astronomy

Science Art: Giant Animals: Modern and Extinct (detail), by Mary McLain

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These are prehistoric animals compared to their modern relatives and, for scale, a human. A human who’s interested in what they’re like… except when…

Look out! HELL PIG!

There are plenty more of the majestic giants (and some terrifying ones) at NPR’s Skunk Bear tumblog.

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Science Art: Jupiter's Rings by LORRI, 2007.

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The New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) snapped this photo of Jupiter’s ring system on February 24, 2007, from a distance of 7.1 million kilometers (4.4 million miles).

This processed image shows a narrow ring, about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) wide, with a fainter sheet of material inside it. The faint glow extending in from the ring is likely caused by fine dust that diffuses in toward Jupiter. This is the outer tip of the “halo,” a cloud of dust …

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SONG: Thirty-Five Minutes (from Earth)

SONG: “Thirty-Five Minutes (from Earth)”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE:Based on “NASA Windbots Could Explore Gas Giant Jupiter”, Sky News, 24 July 2015, as used in the post as used in the post “Windbots to explore Jupiter – the bumpier the ride, the better..”

ABSTRACT: The planet Jupiter is 35 light-minutes from Earth (give or take a couple of minutes depending on where in its orbit the planet is).

So a robot floating in the turbulent winds of Jupiter would take that long to send a mes…

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Science Art: Doree, Zeus, Faber by Edward Donovan

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Three names for one little fish. And those are just the beginning.

I found this one on the Scientific Illustration tumblog, which quoted Wikipedia on the doree (etc.):

John Dory, St Pierre or Peter’s Fish, refers to fish of the genus Zeus, especially Zeus faber, of widespread distribution. It is an edible benthic coastal marine fish with a laterally compressed olive-yellow body which has a large dark spot, and long spines on the dorsal fin. The dark spot is used to flash an ‘evil ey…

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Science Art: Her Majesty's Cochins; Imported in 1843, published 1904.

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These are ostensibly Cochin chickens, or forerunners of what we’d call Cochins today. They’re a breed with a *lot* of character, and are uniquely suited, temperamentally, for being “pet” chickens moreso than egg factories or walking meat supplies. Despite the name (after a part of India), they’re originally from China.

This picture is from The Asiatics; Brahmas, Cochins and Langshans, all varieties, their origin; peculiarities of shape and color; egg production; their ma…

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Science Art: Soaking Up the Rays of a Sun-Like Star, by NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle, 2015.

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This is an artist’s impression of a planet just discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission that’s gotten the folks at SETI all excited.

It’s the most Earth-like planet yet discovered. Kepler 452b sits in the “Goldilocks” zone around its star, not too hot and not too cold, and is about the same size (or is a little larger) and made of something like the same stuff as the planet we’re sitting around on right now. It takes 365 days to orbit around its sun, too. NASA’s calling it ou…

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Faster computers will find aliens.

26 March 2014 // 0 Comments

If you never thought cosmic loneliness was a computing problem, think again. In Popular Mechanics, SETI leader Seth Shostak says Moore’s Law means we’ll find aliens in the next 20 years: If you’re trying to determine when we’re going to succeed with SETI, that really depends on only two questions. First, how many societies are out there broadcasting signals strong enough for you to find? And second, how quickly are you examining these star systems to find them? My guess that we’ll succeed in the next two decades is based on the fact that with improvements in digital electronics and computers—which are getting better and cheaper, following Moore’s law—we will be continually sifting through the sky faster. And you can extrapolate how fast we’ll be able to search, assuming we have the money, in the next decade or two. As for the number of civilizations out there—how many needles are we looking for in this […]

Science Art: Nebulae in the Pleiades, by the Yerkes Observatory

23 March 2014 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen This is an old photograph taken through the largest refracting telescope (no mirrors, just a really big lens) in the world, the Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin. Edwin Hubble, Albert Einstein and Carl Sagan all looked at the sky through the observatory’s huge lenses. This image was taken sometime before 1919, when it appeared in National Geographic magazine. The telescope is still being used today. [via National Geographic]

Darker than Nemesis: Was it dark matter that killed the dinosaurs?

