Searching for Extraterrestrial Moons

NASA astronomers are optimistic that they'll eventually be able to detect transiting exomoons
NASA astronomers are optimistic that they’ll eventually be able to detect transiting exomoons

Question: Is it possible to detect moons orbiting distant exoplanets? How would this be accomplished?

Questions from the kids (2013-12-30) – If we use our own solar system as an example, we would expect exoplanets to have bodies similar to our own Moon orbiting them. Exomoons, as we’ll refer to them, would be small in comparison to their host planets, and this fact is going to make it more difficult to detect them at the extreme distances involved.

NASA scientists believe exomoons could be a good place for life to start and thrive in many solar systems
NASA scientists believe exomoons could be a good place for life to start and thrive in many solar systems

Despite this fact, astronomers believe exomoons should be detectable, using the same techniques and for the same reasons exoplanets are detected. Exomoons have mass, which means they’ll interact gravitationally with their host planet and sun, causing the exoplanet to move in a mathematically predictable manner in response to the force of gravity. The exomoon will constantly pull on the planet gravitationally, which changes the amount of time it takes the planet to pass in front of its host sun. If an exomoon lines up with its home sun from our point of view here on Earth, this would cause a resulting collection of dips in measured sunlight, just before or after the much more significant transits of the host planet in front of its star. Astronomers believe they can use this fact in the future, along with any new techniques they develop, to search for and find distant exomoons orbiting their home planets.

This detection technique is the most practical way astronomers have developed in order to search for and find distant exomoons. This method provides astronomers with a more direct technique to use in the search for exomoons and at present is the best way to do the job. Currently, NASA’s Kepler telescope, which is looking for smaller transiting exoplanets, is probably our best chance of finding a distant exomoon orbiting its home planet. The Kepler telescope really isn’t designed to search for and find distant exomoons, which makes the job a truly daunting task using this telescope. If we use the largest moon in our solar system, Jupiter’s Ganymede, as an example, we would find Ganymede’s diameter is only about 40 percent of Earth’s. This means Ganymede would only block about 0.0014 percent of the Sun’s light during any transit, which is around six times less than the amount blocked by an Earth transit.

The human journey to the beginning of space and time could one day discover an exomoon looking like this
The human journey to the beginning of space and time could one day discover an exomoon looking like this

All of this is based upon the data and information astronomers have concerning our own solar system, which could be too general, or just wrong. It could be Earth-sized moons orbit transiting planets as large as Jupiter or Saturn, which would mean Kepler would just be able to detect them, and make it possible to search for and find distant exomoons orbiting their home planets.

The best bet astronomers have of finding exomoons orbiting their home planets light-years away will probably be the James Webb Space Telescope once it comes online. This will be when the human journey to the beginning of space and time has the best chance of searching for and finding exomoons orbiting their home planets.

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion

The Search for Life Beyond Earth Takes a Turn at Jupiter

Astronomers view water geysers on Europa

This artists conception of vapour plumes possibly containing water and organic material
This artist’s conception of vapour plumes possibly containing water and organic material

Astronomy news (2013-12-22) – Galileo might have dreamed of unseen life forms existing in a watery soup under the icy surface of Europa when he first discovered Jupiter had moons on January 07, 1610. NASA astronomers working with the Hubble Space Telescope probably had similar thoughts when they recently saw images of what appears to be water geysers erupting from the south pole of Europa. The image above shows an artist’s conception of what astronomers and scientists believe is plumes of water vapour reaching over 100 miles into space from the south pole of Europa.

Are there life forms or maybe just organic material of some type existing on this watery moon? NASA astronomers, space scientists and interested people around the world are hoping this news will spur NASA officials and congress to provide them with the resources they need to fund the Europa Clipper (a NASA mission designed to travel to Europa to see if the conditions required for life exist).

“If there’s a geyser 200 kilometers tall, and you could fly a spacecraft through it and sample the water coming out from Europa, that would be phenomenal. What if there are organics in it? That’s getting to the question of ‘Are we alone in the universe?’ ” said John Grunsfeld, NASA’s top official for space science. “A subsurface ocean at Europa potentially provides all conditions for microbial life — at least life we know,” says study lead author Lorenz Roth, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.

