Saturday, October 8, 2011


Totally lied about coming back. Well, I've actually been kinda busy. But I took a video of the Sun, for anyone left following, enjoy it!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I am back, but I am considering how to get back into blogging. Please, accept this as my return. I got a job working overnight flow at Target. Not glorious, but it will do temporarily. Future plans include pursuing my Master of Arts in Teacher (MAT) with a science education focus and moving in with my GF. But for the next few months, I feel I will be stable enough to blog fairly regularly.

There have been a fairly large amount of new astronomy stories my last update. There is no possible way to cover them all. I only hope you have been following the news for the past month and a half or so since I have been away.  But I hope to be getting back into providing quality astronomy news and educational articles soon. Plus, hopefully, some more of my own images and videos of the night sky.

I enjoy being able to put my thoughts down and I am grateful to the readers of this blog for being patient in my return. In fact, I do not think I even lost any followers while I was gone. I see this as a real plus in the shifting world of blogging, a supportive motion of my readers to not lose faith. And I haven't lost it in them.

If you haven't been able to tell yet, I am real passionate about science education, with a focus on space science. These topics spur the imagination and fuel the future. The future of mankind is amongst the stars. Sharing and encouraging the pursuit of such knowledge then drives an economic engine towards accomplishing those goals. It creates jobs, it improves education, it solves problems, it is the future.

Right now we are lucky enough to live in what has often been called the golden age astronomy. The first time we are able to study our Universe in such stark detail, by putting telescopes in orbit above the Earth's atmosphere, reducing distortion to see so much more clearly. But even beyond that, we have the Voyager probes pushing through the edge of the solar system, our first true interstellar craft. Happening only about 110 years after the first successful airplane on Earth.

Again, so much more can be said. We are living in a truly revolutionary age in the modern world. At the same time it saddens me to know there are those who don't even know a man landed on the Moon. I don't want this turn to much into a wandering lecture. So I think I'll wrap it up. But know that we have a very bright future, and I intend to keep tabs on it and voice my opinion on it when necessary.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

On Hold

I'm putting this blog on the back burner as I need to focus on getting my life organized. I'll hopefully be back whenever I find a stable form of income. It may not be daily when I get back, but I would like to try to update every other day, there's still so much to write about, literally a whole Universe.

I do enjoy it though, sharing a bit of the Universe with readers. I already do astronomy outreach in my community, and I always felt this was a nice way to reach a larger audience. But, there's only so much someone can do without gainful compensation. I would hope that even if I don't come back, I would hope that my readers continue following our expanding understanding of the cosmos. A good list of informative sites are in the sidebar to the right, under 'Useful Astronomy Links'.

I do plan to come back to this though, maybe in a month or so. Maybe I will be refreshed and holding a legitimate job and ready to blog again. Until then, there's still lots out there to be amazed at. Today I was blown away by the rather legitimate idea that the Earth might have had two moons at one point. Then there have been other stories: LEGO figurines on the NASA spacecraft Juno, which is launching for Jupiter on Friday; Oxygen particles detected in deep space; The ESO has discovered 96 new open star clusters in the Milky Way that were hidden by dust; and my favorite asteroid, Vesta, is being revealed in amazing detail, and a short video of its rotation.

I suggest spending this weekend looking to see if you have a local Vesta Fiesta (my astronomy club is hosting one during our normal open house.) And if not, you should definitely go out and look for shooting stars, the Delta Aquariids and Perseids meteor showers are overlapping this weekend. Since the height of the Perseids will have a full moon, this weekend might be a great chance to go out and take a look.

I'll see you all when I get back.

Monday, August 1, 2011

August 2011 Highlights

August is here and we are moving into late summer in the northern hemisphere. July wasn't a very ambitious month for me because I spent so much time enjoying my summer, we'll see about a new month. The dominant astronomical event for August is the Perseids meteor shower. Although a Full Moon at it's peak will dampen the experience, the rest of the month should still be full of a few bright traces through the night sky. The weather is still warm, and many great constellations are high in the sky. So if you get the chance, go out and look up:

August 5: Juno Launch: Juno is an ambitious mission to understand the origin and evolution of planet Jupiter. You can read more about it on NASA Juno mission page.

August 8: First Quarter Moon: The Moon is halfway through the waxing phase, a great time for observing as the shadows provide wonderful contrast.

August 12-13: Perseids Meteor Shower: (active July 22-August 22) Usually one of the best meteors shower of the year, but this year it will be marred by a Full Moon during its peak. However, up to 60 meteors per hour may be possible in dark locations. The meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus.

August 13: Full Moon: The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This moon, in the Native American tradition of naming the full moons throughout the year, is known as the Full Sturgeon Moon. It gets its name from the large sturgeon fish of the Great Lakes and other major lakes were more easily caught at this time of year.

August 16: Venus at Superior Conjunction: Venus swings around the opposite side of the Sun and passes into the evening sky. (It will briefly be directly opposite of the Sun from us, therefore not visible.)

August 21: Last Quarter Moon: Halfway through the Moon's waning phase.

August 22: Neptune at Opposition: The planet will be on its closest approach to Earth and fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to observe Neptune, but even the most powerful telescopes reveal little more than a tiny pale blue dot.

August 29: New Moon: The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Earth's First Asteroid Companion Discovered

This is an amazing discovery. Up until now, companion asteroids that more or less share an orbit with Earth have been theoretical. This class of asteroids is known as Trojans; Jupiter has them, and so do Mars and Neptune. Now Earth joins the club with 2010 TK7, an asteroid approximately 300 meters (1000 feet) across and 80 million km (50 million miles) from Earth.
Asteroid 2010 TK7 is circled in green, in this single frame taken by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) managed to notice the small asteroid. WISE sees in the infrared, where warmer objects are easier to spot. 2010 TK7 is probably about the freezing point of water, which is pretty warm to astronomers. It also orbits such that it is mostly in the sky during daylight hours from Earth, so your typical amateur astronomer isn't going to be able to go out and spot this.

WISE was an asteroid hunting satellite that stopped operating back in February. Astronomers discovered 2010 TK7 by looking through the vast amount of data collected by WISE and confirmed it with Earth-based telescopes. This gives hope that other Earth Trojans might be buried in the data waiting to be found. Where there is one, there may be many.

What makes a Trojan, a companion asteroid, special, is that they orbit what is called a Lagrangian point. Five special spots between two astronomical bodies where gravity is essentially neutral. The points remain stable relative to where the one body is along its orbit around the other. The graph above maps out the locations of where these points would be.

2010 TK7 orbits Earth's L4 point, rather than remaining stable at the point or orbiting the Earth itself. It also has a kind of funky orbit that takes it closer and further away from the Earth, but it is still roughly 60 degrees in front of us and of no danger to the Earth. It just won't ever get close enough.
This artist's concept (not to scale) illustrates the first known Earth Trojan asteroid, discovered by WISE. The asteroid is gray and its extreme orbit is shown in green. Image credit: Paul Wiegert, University of Western Ontario, Canada

It is a tantalizing discovery because it opens the door to several new questions. We know little about this asteroid. It may be a candidate for future exploration, but because of it's odd orbit (it goes well above and below the orbital plane), it would be difficult to reach. But you can bet astronomers are going race to find more Earth Trojans. They have been looking for them for some time already, so it was only a matter of time.

And being an object of some importance, it will also need to be named. Coeus or Crius, the Titan sons of Gaia have been mentioned, but there are other sons of hers. Personally I wouldn't my the cyclopes sons of Gaia; Brontes ("thunderer"), Steropes ("lightning") and the "bright" Arges. But I guess we'll have to see.