Thursday, September 17, 2020

Arp 78: Peculiar Galaxy in Aries

(xxxedit and linkxxx) Peculiar spiral galaxy Arp 78 is found within the boundaries of the head strong constellation Aries, some 100 million light-years beyond the stars and nebulae of our Milky Way galaxy. Also known as NGC 772, the island universe is over 100,000 light-years across and sports a single prominent outer spiral arm in this detailed cosmic portrait. Its brightest companion galaxy, compact NGC 770, is toward the upper right of the larger spiral. NGC 770's fuzzy, elliptical appearance contrasts nicely with a spiky foreground Milky Way star in matching yellowish hues. Tracking along sweeping dust lanes and lined with young blue star clusters, Arp 78's large spiral arm is likely due to gravitational tidal interactions. Faint streams of material seem to connect Arp 78 with its nearby companion galaxies. via NASA

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Solar Cycle 25 Begins

The general trend of monthly sunspot data now confirms that the minimum of the approximately 11 year cycle of solar activity occurred in December 2019, marking the start of Solar Cycle 25. That quiet Sun, at minimum activity, appears on the right of this split hemispherical view. In contrast, the left side shows the active Sun at the recognized maximum of Solar Cycle 24, captured in April 2014. The extreme ultraviolet images from the orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory highlight coronal loops and active regions in the light of highly ionized iron atoms. Driving the space weather around our fair planet, Solar Cycle 24 was a relatively calm one and predictions are that cycle 25 will be calm too. The cycle 25 activity maximum is expected in July 2025. Solar Cycle 1, the first solar cycle determined from early records of sunspot data, is considered to begin with a minimum in February 1755. via NASA

NASA Missions Spy First Possible ‘Survivor’ Planet Hugging White Dwarf Star

An international team of astronomers using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and retired Spitzer Space Telescope has reported what may be the first intact planet found closely orbiting a white dwarf, the dense leftover of a Sun-like star, only 40% larger than Earth. via

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Gravel Ejected from Asteroid Bennu

Why does asteroid Bennu eject gravel into space? No one is sure. The discovery, occurring during several episodes by NASA's visiting ORISIS-REx spacecraft, was unexpected. Leading ejection hypotheses include impacts by Sun-orbiting meteoroids, sudden thermal fractures of internal structures, and the sudden release of a water vapor jet. The featured two-image composite shows an ejection event that occurred in early 2019, with sun-reflecting ejecta seen on the right. Data and simulations show that large gravel typically falls right back to the rotating 500-meter asteroid, while smaller rocks skip around the surface, and the smallest rocks completely escape the low gravity of the Earth approaching, diamond-shaped asteroid. Jets and surface ejection events were thought to be predominantly the domain of comets, responsible for their tails, comas, and later meteor showers on Earth. Robotic OSIRIS-REx arrived at 101955 Bennu in late 2018, and is planned to touchdown to collect a surface sample in October 2020. If all goes well, this sample will then be returned to Earth for a detailed analysis during 2023. Bennu was chosen as the destination for OSIRIS-REx in part because its surface shows potential to reveal organic compounds from the early days of our Solar System, compounds that could have been the building blocks for life on Earth. via NASA

Solar Cycle 25 Is Here. NASA, NOAA Scientists Explain What That Means

Solar Cycle 25 has begun. During a media event on Tuesday, experts from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) discussed their analysis and predictions about the new solar cycle – and how the coming upswing in space weather will impact our lives and technology on Earth, as well as astronauts in space. via

Monday, September 14, 2020

Biomarker Phosphine Discovered in the Atmosphere of Venus

Could there be life floating in the atmosphere of Venus? Although Earth's planetary neighbor has a surface considered too extreme for any known lifeform, Venus' upper atmosphere may be sufficiently mild for tiny airborne microbes. This usually disfavored prospect took an unexpected upturn yesterday with the announcement of the discovery of Venusian phosphine. The chemical phosphine (PH3) is a considered a biomarker because it seems so hard to create from routine chemical processes thought to occur on or around a rocky world such as Venus -- but it is known to be created by microbial life on Earth. The featured image of Venus and its thick clouds was taken in two bands of ultraviolet light by the Venus-orbing Akatsuki, a Japanese robotic satellite that has been orbiting the cloud-shrouded world since 2015. The phosphine finding, if confirmed, may set off renewed interest in searching for other indications of life floating high in the atmosphere of our Solar System's second planet out from the Sun. via NASA

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Corn Moon Rising

A rising moon can be a dramatic sight. A rising Full Corn Moon was captured early this month in time-lapse with a telephoto lens from nearly 30 kilometers away -- making Earth's ascending half-degree companion appear unusually impressive. The image was captured from Portugal, although much of the foreground -- including lights from the village of Puebla de Guzmán -- is in Spain. A Full Corn Moon is the name attributed to a full moon at this time of year by cultures of some northern indigenous peoples of the Americas, as it coincides with the ripening of corn. Note that the Moon does not appear larger when it is nearer the horizon -- its seemingly larger size there is only an illusion. The next full moon -- occurring at the beginning of next month -- will be known as the Full Harvest Moon as it occurs nearest in time to the northern autumnal equinox and the northern field harvests. via NASA