Astronomers believe Europa's "Great Lake" is thought to be one of many in the shallow regions of the moon's icy exterior
Astronomers believe Europa’s “Great Lake” is just one of many in the shallow regions of the moon’s icy exterior

Astronomers are currently taking a look at earlier data concerning Europa provided by the Voyager probes during the 1980s and Galileo spacecraft during the 1990s to see if they missed something. Astronomers and planetary scientists suspected back in the 1980s, when they first obtained the data from the Voyager probes, that Europa could have an ocean of water beneath its icy crust deeper and more massive than all of the oceans of Earth. The Galileo spacecraft also detected the magnetic signature of a subsurface ocean beneath the surface ice of Europa and brown regions on the ice planetary scientists think could be due to ice crystals containing possible organic material, formed from water vapor plumes like the ones recently viewed, being deposited on the surface of the moon.

Astronomers search for water near the south pole of Europa by looking for the presence of both hydrogen and oxygen
Astronomers search for water near the south pole of Europa by looking for the presence of both hydrogen and oxygen

Astronomers are also comparing this data to more recent information concerning Europa, they obtained last year through the repaired Hubble Space Telescope, to see if they can find the telltale signature of hydrogen and oxygen they’re looking for in the data. Water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen and this signature will help astronomers and planetary scientists determine if plumes of water vapour are in fact coming from Europa’s southern hemisphere.

“As it hit the vacuum of space, the water would flash freeze and some of it would turn into water vapour. Those water molecules would be split into atomic hydrogen and oxygen in the harsh radiation environment of the Jupiter system. But it wouldn’t just be water in the plume: Whatever else was in that ocean would be squirted into space, too, said James Green, head of NASA’s planetary science division. For a planetary scientist, it’s huge,” Green said of the news.

The image above shows spikes in hydrogen and oxygen levels in two southern hemisphere regions on Europa’s surface that last for brief periods of about seven hours and coincide with the moon reaching its farthest point from Jupiter in its orbit. Astronomers and planetary scientists think current computer models suggest the images obtained through the Hubble Space Telescope could show plumes of water vapour over a hundred miles high streaming into space from the surface of Europa. It remains puzzling to astronomers and scientists why the water vapour plumes seem to coincide with Europa reaching its apocenter, since this is the moment when tidal forces on the moon are at a low point (Astronomers estimate these tidal forces can be over 1,000 times stronger than the tidal forces our own moon experiences due to Earth). Current ideas include the thought that maybe the surface cracks on Europa’s southern pole open once Jupiter’s gravity starts to lessen, allowing water vapour to squeeze out in jets reaching over a hundred miles into space.

The colored area here is called Thera Macula, a region below the icy exterior of Europa that appears to be in chaos
The coloured area here is called Thera Macula, a region below the icy exterior of Europa that appears to be in chaos

Astronomers and planetary scientists at NASA suggest Europa’s plumes are probably like geysers they found on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, which also seem to appear when the moon reaches its apocenter. They’re excited about this discovery because Europa is only about half as far from Earth than Enceladus, which will allow the Hubble Space Telescope to have a closer look, this time. They hope to be able to use this fact to confirm the discovery of water on Europa and Enceladus and possibly get some quantitative data on the size, density, composition and timing of the plumes. Analysis of the composition of the plumes should also give them the data they need to model the interior of the moon, without having to land on the surface and drill holes.

Visible are plains of bright ice, cracks that run to the horizon, and dark patches that likely contain both ice and dirt
Visible on the surface of Europa are plains of bright ice, cracks that run to the horizon, and dark patches that likely contain both ice and dirt

The implications of the discovery of water on both Enceladus and Europa is stunning to contemplate for human beings, astronomers, and planetary scientists. We believe the human journey to the beginning of space and time should voyage to both of these moons in the future to determine if the ingredients for life exist on these distant bodies. We need to do this for science, mankind and future generations of humanity.

This image shows a crack in the icy exterior of Europa, through which vapour could escape into space
This image shows a crack in the icy exterior of Europa, through which vapour could escape into space

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) conducts Hubble science operations. The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy Inc. in Washington operates STScI for NASA.

To view the images of the evidence for plumes visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/hubble-europa-water-vapor

For more information about the Hubble Space Telescope, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/hubble

Watch this YouTube video on astronomers thoughts on the possibility of an ocean beneath the crust of Europa https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrjY2BKm-TA.

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion

Cassini Spacecraft Shows Us Views of the Solar System in Natural Color

Cassini Spacecraft blasts off on its mission to Saturn
Cassini Orbiter blasts off on its mission to Saturn

NASA spacecraft shows us the solar system as it would be seen by human eyes

A breakdown of the onboard instrumentation of the Cassini Orbiter
A breakdown of the onboard instrumentation of the Cassini Orbiter

Astronomy news (2013/12/19) – NASA revealed to the world an image of stunning Saturn taken by the Cassini spacecraft at the Newseum in Washington on Tuesday showing the giant planet as our eyes would view it.

