August 22, 1989. When NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft skimmed past the planet Neptune on this date, it discovered a faint but continuous ring system encircling the planet. Scientists had suspected there were rings around Neptune some years earlier. After all, Uranus had rings, discovered in 1977. And, watching from Earth in 1984, astronomers were able to see extra blinks before and after Neptune passed in front of a distant star. Still, Voyager 2 made the definitive discovery of Neptune’s rings a few days before it swept closest to the planet.
Depending on where you live, you could call 2014 the year of the drought, or the year of the deluge. In early August 2014, we have seen several significant rainfall events occur across the United States. During the week of August 10, for example, a slow moving area of low pressure across the Great Lakes and New England produced widespread showers and storms. Yesterday (August 19), parts of Phoenix (yes, the desert) recorded over four inches of rain in a short time period, thanks to an upper level low pushing into the western United States. Are extreme rainfall events related to climate change, and/or has urban sprawl contributed to flash flooding events due to more concrete and poor sewer systems? The answers to both questions are probably yes. Follow the links inside to learn more.
The brain mushroom is that rare species with the distinction of being both edible and poisonous.
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.
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.
The Trifid Nebula is a stellar nursery, a cluster of recently born stars, a bright red hydrogen emission nebula, a lovely blue reflection nebula, and an interesting dark nebula divided into 3 …
What would it be like to view the Earth and the sky from the vantage point of the International Space Station? These three photos from ISS tell the tale.
Between July 20 and 22, 2014, the Cassini spacecraft – which has been orbiting Saturn since 2004 – tracked a system of clouds developing, then dissipating over a methane sea on Saturn’s large moon, Titan. Earthly scientists call this alien northern sea on Titan by the name Ligeia Mare.
Astrophotographer Göran Strand of Sweden kindly gave us permission to publish this photo, which a phenomenal double red rainbow. Details … inside.