The brain mushroom is that rare species with the distinction of being both edible and poisonous.
This strange fossil – a worm-like creature with legs, spikes and a head that’s difficult to distinguish from its tail – has been linked with a group of modern velvet worms.
Emily Lakdawala at the Planetary Society posted an in-depth report today (August 19, 2014) about the ongoing wheel problems of NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover, which has been exploring the surface of the Red Planet since its dramatic touchdown just two years ago this month. Lakdawala writes of:
… punctures, fissures, and ghastly tears. The holes in Curiosity’s wheels have become a major concern to the mission, affecting every day of mission operations and the choice of path to Mount Sharp. Yet mission managers say that, so far, the condition of the wheels has no effect on the rover’s ability to traverse Martian terrain.
Astronomers have used archival data from from an X-ray satellite to identify what they now believe is an unusual midsize black hole. We know of stellar black holes formed by dying stars; they are relatively small, measuring up to around 25 times the mass of our sun. And we know of supermassive black holes – now thought to reside in the cores of most galaxies – containing hundreds of thousands to billions of times the mass of the sun. But the black hole called M82 X-1 – the brightest X-ray source in the galaxy Messier 82, or M82, located 12 million light-years away – is thought to be around 400 times the sun’s mass. And that characteristic makes it very rare.
Venus and Jupiter shine quite close together on the sky’s dome before sunrise, having showcased the closest planet-planet conjunction of the year on August 18. Jupiter, the fainter of these two bright beauties, is your ticket to locating the Beehive star cluster, also known as the Praesepe or Messier 44.
In a clear, dark sky, the Beehive cluster is visible as a faint smudge of light to the unaided eye. But this wondrous star cluster bursts into a sparkling array of stars through ordinary binoculars. Because Jupiter and the Beehive still sit somewhat close to the glare of dawn right now, it may be hard to spot the Beehive tomorrow, on August 20.
Will lava soon hit glacier ice, unleashing an explosion that would spew ash and steam high in the atmosphere? The Icelandic Meteorology Office (IMO) is monitoring Bárðarbunga, a volcano more than 2,000 meters in elevation, located beneath Vatnajökull, the country’s largest glacier. Since midnight on the morning of August 18, the IMO has detected about 950 earthquakes at Bárðarbunga. Aviation alert code has been raised to orange.
Scientists head out to the Gulf of Mexico every summer to measure the size of the dead zone—an area with oxygen levels that are too low to support most marine life.
Celebration of the Curiosity Mars Rover, a fully equipped analytical laboratory rolling around on the surface of another planet, narrated by Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Felicia Day.
The Trifid Nebula (Messier 20) is one of the many binocular treasures in the summer Milky Way. Its name means divided into three lobes, although you’ll likely need a telescope to see why. On a dark, moonless night, you can star-hop upward from the spout of the Teapot in Sagittarius to another famous nebula, the Lagoon, also known as Messier 8. In the same binocular field, look for the smaller and fainter Trifid Nebula as a fuzzy patch above the Lagoon. Follow the links inside to learn more.