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Solar eclipse marked beginning of Iroquois Confederacy

Iroquois, one of the historical figures of the Maisonneuve Monument, by Louis-Philippe Hébert, 1895, Place d’Armes, Montreal. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

My wife Alice regularly brings home the Indian Time news journal, a publication by the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation Territory in northern New York. It was with great interest that I came across an article titled Dating the Iroquois Confederacy by Bruce E. Johansen.

What really attracted my attention was that a total, or near total, solar eclipse marked the beginning of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy, the oldest living democracy in North America and possibly on Earth. American democracy is said to have been modeled upon the democratic ideals of the Iroquois Confederacy, which originally consisted of five nations (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca). The sixth nation – the Tuscarora – joined the Iroquois Confederacy in the early eighteenth century (1701-1800).

Starquake sets magnetar ringing like a bell

A rupture in the crust of a highly magnetized neutron star, shown here in an artist's rendering, can trigger high-energy eruptions. Fermi observations of these blasts include information on how the star's surface twists and vibrates, providing new insights into what lies beneath. Image via NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Wiessinger

Artist’s concept of the highly magnetized neutron star SGR J1550-5418. A rupture in its crust may have triggered high-energy blasts. Image via NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Wiessinger

On January 22, 2009, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope detected rapid-fire, high-energy blasts from a magnetar – a neutron star with an exceedingly strong magnetic field. On October 21, 2014 – at the Fifth Fermi International Symposium in Nagoya, Japan – astronomers spoke of their work analyzing data from the 2009 event. They said they found underlying signals that might indicate a starquake on this magnetar that caused it to “ring like a bell.”

Video: 3D flight over Mars chaotic terrain

Get out your 3D glasses and watch a flyover of the weird landforms on Mars called ‘chaotic terrain.’

View from space: Southwestern U.S. at night

Image credit: NASA

Image credit: NASA

Two cool nighttime photos by astronauts aboard the ISS. Check out the bright city lights.

Partial solar eclipse for North America on October 23

Many saw dancing illuminated crescents like these, created when the leaves of trees and bushes acted as pinhole cameras and projected the eclipsed sun's image onto cars and buildings.  This photo from Chris Walker in Dayton, Nevada.

If the eclipse is deep enough in your area, it’s possible you’ll see dancing illuminated crescents like these, created when the leaves of trees and bushes acted as pinhole cameras and projected the eclipsed sun’s image onto cars and buildings. This photo from Chris Walker in Dayton, Nevada, who captured a May 2012 partial solar eclipse.

North America has a ringside seat to the partial eclipse of the sun on October 23, and this eclipse is almost exclusively visible on land from North America. Eye safety is of the utmost importance in observing this solar eclipse, or else you risk eye injury or blindness. Click on the links in this post to find out more.

Sun may delay plans for sending humans to Mars

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View larger. | This illustration depicts the heliosphere, or sphere of the sun’s magnetic influence. Outside this sphere, there’s a large increase in galactic cosmic rays. Illustration via AGU

The human dream of travel to Mars and beyond seems closer than it’s ever been. But a new study announced by the American Geophysical Union on October 21 suggests that these plans might need to be delayed, or at least significantly altered. The reason? Increasing levels of cosmic radiation spurred by decreasing activity on our sun.

Orionid meteors 2014

Joe Randall created this composite shot of the Orionid meteor shower from images taken on October 21, 2014.  Thanks, Joe!

Joe Randall created this composite shot of the Orionid meteor shower from images taken on October 21, 2014. Thanks, Joe!

The peak of the annual Orionid meteor shower has now passed, but you might see some meteors still from this shower if you’re looking in a dark country sky. That’s because Earth is still moving through the orbit of Comet Halley, which last returned near Earth in 1986 and which is due to return again in 2061. This comet spawned this annual meteor shower by leaving bits of dusty debris behind in its orbit. Each year when we intersect the orbit of Comet Halley, we see the Orionid meteor shower!

Small Magellanic Cloud is a nearby dwarf galaxy

View larger. |  A Perseid meteor streaks between the two Magellanic Clouds during the peak of the 2013 Perseid meteor shower.  Photo by Colin Legg.

A Perseid meteor streaks between the two Magellanic Clouds. Photo by Colin Legg.

You’ll see the Small Magellanic Cloud from Earth’s Southern Hemisphere. It’s even farther to the south than its larger cousin, the the Large Magellanic Cloud . These two hazy patches in the southern sky are really separate galaxies from our Milky Way. They are satellite galaxies to the Milky Way, orbiting around it. Follow the links below to learn more about the Small Magellanic Cloud.

Lifeform of the week: Corpse flower

Image Credit: Graham Racher

Image Credit: Graham Racher

To kick off the Halloween season of candy consumption, costume concocting and ghost story telling, I present to you a most fiendish lifeform, one that lurks in the dark and spooky rainforests of southeast Asia leeching life from innocent tree roots: a strange entity known as the corpse flower.

New 3D map of the cosmic web

3D map of the cosmic web at a distance of 10.8 billion light years from Earth. The map was generated from imprints of hydrogen gas observed in the spectrum of 24 background galaxies, which are located behind the volume being mapped. The coloring represents the density of hydrogen gas tracing the cosmic web, with brighter colors representing higher density.  Image credit: Casey Stark (UC Berkeley) and Khee-Gan Lee (MPIA)

3D map of the cosmic web at a distance of 10.8 billion light years from Earth. The map was generated from imprints of hydrogen gas observed in the spectrum of 24 background galaxies, which are located behind the volume being mapped. The coloring represents the density of hydrogen gas tracing the cosmic web, with brighter colors representing higher density. Image credit: Casey Stark (UC Berkeley) and Khee-Gan Lee (MPIA)

A team led by astronomers has created the first three-dimensional map of a section of the universe 10.8 billion light years away, when the universe was only a quarter of its current age. This map, built from data collected from the W. M. Keck Observatory, is millions of light-years across and provides a tantalizing glimpse of large structures in the ‘cosmic web’ – the backbone of cosmic structure.