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'Blood moon' lunar eclipse may or may not signal end times; watch it online with NASA tonight


Image: mreclipse.com, via NASA.gov

Stay up tonight online to watch an awesome lunar eclipse with our astronomer pals at NASA:

Spring is here and ready to capture the world's attention with a total lunar eclipse. The eclipse will begin early on the morning of April 15 at approximately 2 a.m. EDT. If you have questions about the eclipse, this will be your chance! NASA astronomer Mitzi Adams and astrophysicist Alphonse Sterling will also answer questions in a live web chat, beginning on April 15 at 1 a.m. EDT and continuing through the end of the eclipse (approximately 5 a.m. EDT). The chat module will go live on this page at approximately 12:45 a.m. EDT. Convert to your local time here. A live Ustream view of the lunar eclipse will be streamed on this page on the night of the event, courtesy of Marshall Space Flight Center. The feed will feature a variety of lunar eclipse views from telescopes around the United States.

From the Northern to the Southern Cross (astronomy photo by Nicholas Buer)


Image: Nicholas Buer, via APOD.

A particularly psychedelic Astronomy Picture of the Day:
There is a road that connects the Northern to the Southern Cross but you have to be at the right place and time to see it. The road, as pictured above, is actually the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy; the right place, in this case, is dark Laguna Cejar in Salar de Atacama of Northern Chile; and the right time was in early October, just after sunset.

You can follow APOD on Twitter, too.

John Dobson, telescope designer, former monk and open source astronomy advocate, dies at 98

The Los Angeles Times has a beautiful obituary for amateur astronomer and telescope pioneer John Dobson. He died on January 15, at 98 years of age. My grandfather was an amateur astronomer, too; like my grandpa, Dobson used and repurposed salvaged or inexpensive materials (ship portholes, cardboard tubing) to craft his telescopes. In Dobson's design, "a simple, sturdy and highly effective wooden mount that allows users to easily point the scope at any spot in the sky" was the most notable feature.

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Happy holidays from Saturn and its moons, and from the astronomers who study them


NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Saturn and two of its most fascinating moons, Titan and Enceladus, are the focus of a holiday image release from NASA's Cassini imaging team. Cassini Imaging Team leader Carolyn Porco writes:

We on the Cassini imaging team deliver to the world this holiday season ... what else! ... the gift of heavenly imagery starring the majestic globe of Saturn and its two most astounding moons, Titan and Enceladus. In this, our 10th Christmas offering from across the hundreds of millions of miles that lie between us and Saturn, you will find some of the most splendid and fascinating sights this historic exploration of the ringed planet has uncovered: the hexagonally-shaped jet stream encircling the pole in Saturn's northern hemisphere, the graceful shadows of its rings arcing across its south, the northern lakes and seas of liquid organics hidden under the hazy atmosphere of Titan, the brilliant ball of glittering ice that is the small active world of Enceladus, and more.

More about the image above:

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Panoramic image of Curiosity Rover under Mars's night sky

Jeffrey sez, "360Cities' intrepid member Andrew Bodrov, stitching master of interplanetary awesomeness, has constructed this composite image (i.e. 'fake view') of the Curiosity Rover at night under the Milky Way. You can even see Phobos, Mars' own moon in the night sky."

Mars Panorama - Curiosity rover: Martian night

China air pollution from space

Speaks for itself, doesn't it? NASA:

When the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this image on December 7, 2013, thick haze stretched from Beijing to Shanghai, a distance of about 1,200 kilometers (750 miles). For comparison, that is about the distance between Boston, Massachusetts, and Raleigh, North Carolina. The brightest areas are clouds or fog. Polluted air appears gray. While northeastern China often faces outbreaks of extreme smog, it is less common for pollution to spread so far south.

How we know what atmosphere is like on a planet outside our solar system

WASP-19b is an exoplanet whose atmosphere is probably super hot and super poisonous — filled with methane and hydrogen cyanide instead of water. This video explains how astronomers can even begin to guess at the composition of the atmospheres of far away worlds. (Bonus: A soothing elevator music soundtrack!)

Star-themed tees to raise money for astrophotography gear


Jason sez, "I am trying to raise money to buy better astrophotography gear, so I can take even better pictures, so I'm doing this by selling shirts I have designed."

The Main Sequence (Thanks, Jason!)

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Asteroid named after Randall "XKCD" Munroe

Holy. Smokes. Randall "XKCD" Munroe has had an asteroid named after him. Good old 4292 is big enough to wipe out life on Earth, but alas, its Mars/Jupiter orbit is boringly stable. Still, there's hope it will decay eventually, and create the splash Randy deserves!

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Enormous timescales made graspable by graphs

Wait But Why has a fantastic series of graphs that aim to help us wrap our heads around the enormous timescales on which forces like history, biology, geography and astronomy operate. By carefully building up graphs that show the relationship between longer and longer timescales, the series provides a moment's worth of emotional understanding of the otherwise incomprehensible.

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Excellent goals from an eight-year-old


This list of third-grade goals is presented by redditor Elbostonian as the work of his eight-year-old son. It's a rather ambitious document, but admirably so -- an excellent mix of stupid body tricks, theoretical astrophysics, identity development, culinary adventure, and mystery.

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See a star explode with your bare eyes

Now, to temper this awesome news with a bit of harsh reality: Nova Delphini is not a supernova and it's not going to be as bright an object as you're probably imagining. Discover's Corey Powell has instructions for how to spot it (it probably won't be super obvious, especially if you're in a city) and galleries of photos, just in case you can't see it yourself. Maggie 4

Astronomy snapshot from the Boing Boing Flickr Pool: Perseids at Mt. Rainier, WA

"Mt Rainier & Perseid meteors, 8-12-13," Jamie Frank, shared in the BB Flickr Pool. "Around midnight random meteors were beginning to fly overhead but the coolest was the dancing lights on the right of the ones to come."

The Perseids, a prolific meteor shower associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle, recently peaked. If you're lucky, you can still view some "shooting stars" in the night sky, as August comes to a close. Here are viewing tips.

A view of the stars — anytime, anywhere

Never Ending Night is a project aimed at making a live feed of the starry night sky available online 24 hours a day. It's art — imagine a world where everyone can see the same patch of sky from the same perspective — influenced and facilitated by science. And you can help fund it. Maggie 1

Jupiter layer cake


Cakecrumbs, creator of the amazing Earth Cake, has topped that marvel with a Jupiter layer cake whose layers reveal the theoretical makeup of the gas giant. Its multiple layers represent "a core comprised mostly of rock and ice... surrounded by a layer liquid metallic hydrogen, and the outer layer is composed of molecular hydrogen."

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