Monday, July 15, 2013

New Neptune Moon Discovered by NASA's Hubble Telescope

Scientists studying images from NASA's Hubble telescope have discovered a new moon around Neptune.  The moon measures approximately 12 miles across and is the smallest of Neptune's moons.  Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, CA, located the newest moon by observing a white dot which was shown to orbit the planet every 23 hours.

Source: NASA
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, M. Showalter SETI

Saturday, July 13, 2013

NASA's Hubble Telescope Discovers Blue Planet

NASA's Hubble telescope has detected the color of a planet more than 63 light years away and it is blue like our own planet Earth.  The planet HD 189733b gets its blue color not from huge oceans like Earth, but from silicate particles in the high atmosphere.  The conditions on the planet are very unlike our own with temperatures that reach 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and 4,500 mph winds.

The Hubble telescope's spectrograph measured the color of light as the planet passed in front of its parent star.  HD 189733b is one of a class of planets, called hot jupiters, that orbit very close to their parent stars.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScl)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Huge Antarctic Glacier Confirmed by Satellite this Week

NASA's Operation IceBridge scientists confirmed this week that an iceberg 1/4 the size of Rhode Island has calved from the Pine Island Glacier.  Images taken from the European Earth monitoring satellite TerraSAR-X show that a 280-square mile ice island has resulted from a rift in the ice.  The crack in the Pine Island Glacier has been monitored since 2011 when it was discovered by Operation IceBridge scientists during flights over Antarctica.

Because the TerraSAR-X uses radar, it is able to monitor the continent even through clouds and through the dark winter months.  Scientist use data on calving, as well as ocean temperatures and surface melt rates, to discover more about the effects of climate changes.

Image Credit:  NASA / DMS

NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) Shows Our Solar System's Tail

Like comets, it has been assumed by scientists for many years that our solar system has a tail.  The tail, or heliosphere, is caused by particles streaming off the back of the system as it journeys through space.  In a paper published today in The Astrophysical Journal, scientists have been able to map out the tail of our solar system using the initial three years of data from NASA's IBEX.

NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer has been able to collect data from neutral atoms colliding with our heliosphere to give scientists a picture of the tail's shape.  Before the IBEX, scientists could only use models to theorize about it.  The shape of our heliosphere is similar to a four-leaf clover, however the full length of it is unknown.

Image Credit: NASA/HST/R.Casalegno/GALEX

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Moving Forward - NASA's 2020 Mars Mission

A team of 19 scientists and researchers from universities and research organization has outlined the goals and plans for the 2020 Mars Mission.  The document submitted to NASA consists of 154 pages of details on the mission concept and how the rover will collect samples for analysis, including visual, mineral and chemical tests. 

This mission will further knowledge gained from past Mars missions and prepare for long-term goals outlined by President Obama involving potential human missions to Mars in the 2030s.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Monday, July 8, 2013

International Space Station - Scheduled Space Walk on Tuesday July 9th, 2013

Astronauts Chris Cassidy (NASA) and Luca Parmitano (European Space Agency) are set to take a space walk from the International Space Station on Tuesday.  The two flight engineers will be taking a 6 1/2 hour walk outside the station to replace a Space-to-Ground Transmitter Receiver Controller as well as performing other important repairs and maintenance of the station. 

Watch the space walk live on NASA TV starting at 7:00am EDT.


Friday, June 28, 2013

July Astronomy Events: New Moon July 8, 2013

July's new moon will occur on July 8, 2013 at approximately 07:14 UTC.  This is your best chance this month to view those faint galaxies or star clusters with your telescope. 

During a new moon, the moon is in between the earth and the sun and it will not be visible from earth.  It is a perfect time for viewing, because there is no moonlight to interfere.

IRIS Launch June 27, 2013 - Did You Watch?

NASA's IRIS rocket made its launch yesterday and is now in orbit.  It will continue to monitor the sun's photosphere and corona and collect data.  Did you watch the launch?  We want to here what you thought!! Post below!

