“Wind-Ruffled Waves, Foam and Wave Shadows, Above Natural Blue Seawater.” This is how we’ll Spot Exoplanets With Oceans

Artist's depiction of a waterworld. A new study suggests that Earth is in a minority when it comes to planets, and that most habitable planets may be greater than 90% ocean. Credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA)
Artist's depiction of a waterworld. A new study suggests that Earth is in a minority when it comes to planets, and that most habitable planets may be greater than 90% ocean. Credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA)

Our planet’s oceans generate tell-tale light signatures when sunlight reflects off them. Exoplanets with significant ocean coverage may do the same. Can we use the Earth’s reflectance signatures to identify other Earth-like worlds with large oceans?

We should be able to, eventually.

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How Could we Light our Cities and Still See the Night Sky?

Standing beside the Milky Way. Credit: P. Horálek/ESO

The night sky is a part of humanity’s natural heritage. Gazing up at the heavens is a unifying act, performed by almost every human that’s ever lived. Haven’t you looked up at the night sky and felt it ignite your sense of wonder?

But you can’t see much night sky in a modern city. And the majority of humans live in cities now. How can we regain our heritage? Can quiet contemplation make a comeback?

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Astronomers Find a New Binary Object in the Kuiper Belt

This image is an artist’s impression of the trans-Neptunian object that two Southwest Research Institute scientists recently discovered is a binary object. Image Credit: SwRI

Scientists from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) have presented the discovery of a binary pair of objects way out in the Kuiper Belt. They’re Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs) which means their orbit is outside the orbit of Neptune, our Solar System’s outermost planet. This binary pair is unusual because of their close proximity with one another.

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Five Space and Astronomy Activities to do at Home During the Coronavirus Outbreak

We’re in uncharted territory as the world faces the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. While the medical community is on the front lines of dealing with this, as well as others who provide critical services in our communities, the best thing many of us can do is to stay home (and wash our hands).

If you’re looking for ways to keep occupied, keep your kids in learning-mode while school is canceled, and expand your horizons — all at the same time — luckily there are lots of space and astronomy-related activities you can do at home and online. We’ve compiled a few of our favorites, including this first one, one that just became available yesterday.

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Here Comes the Next Satellite Constellation. OneWeb Launches 34 Satellites on Thursday

SpaceX has been garnering all the headlines when it comes to satellite constellations. Their Starlink system will eventually have thousands of tiny satellites working together to provide internet access, though only 242 of them have been deployed so far. But now another company is getting on the action: OneWeb.

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Beautiful Image of Ice at Mars’ Northern Polar Cap

This image shows part of the ice cap sitting at Mars’ north pole, complete with bright swathes of ice, dark troughs and depressions, and signs of strong winds and stormy activity. Image Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin , CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

A new image from the ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft shows how beautiful, and desolate, Mars can appear. It also highlights some of the natural process that shape the planet’s surface. The image is of the northern polar region, and it features bright patches of ice, deep dark troughs, and evidence of storms and strong winds.

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Quadrantid Meteors Kickoff a Busy January 2019

Quads
A few Quadrantid meteors streak by the Moon in 2012. Image credit and copyright: John Chumack.

Happy New Year! The beginning of the first month of the year is always a busy one for astronomy, and January 2019 is no different, as the Earth reaches perihelion, the Quadrantid meteors peak, and a partial solar eclipse crosses the Pacific… all this week. Continue reading “Quadrantid Meteors Kickoff a Busy January 2019”

Top Astronomy Events For 2019

Transit of Mercury
The May 9th, 2016 transit of Mercury. Image credit and copyright: Steve Knight.

You might’ve heard the news. We wrote a book this past year: The Universe Today’s Ultimate Guide to Observing the Cosmos: Everything You Need to Know to Become an Amateur Astronomer.  Judging from reader feedback thus far, one of the most popular parts of the book is Chapter 10, where we list the top astronomical events by year for the coming six years. True story… we picked six (2019 to 2024) to stretch out the list to touch on the April 8th, 2024 total solar eclipse. Continue reading “Top Astronomy Events For 2019”

Get Ready for the 2018 Geminid Meteors

2018 Geminids
A timelapse of the 2017 Geminids, taken from the Chiricahua Mountains in southern Arizona. Image credit and copyright: Alan Dyer/AmazingSky.com

When it comes to meteor showers, the calendar year always seems to save the best for last. We’re referring to the Geminid meteor shower, one of the sure fire bets for dependable meteor showers. In fact, in recent years, the Geminids have been upstaging that other yearly favorite: the August Perseids. If the Geminids did not occur in the chilly (for the northern hemisphere) month of December, they’d most likely get a better rap. Continue reading “Get Ready for the 2018 Geminid Meteors”

On the Astronomy Trail in Nebraska

Nebraska
Sunset over the Nebraska Star Party. Dave Dickinson

It’s a never-ending quest for observers, lovers of the night sky and astrophotographers. Where to go to get away from encroaching light pollution, and find truly dark skies?

Most of us think of distant sites such as Death Valley, the Kalahari Desert or the Canary Islands when it comes to dark skies. And while it’s true that many observers are now traveling farther and farther away from home in search of truly dark skies, that trip need not be as far as you think.

We had the opportunity to visit one such often overlooked dark sky gem: the state of Nebraska. From fossils to aeronautics and astronomy, there’s lots of science to explore in the Cornhusker State. Though the state has a rich science heritage, and an active amatuer astronomy community, Nebraska is an often overlooked dark sky haven. But science tourism is also becoming increasingly popular, and Nebraska has lots to offer.
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