Jupiter is the most massive planet in our solar system, and in composition it resembles a small star. In fact, if Jupiter had been between fifty and one hundred times more massive, it would have become a star rather than a planet. On January 7, 1610, while skygazing from his garden in Padua, Italy, astronomer Galileo Galilei was surprised to see four small “stars” near Jupiter. He had discovered Jupiter’s four largest moons, now called Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. In 2003 astronomers discovered 21 new moons orbiting the giant planet. Jupiter now officially has 67 moons. Jupiter has stripes that are dark belts and light zones created by strong east-west winds in Jupiter’s upper atmosphere. Within these belts and zones are storm systems that have raged for years. The southern hemisphere’s Great Red Spot has existed for at least 100 years, and perhaps longer, as Galileo reported seeing a similar feature nearly 400 years ago. Three Earths could fit across the Great Red Spot. Jupiter’s core is probably not solid but a dense, hot liquid with a consistency like thick soup.


Throw-Away Photographs Shot During Neil Armstrong’s Visit to the Moon.

Armstrong and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin snapped a total of 122 70mm color photographs using modified Hasselblad 500EL cameras during their short visit on July 21, 1969. However, not all of them were pretty.

American Photo magazine writes that the photographic record left by those two men shows a very human picture of that first landing. Some of the “dud” photos show accidental shutter preses, focusing errors, lens flare, and even photobombed landscape shots.” [x]

You can find the entire collection of 122 photographs on this NASA website, listed in chronological order.

Stephen Hawking on “Time Travel to the Future”

“ "A supermassive black hole is a time machine. But of course, it’s not exactly practical. It has advantages over wormholes in that it doesn’t provoke paradoxes. Plus it won’t destroy itself in a flash of feedback. But it’s pretty dangerous. It’s a long way away and it doesn’t even take us very far into the future. Fortunately there is another way to travel in time. And this represents our last and best hope of building a real time machine.”

Stephen Hawking believes in time travel. But, time travel to the future. To Hawking, time flows like a river and it seems as if each of us is carried relentlessly along by time’s current. But time, says Hawking, is like a river in another way: “It flows at different speeds in different places and that is the key to travelling into the future.” This is an idea first suggested by Albert Einstein over 100 years ago.

“So a supermassive black hole is a time machine. But of course, it’s not exactly practical. It has advantages over wormholes in that it doesn’t provoke paradoxes. Plus it won’t destroy itself in a flash of feedback. But it’s pretty dangerous. It’s a long way away and it doesn’t even take us very far into the future. Fortunately there is another way to travel in time. And this represents our last and best hope of building a real time machine.

Stephen Hawking thinks four of the world’s physicists are wrong believing that time travel is impossible: Hawking sides with Sir Arthur Clarke, author of Space Odyssey 2001 who famously stated that "when a distinguished scientist states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong”. And a lot of distinguished scientists believe that just “Time travel is absolutely impossible”. “

http:// my_weblog/2012/02/ i-do-believe-in-time-travel -time-travel-to-the-future -time-flows-like-a-river-a nd-it-seems-as-if-each-of- us-is-carried-rele.html#mo re
Source: Milky way scientists

Three Possible Futures for the Universe via Chandra X-ray Observatory (Credit: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss)

“This illustration shows three possible futures for the Universe, depending on the behavior of dark energy, by showing how the scale of the Universe may change with time. If dark energy is constant, as the new Chandra results suggest, the expansion should continue accelerating forever. If dark energy increases, the acceleration may happen so quickly that galaxies, stars, and eventually atoms will be torn apart, in the so-called Big Rip. Dark energy may also lead to a recollapse of the Universe, in the Big Crunch. The illustration also shows the early decelerating expansion of the Universe, followed by the accelerating phase that started about 6 billion years ago.”

Related Link here on dark energy.


What is a lunar eclipse tetrad and where will you be able to see it [starting tonight]? | Video Credit: ScienceAtNASA | Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech, & Joe Rao/

On April 15, 2014, an extraordinary series of total lunar eclipses will begin in the United States. This series, called a lunar eclipse tetrad, will result in four red moons over the course of a year and a half. NASA explains the significance behind this phenomenon, and sheds light on how the moon transforms into a bright red orb. Via TED-Ed

When and where it will be visible:

The first total lunar eclipse of 2014 occurs in the overnight hours tonight (April 14) and will be visible across most of North America, South America, Hawaii and parts of Alaska. Depending on your location, it begins either late tonight or in the wee hours of Tuesday, but as with every skywatching event, you can only see it if Mother Nature cooperates.

