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NJIT Astronomers Uncover an Aurora-like Display Above a Sunspot

Posted by Guy Pirro 05/17/2024 09:47PM

NJIT Astronomers Uncover an Aurora-like Display Above a Sunspot

Astronomers from New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Center for Solar-Terrestrial Research (NJIT-CSTR) have detailed radio observations of an extraordinary aurora-like display occurring 40,000 km above a relatively dark and cold sunspot on our Sun. The researchers say the novel radio emission shares characteristics with the auroral radio emissions commonly seen in planetary magnetospheres such as those around Earth. The discovery offers new insights into the origin of such intense solar radio bursts and potentially opens new avenues for understanding similar phenomena in distant stars with large “starspots.”

Excuse Me While I Kiss the Sky -- Month of May 2024

Posted by Guy Pirro 05/07/2024 07:14PM

Excuse Me While I Kiss the Sky -- Month of May 2024

Welcome to the night sky report for May 2024 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. See Mars, Saturn, and Mercury in the May morning sky and the eta Aquariid meteors, which peak on May 6th courtesy of remnants from Halleys Comet. In May, we are looking away from the crowded, dusty plane of our own galaxy toward a region where the sky is brimming with distant galaxies. Locate Virgo to find a concentration of roughly 2000 galaxies and search for Coma Berenices to identify many more. Coma Berenices is a great target for binoculars. Look for galaxies like M104 (Sombrero Galaxy), M87 (Virgo A Galaxy), and M64 (Black Eye Galaxy). The night sky is truly a celestial showcase. Get outside and explore its wonders from your own backyard.

Can You Hear Me Now? – VGER 1 Phones Home

Posted by Guy Pirro 04/27/2024 03:45PM

Can You Hear Me Now? – VGER 1 Phones Home

After some inventive sleuthing, the Voyager 1 mission team can — for the first time in five months — check the health and status of the most distant human-made object in existence. For the first time since November 2023, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft is returning usable data about the health and status of its onboard engineering systems. The next step is to enable the spacecraft to begin returning science data again. The probe and its twin, Voyager 2, are the only spacecraft to ever fly in interstellar space (the space between stars).

Gravastars -- Maybe Black Holes are not True Singularities After All

Posted by Guy Pirro 04/17/2024 01:43AM

Gravastars -- Maybe Black Holes are not True Singularities After All

If Gravitational Condensate Stars (or Gravastars) actually exist, they would look like black holes to distant observers. Two theoretical physicists at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany have found a new solution to Albert Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity where gravitational stars are structured like nested Russian Matryoshka dolls, with one Gravastar located inside another. This eliminates the need to treat black holes as singularities, which today creates a great conundrum for science. In 1916, German physicist Karl Schwarzschild found a solution to Albert Einstein’s equations of General Relativity where the center of a black hole consists of a singularity -- a point where space and time no longer exist, all physical laws (including Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity) no longer apply, and the principle of causality is suspended. In short, singularities present a great nuisance for science. Gravastars, if they exist, eliminate the need for singularities and should make everything much simpler. At least that is the line of reasoning that is being suggested.

Tomorrow’s Total Solar Eclipse Will be Even Grander than the Magnificent 2017 Eclipse

Posted by Guy Pirro 04/07/2024 06:29PM

Tomorrow’s Total Solar Eclipse Will be Even Grander than the Magnificent 2017 Eclipse

Tomorrow, April 8, 2024, the Moon’s shadow will sweep across the United States as millions view the total solar eclipse. For many, preparing for this event brings memories of the magnificent total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017. In 2017, an estimated 215 million US adults (88% of US adults) viewed the solar eclipse, either directly or online. They experienced the Moon pass in front of the Sun, blocking part or all of our closest star’s bright face. Weather permitting, tomorrow’s eclipse should be even more exciting due to differences in the path, timing, and scientific research.

Excuse Me While I Kiss the Sky -- Month of April 2024

Posted by Guy Pirro 04/04/2024 11:56PM

Excuse Me While I Kiss the Sky -- Month of April 2024

Welcome to the night sky report for April 2024 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. A total solar eclipse sweeps across the United States on April 8th, as the Moon's shadow moves from Texas northward through Maine. Areas outside totality will enjoy a partial eclipse. Also, there's still time to observe comet 12P this month. During April, near the Big Dipper you will find several interesting binary stars. You can also spot galaxies like the Pinwheel Galaxy (NGC 5457, M101), the Cigar Galaxy (NGC 3034, M82), and M96 (NGC 3368) -- the last of which is an asymmetric galaxy that may have been gravitationally disrupted by encounters with its neighbors. The night sky is truly a celestial showcase. Get outside and explore its wonders from your own backyard.

