Enjoying EarthSky? Subscribe.

110,777 subscribers and counting ...

Pluto-bound New Horizons update

Pluto and Charon as captured by the New Horizons' spacecraft LORRI camera on July 21, 2014.

The two tiny dots at the center of this image are Pluto and Charon as captured by the New Horizons spacecraft LORRI camera on July 21, 2014.

Pluto and Charon seen dead center in this one-quarter-resolution frame from New Horizons’ LORRI (LOng Range Reconnaissance Imager) Camera. Charon is at the four o’clock position with respect to Pluto. Pluto and Charon were 426.51 million kilometers / 264.86 million miles away at the time from New Horizons and appeared in front of the stars in southern Ophiuchus. The spacecraft is out of hibernation temporarily now, and will remain so through August.

Nominal Delta Aquarid peak on July 29 before dawn

The Great Square of Pegasus can point you to the constellation Aquarius and the Delta Aquarid meteor shower peak.

The Great Square of Pegasus can point you to the constellation Aquarius and the Delta Aquarid meteor shower peak.

The Delta Aquarid meteor shower – a long, rambling shower that’ll stretch out for weeks beyond the peak – does have a nominal peak and that is predicted for the hours before dawn on Tuesday, July 29, 2014. The most favorable viewing window begins about 1 a.m. (2 a.m. Daylight Saving Time) no matter where you are on Earth … through the onset of morning dawn. Although this shower is visible from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, it tends to favor the more southerly latitudes. North of the equator, it’s better seen in the tropical and subtropical regions rather than farther north. This shower will combine with the more-famous Perseid meteor shower, now rising to its peak. Now is the time to watch meteors.

Perseid meteor shower kicks off! Fireballs detected this weekend

NASA cameras in New Mexico caught this Perseid fireball on July 27, 2014

NASA cameras in New Mexico caught this Perseid fireball on July 27, 2014.

NASA cameras detected some Perseid fireballs, or very bright meteors, this weekend. This favorite among meteor showers is just getting started, with Earth now entering the stream of debris left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle. The shower typically builds gradually to a peak (this year on the mornings of August 11, 12 and 13), and NASA detected at least five Perseid fireballs over the weekend. Learn when to watch … inside.

As Comet Siding Spring approaches Mars, NASA gets ready

An illustration of the inner part of the orbit of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring.  On October 19, 2014, the comet will have a close pass of the planet Mars.  Its nucleus will miss Mars by about 82,000 miles (132,000 kilometers). The comet's trail of dust particles shed by the nucleus might be wide enough to reach Mars or might also miss it.   Image via NASA/JPL.

An illustration of the inner part of the orbit of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring. Image via NASA/JPL.

One of the most anticipated astronomical events of 2014 is the close passage of Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring to the planet Mars on October 19, 2014. The comet’s tiny nucleus, or core, will miss Mars by about 82,000 miles (132,000 kilometers). As comets travel through space, though, they leave behind a trail of dust particles, and this trail of debris might be wide enough to reach Mars and encounter its thin atmosphere … or might miss it, too. Follow the links inside to learn more.

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.

Orion returns

Here is a sight many skywatchers wait for, patiently, each summertime. It’s the constellation Orion the Hunter, rising out of the dawn. Matthew Chin in Hong Kong caught this photo of the constellations Orion, Auriga and Taurus yesterday (July 26, 2014). Watch for Orion before dawn, and give yourself a seasonal marker you’ll come to love as much as autumn leaves … or the first flowers of spring.

See Ophiuchus, 13th constellation of the Zodiac, tonight

10jul26_430

The faint constellation Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer appears in the southern sky at nightfall and early evening at this time of year. It descends into the southwest sky as evening deepens into late night. Ophiuchus is sometimes called the “13th” or “forgotten” constellation of the Zodiac. The sun passes in front of Ophiuchus from about November 29 to December 17. And yet no one ever says they’re born when the sun is in Ophiuchus. That’s because Ophiuchus is a constellation – not a sign – of the Zodiac.

EarthSky’s meteor shower guide for 2014

EarthSky Facebook friend Eileen Claffey caught this meteor on the night of July 25, 2014.  The time to start watching is now!  Thanks, Eileen.

EarthSky Facebook friend Eileen Claffey caught this meteor on the night of July 25, 2014. The time to start watching is now! Thanks, Eileen.

Don’t wait until August 11, 12 and 13 to watch the Perseids in 2014. The moon will be in the way. Start watching for meteors now!

As Rosetta approaches its 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.

Stars with cool names: Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali

2014-july-26-saturn-zubenelgenubi-zubeneschamali-night-sky-chart

On July and August evenings, try finding two stars in the constellation Libra with the coolest of all star names: Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali. They’re located in between two of the sky’s brightest stars, Antares in the constellation Scorpius and Spica in the constellation Virgo. In 2014, you’ll see the golden planet Saturn shining in between these two Libra stars.