Tonight’s lunar eclipse runs from 12:53 a.m. EDT (0453 GMT) to about 6 a.m. EDT (1000 GMT). If bad weather spoils your view, or you live in Europe or elsewhere outside the visibility zone, you can always watch live webcasts of the total lunar eclipse on, courtesy of NASA, the Slooh community telescope, the Virtual Telescope Project.

What happens during lunar eclipses?

Lunar eclipses happen when the moon is in the full moon stage and passes through part or all of the Earth’s shadow, darkening the moon’s typically bright glow. During a total lunar eclipse, the moon is entirely immersed in Earth shadow, and can take on a dusky “blood red" colour due to the scattering of sunlight through the edges of Earth’s atmosphere. Such moons are sometimes nicknamed "Blood Moons.”

Tonight’s lunar eclipse is the first of four consecutive total eclipses of the moon between April 2014 and September 2015 in what scientists call a 

lunar eclipse “tetrad”

 series. The next total lunar eclipse will occur on Oct. 8 and is also expected to be visible from much of North America.


Read more about 2014’s Lunar Eclipse Tetrad:

A Beautiful End to a Star’s Life via NASA

Composite image of planetary nebula NGC 2392 - Image: X-ray: NASA/CXC/IAA-CSIC/N. Ruiz et al; Optical: NASA/STScI

Stars like the Sun can become remarkably photogenic at the end of their life. A good example is NGC 2392, which is located about 4,200 light years from Earth. NGC 2392, nicknamed the “Eskimo Nebula,” is what astronomers call a planetary nebula. This designation, however, is deceiving because planetary nebulas actually have nothing to do with planets. The term is simply a historic relic since these objects looked like planetary disks to astronomers in earlier times looking through small optical telescopes.

Instead, planetary nebulas form when a star uses up all of the hydrogen in its core – an event our Sun will go through in about five billion years. When this happens, the star begins to cool and expand, increasing its radius by tens to hundreds of times its original size. Eventually, the outer layers of the star are carried away by a thick 50,000 kilometer per hour wind, leaving behind a hot core. This hot core has a surface temperature of about 50,000 C, and is ejecting its outer layers in a much faster wind traveling six million kilometers per hour. The radiation from the hot star and the interaction of its fast wind with the slower wind creates the complex and filamentary shell of a planetary nebula. Eventually the remnant star will collapse to form a white dwarf star.

Now days, astronomers using space-based telescopes are able to observe planetary nebulas such as NGC 2392 in ways their scientific ancestors probably could never imagine. This composite image of NGC 2392 contains X-ray data fromNASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in purple showing the location of million-degree gas near the center of the planetary nebula. Data from the Hubble Space Telescope show – colored red, green and blue – the intricate pattern of the outer layers of the star that have been ejected. The comet-shaped filaments form when the faster wind and radiation from the central star interact with cooler shells of dust and gas that were already ejected by the star.

The observations of NGC 2392 were part of a study of three planetary nebulas with hot gas in their center. The Chandra data show that NGC 2392 has unusually high levels of X-ray emission compared to the other two. This leads researchers to deduce that there is an unseen companion to the hot central star in NGC 2392. The interaction between a pair of binary stars could explain the elevated X-ray emission found there. Meanwhile, the fainter X-ray emission observed in the two other planetary nebulas in the sample – IC 418 and NGC 6826 – is likely produced by shock fronts (like sonic booms) in the wind from the central star.

A paper describing these results is available online here and was published in the April 10th, 2013 issue of The Astrophysical Journal. The first author is Nieves Ruiz of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA-CSIC) in Granada, Spain, and the other authors are You-Hua Chu, and Robert Gruendl from the University of Illinois, Urbana; Martín Guerrero from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA-CSIC) in Granada, Spain, and Ralf Jacob, Detlef Schönberner and Matthias Steffen from the Leibniz-Institut Für Astrophysik in Potsdam (AIP), Germany.

Learn more about planetary nebulae here.

Check out Chandra’s Flickr photoset here.

Dim Star Becomes 7 Times Hotter in 160 Seconds

Image Credit: Casey Reed/NASA.

“Talk about a celestial mood swing: Scientists using the SCORPIO camera of the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory recently watched as a low luminosity star suddenly burst to life in an extraordinarily short amount of time — becoming 15 times brighter in less than three minutes.

