Archive for the ‘Astronomy’ Category

Astronomers Create Cloud Map of Jupiter-Like Exoplanet

October 3, 2013

Astronomers have created the first map of the clouds on a planet outside our Solar System.

The planet in question is Kepler-7b, a large gaseous world like Jupiter, roughly 1,000 light-years away.

Kepler-7b clouds

The researchers used data from Nasa’s Spitzer and Kepler space telescopes to study the exoplanet, which orbits close to its parent star.

Their results suggest the hot giant is marked by high clouds in the west and clear skies in the east.

Astronomers have previously been able to make temperature maps of planets orbiting other stars, but this is the first look at cloud structures on a distant world. Kepler-7b is something of an oddity – bigger than Jupiter, but lower in mass – with a density about the same as polystyrene. Learn more here, here or here.

If the Moon were replaced with some of our planets

August 26, 2013

This is an awesome visualization of what it might be like if the Moon was replaced with some of the other planets at the same distance as our moon …

What Happens To Your Skin In Space

August 16, 2013

About two and a half months into an astronaut’s stint in space, the bottoms of their feet have spent a fairly decent amount of time without experiencing any pressure. And without gravity to put those calluses they worked so hard for to good use, they essentially just fall off any time the astronauts remove a sock and float away as clouds of giant, dead skin flakes.


Earth from 1.4 billion kilometres

July 25, 2013

If you waved at Saturn the other day, some of the photons that bounced off your arm could be in this image.

Seen from about 1.4 billion kilometres away, Earth is the bright, pale blue dot seen just under Saturn’s faint outer rings.

Earth from 1.4 billion kilometres

The snap comes from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Learn more here.

Three habitable worlds found around the same star

July 17, 2013

Astronomers believe they have found an alien solar system packed with a record-breaking three potentially habitable worlds.

New observations of the star Gliese 667C—about one-third the mass of our sun—is home to between five and seven planets, three of which are classified as super-Earths. All three are larger than our own planet, but smaller than gas giants like Uranus and Neptune.

Gliese 667 C Planet

But what makes all the difference is that these super-Earths orbit in what is known as the “Goldilocks Zone”—the region around a star where temperatures are just right for liquid water, a key ingredient in the recipe for life, to exist.

These planets are good candidates to have a solid surface and maybe an atmosphere like the Earth’s.

What makes this finding so exciting is that for the first time, astronomers have three potentially rocky or ocean worlds orbiting the same star. And at 22 light-years away from Earth, Gliese 667C and it’s two companion stars are considered relatively close neighbors to our solar system, making them ideal candidates for future extraterrestrial searches for life.

Learn more here or here.

A Blue Alien World Discovered

July 13, 2013

Scientists have for the first time discerned the true color of an exoplanet. The world (HD 189733 b), which orbits a star about 63 light-years from Earth, is a beautiful azure blue, but that’s not because it sports inviting turquoise oceans. In fact, it’s a huge gas giant where 1000°C, 7000-kilometer-per-hour winds are thought to be laced with silicate particles, which scatter blue light back into space. So, in essence, the planet is a howling blast furnace where it rains sand and glass.

HD 189733b

Learn more here or here.

Pluto’s Moons Get Official Names

July 5, 2013

Formally approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the governing body that officially names celestial objects,  P4,  which is 20 kilometres across, has been named Kerberos, after the three-headed dog of ancient Greek legend. P5, at 30 kilometres in diameter, will now be known as Styx, after the mythological river that leads to the realm of the dead.


The new cosmic recruits join the family Pluto’s three other moons–Charon, Nix and Hydra–all named for characters associated with the Underworld of Greek and Roman mythology. Learn more here or here.

What if planets were closer

June 25, 2013

An astronomical artist has created eye-opening illustrations imagining what the night sky would look like if the moon was replaced by the other planets in the solar system.

Ron Miller, a former art director for NASA, used digital trickery to superimpose scale drawings of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune over the same landscape, highlighting the sheer size of the planets.

The incredible drawings imagine each planet to be 384,400 km from Earth – the same distance at which the moon orbits.

Here is a real picture of the moon over Death Valley:

Moon Death Valley

Replacing the moon with Saturn looks like this:

Saturn Death Valley

Replacing the moon with Jupiter looks like this:

Jupiter Death Valley

More here.

How Big is the Universe?

May 27, 2013

MinutePhysics does it again …

Watch the Biggest Explosion Ever Seen on the Moon

May 19, 2013

NASA researchers who monitor the Moon for meteoroid impacts have detected the brightest explosion in the history of their program.

The lunar burst was caused by a 40-kilogram boulder-sized rock slamming into the surface at about 90,000 kph. It generated a flash 10 times brighter than anything seen before, which came from the thermal glow of molten rock at the point of impact.


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