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The solar eclipse on Friday, March 20, 2015, photographed at 14,000 meters. Credit and copyright: Guillaume Cannat.

The solar eclipse on Friday, March 20, 2015, photographed at 14,000 meters. Credit and copyright: Guillaume Cannat.

What does a solar eclipse look like from a fast-flying Falcon 7X jet at 14,000 meters (48,000 feet)? French journalist Guillaume Cannat described the Sun as looking black and “ruffled.”

Cannat was part of a group accompanying professional and amateur astronomers on board three Dassault Falcon 7X executive jets that flew in the narrow zone where totality of the eclipse could be observed, from southern Greenland to the geographic North Pole. Traveling through the stratosphere provided the unique opportunity to watch the total eclipse without atmospheric turbulence — which improved the view and the ride. And flying at speeds near Mach .9 also “lengthened” the view of the eclipse to over a minute.

Cannat described the view of totality:
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As It Turns Out, We Really Are All Starstuff

Hubble image of the Crab Nebula supernova remnant captured with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2. Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Hester and A. Loll (Arizona State University)

Hubble image of the Crab Nebula supernova remnant captured with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2. Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Hester and A. Loll (Arizona State University)

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars,” Carl Sagan famously said in his 1980 series Cosmos. “We are made of starstuff.”

And even today, observations with NASA’s airborne SOFIA observatory are supporting this statement. Measurements taken of the dusty leftovers from an ancient supernova located near the center our galaxy – aka SNR Sagittarius A East – show enough “starstuff” to build our entire planet many thousands of times over.

“Our observations reveal a particular cloud produced by a supernova explosion 10,000 years ago contains enough dust to make 7,000 Earths,” said research leader Ryan Lau of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York – the same school, by the way, where Carl Sagan taught astronomy and space science.

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At the turn of the 20th Century, Einstein’s theory of relativity stunned the physics world, but the experimental evidence needed to be found. And so, in 1919, another respected astronomer, Arthur Eddington, observed the deflection of stars by the gravity of the Sun during a solar eclipse. Here’s the story of that famous experiment.
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You’ve had a busy day wandering around a faraway part of our solar system. It’s time to put your head down for a nap. Where do you place it? According to Erik Seedhouse in his book “Bigelow Aerospace: Colonizing Space One Module at a Time“, you easily slip into a space module, doff your all-purpose space suit and enjoy the pleasures of a safe secure environment. Know of a better way to get over that stressful day?
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How Could You Capture an Asteroid?

We can’t just go into space with a big butterfly net or catcher’s mitt, so how in the world could we capture an asteroid?
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Nova Sagittarii 2015 No. 2 photographed this morning when it was easily visible to the naked eye at magnitude +4.4. The nova has been on the upswing since its discovered less than a week ago. Credit: Bob King

Nova Sagittarii 2015 No. 2 in the Sagittarius “Teapot”was easily visible with the naked eye at magnitude +4.4 when this photo was taken today March 21. The nova has been steadily brightening since its discovery less than a week ago. Credit: Bob King

Great news about that new nova in Sagittarius. It’s still climbing in brightness and now ranks as the brightest nova seen from mid-northern latitudes in nearly two years. Even from the northern states, where Sagittarius hangs low in the sky before dawn, the “new star” was easy to spy this morning at magnitude +4.4.

While not as rare as hen’s teeth, novae aren’t common and those visible without optical aid even less so. The last naked eye nova seen from outside the tropics was V339 Del (Nova Delphini), which peaked at +4.3 in August 2013. The new kid on the block could soon outshine it if this happy trend continues. [click to continue…]


Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain)
Special Guest: Author Lee Billings, discussing his book “Five Billion Years of Solitude”(@LeeBillings / leebillings.com/)
Dr. Pamela Gay (cosmoquest.org / @starstryder)
Morgan Rehnberg (cosmicchatter.org / @MorganRehnberg )
Brian Koberlein (@briankoberlein)
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Thierry Legault has won today’s partial solar eclipse.

Known for his amazing shots of spacecraft transiting the Sun, today he captured the International Space Station passing in front of the Sun (and Moon)… DURING THE ECLIPSE.

The weather is always fine in Southern Spain…except during eclipse days!” Legault told Universe Today via email. “I had to drive a lot trying to find clear skies, finally the sky was covered with thick high clouds but I got the ISS passing in front of the Moon during the eclipse.”


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The view of today’s eclipse from low Earth orbit. Credit: ESA/Proba-2.

There’s an old Robert Heinlein saying that goes “climate is what you expect, weather is what you get,” And the weather certainly kept folks guessing right up until the start of today’s eclipse. And though much of the UK and tracks along the Faroe Islands were clouded out, folks who made the trek up to Svalbard were treated to a fine view of totality, while observers across Europe caught stages of the eclipse through its partial phases. Many more managed to capture glimpses of the eclipse thanks to our good friends over at Slooh and the Virtual Telescope project. [click to continue…]


Could the Death Star Destroy a Planet?

In the movie Star Wars, the Darth Vader’s Death Star destroyed a planet. Could this really happen?
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