Enjoying EarthSky? Subscribe.

130,472 subscribers and counting ...

EarthSky // Page 2

Star of the week: Betelgeuse will explode someday

Betelgeuse imaged in ultraviolet light by the Hubble Space Telescope and subsequently enhanced by NASA. The bright white spot is likely one of its poles. NASA/ESA credit.

There has been a lot of excitement this month about the supernova in the distant galaxy M82. It is the closest supernova in many years, despite the fact that it’s some 11-12 million light-years away. On a January or February evening, come to know the red star Betelgeuse in the constellation Orion. It’s not only one of Orion’s brightest stars. It’s also a star that astronomers know will one day explode as a supernova. And it’s only 430 light-years away! Follow the links inside to learn more about Betelgeuse and its explosive destiny.

Planetary Society to test its LightSail solar sail in May

Artist’s illustration of Planetary Society’s LightSail, set against the backdrop of the Milky Way.

Artist’s illustration of Planetary Society’s LightSail, set against the backdrop of the Milky Way.

Star travel is a cherished dream among space fans, but the question is … how to get there? Travel by light sails is perhaps the most romantic notion for star travel, relying on thin, lightweight reflective sails, powered by the sun or other stars. You start slow, but accelerate up to very fast speeds. Okay, maybe we’re not ready for star travel anytime soon, but maybe travel between planets in our own solar system? That may be closer to the goal of the Planetary Society, which announced this week (January 26, 2015) that the first of its LightSail spacecraft will embark on a May, 2015 test flight.

Astrophysicists’ update on enormous and unexpected Fermi bubbles

From end to end, the newly discovered gamma-ray bubbles (magenta) extend 50,000 light-years, or roughly half of the Milky Way's diameter. (Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)

The Fermi bubbles extend from our galaxy’s center. From end to end, they extend 50,000 light-years, or roughly half the Milky Way’s diameter. Illustration via NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Discovered in 2010, two vast and mysterious Fermi bubbles radiate outward tens of thousands of light-years from our Milky Way galaxy’s core. Click inside for an update on the bubbles from the three astrophysicists who found them.

Huge distant planet has rings 200 times larger than Saturn’s

Artist’s conception of the extrasolar ring system circling the young giant planet or brown dwarf J1407b. The rings are shown eclipsing the young sun-like star J1407, as they would have appeared in early 2007.  Image credit: Ron Miller

Artist’s conception of the extrasolar ring system circling the young giant planet or brown dwarf J1407b. The rings are shown eclipsing the young sun-like star J1407, as they would have appeared in early 2007. Image credit: Ron Miller

Astronomers have found the first-ever ringed planet beyond our solar system. Called J1407b, the super-world has a disc of halos 200 times bigger than Saturn’s. Click inside for details on this discovery, plus … how it might look in our sky.

Behind the clouds

Dreaming the night away while waiting for the clouds to clear.

Use moon and stars to imagine Pioneer 10 on January 29

2015-jan-29-taurus-pleiades-pioneer-10-moon-night-sky-chart

Tonight – January 29, 2015 – cast your mind outward in space toward the Pioneer 10 spacecraft, one of the most distant spacecraft from Earth at this time. Pioneer 10 was launched from Earth on March 3, 1972. It was the most distant human-made object from Earth until Voyager 1 overtook it – at 69 Earth-sun distance units, or astronomical units – in 1998. On January 29, 2015, both the moon and Pioneer 10 reside in the direction of the constellation Taurus the Bull. You can’t see it (and it can’t see Earth), but you can imagine it tonight.

View from space: India by night and by day

Acquired January 12, 2015.  Image credit: NASA

Acquired January 12, 2015. Image credit: NASA

Two astronaut photos, one from 2015 and one from 1966, show the southern peninsula of India by night and by day. See the daytime view inside.

U.S. Nor’easter at night

View larger. | A combination of the day-night band and high resolution infrared imagery from the NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite showed the historic blizzard near peak intensity as it moves over the New York through Boston Metropolitan areas at 06:45Z (1:45 a.m. EST) on January 27, 2015. Credit: NOAA/NASA

This week’s snowstorm over the U.S. East Coast, at night. Image via NOAA/NASA

NASA and NOAA’s Suomi NPP and the GOES-East satellites captured this amazing nighttime view of this week’s snowstorm in the U.S. Northeast. The image shows this blizzard near peak intensity, moving over the New York and Boston metropolitan areas at 06:45 UTC (1:45 a.m. EST) on January 27.

Moon, star Aldebaran and Pleiades star cluster on January 28

2015-jan-28-aldebaran-pleiades-moon-night-sky-chart

Tonight – January 28, 2015 – as night begins, the waxing gibbous moon, star Aldebaran and Pleiades star cluster are found high in the sky. Aldebaran shines as the brightest star near the moon, though the moonlit glare might make it difficult to see the tiny, dipper-shaped Pleiades cluster tonight. If you can’t see them, break out the binoculars!

Stunning panorama from Opportunity rover on Mars marks 11th year

Image credit: NASA/JPL

Image credit: NASA/JPL

Eleven years on Mars for the rover Opportunity! And the robotic rover is still working. The rover’s work on Mars was initially planned for three months. It marked the 11th anniversary of its own January 25, 2004 landing on Mars with a new panorama, gained from one of the highest elevations reached so far. See the whole image, and see it large … inside!