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Video: Translating climate change to music

University of Minnesota undergraduate student Daniel Crawford has composed a piece of music based on temperature data – at different zones of latitude on Earth – since 1880. He calls his composition “Planetary Bands, Warming World.” Each performer in the video above represents one of four zones in the Northern Hemisphere: near the equator (cello), the midlatitudes (viola), the upper latitudes (violin), and the Arctic (violin). Higher notes correspond to high temperatures. Listen, and see if the piece evokes for you what Daniel hopes will be “a more visceral response” to climate data than what we sometimes get reading or seeing charts and graphs.

NOAA forecasts slow 2015 Atlantic hurricane season

NOAA 2015 Hurricane Forecast. Image Credit: NOAA/NHC

NOAA 2015 Hurricane Forecast. Image via NOAA/NHC

With the developing El Niño in the Pacific Ocean, NOAA announced today (May 27, 2015) that it is forecasting a below-average 2015 Atlantic hurricane season. That season runs each year from June 1 to November 30. While NOAA scientists are forecasting fewer named storms this year than in some previous years, it is important to note that it only takes one storm to make it a bad season for any given location.

Hawaii governor says Thirty Meter Telescope has ‘right’ to continue

Artist's concept of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Artist’s concept of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige this week announced his support for continuing construction of the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) at Mauna Kea, considered a sacred mountain by many native Hawaiians. Protests over Mauna Kea’s use by astronomers halted construction on the $1.5-billion TMT project last month. At a press conference on Tuesday, Ige said the project has the right to proceed, and he laid out some new rules, which include removing one-quarter of the existing 13 telescopes on Mauna before TMT starts operating in the mid-2020s.

Heat wave kills 1,100 in India

The death toll is still climbing in India, where a powerful and deadly heat wave has killed more than 1,100 people so far in April and May, 2015. It is occurring during the Indian dry season, which typically lasts from March to May. Temperatures as high as 48 degrees C. – 118 degrees F. – have been reported. The most vulnerable are the poor, the homeless, the elderly and people who work outside. The situation is made worse by the fact that about one-third of India’s 1.2 billion population do not have access to reliable power.

Mammatus clouds over central Texas

Captured on Memorial Day weekend 2015 Anne-Marie in Georgetown, Texas.  Visit her Facebook page:  Trees

Captured on Memorial Day weekend 2015 Anne Marie in Georgetown, Texas.

In and around EarthSky’s hometown of Austin, Texas – and, in fact, up into Oklahoma and other parts of the central U.S. – there was some catastrophically bad weather over the Memorial Day weekend. Those who look skyward also noticed lots of mammatus clouds over a period of several days, like these clouds captured by Anne Marie in Georgetown, Texas. These ominous but beautiful clouds can appear around, before or after storms. Anne Marie appears to have caught them as the clouds were breaking up, just as the sun was going down.

How do astronomers measure the distances to stars?

The stars Vega, Deneb and Altair compose the famous Summer Triangle asterism.

The stars Vega, Deneb and Altair compose the famous Summer Triangle asterism.

One very distant star is Deneb. Why don’t astronomers know the exact distance to Deneb, and why are there different estimates for the star’s distance?

9 instruments chosen for Europa mission

This artist's rendering shows a concept for a future NASA mission to Europa in which a spacecraft would make multiple close flybys of the icy Jovian moon, thought to contain a global subsurface ocean.  Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech

This artist’s rendering shows a concept for a future NASA mission to Europa in which a spacecraft would make multiple close flybys of the icy Jovian moon, thought to contain a global subsurface ocean. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s 2016 budget request includes $30 million for a mission to Europa, Jupiter’s moon, thought to have a liquid ocean beneath its icy crust. Last year, NASA invited researchers to submit proposals for instruments to study Europa. Thirty-three were reviewed and, of those, nine have now been selected.

Medusa Nebula foreshadows our sun’s fate

View larger | ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile has captured the most detailed image ever taken of the Medusa Nebula (also known Abell 21 and Sharpless 2-274). As the star at the heart of this nebula made its final transition into retirement, it shed its outer layers into space, forming this colourful cloud. The image foreshadows the final fate of the sun, which will eventually also become an object of this kind.

View larger | ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile has captured the most detailed image ever taken of the Medusa Nebula (also known Abell 21 and Sharpless 2-274).

ESO released this awesome new image earlier this month. It’s the most detailed image ever of Medusa Nebula, captured by ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. This object is located in the direction of our constellation of Gemini the Twins. As viewed close up in space, it spans approximately four light-years, but, despite its size, its great distance makes it extremely dim and hard to observe. The processes that created the object in this image foreshadow the final fate of our sun, which will eventually also become an object of this kind.

Star of the week: Polaris is the North Star

Polaris on a stormy night. Spotting the North Star – and in that way knowing the direction north – has gladdened the heart of many a lost traveler. Photo by Jv Noriega in the Philippines.

The North Star or Pole Star – aka Polaris – is famous for holding nearly still in our sky while the entire northern sky moves around it. Polaris is not the brightest star in the nighttime sky, as is commonly believed. Polaris is only about 50th brightest. Still, this star is bright enough to spot even from some suburban skies. That fact has made this star a boon to travelers throughout the Northern Hemisphere, both over land and sea. Finding Polaris means you know the direction north. Follow the links inside to learn more about Polaris, the North Star.

Does the North Star ever move?

Sky wheeling around Polaris, the North Star.

Sky wheeling around Polaris, the North Star.

Polaris – the North Star – is like the hub of a wheel. It doesn’t rise or set – instead, it appears to stay put in the northern sky.