Astronomy Physics 

The Science Behind Auroras

By Steven Spence (@TheStevenSpence) The northern lights (aurora borealis) and southern lights (aurora australis) are fascinating scientifically. In fact, aurora is not unique to the Earth. We have observed aurora in the upper atmosphere of Jupiter and Saturn with various spacecraft and ground-based telescopes. Solar Wind The sun constantly emits streams of particles from its atmosphere out into the solar system. This emission is referred to as the solar wind. Sometimes there are solar storms or solar flares, resulting in heavier emissions than normal. If the Earth passes through one…

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Astronomy Photos Physics Science & Art 

Photographing the Northern Lights in Iceland

By Steven Spence (@TheStevenSpence) For night’s swift dragons cut the clouds full fast, And yonder shines Aurora’s harbinger; At whose approach, ghosts, wandering here and there, Troop home to churchyards. — Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream Curtains of Light Across the Sky Seeing the northern lights (aurora borealis) has long been on my bucket list. In March 2018 I was fortunate enough to have a break, allowing me to travel solo for some weeks. I headed to Iceland (also on my bucket list), hoping to catch not only the northern…

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In October 2017, astrobiologist Karen J. Meech got the call every astronomer waits for: NASA had spotted the very first visitor from another star system. The interstellar comet -- a half-mile-long object eventually named `Oumuamua, from the Hawaiian for "scout" or "messenger" -- raised intriguing questions: Was it a chunk of rocky debris from a new star system, shredded material from a supernova explosion, evidence of alien technology or something else altogether? In this riveting talk, Meech tells the story of how her team raced against the clock to find answers about this unexpected gift from afar. This talk was presented at an official TED conference Astronomy 

Oumuamua: Asteroid from Another Star System

In October 2017, astrobiologist Karen J. Meech got the call every astronomer waits for: NASA had spotted the very first visitor from another star system. The interstellar comet — a half-mile-long object eventually named `Oumuamua, from the Hawaiian for “scout” or “messenger” — raised intriguing questions: Was it a chunk of rocky debris from a new star system, shredded material from a supernova explosion, evidence of alien technology or something else altogether? In this riveting talk, Meech tells the story of how her team raced against the clock to find…

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This artist’s impression shows the first interstellar object discovered in the Solar System, `Oumuamua. Observations made with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and others show that the object is moving faster than predicted while leaving the Solar System. Researchers assume that venting material from its surface due to solar heating is responsible for this behaviour. This outgassing can be seen in this artist’s impression as a subtle cloud being ejected from the side of the object facing the Sun. As outgassing is a behaviour typical for comets, the team thinks that `Oumuamua’s previous classification as an interstellar asteroid has to be corrected. Astronomy 

This Interstellar Asteroid Is Accelerating

By Steven Spence @TheStevenSpence First asteroid of its kind In October 2017, Oumuamua—or 1I/2017 U1—became the first interstellar asteroid detected by humans. It also changed how comets and asteroids are named. Comets’ technical names begin with the letter C, while asteroids have the letter A. Following Oumuamua’s discovery, the International Astronomical Union introduced the letter I to designate interstellar objects. What do we know about Oumuamua? Oumuamua, which means “a messenger from afar arriving first” in Hawaiian, was discovered on October 19, 2017, by the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS1 telescope.…

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What’s Jupiter Hiding? Astronomy Technology 

What’s Jupiter Hiding?

By Steven Spence @TheStevenSpence Juno: Aptly named The Juno spacecraft currently orbiting Jupiter is appropriately named. In Roman mythology, Jupiter created a veil of clouds to hide his escapades with Io from his wife, Juno, but Juno was able to peer through the clouds and foil his plan. The Juno spacecraft, currently on its 11th science orbit[1] of Jupiter, is designed to see through Jupiter’s clouds, revealing secrets of the planet’s atmosphere and interior. Boldly going on a five-year mission Juno launched on August 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral aboard…

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Astronomy What We're Reading 

Adventure Through the Universe from Your Telescope

Title: See It With a Small Telescope: 101 Cosmic Wonders, Including Planets, Moons, Comets, Galaxies, Nebulae, Star Clusters, and More  Shared by: Will Kalif for GotScience.org, a Science Connected publication. Text adapted from See It With a Small Telescope. Author: Will Kalif  Publisher: Ulysses Press On sale: November 2017 Best for: Astronomy buffs, telescope owners, and readers interested in popular science and space.  The night sky is a deep, rich field of stars. Under normal dark sky conditions, when there is a new moon, there are approximately six thousand objects…

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Astronomy What We're Reading 

What We’re Reading: The Planet Factory

Title: The Planet Factory Shared by: Amanda Alvarez for GotScience.org, a Science Connected publication Author: Elizabeth Tasker Publisher: Bloomsbury Sigma On sale: Sept. 7, 2017 in UK; Nov. 7, 2017 in USA Best for: Enthusiastic 17-plus-year-olds, readers interested in popular science and space URL: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/the-planet-factory-9781472917720/ Exo is the new black The Planet Factory is a guide to real-life Tatooines, planets made of diamonds, and possible Earth twins. Since the 1995 discovery of the first planet outside the solar system, exoplanetology has become one of the most in-vogue scientific fields, and…

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Debunking the aurora myth: What actually causes an aurora? Astronomy 

Debunking the aurora myth: What actually causes an aurora?

By Kristine Romich, Aurorasaurus intern A common misconception about the aurora is that it’s formed by particles streaming straight from the sun.  This graphic, published by USA Today, offers an explanation that’s probably similar to one you’ve heard before: The graphic focuses primarily on the solar wind, or the continuous flow of plasma — a high-temperature mix of charged particles — from the sun.  But while the solar wind is essential to understanding auroras, there are other factors involved in creating these celestial light displays. By only considering the solar…

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Astronomy Photos 

A Trip to Totality: Experiencing the 2017 Solar Eclipse

By Jeff Goldberg @jeffagoldberg For a while, I was conflicted about the effort to see the solar eclipse either in totality—which would require significant travel time—or at the 75-percent coverage I could get in my backyard. A couple of weeks ago, however, I decided I wanted to be part of the full experience of totality and committed to making the journey. For me, the closest point on the path of totality was Carbondale, Illinois. I purchased my solar glasses and a solar filtration sheet for my camera and started planning to…

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Shelf Life Video: Time Travel to Stars Astronomy Videos 

Shelf Life Video: Time Travel to Stars

With the help of high school students, scientists at The American Museum of Natural History are creating an online catalog of stars’ distances and relative positions. This video is another in the Shelf Life series from the American Museum of Natural History.   Since the early 17th century, thanks to the use of telescopes, astronomers have been able to draw detailed star maps. However, because the Earth wobbles on its axis, today we see the stars in a slightly different position than in the past. So, students and scientists are…

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