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Fake image of India during Diwali versus the real thing

This image of India has been circulating on the Internet for years. Some claim it shows India during Diwali, but it does not. It’s a real satellite image alright, but it’s composite image, with several different years of lighting combined together. Image via U.S. Defense Meteorological Satellite Program

Have you seen this image? It’s a fake.

The Hindu festival of Diwali celebrates the victory of Good over the Evil and Light over Darkness. It also marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year. Lighting lamps, candles, and fireworks are a big part of Diwali. It’s a celebration of light! But can you see those celebratory lights from space? The answer is no.

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.

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, 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.