A First: from space, NASA spots a single methane leak from Earth's atmosphere

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“For the first time, an instrument onboard an orbiting spacecraft has measured the methane emissions from a single, specific leaking facility on Earth's surface,” NASA announced Tuesday.

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NASA telescopes spot clues for how Giant Black Holes formed so quickly

NASA Illustration of evidence that the direct collapse of a gas cloud produced supermassive black holes in the early Universe.
NASA today announced that astronomers studying data from NASA’s Great Observatories have found the best evidence yet for “cosmic seeds in the early universe that should grow into supermassive black holes.”

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Transport for London blames Tube delays on "wrong type of sun"

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The agency says that the angle of the sunlight that strikes its tracks creates glare that blinds the CCTVs that train-drivers use to ensure that the platform is clear before pulling out of the station. Read the rest

NASA's Kepler Mission Announces Largest Collection of Planets Ever Discovered

This artist's concept depicts select planetary discoveries made to date by NASA's Kepler space telescope. NASA/W. Stenzel

NASA announced today that the Kepler mission has verified 1,284 new planets -- the single largest finding of planets to date.

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What happens when you look at the sun through a telescope

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TV astronomer and author Mark Thompson uses a pig eye he got from his local butcher to demonstrate what happens to people who make the mistake of looking at the sun through a telescope. Read the rest

Look up in the sky! Eta Aquarids meteor shower expected to peak through May 6

An Eta Aquarid meteor streaks over northern Georgia on 29 April 2012. (NASA/MSFC/B. Cooke)

For amateur astronomers, tonight is an exciting night.

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SpaceX plans to send unmanned Dragon spacecraft to Mars by 2018, with humans to follow

SpaceX
By way of tweets and Facebook posts, SpaceX this week announced plans to send its unmanned “Red Dragon” spacecraft to Mars as soon as 2018. Sending this privately-funded craft on a bold, brave, risky trip like this could bring SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk closer to his goal of getting humans to Mars.

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NASA releases 4K high-def video of a recent solar flare, and it's pretty awesome

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Our solar system is awesome.

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Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

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A topographically accurate lunar globe designed with data From NASA

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Oscar Lhermitte and Kudu's MOON lunar globe eclipses every other Kickstarter project currently underway.

MOON is the most accurate lunar globe, using NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter topographic data combined with electronic and mechanical engineering alongside careful craftsmanship in mold making.

MOON is unlike traditional lunar globes that uses 2D photographs or illustrations of the Moon.

1. it is a truly accurate 1/20 million replica of the Moon featuring all the craters, elevation and ridges in accurate 3D.

2. it has a ring of LED lights that revolves around the globe, constantly illuminating the correct face of the moon and recreating the lunar phases as seen from Earth.

The combination of the 3D terrain with a light source is what makes it unique. By projecting the light onto the Moon, all the craters, ridges and elevations are brought into relief by their shadows. This recreates the lunar features as we see them from Earth.

For the first time, MOON allows you to see the side not visible from Earth ("dark side of the Moon" or "far side" to be scientifically correct).

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Scientists create the exotic ices of Pluto

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Tom writes, "Scientists at Northern Arizona U. use a home-made machine to create 'exotic ices.' They're simulating the surface of Pluto to help explain data and pictures sent to Earth by the New Horizons spacecraft." Read the rest

Something just struck Jupiter, and two amateur astronomers captured it on video

665 million km away from Earth something hit Jupiter (arrow). 3 moons L-R, Europa, Ganymede, Io.
Two amateur astronomers in different countries captured space images that astronomers say depicts an amazing cosmic event: something basically crashing into the planet Jupiter.

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Spacefaring and contractual obligations: who's with me?

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I keep having to sign contracts where I waive all rights "throughout the universe." Lately, I've been crossing out "universe" and writing in "solar system." Read the rest

Backyard astronomer discovered 300 asteroids so far

Meet maker Gary Hug who built his own home observatory, including a DIY reflector telescope, and discovered more than 300 asteroids.

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China will displace 9,000 villagers to build $184 million telescope for alien life search

2015 photo of assembly site of  "FAST" in Guizhou Province, China. (Xinhua/Jin Liwang)

Over 9,000 Chinese villagers must leave their homes to make way for aliens “or for the possible echoes of them,” reports Ed Wong in the New York Times.

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Einstein was right about ripples in spacetime!

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Gravitational waves are real, and scientists have detected them. In the video above, PBS Space Time explains the discovery by researchers at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). From the New York Times:

A team of physicists who can now count themselves as astronomers announced on Thursday that they had heard and recorded the sound of two black holes colliding a billion light-years away, a fleeting chirp that fulfilled the last prophecy of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

That faint rising tone, physicists say, is the first direct evidence of gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time that Einstein predicted a century ago (Listen to it here.). And it is a ringing (pun intended) confirmation of the nature of black holes, the bottomless gravitational pits from which not even light can escape, which were the most foreboding (and unwelcome) part of his theory.

More generally, it means that scientists have finally tapped into the deepest register of physical reality, where the weirdest and wildest implications of Einstein’s universe become manifest.

Below, NASA's animated simulation of the black holes merging and releasing the gravitational radiation (background here):

above image credits: R. Hurt/Caltech-JPL Read the rest

Astronomers unofficially designate a David Bowie "constellation"

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Studio Brussels asked astronomers at Belgium's MIRA Public Observatory to select stars that would make a fitting asterism in memory of David Bowie. (Of course, only the International Astronomical Union can officially name stars and other astronomical objects, and it's almost always with a number.)

In any case, this effort was tied to the "Stardust for Bowie" annotation project for Google Sky. There is also an unrelated Change.org petition to "Rename planet Mars after David Bowie."

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