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Milky Way has 3 more satellite galaxies

View larger. | Here's an Infrared map of our Milky Way galaxy, produced by the 2MASS survey.  The 9 new galaxies are marked in red.  Image via S. Koposov, V. Belokurov (IoA, Cambridge) and 2MASS.

View larger. | An infrared map of our Milky Way galaxy, showing 9 new objects – dwarf galaxies and/or globular clusters – marked in red. Image via S. Koposov, V. Belokurov (IoA, Cambridge) and 2MASS survey.

March 20 eclipse and the Saros

The paths of the final 7 total solar eclipse of Saros 120 show both the westward and northern shift of the eclipse paths with each succeeding eclipse. The northward shift is due to the shift in the Moon’s position with respect to its node. ©2015 by Fred Espenak.  Used with permission.

The paths of the final 7 total solar eclipse of Saros 120 show both the westward and northern shift of the eclipse paths with each succeeding eclipse. ©2015 by Fred Espenak. Used with permission.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Saros cycle of eclipses. There are currently 40 different Saros series in progress, each with its own assigned number. The total solar eclipse of March 20, 2015 belongs to Saros 120.

New explanation for Siberia’s mystery craters

B1 - famous Yamal hole in 30 kilometres from Bovanenkovo, spotted in 2014 by helicopter pilots. Pictures: Marya Zulinova, Yamal regional government's press service, via Siberian Times

B1 – famous Yamal hole in 30 kilometers from the Bovanenkovo gas field, spotted in 2014 by helicopter pilots. Photo by Marya Zulinova, via Siberian Times.

Siberian Times reported a total of seven mystery craters in Siberia in February 2015, with one scientist speculating on the possibility of “20-30 more.” Meanwhile, other scientists are suggesting that the craters are formed not by explosive methane release, as was previously suggested, but by another, less dramatic mechanism, the rapid melting of ice plugs known as pingos, due to unseasonably warm temperatures in Siberia over the past year.

2015 has three Friday the 13ths. What are the odds?

Scared of Friday the 13th? An irrational fear of this date is called friggatriskaidekaphobia (Frigga is the Norse goddess for whom Friday is named). Image via Kelli Marshall

March 13, 2015 is a Friday, ushering in Act II of this year’s epic Friday the 13th trilogy. We had a Friday the 13th in February, too – exactly four weeks before March’s Friday the 13th! Then we’ll have a Friday the 13th in November – exactly 39 weeks (3 x 13 weeks) after Friday, February 13, 2015!

Not that we at EarthSky suffer from friggatriskaidekaphobia – an irrational fear of Friday the 13th – but, gosh darn, it’s Friday the 13th three times over in 2015. What’s more, last year’s lone Friday the 13th on June 13, 2014, occurred exactly 39 weeks (3 x 13 weeks) before this Friday the 13th in March 2015. Also, next year’s lone Friday the 13th on May 13, 2016, will happen exactly 26 weeks (2 x 13 weeks) after Friday the 13th in November 2015. Follow the links below to learn more about why some people fear this day and about 2015’s three Friday the 13ths.

Follow the links inside to learn more about why some people fear this day and about 2015’s three Friday the 13ths.

Good news! Young tortoises spotted on Galapagos island

Galapagos tortoise. Image Credit: Cristian Soza.

Galapagos tortoise. Image Credit: Cristian Soza.

In 2014, researchers discovered Galapagos tortoise hatchlings on the Galapagos island of Pinzón. The young tortoises are the first to have survived there in more than a century. It’s a sign that decades of conservation programs to protect the giant reptile are starting to pay off.

The science of freezing rain

Freezing rain in Kentucky. Image Credit: NWS/NOAA

Why is it raining when temperatures are below freezing?

The phenomenon of freezing rain: What causes the dangerous winter weather element that can paralyze cities.

Beautiful video: Dolphin stampede and whales

A quadcopter drone was used to capture this amazing video a year ago. If you watch it all, you’ll see thousands of common dolphins stampeding off Dana Point, California, three gray whales migrating together down the coast off San Clemente, California, plus, toward the end, close-ups from Maui of a newborn Humpback whale calf snuggling and playing with its mom, as an escort whale stands guard nearby. Definitely worth five minutes!

Buddhist statue has a mummy inside

Buddhist statue with mummy inside

Buddhist statue with mummy inside.

Ye-ow! What a story. The image above is making the rounds on science websites this week (February 23, 2015). It shows a Buddhist statue with (surprise!) a mummified body inside. A CT scan, at right on the image above, shows the mummy. It’s a strange image, but the story around it is even stranger.

Does dark matter cause mass extinctions?

This painting by Donald E. Davis depicts an asteroid slamming into tropical, shallow seas of the sulfur-rich Yucatan Peninsula in what is today southeast Mexico. The aftermath of this immense asteroid collision, which occurred approximately 65 million years ago, is believed to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs and many other species on Earth.

Does dark matter play a role in space impacts, such as the one that may have killed the dinosaurs approximately 66 million years ago? This painting is by space artist Don Davis via Wikimedia Commons.

Earth detectors haven’t yet detected dark matter. We know it’s there only because dark matter interacts, gravitationally, with visible matter and radiation. Modern theories suggests that dark matter makes up a substantial portion of the mass of our universe, and the inner part of our galaxy, where our solar system resides, is thought to contain dark matter. This month – in a paper published February 18, 2015 in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society - a New York University (NYU) professor cites dark matter as the cause for earthly catastrophes, specifically mass extinctions and geologic upheavals. The idea seems far-fetched, but has an easy-to-visualize logic behind it.

When is the next leap year?

2012 was a leap year.  2015 is not.  Image via free-printable-calendar.net

2012 was a leap year. 2015 is not. Image via free-printable-calendar.net

No leap year in 2015. The next leap day will be February 29, 2016. The reason for leap years explained here.