This Week’s Sky: August 22nd-27th

Monday, August 22nd:  Jupiter and Venus continue their close dance in the sky. After sunset they rise 6˚ apart due west.  Venus is the the right of Jupiter.  We can’t forget about Mercury, positioned 4˚ to Jupiter’s lower left.  The Moon is 83% visible as a waning gibbous, with moonrise …

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Oxygen May Not Always Lead to Life

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The search for alien worlds has expanded into its own branch of astronomical research.  The prospect of finding “Earth Proxima” or Earth 2.0 not only excites the imagination, but also represents a tangible possibility in what could be the near future.  According the NASA’s Exoplanet Archive, as of August 18th, …

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Inside Our Solar System: Planet Mercury

Planet Mercury. Image credit and copyright: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Surface:  The first planet from the Sun, Mercury’s small size (4,879 kilometers in diameter- the smallest planet in the Solar System) deceptively hides its extreme nature.  Surface temperatures can reach a scorching 800 degrees Fahrenheit (430 degrees Celsius) during the day, only to drop 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit to a nighttime …

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This Week’s Sky: August 14th-20th

The 2010 Perseids over the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT)

Sunday, August 14th  Jupiter shines at a magnitude -1.7 within the western portion of the Virgo constellation a half hour after sunset.   Since it is low in the sky- around 10 degrees high- the planet’s detail is limited when seen through a telescope.  During the predawn hours, M31, the Andromeda …

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New Clue in the Mystery of the Green Blob and the Disappearing Quasar

Galaxy IC 2497 above Hanny's Voorwerp.  Image credit and copyright- X-ray: NASA/CXC/ETH Zurich/L.Sartori et al, Optical: NASA/STScI

Hanny’s Voorwerp- Dutch for “Hanny’s Object” and more casually known as the “Green Blob”- is an intergalactic gas cloud located approximately 680 million light-years from Earth. Adjacent to Hanny’s Voorwerp is IC 2497, a galaxy approximately 200,000 light-years from Earth and similar in size to our own galaxy, the Milky …

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Skywatching: The Iconic Summer Triangle

Image credit and copyright: Alan Dyer

Look directly overhead at 10:30 pm EDT and you will see Vega- the brightest star in the constellation Lyra and the fifth brightest in the night sky. Using Vega as a reference point, Altair is located to the lower left (southeast) and Deneb to the left (east). Together, these three …

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Origins: The Hubble Space Telescope

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Since the 1920s, astronomers have struggled to deal with the very thing that keeps humanity alive: the atmosphere.  Although it provides a relatively stable and hospitable climate on Earth, it also makes studying the cosmos from Earth challenging.  The atmosphere absorbs ultraviolet light, x-rays, and gamma rays, an important attribute …

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Your Guide to the 2016 Perseid Meteor Shower

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Considered by many as the best annual sky watcher’s event, this August the Perseid meteor shower dazzles dark skies.  Even though the shower reaches its peak the 11th through the 13th, often the best time to view, do not neglect the nights leading up to shower’s climax. Often they can …

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The Search for “Earth Proxima” Inspires Magical Short Documentary

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One of the most complex, and often controversial, questions mankind has ever faced: Are we alone? When asking such a question, it may be in reference to spirituality or even theories such as the possibility of ghosts. However, we are discussing the existence of another Earth-like planet, potentially leading to …

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Hello Jupiter! NASA’s Juno Mission to Explore the Planet Soon Begins

Artistic portrayal of Juno and Jupiter. Image credit: NASA.

Hello Jupiter! This Independence Day not only marks the formation of the United States of America, but also the day NASA’s Juno spacecraft will reach Jupiter.  After nearly five years and 1,740 million miles (20 meters), Juno will be pulled into orbit around the gas giant, beginning its year and …

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