The spectacular image, seen below, is a panoramic composed of 141 wide-angle images, showing us a view 404,880 miles (651,591 kilometers) across of Earth, Venus, Mars, and Saturn and its moons and inner ring system. The image includes all of Saturn’s rings, including the E ring, which is the second ring from the outer edge of the planet’s rings (the distance between the Earth and the Moon would easily fit within the width of the E ring). “In this one magnificent view, Cassini has delivered to us a universe of marvels,” said Carolyn Porco, Cassini’s imaging team lead at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo. “And it did so on a day people all over the world, in unison, smiled in celebration at the sheer joy of being alive on a pale blue dot.”

A real color image taken of Saturn, with Earth, Mars, Venus and a few moons visible
A real color image of Saturn, with Earth, Mars, Venus and a few moons visible

Join the Wave at Saturn Campaign

This spectacular image of Saturn and its moons and rings is part of NASA’s “Wave at Saturn” campaign, which invited people around the United States and the world to take part in a celebration and party on July 19. NASA asked people to take the time to find Saturn in the sky in their part of the world. To say hello to Cassini and the ringed planet by waving across the solar system and loading any pictures they take onto the Internet to be shared with the world. A fun and social way to join the human journey to the beginning of space and time.

The image above shows Earth as the bright blue dot located to the lower right of Saturn. Venus isn’t easily seen in this image and is the bright dot located to the upper left of the giant planet, while Mars is the faint red dot to the left and above Venus. Viewers with good eyes should be able to view seven of Saturn’s moons in the image, including amazing Enceladus just to the left. Take a closer look and you should see icy plumes flying out from Enceladus’s south pole region, which provides the fine, grain-sized icy dust that makes up the E ring.

Saturn’s E-Ring is Visible

Saturn’s E ring appears like a halo surrounding the planet and its inner rings, and the best view of this area is provided by light shining from behind the planet. Astronomers studying Saturn and its rings used enhanced computer programs to improve the contrast and color balance of the pictures. This allowed them to pick out detailed data and evidence which made it possible to trace out the full orbits of smaller moons like Anthe and Methone, for the first time in the history of the human journey to the beginning of space and time. “This mosaic provides a remarkable amount of high-quality data on Saturn’s diffuse rings, revealing all sorts of intriguing structures we are currently trying to understand,” said Matt Hedman, a Cassini participating scientist at the University of Idaho in Moscow. “The E ring shows patterns that likely reflect disturbances from such diverse sources as sunlight and Enceladus’ gravity.”

The astronomers in charge of Cassini usually don’t try to use the instrument to image Earth very often because an unobstructed view of the sun will damage sensitive equipment on the spacecraft. Astronomers had to wait until the sun was hidden behind Saturn, in relation to Cassini, which occurred on July 19, before taking images of Earth and its moon, and the backlit panoramic picture above. “With a long, intricate dance around the Saturn system, Cassini aims to study the Saturn system from as many angles as possible,” said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “Beyond showing us the beauty of the Ringed Planet, data like these also improve our understanding of the history of the faint rings around Saturn and the way disks around planets form — clues to how our own solar system formed around the sun.”

Cassini has been exploring Saturn and its local region for nine years to date, and NASA has indicated the spacecraft will continue its mission until at least 2017. We will bring you more images of Saturn and data concerning the planet as long as the human journey to Saturn continues.

To view the image, visit: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA17172.

A new version of the collage of photos shared by the public, with the Saturn system as the backdrop, is available at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA17679.

More information about Cassini is available at http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov.

Watch this YouTube video on Cassini and mission results here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5zcrEze8L4.

Watch this YouTube video on the picture Cassini took of the Earth and Moon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-PlmiKs6Mk.

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion

2014: The Journey Ahead

Find a good viewing spot on the night of April 14/15 and watch as the Full Moon falls far into the Earth’s shadow
Find a good viewing spot on the night of April 14/15 and watch as the Full Moon falls far into the Earth’s shadow

 

Looking ahead to next year

Astronomy questions and answers – 2014 is expected to be a banner year for the human journey to the beginning of space and time. This year we are treated to a total eclipse of the Moon for the first time since December 2011. Find a good viewing spot on the night of April 14/15 and watch as the Full Moon falls far into the Earth’s shadow. Skywatchers and astronomers across North America can watch the entire show from the comfort of their favorite dark sky viewing spot. The partial phases of the eclipse will get started around 1:58 a.m. eastern standard time. Watch during the next hour, or so, as the Moon darkens as totality nears. Totality lasts from about 3:06 to 4:25 and the Moon should look orange-red during this period as sunlight filters through the Earth’s atmosphere. The show should finish around 5:33 a.m, with a wrap up of the partial phases.