Star WX UMa, which is relatively close-by in the Ursa-major constellation, is about 15.6 light-years from Earth and is part of a binary system. It’s a flare star — a normally subdued low luminosity object that occassionally and unpredicably boosts its brightness and heat in a matter of seconds. But it’s an effect that doesn’t last long. The stars return back to their normal state in about 10 minutes.

Fascinatingly, the effect is so dramatic that the classification of the star literally changes within a few seconds. In this case, WX UMa temporarily transformed from spectral type M to B. Its temperature went from about 2,800 kelvin (K) to six or seven times that — somewhere between 10,000 to 33,000 K.

These flares happen when instability within the plasma of the star causes turbulence in its magnetic field.

"A magnetic reconnection then occurs, a conversion of energy from the magnetic field into kinetic energy, in order to recover the stability of the flow, much like what happens in an electric discharge,” said a researcher when speaking to SINC. This kinetic energy transforms into thermal energy in the upper layers of the atmosphere and the star’s corona, driving up its temperature and brightness.“

Read the entire study at Astrophysics: Spectral observations of flare stars in the neighborhood of the sun.

Spin up of a Supermassive Black Hole 

Illustration Credit: Robert Hurt, NASA/JPL-Caltech

How fast can a black hole spin? If any object made of regular matter spins too fast – it breaks apart. But a black hole might not be able to break apart – and its maximum spin rate is really unknown. Theorists usually model rapidly rotating black holes with the Kerr solution to Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, which predicts several amazing and unusual things. Perhaps its most easily testable prediction, though, is that matter entering a maximally rotating black hole should be last seen orbiting at near the speed of light, as seen from far away. This prediction was tested recently by NASA's NuSTAR and ESA's XMM satellites by observing the supermassive black hole at the center of spiral galaxy NGC 1365. The near light-speed limit was confirmed by measuring the heating andspectral line broadening of nuclear emissions at the inner edge of the surrounding accretion diskPictured above is an artist’s illustration depicting an accretion disk of normal matter swirling around a black hole, with a jet emanating from the top. Since matter randomly falling into the black hole should not spin up a black hole this much, the NuSTAR and XMM measurements also validate the existence of the surrounding accretion disk.”

Take a 3-D Journey Inside the Bubble Nebula. By Nancy Atkinson | Universe Today | Gif Made By: The Science of Reality | Video Credit: J-P Metsävainio

We’ve featured the unique 3-D work of J-P Metsävainio previously, but its time to check in and see what he’s been working on lately. Metsävainio creates incredible 3-D animations from his own astronomical images, which he calls “3-D experiments” that are a mixture of science and an artistic impression. “I collect distance and other information before I do my 3-D conversion,” he told Universe Today via email earlier this year. “Usually there are known stars, coursing the ionization, so I can place them at right relative distance. If I know a distance to the nebula, I can fine tune distances of the stars so, that right amount of stars are front and behind of the object.”

In the video below is the animation of the Bubble Nebula, directly below is his extremely detailed image:

External image

His observations and images are simply stunning, but he says his 3-D animations are “a personal vision about shapes and volumes, based on some scientific data and an artistic impression.”


A grander canyon on Mars: Hebes Chasma reflects Red Planet’s active past. By Sarah Zielinski | Science News | Image credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

Hebes Chasma, a huge trough on Mars, reflects the Red Planet’s tumultuous and varied past. During the planet’s first billion years, the nearby Tharsis Region bulged with magma, then burst apart, forming enormous chasms such as Hebes (a majority of its 315-kilometer length shown above). More than four times as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon, Hebes may have once been filled with water; some areas have minerals that could have formed only in water’s presence. New images from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft show that massive landslides may have shaped and widened the trench since its violent birth. 

First X-ray Vision of Martian Soil.

“This graphic shows results of the first analysis of Martian soil by the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) experiment on NASA’s Curiosity rover. The image reveals the presence of crystalline feldspar, pyroxenes and olivine mixed with some amorphous (non-crystalline) material. The soil sample, taken from a wind-blown deposit within Gale Crater, where the rover landed, is similar to volcanic soils in Hawaii.”



Herschel Completes Its ‘Cool’ Journey in Space

The Herschel observatory, a European space telescope for which NASA helped build instruments and process data, has stopped making observations after running out of liquid coolant as expected.  The European Space Agency mission, launched almost four years ago, revealed the universe’s "coolest” secrets by observing the frigid side of planet, star and galaxy formation. 

