astronomy

The Ashen Light

Does the dark side of Venus occasionally glow with a dim, haunting phosphorescence? It’s one of astronomy’s oldest and most enduring mysteries. Join Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick for an examination of the ashen light.

Path of Totality: See the Eclipse!

There’s a total solar eclipse sweeping across the center of the United States on Monday, August 21, 2017, so here’s a special Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast episode to enhance the experience! Join Robert and Joe for practical viewing tips and a rundown on the celestial mechanics at work in the sky above.

The Meaning of Stonehenge

The Meaning of Stonehenge: Stonehenge remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of the ancient world. Was it a burial ground for aristocratic families, a Druid temple or pilgrimage for those observing the seasons?

Supernovae are among the most powerful events in the universe. These dying stars can burn as bright as a billion suns. They outshine whole galaxies and birth the beginnings of new cosmic bodies. So what happens when you give one access to a grand piano and a stand-up bass? Enter astronomy graduate student Alex Harrison Parker from Canada's University of Victoria. Parker took three years worth of supernovae observation data (covering four sections of the sky) from Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, sped the video up to 15-days-per-second and assigned each super nova a note. Let's watch.

Space Music: The Blind Astrophysicist and Pop Music Astronomy

Ah, the music of the spheres! I've blogged previously on the sonification of space physics data, ranging from stuff as low-key as the SolarBeat flash-based music box to the University of Sheffield's own "solar music." Now here's another one. NPR's Studio 360 recently aired an excellent story on a blind astrophysicist named Wanda Diaz which really drives home some excellent points about how we listen to the cosmos. You can stream the full audio piece (as well as a short excerpt of astronomical data converted into synthesized music) right here at the Studio 360 home page. Here's an excerpt:

A Star is Born

Like most things in the universe, stars begin as particles floating around in massive clouds of dust and gas. But what forces these particles to coalesce and form a star? Tune in and learn more about the birth of stars in this podcast.

Space Music: Johannes Kepler has an Opera

I can't say I expected my next Space Music post to revolve around an opera, but here we are. And yes, I mean an honest-to-god opera. Not a pulp-fueled Star Warsian "space opera" and not even a science fiction opera like the L.A. Opera's adaptation of "The Fly." We're talking ladies in Viking helmets. The latest opera from living musical legend Philip Glass centers on the life of noted 16th century astronomer Johannes Kepler. The opera's title? "Kepler." What a minimalist, eh?

Astronomers Lose Access to Government Satellites

Let the conspiracy theories run wild. For years, planetary scientists and astronomers have benefited from an unofficial arrangement with the U.S. Military. With access to data from the Defense Support Program satellite network (part of the Pentagon's early-warning system), they've had the ability to better study incoming meteorites -- but no longer.

One thoughtful gaze into a clear night sky is enough to put our measly little lives in proper context. All those pinpricks of light have been traveling across the cosmos for billions of years, from stars born in a truly ancient galactic past. Last week, astronomers spotted something in the sky that surpasses everything we've seen before. According to New Scientist, NASA's Swift satellite spotted the gamma radiation burst from a star exploding 13 billion light-years away. Again, that's 13 BILLION years in the past -- a mere 640 million years after the big bang. Following the April 23, 2009, event, astronomers from around the world turned their attention to the inferred afterglow.