There’s a mere two trillion galaxies in the night sky. Possibly

Wednesday, 19 October, 2016

A paper recently published in the Astrophysical Journal suggests there may be ten times more galaxies in the universe than was thought. That would make for two trillion of them, including our family of stars, the Milky Way. Incredible.

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If you thought that living on Mars was expensive, try the Moon

Friday, 30 September, 2016

There’s been a little bit of talk in recent days about sending people to Mars.

While it’s an exciting prospect, it’s not exactly inexpensive. To get an idea of the cost, plus an outline of what else is required, which isn’t insignificant, lets dial things back, and consider establishing a four person base, for a year, on the Moon.

While it’s the sort of thing we need to consider, living elsewhere, either in the Solar System, or beyond, it’s not without its challenges. To say the least.

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If we lived on Proxima b, we’d be residing in the twilight zone

Thursday, 15 September, 2016

No, we shouldn’t get too excited by the prospect that an Earth-like exoplanet circles the star nearest to us. Earth-like it may be, but make no mistake, Centauri b, that orbits red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, is not like Earth. For one thing, the planet is so close to its host star, it is tidally locked. This means it does not rotate on its axis as Earth does.

Therefore it is perpetually day time on one side of the side of the planet, while the other hemisphere is forever cloaked in darkness. One side would be rather warm, the other quite chilly. Only the border between the two, a veritable twilight zone, might be a little Earth-like. On that basis then, it may not be too bad

There will be three different climate zones. The side always facing its star will be consistently sun-baked, receiving scorching, direct sunlight without ever getting a break from it. Similarly, the side facing away from the star will experience eternal night, and should be dark and frozen, but with spectacular views of the Universe. The border between the night and day sides – a “ring” around the planet – will experience an eternal dawn/sunset, with perhaps the most Earth-like conditions.

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If you’d spent 534 days in space, you’d return with a few photos

Friday, 9 September, 2016

Photo by Jeff Williams

US astronaut Jeff Williams has spent five hundred and thirty-four days in space, during the course of his career. That includes a one hundred and seventy-two day stint aboard the International Space Station (ISS), as part of Expedition 47/48. He had been aboard the ISS for two previous expeditions. All up, that’s quite some time to be away from Earth.

Like other ISS crew members, he found some time to take a few photos, during his last stay. Some incredible photos, I should say, that you can see on his Facebook page.

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Could there be a habitable planet orbiting Proxima Centauri?

Tuesday, 23 August, 2016

The closest star to Earth is Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf that may, or may not, be part of the Alpha Centuari binary star system. If Proxima Centauri were found to be gravitationally bound to the binary star, then Alpha Centuari would become known as a trinary, or triple, star system.

Just some trivia for you there.

Proxima Centauri, however, has been making headlines, as unconfirmed reports suggest it may host an Earth like planet, within its habitable zone, meaning the presence of life may be possible.

But in what may prove to be the most exciting find to date, the German weekly Der Spiegel announced recently that astronomers have discovered an Earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, just 4.25 light-years away. Yes, in what is an apparent trifecta, this newly-discovered exoplanet is Earth-like, orbits within its sun’s habitable zone, and is within our reach. But is this too good to be true?

As an aside. With the Sun halfway through its ten billion year lifespan, we’ll be on the look out for a new home eventually, and it’s thought that relocating to a planet orbiting a red dwarf might be a good move. Red dwarf stars live for trillions of years, so our descendants wouldn’t need to think about moving again for a long, long, time.

If a habitable planet were found to be orbiting Proxima Centauri, might it one day become our new residence?

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One thousand new photos of Mars’ incredibly varied surface

Friday, 12 August, 2016

Mars surface, photo by MRO, NASA

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has been in orbit around the red planet since March 2006, where it has been taking photos of the surface ever since. Recently NASA released just over one thousand of these images, taken in the last few months.

Mars surface, photo by MRO, NASA

I think its fair to say the photos reveal a planet with an incredibly diverse surface. A case in point has to be both of these photos. The top picture is of a region near the North Pole. The second is of an area in the Southern Highlands. More images can be seen here.

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Astronomy Photographer of the Year award shortlisted entries

Monday, 1 August, 2016

Images shortlisted, or selected as finalists I guess, for this year’s Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year award. Why travel the universe when we can look at photos such as these?

Gorgeous galaxies and stunning stars make up this selection of pictures from the shortlisted entries for this year’s Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year award. The winners will be announced on 15 September, and an exhibition of the winning images will be will be displayed in a free exhibition at the Royal Observatory Greenwich’s Astronomy Centre from 17 September.

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A trailer for Juno, the Jupiter mission, not the movie

Thursday, 30 June, 2016

Having spent five years travelling to Jupiter, via the scenic route, NASA’s space probe Juno, will, next week, place itself in a polar orbit around the solar system’s largest planet, and spend the next eighteen months learning more about Jupiter’s formation, composition, and its gravitational and magnetic fields.

At the end of its mission, Juno will be sent into Jupiter’s atmosphere, to ensure its destruction, lest it end up crash landing on, and contaminating, Europa, a Jovian moon that some scientists think may host marine life of some sort.

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The journey of the Voyager space probes

Wednesday, 29 June, 2016

Voyagers, a short film about the two Voyager space probes, launched in 1977, that are now in, or near, interstellar space. Theirs is a fascinating journey.

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Wanted, bold pioneers to explore Mars

Wednesday, 22 June, 2016

Even if you don’t want to go there yourself – it’s cold, you’d need to live underground, mail can takes years to get through, and so on – you can help with the effort to explore Mars, by pinning up these promotional posters, encouraging others to emigrate to the red planet.

Via Hypnophant.

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