In the Grip of the Scorpion’s Claw

Gripped in the claw of the constellation Scorpius sits the reflection nebula DG 129, a cloud of gas and dust that reflects light from nearby, bright stars. This infrared view of the nebula was captured by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE.

Viewed in visible light, this portion of the sky seems somewhat unremarkable. But in infrared light, a lovely reflection nebula is revealed. DG 129 was first catalogued by a pair of German astronomers, named Johann Dorschner and Joachim Gürtler, in 1963.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA


Two Photographers Set Out To Capture the Lost Night

Have you ever seen the Milky Way with your own eyes? You really should. It’s an experience both awesome and marvelous in the truest sense of those words. Sadly, thanks to light pollution, most people can’t just step outside at night, look up, and gaze through the streaking arm of our galaxy.

Filmmakers and astrophotographers Gavin Heffernan and Harun Mehmedinovic (featured here before) have launched a Kickstarter project called SKYGLOW that sets out to educate people on the ill effects of light pollution to our species and others, while inspiring us to reconnect with the same stars that have inspired our species for eons.

In the video above, a beautiful composite of stellar and urban time lapses, the pair imagine what the skies over Los Angeles would look like if we could see more than the glow of sodium vapor and aircraft strobes. That’s fantasy, sadly, but so is the idea of truly dark skies in most parts of the world: 

“For a lot of people, the idea of an incredible night sky is becoming more science fiction than ever before.”

According to Heffernan and Mehmedinovic, half of the light that we humans produce is pointed up at the night sky. This wastes energy. It wastes resources. It wastes the very splendor of the night sky. It’s as if we’ve taken an eraser made of photons and rubbed out each jewel in Earth’s starry canopy one by one. 

Most of us today live beneath skies that are only half night, and as Earth’s population grows in number and consumption there are fewer and fewer dark sky sanctuaries left. Let’s save them, so people like you and me and Heffernan and Mehmedinovic have something to look up to.

To learn more about the dark sky movement and the effects of light pollution, check out the International Dark-Sky Association. And to find out how you can support the SKYGLOW Kickstarter, check out the video below: 

John Wilkins -  “The Discovery of a World in the Moone, or, a Discourse Tending to Prove, that ‘tis probable there may be another habitable World in that Planet”, 1638.

Some of Wilkins’s propositions have been proven true with time: That the Moone is a solid, compacted, opacous body; That the Moone hath not any light of her owne; That there are high Mountaines, deepe vallies, and spacious plaines in the body of the Moone. His explanation of the heliocentric solar system - an idea which he considers likely enough to be true - inspires his pithiest argument: Now if our earth were one of the Planets […] then why may not another of the Planets be an earth? In other respects, alas, his propositions are wide of the mark: That those spots and brighter parts […] in the Moone, doe shew the difference betwixt the Sea and Land in that other World; The spots represent the Sea, and the brighter parts the Land; That there is an Atmo-sphæra, or an orbe of grosse vaporous aire, immediately encompassing the body of the Moone. And, as his final proposition, Wilkins claims that ’tis probable there may be inhabitants in this other World, but of what kinde they are is uncertaine.

Close Asteroid Flyby Tonight

Asteroid 2015 HD1 will pass by Earth tonight at 4:00 AM EDT.

I quote Bob King’s UT article, “a 50-foot-wide asteroid will hurdle just 0.2 lunar distances or 45,600 miles over your bed.

This asteroid was only discovered a few days ago and is now a member of a group of what people like me call “AHHH!-steroids”.

In all seriousness though, were HD1 to hit Earth, would it cause any damage?

Almost certainly not. It’s just not large enough. Friction with Earth’s thick atmosphere would cause it to burn and burst overhead. The most likely outcome of this would be a beautiful meteor shower.

(Image credit: Gianluca Masi)

Dark Matter May Be Less Mysterious Than We Thought

“Astronomers have been struggling for nearly 80 years to figure out what makes up the mysterious dark matter that pervades the universe. 

 A new paper appearing in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Societyargues that dark matter particles within a galaxy cluster known as Abell 3827, about 1.4 billion light-years from Earth, are responding to a force other than gravity.” 

Read more from National Geographic.

Climate scientists join search for alien Earths

NASA initiative seeks to bolster interdisciplinary science in hunt for extraterrestrial life.

By Jeff Tollefson

The hunt for life beyond the Solar System is gaining new partners: NASA climatologists. After more than 30 years of studying Earth, a team at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York will adapt its global climate model to simulate conditions on potentially habitable exoplanets. The effort is part of a broader push to identify Earth-like worlds that NASA will launch on 20 April at a meeting in Washington DC.

Already, the agency’s space-based Kepler telescope has pinpointed more than 1,000 alien planets by observing the brief interruption of starlight that signals a planet passing in front of its parent star. At least five of these planets are similar in size to Earth and located in the ‘habitable zone’, where liquid water could persist. The next step would be to detect light passing through exoplanet atmospheres, which could hold clues to conditions on these distant worlds.

Continue Reading