Exploding Star Spied by Hubble’s Camera

The latest image from the beloved Hubble Space Telescope to go on display is lending astronomers a rare view of the early stages of an exploding star, known as a supernova.

Exploding Star Spied by Hubble's Camera

Supernova SN2006bc, discovered in March 2006, is located nearly 60 million light-years from Earth in an elegant spiral galaxy called NGC 2397. The galaxy’s arms are flanked by long dust lanes illuminated by starlight in the Hubble images.

[SOURCE: discovery.com]

Space Calendar April 31 – May 6 2008

Space related activities and anniversaries for April 31 – May 6 2008. Fetched live every week from NASA JPL

If you want the complete list going more than a year ahead then see the Space Calendar at NASA JPL.

Southern Lights

Auroras (Polar Lights) are natural colored light displays, which are usually observed in the night sky, particularly in the polar zone. Some scientists call them “polar auroras” (or “aurorae polares”). In northern latitudes, it is known as the aurora borealis, named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for north wind, Boreas. It often appears as a greenish glow (or sometimes a faint red), as if the sun were rising from an unusual direction. The aurora borealis is also called the northern polar lights, as it is only visible in the North sky from the Northern Hemisphere. The aurora borealis most often occurs from September to October and from March to April.

Here is a great example of the southern version, known as Aurora Australis. And the view is from the Space Shuttle.

Aurora Australis seen from the Space Shuttle

Space Calendar April 24 – April 30 2008

Space related activities and anniversaries for April 24 – April 30 2008. Fetched live every week from NASA JPL

If you want the complete list going more than a year ahead then see the Space Calendar at NASA JPL.

Google Sky up and looking bad

Google Sky just launched as a separate application. At first glance it looks a bit of a mess, and not nearly as good as World Wide Telescopes over at Microsoft. My guess is that this has a lot to do with the actual images they have available, and should hopefully improve vastly over time. After all, competition is good. The tried and true Google Maps software is of course used here as well, so all the technical aspects like navigation and image handling are well taken care of.

Antenna Galaxies at Google Sky

Above is a partial screenshot of the application in action, and prominently placed in the picture you can see the Antennae Galaxies, or NGC 4038/4039. If it looks a bit naff, it’s because they’ve stapled a Hubble picture of good resulution on top of a much lower resolution image of the surrounding sky. Not a winner in my book.

Space Calendar April 17 – April 23 2008

Space related activities and anniversaries for April 17 – April 23 2008. Fetched live every week from NASA JPL

If you want the complete list going more than a year ahead then see the Space Calendar at NASA JPL.

STS-123 is go for launch!

Against a black sky, the Space Shuttle Endeavour and its seven-member STS-123 crew head toward Earth-orbit and a scheduled link-up with the International Space Station (ISS).

Liftoff was on time at 2:28 a.m. (EDT). Onboard are NASA astronauts Dominic Gorie, commander; Gregory H. Johnson, pilot; Robert L. Behnken, Mike Foreman, Rick Linnehan, Garrett Reisman and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Takao Doi, all mission specialists. The crew will make a record-breaking 16-day mission to the International Space Station and deliver the first section of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kibo laboratory and the Canadian Space Agency’s two-armed robotic system, Dextre. Reisman will join Expedition 16 in progress to serve as a flight engineer aboard the ISS. Follow the mission at NASA STS-123 Mission Information.

Large Binocular Telescope lights up

Earlier this year, the LBT at the University of Arizona finally opened its second eye. One 8.4 meter honeycomb-manufactured glass mirror has been in operation since 2005 but only this year the second identical mirror was put into production.

Large Binocular Telescope

Together, they have the light gathering capabilities of a single 11.8 meter mirror, but the effective resolution is a whopping 22.8 meter telescope. This is almost ten times the Hubble telescope, although that has the advantage of being outside the atmosphere, it is now considered the world’s most powerful telescope. This week, the first photos (“First Light”) of the binocular telescope was released to the public. They show great pictures of a “nearby” galaxy called  NGC 2770, a mere 102 million lightyears from the milky way.

For more information and better pictures see their website at http://www.lbto.org/.

Space Calendar April 10 – April 16 2008

Space related activities and anniversaries for April 10 – April 16 2008. Fetched live every week from NASA JPL

If you want the complete list going more than a year ahead then see the Space Calendar at NASA JPL.

Your very first astronomy book

You’re facinated by telescopes, the night sky and astronomy in general, but you do not know where to start. Or you want to find the perfect gift for your grandson. Depending on age, here are a few suggestions for what to get. For children, this one by Robert Burnham is one of the better. It’s colourful, packed with pictures and the writing is excellent. Almost guaranteed to hook any kid from the age of nine and up.

The Reader’s Digest Children’s Atlas of the Universe

There is a companion book in the same series that covers the world we live in as well, equally recommended.

Another brilliant book for the beginning astronomer is Nightwatch, now in its fourth incarnation and as popular as ever. Check out the Amazon reviews while you’re there.

NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe

If you’re looking for additional recommendations, then hit Skymaps.com, they generally keep a good, up-to-date list of relevant literature. As you can see there, they have sections for beginners, kids books, telescope specific books etc.