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An artist’s impression of the 1SWASP J093010.78+533859.5 star system. Image credit: Marcus Lohr

An interesting multiple star discovery turned up in the ongoing hunt for exoplanetary systems.

The discovery was announced by Marcus Lohr of Open University early this month at the National Astronomy Meeting that was held at Venue Cymru in Llandudno, Wales.

The discovery involves as many as five stars in a single stellar system, orbiting in a complex configuration. [click to continue…]

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United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket to carry US Air Force WGS 7 military communications satellite into orbit. Launch reset for Thursday, July 23, at 8:07 p.m. EDT.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket to carry US Air Force WGS 7 military communications satellite into orbit. Launch reset for Thursday, July 23, at 8:07 p.m. EDT. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, FL – A high powered military communications satellite for the US Air Force is now slated for launch on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket on Thursday evening, July 23, following a scrub called on Wednesday due to powerful thunderstorms passing too close to the Cape Canaveral launch pad in Florida.

Heavy rain and thunderstorms within range of the Delta IV launch pad at Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, forced ULA to [click to continue…]

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What’s the Big Deal About the Pentaquark?

The pentaquark, a novel arrangement of five elementary particles, has been detected at the Large Hadron Collider. This particle may hold the key to a better understanding of the Universe's strong nuclear force. [Image credit: CERN/LHCb experiment]

The pentaquark, a novel arrangement of five elementary particles, has been detected at the Large Hadron Collider. This class of particles may hold the key to a better understanding of neutron stars and the Universe’s strong nuclear force. (Image Credit: CERN/LHCb experiment)

“Three quarks for Muster Mark!,” wrote James Joyce in his labyrinthine fable, Finnegan’s Wake. By now, you may have heard this quote – the short, nonsensical sentence that eventually gave the name “quark” to the Universe’s (as-yet-unsurpassed) most fundamental building blocks. Today’s physicists believe that they understand the basics of how quarks combine; three join up to form baryons (everyday particles like the proton and neutron), while two – a quark and an antiquark – stick together to form more exotic, less stable varieties called mesons. Rare four-quark partnerships are called tetraquarks. And five quarks bound in a delicate dance? Naturally, that would be a pentaquark. And the pentaquark, until recently a mere figment of physics lore, has now been detected at the LHC!

So what’s the big deal? Far from just being a fun word to say five-times-fast, the pentaquark may unlock vital new information about the strong nuclear force. These revelations could ultimately change the way we think about our superbly dense friend, the neutron star – and, indeed, the nature of familiar matter itself. [click to continue…]

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Ceres' spots

The brightest spots on Ceres are seen in this image taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on June 6, 2015. The picture was taken from an altitude of 2,700 miles (4,400 kilometers). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

The crater that contains those puzzlingly bright spots on Ceres may harbor an equally puzzling haze. Or not. The hints of haze on the dwarf planet, seen in some of the images coming from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, add another intriguing twist to Ceres’ mysteries.

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The Planet Mars

The Planet Mars. Image credit: NASA

The Planet Mars. Image credit: NASA

Mars, otherwise known as the “Red Planet”, is the fourth planet of our Solar System and the second smallest (after Mercury). Named after the Roman God of war, its nickname comes from its reddish appearance, which has to do with the amount of iron oxide prevalent on its surface. Every couple of years, when Mars is at opposition to Earth (i.e. when the planet is closest to us), it is most visible in the night sky.

Because of this, humans have been observing it for millennia, and its appearance in the heavens has played a large role in the mythology and astrological systems of many cultures. And in the modern era, it has been a veritable treasure trove of scientific discoveries, which have informed our understanding of our Solar System and its history.

