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'Brighter than a full moon': The biggest star of 2013... could be Ison - the comet of the century - Science - News

'Brighter than a full moon': The biggest star of 2013... could be Ison - the comet of the century - Science - News
Comet Ison could draw millions out into the dark to witness what could be the brightest comet seen in many generations – brighter even than the full Moon. It was found as a blur on an electronic image of the night sky taken through a telescope at the Kislovodsk Observatory in Russia as part of a project to survey the sky looking for comets and asteroids – chunks of rock and ice that litter space. Astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok were expecting to use the International Scientific Optical Network's (Ison) 40cm telescope on the night of 20 September but clouds halted their plans. It was a frustrating night but about half an hour prior to the beginning of morning twilight, they noticed the sky was clearing and got the telescope and camera up and running to obtain some survey images in the constellations of Gemini and Cancer. When the images were obtained Nevski loaded them into a computer program designed to detect asteroids and comets moving between images. Related:  local sol

Yep, we just smashed two spacecraft into the Moon Not sure if this is tongue in cheek comment, but how would you propose to recycle them when they are in orbit around the moon with no fuel? It's not like we have a service truck to go out there and do an easy pick-up like a regular washing machine. Also, the controlled crash revealed information about the crust so it was still worthwhile scientifically. It was fully tongue-and-cheek. As it turns out, due to gravitational anomalies (remnants of old impacts under the surface, not any woo-woo with gravity), it's essentially impossible to maintain a stable, low orbit around the moon. Well, if they were going to crash anyway, might as well control it and learn something in the process. If they can get recycling service orbiting the moon, that's just gonna make me angrier that we still don't have it in my neighborhood.

The final frontier of a son’s awe – and abject fear For most people, Feb. 1, 2003, passed like any other day. Sure, a pretty big disaster dominated the headlines: The space shuttle Columbia disintegrated as it re-entered the atmosphere, raining down bits of metal and debris on the lawns of some Texans. But at the end of the news cycle, most people ate dinner and drifted off to sleep. For me, however, it was different. Growing up the son of an astronaut sounds glamorous, and in many ways it is. I didn’t quite understand how lucky we were to have that access, but I always expected it to be there. Columbia changed all that. The news networks milked the disaster as long as they could, then moved on. My father’s previous spaceflight (STS-100) had occurred less than two years before Columbia, which meant that, regardless of scheduling changes related to the disaster, he wouldn’t be flying again any time soon. Then, in early 2008, Dad got a new assignment. I’d learned what failure means in my father’s line of work. Yes, I’m terrified.

Radio telescopes capture best-ever snapshot of black hole jets An international team, including NASA-funded researchers, using radio telescopes located throughout the Southern Hemisphere has produced the most detailed image of particle jets erupting from a supermassive black hole in a nearby galaxy. "These jets arise as infalling matter approaches the black hole, but we don't yet know the details of how they form and maintain themselves," said Cornelia Mueller, the study's lead author and a doctoral student at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany. The new image shows a region less than 4.2 light-years across -- less than the distance between our sun and the nearest star. Radio-emitting features as small as 15 light-days can be seen, making this the highest-resolution view of galactic jets ever made. The study will appear in the June issue of Astronomy and Astrophysics and is available online. Mueller and her team targeted Centaurus A (Cen A), a nearby galaxy with a supermassive black hole weighing 55 million times the sun's mass.

The Sun's Magnetic Field is about to Flip The Sun's Magnetic Field is about to Flip August 5, 2013: Something big is about to happen on the sun. According to measurements from NASA-supported observatories, the sun's vast magnetic field is about to flip. "It looks like we're no more than 3 to 4 months away from a complete field reversal," says solar physicist Todd Hoeksema of Stanford University. The sun's magnetic field changes polarity approximately every 11 years. Hoeksema is the director of Stanford's Wilcox Solar Observatory, one of the few observatories in the world that monitor the sun's polar magnetic fields. Solar physicist Phil Scherrer, also at Stanford, describes what happens: "The sun's polar magnetic fields weaken, go to zero, and then emerge again with the opposite polarity. A reversal of the sun's magnetic field is, literally, a big event. When solar physicists talk about solar field reversals, their conversation often centers on the "current sheet." During field reversals, the current sheet becomes very wavy.

Why Explore Space? . Specifically, she asked how he could suggest spending billions of dollars on such a project at a time when so many children were starving on Earth. Stuhlinger soon sent the following letter of explanation to Sister Jucunda, along with a copy of "Earthrise," the iconic photograph of Earth taken in 1968 by astronaut William Anders, from the Moon (also embedded in the transcript). May 6, 1970Dear Sister Mary Jucunda:Your letter was one of many which are reaching me every day, but it has touched me more deeply than all the others because it came so much from the depths of a searching mind and a compassionate heart. The photograph which I enclose with this letter shows a view of our Earth as seen from Apollo 8 when it orbited the moon at Christmas, 1968.

