Venus Bubbles

This is pretty cool – do a little space homework, find out when the Moon or planets appear in the direction of setting Sun. Take a piece of picture frame size glass outside at sunset. Find an appropriate place to fasten it between yourself and the setting sun. Sprinkle glass with drops of water. Focus your camera lens on the drops of water…….

Photographer John Bell of Haversham, Bucks, UK followed the recipe and obtained the picture above on Jan. 17, 2017.

“I had been looking at macro photos of flowers through droplets and thought I’d try the same with the evening sky,” explains Bell. “I taped a photoframe glass to a tree branch in my garden and framed the droplets using my Canon 5D MK2 with a sigma 106mm macro lens. The view was of Venus by a neighbour’s tree.”

Water droplets act as inverting lenses, so in the original photo the sunset was upside down. “Easily fixed,” says Bell, who restored order by rotating the image 180 degrees. “Focusing was a bit difficult,” he adds. “After all, water droplets are not perfect lenses.” The result, however, was perfectly beautiful. More exposures are available here.

Titan Touchdown

On January 11, 2017 NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory ( JPL ) released “Titan Touchdown”, a short video of stoic little probe Huygens landing on Saturn’s moon Titan. A video marking the 12th anniversary of January 14, 2005, the day Huygens bravely marched into history as the furthest ever landing from Earth. The day Huygens met fate in a blaze of glory, making the most of precious minutes until Titan claimed it for eternity.

The Cassini-Huygens mission holds a place in my heart – RIP Huygens, your sacrifice won’t be forgotten.

Have You Seen The Milky Way?

Born under starry skies, rural seclusion wrapped childhood in the Milky Way. Constant, permanent, watchful – I left for city lights without saying goodbye. We still see each other every few years, picking up where we left off like old friends do. When time comes to part I wave goodbye, mindful of cosmic wonders that shaped my life. Pondering the fact 80% of people alive today have never seen the Milky Way.


Draugr, Poltergeist and Phobetor

January 9, 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of Exoplanet discovery. On this day in 1992 the science journal Nature published a paper by astronomers Alex Wolszczan and Dale Frail detailing first confirmation of planets orbiting a star beyond our solar system. That star was a pulsar, 2300 light years away in the constellation Virgo, known as PSR B127+12. Pulsars are maelstroms of fast spinning highly magnetized solar remnants created when mass at the moment of supernova isn’t enough to make a black hole. Instead the outer layer blasts to oblivion, leaving an inner core of dense material exerting unimaginable gravitational force. Spinning countless times per second, those maintaining angular momentum become pulsars – distinguished by intense beams of radio emissions several times a second, similar to a lighthouse beacon.

At Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico Frail and Wolszczan witnessed regular dimming of the pulsar beacon, split second interruptions caused by orbiting planets. Two planets, PSR1257+12b (orbiting once every 66 days) and PSR1257+12c (one orbit every 98 days) became our first proven exoplanets. In 1994 they discovered PSR1257+12d, a tiny third exoplanet orbiting once every 25 days.

In 2015 the International Astronomical Union sponsored a Name Exoworlds contest, 12b, c and d became Draugr, Poltergeist and Phobetor. In 2009 NASA launched the Kepler Space Telescope using the same method of light interruption to detect planetary orbits. To date Kepler has identified 2330 of the over 3500 confirmed exoplanets. Happy exoplanet anniversary,

Best Space Photos Of 2016

On the cusp of 2017, say farewell to 2016 wrapped in cosmic wonder. Start by absorbing photo galleries in links below. Pause to consider  grainy 1959 snippets of the first video from space in order to lose your mind over 2016 timelapse. Happy New Year.

This enhanced-color view from NASA’s Galileo spacecraft shows an intricate pattern of linear fractures on the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa.

Strong winds sweep across Mars’ surface. The wind has carved features called “yardangs,” one of many in this scene, and deposited sand on the floor of shallow channels between them where ripples and dunes can be seen.

Read more:

Saturn and its magnificent rings

Approaching Northern Summer: This view shows Saturn’s northern hemisphere in 2016, as that part of the planet nears its summer solstice in May 2017.

Crash Course

Crash Course: It may look as though Saturn’s moon Mimas is crashing through the rings in this image taken by Cassini, but Mimas is actually 28,000 miles (45,000 kilometers) away from the rings. There is a strong connection between the icy moon and Saturn’s rings, though. Gravity links them together and shapes the way they both move.

Exoplanet Storms Ruby and Sapphire Wind

In 2004 science revealed 55 Cancri e, an exoplanet (planet orbiting a star outside our solar system) whose mass was primarily diamonds. This week, analysis of data from NASA satellite Kepler tells of HAT-P-7b, a gas giant 40% larger than Jupiter whose blustery upper atmosphere storms with ruby and sapphire wind.

Tidally locked, the same side of HAT-P-7b always faces a behemoth sun,  completing an orbit every every 2.2 days with day side surface  temperatures exceeding 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Analysis of extreme temperature variation between day and night sides of HAT-P-7b led to publication of the first exoplanet weather report, a forecast that includes upper atmosphere winds of ruby and sapphire.

“These results show that strong winds circle the planet, transporting clouds from the night side to the day side,” he said. “The winds change speed dramatically, leading to huge cloud formations building up, then dying away.”

And those clouds are almost certainly unlike anything here on Earth, the researchers added: Modeling work suggests that HAT-P-7b’s clouds are composed at least partially of corundum, the mineral that forms sapphires and rubies.”

Astronomers at University of Warwick in Coventry, England have detected evidence of the weather on a giant exoplanet outside our solar system. And not just any other weather; the scientists suspect that clouds on the exoplanet are made with corundum, a rock-forming mineral that forms sapphire and ruby.
(Photo : Hulton Archive/Getty Images)