Stories tagged astronomy

Scratched and dented: This infrared image of Jupiter shows the impact site where something hit the planet last week.
Scratched and dented: This infrared image of Jupiter shows the impact site where something hit the planet last week.Courtesy NASA
It's tough being the big guy on the block. Last week Jupiter got nicked by something flying through space. And an amateur astronomer discovered it. Read more about it here!

A 14-year-old girl in New York state has become the youngest person ever to discover a supernova. The supernova is the weakest ever seen, and may indicate a whole new class of stellar events.


The moon stands alone: Astronomers are trying to determine if transient lunar phenonena on the moon are strange gas emissions from the satellite's core.
The moon stands alone: Astronomers are trying to determine if transient lunar phenonena on the moon are strange gas emissions from the satellite's core.Courtesy NASA Johnson Space Center - Earth Sciences and Image Analysis (NASA-JSC-ES&IA)
The moon is just one big dead hunk of rock circling around our Earth, right?

Well, not exactly. Some astronomers are getting curious about an annoying habit that shows up frequently enough in their telescopic viewings of the moon. They want to know if it is, um, cutting the cheese in regular intervals, if you know what I mean.

Since folks with telescopes have been looking at the moon for over 400 years, they’ve observed this occasional weird phenomenon where specific areas of the moon suddenly get bright and/or blurry for a few minutes. Over the age of astronomy, about 1,500 such events have been witnessed and recorded.

Is it just their tired eyes playing a trick on them or is there something odd going on here?

Some contend the effect – scientifically called transient lunar phenomena (TLP) – is just a funky lighting effect of the sun’s rays grazing a crater at an odd angle. But astrophysicist Arlin Crotts of Columbia University thinks there’s more to the situation.

His theory is that the moon is still undergoing geological changes. The TLPs are the result of radon-like gas releases from the moon’s core working their way to the surfacing and kicking up lunar dust.

Well, the moon can’t be sneaky with its TLP efforts anymore. Two observatories are now keeping the moon in their sights permanently with robotic telescopes well into 2010. One is located in New York and the other in Chile. They’ll be taking images of the moon every 20 seconds looking for TLPs. The images are then put into a computer and analyzed. If a TLP is spotted, moon-orbiting satellites are notified to zoom their attention to the site or a better look.

Why all this effort to see if the moon really has a gas problem?

First, learning more about this geological behavior could tell us more about the moon’s creation and early life, researchers say. Also, learning more about the moon’s geology – and any potential water resources that might be under its surface – could be a huge boom for future space missions to the moon’s surface.

Plus, and this is just my own reasoning, if we can determine TLPs are indeed gas emissions from the moon, we’ll have a reliable source to blame for all rude odors that no one wants to take credit for.

Each week, CNN posts a collection of space images. This week, you can see the green comet Lulin, thousands of satellites orbiting Earth, and some photos from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Making what is believed to be its first pass through our solar system, Comet Lulin will be passing by Earth tonight at its closest point to us on its celestial voyage. Full details are here from National Geographic. Despite its close tracking tonight to our planet, about 38 million miles, you'll still need to use a telescope or binoculars to see it. As a new comet, Lulin has just started to burn the frozen chemicals that make up its composition on this pass around the sun, giving astronomers a rare chance to see what happens with a brand-new comet

Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamondsCourtesy Travis Metcalfe and Ruth Bazinet, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Just in time for Valentine's Day, astronomers discovered a star Feb. 13, 2004 that is thought to be a diamond crystal weighing 10 billion trillion trillion carats.

Click this link to learn more about Lucy, the star made out of diamond.

So we've been stuck in the deep freeze in Minnesota for a while. I'm ready to go to HD80606b. You haven't heard of it? It's a newly discovered planet that has hot weather. Extremely hot weather that can climb by 1,200 degrees in just hours. Read more about it here. Now where did I put my sunscreen?


Catholic Pope salutes 400 year anniversary of Galileo and his telescope

Galileo telescope replica
Galileo telescope replicaCourtesy Michael Dunn
Pope Benedict XVI chose today's winter solstice to remark that the 400th anniversary of Galileo's use of a telescope is soon upon us. Galileo was condemned by the Catholic Church for supporting Nicholas Copernicus' discovery that the Earth revolved around the sun. In 1992, Pope John Paul II apologized, saying that the denunciation was a tragic error.

Benedict said understanding the laws of nature can stimulate understanding and appreciation of the Lord's works. Newsvine

International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009)

2009 has been designated International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). I recommend checking out the International Year of Astronomy website for news and events.

The vision of IYA2009

The vision of IYA2009 is to help people rediscover their place in the Universe through the sky, and thereby engage a personal sense of wonder and discovery.

Learn more about IYA2009