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Star of the week: Spica is a whirling double star

Daniel McVey captured this image of planet Mars and star Spica on March 26, 2014.

Daniel McVey captured this image of planet Mars and star Spica on March 26, 2014.

Spica looks like one star, but it is at least two stars, both larger and hotter than our sun, orbiting only 18 million kilometers (11 million miles) apart. That’s in contrast to 150 million kilometers for Earth’s distance from our sun. Their mutual gravity distorts each star into an egg shape, with the pointed ends facing each other as they whirl around, completing a single orbit in only four days. Follow the links inside to learn more about Spica, brightest star in the constellation Virgo the Maiden, near Mars in 2014.

An ancient sea god under the Milky Way

This is Manann Mclir, the mythical Celtic god of the sea overlooking Lough Foyle in Northern Ireland.  The Milky Way galaxy is rising above the statue's arms in all its glory.  Glenn Miles Photography posted this one at EarthSky Facebook, in celebration of International Dark Sky Week, April 20-26, 2014.  Visit Glenn Miles Photography.

View on Facebook. | A statue of Manann Mclir, the mythical Celtic god of the sea overlooks Lough Foyle, an estuary of the River Foyle in Ulster in Northern Ireland. The Milky Way galaxy is rising above the statue’s arms. According to legend in Northern Ireland, Manann Mclir is the Irish equivalent of the Roman sea god Neptune (or Greek Poseidon). It’s said his spirit is released in fierce storms. Glenn Miles Photography posted this photo at EarthSky Facebook, in celebration of International Dark Sky Week, April 20-26, 2014. Visit Glenn Miles Photography.

A mythical Celtic god of the sea and the edgewise view into our own Milky Way galaxy, as captured by Glenn Miles Photography in Northern Ireland.

Star-hop from Leo to the Coma star cluster

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Our chart at the top of this post shows the constellation Leo the Lion and the Coma star cluster at roughly 9 p.m. local time (10 p.m. local daylight saving time). You can see Leo from the suburbs, but you’ll need a dark sky to find the cluster. In mid-evening now, as seen from mid-northern latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, the constellation of the Lion will be high in the southern sky. In ancient times, the Coma star cluster represented the Lion’s tufted tail.

A dance of supermassive black holes

An international research team has discovered a pair of supermassive black holes in orbit around one another, according to an announcement today (April 22, 2014) from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany. This is the first time a pair of orbiting, supermassive black holes has been found in an ordinary galaxy. In the past they were found only in so-called active galaxies.

How to spot the International Space Station

A composite photograph of the International Space Station from Earth. Image Credit: Dave Walker.

A composite photograph of the International Space Station from Earth. Image Credit: Dave Walker.

Every so often, the International Space Station (ISS) becomes visible in your night sky. It’ll look like a bright star moving quickly above the horizon. The ISS is so bright, it can even been seen from the center of a city. Then, just as suddenly as it appeared, it disappears. Here’s how you can spot the ISS in your night sky.

Whoa! 26 atom-bomb-scale asteroid impacts since 2000

At a press conference today (April 22) at the Museum of Flight, three prominent astronauts supporting the B612 Foundation presented a visualization of new data showing evidence for 26 atom-bomb-scale asteroid impacts since 2000. The evidence comes from recently released data from the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization, which operates a network of sensors that monitors Earth around the clock listening for the infrasound signature of nuclear detonations.

Photos from friends: Favorite images of Earth

From our friend Neha Golwala in India who wrote,

From our friend Neha Golwala in India who wrote, “Earth laughs in flowers.” Many more images inside this post.

In celebration of Earth Day 2014, a few of our favorite photos of Earth from friends around the world. We hope they help you enjoy Earth’s beauty and diversity. Our thanks to all who posted!

Why celebrate Earth Day on April 22?

In the late 1960s, there were love-ins, be-ins ... and, like the first Earth Day, teach-ins.  Here are two organizers of the first Earth Day.  Image via earthday2013funphotos.com

In the late 1960s, there were love-ins, be-ins … and, like the first Earth Day, teach-ins. Here are two organizers of the first Earth Day in 1970. Image via earthday2013funphotos.com

The first Earth Day – April 22, 1970 – marked the beginning of the modern environmental movement. Approximately 20 million Americans, especially on college campuses, participated. Since then, Earth Day is always celebrated on April 22. But why April 22?

Photos from friends: 2014 Lyrid meteor shower

Not just one but a whole collection of photos from the Lyrid meteor shower, which peaked on the morning of April 22.

M13: Great Cluster in Hercules

The Great Cluster in the constellation Hercules – also known as M13 – is considered to be the finest globular cluster in the northern half of the heavens.