Friday, April 3, 2015

Lunar Eclipse 'Blood Moon' Should Be Easter Weekend Spectacle

Posted By on Fri, Apr 3, 2015 at 9:15 AM

Star gazers will see a treat in their celestial Easter basket this weekend. The western United States should have a prime seat to see a lunar eclipse—referred to by some as a "blood moon"—before sunrise. The phenomenon occurs when the Earth moves between the sun and moon, creating a red shadow. This is the third of four such eclipses in the 2014-2015 tetrad, the fourth due to occur Sept. 28.

The partial eclipse should be visible starting at 4:16 a.m. MT Saturday, April 4 and should peaking around 6 a.m. MT.

Astronomers advise using a telescope or binoculars, and a live stream of the event will be available from the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. Click here.

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Friday, January 2, 2015

Stargazers Can Celebrate the New Year with Comet Lovejoy

Posted By on Fri, Jan 2, 2015 at 1:07 PM

A large, bright comet will soon be visible to stargazers through binoculars and even the naked eye, Sky and Telescope reports

C/2014 Q2, or "Comet Lovejoy," spent a long stint in the southern hemisphere, and has been visible in the northern hemisphere by telescope-equipped astronomers since Dec. 26, though it was obscured by the light of the moon. But when the moon goes dark Jan. 7, it will be visible near the constellation Eridanus, just west of Orion. By Jan. 17, it will pass near the Pleiades. That's when it will be approximately 44 million miles from Earth.

Comet Lovejoy is marked by a bright green ion tail, at the end of which will be the comet itself—a dusty iceberg firing off ionized water mixed with carbon. This isn't  the first time the celestial visitor's path has been visible to the naked eye—its last pass through the solar system was 11,500 years ago—but due to planets' gravitational effects, its path will be shorter next time: Comet Lovejoy will next come through the inner solar system in about 8,000 years.

The comet is named after Australian amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy, who has discovered four comets previously. A previous discovery, C/2013 R1, rewarded early-morning stargazers in the southern hemisphere in 2013.

For more information on where to look in the night sky for the comet, consult the star charge below.

This chart shows the path of the Comet Lovejoy as it passes through the northern hemisphere during the month of January. - SKYANDTELESCOPE.COM
  • This chart shows the path of the Comet Lovejoy as it passes through the northern hemisphere during the month of January.

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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Lights From the Sun: NASA Shares Spectacular Solar Images

Posted By on Thu, Dec 25, 2014 at 1:00 PM

NASA has beamed out a Christmas gift to the world - a brilliant image of blue and green X-rays shooting off the sun - captured by the space agency's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuStar.

X-rays stream off the sun in this image showing observations from NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, overlaid on a picture taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). - NASA
  • NASA
  • X-rays stream off the sun in this image showing observations from NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, overlaid on a picture taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).

NuSTAR, managed for NASA by the Solar Dynamics Observatory at the California Institute of Technology, was designed to investigate the far reaches of distant galaxies, with particular focus on black holes. But scientists instead turned the orbiting telescope to the Sun to capture a close-up of its mysterious atmosphere. 

What they found was beautiful and powerful, all at once.

"At first I thought the whole idea was crazy," principal investigator Fiona Harrison said in a statement. "Why would we have the most sensitive high energy X-ray telescope ever built, designed to peer deep into the universe, look at something in our backyard?"

Now, NuSTAR is expected to unlock the mystery of so-called nanoflares, which, to date remain only a theory. According to a statement from NASA, "Nonoflares, should they exist, may explain why the sun's outer atmosphere, called the corona, is sizzling hot, a mystery called the coronal heating problem. The corona is, on average, 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit while the surface of the sun is relatively cooler at 10,800 Fahrenheit. It is like a flame coming out of an ice cube. Nanoflares, in combination with flares, may be sources of the intense heat."

The new photograph captured a gigantic solar flare, which erupted in an extremely active area of the sun called Active Region 2242. Scientists said it's one of the most spectacular flares ever captured in an image.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Video: European Space Agency Lands Probe on Comet

Posted By on Wed, Nov 12, 2014 at 10:07 AM

The Rosetta spacecraft's farewell photo of the Philae lander making its descent to the surface of Comet 67P. - EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY/ROSETTA
  • European Space Agency/Rosetta
  • The Rosetta spacecraft's farewell photo of the Philae lander making its descent to the surface of Comet 67P.

It was a jittery night for scientists at the European Space Agency: The international space organization had launched the Rosetta spacecraft in March 2004, and after a decade in space that took the craft approximately 500 million miles from the sun, scientists at Rosetta's mission control center were about to plant Rosetta's lander, Philae, on a comet just 2.5 miles in diameter.

