In window seat 32F, Joe Rao will be one of the dozen astronomers and veteran “eclipse chasers” among the 163 passengers onboard, gazing out oval windows as the moon blocks the sun for nearly two minutes.
He’s an associate astronomer at the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium (where astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is director). About a year ago, Rao discovered that Alaska Airlines Flight 870 from Anchorage to Honolulu would intersect the “path of totality” – the darkest shadow of the moon as it passes over the Earth.
But the flight’s normally scheduled departure time would be 25 minutes too early, missing the grand spectacle.
Rather than attempt to move the sun or the moon or the Earth, Rao called Alaska Airlines.
The Leonid meteor shower, one of the most celebrated of the year’s annual “shooting star” displays, will peak overnight tonight (Nov. 17) and early Wednesday morning.
You can see the famous Leonids this year even if clouds or bright city lights spoil your skies: The online Slooh Community Observatory will air a free Leonids webcast Tuesday at 8 p.m. EST (0100 GMT Wednesday) featuring live views from locations on four continents. You can watch this broadcast by joining Slooh and also gain access to the observatory’s archive of past shows.
The annual Perseid meteor shower will reach its peak this week, giving amateur skywatchers with clear dark skies a potentially dazzling celestial light show.
Luckily for those watching the skies, there will be a new moon, allowing for maximum darkness just when the Perseid meteor shower will be is at its best. The meteor shower’s peak occurs during the overnight hours of Wednesday (Aug. 12) and Thursday (Aug. 13). No fancy equipment is required; just a lawn chair and your naked eyes will be enough to see the “shooting stars.”
This year marks 25 years of amazing images and science from the Hubble Space Telescope. To celebrate, we’ve assemble 25 images that represent both the beauty of the universe captured by Hubble and the important science realized by this wonderful telescope orbiting over our heads.
Flight to Star Cluster Westerlund 2
This visualization provides a three-dimensional perspective on Hubble’s 25th anniversary image of the nebula Gum 29 with the star cluster Westerlund 2 at its core. The flight traverses the foreground stars and approaches the lower left rim of the nebula Gum 29. Passing through the wispy darker clouds on the near side, the journey reveals bright gas illuminated by the intense radiation of the newly formed stars of cluster Westerlund 2. Within the nebula, several pillars of dark, dense gas are being shaped by the energetic light and strong stellar winds from the brilliant cluster of thousands of stars. Note that the visualization is intended to be a scientifically reasonable interpretation and that distances within the model are significantly compressed.
Credit: NASA, ESA, G. Bacon, L. Frattare, Z. Levay, and F. Summers (Viz3D Team, STScI), and J. Anderson (STScI)
Acknowledgment: The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), A. Nota (ESA/STScI), the Westerlund 2 Science Team, and ESO
How many stars are there in the universe? Are there more stars out there than grains of sand on Earth? Thanks to advanced space telescopes, we’ve been able to peer farther into deep time and the distant universe than we ever thought possible, and we might finally be able to answer these mind-boggling questions.
Explanation: Our solar system’s ruling giant planet Jupiter and 3 of its 4 large Galilean moons are captured in this single Hubble snapshot from January 24. Crossing in front of Jupiter’s banded cloud tops Europa, Callisto, and Io are framed from lower left to upper right in a rare triple-moon conjunction. Distinguishable by colors alone icy Europa is almost white, Callisto’s ancient cratered surface looks dark brown, and volcanic Io appears yellowish. The transiting moons and moon shadows can be identified by sliding your cursor over the image, or following this link. Remarkably, two small, inner Jovian moons, Amalthea and Thebe, along with their shadows, can also be found in the sharp Hubble view. The Galilean moons have diameters of 3,000 to 5,000 kilometers or so, comparable in size to Earth’s moon. But odd-shaped Amalthea and Thebe are only about 260 and 100 kilometers across respectively.
If you are willing to get up extra early this week, you can catch Jupiter and Venus getting flirty and close together in the early-morning sky. This meeting of the 2 planets, also known as a conjuction, occurs in pairs with 10 months separating the conjunctions Joe Rao for Space.com tells us more:
The two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, will appear super-close together before sunrise on Monday morning (Aug. 18), and it’s just the kickoff for a week of early-bird observing by stargazers.
This entire week is an exceptional time for predawn skywatchers to see the stunning sight of Venus and Jupiter together in the sky. The best time to see the two planets about 45 minutes before sunrise, when they will be visible low on the east-northeast horizon.
And if you are willing to wait until Saturday you’ll see even more!
On Saturday, Aug. 23, the gap between Venus and Jupiter will have widened to 5 degrees (roughly the separation between the two pointer stars in the bowl of the Big Dipper). On that night a narrow crescent moon will join the two planets, making for a striking triangle configuration in the morning twilight.