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 

What We’re Reading: Asteroid Hunters

Asteroid Hunters by Carrie Nugent Shared by Steven Spence for GotScience.org, a Science Connected publication Published by Simon and Schuster / TED Books On sale March 2017 Best for ages 12 and up   On any given day, about 90,000 kilograms of dust and small rocks hit the Earth. What happens when something larger is on a collision course with Earth? You may remember February 15, 2013 as the day when a small, rocky asteroid 20 meters in diameter exploded due to air pressure and heat at an altitude of 38 km. The event was…

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Telescope Accessories: What Do You Really Need? Astronomy Technology 

Telescope Accessories: What Do You Really Need?

By Luigi Papagno @f1telescopes As an amateur astronomer getting started with your first telescope, you could easily fall into a trap of collecting more accessories than you really need. Or, worse, you could get telescope accessories that are redundant and leave you feeling frustrated and unsatisfied. Many people may not know what the essential accessories are and what characteristics these accessories need to have. This article will help clarify what makes quality eyepieces and filters, as well as which types and how many of each you need. Eyepieces When it…

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This artist's conception shows a blazar -- the core of an active galaxy powered by a supermassive black hole. The VERITAS array has detected gamma rays from a blazar known as PKS 1441+25. Researchers found that the source of the gamma rays was within the relativistic jet but surprisingly far from the galaxy's black hole. The emitting region is about five light-years away. Courtesy of M. Weiss/CfA Astronomy 

Gamma Rays from a Galaxy Far, Far Away

After traveling for about half the age of the universe, a flood of powerful gamma rays from a distant galaxy slammed into Earth’s atmosphere in April 2015. The gamma rays met our atmosphere and formed a cascade of light that fell onto the waiting mirrors of the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS) in Arizona. The resulting data have given astronomers a unique look into that faraway galaxy and the black hole engine at its heart. What Are Gamma Rays? Gamma rays are photons of light with very…

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Humans to Mars by 2030 Astronomy 

We May Send Humans to Mars by 2030

Our partners at ResearchGate recently spoke with Alfonso Davila from SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute, about what draws us to explore the red planet and beyond. Interested in Mars? Don’t miss this other article about the Martian atmosphere.  ResearchGate: What motivates you to explore living conditions – and possible life – on Mars? Davila: The motivation is twofold. On the one hand there is this nagging drive to understand life at the most fundamental levels (the “what is life?” question), and on the other hand there is this obsessive curiosity about the possibility of life elsewhere…

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Spectacular view of the Perseid Meteor Shower over the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (Image credit ESO) Astronomy Citizen Science 

Perseid Meteor Shower 2015 and More

By Steve Beyer August’s main sky event promises to be our annual encounter with the tenuous trail of debris left in solar orbit by comet 109/P Swift-Tuttle. As Earth plows through this veil of mostly small grains and dust, we can see comet fragments appear as swift light traces of Perseid meteors. View the Perseid Meteor Shower 2015 The Perseid Meteor Shower is the night of August 12th and 13th. It peaks for viewers in the eastern United States during predawn hours of Thursday August 13 and the show should be better…

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Astronomy Biology 

Comet Carries Building Blocks of Life

Many of us learned in school that comets were lifeless balls of frozen gas and dust hurtling through space. In recent years, however, we have changed the way we think about comets, which are now thought to be the couriers that delivered life to a young Earth. Boosting the courier theory, the European Space Agency’s comet-chaser craft named Rosetta has found complex organic molecules, the building blocks of life, on a comet. These are the exciting initial results of the data analysis using the information returned by Rosetta’s lander, Philae,…

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Pluto Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI Astronomy 

New Horizon’s Pluto Flyby

NASA’s spacecraft New Horizons entered its closest approach with Pluto yesterday, as part of its nine-year mission to study the last of the nine “classical” planets in our solar system. Later today, we will receive the first “phone home” communication from the spacecraft. Here on Earth, scientists are eagerly awaiting today’s transmission from New Horizons. One of them is Noemi Pinilla-Alonso, an astrophysicist at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and formerly of NASA. Our friends at ResearchGate recently chatted with Pinilla-Alonso about her hopes and plans for the long-awaited data.…

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The author’s all-time favorite image of the Aurora (Photo courtesy of Antti Pietikainen, www.theaurorazone.com) Astronomy Science & Art 

Aurora Borealis: Myths, Legends, Science

By Alistair McLean Alistair McLean is the Managing Director of The Aurora Zone, a company that specializes in holidays searching for the Northern Lights. He has seen the aurora borealis more times than he can count and never fails to be enthralled by its beauty. In the late 1980’s, a group of musicians calling themselves 10,000 Maniacs penned a song called “Planned Obsolescence.” The lyrics suggested that modern advances in science and technology will render “mysticism obsolete.” I am reminded of this song pretty much every time I stand beneath…

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