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December 28 2013

16 Astronomical Events in 2014 and How to Watch Them

Few instances of regret are worse than missing rare astronomical events that come (sometimes literally) once in a lifetime. From witnessing breathtaking eclipses to experiencing the first time a significant comet passes by Earth, celestial events are humbling reminders of the universe's great vastness.

We rounded up some of the best shows the stars will put on in 2014, so you can plan well ahead and mark these in your calendars. Check out the gallery above and let us know what you think.

Image: Flickr, Kartik Ramanathan.

More about Space, Lists, Nasa, Features, and Astronomy

October 23 2013

Most Distant Galaxy in the Universe Discovered

On two evenings in April, the heavens felt closer. Cloudless and crisp, the stars blazed with a white-hot light, seemingly close enough to touch. High atop Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano, two researchers used the most powerful telescopes in the world to search for 43 potential distant galaxies.

However, despite the endless clear sky and two eight-story-tall instruments, only one galaxy stood out. And it was a doozy

It took 13 billion years for the light from the galaxy — known by its catalog name "z8_GND_5296" — to reach Earth. But it was worth the wait Read more...

More about Space, Nasa, Science, Universe, and Astronomy

October 03 2013

Strange Super-Earth Planet Has 'Plasma' Water Atmosphere

A nearby alien planet six times the size of Earth is covered with a water-rich atmosphere that includes a strange "plasma form" of water, scientists say.

Astronomers have determined that the atmosphere of super-Earth Gliese 1214 b is likely water-rich. However, this exoplanet is no Earth twin. The high temperature and density of the planet give it an atmosphere that differs dramatically from Earth.

"As the temperature and pressure are so high, water is not in a usual form (vapor, liquid, or solid), but in an ionic or plasma form at the bottom the atmosphere — namely the interior — of Gliese 1214 b," principle investigator Norio Narita of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan told SPACE.com by email Read more...

More about Space, Science, Planet, Astronomy, and Us World

September 17 2013

Gigantic Galaxy Cluster Blazes in Amazing New Hubble Photo

A new image from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shows an enormous collection of galaxies and star clusters in stunning detail.

Hubble spied 10,000 or so of the estimated 160,000 globular star groupings thought to reside in the huge galaxy cluster Abell 1689, which lies about 2.25 billion light-years away from Earth. For comparison, our own Milky Way galaxy has only about 150 globular clusters, which are spherical clumps of old stars tightly bound by gravity.

The telescope's new observations — which focused on the center of Abell 1689 and incorporated both visible and infrared data — could help shine a light on dark matter in the galaxy cluster's region. Dark matter is a mysterious substance believed to make up much of the universe but which can only be seen through its effects on other objects. [Take a video tour of the massive group of globular star clusters] Read more...

More about Space, Science, Stars, Astronomy, and Us World

August 24 2013

See Mars Align With Starry Twins Early Sunday

Early-bird stargazers with clear weather on Sunday can enjoy interesting predawn spectacle involving two bright stars and Mars, the Red Planet.

Mars is currently rising in the east-northeast just before 3:30 a.m. your local time. The Earth is very slowly catching up with Mars in its orbit around the sun, yet the Red Planet has not brightened much at all since early July.

Mars remains at a magnitude +1.6; closer to the ranking of a second magnitude object. Astronomers measure night-sky object brightness in terms of magnitude, in which lower numbers denote brighter objects. Stars and planets with negative number magnitudes are exceptionally bright Read more...

More about Space, Science, Astronomy, Mars, and Us World
A Year on 'Lava Planet' Is Only 8.5 Hours

Astronomers have discovered a hot Earth-size planet so close to its star that a year on that exoplanet lasts just 8.5 hours, making it one of the fastest alien planets ever seen.

The small orbital period — one of the shortest ever discovered for an alien planet among the worlds discovered by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope — means the planet is far outside what is considered the habitable zone of its star, where liquid water, and maybe life, could exist. In fact, scientists have described the new world as a so-called "lava planet."