The Moon once again falls into the Earth’s shadow on the morning of October 8, 2014. The partial phases of this celestial event get started around 5:14 a.m. eastern standard time, with totality occurring at 6:24 a.m. The Moon will spend about an hour immersed in the shadow of Earth, before reappearing like a phantom at 7:24 a.m. Skywatchers and astronomers located in western North America will have the best seat for the show while people on the East Coast will get a partial show.

No total eclipse of the sun in 2014

October 23 skywatchers and astronomers across North America will be treated to a partial eclipse of the closest star to Earth
October 23 skywatchers and astronomers across North America will be treated to a partial eclipse of the closest star to Earth

There will be no total eclipse of the sun during 2014, but on the afternoon of October 23 skywatchers and astronomers across North America will be treated to a partial eclipse of the closest star to Earth. Viewers in the majority of the United States of America should see the Moon block over 40 percent of the Sun’s disk from view while people in the northern states and lower Canada should see the Moon cover over 60 percent. The best view of this partial solar eclipse will be in the far northern regions of Canada, with about 81 percent coverage of the Sun’s disk.

Planet hunters should enjoy the show during 2014

Mighty Jupiter reigns supreme in the sky during the month of January 2014
Mighty Jupiter reigns supreme in the sky during the month of January 2014

Planet hunters can book a seat for the dramatic appearance of Mars in the sky during spring of 2014. The Red Planet reaches opposition April 8, and will shine at magnitude -1.3 and appear big (15”) and bright when viewed through a telescope. Mighty Jupiter reigns supreme in the sky during the month of January 2014 and will peak early during this month. Saturn will also be spectacular to view both a few months before and after opposition on May 10, 2014, while beautiful and serene Venus will dazzle skywatchers before dawn during late winter and spring.

Meteorite hunters look forward to potentially great 2014

People watching the Quadrantids during January won’t have to deal with much light from the Moon
Viewers planning to look at the Perseids during August will have to deal with the light from the Moon

Meteorite hunters can also look forward to a potentially great year of viewing one their favorite celestial bodies. Viewers planning to look at the Perseids during August will have to deal with the light from a Moon which will be almost full, but people watching the Quadrantids during January won’t have to deal with much light from this source. The other expected meteorite showers during 2014 should all be free from interfering light from the moon. All-in-all 2014 should be a memorable year for astronomers and backyard skywatchers taking part in the human journey to the beginning of space and time.

Watch this YouTube video on the expected lunar eclipse in 2014 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9P5sQ0iSc0w.

Watch this YouTube video on the expected partial solar eclipse on October 23 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnolE2bcGUg.

Watch this YouTube video on the 2014 Quadrantids meteorite shower https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wViXDdbRC7Y.

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion

NASA's Messenger spacecraft has shown us things about Mercury we didn't expect

NASA’s Messenger Spacecraft Answers Questions Concerning Mercury

NASA's Messenger spacecraft has shown us things about Mercury we didn't expect
NASA’s Messenger spacecraft is leading the human journey to the beginning of space and time

Geophysical data from Messenger illuminates internal structure of Mercury

Astronomy news (December 02, 2013) – NASA’s Messenger Spacecraft answered many questions concerning the innermost planet in the solar system during its two-year mission to Mercury. Messenger took around 80,000 high-definition images of about ninety percent of the surface of Mercury. It also took around 10,600,000 laser ranging shots using the Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA) in order to map the topography of the planet surface. In addition, astronomers tracked the spacecraft using radio waves in order to gather data on how the spacecraft reacted in the planet’s gravity field.

Mercury’s generates a magnetic field

Messenger continues to help NASA astronomers and scientists study Mercury
Messenger has shown us things about the interior of Mercury that are a little surprising to astronomers and geophysicists

Astronomers combined the gravity and topographical data from Messenger to learn interesting things about the interior of Mercury. They found the core of Mercury spans about eighty percent of the diameter of the planet, compared to the fifty percent the Earth’s core spans. They also think Mercury has a solid silicate crust and mantle atop a layer of solid iron. Beneath these layers, astronomers believe lies a liquid layer and possibly a solid inner core. Astronomers need this information in order to better understand how the planet generates a magnetic field.

