Mimas in Saturnlight

Today's Astronomy picture of the day is Saturn's moon, Mimas, bathed in light from both the planet and the sun. The image has had the darker side brightened somewhat; click through for the unenhanced original.

Explanation: Peering from the shadows, the Saturn-facing hemisphere of Mimas lies in near darkness alongside a dramatic sunlit crescent. The mosaic was captured near the Cassini spacecraft's final close approach on January 30, 2017. Cassini's camera was pointed in a nearly sunward direction only 45,000 kilometers from Mimas. The result is one of the highest resolution views of the icy, crater-pocked, 400 kilometer diameter moon. ... Other Cassini images of Mimas include the small moon's large and ominous Herschel Crater.

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Wafting magnetism has transferred oxygen from Earth to the Moon for billions of years

In a new paper in Nature Astronomy, a team from Osaka University publishes its analysis of data gathered by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Selenological and Engineering Explorer, revealing that an isotope present in lunar regolith is a match for an isotope found in terrestrial, atmospheric oxygen. Read the rest

Photos of miniature models of expolanets

Artist and photographer Adam Makarenko creates miniature exoplanets and then photographs them, with gorgeous results that go beyond CGI. Read the rest

Visualizing the vast distances of space with a 1-pixel moon in a side-scrolling solar-system

If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel tries to convey the vastness of space by inviting you to side-scroll through our Solar System with (you guessed it) the scale of 1 pixel to the diameter of the moon. These scale comparisons always manage to temporarily invoke something in me that approaches intuitive understanding, but before long, I can feel it fading and being replaced with the nonsensical science fictional conceit of solar systems as being something tractable. (via Making Light) Read the rest

How to see the extraordinary "supermoon" on Monday

On Monday November 14, we'll have the opportunity to see the full moon closer to Earth than its been since 1948, and won't be again until 2034. It will be a spectacular sight. From NASA:

The moon’s orbit around Earth is slightly elliptical so sometimes it is closer and sometimes it’s farther away. When the moon is full as it makes its closest pass to Earth it is known as a supermoon. At perigree — the point at which the moon is closest to Earth — the moon can be as much as 14 percent closer to Earth than at apogee, when the moon is farthest from our planet. The full moon appears that much larger in diameter and because it is larger shines 30 percent more moonlight onto the Earth....

The biggest and brightest moon for observers in the United States will be on Monday morning just before dawn. On Monday, Nov. 14, the moon is at perigee at 6:22 a.m. EST and “opposite” the sun for the full moon at 8:52 a.m. EST (after moonset for most of the US).

If you’re not an early riser, no worries. “I’ve been telling people to go out at night on either Sunday or Monday night to see the supermoon,” said Noah Petro, deputy project scientist for NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission. “The difference in distance from one night to the next will be very subtle, so if it’s cloudy on Sunday, go out on Monday. Any time after sunset should be fine.

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The Stars: The Definitive Guide to the Cosmos

I’ve always been fascinated with the cosmos (who isn’t?), and I even once splurged for a telescope to put in the garden for my family to enjoy. But with only one college astronomy class (101) under my belt, my knowledge of the stars falls into the “Dummies” category. Which is why I loved DK’s new book, The Stars: The Definitive Visual Guide to the Cosmos.

Not that it’s only for dummies. The large 10.1 x 12.8 book is for astro newbies as well as the more seasoned who will enjoy the scenery and surely pick up some new stellar facts. It's for teens as well as adults, jam-packed with starry science that falls into three sections. The first, “Understanding the Cosmos,” covers the basics and beyond, from the Big Bang, starbirth, supernovae and neutron stars to black holes, colliding galaxies, galaxy clusters and a lot more.

“Constellations,” the second and largest section, is loaded with the significance and charts of constellations – some popular ones (like those from the zodiac) as well as many I’d never heard of before (like Vulpecula the fox and Monoceros the unicorn). The third, smallest section of the book, “The Solar System,” just touches on our sun and planets, and was the one section that the authors could have expanded.

In true DK fashion, The Stars compliments its smart yet accessible text with a heavy dose of charts, maps, sidebars, and brilliant photos. The authors managed to make every page highly fresh and engaging.

The Stars: The Definitive Guide to the Cosmos by DK 2016, 256 pages, 10.8 x 12.1 x 0.9 inches (hardcover) $26 Buy a copy on Amazon Read the rest

Hubble releases shimmering image of a youthful globular cluster

Recent revised estimates upping the number of galaxies in the universe seem even more mind-boggling when contemplating this image released from Hubble this week. It shows NGC 362, one of about 150 globular clusters on the outskirts of just one galaxy, our own Milky Way. Read the rest

'Voyage of Time,' Terrence Malick IMAX film with Brad Pitt narration, is an awesome cosmic meditation

You know what America needs right now? A little perspective.

For that, I recommend you head to your local IMAX theater and see Terrence Malick’s “Voyage of Time: The Imax Experience.” It's a psychedelic meditation on the history of the cosmos that's very kid-friendly, and a wonderful reminder of the big, big picture.

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Most detailed 3D map ever made of our Milky Way shows over one billion stars

The largest all-sky survey of celestial objects ever made by humans was released this month, using data from The European Space Agency (ESA)'s Gaia satellite.

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NASA’s Hubble Spots Possible Water Plumes Erupting on Jupiter's Moon Europa

Astronomers working with the NASA Hubble Space Telescope have captured images of what might be water vapor plumes erupting from the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. “This finding bolsters other Hubble observations suggesting the icy moon erupts with high altitude water vapor plumes,” reports NASA. “ The observation increases the possibility that missions to Europa may be able to sample Europa’s ocean without having to drill through miles of ice.”

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover Views Spectacular Layered Rock Formations of “Murray Buttes”

Reports NASA today, “The layered geologic past of Mars is revealed in stunning detail in new color images returned by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, which is currently exploring the 'Murray Buttes' region of lower Mount Sharp. The new images arguably rival photos taken in U.S. National Parks.”

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NASA launches OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample mission now speeding toward Bennu rendezvous

NASA reports that its first ever asteroid sampling mission launched into space at 7:05 p.m. EDT Thursday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, “beginning a journey that could revolutionize our understanding of the early solar system.”

OSIRIS-REx, which is short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, is headed to the near-Earth asteroid called Bennu.

The probe's job: Touch the asteroid (after asking consent first, and with a platonic vibe) so we can bring a small sample back to Earth for study. If all goes as planned after today's launch, the spacecraft will reach Bennu in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023.

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Recreating Our Galaxy in a Supercomputer

Astronomers at Caltech have created the most detailed computer simulation yet of how our Milky Way galaxy was formed, from inception billions of years ago as a loose collection of matter to its modern state as a massive, spiral disk of stars.

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NASA's Juno to Soar Closest to Jupiter This Saturday

An update on the Juno mission, from NASA.

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NASA: 35 Years On, Voyager's Legacy Continues at Saturn

An update on the Voyager exploration program of Saturn from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

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Kepler Space Telescope Watches Stellar Dancers in the Pleiades Cluster

Here's a wonderful feature about my favorite constellation and the galaxy's most awesome telescope (at least one of them!) from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

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The 2016 Perseid meteor shower peaks August 11-12. Here's how to watch!

The Perseid meteor shower originates from the Swift-Tuttle comet, and is visible now through until August 24, 2016. The show is seen viewed from a northeastern direction in the northern hemisphere.

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