The Sky Tonight Update: Jan. 19, Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation

Mercury elongation

This January 19th, the planet Mercury reaches its greatest western elongation of 24.1 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the planet low in the eastern sky just before sunrise.

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The Sky Tonight Update – Jan. 12, Venus at Greatest Eastern Elongation

Venus at Greatest Eastern Elongation

This January 12th, Tthe planet Venus reaches its greatest eastern elongation of 47.1 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Venus since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky.

Look for the bright planet in the western sky after sunset.

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The Great Red Spot is Changing Shape

great red spot

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is a swirling anticyclonic storm that was previously large enough to fit three Earths inside.  However, observations taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has revealed that this is changing, both in shape and size.

So why is Jupiter’s trademark feature beginning to downsize?

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NASA releases Ultra-HD video of the Sun

the sun in hd

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.

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Carl Sagan’s Solar-Powered Spacecraft Gets a Test Flight

solar spacecraft

Carl Sagan once proposed the idea of sailing through the cosmos via a solar-powered spacecraft.  This spaceship would use sunlight radiation to power its flight much like a boat uses the wind for propellant.  On May 20th, the Sagan co-founded Planetary Society will initiate its first test flight for such a solar vehicle:  the LightSail.

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The Mars One Project Debunked

mars one debunked

Back in 2012, the news hit that a proposed one-way trip to Mars was in the works by the non-profit organization, Mars One.  Based out of the Netherlands and headed up by Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, the mission was to take 4 crew members to the Martian surface and set up a permanent frontier.  This was the crux of the news story:  Many wondered  who would volunteer for such a mission–to never see and step foot on Earth again.  But thousands applied, and as the years whittled down the applicants it seemed that the mission was getting closer and closer to becoming a reality.  But then that all fell apart when it was revealed to be a bit of a scam.

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NASA Predicts Finding Signs of Alien Life Within 10 Years

nasa predicts

I’ve always imagined that one day I’d get home, turn on the news, and see this big developing news story that evidence of life beyond our solar system had been discovered.  It’s typically the stuff of movies and comic books, but recently NASA’s chief scientist, Ellen Stofan, predicted that signs of alien life will be discovered by 2025 with even stronger evidence for extraterrestrials in the years that follow.

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