At approximately 8 a.m. Pacific Time, Philae reached the surface of the comet, 67P/Churnyumov-Gerasimenko, after a seven-hour drop. The comet is 300 million miles from Earth, and this is the first time in history that humans have landed a craft on a comet.

While Rosetta has been able to make invaluable observations about Comet 67P's attributes, Philae is equipped to make observations about the comet's physical and molecular composition. Rosetta will continue to follow the comet while Philae broadcasts its findings from the surface.

"It's a look at the basic building blocks of our solar system, the ancient materials from which life emerged. It's like doing archaeology, but instead of going back 1,000 years, we can go back 4.6 billion," Kathrin Altwegg of the University of Bern in Switzerland, one of Rosetta's project leads, told The Washington Post.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Nampa Resident Reflects on Brother's Time in Space

Posted By on Sat, Oct 18, 2014 at 1:00 PM

Steve Swanson was the first astronaut to take a selfie and post it on social media. Here it is. - COURTESY SANDY NICHOLSON
  • Courtesy Sandy Nicholson
  • Steve Swanson was the first astronaut to take a selfie and post it on social media. Here it is.
When Sandy Nicholson talked to her youngest brother, Steve Swanson, on the phone, they talked about the sort of stuff most families talk about: each other's health, what his kids are doing, what's happening in each other's lives. 

They also talked about the experiments Swanson was running from the International Space Station, some 200 miles directly above Nicholson. 

The Idaho Press-Tribune recently had a conversation with Nicholson, finding out what it's like to have a brother in space, at a time of unprecedented communication between the International Space Station and family members on the ground. Turns out, it's pretty cool.

"We'd just talk about the normal stuff ... just like you would talk with anybody about what's happening in your life," Nicholson told the Press-Tribune. "His is just kind of separated."

Swanson was the first astronaut to post a selfie to Instagram from the space station. He was even able to connect with his parents, Eagle residents Stan and June Swanson, on their 60th anniversary. He set up a video chat through NASA and gave a tour of the ISS. 

Swanson returned safely from space in September after almost 170 days. He lives in Steamboat Springs, Colo., with his wife and three children. Now that he's back on earth, he spends his time mountain biking, skiing, trail running and woodworking.
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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Nobel Physics Prize Honors Blue LED Technology

Posted By on Tue, Oct 7, 2014 at 12:01 PM

The Nobel Prize Committee celebrated a blue-light special this morning.

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three researchers—one from the U.S. and two from Japan—for their decades-long work in developing light-emitting diodes. Their work spurred the development of LED technology that is now commonplace in smartphones, computer screens and millions of homes across the planet.

The prize goes to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and naturalized U.S. citizen Shuji Nakamura.

"They succeeded where everyone else had failed," said a statement from the Nobel committee. "Incandescent light bulbs lit the 20th century; the 21st century will be lit by LED lamps."

The three scientists will share the $1.1 million prize.

"It is very satisfying to see that my dream of LED lighting has become a reality," said the 60-year-old Nakamura in a statement released by the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he is a professor. "I hope that energy-efficient LED light bulbs will help reduce energy use and lower the cost of lighting worldwide." 
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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Creationist Museum Opens in Boise

Posted By on Wed, Jun 18, 2014 at 12:10 PM

The debate over creationism is about to evolve in Boise.

The Vision Center for the Northwest Science Museum opened for business on June 14 at 1835 Wildwood St. in Boise. That's where the public has been invited to preview exhibits and talk with creationists about the theory behind their disagreement with mainstream, evolution-based science.

Organizers hope to raise funds for a fully developed creationist exhibition center sometime in the future.

"The Northwest Science Museum is different from anything that's been done before, because it will explain the biblical and naturalistic point of view side by side," Doug Bennett, a geologist with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in Boise, said in a promotional video. 

Stan Lutz, a Boise-based "field paleontologist" also speaking in the video, described the museum as containing artifacts that will challenge the evolutionist perspective. 

"Our goal here is to present true science that has been hidden from the public. We have artifacts that absolutely confound the most ardent evolutionists. We have some things that some creationists have never heard of," said Lutz, a former longtime farmer who studied at the Creation Science Evangelism Institute in Pensacola, Fla., and has been associated with the Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose, Texas.
An artist's rendering of the Northwest Science Museum. - NORTHWEST SCIENCE MUSEUM
  • Northwest Science Museum
  • An artist's rendering of the Northwest Science Museum.