Good Bye Dark Matter and Dark Energy… Say Hello to Co-varying Coupled Constants and “Tired Light”

Posted by Guy Pirro 03/17/2024 05:41PM

Good Bye Dark Matter and Dark Energy… Say Hello to Co-varying Coupled Constants and “Tired Light”

Throughout history, we have seen many examples where scientists have simply invented ideas out of thin air to help explain away things that are just not understood at the time. Such may be the case with today’s infatuation with Dark Matter and Dark Energy. A new University of Ottawa study challenges the current model of the Universe by showing that it has no room for Dark Matter or Dark Energy. The model combines two ideas — about how the forces of nature decrease over cosmic time and about light losing energy when it travels a long distance (Tired Light). In some ways, the concepts of Dark Matter and Dark Energy bring to mind another imaginary concept -- the so called "Aether Wind" of the 1800s. Back then, everybody just "knew" that space was filled with an "Aether Wind." The problem was that no one had ever seen it or measured it… And in 1887, when Albert Michelson and Edward Morley set out to prove the existence of Aether Wind once and for all, their experiment failed spectacularly -- There was no such thing. Michelson eventually won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1907 for this work and became the first American to do so. These ideas may or may not pan out, but at least researchers are seriously considering other alternatives.

Giant Solar Storm Ejects Energetic Particles in All Directions

Posted by Guy Pirro 03/11/2024 05:21PM

Giant Solar Storm Ejects Energetic Particles in All Directions

April 17, 2021 was a day like any other day on the Sun, until a brilliant flash erupted and an enormous cloud of solar material billowed away from our star. Such outbursts from the Sun are not unusual, but this one was unusually widespread, hurling high-speed protons and electrons at velocities nearing the speed of light and striking several spacecraft across the inner solar system.

Excuse Me While I Kiss the Sky -- Month of March 2024

Posted by Guy Pirro 03/02/2024 04:52PM

Excuse Me While I Kiss the Sky -- Month of March 2024

Welcome to the night sky report for March 2024 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. There's a comet making its way into the inner Solar System that's already observable with a telescope and might start to become visible to the unaided eye by late March or in April. Comet 12P Pons-Brooks has been observed on several of its previous appearances going back hundreds of years and one thing it's known for is its occasional outbursts. In March, the stars of spring lie eastward. Look for the constellations Gemini and Cancer to spot interesting celestial features like star clusters M35, the Beehive Cluster (M44), and NGC 3923, an oblong elliptical galaxy with an interesting ripple pattern. Find the Y-shaped constellation Taurus, the bull, high in the southwest. The Hyades star cluster forms the bull's face. The night sky is truly a celestial showcase. Get outside and explore its wonders from your own backyard.

NASA’s Dragonfly Mission is Not Likely to Find Life on Saturn’s Largest Moon, Titan

Posted by Guy Pirro 02/24/2024 03:36AM

NASA’s Dragonfly Mission is Not Likely to Find Life on Saturn’s Largest Moon, Titan

A new study led by a team at Western University in Ontario, Canada finds that the subsurface ocean of Titan – the largest moon of Saturn – is most likely a non-habitable environment, meaning that any hope of finding life in this icy world is dead in the water. This is discouraging since Titan is the most organic-rich icy moon in the Solar System, so if its subsurface ocean turns out to be not habitable for life, it does not bode well for the habitability of other known icy worlds like Jupiter’s moons Europa and Ganymede and Saturn’s moon Enceladus. This finding, if proven correct, means it is far less likely that space scientists will ever find life in the outer Solar System planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

NASA Studies a 1 in 10,000 Year Gamma Ray Burst Dubbed “The BOAT” – The Brightest of All Time

Posted by Guy Pirro 02/08/2024 11:27PM

NASA Studies a 1 in 10,000 Year Gamma Ray Burst Dubbed “The BOAT” – The Brightest of All Time

