Feeling Isolated? The Universe is Closer Than You Think

 The heliosphere is interacting with the galaxy more than we thought 

IBEX recently completed a six-month job. The sky map below is the result.


The human journey to the beginning of space and time continues

 Astronomy News – Mankind is preparing to journey to the outer solar system in the decades ahead and part of the preparation is using NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, spacecraft to take a look at conditions on the edge of the solar system to get an idea of the environment humans and the spacecraft we send to the edge of the solar system will have to withstand to survive. NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer has just finished producing a new set of maps of the dynamic conditions that exist near the boundary between the local interstellar medium of the galaxy and our own heliosphere. The Interstellar Boundary Explorer spacecraft creates sky maps of the outer solar system by counting and measuring particles astronomers call energetic neutral atoms that are created near the interstellar boundary region in collisions between charged particles emanating from Sol and star-dust between the stars. These collisions send energetic neutral atoms towards Sol at velocities ranging from 100,000 to 2.4 million miles per hour.
Six months of observations later, this is the result

Dynamic universe

Astronomers looking at the edge of the solar system using the Interstellar Boundary Explorer recently announced that their views of the edge of the solar system over a six month period have revealed the outer solar system is a lot more dynamic than scientists first thought. That interaction between the solar wind and the interstellar medium on the other side of the interstellar boundary region are constantly changing as we move through space and time. The first map produced indicates an unpredicted bright ribbon of energetic neutral atoms emanating toward Sol from the edge of the solar system. A bright ribbon that currently has scientists studying the heliosphere scratching their heads in a confused manner because this scenario doesn’t fit any of the preconceived models they had created of the conditions and environment near the outer solar system.
Check out my latest astronomy website at http://astronomytonight.yolasite.com/.



Worshipping Sol

 The energy of the sun affects all life on Earth in ways we don’t even imagine

Three separate instruments aboard Hinode will study Sol

Humans have worshipped Sol for thousands of years

The original source of energy for all life on Earth, Sol has always ruled the lives and minds of human beings in many ways. The ruler of the daytime sky in ancient times and still today, Sol was worshipped by ancient humans of many cultures, and will always be a major force in the life of every human being on Earth. The Sumerians worshiped Utu as their sun god over two thousand years ago and modern humans worship the sun in their own way. We send spacecraft toward Sol, to study the lifecycle and physical and chemical characteristics of our sun, and determine everything we can about the sun.

Astronomy News – Hinode (Solar-B) is one spacecraft humans have sent out toward Sol in an attempt to delve deeper into the mysteries of the sun. A highly sophisticated observational satellite equipped with three solar telescopes, Hinode has recently revealed that the solar corona isn’t quite as static as solar scientists were first thinking. Hinode has surprised solar scientists of late with views of complex structures in the solar chromosphere, solar scientists use to think were static, but now believe to be dynamic structures flowing in time. This is making solar scientists rethink some of the previous ideas they had about the heating mechanisms and dynamics of the active solar corona.

Astronomers study the Sun continuously in an attempt to understand its mysteries

What questions will solar scientists working with Hinode try to answer next? They’ll be looking into why a hot corona exists above a cooler atmosphere? The origins and driving forces behind solar flares and the Sol’s magnetic field? The changes that the release of solar energy in its many forms has on interplanetary space in our solar system and life on Earth? The answers to these questions could be a key to eventually answering many of the questions the first stargazers and all humans have been asking for thousands of years. Solar scientists are also interested in knowing how magnetic changes near Sol’s surface effect the heliosphere, the outer atmosphere of Sol that extends beyond Pluto, and how severe changes in the heliosphere can cause satellites to malfunction and electrical blackouts on Earth.

Check out my latest astronomy site at http://astronomytonight.yolasite.com/.