“Herschel gave us the opportunity to peer into the dark and cold regions of the universe that are invisible to other telescopes,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters in Washington. “This successful mission demonstrates how NASA and ESA can work together to tackle unsolved mysteries in astronomy." 

Images in order from top to bottom, & left to right:

  • Cool Andromeda: Andromeda, also known as M31, is the nearest major galaxy to our own Milky Way. Image credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS & SPIRE Consortium, O. Krause, HSC, H. Linz 
  • Orion’s Rainbow of Infrared Light: This view of the Orion nebula, taken by the Herschel and Spitzer space telescopes, highlights fledgling stars hidden in the gas and dust clouds. Image credit: NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech/IRAM 
  • Sonic booms in the Cocoon Nebula: Dense filaments of gas in this space cloud, called IC5146, are seen clearly in Herschel’s infrared view.Image credit: ESA/Herschel/SPIRE/PACS/D. Arzoumanian (CEA Saclay) 
  • Ribbons of Dust: The Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy is captured in this stunning infrared view. Image credit: Herschel and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. 
  • Centaurus A All Prettied Up in Infrared and X-Rays: The peculiar galaxy Centaurus A as seen in longer infrared wavelengths and X-rays. Image credit: Far-infrared:ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/C.D. Wilson, MacMaster University, Canada; X-ray: ESA/XMM-Newton/EPIC 

Confirmation the helium is exhausted came today, at the beginning of the spacecraft’s daily communication session with its ground station in Western Australia. A clear rise in temperatures was measured in all of Herschel’s instruments. 

Herschel’s detectors were designed to pick up the glow from celestial objects with infrared wavelengths as long as 625 micrometers, which is 1,000 times longer than what we can see with our eyes. Because heat interferes with these devices, they were chilled to temperatures as low as 2 kelvins (minus 271 degrees Celsius, or 456 Fahrenheit) using liquid helium. The detectors also were kept cold by the spacecraft’s orbit, which is around a stable point called the second Lagrange point about 930,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth. This location gave Herschel a better view of the universe. 

Highlights of the mission include: 

  • Discovering long, filamentary structures in space, dotted with dense star-making knots of material.
  • Detecting definitively, for the first time, oxygen molecules in space, in addition to other never-before-seen molecules. By mapping the molecules in different regions, researchers are learning more about the life cycles of stars and planets and the origins of life.
  • Discovering high-speed outflows around central black holes in active galaxies, which may be clearing out surrounding regions and suppressing future star formation.
  • Opening new views on extremely distant galaxies that could be seen only with Herschel, and providing new information about their high rates of star formation.
  • Following the trail of water molecules from distant galaxies to the clouds of gas between stars to planet-forming solar systems.
  • Examining a comet in our own solar system and finding evidence comets could have brought a substantial fraction of water to Earth.
  • Together with NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, discovering a large asteroid belt around the bright star Vega. 

"Herschel has improved our understanding of how new stars and planets form, but has also raised many new questions,” said Paul Goldsmith, NASA Herschel project scientist at JPL. “Astronomers will be following up on Herschel’s discoveries with ground-based and future space-based observatories for years to come." 

The mission will not be making any more observations, but discoveries will continue. Astronomers still are looking over the data, much of which already is public and available through NASA’s Herschel Science Center. The final batch of data will be public in about six months. ”

Read more…

M42: Inside the Orion Nebula 

Image Credit & Copyright: Reinhold Wittich

The Great Nebula in Orion, an immense, nearby starbirth region, is probably the most famous of all astronomical nebulas. Here, glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immenseinterstellar molecular cloud only 1500 light-years away. In the above deep image in assigned colors highlighted by emission in oxygen and hydrogen, wisps and sheets of dust and gas are particularly evident. The Great Nebula in Orion can be found with the unaided eye near the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion. In addition to housing a bright open cluster of stars known as the Trapezium, the Orion Nebula contains many stellar nurseries. These nurseries contain much hydrogen gas, hot young stars, proplyds, and stellar jets spewing material at high speeds. Also known as M42, the Orion Nebula spans about 40light years and is located in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun.”


NASA Year in Review 2012

Check out and read more on all of the groundbreaking scientific achievements from this past year, separated categorically as listed below, here.

