• On planet Gliese 876d, sunrises might be dangerous. Although nobody really knows what conditions are like on this close-in planet orbiting variable red dwarf star Gliese 876, the above artistic illustration gives one impression. With an orbit well inside Mercury and a mass several times that of Earth, Gliese 876d might rotate so slowly that dramatic differences exist between night
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  • Last Sunday’s bright fireball meteor falling through skies over California and Nevada produced sonic booms over a broad area around 7:21 am. Estimates indicate the meteor was about the size of a minivan. Astronomer Peter Jenniskens subsequently recovered these fragments of a crushed 4 gram meteorite, the second find from this meteor fall, in the parking lot of the Henningsen-Lotus
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  • Planet Earth has many moons. Its largest artifical moon, the International Space Station, streaks through this lovely skyview with clouds in silhouette against the fading light of a sunset. Captured from Stuttgart, Germany last Sunday, the frame also includes Earth’s largest natural satellite 1.5 days after its New Moon phase. Just below and left of the young crescent is Jupiter,
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  • Last week Mercury wandered far to the west of the Sun. As the solar system’s innermost planet neared its greatest elongation or greatest angle from the Sun (for this apparition about 27 degrees) it was joined by an old crescent Moon. The conjunction was an engaging sight for early morning risers in the southern hemisphere. There the pair rose together
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  • Did you see it? One of the more common questions during a meteor shower occurs because the time it takes for a meteor to flash is typically less than the time it takes for a head to turn. Possibly, though, the glory of seeing bright meteors shoot across and knowing that they were once small pebbles on another world might
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  • Explanation: What would it look like to approach an asteroid in a spaceship? In 2010, ESA’s robotic Rosetta spacecraft zipped past the asteroid 21 Lutetia taking data and snapping images in an effort to better determine the history of the asteroid and the origin of its unusual colors. Recently, many images from a camera always facing the asteroid were compiled
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  • No, they are not alive — but they are dying. The unusual blobs found in the Carina nebula, some of which are seen floating on the upper right, might best be described as evaporating. Energetic light and winds from nearby stars are breaking apart the dark dust grains that make the iconic forms opaque. Ironically the blobs, otherwise known as
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  • When does Mars act like a liquid? Although liquids freeze and evaporate quickly into the thin atmosphere of Mars, persistent winds may make large sand dunes appear to flow and even drip like a liquid. Visible on the above image right are two flat top mesas in southern Mars when the season was changing from Spring to Summer. A light
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  • Despite their resemblance to R2D2, these three are not the droids you’re looking for. Instead, the enclosures house 1.8 meter Auxiliary Telescopes (ATs) at Paranal Observatory in the Atacama Desert region of Chile. The ATs are designed to be used for interferometry, a technique for achieving extremely high resolution observations, in concert with the observatory’s 8 meter Very Large Telescope
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  • Except for the rings of Saturn, the Ring Nebula (M57) is probably the most famous celestial band. Its classic appearance is understood to be due to perspective – our view from planet Earth looks down the center of a roughly barrel-shaped cloud of glowing gas. But expansive looping structures are seen to extend far beyond the Ring Nebula’s familiar central
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  • Climbing into cloudy skies, the Space Shuttle Orbiter Discovery (OV-103) took off from Kennedy Space Center Tuesday at 7 am local time. This time, its final departure from KSC, it rode atop a modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. Following a farewell flyover of the Space Coast, Goddard Space Flight Center, and Washington DC, Discovery headed for Dulles International Airport
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  • What would it be like to fly a space shuttle? Although the last of NASA’s space shuttles has now been retired, it is still fun to contemplate sitting at the controls of one of the humanity’s most sophisticated machines. Pictured above is the flight deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour, the youngest shuttle and the second to last ever launched. The
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  • Antares is a huge star. In a class called red supergiant, Antares is about 850 times the diameter of our own Sun, 15 times more massive, and 10,000 times brighter. Antares is the brightest star in the constellation of Scorpius and one of the brighter stars in all the night sky. Located about 550 light years away, Antares is seen
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  • From afar, the whole thing looks like an Eagle. A closer look at the Eagle Nebula, however, shows the bright region is actually a window into the center of a larger dark shell of dust. Through this window, a brightly-lit workshop appears where a whole open cluster of stars is being formed. In this cavity tall pillars and round globules
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  • Did this mirage help sink the Titanic? The optical phenomenon called Fata Morgana can make strange shapes or a false wall of water appear above a watery horizon. When conditions are right, light reflecting off of cold water will be bent by an unusual layer of warm air above to arrive at the observer from several different angles. A conceptually
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