Courtesy NASAWe like to think of our home planet – Earth – as a pretty unique place. It's the only planet in our solar system capable of sustaining life. We look through telescopes and to see exotic looking planets of various sizes and shapes. But we're the one and only Earth, right?
A new census of planets in the Milky Way galaxy shakes up that thinking. New data collected by NASA's Kepler spacecraft pegs one in six stars in the Milky Way of having planets that are the same size as Earth. That one-sixth fraction translates into an estimate of about 17 billion planets that are the same approximate size as our home.
So we're not as exclusive as might like to think. But the exclusivity meters edges back toward us when you factor in the Goldilocks zone – a distance from the host star that's not too hot nor too cold to sustain life. So far, extended research on the new-found planets has identified only four Earth-sized planets that could possibly reside in a Goldilocks zone. The Kepler project has identified a total of 2,740 potential new planets with more research ongoing.
Who knows all the things that the new year will hold? But scientists looking to the skies are anxiously awaiting the appearance of a newly discovered comet which could be brighter than the moon. Predictions are that Comet ISON will be visible without the aid binoculars or telescope from early November to early January 2014. The comet will also pass fairly close, astronomically speaking, to Mars this year, giving the Mars rover something else to look at. Read more about Comet ISON here.
Got a spare two minutes? Watch this amazing composite photography made by NASA of Earth at night.
A total solar eclipse was visible across the extreme north of Australia yesterday giving residents, tourists, and eclipse-chasing scientists the thrill of a lifetime. Here’s a timelapse and informational video of the event. Total solar eclipses occur about twice each year but since the Earth is 70 percent water, they often happen in remote, unpopulated locations. But remember folks, in less than five years, the Moon’s shadow will sweep across the mid-section of the United States when a total solar eclipse takes place on August 21, 2017. Whatever you do, do not miss it. It is truly something amazing to witness live.
Astronomers have found a new planet, and it's the closet planet to our solar system. But don't get your hopes on going to visit there. It would take 40,000 years to get there and once you arrive, you'll find the planet is mostly lava. And it's much closer to its star than Mercury is to our sun. Its quick orbits on that short track take just 3.2 Earth days to make a year.
Courtesy WikipediaCheck out this nifty homage to Vincent Van Gogh’s famous painting Starry Night put together by Alex Parker a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Parker obviously must not have had much research work last April when the Hubble Telescope was celebrating its 22nd birthday, so he spent all the free time putting together this really cool recreation of the Van Gogh astronomical masterpiece using photo-mosaic software and several of Hubble’s stunning Top 100 images found here.
This truly stunning hi-def footage captured by NASA satellites positioned around our Sun, show various views of a coronal mass ejection that occurred August 31, 2012. Wow!!
FROM THE YOUTUBE SITE:
"On August 31, 2012 a long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the sun's atmosphere, the corona, erupted out into space at 4:36 p.m. EDT. The coronal mass ejection, or CME, traveled away from the sun at over 900 miles per second. This movie shows the ejection from a variety of viewpoints as captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO), and the joint ESA/NASA Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).“
Courtesy Mark RyanTonight there will be what is known as a Blue Moon. It's not an astronomical event but rather a calendrical one and occurs when two full moons happen in the same month. This kind of thing happens about every 2.7 years and doesn't have anything to do with the color of the moon. You won't see any blue tinge on the night orb tonight unless a nearby volcano has spewed ash laden with cobalt into the atmosphere. The first full moon this month was back on August 2nd. The last blue moon we had was in December of 2009 and the next won't happen until July of 2015, so you might as well out there and enjoy this one. This kind of event only happens once in a blue moon.
Blue Moon Calendar
Was it way too hot for you to get out yesterday for the holiday? Then take this cool spin around our planet with this time-lapse video composed of images from NASA's Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center.
The transit of Venus across the face of the Sun yesterday was a big attraction around Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, MN. My brother and I set up on the east shore of the lake to watch the rare astronomical event, which started at 5:04pm and continued even after the Sun sank below the horizon. Swarms of people were at the lake enjoying the beautiful weather, and surprisingly many of them had a high level of interest in viewing the event. Luckily there were several telescopes, including my brother's Celestron, set up along the lake paths available to see it.
Courtesy Mark Ryan
Courtesy Mark Ryan
Courtesy Mark Ryan
Courtesy Mark Ryan