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Black hole wakes up after 27 years

On June 15, a monster black hole in the binary system V404 Cygni started showing signs of extraordinary activity that hasn’t happened since 1989. Astronomers around the world are watching the event.

When will all five visible planets appear simultaneously?

planets

All five visible planets will appear together in the morning sky early next year – from about January 20 to February 20, 2016. That hasn’t happened since 2005. Details inside.

Lenticular clouds look like UFOs

“Lenticular cloud outside my window in Dublin Ireland this morning. I was surprised to see this as we don’t get them too often here,” said Anthony Lynch Photography in June, 2015.

These lens-shaped clouds are often mistaken for UFOs. Here’s how they form, plus gorgeous photos and a video.

Spectacular Venus-Jupiter conjunction

The sky's brightest and second-brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter!

The sky’s brightest and second-brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter!

On June 30 and July 1, 2015, look for the sky’s brightest and second-brightest planets to stage their closest conjunction until August, 2016. Venus and Jupiter will be less than one-half degree apart. That’s less than the moon’s diameter on our sky’s dome.

Rosetta team struggles with Philae link

A view of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from Rosetta, showing the spacecraft's huge solar panels. This

A view of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from Rosetta, showing the spacecraft’s huge solar panels. This “selfie” was actually taken by Philae while still attached on Sep. 7, 2014. Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

Since Philae renewed contact on June 13, the Rosetta team has been struggling to establish a stable link with the comet lander.

Leap second scheduled for June 30

Image via riaus.org

Image via riaus.org

A leap second will be added to official timekeeping on Tuesday, June 30, 2015. That means your day – and my day and everyone’s day – will officially be one second longer. Meanwhile, a proposal to dump the leap second has been deferred until October.

Next Mars mission is ESA’s ExoMars

Artist's concept the Trace Gas and Data Relay Orbiter, one component of the 2016 ExoMars mission.  Image via ESA

Artist’s concept the Trace Gas and Data Relay Orbiter, one component of the 2016 ExoMars mission. Image via ESA

ESA’s ExoMars consists of two separate missions to investigate Mars. The first, set to launch in January 2016, consists of an orbiter and lander. The lander is called Schiaparelli. The second mission, scheduled for 2018, will deliver a European rover and a Russian surface platform to Mars’ surface. Both missions are aimed at the search for evidence of methane and other indicators of active biological activity on Mars.

Get ready for New Horizons’ flyby of Pluto

“There could be mountains of water ice with glaciers of nitrogen creeping down their sides,” Bill McKinnon says. “That’s entirely plausible. At -400 degrees F, water ice would be hard and brittle, but nitrogen ice would be squishy and easily melted.” Image credit: iStockphoto

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will fly through the Pluto system on July 14. It’s only 2 weeks away!

What is the speed of thought?

Just how quickly are those thoughts bouncing around in there? Image credit: shutterstock

Just how quickly are those thoughts bouncing around in there? Image credit: shutterstock

It feels instantaneous, but how long does it really take to think a thought?

Moon near Antares. Jupiter and Venus!

2015-june-27-28-29-moon-saturn-antares

Tonight – June 29, 2015 – look for the star Antares near the moon (and the planet Saturn) as darkness falls. At the same time of night, look west for Jupiter and Venus! They are spectacular now and just one day away from their conjunction, marking these two bright worlds closest appearance to each other in our night sky until August, 2016!