Anatomy of The Sun
The planets, as gorgeous as they may be, aren’t the only astronomical objects worthy of a mention via information and images. Here’s another wonderful infographic of the life force in our Solar System, the Sun.
Our little planet is in the influence of a star. The sun warms us, it drives the weather, it sustains all living things. 4 billion years ago, it brought forth life on Earth. - Carl Sagan
via Kate Tate
Maria Mitchell Inspires a Generation
“Do not look at stars as bright spots only - try to take in the vastness of the universe.” October 1st was the 151st anniversary of the day Maria Mitchell swept the sky with her telescope and discovered the comet of 1847 (comet Mitchell 1847VI). Honored and recognized internationally for her discovery, Mitchell, who lived from 1818 to 1889, became one of the most famous American scientists of her day.
Vassar College appointed Mitchell the first woman Professor of Astronomy and she remained the only woman ever elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences until 1943. Mitchell mentored a generation of scientists, and is fondly remembered for her ability to motivate. “We especially need imagination in science,” Maria Mitchell said, “Question everything.”
The space shuttle Endeavour, fresh from the STS-126 mission and mounted atop its modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft, flies over California’s Mojave Desert on a three-day trip back to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday Dec. 10, 2008.
Yo dawg, we heard you like crafts, so we put a spacecraft on your aircraft so you…
Polar Martian Dust Storm
A large dust storm was photographed erupting out from the north polar cap of Mars. Such dust storms are not uncommon as summer advances in the north. In the above picture taken by the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft currently orbiting Mars, the white material is frozen carbon dioxide that covers much of the extreme north.
As the north polar cap region begins to thaw, a temperature difference occurs between the cold frost region and recently thawed surface, resulting in swirling winds between the adjacent regions.
One of the Most Massive Stellar Eruptions Ever Seen in Space
The Pistol Nebula, one of the brightest stars in our galaxy, appears as the bright white dot in the center of this image taken with the Hubble Space Telescope. The image also shows one of the most massive stellar eruptions ever seen in space.
The radiant star has enough raw power to blow off two expanding shells (magenta) of gas equal to the mass of several of our suns. The largest shell is so big (4 light-years) it would stretch nearly all the way from our sun to the next nearest star. The outbursts seen by Hubble are estimated to be only 4,000 and 6,000 years old, respectively.
Despite such a tremendous mass loss, astronomers estimate the extraordinary star presently may be 100 times more massive than our Sun, and may have started with as much as 200 solar masses of material, but it is violently shedding much of its mass.
The star is 25,000 light-years away in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius. Despite its great distance, the star would be visible to the naked eye as a modest 4th magnitude object if it were not for the dust between it and the Earth.
Hubble’s Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) was needed to take the picture, because the star is hidden at the galactic center, behind obscuring dust. NICMOS’ infrared vision penetrated the dust to reveal the star, which is glowing with the radiance of 10 million suns.
Long ago, Venus was thought to be Earth’s twin – until measurements of its atmosphere revealed it to be a sweltering hellhole stifled by a runaway greenhouse effect. Now Europe’s Venus Express spacecraft has found a new trait that both Earth and our sister planet share: an ozone layer.
The finding could help astronomers home in on life on other planets.
Venus Express found ozone’s spectral signature in a layer 100 kilometres up in the planet’s atmosphere, at concentrations of no more than 1 per cent those found in Earth’s atmosphere.
Computer models suggest that Venus’s ozone is formed when sunlight breaks up carbon dioxide molecules. The oxygen atoms freed in this reaction meet up on the planet’s cooler night side to form molecular pairs (O2) and triplets (ozone, or O3).
“The key chemical reactions operating in Earth’s upper stratosphere may also operate on Venus,” write Franck Montmessin of the LATMOS atmospheric research centre in France and his colleagues in a paper describing the results.
Ozone is important for life on Earth because it blocks damaging ultraviolet radiation from the sun. On Earth its abundance suggests the breakup of CO2 by sunlight was not its only source. Instead, ozone, along with molecular oxygen, O2, also originated from oxygen atoms generated by CO2-eating photosynthetic microbes at least 2.4 billion years ago.