Sometimes I complain about the earthly weather, but mostly I like to post about astronomy and space events. Hope you enjoy the articles.
By: Susie77, 6:59 PM GMT on June 25, 2010
From: Science at NASA
June 24, 2010: This Saturday morning, June 26th, there's going to be a lunar eclipse—and for many residents of the USA, it's going to be a big one.
The eclipse begins at 3:17 am PDT (10:17 UT) when the Moon enters the sunset-colored shadow of Earth. By 4:38 am PDT (11:38 UT), the moment of greatest eclipse, 54% of the Moon's diameter will be covered. From beginning to end, the event lasts almost three hours.
Although the eclipse is only partial, it will be magnified in size and charm by the "Moon Illusion"--a result of the eclipse occurring close to the horizon from viewing sites in the USA.
For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, low-hanging Moons look unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects. In fact, a low Moon is no wider than any other Moon—cameras prove it—but the human brain insists otherwise.
Who are we to argue?
The effect will be particularly strong in western and central parts of the USA and Canada where the Moon will be setting as the eclipse reaches maximum. (Observing tip: Look low and to the west just before dawn.) The fact that the extra size is just an illusion in no way detracts from the beauty.
People in New England and northeastern Canada will just miss it. The Moon sets shortly before the eclipse begins.
Halfway around the world, observers in India, Japan, and parts of East Asia will experience the same phenomenon. They'll see the eclipse on Saturday evening as the Moon is rising. The Moon Illusion will be fully active as Earth's shadow sweeps across low-hanging lunar terrain.
It almost makes you feel sorry for people living on the dreamy islands of the South Pacific. There the eclipse takes place directly overhead, high in the midnight sky where the Moon Illusion does not work. That's okay. A partial lunar eclipse is a beautiful thing all by itself.
Enjoy the show!
By: Susie77, 7:26 PM GMT on June 24, 2010
Spectacular Space Bubble Photographed by Hubble
By SPACE.com Staff
posted: 22 June 2010
01:47 pm ET
A spectacular new photo from the Hubble Space Telescope has revealed a stunning space bubble filled with baby stars.
The new space bubble image highlights an area called N11 – a complex network of gas clouds and star clusters within our neighboring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud.
This energetic star-forming region is the second largest known to date, and one of the most active in our galactic neighbor.
Bubbles in space
The Large Magellanic Cloud contains many bright nebula bubbles, though N11 is one of the most magnificent, Hubble officials said.
Astronomers took the new N11 photo using Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys, which was repaired in May 2009 during NASA's last service call to the iconic space telescope. The image is actually a mosaic of five different views observed by Hubble, researchers said.
Officially known as LHA 120-N 11, N11 is one of many nebulas catalogued in 1956 by American astronomer Karl Henize, who later became a NASA astronaut. The object's characteristic shape earned it a nickname as the "Bean Nebula."
N11's billowing pink clouds of glowing gas and the dramatic and colorful features visible in the burgeoning nebula are telltale signs of star-formation. The nebula is a well-studied patch of space that is spread across more than 1,000 light-years and has produced some of the most massive stars currently known.
That star-formation bonanza actually holds the key to the N11 nebula's gossamer bubble look.
Three successive generations of stars, each forming further away from N11's center than the last, have created shells of gas and dust that were later blown away from their parent stars. This created the dazzling ring shapes that are so prominent in the Hubble image.
Star nurseries up close
Other shapes that are found in the high-resolution image include the red bloom of a different nebula – called LHA 120-N 11A – in the upper left. The rose-like petals of gas and dust in this nebula are illuminated by radiation from the massive hot stars at its center.
N11A is relatively compact and dense, and is home to some of the most recent star development in the region.
Other star clusters, including NGC 1761 at the bottom of the image, can also be spotted. NGC 1761 encompasses a group of massive hot, young stars that emit intense ultraviolet radiation out into the cosmos.
By studying these busy stellar nurseries, astronomers can understand more about how stars are born and the details of their ultimate development and lifespan.
By: Susie77, 11:35 PM GMT on June 23, 2010
Heat index here in STL currently of 101F. Little league kiddies practicing at the ball diamond across the street. I feel for anyone who plays sports or works outside in this summer heat. Stay safe, people, stay cool if you can.
By: Susie77, 10:49 PM GMT on June 20, 2010
Well, you all have seen my profile pic, when we were able to release the injured great horned owl back to the wild. Here's the video that goes with it. Took us long enough! Hope you enjoy.
Great Horned Owl Release video
By: Susie77, 9:44 PM GMT on June 08, 2010
A fresh comet is swinging through the inner solar system, and it is brightening rapidly as it approaches the sun. Presenting, Comet McNaught (C/2009 R1):
Michael Jäger of Stixendorf, Austria, took the picture on June 6th using an 8-inch telescope. The comet's green atmosphere is larger than the planet Jupiter, while the long willowy ion tail stretches more than a million kilometers through space. These dimensions make the comet a fine target for backyard telescopes.