NASA astronomers and geophysicists are trying to determine why Mercury has a magnetic field
NASA astronomers and geophysicists are trying to determine why Mercury has a magnetic field

Mercury’s has surface features astronomers at NASA want to take a closer look at

Mercury's surface shows features that have geophysicists thinking tectonic processes were recently shaping the surface of the planet
Mercury’s surface shows features that have geophysicists thinking tectonic processes were recently shaping the surface of the planet

Astronomers looking at Mercury’s surface also found areas with interesting features they want to take a closer look at in the future. They found a ridge in Mercury’s northern region they think formed after the volcanic plains had cooled. They also viewed an altered portion of the Caloris Basin were part of the basin floor is higher than the ridge. This could indicate more recent geophysical activity on the surface of Mercury than first thought.

Astronomers also used the topographical data collected on Mercury to determine the largest height variation on the planet is just 6.2 miles (10 km). This seems unusual since this distance is less than the greatest height variation on both Mars (19 miles [30 km]) and the Moon (12 miles [20 km]).

The Messenger Spacecraft taught us a lot more about Mercury than just the items above. Astronomers announced a lot more interesting things they discovered about Mercury through Messenger recently and you can read about many of these items on the NASA website.

NASA’s Messenger spacecraft continues to study Mercury

Messenger is still in orbit about Mercury taking images and providing astronomers with the data they need to delve even deeper into the mysteries of the innermost planet of our solar system. The spacecraft is presently closer to the surface of Mercury than ever and is taking a closer look at some of the interesting regions and features we mentioned.

Watch this YouTube orbit on Messenger and its mission to Mercury https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVVerBya6l4.

Watch this YouTube video on the icy poles of Mercury https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SxR66Y0XcXA.

Join the human journey to the beginning of space and time. You can find out more about NASA here http://www.nasa.gov/.  You can learn more about Messenger and NASA’s mission to Mercury here http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/messenger/main/.

Learn why astronomy binoculars are a popular choice with amateur astronomers

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Read about astronomers viewing a supernova they think might have given birth to a black hole

Chelyabinsk Meteorite Lightens Sky

Chelyabinsk Meteorite lightens early mornings sky
Chelyabinsk Meteorite lightens early mornings sky

Meteorite explodes above Ural Mountains

Astronomy News – It was a typically slow Friday morning for workers in the Russian industrial city of Chelyabinsk just east of the Ural Mountains. Just after 9 a.m. Russian time, the Sun was hanging just above the horizon to the southeast. The air was cold and still and the sky clear; accept for a few high clouds, and contrails from passing jets.

The quiet morning would explode with the arrival of an unexpected guest. A significant lightening of the sky toward the rising sun was the first hint something was different. Seconds later light exploded in a blinding flash that moved across the sky from right to left. The ground seemed to rumble and rotate in time with naked shadows of buildings, cars, and lampposts.

The blinding glare subsided as the smoke trail broke into two
The blinding glare subsided as the smoke trail broke into two

The blinding glare from the smoking object started to subside as its smoke trail broke into two parallel smokers moving across the southern sky. The sky flared twice more in blinding flashes of intense light, before the objects disappeared over the southwestern horizon.

Shockwave impacts the ground

The Chelyabinsk meteorite didn't result in any loss of life, but hundreds of people were injured due to glass and other debris
The Chelyabinsk meteorite didn’t result in any loss of life, but hundreds of people were injured due to glass and other debris

Three to four minutes after the blinding flash came streaking across the sky, a colossal tremor hit the region shattering windows and causing car alarms to blare and humans to cry and exclaim. Incredibly, no loss of human life would result from the event, although over 1,000 people were treated for related injuries.

Watch this YouTube video on the resultant shockwave after the passage of the Chelyabinsk meteorite https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tq02C_3FvFo.

Superbolide by the numbers

NASA astronomers have coined the term superbolide for the brilliant fireball that resulted from the meteorite through the atmosphere
NASA astronomers have coined the term superbolide for the brilliant fireball that resulted from the meteorite through the atmosphere

NASA has coined the term “superbolide”, for the dazzling bolide that resulted from the passage of a meteorite through the Earth’s atmosphere on February 15, 2013. The meteorite travelled through the atmosphere at a shallow 7 degree descending angle from east to west that passed about 12 miles (20 km) south of Chelyabinsk, Russia. The superbolide occurred when the meteorite was at an altitude of around 76,400 feet (23,300 meters) and moving at a speed of 11.6 miles per second (18.6 km/s).

