Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Life in the Universe, Reflected by the Moon

This view shows the thin crescent Moon setting over ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. Credit: ESO/B. Tafreshi/TWAN

Earthshine – a poetic, fanciful word for the soft, faint glow on the Moon when the light from the Sun is reflected from the Earth's surface, onto the dark part of the Moon. And as unlikely as it might seem, astronomers have used Earthshine to verify there’s life in the Universe: Us. While we already know about life on our own world, this technique validates that faint light from distant worlds could also be used to find potential alien life.

“We used a trick called earthshine observation to look at the Earth as if it were an exoplanet,” said Michael Sterzik from the European Southern Observatory. “The Sun shines on the Earth and this light is reflected back to the surface of the Moon. The lunar surface acts as a giant mirror and reflects the Earth’s light back to us — and this is what we have observed with the VLT (Very Large Telescope).”

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Nerdiest Video Game Ever!

New iPhone game is first NOAA app and only the second NASA game app. Just as with the real GOES-R, the challenge with Satellite Insight is to keep up with the massive influx of weather and other environmental data.

NASA has a job opening. Wanted: People of all ages to sort, stack, and catalogue terabytes of simulated data from a satellite that launches in 2015. Agile thumbs required.

Sorting terabytes of data? It's more fun than it sounds.

In fact it's a game: Satellite Insight. The Space Place Team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory created the entertaining app for iPhones to get the word out about GOES-R, an advanced Earth science satellite built by NOAA and NASA. Described by the Los Angeles Times as possibly the nerdiest game ever,"Satellite Insight" may be downloaded for free from Apple's app store. Be careful, though, once you start playing it's hard to stop. Some reviewers have likened it to Tetris, one of the most popular video games of all time.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Weekly SkyWatcher's Forecast - February 27-March 4, 2012

AE Aurigae - Credit: T.A.Rector and B.A.Wolpa/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Greetings, fellow SkyWatchers! It's going to be a great week for lunar studies and an even better time to study some interesting single stars. Need more? Then keep an eye on the skies as the Delta Leonid meteor shower heats up towards its later week peak. Get out those binoculars and telescopes and I'll see you in the backyard...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Recent Geologic Activity on the Moon?

Newly detected series of narrow linear troughs are known as graben, and they formed in highland materials on the lunar farside. These graben are located on a topographic rise with several hundred meters of relief revealed in topography derived from LROC stereo images. Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University/Smithsonian Institution.

Recent images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera provide evidence that the lunar crust may be pulling apart in certain areas. The images reveal small trenches less than a kilometer in length, and less than a few hundred meters wide. Only a small number of these features, known as graben, have been discovered on the lunar surface. There are several clues in the high-resolution images that provide evidence for recent geologic activity on the Moon.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Product Spotlight: Vixen Polaire

Vixen Polairie Star Tracker

Are you looking for an easy way to start yourself into astrophotography? Then check out the very uncomplicated and very affordable Vixen Polaire Star Tracker!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Weekly SkyWatcher's Forecast: February 19-25, 2012

Greetings, fellow SkyWatchers! It's going to be an awesome week as we watch the planets - Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Venus and Mercury - dance along the ecliptic plane. You don't even need a telescope for this show! But that's not all. We'll take a look at a wealth of bright star clusters, challenging studies and lots more. I'll see you in the back yard...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Skydiver Prepares for Record-Setting Freefall from the Edge of Space

In 2010, we reported on Felix Baumgartner and his upcoming attempt to break the sound barrier with his body, in a freefall from the edge of space. Part science experiment, part publicity stunt, part life-long ambition, the Red Bull Stratos mission will have Baumgartner traveling inside a capsule with a stratospheric balloon to 36,500 meters (120,000 feet), where he will step out and attempt a record-setting highest freefall jump ever. The mission was delayed by two years by a lawsuit, but Baumgartner’s jump is now back on, and will be attempted later this year, perhaps late summer or early fall 2012.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Product Spotlight - TeleVue Delos Eyepieces

TeleVue optical quality is a legend... and the legend continues with the new Delos eyepiece line. Designed by master optician, Paul Dellechiaie, this repertoire of the 6mm, 10mm and now a 17.3mm eyepiece sets a new standard in the mid-to-short focal length range. Delivering an outstanding 20mm of eye relief and a realistic 72° apparent field of view, these affordable optics are sure to please with their neutral color images, full field sharpness and virtually perfect f θ (theta) distortion mapping. Imagine putting these eyepieces to work on planets, lunar studies, distant galaxies and ethereal nebulae!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Weekly SkyWatcher's Forecast - February 12-18, 2012

Greetings, fellow SkyWatchers! As the Moon fades away, dark sky studies return and so do we as we take a look at a great collection of nebulae this week and expand your Herschel studies. Get out your binoculars and telescopes, because here's what's up!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Hubble’s 1923 Nova in Andromeda Erupts Again!

On December 11, 1923, Edwin Hubble discovered a nova in the Andromeda galaxy. Novae occurring in our Milky Way’s sister galaxy have proven to be not that uncommon, as there have been over 800 novae detected in M31 in the last 100 years. Hubble’s 1923 discovery became known as M31N 1923-12c, the third nova discovered in December of 1923.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Product Spotlight - Meade 6" SCT LS LightSwitch Telescope

For a lot of telescope users, aligning the telescope is always a frustrating experience - even when it is considered a "Go To". There's always something you have to know... Be it the perfectly correct time, the date, your latitude or longitude. How many new users have been stumped by not knowing the names of the alignment stars? Or not being able to see an alignment star that is blocked by a tree or a house? All of these little things can add up to beginning an observing evening in an unpleasant way and that's not what enjoying astronomy is all about.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Weekly SkyWatcher’s Forecast – February 5-11, 2012

Greetings, fellow SkyWatchers! At the beginning of this week we’ll enjoy lunar studies, but we’ll be hunting galaxies in Lepus before it ends! There are planets and more to explore, so get out your telescopes and binoculars, because here’s what’s up!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Toronto Teens Launch “Lego Man in Space”

Two Toronto Teens Launch 'Lego Man In Space' to the Stratosphere - Jan 2012
Stunning space imagery was captured by Canadian teenagers Mathew Ho and Asad Muhammad when they lofted a tiny ‘Lego Man in Space’ astronaut to an altitude of 16 miles (25 kilometers) precariosuly protruding from a helium filled weather balloon. Lego Man is holding the Canadian National flag. Earth's curvature and blackness of space in background. Credit: Mathew Ho and Asad Muhammad

Two teens from Toronto, Canada have launched “Lego Man in Space” using a helium filled weather balloon and captured stunning video of the miniature toy figure back dropped by the beautiful curvature of Earth and the desolate blackness of space that’s become a worldwide YouTube sensation - over 2 million hits !