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 Moving Universe

The Earth is moving relative to everything else in the universe

Everything on your “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time” is moving relative to everything else in the universe

The Earth rotates on its axis

The solar system is moving through the Milky Way

Astronomy questions and answers – Staring upward at the night sky above you get the notion you’re stationary in the universe, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Earth beneath you is spinning on its axis at 1000 km/hr, orbiting Sol at 100,000 km/hr, the Milky Way Galaxy at 800,000 km/hr while the solar system is moving relative to the local stars at 70,000 km/hr. In fact, the universe around us could be moving through a relative space and time of some unknown kind unimaginable to the human consciousness, and we would have no way of detecting this relative motion. We are all travelers in a sense on spaceshipearth1, which is the only habitable planet we know of for humankind that exists in the universe.

The Milky Way is moving through the universe

Everything appears to be moving relative to everything else we view as we look outward into space and time, which makes traveling through space and time a hazardous activity at the best of times. The universe you’ll experience on your “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time” isn’t the universe you experience on Earth. The relative motions of everything in the universe mean we’ll need to explain a few things to you about the way things work in the universe. In future articles, we’ll talk about the Earth’s rotation and orbit around Sol, and how this affects the planet, we’ll explain the Earth’s motion in the Milky Way Galaxy, and the motion of our solar system in relation to the nearby stars in the night sky. This will give you a base upon which to stand as we take you further out into the cosmos to explain the relative universe you’ll experience during your journey. Toward this goal, we’ll explain the meaning of Einstein’s General and Special Relativity for your trip and the way you’ll experience things during your journey.

Check out my newest astronomy site at http://astronomytonight.yolasite.com/.

Learn why astronomy binoculars are a popular choice with amateur astronomers

Read about the Anasazi Indians

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

To be a Planet, or Not to be a Planet?

Astronomers are constantly rethinking old theories and designing new ones to fit new ideas

Astronomy News – astrophysics: planets; the number and type of planets

Count the planets in the solar system and make an assessment of their various sizes and distances from Sol and the Earth as you leave on your “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time”. You’ll find that the line between planet and smaller planetoids, like asteroids and meteorites, has yet to be firmly set in place in the astronomy books, and in the universe.

We were all taught during our school indoctrination of nine planets circling Sol at varying distances. Mercury and Venus lie closest to Sol, with the Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn residing at greater distances from Sol, while Uranus, Neptune, and disputed Pluto orbit at the greatest distance on average as compared to the other planets. Millions of school and reference books, thousands of articles, and countless periodicals also include references to Pluto being officially recognized as the ninth planet in the solar system. The publishers of these publications will be calling for a rewrite of all of this material and the history books will have to be changed if some astronomers and space scientists have their way.

Planet X came spinning into the view of Caltech astronomer Michael Brown on July 29, 2005 and changed the way astronomers and star gazers think about Pluto and the definition of a planet. An icy, Kuiper Belt resident Michael named after Xena the warrior goddess of the famed television series, at least until the International Astronomical Union speaks on this matter, Planet x orbits Sol at a distance nearly twice as great as Pluto’s. Planet X’s 560-year orbit is also inclined to the ecliptic by nearly twice as much as Pluto’s, which results in Planet X being closer to Sol than Pluto during its orbit, at times.

Planet X is still a bit of an enigma to astronomers

Astronomy takes you to the Kuiper Belt
The largest Kuiper Belt objects compared

How much bigger is Planet X than Pluto? Astronomers have measured the brightness and distance of Planet X from Sol, as compared to objects of known brightness in the solar system. Based on their data and calculations, astronomers believe Planet X to be bigger than Pluto, but just how much bigger has yet to be firmly etched in stone by the various astronomical societies and agencies tasked with determining if Planet X is indeed bigger than Pluto and by how much. This fuzzy-news has pushed Pluto into tenth place in the nine planet race in the solar system and into second place in the size ranking of the objects in the Kuiper Belt and astronomers, and star gazers have only searched a small percentage of the Kuiper Belt for objects bigger than Pluto.

