Is Anybody out There?

This photo was taken this past week at the Very Large Array, one of the world’s largest radio astronomy facilities. It covers an expansive area out on the Plains of San Agustin in New Mexico and consists of 27 antenna dishes that are each 25 meters (82′) in diameter. The total baseline of all the antennas can be up to 36 km (22 miles).

This is looking northward at the Milky Way. There were some clouds at the time, and the lights on the horizon are probably coming from the distant towns of Gallup and Grants.

If you’ve seen the 1997 movie, Contact, with Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey, this location was featured extensively.

This is a single 20-sec exposure with Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 manual focus lens.

By Gregg Ness

Taken on: November 19, 2014

Moon Transiting The Sun

On Nov. 22, 2014 from 5:29 to 6:04 p.m. EST., the moon partially obscured the view of the sun from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. This phenomenon, which is called a lunar transit, could only be seen from SDO’s point of view.

In 2014, SDO captured four such transits — including its longest ever recorded, which occurred on Jan. 30, and lasted two and a half hours.

SDO imagery during a lunar transit always shows a crisp horizon on the moon — a reflection of the fact that the moon has no atmosphere around it to distort the light from the sun. The horizon is so clear in these images that mountains and valleys in the terrain can be seen.

By NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

4 Multiverses You Might Be Living In

Could parallel universes exist? If so, what would they look like and how would they form?

Many physicists believe there is a strong connection between the inflationary multiverse and an important feature of string theory.

Although there is not yet evidence favoring the quantum multiverse over several other interpretations of quantum mechanics, it is still consistent with the results of every quantum experiment ever conducted.

The Godzilla Of Earths

The Godzilla Of Earths

The “Godzilla of Earths!” is in the foreground. Behind it is the smaller ‘lava world’. Their sun, in the back, appears to have been created only 3 billion years after the Big Bang.

Based on what we know about how solar systems form, researchers thought that a giant rocky planet could not exist. But they just found one that’s 17 times Earth’s mass. They’re calling it the Mega-Earth.

Scientists say the new planet may have “profound implications for the possibility of life” on extra-solar planets, according to a press release from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. They announced the finding in a talk at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Boston.

Researchers have always thought Mega-Earths were impossible since any planets that big would attract hydrogen gas, forming a gas planet like Jupiter.

Meet The Mega-Earth

Mega-Earth, also known as Kepler-10c, is 18,000 miles in diameter and 2.3 times as large as Earth. It appears to be as solid as the planet beneath our feet.

Kepler-10c was previously known to astronomers, but they had not yet measured its mass. Due to its size — 2.3 times that of Earth — it was assumed to be a “mini-Neptune,” a planet encased in thick gas. But the new observations have confirmed that it is rocky, not gassy.
It orbits an 11 billion-year-old star named Kepler-10 located 560 light years away from Earth. Its year lasts only 45 days.

Interestingly, this solar system is more than twice as old as our own — it was born less than 3 billion years after the Big Bang.

A Mysterious System

Researchers had previously thought that this kind of planet impossible.

Not only did they think something that big would be a gas giant, but they didn’t even think the elements that make up a rocky planet existed in our universe when this solar system was born: The early universe had only the lighter elements of hydrogen and helium.

Heavier elements were forged from these lighter ones in stars over billions of years.
Because of this, many scientists hadn’t been looking for rocky planets in these very old solar systems.

The mega-Earth isn’t the only weird planet in its solar system. There’s also a ‘lava-world’ 1.5 times Earth’s size whose year lasts only 20 hours.

By David A. Aguilar

Waterton Lake Eclipse

Waterton Lake Eclipse

Explanation: Recorded on April 15th, this total lunar eclipse sequence looks south down icy Waterton Lake from the Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada, planet Earth. The most distant horizon includes peaks in Glacier National Park, USA. An exposure every 10 minutes captured the Moon’s position and eclipse phase, as it arced, left to right, above the rugged skyline and Waterton town lights. In fact, the sequence effectively measures the roughly 80 minute duration of the total phase of the eclipse. Around 270 BC, the Greek astronomer Aristarchus also measured the duration of lunar eclipses – though probably without the benefit of digital clocks and cameras. Still, using geometry, he devised a simple and impressively accurate way to calculate the Moon’s distance, in terms of the radius of planet Earth, from the eclipse duration. This modern eclipse sequence also tracks the successive positions of Mars, above and right of the Moon, bright star Spica next to the reddened lunar disk, and Saturn to the left and below.

Image Credit & Copyright: Yuichi Takasaka

Mars Flyover

From the highest volcano to the deepest canyon, from impact craters to ancient river beds and lava flows, this showcase of images from ESA’s Mars Express takes you on an unforgettable journey across the Red Planet.

Mars Express was launched on 2 June 2003 and arrived at Mars six-and-a-half months later. It has since orbited the planet nearly 12 500 times, providing scientists with unprecedented images and data collected by its suite of scientific instruments.

The data have been used to create an almost global digital topographic model of the surface, providing a unique visualisation and enabling researchers to acquire new and surprising information about the evolution of the Red Planet.

The images in this movie were taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera and the video was released by the DLR German Aerospace Center as part of the ten years of Mars Express celebrations in June 2013. The music has been created by Stephan Elgner of DLR’s Mars Express planetary cartography team. DLR developed and is operating the stereo camera.