Category Archives: Cool Stuff

The Smith Cloud


Here is a  composite image showing the size and location of the Smith Cloud on the sky, note the scale size of the full moon. The cloud appears in false-color in this image as observed  by the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. While the cloud was observed in radio wavelengths, the visible-light image of the background star field shows the cloud’s location in the direction of the constellation Aquila.
Credits: Saxton/Lockman/NRAO/AUI/NSF/Mellinger
From NASA:

Though hundreds of enormous, high-velocity gas clouds whiz around the outskirts of our galaxy, this so-called “Smith Cloud” is unique because its trajectory is well known. New Hubble observations suggest it was launched from the outer regions of the galactic disk, around 70 million years ago. The cloud was discovered in the early 1960s by doctoral astronomy student Gail Smith, who detected the radio waves emitted by its hydrogen.

The cloud is on a return collision course and is expected to plow into the Milky Way’s disk in about 30 million years. When it does, astronomers believe it will ignite a spectacular burst of star formation, perhaps providing enough gas to make 2 million suns.

Read and see more here.

New View of the Nasca Lines


I haven’t seen a Nasca story in a long time, this is great! Click the image for a much larger view.

From NASA:

In just two ten-minute overflights, an airborne NASA synthetic aperture radar proved it could pinpoint areas of disturbance in Peru’s Nasca lines World Heritage Site. The data collected on the two flights will help Peruvian authorities fully catalog the thousand-year-old designs drawn on the ground in and around the site for the first time, as well as giving them a new tool for protecting the fragile constructions from both careless humans and natural disturbances such as floods.

The top frame shows a portion of the mesa-top site in a Google Earth image. Drainage gullies circle the mesa where the Nasca people constructed lines several miles long, enormous polygons, and animal figures simply by moving rocks. A shape called the Hummingbird is faintly visible above and to the left of the scale line, its long beak ending below a road that cuts diagonally from the right edge of the image to the center.

In the synthetic aperture radar image of the same site, below, areas of disturbance appear dark. There are extensive areas of disturbance around the Hummingbird as well as a pathway down the gully directly above the glyph. Other small disturbances may have been caused by erosion in the dry creekbeds.

NASA’s Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR), developed and managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, can record changes on the ground beneath the aircraft that occur between multiple flights, which take exactly the same flight path. The instrument is used to monitor how volcanoes, earthquakes, and other natural hazards are changing Earth. Principal investigator Bruce Chapman of JPL noted that UAVSAR is ideally suited for observing the Nasca site because the region has virtually no vegetation and receives no rainfall whatsoever in most years, meaning that natural disturbances are minimal.

Image Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech/Google


More to Planet 9


There is more to the Planet Nine story:  “A predicted consequence of Planet Nine is that a second set of confined objects should also exist. These objects are forced into positions at right angles to Planet Nine and into orbits that are perpendicular to the plane of the solar system. Five known objects (blue) fit this prediction precisely.” – Source: Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)/NASA website

The diagram was created using WorldWide Telescope.

Note:  I meant for this to publish yesterday but I messed it up.

Planet-9 Found?

It’s possible.   We are talking about a planet around 10 times more massive than Earth and so far away it would have an orbital period of 10,000 to 20,000 years!

Here’s what NASA’s Director of Planetary Science Jim Green has to say.



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.