September 27, 1905. On this date, while he was employed at a patent office, Albert Einstein published a paper titled “Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy-Content?” It was the last of four papers he submitted that year to the journal Annalen der Physik. The first explained the photoelectric effect, the second offered experimental proof of the existence of atoms, and the third introduced the theory of special relativity. In the fourth paper, Einstein explained the relationship between energy and mass. That is, E=mc2
As soon as darkness falls on September 27, look first for the waxing crescent moon. It’ll be shining close to the planet Saturn, especially as seen from the Americas and the islands of the Pacific. In Hawaii and southwestern Alaska, the moon will actually occult – cover over – Saturn at dusk or early evening on September 27.
The moon was rising and setting with the sun in the past few days. Now it’s far enough from the sun’s glare to be visible in the evening sky, shortly after sunset.
Try star-hopping to the Andromeda galaxy from the constellation Cassiopeia the Queen. In a dark sky, you might even spot this hazy patch of light with no optical aid, as the ancient stargazers did before the days of light pollution.
Do you live in the Southern Hemisphere, or the northern tropical latitudes? If so, you have a golden opportunity to catch the young lunar crescent bunching up with the planet Mercury and the star Spica as night falls on September 25 and/or September 26. Look for the moon, Mercury and Spica to pop out over the sunset point on the horizon as dusk ebbs into darkness. Not in Southern Hemisphere or tropics? Try it, anyway! Binoculars will help you scan for the pair along the sunset horizon.
Here is the Andromeda galaxy, the large spiral galaxy nearest our own Milky Way. Because the moon will be coming back to the evening sky soon – appearing only as a slim crescent at nightfall – the night sky now is mostly moon-free. That means nightfall and early evening will present a fine time for viewing this deep-sky treasure. Click inside to learn to use the Great Square of Pegasus as a great jumping off point for finding the Andromeda galaxy.
NASA said yesterday (September 24, 2014) that MAVEN – aka the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft – has now obtained its first observations of the extended upper atmosphere surrounding our neighboring planet Mars.
In its first interplanetary mission, India successfully placed a satellite into orbit around Mars on Wednesday. Congratulations to India!
Here on Earth, water = life. That’s why astronomers are very excited about a finding of water vapor in the atmosphere of a planet only about four times bigger than Earth. The planet is called HAT P-11b. It’s some 124 light-years. We now know more than 1,800 planets orbiting stars other than our sun, but astronomers say this is the smallest exoplanet in whose atmosphere they’ve been able to identify some chemical components. The journal Nature will publish their findings on September 25, 2014.
Antifreeze proteins help fish called notothenioids survive in icy Antarctic waters. But in an evolutionary twist, this simple survival solution may be a double-edged sword: The ice crystals in their blood don’t melt as temperatures warm.