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Pluto’s moon Nix (left), shown here in enhanced color as imaged by the New Horizons Ralph instrument, has a reddish spot that has attracted the interest of mission scientists. The data were obtained on the morning of July 14, 2015, and received on the ground on July 18. At the time the observations were taken New Horizons was about 102,000 miles (165,000 km) from Nix. The image shows features as small as approximately 2 miles (3 kilometers) across on Nix, which is estimated to be 26 miles (42 kilometers) long and 22 miles (36 kilometers) wide. Pluto's small, irregularly shaped moon Hydra (right) is revealed in this black and white image taken from New Horizons' LORRI instrument on July 14, 2015 from a distance of about 143,000 miles (231,000 kilometers). Features as small as 0.7 miles (1.2 kilometers) are visible on Hydra, which measures 34 miles (55 kilometers) in length.  Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Pluto’s moon Nix (left), shown here in enhanced color, has a reddish spot that has attracted the interest of mission scientists. The photo was taken on July 14, 2015 when New Horizons was about 102,000 miles (165,000 km) from Nix and shows features as small as about 2 miles (3 km) across. Hydra (right) was photographed with the LORRI instrument from a distance of about 143,000 miles (231,000 km). Features as small as 0.7 miles (1.2 km) are visible. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Of course they’ve always been real worlds. They just never looked that way. We’ve only known of their existence since 2005, when astronomers with the Pluto Companion Search Team spotted them using the Hubble Space Telescope. Never more than faint points of light, each is now revealed as a distinct, if tiny, world. [click to continue…]

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Triple crescents. Image credit:

The triple crescents of Saturn’s moons Titan, Mimas and Rhea. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Like splitting double stars, hunting for the faint lesser known moons of the solar system offers a supreme challenge for the visual observer.

Sure, you’ve seen the Jovian moons do their dance, and Titan is old friend for many a star party patron as they check out the rings of Saturn… but have you ever spotted Triton or Amalthea?

Welcome to the challenging world of moon-spotting. Discovering these moons for yourself can be an unforgettable thrill. [click to continue…]

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The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo spaceship dazzled in the moments after liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on June 28, 2015 but were soon doomed to a sudden catastrophic destruction barely two minutes later in the inset photo (left).  Composite image includes up close launch photo taken from pad camera set at Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral and mid-air explosion photo taken from the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida as rocket was streaking to the International Space Station (ISS) on CRS-7 cargo resupply mission.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo spaceship dazzled in the moments after liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on June 28, 2015 but were soon doomed to a sudden catastrophic destruction barely two minutes later in the inset photo (left). Composite image includes up close launch photo taken from pad camera set at Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral and mid-air explosion photo taken from the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida as rocket was streaking to the International Space Station (ISS) on CRS-7 cargo resupply mission. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

The in-flight failure of a critical support strut inside the second stage liquid oxygen tank holding a high pressure helium tank in the Falcon 9 rocket, is the likely cause of the failed SpaceX launch three weeks ago on June 28, revealed SpaceX CEO and chief designer Elon Musk during a briefing for reporters held today, July 20, to explain why the critical cargo delivery run for NASA to the space station suddenly turned into a total disaster after a promising start.

The commercial booster and its cargo Dragon payload were unexpectedly destroyed by an overpressure event 139 seconds after a picture perfect blastoff from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June 28 at 10:21 a.m. EDT. [click to continue…]

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Carnival Of Space #415

Carnival of Space. Image by Jason Major.

Carnival of Space. Image by Jason Major.

This week’s Carnival of Space is hosted by Joe Latrell at his Photos To Space blog.

Click here to read Carnival of Space #415
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This is Our Planet From a Million Miles Away

Earth imaged on July 6, 2015 by NOAA's DSCOVR satellite from L1. Credit: NOAA/NASA/GSFC

Earth imaged on July 6, 2015 by NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite from L1. Credit: NOAA/NASA/GSFC

This picture of our home planet truly is EPIC – literally! The full-globe image was acquired with NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (aka EPIC; see what they did there) on board NOAA’s DSCOVR spacecraft, positioned nearly a million miles (1.5 million km) away at L1.

L1 is one of five Lagrange points that exist in space where the gravitational pull between Earth and the Sun are sort of canceled out, allowing spacecraft to be “parked” there. (Learn more about Lagrange points here.) Launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 on Feb. 11, 2015, the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) arrived at L1 on June 8 and, after a series of instrument checks, captured the image of Earth’s western hemisphere above on July 6.

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