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Second mysterious crater reported from Yamal

Helicopters found the first crater.  Reindeer herders report a second.  Photo of first crater via Siberian Times.

Helicopters found the first crater. Reindeer herders now report a second. Photo of first crater via Siberian Times.

The Moscow Times reported this week that reindeer herders in far northern Russia have found a second mysterious giant hole. According to these unconfirmed reports, the second hole is about 30 kilometers (20 miles) away from a first large and mysterious hole in the Russian permafrost, which made a big splash in social media after the Siberian Times reported it in mid-July 2014.

As Rosetta spacecraft approaches comet, a bright ‘neck’ and hilly terrain

View larger. | Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko .  Imaged: Sunday 20 July 2014.

View larger. | Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko as imaged by the Rosetta spacecraft on July 20, 2014.

UPDATE July 25, 2014. Some real detail is beginning to show. This image shows the 3.5-by-4-km-sized nucleus of the comet seen closer in at a distance of 5,500 kilometers / 3,400 miles by the Rosetta Mission OSIRIS NAC camera. Surface features on the nucleus are now becoming apparent in these 100-meter resolution images. Looks like the impact crater suspected on the bulbous lobe does exist, and there appear to be some linear depressions and hills on the larger lobe. Both lobes are beginning to show hilly terrain.

Video: Joshua Tree nights

A little TGIF … The night sky over Joshua Tree National Park in California. Watch this beautiful time-lapse!

Can sharks smile? Do they even feel happy?

The Discovery Channel’s Shark Week is coming up (starts August 10) and sharks are on our mind ….

Attributing emotions to animals is almost irresistible to most people, and some animals do seem to show happiness, anger, fear, and other feelings. Dogs, cats, dolphins, and monkeys can be especially expressive. So … how about sharks?

Go someplace dark! Meteors this weekend and in coming weeks

Radiant point of Delta Aquarid meteor shower

Radiant point of Delta Aquarid meteor shower

You won’t see as many meteors in late July and early August as you would if the Perseid meteor shower’s peak – around the mornings of August 11, 12 and 13 – were moon-free. But, alas, those mornings aren’t moon-free in 2014. So – with the moon gone from the sky in the morning hours – you have a window for meteor-watching right now and over the coming couple of weeks. Go for it!

Best photos 2013 Perseid meteor shower

Mike Lewinski said this Perseid fireball was so bright that it illuminated the clouds.  Notice the greenish color.  Mike was at Embudo, New Mexico.  Thanks for posting!

Mike Lewinski said this 2013 Perseid fireball was so bright that it illuminated the clouds. Notice the greenish color. Mike was at Embudo, New Mexico. Thanks for posting!

The Perseid meteor shower builds gradually to a peak over a couple of weeks in late July and early August. This year, 2014, a bright supermoon will interfere on the shower’s peak mornings. So begin watching meteors early this year … now! And enjoy these photos, which are from 2013′s Perseid shower.

Star of the week: Vega is the Harp Star

Sky princess Tanabata and her lover Kengyu, a mortal, meet on a bridge of magpies across the Celestial River. It's said they come together in this way each year on the 7th night of the 7th moon. Image by Anhellica via Lilliacerise's blog

One of the prettiest stories relating to Vega is popular in Asia, although there are many variations. In Japan, Vega is sometimes called Tanabata (or Orihime), a celestial princess or goddess. She falls in love with a mortal, Kengyu (or Hikoboshi), represented by the star Altair. But when Tanabata’s father finds out, he is enraged and forbids her to see this mere mortal. Thus the two lovers are placed in the sky, where they are separated by the Celestial River, known to us as Milky Way. Yet the sky gods are kind. Each year, on the 7th night of the 7th moon, a bridge of magpies forms across the Celestial River, and the two lovers are reunited. Sometimes Kengyu’s annual trip across the Celestial River is treacherous, though, and he doesn’t make it. In that case, Tanabata’s tears form raindrops that fall over Japan.

Many Japanese celebrations of Tanabata are held in July, but sometimes they are held in August. If it rains, the raindrops are thought to be Tanabata’s tears because Kengyu could not meet her. Sometimes the meteors of the Perseid shower are said to be Tanabata’s tears.

See which parts of the U.S. are losing groundwater

Image credit Chris Poulsen, National Drought Mitigation Center/University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Image credit Chris Poulsen, National Drought Mitigation Center/University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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Groundwater is the water found underground in the cracks and spaces in soil, sand and rock. Groundwater accounts for more than half of the U.S. drinking water and crop irrigation, and a source of recharge for lakes, rivers, and wetlands. It’s stored in geologic formations of soil, sand and rocks called aquifers.

This map was created using satellite data and ground-based measurements to model the relative amount of water stored in underground aquifers in the continental United States on July 7, 2014, compared to the average from 1948 to 2009.

Can we find aliens by looking for their pollution?

In this artist's conception, the atmosphere of an Earth-like planet displays a brownish haze - the result of widespread pollution. New research shows that the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope potentially could detect certain pollutants, specifically CFCs, in the atmospheres of Earth-sized planets orbiting white dwarf stars. Image credit: Christine Pulliam (CfA)

In this artist’s conception, the atmosphere of an Earth-like planet displays a brownish haze – the result of widespread pollution. New research shows that the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope potentially could detect certain pollutants, specifically CFCs, in the atmospheres of Earth-sized planets orbiting white dwarf stars. Image credit: Christine Pulliam (CfA)

Maybe some extra-terrestrials pollute their planets too.

Everything you need to know: Perseid meteor shower

View larger. | Meteor seen at Acadia National Park during the 2012 Perseid meteor shower.  Photo from EarthSky Facebook friend Jack Fusco Photography.  See more from Jack here.

View larger. | Meteor seen at Acadia National Park during the 2012 Perseid meteor shower. Photo from EarthSky Facebook friend Jack Fusco Photography. See more from Jack here.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the annual August Perseid meteor shower probably ranks as the all-time favorite meteor shower of the year. No matter where you live worldwide, the 2014 Perseid meteor shower will probably peak on the mornings of August 11, 12 and 13. Unfortunately, in 2014, full moon comes on August 10. And not just any full moon, but the closest supermoon of this year. Thus, on the Perseids’ peak mornings, a big and bright waning gibbous moon will obscure all but the brightest meteors. But all is not lost! It just means you need to start observing before the shower’s peak this year. Follow the links inside to learn more.