Dark Skies, New Moon, Meteor Shower, and Thou

It’s that magical time of year once again, the best meteor shower of the year is upon us: The Perseids!  Generally the most reliable meteor shower and the one that most people know about, the August meteors have one of the highest rates, typically anywhere from 50 – 100 meteors per hour.  Its amazing how well known it is considering most people don’t know there are more than nine showers during the year. Either way, this year will be particularly good for a very special reason: It’s a new Moon. The Moon is the enemy of a meteor shower.  Its...

A Black Eye in a Black Sky

When Charles Messier catalogued 100 different objects in the night sky, he couldn’t have imagined the richness and detail of each one of his individual discoveries, or that we would ever see them in such incredible detail as to understand what they truly are and how they evolve.  But every time I see a new image of a well-known object, I not only see the new and amazing details revealed, I see the next level of technology that enables us to see it in a new light.  This image of Messier number 64 gives me that view. Messier 64 is...

Dark Clouds that Haunt our Galaxy

When I do a planetarium show for an audience, and they see the night sky for the first time, I always ask them ‘What do you see?’ The response is the usual stuff – Stars, the Moon, maybe planets, or the Milky Way.  But they seem to be missing the most important and largest part of the sky – the Darkness. Space itself. Stars light up the cosmos, but if there were no stars, would we think that the universe was empty? Perhaps, but if you can imagine this scenario, it gives you an important perspective when you want to...

The Next Image of Pluto

I feel this will be a recurring theme with my posts, especially for those who read my blog on a regular basis.  I love Pluto and am fascinated by new horizons.  Its like a kitten chasing a ball of yarn.  But with so many new possibilities popping up with Pluto as the new horizons rendezvous draws near, its hard to contain my excitement at the prospects of great science. The latest photo taken from just under 100 Million Km distant, shows some surface features for the first time.  The features are interpreted as broad surface features, some are brigt and...

Ceres Like the Moon, Mercury

It’s coming up fast.  The March 6th orbital injection of the Dawn spacecraft about the dwarf planet Ceres is set to be an incredible event.  The latest photos show a much more detailed Ceres that we have seen previously.   The newest images reveal that Ceres is a rocky, cratered world, not unlike the Moon or Mercury.  Still, we have yet to determine the origins of the bright spots on the surface. Just over two weeks from now the world will see an unmasked Ceres.  

Heavy Metal Frost on Venus?

Venus is the most hellish place I know of in the Solar System, and maybe even the broader Universe.  Even though Venus looks pretty harmless and is named for the Roman goddess of Love, beneath the soft looking clouds lies sulphuric acid rainfall, 450 degree surface temperatures, and crushing pressure 90 times the atmospheric pressure of Earth at sea level. How do we get the surface picture of Venus above? NASA’s Magellan probe in 1994 finished mapping the surface by looking at Radio wavelengths emitted by the planet and using radar to bounce waves off the surface to measure features....

Dark Matter may be more Massive than it already is!

Dark Matter; Dark Energy; We basically use the term ‘dark’ as a cool sounding version of ‘We have no clue what this is.’ But Dark Matter is a better name than ‘We haven’t a clue’ Matter. Over the years, Astronomers have been trying to pinpoint what the stuff actually is that seems to permeate the universe and makes up 26.8% of the entire total energy-mass (Compare this to a paltry 4.9% of ordinary matter, ie the stuff we can see). But now, as per usual, theorists have come up with another possibility for the source of dark matter: moderately sized,...