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An animation showing a comparison between the confirmation image (at top) and an archive photo. Credit: Ernesto Guido, Martino Nicolini, Nick Howes

An animation showing the new supernova in the galaxy M61 photographed on October 30, 2014, paired with an older archive photo Credit: Ernesto Guido, Martino Nicolini, Nick Howes

I sat straight up in my seat when I learned of the discovery of a possible new supernova in the bright Virgo galaxy M61. Since bright usually means close, this newly exploding star may soon become visible in smaller telescopes. It was discovered at magnitude +13.6 on October 29th by Koichi Itagaki of Japan, a prolific hunter of supernovae with 94 discoveries or co-discoveries to his credit. [click to continue…]

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NASA Releases Photos of Aftermath of Launchpad Explosion

An aerial view of the Wallops Island launch facilities taken by the Wallops Incident Response Team Oct. 29 following the failed launch attempt of Orbital Science Corp.'s Antares rocket Oct. 28. Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach

An aerial view of the Wallops Island launch facilities taken by the Wallops Incident Response Team Oct. 29 following the failed launch attempt of Orbital Science Corp.’s Antares rocket Oct. 28. Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach

NASA released images of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia following the catastrophic failure of Orbital Science’s Antares rocket shortly after liftoff on Tuesday, Oct. 28. Visible is damage to the transporter erector launcher and lightning suppression rods, as well as debris around the pad. But given the spectacular secondary explosion when the rocket fell back to the pad, the damage – as viewed from the air – looks relatively minor.
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How Big Is The Big Dipper?

The Big Dipper is big. Come on, it’s right there in the name. But how big is the Big Dipper if you could see it from all angles?
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Mercury Pierces the Zodiacal Light at Dawn this Weekend

Credit: Stellarium

Mercury as seen from latitude 30 degrees north on November 1st, 40 minutes prior to sunrise. Credit: Stellarium.

Psst! Ever spy the planet Mercury? The most bashful of all the naked eye planets makes its best dawn appearance of 2014 this weekend for northern hemisphere observers. And not only will Mercury be worth getting up for, but you’ll also stand a chance at nabbing that most elusive of astronomical phenomena — the zodiacal light — from a good dark sky sight. [click to continue…]

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NASA WALLOPS FLIGHT FACILITY, VA – Barely a day ago I witnessed the sudden and utter destruction of an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket being consumed in a totally unexpected devastating fireball moments after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the eastern shore of Virginia at 6:22 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, October 28. [click to continue…]

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