The BICEP telescope located at the south pole. Image Credit: CfA / Harvard

The BICEP telescope located at the south pole. Image Credit: CfA / Harvard

Just a month ago came the news of the first direct evidence of primordial gravitational waves — ripples in the fabric of spacetime — providing the first direct evidence the Universe underwent a brief but stupendously accelerated expansion immediately following the Big Bang.

This almost unimaginably fast expansion when the Universe was only a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second was first theorized more than three decades ago, and the announcement last month was so monumental that some are comparing it to the discovery of the Higgs boson.

On April 18, 20:00 UTC (3 pm EDT, 1:00 pm PDT, two of the scientists who made this groundbreaking discovery will come together for a conversation with two of the pioneering leaders of the field. Together, they will examine the detection of a distinctive, swirling pattern in the universe’s first light, what the swirl tells us about that monumental growth spurt, and the many implications on the way we understand the universe around us.

You can watch below:
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A composite of 33 Lyrid meteors captured by the UK Meteor Network cameras in 2012. Credit: @UKMeteorNetwork

A composite of 33 Lyrid meteors captured by the UK Meteor Network cameras in 2012. Credit: @UKMeteorNetwork.

The month of April doesn’t only see showers that bring May flowers: it also brings the first dependable meteor shower of the season. We’re talking about the Lyrid meteors, and although 2014 finds the circumstances for this meteor shower as less than favorable, there’s still good reason to get out this weekend and early next week to watch for this reliable shower. [click to continue…]

The Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule stand ready for launch prior to the detection of a helium leak in one of the engines forcing a scrub of the launch attempt on April 14. 2014 - now reset to April 18, 2014.  Credit: nasatech.net

The Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule stand ready for launch prior to the detection of a helium leak in one of the engines forcing a scrub of the launch attempt on April 14. 2014 – now reset to April 18, 2014. Credit: nasatech.net

NASA and SpaceX are marching forward towards a Friday, April 18 liftoff attempt for the Falcon 9 rocket sending a commercial Dragon cargo craft on the company’s third resupply mission to the International Space Station following the scrubbed launch attempt on Monday, April 14 – forced by the discovery of a Helium gas leak inside the rocket during the latter stages of the countdown.

An on time blastoff of the upgraded Falcon 9 sets the stage for an Easter Sunday rendezvous and berthing of the Dragon resupply spacecraft at the massive orbiting outpost packed with almost 5000 pounds of science experiments and supplies for the six person crew.

However the weather prognosis is rather [click to continue…]

Artist's rendering of Kepler-186f (Credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/Caltech)

Artist’s rendering of the Earth-sized Kepler-186f (Credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/Caltech)

It’s truly a “eureka” moment for Kepler scientists: the first rocky Earth-sized world has been found in a star’s habitable “Goldilocks” zone, the narrow belt where liquid water could readily exist on a planet’s surface without freezing solid or boiling away. And while it’s much too soon to tell if this really is a “twin Earth,” we can now be fairly confident that they do in fact exist.

The newly-confirmed extrasolar planet has been dubbed Kepler-186f. It is the fifth and outermost planet discovered orbiting the red dwarf star Kepler-186, located 490 light-years away. Kepler-186f completes one orbit around its star every 130 days, just within the outer edge of the system’s habitable zone.

The findings were made public today, April 17, during a teleconference hosted by NASA.

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This map shows the paths of Ceres and Vesta in Virgo through late June at five-day intervals. Vesta is currently magnitude +5.8 and Ceres 7.0. Both are easily visible in binoculars from suburban and rural skies. A wide view map below will help you navigate from nearby bright Mars to Zeta Virginis. From Zeta, star hop to either asteroid. Stars are shown to about magnitude +8.5. Click to enlarge. Created with Chris Marriott's SkyMap software

This map shows the paths of Ceres and Vesta in Virgo through late June at five-day intervals. Vesta is currently magnitude +5.8 and Ceres at + 7.0. Both are easily visible in binoculars from suburban and rural skies. The wide view map below will help you navigate from nearby Mars to Zeta Virginis. From Zeta, star hop to Vesta. Stars are shown to about magnitude +8.5. Click to enlarge. Created with Chris Marriott’s SkyMap software

Don’t let them pass you by. Right now and continuing through July, the biggest and brightest asteroids will be running on nearly parallel tracks in the constellation Virgo and so close together they’ll easily fit in the same binocular field of view. [click to continue…]