The find, however, excites astronomers because the host star of the planet, called Kepler-78b, is bright enough for other telescopes to spot the world. This is a relieving note for the research team given that the Kepler Space Telescope's prime exoplanet mission officially ceased Thursday, scientists said. The spacecraft had to cut its prime planet-hunting mission short when two of its orientation-controlling reaction wheels failed Read more...

More about Space, Science, Astronomy, Us World, and World

August 20 2013

5 Amazing Facts About Tonight's Blue Moon

When the full moon rises on Tuesday night, it will technically be a Blue Moon, but not for the reason you might think.

The Blue Moon on Aug. 20 is not the second full moon of August, but actually gets its name from a relatively obscure rule of astronomy. And there are a few other details about the full moon that might surprise you.

So to celebrate the Blue Moon, here are five amazing facts about this month's full moon:

1. It's Not Really Blue

Okay, so not really a newsflash, but the Blue Moon's name actually has nothing to do with color. Occasionally, the full moon can take on a reddish pallor, but today's full moon is not related to the actual color of Earth's cosmic neighbor. The moon can appear blue in color if a forest fire or volcanic eruption litters the upper atmosphere with ash or smoke. A volcanic eruption gave the moon a bluish tint from the perspective of many people on Earth in 1991 Read more...

More about Space, Astronomy, Moon, Us World, and Us
Cool Video Shows Nebula Expanding Over 12 Years

When a supernova explodes and parts of the stars rush through space at 3 million miles per hour, you get an expanded nebula — and the chance to make a fabulous video

Astrophotographer Adam Block created a video showing how much the Crab Nebula has expanded over the past 12 years

He took two images of the nebula and placed them over each other and faded in and out. The first image was taken in 1999 by European Southern Observatory using the Very Large Telescope, which was not designed for photography. Block took the second image in 2012 at the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter using the Schulman Telescope, which is designed for astrophotography Read more...

More about Space, Science, Astronomy, Us World, and World

August 12 2013

The Perseid Meteor Shower in 6 Phenomenal Photos

The Perseid meteor shower puts on a fiery nighttime show for us every year, but its stunning dance never gets old

Peaking on Aug. 11 and 12, this year's Perseid meteor shower is especially significant because NASA recently uncovered that this annual display produces more fireballs than any other shower. Perseid meteoroids hit Earth's atmosphere at 132,000 miles per hour, creating that signature light show

Large meteor showers like the Perseids — and the Leonids in November — occur when Earth and its atmosphere travel through a region of the sky filled with leftover debris lost by a particular comet. The Perseids are actually small fragments from the tail of comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun once every 130 years, according to NASA Read more...

More about Space, Nasa, Astronomy, Perseid Meteor Shower, and Us World

May 14 2013

Hyperactive Sun Fires Off 3 Major Solar Flares in 1 Day

The sun, it seems, is in overdrive. Late Monday night, the sun unleashed its third major solar flare in 24 hours — the biggest and most powerful solar storm of the year, so far

This latest sun storm erupted Monday at 9:11 p.m. EDT and registered as an X3.2 solar flare, one of the strongest types of flares the sun can release, space weather officials said. It came on the heels of two other recent X-class solar flares on Sunday night and Monday, all of which were sparked by a highly active sunspot on the sun's far left side.

Officials at the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo., appeared amazed at the intense activity from the crackling sunspot Read more...

More about Sun, Space, Nasa, Science, and Astronomy

July 08 2011

Space Exploration: 9 Private Sector Companies Ready to Take Off

When Atlantis launched on Friday morning, it was the last of NASA’s space shuttle flights.

The event marks the end of a 30-year program that has put 777 people in orbit.

But it is not the end of space exploration in the United States. Companies have been engaging in a private sector space race alongside and in partnership with NASA for quite some time.

