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The partially eclipsed sun sets over Island Lake north of Duluth, Minn. on May 20, 2012. Credit: Jim Schaff

The partially eclipsed sun sets over Island Lake north of Duluth, Minn. on May 20, 2012. Similar sunset photo opportunities will happen again during Thursday’s partial solar eclipse. Credit: Jim Schaff

2014 – a year rich in eclipses. The Moon dutifully slid into Earth’s shadow in April and October gifting us with two total lunars. Now it’s the Sun’s turn. This Thursday October 23 skywatchers across much of the North America and Mexico will witness a partial solar eclipse. From the eastern U.S. the eclipse will reach maximum around the time of sunset, making for dramatic picture-taking opportunities. Further west, the entire eclipse will occur with the sun up in the afternoon sky. Either way, you can’t go wrong. [click to continue…]

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What Would A Black Hole Look Like?

If you could see a black hole with your own eyeballs, what would you see?
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This colorized mosaic from NASA's Cassini mission shows the most complete view yet of Titan's northern land of lakes and seas. Saturn's moon Titan is the only world in our solar system other than Earth that has stable liquid on its surface. The liquid in Titan's lakes and seas is mostly methane and ethane. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/USGS

This colorized mosaic from NASA’s Cassini mission shows the most complete view yet of Titan’s northern land of lakes and seas. Saturn’s moon Titan is the only world in our solar system other than Earth that has stable liquid on its surface. The liquid in Titan’s lakes and seas is mostly methane and ethane. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/USGS

There’s a very early-stage NASA concept to take a submarine and dive into a lake of Titan, that moon of Saturn that has chemistry that could prove to be a similar precursor to what eventually formed life on Earth. The moon has weather and a hydrological system and an atmosphere, making it an exciting location for astrobiologists.

Luckily for scientists, the Cassini spacecraft beams back regular updates on what it sees at Titan. And this week comes yet another opportunity, as the machine whizzes by the moon to look for “mirror-like surface echoes” in a lake-filled region in Titan’s northern sector.

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Is this an image of Comet Siding Spring? It's the only fuzzy object in the field photographed on Sol 3817 (October 19) by the Opportunity Rover. Click for original raw image.

Is this an image of Comet Siding Spring? It’s the only fuzzy object in the field photographed on Sol 3817 (October 19) by the Opportunity Rover. Click for original raw image. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

It looks like NASA’s hard-working Opportunity Rover nabbed our very first pictures of a comet seen from another world!  A study of raw images taken by the rover turned up a very promising fuzzy object. Only three night sky pictures were posted today, but two clearly show a fuzzy spot near the center of the field. Stars show as points of light and there are what appear to be a smattering of cosmic ray hits, but in the photo above, the brightest object is slightly elongated (trailed during the exposure?) and cometary in appearance.  [click to continue…]

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The Philae spacecraft has a tough job ahead of it on November 12: it is slated to make the first landing on a comet’s surface. Riding piggyback on the Rosetta spacecraft, all indications are it is in good health and ready for the job; the team has even been taking the time for Philae to image spacecraft “selfies” with its target, Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, in the background.

And Rosetta will also be working hard, as the animation above shows us with the various maneuvers the spacecraft will be required to send Philae to the surface. Read more about these orbital changes below, as well as details of a contest to name the comet’s landing site.

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