Category Archives: Cool Stuff

Eta Carinae


We now know Eta Carina has analogs (described at twins) in other galaxies.

Here’s the story at NASA (includes images of the other systems).

From Hubble/NASA/ESA:
Astronomers cannot yet explain what caused the titanic eruption of star Eta Carinae in the 1840s. The discovery of likely Eta Carinae “twins” in other galaxies will help scientists better understand this brief phase in the life of a massive star.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington.

Image Credit :NASA, ESA and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team


Rocket Re-entry over Las Vegas

At first people thought this was a meteor breaking up in the skies of Las Vegas Nevada when it was seen at a little after 18:00 hours local time. It turns out it was a Russian SL-4 rocket body according to the US Strategic Command.

Story at KTLA (Los Angeles).

I wish I had see this!

Hat tip to Donald Henderson.

Mars to Get a Ring?


Will Mars end up with a Saturn-like ring?  Could be in 20 to 40 million years according to research done at UC Berkeley and published in Nature Geoscience.

The Martian moon Phobos is very slowly spiraling down to Mars.  In time the moon will reach a point called the Roche limit.  When Phobos gets close enough, its own gravity will not be able to withstand the tidal forces imparted by Mars it will be torn to pieces. In this case those pieces will form a ring, or so the theory goes.

Read “Mars to lose a moon but gain a ring

Have a look at a Roche Limit tutorial by University of Washington – don’t worry it’s pretty easy.

Image by Tushar Mittal using Celestia 2001-2010, Celestia Development Team. / UC Berkeley


Dark Matter Hairs Around Earth?


Is Earth surrounded by filaments of dark matter?  It just might. I know, sounds hard to believe to me too.  Not doubting it though, need to keep an open mind about such things. I have a  lot of unanswered questions, I need to read that study.

Take a look at the zoomed-out version linked below too.

JPL explains:

This illustration shows Earth surrounded by filaments of dark matter called “hairs,” which are proposed in a study in the Astrophysical Journal by Gary Prézeau of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

A hair is created when a stream of dark matter particles goes through the planet. According to simulations, the hair is densest at a point called the “root.” When particles of a dark matter stream pass through the core of Earth, they form a hair whose root has a particle density about a billion times greater than average.

The hairs in this illustration are not to scale. Simulations show that the roots of such hairs can be 600,000 miles (1 million kilometers) from Earth, while Earth’s radius is only about 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers).

A zoomed-out version of this concept is at PIA20176.

The California Institute of Technology manages JPL for NASA.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Phobos Breaking Apart?


Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

I’ve always wondered about the grooves on Phobos.   I always figured they were somehow related to a huge impact.  i never saw one this coming:

The long, shallow grooves lining the surface of Phobos are likely early signs of the structural failure that will ultimately destroy this moon of Mars.

Orbiting a mere 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) above the surface of Mars, Phobos is closer to its planet than any other moon in the solar system. Mars’ gravity is drawing in Phobos, the larger of its two moons, by about 6.6 feet (2 meters) every hundred years. Scientists expect the moon to be pulled apart in 30 to 50 million years.

We think that Phobos has already started to fail, and the first sign of this failure is the production of these grooves,” said Terry Hurford of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

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