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Use Big Dipper to find Polaris and Little Dipper

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So you say you can find the Big Dipper, but not the Little Dipper? This post is for you. At present the Big Dipper is high in the north during the evening hours. Notice the two outer stars in the bowl of the Big Dipper. These two stars – called Duhbe and Merak – always point to Polaris, the North Star. Find Polaris, and you can find the Little Dipper.

Solar flare today: Awesome image!

Image credit: NASA

Image credit: NASA

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare today, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT, and NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of the event.

More, bigger wildfires burning western U.S.

The Las Conchas Fire burned 150,874 acres in New Mexico in 2011. The wildfire was one of hundreds of fires looked at in a new study that found large wildfires in the western U.S. have increased in number and size over the past 30 years. Credit: Jayson Coil

The Las Conchas Fire burned 150,874 acres in New Mexico in 2011. The wildfire was one of hundreds of fires looked at in a new study that found large wildfires in the western U.S. have increased in number and size over the past 30 years. Credit: Jayson Coil

New research suggests that the trend could continue as climate change causes temperatures to rise and drought to become more severe in the coming decades.

New image of red nebula 7,300 light-years from Earth

Image credit: ESO

View larger. | Image credit: ESO

In the middle of little-known nebula Gum 41, brilliant hot young stars are giving off energetic radiation that causes the surrounding hydrogen to glow red.

7.2-magnitude earthquake in Mexico

USGS is reporting a 7.5-magnitude earthquake on April 18, 2014

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is reporting a 7.2-magnitude earthquake – a very strong earthquake – that took place in central and southern Mexico this morning. It was originally reported as a 7.5-magnitude and then revised downward. The deep earthquake, whose epicenter was 30 miles below Earth’s surface, occurred near Tecpan, Guerrero, Mexico at 14:27:29.40 UTC on Apr 18, 2014. USGS said the quake was centered northwest of the Pacific resort of Acapulco, where many Mexicans are vacationing for the Easter holiday. The quake was also felt in of Mexico City, a city of 8.8 million which is vulnerable to earthquakes.

Find the Big Dipper in van Gogh painting

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Just for fun …. This painting is Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night over the Rhone, painted in September 1888 at Arles, France. Do you see the Big Dipper?

Tiger beetle dance

Image credit: Jane Wang

View larger. | Image credit: Jane Wang

A visual representation of a tiger beetle’s trajectories as it chases prey.

Everything you need to know: Lyrid meteor shower

A fireball meteor falling earthward, courtesy of NASA/George Varros

The annual Lyrid meteor shower is active each year from about April 16 to 25, and so you might see some Lyrid meteors beginning this weekend. The peak of this shower – which tends to come in a burst and usually lasts for less than a day – will fall on Earth Day, April 22, 2014. The greatest number of meteors will fall during the few hours before dawn. A last quarter moon, rising in the middle of the night, intrudes on the Lyrid shower in 2014, but these meteors tend to be bright. Some may overcome the moonlight. Follow the links inside to learn more about the Lyrid meteor shower: April’s shooting stars!

Moon and Scorpion rise after Orion sets night of April 18-19

Beginning late at night on April 18-19, the bright star i the moon's vicinity is Antares in the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion.  Antares is considered the Heart of the Scorpion.

Beginning late at night on April 18-19, the bright star i the moon’s vicinity is Antares in the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion. Antares is considered the Heart of the Scorpion.

On the night of April 18-19, 2014, the waning gibbous moon and the red supergiant star Antares of the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion rise in the southeast late at night. They appear over the horizon only after the constellation Orion has set. According to ancient myths, Orion and the Scorpion are archenemies and never appear in the same sky together.

First potentially habitable Earth-sized planet discovered

 The artist's concept depicts Kepler-186f, the first validated Earth-size planet orbiting a distant star in the habitable zone—a range of distances from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet. The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms that Earth-size planets exist in the habitable zone of other stars and signals a significant step closer to finding a world similar to Earth. The artistic concept of Kepler-186f is the result of scientists and artists collaborating to help imagine the appearance of these distant worlds. Art Credit: Danielle Futselaar.

The artist’s concept depicts Kepler-186f, the first validated Earth-size planet orbiting a distant star in the habitable zone—a range of distances from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet. The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms that Earth-size planets exist in the habitable zone of other stars and signals a significant step closer to finding a world similar to Earth. Art Credit: Danielle Futselaar.

The first Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting within the habitable zone of another star has been confirmed. The new planet, dubbed Kepler-186f, was discovered using NASA’s Kepler telescope.