, a powerful new class of giant telescopes will study the Universe in more detail than ever before — as long as their adaptive optics systems can sharpen their view. ESO’s Laser Systems group is currently undertaking field tests with a specialised laser at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos, at La Palma on the Canary Islands. One of their goals is to make laser guide stars even brighter for large and extremely large telescopes, such as ESO’s ELT and the Giant Magellan Telescope. To find out more, we spoke to Domenico Bonaccini Calia, a physicist from ESO’s Laser Systems Department with over 20 years of experience.
Astro Bob 19 Apr 2018, 19:32 UTC Happy birthday, you big old eye in the sky! On Tuesday, April 24, the Hubble Space Telescope will celebrate 28 years in space. Since its launch in 1990, it has revolutionized almost every area of observational astronomy and provided us countless photos of the most amazing objects in space. Since we can’t bring a birthday cake up there, each year partners ESA and NASA celebrate the telescope’s birthday with a spectacular new image. This year’s photo is of the Lagoon Nebula, a glowing cloud of star-shot, hydrogen gas and one of the few visible with the naked eye.