All ISON the Sun
Over the next month, Comet ISON will either provide skywatchers on Earth with astronomical beauty or enormous disappointment.
Thanksgiving weekend finds the visitor from Oort swinging behind the sun at more than 300,000 miles per hour (or “haulin’ ass” in scientific terms), coming only 730,000 miles from our hot ball of gas at its closest approach. To put that in perspective, Mercury orbits an average of nearly 36 million miles from the sun. Needless to say, not the friendliest place for a ball of ice and rock to be, eh?
To make things even more exciting, the sun has unleashed a coronal mass ejection (seen in the lower animation). Shouldn’t affect the comet much, though. the sun’s immense energy will put enough strain on it as it is.
Whether or not it will survive the close shave is unknown, but astronomers are watching closely (as you can see, it’s entered into view of NASA’s solar observing telescopes!). If ISON does make it through intact (perhaps lightly broiled?) December promises some superb comet watching.
Solar System Print (60x80 cm)
You know, no matter how many minimalist prints you draw up and post to Tumblr … PLUTO IS NOT COMING BACK TO PLANETHOOD.
Despite that, I love the style on this one. Scale’s a little off, though:
If you want to learn more about the scale of the solar system, I’ve got a video for that.
Strike a match, light a rocket, and travel into the Golden Age of the Soviet space program with these vintage matchbox labels.
It’s important to remember that the USSR was first to most early milestones in space, and they celebrated their accomplishments with some amazing art. Some of that was in the form of classic Eastern bloc propaganda posters, and some was … matches, I guess.
Via an amazing Flickr gallery full of all subject matter of matchboxes, my favorites feature (from top) Laika the space dog, a couple commemorating the three-year anniversary of Sputnik 1, a trio celebrating the Luna 2 moon mission, and finally the museum/home of pioneering rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky.
Lots more vintage art, space-age and otherwise, here.
Previously: Want more vintage science goodies? Tour the best pocket protector collection on the web.
It’s always good to stop and get your bearings every once in a while. Gorgeous animation of our cosmic neighborhood.
I have to say that I feel like I’m on hold with my bank while watching this.
Guide to our galaxy
This virtual journey shows the different components that make up our home galaxy, the Milky Way, which contains about a hundred billion stars.
It starts at the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way and with the stars that orbit around it, before zooming out through the central Galactic Bulge, which hosts about ten billion stars.
The journey continues through a younger population of stars in the stellar disc, home to most of the Milky Way’s stars, and which is embedded in a slightly larger gaseous disc. Stars in the disc are arranged in a spiral arm pattern and orbit the centre of the Galaxy.
The discs and bulge are embedded in the stellar halo, a spherical structure that consists of a large number of globular clusters — the oldest population of stars in the Galaxy — as well as many isolated stars. An even larger halo of invisible dark matter is inferred by its gravitational effect on the motions of stars in the Galaxy.
Looking at a face-on view of the Galaxy we see the position of our Sun, located at a distance of about 26 000 light-years from the Galactic Centre.
Finally, the extent of the stellar survey conducted by ESA’s Hipparcos mission is shown, which surveyed more than 100 000 stars up to 300 light-years away from the Sun. In comparison, ESA’s Gaia survey will study one billion stars out to 30 000 light-years away.
Video credit: ESA
Help these students send an experimental satellite to space!
These students from Concordia University in Montreal are competing to send an experimental satellite into orbit. I like their motivation, I like their energy, and I like the science behind the project.
Space junk is a huge problem, but not all of it’s huge. A forgotten wrench or glove can certainly bring down a spacecraft or satellite, but so can a pebble. Much of it is small enough that it can’t be seen or tracked, but traveling at high orbital velocities, microdebris still packs a devastating punch.
The Space Concordia team wants to test a special self-healing material that can repair itself after damage with these tiny bits of debris. It’s a fantastic idea that has real, direct application to current and future space missions. I mean, I wouldn’t like to have my capsule punctured by a misplaced sand grain on my way to Mars, and I don’t think you would either.
They are asking for Canadian dollars on their Kickstarter, but I think that, using science, we can probably work out a way to use whatever currency you happen to have lying around.
Really cool project, from the same space-faring neighbors that gave us Chris Hadfield. Score another one for Canada!
Details of the Hubble (Ultra) Deep Field. You’re looking approximately 13 billion years back in time.
Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t time travel.
If you like this, be sure to check out the Hubble eXtreme Deep-Field, an even deeper (2 million second exposure), more brilliant and time-travelly look to the edges of the visible universe.
MOOON by James Kwan
It’s about gravity. And being alone. And coming together.
Karen Nyberg, Fyodor Yurchikihin and Luca Parmitano have safely landed back on earth. They all left the soyuz with smiles on their faces despite the cold.
Images: NASA, Roscosmos (via spaceflight101)
The fact that the Soyuz capsule fires massive retro-rockets a second before impact will never stop being awesome/a possibly horrible idea/very frightening experience for those inside.