Will bigger objects than Planet X be discovered in the Kuiper Belt or somewhere on the outer fringes of the solar system? The first Kuiper Belt objects were viewed by star gazers and astronomers in the early 1990s, but since this time, larger and larger objects have been located in the Kuiper Belt. In 2002, an object half the size of Pluto was discovered floating in the Kuiper Belt, which astronomers named Quaoar. Just two years later, 2004DW and Sedna were discovered, each respectively two-thirds and three-quarters the size of Pluto. It wouldn’t be surprising, therefore, if star gazers and astronomers were to find an even larger object floating in the Kuiper Belt than Planet X at some point in the human “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time”.

The definition of a planet has changed over the years

Hubble has given us our best views of Pluto, so far. This photo shows Charon as well.
Compare the various sizes of the planets as you pass by
A distance object at best, Pluto looks quiet and serene here

The Earth being round was old news to ancient astronomers

Read about China rejoining the human journey to the beginning of space and time

Are you looking for a great apochromatic refractor to keep you company on long nights during the winter?

Journey Across the Surface of the Red Planet

This little rock looks like it has an interesting story to tell!

Opportunity is taking the human journey to the beginning of space and time to Mars every day
This little meteorite is telling planetary scientists studying Mars a few things

Opportunity is providing astronomers with a chance to study Mars up close

Astronomy News – NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has been travelling across the surface of the Red Planet looking at anything that interests scientists while making its way toward its main goal, Endeavour Crater. The latest object of study for planetary scientists playing with their toys is this meteorite NASA’s planetary scientists have affectionately named “Oilean Ruaidh”, which is also the Gaelic name of an island off the coast of northwestern Ireland. NASA planetary scientists first got a glimpse of this gem on September 16, 2010, which was the 2,363rd Martian day rover has spent on the surface of the Red Planet. The picture above was actually taken on September 24, 2010, using the panoramic camera on Opportunity, four days before Opportunity would continue its journey to Endeavour Crater, by travelling a distance of about 328 ft (100 meters).

The four days that planetary scientists spent looking at “Oilean Ruaidh” using the microscopic imager and alpha particle X-ray spectrometer of Opportunity to take a closer look at the texture and composition of this little meteorite revealed that it’s a nickel-iron meteorite. The image above is presented in a color close to the true color of the meteorite and combines component images taken through three Pancam filters admitting different wavelengths.

The Earth being round was old news to ancient astronomers

Read about China rejoining the human journey to the beginning of space and time

Are you looking for a great apochromatic refractor to keep you company on long nights during the winter?

Water On, Water Off

Astronomers have found evidence to indicate there was once a lot of water on the surface of Mars
Where did all the water go? What water?

More evidence for the case for the presence of water on the Red Planet

Astronomy News – Planetary scientists taking a second look at a Mars outcropping first examined by NASA’s Spirit Mars Rover back in 2005 think there could be additional evidence for water on large areas of Mars. In specific, planetary scientists have found high concentrations of carbonate, a mineral that scientists have previously shown to originate in wet conditions that dissolves in acid. This leads planet scientists to the conclusion that ancient oceans on Mars couldn’t be acidic and could have been favorable environments for the evolution of life forms.

Water has been hard to find on Mars

This is hardly news as planet scientists have noted the presence of carbonates on the surface of Mars previously, and there could be all sorts of natural ways to produce the carbonates that we humans haven’t experienced, yet. Reports indicate that scientists are finding rock outcroppings with as much as 25 percent carbonate by weight. This is a far higher percentage of carbonate than previously recorded, though, and this data could indicate the presence of vast oceans on the surface of the Red Planet in the past, according to some scientists.

One group of planet scientists in Boulder, Colorado has been studying the possibility that oceans of water once existed on the Red Planet. Gaetano Di Achille and Brian Hynek have been taking a close look at 52 martian deltas and about 40,000 river valleys on Mars, using the combined data from a series of orbiting Mars missions, conducted over years. Their studies lead them to speculate that broad and deep expanses of water once covered up to one-third of the surface of Mars, 3.5 billion years ago.

