Who remembers Comet ISON? It was the comet that was obliterated by the sun back in December 2013. Before its solar demise, the media reported that as ISON passed us by it would become brighter than the moon; however, the comet was too dim to be seen by the naked eye. So, it is with some hesitation that we tell you about Comet Catalina. This comet will be visible in the Northern hemisphere as a pre-dawn object in late November and should get brighter and easier to find through the month of December. It is expected to be seen by the naked eye at dark sky sites, but will be a tough object to glimpse from most suburbs and cities. That being said, it is one comet we can guarantee that inexperienced observers can view with a pair of binoculars.
It is always shining, constantly alight and blazing with energy. The Earth is awash in an endless tide of its particles. The Sun’s energy and light drives our weather, biology and more. But in space, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) keeps an eye on our nearest star 24/7. SDO captures images of the Sun in 10 different wavelengths, each of which helps highlight a different temperature of solar material. In this recently released video we experience images of the Sun in unprecedented detail captured by SDO. Presented in ultra-high definition video (4K) the video presents the nuclear fire of our life-giving star in intimate detail, offering new perspective into our own relationships with grand forces of the solar system.
The Sun does not rise for months at a time in some areas of Norway during the long, harsh winter. Begun in 2012, an ongoing project to bring the Sun–both literally and metaphorically–to those experiencing this deficit of sunlight was undertaken by IstadPacini Art Lab, a collaboration between artists Christine Istad and Lisa Pacini.
For the past several days there has been a lot of talk about this mysterious star located some 1,480 light-years away called KIC 8462852, located in the constellation Cygnus . This star appears to be flickering at irregular intervals. Some have gone so far as to hypothesize that the dimming is a sign of an advanced alien presence, suggesting the possible presence of advanced satellite orbits or a Dyson sphere. This has been a hot news story in the reaches of astronomy. But I waited to post anything about it, choosing not to jump on the train of speculation until further news came in.
In the past two blog postings we uncovered how some characters in the Harry Potter universe are tied to Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology. Not only are certain names shared, but the stories between the character and the myth from which its name is derived are actually intertwined. In the first blog posting we dealt mainly with two of Harry’s classmates: Draco and Luna. In the second blog posting we looked at two members of the family Black: Sirius and Bellatrix. Now it is time we took a closer look at one of Harry Potter’s fiercest enemies and one of his fiercest allies: Fenrir Greyback and Albus Dumbledore.
In the previous blog posting we discussed how many of the characters in the Harry Potter series have connections to ancient mythology and how these myths worked their way into the books’ story-lines. Numerous characters in the series also share their names with moons, asteroids, and stars. For this entry let’s look into two characters and the two stars they are named after: Sirius and Bellatrix.
If you’ve ever read the Harry Potter series of books, or even seen the films, you’ll come across many unusual and colorful character names. Characters such as Millicent Bulstrode, Fleur Delacour, Argus Filch, and Gilderoy Lockhart are a few of the names you’ll come across when working your way through the seven books in the series. These names—the sounds they create and their connection to other words such as the Slither in Slytherin or the Guile in Goyle—can give an indication, a slight inkling, to the reader into what can be expected of such characters. But there are other names—names such as Draco, Sirius, and Luna—which can also tell the reader something about their respective characters, not based on the allusion of their names but based on the astronomical backgrounds their names are derived from.
Skywatchers have a chance to see some “shooting stars” this week with the annual Draconid meteor shower. The meteor display, which peaks overnight on Thursday and Friday (Oct. 8 and 9), is caused by the remains of Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner raining down on Earth.
When we see depictions of the solar system, we often see an inaccurate representation of its size and scale. Some of the planets are often enlarged, other planets are minimized to a degree, while the orbital paths are shrunken down to be closer to the sun. This is done because, when viewing the entire solar system, you want to see everything that is there. Not only is there an enormous amount of space between the planets–especially between the rocky inner planets and the outer gas giants–but the scale between the inner and outter planets are at opposite ends of the spectrum. After all, you can fit over a thousand Earths inside Jupiter.
Giving an accurate depiction of the solar system’s scale is a very difficult task. It is a task that was recently tackled by filmmakers Alex Gorosh and Wylie Overstreet, using the “Earth as a marble” concept.
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has unveiled the stunning details of the Veil Nebula, the expanding remains of a massive star that exploded about 8,000 years ago.