Force of friction between the atmosphere and meteorite slowed and heated it. The fast movement of the meteorite through the atmosphere also compressed the air in front of it, creating the colossal tremor that shattered windows on the ground. The compression also ionized atoms and molecules, which emitted the blinding flash seen in the Russian sky, when they recombined with the electrons that were stripped from them. This energy also broke up the meteorite and ultimately caused it to explode when the increasing internal pressure exceeded the object’s internal strength.

Watch this YouTube video of the passage of the Chelyabinsk meteorite https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMnZr5DDRlA.

Watch this NASA video on the aftermath of the Chelyabinsk meteorite https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9KwK0izt5c.

The Earth being round was old news to ancient astronomers

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NASA astronomers believe a young black hole was created somewhere within W49B

The Birth of a Blackhole

NASA astronomers believe a young black hole was created somewhere within W49B
NASA astronomers believe a young black hole was created somewhere within W49B

Astronomers find unusual supernova

Astronomy News – Black holes are stellar objects of the most unusual nature and temperament. They’re also something we haven’t witnessed being born during the human journey to the beginning of space and time, until now. NASA astronomers using the Chandra X-ray Observatory to take a look at W49B, a 1,000-year-old supernova remnant, found it to be unlike any they have observed before. In fact, this supernova remnant could have left behind a black hole.

NASA astronomers use the Chandra X-ray Observatory to look at W49B
NASA astronomers use the Chandra X-ray Observatory to look at W49B

There should be some mass left over in the form of a neutron star

When the most massive suns reach the end of their lives, their central regions collapse and trigger a chain of events that ends in a supernova explosion. Astronomers studying W49B found this supernova remnant was formed when mass from the poles of a 25-solar mass star shot out at a much higher speed than mass shooting from the equator. This is the first supernova remnant with this characteristic they have found in the Milky Way.

Looking for the rabbit hole

Astronomers also couldn’t find the characteristic neutron star they expected to detect within the remnant, which leaves scientists wondering if there’s a black hole lurking somewhere within the cloud. Star scientists are currently studying data concerning W49B, trying to find the telltale evidence they need to indicate the presence of a black hole. Should they find the evidence they’re looking for this will be the first opportunity to study a supernova responsible for creating a young black hole.

Watch this YouTube video on W49B https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ssE7egUf8E.

Watch this YouTube video of the Birth of a Black Hole https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kgS0PeQN1M.

Read about the biggest black hole found so far by the Hubble Space Telescope

Are you looking for a moderately priced telescope?

Read about NASA’s mission to Mars

Fujinon 150mm binoculars are considered by many to be the finest astronomy binoculars in the world

Astronomy Binoculars Enhance the View

Fujinon 150mm binoculars are considered by many to be the finest astronomy binoculars in the world
Fujinon 150mm binoculars are considered by many to be the finest astronomy binoculars in the world

Astronomers using binoculars report two eyes are better than one

Astronomy questions and answers – Why astronomy binoculars? The human anatomy and brain are finely tuned for viewing the universe using two eyes, and astronomy gurus indicate there are benefits to viewing the universe through both eyes. Doing astronomy using both eyes means about 40 percent more light reaches the brain, according to some scientific studies. Other astronomy studies indicate our power of resolution and ability to detect faint objects are dramatically improved by viewing the universe through two eyes. Astronomers using binoculars to conduct astronomy studies also report an enhancement of image contrast and additional color.

Modern astronomy implements a vast array of scientific instrumentation and techniques to view the universe. Today’s amateur astronomy guru has at their disposal huge telescopes, advanced optical equipment, and astronomy accessories that were once only in the realm of the professional astronomer. The truth is the low power magnification and very wide field of view of modern astronomy binoculars make them perfect for viewing the solar system. Binoculars are generally less expensive for amateur astronomers looking for a cheaper way to journey to the beginning of space and time. They’re also easier to transport and setup, than an astronomy telescope, you can carry them around your neck.