On Sunday, October 9, 2022, a pulse of intense radiation swept through the Solar System so exceptional that astronomers quickly dubbed it the BOAT – the brightest of all time. After spending months combing through the data, astronomers now better understand its scientific impact. The source was a Gamma-Ray Burst (GRB), the most powerful class of explosions in the Universe. The burst triggered detectors on numerous spacecraft and immediately observatories around the globe followed up. The burst was so bright that it effectively blinded most gamma-ray instruments in space, which means they could not directly record the real intensity of the emission. US scientists were able to reconstruct this information from Fermi data. They then compared the results with those from the Russian team working on Konus data, as well as Chinese teams analyzing observations from their SATech-01 satellite and Insight-HXMT observatory. After combing through all of this data, astronomers can now characterize just how bright it was and better understand its scientific impact. Together, they showed that the burst was 70 times brighter than any yet seen.

Excuse Me While I Kiss the Sky -- Month of February 2024

Posted by Guy Pirro 02/06/2024 08:56PM

Excuse Me While I Kiss the Sky -- Month of February 2024

Welcome to the night sky report for February 2024 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. Venus is beginning its exit from the morning skies this month, just as Mars returns to visibility. In February, the Winter Triangle is your guide to the night sky. The northern hemisphere is treated to views of the stars Procyon, Sirius, and Betelgeuse, as well as awe-inspiring views of the Great Orion Nebula (M42, NGC 1976), sculpted by the stellar winds of central bright stars as well as Bode’s Galaxy (M81, NGC 3031). The night sky is truly a celestial showcase. Get outside and explore its wonders from your own backyard.

After Three Successful Years on Mars, NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter Mission Ends with a Broken Rotor Blade

Posted by Guy Pirro 02/01/2024 11:47PM

After Three Successful Years on Mars, NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter Mission Ends with a Broken Rotor Blade

NASA’s history-making Ingenuity Mars Helicopter has ended its mission at the Red Planet after surpassing expectations and making dozens more flights than planned. While the helicopter remains upright and in communication with ground controllers, imagery of its Jan. 18 flight sent to Earth this week indicates that one or more of its rotor blades sustained damage during landing and it is no longer capable of flight. Originally designed as a technology demonstration to perform five experimental test flights in a 30 day period, this first aircraft to fly on another world has operated from the Martian surface for almost three years, performed 72 flights, and has flown more than 14 times farther than originally planned.

Astronomers Discover the Most Massive Neutron Star… Or is it the Least Massive Black Hole?

Posted by Guy Pirro 01/24/2024 03:20PM

Astronomers Discover the Most Massive Neutron Star… Or is it the Least Massive Black Hole?

An international team of astronomers have discovered a massive dark object in orbit around a rapidly spinning millisecond pulsar. This unusual object was found as part of a binary system, a pulsar and an unknown compact object, in the globular cluster NGC 1851. Globular clusters are unique environments with hundreds of thousands of stars packed closely together, and likely places to produce strange cosmological pairs. While astronomers cannot conclusively say whether they have discovered the most massive neutron star known, the least massive black hole known, or even some new exotic star variant, what is certain is that they have uncovered a unique approach for probing the properties of matter under the most extreme conditions in the Universe.

Chalk One Up for the Little Guys -- Three Amateur Astronomers Make a Major Discovery of a Never-Before-Seen Filamentary Emission Nebula – How Did They Do It?

Posted by Guy Pirro 01/12/2024 10:16PM

Chalk One Up for the Little Guys -- Three Amateur Astronomers Make a Major Discovery of a Never-Before-Seen Filamentary Emission Nebula – How Did They Do It?

With hundreds of major observatories worldwide surveying the sky and extremely high-tech camera-equipped space telescopes zipping around the Solar System, one could expect that there's nothing left in space for an amateur astronomer to discover. Yet in 2022 three creative amateur astronomers/astrophotographers made a remarkable find in one of the most observed and photographed areas of the night sky – the Andromeda Galaxy. Marcel Drechsler, Xavier Strottner, and Yann Sainty discovered and photographed a never-before-seen oxygen [O III] emission arc next to our nearest spiral galaxy. The hours of hard work put in by these passionate amateurs earned them the top prize in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2023 competition, the world’s biggest space photography competition. It also earned them a place in the history books as the discoverers of a new filamentary emission nebula -- the Strottner-Drechsler-Sainty Object 1 (SDSO-1)… The amazing thing is that all of this was accomplished with an off-the-shelf 4-inch Takahashi refractor, an Oxygen-III (OIII) filter, and a lot of creativity and hard work.