18 March 2014 // 0 Comments

Nature tries to see what was behind the comet that killed the dinosaurs – and other mass extinctions that seem to happen every 35 million years. One guess: Our solar system passes through a disk of dark matter that knocks meteors and comets into our planet: Meteorites regularly pepper Earth’s surface. Thirty years ago, physicists suggested that this bombardment intensifies cyclically, pointing to some underlying cosmic cause. One proposed explanation is that the Sun has an as-yet-undetected companion star, dubbed ‘Nemesis’ or ‘Death Star’, that regularly swings by, sending comets from the remote Oort cloud flying into the inner Solar System. In the latest paper, theoretical physicists Lisa Randall and Matthew Reece, of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, reignite another proposal, which puts the supposed periodicity down to the way the Sun — and the Solar System with it — move inside the Milky Way. As the Sun follows the swirling motion of the Galaxy’s […]

Science Art: An X-class Solar Flare, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

2 March 2014 // 0 Comments

A scientific visualization from NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio, who have this to say about it: An X-class solar flare erupted on the left side of the sun on the evening of Feb. 24, 2014. This composite image shows the sun in ultraviolet light with wavelength of both 131 and 171 Angstroms. “X-class” means as powerful as solar flares get. This pot has come to a rolling boil. [via]

Largest space telescope is ready to… observe.

27 February 2014 // 0 Comments

PhysOrg has the skinny on ESA’s Gaia telescope and its quest to catalogue a billion stars: Gaia will be able to discern objects up to 400,000 times dimmer than those visible to the naked eye. The positional accuracy of its measurements are akin to measuring the width of a human hair at a distance of 500 km. The process will involve scanning each part of the sky an average of 70 times over its five-year mission lifetime, which means scanning the entire sky twice every 63 days, once through each of the two telescopes, making it a powerful tool for spotting time-evolving phenomena such as binary systems, supernovae, and exoplanets. Compared to Hipparcos, Gaia will be able to measure 500 times the number of stars, extending to objects 1000 times dimmer than the dimmest that Hipparcos could catalogue. The technology that makes this possible is the largest camera ever launched into space – 940 million […]

SONG: “The Impossible One”

23 January 2014 // 0 Comments

SONG: “The Impossible One” [Download] (To download: double right-click & “Save As”) ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Based on “Earth-mass exoplanet is no Earth twin,” Nature, 6 January 2014, as used in the post “Earth-like planets might not be so Earth-like… as gassy Earth shows” (with a dash of “The impossible planet” sprinkled on for seasoning). ABSTRACT: Singing in 7/8 is really hard. Planets are really weird. Earth-like isn’t really Earth-like. Unpredictable. Lyrics: V1 There are 40 billion planets They’d describe as Earth-like About the right size The right length from their suns But on close inspection All 40 billion planets Each of them different Each impossible one — V2 Let’s take one would-be sister the right size and distance Look for islands and oceans Instead it has none Only clouds on the surfaces Clouds all the way down An Earth made of clouds Seems like an impossible one. — V3 We like to think of ourselves […]

Earth-like planets might not be so Earth-like… as gassy Earth shows.

17 January 2014 // 1 Comment

Nature examines he implications of a planet that *should* be a twin to Earth, but isn’t – because it’s a gassy Earth-sized planet: Not only is the planet too warm for liquid water to exist on its surface, but it also has a radius 60% larger than Earth, suggesting a vast, puffy atmosphere of hydrogen and helium. “You’ve got a very small planet that is probably not rocky at all, and that’s frightening,” says Jacob Bean, an astrophysicist at the University of Chicago in Illinois. What is scary, he says, is how the finding challenges the assumption that an Earth-mass exoplanet would have an Earth-like composition. With its thick atmosphere, the exoplanet is more like a scaled-down Neptune or Uranus, he notes. Its surprising density suggests that it will be even more important in future campaigns to measure both the size and the mass of exoplanets. Density, the ratio of mass and size, is known […]

Science Art: The Kepler Orrery II

12 January 2014 // 0 Comments

Click to view animation. A visualization of every solar system discovered by the Kepler Space Telescope as of February 2012 – that’s 885 plaents in 361 systems. There’s a longer version of the animation at NASA’s Kepler site.

The impossible planet.

