Starts With a Bang! 10 Jan 2019, 15:01 UTC On January 3rd, 2019, Earth reached the point in its orbit where it’s at its closest approach to the Sun: perihelion. Every object orbiting a single mass (like our Sun) makes an ellipse, containing a point of closest approach that’s unique to that particular orbit, known as periapsis. For the past 4.5 billion years, Earth has orbited the Sun in an ellipse, just like all the other planets orbiting their stars in all the other mature solar systems throughout the galaxy and Universe. But there’s something you may not expect or appreciate that nevertheless occurs: Earth’s orbital path doesn’t remain the same over time, but spirals outward. This year, 2019, our perihelion was 1.5 centimeters farther away than it was last year, which was more distant than the year before, etc. It’s not just Earth, either; every planet drifts away from its parent star. Here’s the science of why.
Centauri Dreams 10 Jan 2019, 13:25 UTC Jill Tarter, an all but iconic figure in SETI, has just launched Technosearch, an Internet tool that includes all published SETI searches from 1960 to the present. A co-founder of the SETI Institute well known for her own research as well as her advocacy on behalf of the field, Tarter presents scientists with a way to track and update all SETI searches that have been conducted, allowing users to submit their own searches and keep the database current.
EarthSky Blog 10 Jan 2019, 11:11 UTC A team of scientists have analyzed pulses of radio waves coming from a magnetar – a rotating, dense, dead star with a strong magnetic field – that is located near the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy. The new research provides clues that magnetars like this one, lying in close proximity to a black hole, could perhaps be linked to the source of fast radio bursts, or FRBs. FRBs are high-energy blasts that originate beyond our galaxy but whose exact nature is unknown.
The Planetary Society Blog 9 Jan 2019, 21:42 UTC The first ever images taken from the surface of the far side of the moon have been released following the Chinese National Space Administration’s (CNSA) successful landing there. The lander Chang'e 4 and rover Yutu 2 follow from Chang'e 3 and the original Yutu rover that were deployed on the moon’s near side in 2013.
Bad Astronomy 9 Jan 2019, 14:00 UTC Look, I'm not saying I hate air, but it does present certain problems. The advantages are obvious. The ability to fly kites, appreciate clouds, watch pretty sunsets, and oh yeah, breathe, all have their roots in the existence of this ocean of air over our heads. But for astronomers, it's something of a problem. One of the biggest issues we have with air is that it moves. Little packets of air kilometers above the ground swish to and fro, and that distorts our view of the heavens. These little packets act like lenses, bending the light from stars and other astronomical objects as it passes through. This causes the image to jump around, blurring out details in the telescope (and causing stars to twinkle). For historical reasons (and sometimes, I swear just to confuse people) astronomers call this condition seeing, and when you say "the seeing is bad" you mean that things are so bubbly up there that observations are compromised.
Universe Today 9 Jan 2019, 00:39 UTC The China National Space Administration (CNSA) accomplished a historic feat last week (Thurs. Jan. 3rd) by landing a robotic mission on the “dark side” of the Moon. Known as the Chang’e-4 mission, this lander-rover combination will explore the Moon’s South Pole-Aitken Basin as part of China’s ongoing effort to conduct lunar exploration.