The Most Extreme Weather In the Solar System “Fly me to the moon, let me play among the stars. Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars…” Spoiler alert: the weather Earth is far nicer than on any other planet in our solar system. Our Solar System is home to some fairly extreme weather. Mercury Mercury almost completely lacks an atmosphere, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have extreme physical conditions. In addition to barely having an atmosphere, Mercury doesn't have much in the way of axial tilt. If a human were to visit Mercury, he or she would either burst into flames or freeze solid depending on where the spaceship landed. Venus Our neighbor Venus is essentially the poster child for how greenhouse gasses can create a completely hellish environment. Rain on Venus is almost purely sulfuric acid, which is extremely corrosive. Even with these extremely high temperatures, there is snow on Venus. Mars Mars’ missing atmosphere is a mystery but there is still plenty of bizarre weather happening on the planet. Jupiter Io

Elon Musk's Mission to Mars | Wired Science Maverick entrepreneur Elon Musk Photo: Art Streiber When a man tells you about the time he planned to put a vegetable garden on Mars, you worry about his mental state. But if that same man has since launched multiple rockets that are actually capable of reaching Mars—sending them into orbit, Bond-style, from a tiny island in the Pacific—you need to find another diagnosis. That’s the thing about extreme entrepreneurialism: There’s a fine line between madness and genius, and you need a little bit of both to really change the world. All entrepreneurs have an aptitude for risk, but more important than that is their capacity for self-delusion. I have never met an entrepreneur who fits this model more than Elon Musk. And he is leading the private space race with SpaceX, which is poised to replace the space shuttle and usher us into an interplanetary age. It’s no wonder the character of Tony Stark in Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr., was modeled on Musk: This is superhero-grade stuff.

Scientists to Io: Your Volcanoes Are in the Wrong Place Scientists to Io: Your Volcanoes Are in the Wrong Place Jupiter's moon Io is the most volcanically active world in the Solar System, with hundreds of volcanoes, some erupting lava fountains up to 250 miles high. However, concentrations of volcanic activity are significantly displaced from where they are expected to be based on models that predict how the moon's interior is heated, according to NASA and European Space Agency researchers. Io is caught in a tug-of-war between Jupiter's massive gravity and the smaller but precisely timed pulls from two neighboring moons that orbit further from Jupiter – Europa and Ganymede. For example, as Io gets closer to Jupiter, the giant planet's powerful gravity deforms the moon toward it and then, as Io moves farther away, the gravitational pull decreases and the moon relaxes. This is a map of the predicted heat flow at the surface of Io from different tidal heating models.

Magnetosphere in Sound One of NASA's newest missions has recorded the radio waves coming from our magnetosphere. Musicians: Sample away. A graphic of Earth's twin rings of plasma known as the Van Allen Radiation Belts in our planet's magnetosphere (NASA) Surrounding our planet are rings of plasma, part of Earth's magnetosphere, which are pulsing with radio waves. Those waves are not audible to the human ear alone, but radio antennae can pick them up, and that's just what an instrument -- the Electric and Magnetic Field Instrument Suite and Integrated Science (EMFISIS) -- on NASA's recently launched Radiation Belt Storm Probes has done. The noises, often picked up here on Earth by ham-radio operators, are called Earth's "chorus" as they are reminiscent of a chorus of birds chirping in the early morning.

Age of Saturn's Rings Pinned Down SAN FRANCISCO — Saturn's iconic rings likely formed about 4.4 billion years ago, shortly after the planet itself took shape, a new study suggests. The origin of Saturn's ring system has long been the subject of debate, with some researchers arguing that it's a relatively young structure and others holding that it coalesced long ago, at roughly the same time as the gas giant's many satellites. The new study, conducted using data gathered by NASA's Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft, strongly supports the latter scenario, researchers said here Tuesday (Dec. 10) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. [Photos: Saturn's Glorious Rings Up Close] Cassini's measurements imply that "the main rings would be [extremely] old, rather than hundreds of millions of years old," Sascha Kempf, of the University of Colorado in Boulder, said. They found that a surprisingly small amount of dusty material comes into contact with the rings. Saturn Quiz: How Well Do You Know the Ringed Planet?

Cosmic latte Cosmic Latte is a name assigned to the average color of the universe, given by a team of astronomers from Johns Hopkins University. Discovery of the color[edit] In 2001, Karl Glazebrook and Ivan Baldry determined that the color of the universe was a greenish white, but they soon corrected their analysis in a 2002 paper,[1] in which they reported that their survey of the color of all light in the universe added up to a slightly beigeish white. The survey included more than 200,000 galaxies, and measured the spectral range of the light from a large volume of the universe. The hexadecimal RGB value for Cosmic Latte is #FFF8E7. The finding of the "color of the universe" was not the focus of the study, which was examining spectral analysis of different galaxies to study star formation. Glazebrook's and Baldry's work was funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Naming of the color[edit] The color was displayed in a Washington Post article. References[edit] External links[edit]