This team of astronomers concluded that at least half the deltas and river valleys they studied likely marked the boundaries of an ancient sea. The geological features in question are all at the same relative elevation, which implies they were possibly connected to martian seas or large bodies of water, according to this team of scientists.

The volume of water scientist are talking about once existing on the Red Planet is around 30 million cubic kilometers of water, about 10 times less than the volume of water contained in Earth’s oceans. This study appeared online on June 13 in Nature Geoscience.

Astronomers are still looking for the water

John Carter and a team of scientists at the University of Paris, on the other hand, claim that the Red Planet certainly once had vast quantities of water, only not in the form of vast seas and oceans. This team found hydrated silicate minerals within craters in the northern lowlands of the Red Planet, a place where these minerals hadn’t previously been found. This fact, combined with previous indications of hydrated silicate minerals in Mars Southern Hemisphere, leads this team of scientists to conclude that Mars was changed on a global scale by liquid water around 4 billion years in the past. This group of astronomers used NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to look inside 91 impact craters where asteroids have exposed ancient marine material several kilometers beneath the surface of Mars. They found nine contained phyllosilicates or other hydrated silicates, minerals that scientists know form in wet environments.

The real question now is, where did all this water go? Future missions to the Red Planet will be looking for facts to help determine where all the water went or if it might still exist on Mars, in another form. They’ll also be taking a close look at river deltas, which could be excellent regions to search for evidence of past Martian life.

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






Begin Planning Your Journey to Comet 103P/Hartley

Board your time machine to the stars near the end of October

Astronomy is a passion, a desire to find the truth
Comet 103P/Hartley leaves a trail as it travels through the inner solar system

Comet 103P/Hartley is an astronomy treat during September

Astronomy News – September is the time for you and the kids to begin planning a journey to a celestial body that will be at its closest point to Earth and Sol, sometime near the end of October. Comet 103P/Hartley has been in the news, of late, as NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft will fly by Comet 103P/Hartley, in the first part of November. Observers boarding their time-machine-to-the-stars at this time should get a nice view of Comet 103P/Hartley and it might even be possible to view this celestial object with the naked eye, depending on the environmental conditions at the time of viewing. A good pair of viewing binoculars should give viewers a great view of Comet 103P/Hartley, but your time machine to the stars is the best way to journey to Comet 103P/Hartley, to have a look at a celestial object that only becomes viewable during specific periods of time. Comet 103P/Hartley is returning to Earth for the fourth time since Australian astronomer Malcolm Hartley discovered her in 1986. A short-period comet that loops through the inner solar system, Comet 103P/Hartley’s space journey takes about 6.5 years to complete one orbit. You should arrive at Comet 103P/Hartley just before the arrival of NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft.

Deep Impact Spacecraft making astronomy history

During the visit by NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft, space scientists will use the information and data provided by onboard cameras and instruments to help them pierce the shroud surrounding the comet and hopefully determine the source of dusty jets viewed on Comet 103P/Hartley. Dusty jets that have been dancing in the dreams of space scientists, since they first viewed them through Earth-bound telescopes, which show the effect as a pinprick of light at the center of the comet’s glow. Astronomers and space scientists refer to this effect as a comet’s “false nucleus”, which hides the comets real surface from view.

Comet 103P/Hartley is becoming more visible to stargazers as it approaches the Earth and Sun. This celestial object could reach magnitude 10 near the end of September, which will make viewing easier for star gazers, and allow space scientists to study this comet closer. The best time for stargazers to view Comet 103P/Hartley will be under a dark sky starting around September 24. Comet 103P/Hartley will be in the arms of Cassiopeia at this time, south of Cassiopeia’s w-shaped asterism, and will be viewable throughout the night.

Take a journey to Cassiopeia tonight

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