Thursday, February 6, 2014

Curiosity does some planet imaging.

Just another one of those amazing images that make you stop and think of the tiny blue dot we stand on.  Curiosity turned its camera toward the sunset and captured a bright "star" in the sky.
That star is US! Everyone we know, will know, used to know, everything in history that happened, dinosaurs, wars, disasters, even a few football games (now that will really make the Superbowl look like nothing!), and everything else.  All on that tiny dot.  The moon is visible also in the image, over 40 years ago humans traveled to that other tiny dot just below the brighter one - never any farther than that.  But then we see this photo taken from our rover sitting on Mars looking up the night sky.
Just another one of those photos that will make your brain go *ping!*.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Fresh craters on Mars.

The advantage of having spacecraft orbiting planets all the time is evident when the MRO orbiter finds new craters on the surface.  This is a fresh crater that formed recently, it's about 100 feet in diameter and has a "splatter" that goes out 9 miles!
Cool stuff.  Definitely a lot smaller than the rock that hit Russia a year ago.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Supernova in M82.

Again, a long time since posting new stuff.  But that's life as a Seattle astronomer as usual.  We got lucky again and had some clear skies for a few nights after SN2014J (the fancy name for a supernova) which blew up 11.4 billion years ago in M82.  Kind of cool, another one of those relatively bright Messier galaxies which are well known.   The star which blew up pretty much outshined everything else in the galaxy.  When I pointed the telescope at it, I could clearly see the star in just a 4 second exposure in my Starshoot autoguiding camera on the Orion 80ED.  It would have even been a good guide star if I wanted to use it.
The next night I just took a photo of an old favorite - M42.  It was up a lot earlier than the supernova, so I didn't gather more images of it.  The galaxy didn't clear my backyard tree until after 12:30am.