Stories tagged stars


This amazing video from NASA (via EarthSky) shows an incredibly gigantic eruption on the Sun's surface that produced three different types of events: a solar flare, a coronal mass ejection (CME), and a really interesting and rare phenomenon known as coronal rain.

Coronal rain occurs when hot plasma in the eruption cools and condenses then follows the outline of the normally invisible magnetic fields as it rains back to the Sun's chromosphere. I found that particularly amazing to see.
The images were gathered on July 19, 2012 by the Solar Dynamics Observatory’s AIA instrument. One frame was shot every 12 seconds over a span of 21.5 hours from 12:30 a.m. EDT to 10:00 p.m. EDT. The video plays at a rate of 30 frames per second, so each second equals 6 minutes of real time.

What's extra cool is when the scale of this thing is compared to the size of Earth­. If you were feeling small earlier today, you should be feeling microscopic after watching this.

EarthSky website


GLOBE at Night
GLOBE at NightCourtesy GLOBE at Night
(This post is a copy and paste of an email I received for this interesting citizen scientist activity...)

What would it be like without stars at night? What is it we lose? Starry night skies have given us poetry, art, music and the wonder to explore. A bright night sky (aka light pollution) affects energy consumption, health and wildlife too. Spend a few minutes to help scientists by measuring the brightness of your night sky. Join the GLOBE at Night citizen-science campaign. There are 5 GLOBE at Night campaigns in 2013: January 3 - 12, January 31 - February 9, March 3 - 12, March 31 - April 9, and April 29 - May 8. Make a difference and join the GLOBE at Night campaign.

GLOBE at Night is a worldwide, hands-on science and education program to encourage citizen-scientists worldwide to record the brightness of their night sky. During five select sets of dates in 2013, children and adults match the appearance of a constellation (Orion or Leo in the northern hemisphere, and Orion and Crux in the southern hemisphere) with seven star charts of progressively fainter stars. Participants then submit their choice of star chart with their date, time and location. This can be done by computer (after the measurement) or by smart phone or pad (during the measurement). From these data an interactive map of all worldwide observations is created. Over the past 7 years of 10-day campaigns, people in 115 countries have contributed over 83,000 measurements, making GLOBE at Night the most successful, light pollution citizen-science campaign to date. The GLOBE at Night website is easy to use, comprehensive, and holds an abundance of background information. Through GLOBE at Night, students, teachers, parents and community members are amassing a data set from which they can explore the nature of light pollution locally and across the globe.

Listen to a fun skit on GLOBE at Night in a 7-minute audio podcast here.

Starry Night: Vincent Van Gogh's masterpiece.
Starry Night: Vincent Van Gogh's masterpiece.Courtesy Wikipedia
Check 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.

Science Buzz in galaxies: You can put your own name in galactic lights!
Science Buzz in galaxies: You can put your own name in galactic lights!Courtesy My Galaxies
Ever wanted to be a star? Or see your name in lights? Or be a light, and see your name in stars? Or, to be more specific, starlight? Or to be even more specific, galactic light? I better stop with that. Just go check out this website where you have your name or any other message translated into the celestial light of billions and billions of stars, i.e. galaxies. I did that "Science Buzz" one in the picture.

My Galaxies website

Supernova in the Pinwheel Galaxy
Supernova in the Pinwheel GalaxyCourtesy Thunderf00t via Wikimedia Commons
In the coming nights, a nearby supernova should be visible using just a pair of binoculars. Located in the Pinwheel Galaxy ( aka NGC 5457) , the supernova, designated PTF 11kly was first detected earlier this week, and is estimated to be 21 million light-years from Earth - fairly close in astronomical terms. According to this report in Reuters, the supernova "will appear, blueish-white, just above and to the left of the last two stars in the Big Dipper handle". At its peak brightness, the phenomenon will outshine all the stars in the Pinwheel Galaxy. This particular kind of supernova, classified as a "Type 1a" event, takes place when an Earth-sizes white dwarf star packed with more mass than our sun suddenly explodes in a thermonuclear blaze of glory. The massive explosion blasts the star's matter out into space in all directions. This stellar material is used in the creation new stars and planets. Past supernova are the reason there are heavy elements in the universe. And speaking of the past, if you're lucky enough to spot PTF 11kly, you'll actually be looking back in time. The light from the exploding star that will be hitting your eyes this week left the Pinwheel Galaxy 21 million years ago. That's a long wait, but I'm sure it will be worth it.

In this recent Ted Talk, historian David Christian of the Australian Academy of the Humanities lays out a Big History of the universe from the Big Bang to the internet, complete with many thresholds and all sorts of complexity.

Twinkle, twinkle little star, how many of you out there are: Start counting right now and you might have a chance to figure out how many stars are up in the heavens.
Twinkle, twinkle little star, how many of you out there are: Start counting right now and you might have a chance to figure out how many stars are up in the heavens.Courtesy European Space Agency
Here in Minnesota we live the land of political recounts. But in the world of astronomy, a recount on the density of the heavens is leading to the conclusion there might be three times as many stars in the sky than we have thought in the past. Just how many stars are there? You'll have to click this link to get that astronomically large number.

It's Friday, so it's time for another Science Friday video. Science Friday
Science Friday
Courtesy Science Friday
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), launched in February, has started to send back data. The instruments are giving solar scientists an unprecedented look at the sun, says Dean Pesnell, SDO project scientist. The hope is to better understand how solar activity--solar flares, coronal mass ejections, coronal holes--is linked to the sun's magnetic field.

VY Canis Majoris v. our Sun: No contest.
VY Canis Majoris v. our Sun: No contest.Courtesy Public domain
If you’re like me, you’re fretting about what to buy your significant other this coming holiday season. Let it go. We have bigger problems. There’s a humongous star in the constellation Canis Major that’s in its final death throes and could go supernova at any time. VY Canis Majoris, as it is referenced, is the largest star known to science, and is so huge, if it were placed in the center of our Solar System, it would encompass all the space between our Sun and the orbit of the planet Saturn (see diagram). But don’t worry, the unstable red hypergiant is nearly 5000 light-years away, and is being monitored closely (in far-infrared and submillimeter portions of the light spectrum) by the European Space Agency's new space telescope Herschel. Read more here about what's actually going on.

More about the Herschel space observatory

Ever wondered if black holes really do exist? Most of us, at one time or another, have learned about what I would call the creepy part of outerspace: black holes. The idea of an object with such a strong gravitational force that even light cannot escape it's pull, is absolutely mind-boggling to me. Despite having learned about the concept in school, black holes have remained such a mystery that it's hard for me to really conceptualize their existence. However, today there is even more concrete evidence of a supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way galaxy! Take a look at this website for more information on this story.