NASA Confirms Solar Tsunamis

24 11 2009

The sun. It's big, hot, and apparently, occasionally subject to some serious turbulence.

Scientists at NASA have confirmed earlier observations of wavelike events on the solar surface as being truly stellar tsunamis. NASA is good at putting out really great press releases, and they know a heck of a lot more about this than I do, so I’m just going to point you to their site. Make sure you check out the videos!

The sun is awesome. “Some matter in a ball,” indeed.

-Neil

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Leonid Meteor Shower Peaks Last Night!!

17 11 2009

An 1833 depiction of the Leonid Meteor Shower.

Thousands of you are coming here for information on the shower, but I don’t have a post up about today’s event! So here it is!

The Leonid Meteor shower occurs every year when Earth passes through the cloud of debris left behind by the passage of the comet Temple-Tuttle. Specks of dust are rapidly heated upon contact with our atmosphere and glow spectacularly for a brief moment. If you want to catch a glimpse of our brush with this cometary dust cloud, tonight is a good night. Last night was technically the peak, but since the cloud of dust is fairly large, Leonid meteors should be visible tonight and tomorrow as well. Some folks have reported some brilliant displays, so if you’re awake you may as well take a look. In any case if you decide to check out the event, just find a nice spot with a good view of as much of the sky as possible. Make sure it’s dark and free from light pollution. Then relax on your back and enjoy the show! Oh – some additional viewing tips from someone who knows his stuff:

It’s more important to orient looking away from sources of light pollution – especially the moon if it’s up. If possible, orient so these light sources are blocked from your visual field by objects in your surroundings. This will encourage your pupils to open a bit wider, and allow seeing fainter meteors. Orient toward the holes in the clouds, if any. Orient so that the place where you are lying is comfortable. Aaahhh!

Have fun and dress warm!!

-Neil

 





Water on the Moon Confirmed

13 11 2009
Full_Moon_Luc_Viatour

You can spot the water, can't you?

And another layer of the cosmic onion is peeled back! Scientists from NASA’s LCROSS project have confirmed their previously hesitant assertion that water exists on our moon in the permanent shade of its impact craters. I’m going to defer to the public relations folks at NASA on this one and just send you to their press release, which contains nice charts and pictures to help bring the issue into focus.

So go ahead, and click this link!

I’m hardly qualified to speak on the full implications of the discovery of water on the moon, but I suppose I could outline at least one provocative point. The existence of water on the moon makes human settlement there far more simple. With accessible frozen water (and ample sunlight for hydrolysis), we have a source of oxygen (for breathing) and hydrogen (for fuel). We also of course have the water itself that can be melted and used for drinking or for any of the other myriad purposes water can fulfill. The moon is of course still relatively inhospitable, and I would not expect resorts to start springing up there any time soon, but the presence of frozen water does make the prospect of limited colonization or the establishment of permanent bases a bit more likely.

Until next time, Earthlings!

-Neil
P.S. The lovely photo of the moon was taken by Luc Viatour.





All Episodes of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos Are Available Online!!

30 10 2009
carl_sagan

Just look at him. As majestic as the Milky Way.

 

Holy Moley did I cry with joy when I learned this. Our friends at Hulu have put up all thirteen episodes of Carl Sagan’s magnum opus, Cosmos. If you’re unfamiliar with Cosmos, it’s an awesome series. Sagan explores a different topic each episode, outlining a particular feature of our wonderful universe with his characteristic awe and infectious enthusiasm. Stars, galaxies, the formation of the Earth? The origins of the elements, the subtleties of star death? You’ll find it here! I whole heartedly recommend you watch every single episode. Dang, it’s just so cool!
Go now! Go and be entertained and educated!

 

-Neil





Orionid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight!

20 10 2009
A 19th century engraving of a meteor shower. This image is earning its keep!

A 19th century engraving of a meteor shower. This image is earning its keep!

Listen up surface dwellers, because there’s not much time ! In just a few short hours, the Orionid meteor shower will be peaking! That’s right! The night of Tuesday, October 20th into the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday, October 21st is the time for curious humans to look upward and catch a glimpse of dusty leavings from Halley’s Comet streaking through our humble atmosphere! Get some blankets, some coffee, and some friends, orient yourself toward the constellation Orion, and enjoy! This sight comes but once a year.

-Neil





New Ring of Saturn Discovered

7 10 2009

With an astonishing 12.5 MILLION kilometer radius, the ring is the biggest of its kind known in the solar system. Check out Scientific American’s discussion of the discovery by clicking this pretty little line!

As our technology develops, we see more and more. As we see more, our technology develops. As our technology develops, we see more and more. As we see more…

Neil

PS Leaf color changing post coming soon! Soon you will know the why and how of fall colors! Hooray!





Any Questions?

10 09 2009

Cool news. A fellow who works on public outreach for the Hubble program has consented to my asking him a few questions. If any of you fine people out there have any questions YOU want answered, just put them in a comment after this post or send me an email at dangthatscool@gmail.com. Ask about Hubble, the new Webb telescope, whatever.

-Neil