SEE ALSO: Space Shuttle Launch: Photos from the Final Atlantis Flight

In April, NASA awarded four of these companies $269 million to develop spacecraft, and companies in the private sector have also established expertise in other aspects of space travel, like space suits and climate control. Some are even famously selling tickets for consumer space flights.

Here are what some of the most established and most promising of the space startups are working on.

1. Armadillo Aerospace

What it does: Builds reusable rocket-powered vehicles.

Claim to fame: An exclusive agreement with Space Adventures, a consumer space travel company. "Eventually, we wish to provide a platform for civilian flights to suborbital space, and ultimately, we plan to reach orbit," reads the site's FAQ.

2. Bigelow Aerospace

What it does: "Expandable space habitat technology." The company creates space stations that have more breathing room than your everyday "aluminum can" International Space Station by using inflatable components. Eventually it hopes to lease space on one of its stations for experiments and research. Two prototypes are already in orbit.

Great Expectations: "We anticipate construction of our first space station to begin with a Sundancer launched in early 2014, and that by 2015 the station will be available for client use," says Bigelow's website.

3. Blue Origin

What it does: Develops vehicles and technologies to lower the cost and increase the reliability of human access to space.

What Amazon and space have in common: Blue Origin is owned by Amazon-founder Jeff Bezos.

4. Oribital Sciences

What it does: About 3,700 employees help make space launch vehicles, missile defense systems and satellites as well as offer space technical services at this more than 29-year-old company. It's like a department store for space.

Claim to Fame: In 2002, the company signed its largest contract ever: $900 million to develop, build, test and support missile interceptor booster vehicles for the Boeing Company.

5. Paragon Space Development

What it does: Makes environmental controls for extreme and hazardous environments, like space.

Claims to fame: Paragon is responsible for the first full-motion, long-duration video (4 months, 60 total minutes) of plant and animal growth on orbit, the first multigenerational animal experiment in space and the first commercial experiment on the International Space Station.

6. Virgin Galactic

What it does: Sells tickets for consumer space trips. The company has already sold about 430 tickets.

Cost per ticket: $200,000

7. XCOR Aerospace

What it does: Flight vehicles, piston pumps and rocket engines. And of course, consumer sub-orbital space travel. Its two rocket-powered vehicles, the X-Racer and EX-Rocket, have safely completed 67 piloted demonstrations.

Cost per ticket: $95,000

8. Spaceport America

What it does: Maintains a spaceport (like a seaport for ships or an airport for airplanes). Consumer space flight company Virgin Galactic recently signed a 20-year lease agreement to make the spaceport its headquarters.

Claim to Fame: The first purpose-built commercial spaceport.

9. SpaceX

What it does: Space transport. Eventually wants to put a man on Mars.

Famous Founder: SpaceX was founded by Elon Musk, the cofounder of PayPal and Tesla Motors.

More About: astronomy, Atlantis, List, Lists, Science, space, startups, tech

For more Tech & Gadgets coverage:

Space Tweets: 23 Must-Follow Twitter Accounts for Astronomy Lovers

Let’s face it — we all wanted to go to space camp when we were little. Here’s a list of people who probably did, and then forged careers from their obsessions with the final frontier.

Twitter provides a wealth of space information. NASA’s comprehensive Twitter presence tracks all of their space missions and astronauts. Physicists and space writers constantly pose theories on the future of space exploration. And space advocates get behind Congressional policy. So click the follow buttons to space out your Twitter feed!

Please let us know your favorite galactic tweeters in the comments below.

1. @NASA

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A convenient feed for all things NASA, including launch news, astronaut updates, space discoveries and interactive media.

2. @nasa_astronauts

A handy little tool to keep track of NASA astronauts in one convenient Twitter feed.

3. @Astro_Ron

One of the astronauts currently tweeting from space, with hashtag #fromspace.