According to the NSM prospectus, the proposed museum would be 300,000-450,000 square feet, possess the first "full-size" Noah's Ark replica in the United States, contain a planetarium, chapel and lecture hall, and include all the usual museum amenities like a gift shop, a cafe and a picnic area. The prospectus estimates that more than 100,000 people would visit the museum and generate $20.4 million in business for the Treasure Valley every year. The prospectus provided no estimate for how much the facility would cost. 

Though the museum website states the facility would engage creationists and evolutionists alike, it's openly adversarial toward the consensus scientific point of view, with the video linking the founder of modern evolutionary theory, Charles Darwin, to Adolf Hitler at the 1:22 mark. Its stated mission is to "strengthen the visitor's faith in God and the Bible. It will give the visitor the information they need to trust the Bible and what it says about the creation of the universe."

"This goal makes available the resources necessary for an individual to continue to study Biblical creation science on his/her own so he/she will be well versed and can give an answer to anyone who asks about origins," the website claims.
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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Times News: Faulkner Planetarium Reopens after $750K Upgrade

Posted By on Sat, Nov 16, 2013 at 11:10 AM

Stargazing in Twin Falls is a high-tech affair. That is, it will be when the Faulkner Planetarium at the College of Southern idaho reopens with a $750,000 upgrade Tuesday, Nov. 19.

This morning's Twin Falls Times News reports that the refitted planetarium will feature a new projection system, LED cove lighting and Dolby surround sound. The projector, referred to as a "full-dome system," means images of the night sky will soon be projected across the facility's entire 50-foot dome screen.

The upgrade took seven weeks to complete, but the reopening couldn't come at a better time—Nov. 19 is the planetarium's 18th birthday; to celebrate, a total of 14 shows are scheduled for the next week. Two prizes will be given to audience members at each show, according to the Times News, including a one-year pass to the planetarium.

Debuting at the planetarium on Nov. 19: Violent Universe: Catastrophes of the Cosmos, narrated by Sir Patrick Stewart at 7 p.m., plus a live sky tour followed by Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure, from National Geographic at 8 p.m.

The Faulkner Planetarium is located at 315 Falls Ave., in Twin Falls.

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Friday, October 25, 2013

U of I Scientists Help Snap New Photos of Saturn Moon

Posted By on Fri, Oct 25, 2013 at 11:54 AM

Almost all of the hydrocarbon seas and lakes on the surface of Saturn's moon Titan cluster around the north pole, as can be seen in this mosaic from NASAs Cassini mission.
  • NASA
  • Almost all of the hydrocarbon seas and lakes on the surface of Saturn's moon Titan cluster around the north pole, as can be seen in this mosaic from NASA's Cassini mission.

A team of University of idaho scientists are part of a team of NASA researchers from throughout the nation, that reveled some out-of-this-word images Oct. 24: a new view of Titan, Saturn's moon.

A sun covered Titan, and a slight break in the usually haze filled sky, allowed NASA's Cassini spacecraft to obtain new pictures of the liquid methane and ethane seas and lakes on the moon’s north pole. Starwatchers said the new images give clarification to how lakes may have formed and how Titan’s Earth-like hydrologic system involves hydrocarbons rather than water.

University of Idaho Department of Physics associate professor Jason Barnes said that Cassini’s high resolution images and infrared mapping spectrometer gave researchers and scientists a much clearer view of a space that was previously too difficult to see.

The Cassini mission was launched in 1997, in NASA's partnership with the Italian Space Agency and the European Space Agency. Cassini has been exploring the Saturn system since 2004 and will continue before leaving its orbit in 2017. A full Saturn year is equivalent to 30 years on Earth.

The vast hydrocarbon seas and lakes (dark shapes) near the north pole of Saturns moon Titan sprawl out beneath the watchful eye of NASAs Cassini spacecraft.
  • NASA
  • The vast hydrocarbon seas and lakes (dark shapes) near the north pole of Saturn's moon Titan sprawl out beneath the watchful eye of NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cygnus Space Freighter to Dock With International Space Station

Posted By on Wed, Sep 18, 2013 at 12:14 PM

The Cygnus space freighter aboard the two-stage Antares rocket.
  • BBC News
  • The Cygnus space freighter aboard the two-stage Antares rocket.

The Cygnus space freighter, built by Orbital Sciences Corporation, launched aboard an Antares Rocket this morning from the Wallops Spaceport in Virginia.

That makes OSC the second private company, along with SpaceX, to contract with NASA to resupply its space missions.

Cygnus' next step is to reach 240 kilometers above the Earth, where it will enter a synchronous orbit with the International Space Station, dock and unload its cargo—some 1,500 pounds of food and equipment—Monday, Sept. 23.

NASA's contract with OSC is worth $1.9 billion for eight trips to the ISS.

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