Celestron Skymaster 15 x 70 binoculars are perfect for viewing the night sky
Celestron Skymaster 15 x 70 binoculars are perfect for viewing the night sky

Do you own binocular research

Conduct some astronomy research on your own. Walk out to a dark viewing spot on a cold, clear, moonless night, and try this easy test. Keep both eyes open, then cover one eye with your hand, and look up at the sky. Make a mental footnote of some of the faintest stars you see in the night sky. Now take your hand away from your eye and view the same faint stars again. You’ll discover there are more stars in this region of the night sky than you first thought. Astronomy studies indicate some astronomers experience as much as a 10 percent improvement in perception.

Let’s do this astronomy test again using a nebulous object in the night sky, like the hazy band of the Milky Way stretching across the cosmos. Alternately cover and uncover one eye as you did before. The contrast between the soft glow of the star clouds of the Milky Way and the background sky will appear far more distinct when viewed through two eyes, rather than one. Astronomy studies indicate as much as a 40 percent increase in the contrast of hazy objects viewed using two eyes.

There’s little doubt in the minds of both astronomy professionals and amateur astronomers that viewing the night sky through binoculars is a great way to start your journey to the beginning of space and time.

Orion BT2 binoculars are great for viewing the night sky
Your two-eyed time-machine-to-the-stars is ready to blast-off

Take part in our astronomy poll below

Watch this YouTube video on buying astronomy binoculars https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PN4KFT-QLck.

Watch this YouTube video review of the Celestron Skymaster Binoculars https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3G4fy5mtygE.

Read about the mystery surrounding the astronomical knowledge of the Dogon tribe of Africa

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The Anasazi civilization flourished throughout the American southwest over 1,000 years ago, before vanishing into the annals of history

Ancient Skywatchers of the American Southwest

The Anasazi civilization flourished throughout the American southwest over 1,000 years ago, before vanishing into the annals of history
The Anasazi Indians flourished throughout the American southwest

Anasazi Indians astronomy knowledge written in desert rocks

Ancient Astronomy – The Anasazi civilization flourished throughout the American southwest over 1,000 years ago, before vanishing into the annals of history. Forgotten on the hot mesas of the southwestern desert, remains of their stone cities and enigmatic causeways offer quiet testament to their innovation and determination. Carved in the desert rocks of New Mexico archaeologists also found symbols that indicate astronomy was an integral part of Anasazi society and that they spent hundreds of years watching and studying the sky.

Skywatchers of the American Southwest

Archaeologists believe the Sun Dagger, as the spectacle is called, was a calendar devised by Anasazi astronomers

Archaeologists believe the Sun Dagger, as the spectacle is called, was a calendar devised by Anasazi astronomers

Modern archaeoastronomers believe the Anasazi were ancient sky watchers who interpreted signs in the sky in order to construct a calendar they could use to aid farming. High on a ledge near the top of a soaring butte in New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon, they found three large stone slabs forming an opening, through which sunlight shined onto two spirals carved in the stone behind the slabs. For possibly longer than 1,000 years, until the slabs shifted due to erosion, beams of sunlight correctly predicted the summer and winter solstices, as well as the March and September equinoxes. Archaeologists believe the Sun Dagger, as the spectacle is called, was a calendar devised by Anasazi astronomers.

Anasazi astronomer recorded death of star

Displayed on a rock face, they found three colored figures, a hand, a crescent, and a rayed disk
Displayed on a rock face, they found three colored figures, a hand, a crescent, and a rayed disk

Archaeoastronomers also found marks on an overhanging rock on a cliff beneath the remains of the Anasazi town called Penasco Blanco suggesting Anasazi astronomers witnessed the death of a star almost a thousand years ago. Displayed on a rock face, they found three colored figures, a hand, a crescent, and a rayed disk. Painted on the sandstone wall beneath the figures is a dot, with two rings around it. Archaeoastronomers believe the cliff was possibly a post used by Anasazi astronomers and sun watchers, much like other similar posts archaeologists have found in the southwestern territories.

The crescent isn’t a figure archaeologists have seen carved in rock faces around the southwest very often, so they believe this could represent a spectacular event in the history of the Anasazi. The rayed disk some archaeoastronomers believe might represent an exploding star, which would have appeared in the sky around 1,000 years ago. At that time, over in China, astronomers recorded the appearance of a “guest star” in the sky on July 5, 1054. This guest star some archaeoastronomers believe was a supernova marking the death of a massive star in the constellation Taurus, the remains of which are the Crab Nebula.

Did Anasazi astronomers record the death of a star 1,000 years ago in paintings they carved in an overhanging rock below the town of Penasco Blanco? Some archaeoastronomers believe this might be the case. NASA astronomer John Brandt tried to verify this in 1979, by having a friend reproduce the night sky above the town in July 1054. They discovered the night sky above the town was almost exactly as depicted in the rock face in Chaco Canyon.

