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Could the Milky Way Become a Quasar?


There’s a supermassive black hole in the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Could this black hole become a Quasar?
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What’s the Brightest Star in the Sky, Past and Future?

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Sirius (lower center) rules the anthropocene night. Credit and copyright: Alan Dyer.

What’s the brightest star you can see in the sky tonight?

If you live below 83 degrees north latitude, the brightest star in the sky is Canis Alpha Majoris, or Sirius. Seriously, (bad pun intended) the -1st magnitude star is usually the fifth brightest natural object in the sky, and sits high to the south on February evenings… but has it always ruled the night? [click to continue…]

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Ceres Bizarre Bright Spot Now Has a Companion

This image was taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft of dwarf planet Ceres on Feb. 19 from a distance of nearly 29,000 miles (46,000 km). It shows that the brightest spot on Ceres has a dimmer companion, which apparently lies in the same basin. See below for the wide view. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

This image was taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft of dwarf planet Ceres on Feb. 19 from a distance of nearly 29,000 miles (46,000 km). It shows that the brightest spot on the dwarf planet has a dimmer companion which lies in the same crater. Note also the “cracks” or faults in its crust at bottom right. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Aliens making dinner with a solar cooker? Laser beams aimed at hapless earthlings? Whatever can that – now those – bright spots on Ceres be? The most recent images taken by the Dawn spacecraft now reveal that the bright pimple has a companion spot. Both are tucked inside a substantial crater and seem to glow with an intensity out of proportion to the otherwise dark and dusky surrounding landscape. [click to continue…]

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What is Mars Made Of?

Credit: NASA/JPL

The interior of Mars, showing a molten liquid iron core similar to Earth and Venus. Image Credit: NASA/JPL

For thousands of years, human beings have stared up at the sky and wondered about the Red Planet. Easily seen from Earth with the naked eye, ancient astronomers have charted its course across the heavens with regularity. By the 19th century, with the development of powerful enough telescopes, scientists began to observe the planet’s surface and speculate about the possibility of life existing there.

However, it was not until the Space Age that research began to truly shine light on the planet’s deeper mysteries. Thanks to numerous space probes, orbiters and robot rovers, scientists have learned much about the planet’s surface, its history, and the many similarities it has to Earth. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the composition of the planet itself.

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Carnival of Space #394

Carnival of Space. Image by Jason Major.

Carnival of Space. Image by Jason Major.

This week’s Carnival of Space is hosted by Brian Wang at his Next Big Future blog.

Click here to read Carnival of Space #394
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Seen at the James and Barbara Moore Observatory in Punta Gorda, Florida: a scope worthy of a quasar hunt. Photo by author.

Seen at the James and Barbara Moore Observatory in Punta Gorda, Florida: a scope worthy of a quasar hunt. Photo by author.

“How far can you see with that thing?”

It’s a common question overhead at many public star parties in reference to telescopes.

In the coming weeks as the Moon passes Full and moves out of the evening sky, we’d like to challenge you to hunt down a bright example of one of the most distant and exotic objects known: a quasar. [click to continue…]

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Photo taken at 20:00 UT (2 pm. CST) Feb. 19 with the SOHO C2 coronagraph, a device that blocks the Sun, allowing a view of the area close by. Credit: NASA/ESA

Photo taken at 20:00 UT (2 pm. CST) Feb. 19 with the SOHO C2 coronagraph, a device that blocks the Sun, allowing a view of the area close by. A faint tail can be seen just below the comet’s bright head. Credit: NASA/ESA

A newly-discovered comet may soon become bright enough to see from a sky near you. Originally dubbed SOHO-2875, it was spotted in photos taken by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) earlier this week. Astronomer Karl Battams, who maintains the Sungrazer Project website, originally thought this little comet would dissipate after its close brush with the Sun. To his surprise, it outperformed expectations and may survive long enough to see in the evening sky.

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The Academy Award winning film “Birdman” used what’s called tracking shot to create the sense of a seamless one-shot film. A new timelapse created from imagery captured by astronauts on the International Space Station uses the same technique — which has not been used in previous ISS timelapses — with stunning results. Additionally, the footage is very recent, from January and February 2015. It was compiled by Phil Selmes.

“The footage has been composited and edited to show enhanced camera movement, a day to night transition, and an uninterrupted camera movement which links two timelapse shots seamlessly,” Selmes told Universe Today. “These processes have never been used to present ISS time lapse footage in this way before.”
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An illustration that shows the powerful winds driven by a supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy. The schematic figure in the inset depicts the innermost regions of the galaxy where a black hole accretes, that is, consumes, at a very high rate the surrounding matter (light grey) in the form of a disc (darker grey). At the same time, part of that matter is cast away through powerful winds. (Credits: XMM-Newton and NuSTAR Missions; NASA/JPL-Caltech;Insert:ESA)

An illustration that shows the powerful winds driven by a supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy. The schematic figure (inset) depicts the innermost regions of the galaxy where a black hole accretes, effectively consumes, at a very high rate the surrounding matter (light grey) in the form of a disc (darker grey). At the same time, part of that matter is cast away through powerful winds. (Credits: XMM-Newton and NuSTAR Missions; NASA/JPL-Caltech;Insert:ESA)

The combined observations from two generations of X-Ray space telescopes have now revealed a more complete picture of the nature of high-speed winds expelled from super-massive black holes. Scientist analyzing the observations discovered that the winds linked to these black holes can travel in all directions and not just a narrow beam as previously thought. The black holes reside at the center of active galaxies and quasars and are surrounded by accretion discs of matter. Such broad expansive winds have the potential to effect star formation throughout the host galaxy or quasar. The discovery will lead to revisions in the theories and models that more accurately explain the evolution of quasars and galaxies.

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Could There Be Another Planet Behind the Sun?


If you’ve read your share of sci-fi, and I know you have, you’ve read stories about another Earth-sized planet orbiting on the other side of the Solar System, blocked by the Sun. Could it really be there?
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