Photo Courtesy of: NASA

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Reserve the Date! International Observe the Moon Night, October 12, 2013

The 2013 International Observe the Moon Night will be on October 12, 2013.  Planetariums, libraries, local astronomy groups are gathering on this night to showcase and spotlight some of the great things about our moon.  Check out their website below for events and locations in your area!

International Observe the Moon Night:

IRIS Spacecraft Launch Scheduled for June 27, 2013

NASA's newest solar observatory IRIS is scheduled to launch June 27, 2013.  IRIS, which stands for Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph will use its telescope to observe the region of the sun between the surface and the corona, or the sun's outer atmosphere.

The launch will start from Vandenburg Air Force Base in California where a modified L-1011 airliner will carry the IRIS spacecraft attached to a Pegasus rocket.  The Pegasus rocket has been used to launch 18 successful missions for NASA.

The IRIS spacecraft joins the Solar Dynamics Observatory and Hinode missions to study how the sun's solar atmosphere affects the earth.

Source: NASA
Photo courtesy of: NASA

Win with's 2013 Summer Sweepstakes! is currently promoting its 2013 Summer Sweepstakes with the Grand Prize winner getting a super cool Celestron SkyProdigyTM 6 Computerized Telescope!  Check out the other great prizes below:

Grand prize: Celestron SkyProdigyTM 6 Computerized Telescope
1st prize: Celestron AstroMasterTM 70AZ Telescope
2nd prize: Celestron AstroMaster 15 x 70 Binoculars
3rd prize: Celestron FirstScope with accessory kit
4th prize: One year subscription to Astronomy magazine

Check out their website for more details!  Sweepstakes ends September 17, 2013.

Monday, June 24, 2013

In the Sky Tonight - Asteroid 1 Ceres

Take your last chance tonight to see asteroid 1 Ceres, a magnitude 8.8 object in the night sky!  You'll need a telescope to spot this near the Constellation Cancer.  It will pass 1 degree south of the star Chi Cancri in the northwest horizon.  The best time to catch the asteroid with your telescope will be near the end of twilight tonight.

Photo Source:

Monday, April 1, 2013

Bright Comet ISON to Make its Appearance Later This Year (2013)

Comet ISON (as named by Russian astronomers in 2012) has the potential to be the brightest comet to be seen in decades according to a recent report by NASA.  Around October 1st of this year (2013), this comet will pass within 6.7 million miles of Mars on its fall towards the sun.

This comet will make a close approach to the sun around November 28th, passing within 750,000 miles of the sun's visible surface and may be visible in the sky as its ice sublimates from the sun's heat.  Although some or most of the comet may erode, Comet ISON will likely continue its journey outward from the sun, passing by Earth in December.  It will continue to be visible at twilight throughout the month of December, 2013.


Photo Courtesy of:  NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Axel Mellinger

Photo Courtesy of: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Axel Mellinger

Monday, February 25, 2013

Next Major Meteor Shower - Lyrids - April 22, 2013

Even though we're in a quiet period for shooting stars, it's never too early to get the next meteor shower on your calendar.  On April 22, 2013, we'll get to enjoy the Lyrid meteor shower!  This amazing show features beautiful bright meteors with tails.

You will usually see 10-20 meteors per hour at the peak, but Lyrid showers are sometimes known for unusual surges in the rate up to 100 per hour.  These surges are somewhat unpredictable though.

Best time to watch: After moonset or before dawn on April 22.


Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Sunday, February 24, 2013

SpaceX Launch Scheduled for March 1st

According to the NASA website, NASA and its worldwide partners will be launching a resupply flight to the International Space Station (SpaceX) on March 1st.  This mission will be bringing 1,200 pounds of supplies for the crew and for the onboard laboratory.  The return trip will be returning 2,300 pounds of equipment and lab samples back to Earth.

Launch Time: 10:10am EST from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Photo: Courtesy of