8 January 2014 // 0 Comments

SEN has us baffled by a recently discovered planet that shouldn’t be there: The new world is the farthest out from its home star of any previously found. It is 11 times more massive than Jupiter and orbits the single, Sun-like star at 650 times the distance that the Earth circles the Sun, or 20 times the orbit of Neptune. A further twist is that the remains of a massive debris disk that provided the material to make the star and planets can still be detected too. The system lies 300 light-years away in the southern constellation of Crux. The exoplanet, labelled HD 106906b, is only 13 million years old and still glowing from the heat of its birth, at a temperature of around 1,500 C (2,700 F). This glow was detected in the infrared part of the spectrum by adaptive optics and a thermal camera on the 6.5-metre Magellan telescope in Chile’s Atacama Desert. […]

Exomoon spotted. Maybe. (And, well, it probably won’t happen again.)

26 December 2013 // 0 Comments

Nature celebrates (sort of) a discovery that makes it just a smidge more likely that there’s life somewhere else out there – a little blip that probably means there’s a moon orbiting a faraway planet just like ours orbits Earth: On a June night two years ago, a telescope in New Zealand captured a momentary brightening of a star in the constellation Sagittarius. It was an occurence of a rare phenomenon known as microlensing, in which a star or planet or other celestial object passes directly between Earth and a more distant star, gravitationally magnifying the light of the faraway star. After sifting through detailed observations of this event, astronomers proposed that the intervening object could be either a smallish star with a Neptune-sized planet orbiting it, or a largish planet with a moon orbiting it. If the latter possibility is confirmed, it would be the first ever detection of an exomoon. The problem is […]

Science Art: Theoria Lunae from Harmonia Macrocosmica by Andreas Cellarius.

15 December 2013 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen In 1660, Dutch-German cartographer Andreas Cellarius created an atlas of the stars. This map shows how people thought the moon moved in 1660 – in epicycles. Before we knew planets had elliptical orbits, these circles-within-circles explained why heavenly bodies seemed to speed up and slow down as they moved across the sky. Now, we know it’s because they were at the long end or the short end of their egg-shaped paths. It’s a little simpler than this elegant, arcane geometry.

Wet planets – we’ve got their names.

4 December 2013 // 0 Comments

Science Daily has Hubble’s latest clue to finding life elsewhere in space. The telescope has found five distant, watery worlds: The five planets — WASP-17b, HD209458b, WASP-12b, WASP-19b and XO-1b — orbit nearby stars. The strengths of their water signatures varied. WASP-17b, a planet with an especially puffed-up atmosphere, and HD209458b had the strongest signals. The signatures for the other three planets, WASP-12b, WASP-19b and XO-1b, also are consistent with water. “We’re very confident that we see a water signature for multiple planets,” said Avi Mandell, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and lead author of an Astrophysical Journal paper, published today, describing the findings for WASP-12b, WASP-17b and WASP-19b. “This work really opens the door for comparing how much water is present in atmospheres on different kinds of exoplanets, for example hotter versus cooler ones.”

Science Art: Solar System by Johannes Kepler, Mysterium Cosmographicum

1 December 2013 // 0 Comments

In the book Mysterium Comsmographicum, Johannes Kepler started mapping out how planets worked. The idea here is that the solar system is structured according to the Platonic solids, one nesting in the other. Later on, Kepler figured out how gravity worked and that the real geometry of planetary motion was a circle with two centers – an ellipse. But this is how he got there.

SONG: “The Hardest of Carbon”

23 October 2013 // 0 Comments

SONG: “The Hardest of Carbon” [Download] (To download: double right-click & “Save As”) ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Based on “Diamond drizzle forecast for Saturn and Jupiter,” Nature, 9 October 2013, as used in the post “Sooty, with a chance of diamonds.” ABSTRACT: I guess I’ve done a song on a planet made of diamonds, so a companion piece on diamond weather (on much closer planets) only seems natural. It’s really about internal weather, I suppose. Rising stink of methane, compressed through pressure and heat into liquid diamonds. I totally shouldn’t let this on, but this was written half under the influence of the first Breeders song I ever heard, “Glorious,” off Pod, way back when they were more eerie and minimal and less poppy. Only I made this song a little more alien. Some weird ideas about counting. Compressed two verses into the space of one. And obviously, I am not Kim Deal. And had to […]

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