  • Curiosity Landing
  • Commercial Space
  • International Space Station 
  • New Spacecraft
  • Hubble
  • Ice Sheets
  • Aeronautics
  • Digital Media
  • Technology
  • Hands On Learning 
  • Ice on Mercury
  • Interstellar Matter
  • WISE
  • Shuttle
  • Popular on the Web
  • Farewell Pioneers

Astronomers measure most massive, most unusual black hole.

Astronomers have used the Hobby-Eberly Telescope at The University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory to measure the mass of what may be the most massive black hole yet—17 billion Suns—in galaxy NGC 1277. The unusual black hole makes up 14 percent of its galaxy’s mass, rather than the usual 0.1 percent. This galaxy and several more in the same study could change theories of how black holes and galaxies form and evolve. The work will appear in the journal Nature on Nov. 29.

NGC 1277 lies 220 million light-years away in the constellation Perseus. The galaxy is only ten percent the size and mass of our own Milky Way. Despite NGC 1277’s diminutive size, the black hole its heart is more than 11 times as wide as Neptune’s orbit around the Sun.

‘This is a really oddball galaxy,’ said team member Karl Gebhardt of The University of Texas at Austin. 'It’s almost all black hole. This could be the first object in a new class of galaxy-black hole systems.’ Furthermore, the most massive black holes have been seen in giant blobby galaxies called "ellipticals,” but this one is seen in a relatively small lens-shaped galaxy (in astronomical jargon, a “lenticular galaxy”).

The find comes out of the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Massive Galaxy Survey (MGS). The study’s endgame is to better understand how black holes and galaxies form and grow together, a process that isn’t well understood.“


Asperatus Clouds Over New Zealand
Image Credit & Copyright: Witta Priester

What kind of clouds are these? Although their cause is presently unknown, such unusual atmospheric structures, as menacing as they might seem, do not appear to be harbingers of meteorological doom. Known informally as Undulatus asperatus clouds, they can be stunning in appearance, unusual in occurrence, are relatively unstudied, and have even been suggested as a new type of cloud. Whereas most low cloud decks are flat bottomedasperatus clouds appear to have significant vertical structure underneath. Speculation therefore holds that asperatus clouds might be related to lenticular clouds that form near mountains, or mammatus clouds associated with thunderstorms, or perhaps a foehn wind – a type of dry downward wind that flows off mountains. Such a wind called the Canterbury arch streams toward the east coast of New Zealand's South Island. The above image, taken above Hanmer Springs in CanterburyNew Zealand, in 2005, shows great detail partly because sunlight illuminates the undulating clouds from the side.”

2 Pluto Moons Get New Names (Sorry ‘Star Trek’ Fans) by Miriam Kramer [Image credit: First image via on Facebook, second image via original article.]

It’s official! Two tiny moons orbiting the dwarf planet Pluto finally have new names: Styx and Kerberos.

The International Astronomical Union — the organization responsible for naming celestial objects — has approved “Kerberos” and “Styx” as the new monikers for two of Pluto’s moons that were previously called P4 and P5 respectively, but fans of TV’s “Star Trek” might not be too happy about the new names.

The IAU selected the names based on the results of the Pluto Rocks Internet poll sponsored by SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), but the top vote-getter, Vulcan, ultimately wasn’t chosen as a name for one of the tiny moons.

Actor William Shatner — who portrayed the Starship Enterprise captain James T. Kirk in the original “Star Trek” TV series — suggested Vulcan (the home planet of the show’s pointy-eared Vulcan people) as a possible candidate, and voters overwhelmingly cast their ballots in favor of it.

In total, nearly 500,000 votes were cast, with about 170,000 of those going to Vulcan alone. In second place was Cerberus with Styx coming in third in the online poll. But for Vulcan, it was not meant to be.

“The IAU gave serious consideration to this name, which happens to be shared by the Roman god of volcanoes,” SETI officials wrote in a statement. “However, because that name has already been used in astronomy, and because the Roman god is not closely associated with Pluto, this proposal was rejected.”

IAU rules states that Pluto’s moons should be named for mythological characters of the underworld in Greek and Roman mythology. Pluto is known as the ruler of the underworld in ancient mythos.

Cerberus, the three-headed dog in Roman mythology, came in a clear second in the Pluto Rocks ballot with nearly 100,000 votes, but IAU officials decided to tweak the name slightly, instead opting to name the moon Kerberos — Cerberus’ equivalent in Greek myth.

The name Styx, the river that separates the living from the dead in ancient myth, garnered about 88,000 votes for a third place finish.

Continue reading…

View photos of Pluto and it’s moons here.