If the evidence is assembled and to be believed, around 1,000 years ago an Anasazi astronomer took up his post below the town of Penasco Blanco as the sun was about to rise above the horizon. Keeping his eyes toward the eastern horizon, he observed as the moon rose with a star of amazing brilliance suspended almost in the curve of its upside-down crescent. Captivated by the appearance of this guest star in the sky, the astronomer marked the moment in time by carving its image into the rock.

Watch this YouTube video on the Anasazi Indians https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KkJNyZUx9s.

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Sirius-1 is the main star in the star group Canis Majoris and the brightest in the night sky

Sirius B Astronomy Keystone of African Dogon Tribe

Sirius-1 is the main star in the star group Canis Majoris and the brightest in the night sky
Sirius-1 is the main star in the star group Canis Majoris and the brightest in the night sky

African tribe claims to have been visited by alien beings in ancient times

European astronomer Friedrich Bessel
European astronomer Friedrich Bessel

Ancient Astronomy – Sirius 1 is the main star in the star group Canis Majoris and the brightest in the night sky. Called the Dog Star by both ancient star watchers and modern astronomers, Sirius is mentioned in the cosmology and myths of many ancient cultures. In 1836, European astronomer Friedrich Bessel measured an imperceptible wobble in the orbit of Sirius, he believed was caused by something pulling on the Dog Star. After studying Sirius astronomers determined the Dog Star is orbited by a fainter companion star about every fifty years.

American telescope designer Alvin Clark
American telescope designer Alvin Clark

This unseen companion star, called Sirius B, was finally seen around 1862 by American telescope designer Alvin Clark, through an 18.5-inch refractor which was the most powerful telescope in the world at the time. It would be half a century before astronomers at California’s Mount Wilson Observatory discovered Sirius B is, in fact, a new type of super dense star they called a white dwarf.

Dogon holy people use sticks to scratch a rough diagram of the Dog Star
Dogon holy people use sticks to scratch a rough diagram of the Dog Star

The puzzle concerning the Dog Star deepened in 1950, when two noted French anthropologists just back from what’s today the Republic of Mali, reported that the unseen companion star had been the celestial keystone of the Dogon tribe’s cosmology for centuries. The French scientists had lived with the Dogon tribe for over a decade, by which time they had come to learn their cosmology. They reported watching Dogon holy people use sticks to scratch a rough diagram of the Dog Star, with a companion star circling it in an elliptical orbit, along with a third body astronomers had not detected yet.

Dogon holy people had told the two men the elliptical orbit of the unseen companion star stood for fertility. They said the small companion star orbited the main star every fifty years and was called po. It was made of a metal the Dogon called sagala, according to Dogon holy people, and was brighter than iron and so heavy the population of Earth couldn’t lift it.

The mystery went even further when the Frenchmen indicated the cosmology of the Dogon goes far beyond the star Sirius. They discovered the Dogon believe Jupiter has four large moons, Saturn is ringed, and the Earth orbits the Sun.

The mystery is how can a tribal cosmology that predates the invention of the telescope be so near to the truth? Do Dogon holy people have some means of viewing the universe using divination or some type of psychic power?

Some scientists indicate the Dogon were probably not as primitive or as isolated as first reported. In fact, they indicate the traditional homelands of the tribe are close to ancient trade routes that once linked West Africa with ancient Egypt. They also border a major trade road that connected regions in Africa during ancient times, the Niger River. Timbuktu, the home of one of the greatest Muslim universities of 400 years ago, was once just south of their lands. All of these things lead scientists to believe the Dogon’s cosmology could be due to these facts or even just outrageous lying.

Alien visitors from the stars

The Dogon cosmology could be due to cultural interactions, but some investigators still point to the similarities between the real Sirius star system and the Dogon cosmology as a mystery. The Dogon, however, say there’s no mystery involved. Hundreds of years ago, they were visited by a race of beings from the Sirius star system, they call the nommo. This ancient race told them things about the cosmology of the universe before they returned to their home planet.

Very few scientists or people believe the Dogon were in fact visited by beings from the star system Sirius. There has been no forthcoming explanation, however, for how the Dogon possess astronomy knowledge concerning bodies they can’t possibly have seen. Enough knowledge according to reports to accurately sketch unseen star systems in the sand.

Watch this YouTube video on the Dogon tribe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0oiYB5JQAg.

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