Comet McNaught can be found low in the northeastern sky before dawn gliding through the constellation Perseus. It is brightening as it approaches Earth for a 1.13 AU close encounter on June 15th and 16th. Currently, the comet is at the threshold of naked eye visibility (5th to 6th magnitude) and could become as bright as the stars of the Big Dipper (2nd magnitude) before the end of the month. Because this is the comet's first visit to the inner solar system, predictions of future brightness are necessarily uncertain; amateur astronomers should be alert for the unexpected.
By: Susie77, 2:59 PM GMT on June 06, 2010
My "baby" and her man got hitched yesterday. :)
By: Susie77, 10:22 PM GMT on June 04, 2010
Our toys and technology -- cell phones, GPS, satellite TV programming, electrical grids and circuits, comm systems -- are all vulnerable to solar flares. Interesting article on what scientists have been doing as the next solar maximum (2012) approaches:
From: Solar Maximum
As the Sun Awakens, NASA Keeps a Wary Eye on Space Weather
June 4, 2010: Earth and space are about to come into contact in a way that's new to human history. To make preparations, authorities in Washington DC are holding a meeting: The Space Weather Enterprise Forum at the National Press Club on June 8th.
Richard Fisher, head of NASA's Heliophysics Division, explains what it's all about:
"The sun is waking up from a deep slumber, and in the next few years we expect to see much higher levels of solar activity. At the same time, our technological society has developed an unprecedented sensitivity to solar storms. The intersection of these two issues is what we're getting together to discuss."
The National Academy of Sciences framed the problem two years ago in a landmark report entitled "Severe Space Weather Events—Societal and Economic Impacts." It noted how people of the 21st-century rely on high-tech systems for the basics of daily life. Smart power grids, GPS navigation, air travel, financial services and emergency radio communications can all be knocked out by intense solar activity. A century-class solar storm, the Academy warned, could cause twenty times more economic damage than Hurricane Katrina.
Much of the damage can be mitigated if managers know a storm is coming. Putting satellites in 'safe mode' and disconnecting transformers can protect these assets from damaging electrical surges. Preventative action, however, requires accurate forecasting—a job that has been assigned to NOAA.
"Space weather forecasting is still in its infancy, but we're making rapid progress," says Thomas Bogdan, director of NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado.
Bogdan sees the collaboration between NASA and NOAA as key. "NASA's fleet of heliophysics research spacecraft provides us with up-to-the-minute information about what's happening on the sun. They are an important complement to our own GOES and POES satellites, which focus more on the near-Earth environment."
Among dozens of NASA spacecraft, he notes three of special significance: STEREO, SDO and ACE.
STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) is a pair of spacecraft stationed on opposite sides of the sun with a combined view of 90% of the stellar surface. In the past, active sunspots could hide out on the sun's farside, invisible from Earth, and then suddenly emerge over the limb spitting flares and CMEs. STEREO makes such surprise attacks impossible.
SDO (the Solar Dynamics Observatory) is the newest addition to NASA's fleet. Just launched in February, it is able to photograph solar active regions with unprecedented spectral, temporal and spatial resolution. Researchers can now study eruptions in exquisite detail, raising hopes that they will learn how flares work and how to predict them. SDO also monitors the sun's extreme UV output, which controls the response of Earth's atmosphere to solar variability.
Bogdan's favorite NASA satellite, however, is an old one: the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) launched in 1997. "Where would we be without it?" he wonders. ACE is a solar wind monitor. It sits upstream between the sun and Earth, detecting solar wind gusts, billion-ton CMEs, and radiation storms as much as 30 minutes before they hit our planet.
"ACE is our best early warning system," says Bogdan. "It allows us to notify utility and satellite operators when a storm is about to hit.”
NASA spacecraft were not originally intended for operational forecasting—"but it turns out that our data have practical economic and civil uses," notes Fisher. "This is a good example of space science supporting modern society."
2010 marks the 4th year in a row that policymakers, researchers, legislators and reporters have gathered in Washington DC to share ideas about space weather. This year, forum organizers plan to sharpen the focus on critical infrastructure protection. The ultimate goal is to improve the nation’s ability to prepare, mitigate, and respond to potentially devastating space weather events.
"I believe we're on the threshold of a new era in which space weather can be as influential in our daily lives as ordinary terrestrial weather." Fisher concludes. "We take this very seriously indeed."
For more information about the meeting, please visit the Space Weather Enterprise Forum home page at http://www.nswp.gov/swef/swef_2010.html.