4. @Astro_Satoshi

Another astronaut currently in space, Satoshi's tweets keep you on the edge of your seat: "It’s been the one got closest to ISS ever. The relative speed was 13km/second.If it hit ISS, it would have been a disaster with holes on ISS."

5. @Astro_Mike

The first astronaut to tweet from space, Mike Massimino tweets like a regular guy despite his orbital credentials.

6. @Astro_Naoko

She tweets mostly in Japanese, but translate astronaut Naoko Yamazaki's feed to hear about her experiences logging over 362 hours in space.

7. @Astro_Nicole

Astronaut Nicole Stott presents her space perspective with photos like this.

8. @Astro_Soichi

Astronaut Soichi Noguchi plays guessing games with his space twitpics.

9. @ClaraMoskowitz

Space.com writer Clara Moskowitz lets her geeky space enthusiasm shine brightly!

10. @garrettlisi

Physicist and thrill-seeker Garrett Lisi does motocross and gets "lifted to a hundred feet by a crane, and rappelled from the sixth floor window of a fire crisped building." Oh, and he also tweets about space.

11. @ProfBrianCox

A research fellow in the particle physics department at the University of Manchester, Brian Cox applies political and economic spin to space travel.

12. @badastronomer

Snarky tweeter and astronomer Phil Plait petitions for Congressional funding for space exploration.

13. @neiltyson

Astrophysicist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson gets snarky about the state and funding of space exploration today.

14. @michiokaku

Best-selling author and physicist Michio Kaku shares blog posts from his own wealth of knowledge.

15. @astronomymag

Astronomy Magazine publishes a great collection of space news and entertainment. Plus they tweet about "zombie stars."

16. @SETIInstitute

The institute poses cutting-edge theories and arguments for the prospect of contacting extra terrestrial life.

17. @SPACEdotcom

Space.com is a go-to source for space news - very comprehensive!

18. @chandraxray

Part of Chandra's mission is to study black holes - let's hope it doesn't get sucked into another Twitter dimension!

19. @NASA_Hubble

The good ol' Hubble telescope tweets charming and poignant pictures.

20. @CassiniSaturn

If you like it, then put a ring on it. The Cassini spacecraft gathers stunning data and images of Saturn's rings, moons and storms.

21. @NASAVoyager

This feed posts occasional updates fom NASA’s twin Voyager 1 & 2 spacecraft.

22. @AsteroidWatch

NASA's official Asteroid Watch on Twitter tracks the celestial bodies as they near earth, and provides photos and videos of their paths across the sky.

23. @NASAWebbTelescp

Although it's looking at a 2018 launch date, this feed includes preparations and building procedures for the future Webb Telescope.

Image courtesy of Sweetie187.

More About: astronomy, NASA, social media, space, tweet, twitter

For more Social Media coverage:

June 15 2011

Watch the Lunar Eclipse Live on YouTube

At 11:20 a.m. PT Wednesday, a total, 100-minute-long lunar eclipse will be visible in South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.

If you’re not from those parts, Google and Slooh have prepared a myriad of options that let you enjoy the lunar eclipse from the relative safety of your couch.

Perhaps the simplest way to watch the lunar eclipse is to tune into the live streaming video on Google’s official YouTube channel.

You can also follow the event on Slooh’s mission interface, together with narration from astronomers, or you can watch it from the Sky layer in Google Earth by downloading this .kml file. Finally, you can see images from the eclipse on your Android phone by downloading the Slooh Space Camera Android app.

Can’t wait for the eclipse to start? Here are some pictures posted by Twitter users during last December’s eclipse:


via @hjortur

A Moon In Hand...

via @yannamahkenzzi

Moon Over Manhattan

via @isardasorensen

Wide Angle Shot

via @FLXstrmch8rs

Eclipse Over Space Shuttle Discovery

via @NASAKennedy

Image courtesy of Google

More About: astronomy, Google, Lunar Eclipse, moon, Slooth, youtube

For more Video coverage:

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