Category Archives: News

Fireball Explodes Over Russia… Again

Why does Russia seem to get so many bright meteors? Well, at 6.6 million square miles it’s by far the largest country in the world plus, with dashboard-mounted cameras being so commonplace (partly to help combat insurance fraud) mathematically it just makes sense that Russians would end up seeing more meteors, and then be able to share the experience!

A bolide detonated over Murmansk, Russia on April 19, 2014

A bolide explodes over Murmansk, Russia on April 19, 2014 (Credit: Alexandr Nesterov)

This is exactly what happened early this morning, April 19 (local time), when a bright fireball flashed in the skies over Murmansk in the Kola Peninsula, located in northwest Russia near the border of Finland. Luckily not nearly as large or powerful as the Chelyabinsk meteor event from February 2013, no sound or air blast from this fireball has been reported, and details on the object aren’t yet known (could be a meteor, could be space debris). The video above, captured in part by Alexandr Nesterov from a dashcam, shows the object lighting up the early morning sky. Check it out, and follow me on Twitter for more details as they are released. Heads up!

Source: RT.com

Visiting the Place Where We Talk to Space

On April 2 I had the chance to visit NASA's Deep Space Network as part of a NASA Social (© J. Major)

On April 2 I had the chance to visit NASA’s Deep Space Network as part of a NASA Social (© J. Major)

When you’re talking to spacecraft billions of miles away, you need a powerful voice. And when you’re listening for their faint replies from those same staggering distances, you need an even bigger set of ears. Fortunately, NASA’s Deep Space Network has both — and last week I had the chance to see some of them up close and in person as one of the lucky participants in a NASA Social at JPL and the Deep Space Network! (If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen the live photos I had been sending from the event.) Want to know what happened during those two amazing days? Read the rest of this article here.

Rings Discovered Around an Asteroid

Artist's impression of the view from the asteroid Chariklo. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada/Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org)

Artist’s impression of the view from the asteroid Chariklo. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada/Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org)

We all know that Saturn is encircled by a system of rings, and perhaps you also know about the fainter rings around Uranus, Jupiter, and Neptune. But today, ESO astronomers have revealed a surprising discovery: there are also rings surrounding the asteroid 10199 Chariklo, a small, distant world orbiting the Sun far beyond Saturn.

This makes 250-km-wide Chariklo the fifth world ever found to have rings, after the four planets mentioned previously, and, based on the observations, it could also even have its own moon.

“As well as the rings, it’s likely that Chariklo has at least one small moon still waiting to be discovered,” said Felipe Braga-Ribas of the Observatório Nacional/MCTI in Rio de Janeiro who planned the observation campaign and is lead author on the new paper.

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The Brightest Lights: 12 Awesome Space Stories of 2013

1400-image mosaic of Earthlings waving at Saturn on July 19, 2013 (NASA/JPL)

1400-image mosaic of Earthlings waving at Saturn on July 19, 2013 (NASA/JPL)

What a year for space exploration! With 2013 coming to a close I thought I would look back on some of the biggest news in space that I’ve featured here on Lights in the Dark. Rather than a “top ten” list, as is common with these year-end reviews, I’m going to do more of a month-by-month (hence the 12) to help recollect some of the amazing stories and sights that 2013 has brought us. And with some of the big headliners we’ve seen this year it’s easy to lose sight of the smaller (but no less fascinating) discoveries — so I’ll be sure to include some of those too. After all, when it comes to learning about the Universe there’s no “little” news!

Ready? Let’s go!

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So… What’s Up With ISON?

Strongly-adjusted SOHO LASCO C3 image of ISON's remains as of Nov. 29 at 17:30 UT (2:30 pm EST)

Strongly-adjusted SOHO LASCO C3 image of ISON’s remains as of Nov. 29 at 17:30 UT (2:30 pm EST)

Animation of SOHO coronagraph images of ISON from Nov. 27-30, 2013 (ESA/NASA)

Animation of SOHO coronagraph images of ISON from Nov. 27-30, 2013 (ESA/NASA)

Yesterday sure was interesting. As the astronomical world, from scientists to journalists to enthusiasts alike, watched online in near real time as ISON came within its closest pass of the Sun — in literally ever — the comet, having spent the previous several hours brightening steadily, suddenly went dim as it traveled deep into the Sun’s outer corona. It appeared that it had fallen apart, disintegrating* into a smear of bright particles just as it began to round the Sun. Even as astronomers looked to spot a sungrazing ISON in several of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory’s imaging fields, nothing was to be found, leading many to pronounce the billion-year-old icy visitor from the Oort Cloud dead on arrival.

But then, just as the Twitterverse was lamenting the loss of this year’s most famous comet, something reappeared… and even now, a full day later, they’re still not quite sure what.

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Cassini Snaps a Picture of Earth from 900 Million Miles Away

Earth and the Moon as seen by Cassini on July 19, 2013 (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/J. Major)

Earth and the Moon as seen by Cassini on July 19, 2013 (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI. RGB composite by J. Major)

So did you get out and Wave at Saturn on The Day the Earth Smiled? If you did (and even if you didn’t) here’s how you — and everyone else on Earth — looked to the Cassini spacecraft in orbit around Saturn, 898.4 million miles away.

As Carl Sagan famously said, “That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.” On that bright point of light, the entirety of our world — past and present — resides. And just below it and to the left is the Moon… still to date the farthest that humans have ever physically ventured.

It’s a sobering image, but also quite beautiful… as well as deceiving in its simplicity as only now do humans have the technology to witness the entire planet and its lone moon as such tiny specks of distant light. Still, during the exploration of our solar system, it’s important to take a moment to look back home.

Read more on my Universe Today article here.

Smile, Earth!

Hey everyone! Today, THIS is happening:

That’s right — the entire planet will be photographed from Saturn by Cassini, 900 million miles away. So whatever you’re doing at that particular time, take a moment to look up, smile and wave! This will be one for the history books.

Read more here.

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