Category Archives: General

M57 – The Ring Nebula


From — Charles Messier’s Catalog of Nebulae and Star Clusters:
18h 45m 21s (281d 20′ 08″) +32d 46′ 03″(January 31, 1779) `A cluster of light between Gamma & Beta Lyrae, discovered when looking for the Comet of 1779, which has passed it very close: it seems that this patch of light, which is round, must be composed of very small stars: with the best telescopes it is impossible to distinguish them; there stays only a suspicion that they are there. M. Messier reported this patch of light on the Chart of the Comet of 1779. M. Darquier, at Toulouse, discovered it when observing the same comet, and he reports: “Nebula between gamma and beta Lyrae; it is very dull, but perfectly outlined; it is as large as Jupiter & resembles a planet which is fading”.’

The Ring Nebula or M57 is located 2,300 light-years / 0.7 kpc away in the constellation Lyra.  This image was taken by the WFPC2 camera onboard the Hubble Space Telescope in 1998.

More about the Ring Nebula from SEDS.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Underwater Rover

A rover designed to walk on the bottom of the ice. Eventually such a rover could be used on Europa.

I can see plenty of applications for such a rover here on Earth, even around here locally where we have frozen lakes and rivers in the winter.



Happy Equinox


The September equinox arrived at 08:21 UTC.  Autumn in the north and spring in the south.

The image here came from and is a good depiction of what is going on:  Today the equator at 08:21 UTC of the Earth is pointed right at the center of the sun.  As the Earth travels in its orbit the position of the Sun with respect to the equator changes.  In September the tilt is such that the center of the Sun is moving south.  By late December the Earth has moved sufficiently in orbit the apparent movement stops (the December solstice) and starts going back north.


No Asteroid Impact Expected

meteorshowerThis would have been more fun at the end of October.

NASA: There is No Asteroid Threatening Earth

Numerous recent blogs and web postings are erroneously claiming that an asteroid will impact Earth, sometime between Sept. 15 and 28, 2015. On one of those dates, as rumors go, there will be an impact — “evidently” near Puerto Rico — causing wanton destruction to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States and Mexico, as well as Central and South America.

That’s the rumor that has gone viral — now here are the facts.

“There is no scientific basis — not one shred of evidence — that an asteroid or any other celestial object will impact Earth on those dates,” said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

In fact, NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program says there have been no asteroids or comets observed that would impact Earth anytime in the foreseeable future.  All known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids have less than a 0.01% chance of impacting Earth in the next 100 years.

The Near-Earth Object office at JPL is a key group involved with the international collaboration of astronomers and scientists who keep watch on the sky with their telescopes, looking for asteroids that could do harm to our planet and predicting their paths through space for the foreseeable future. If there were any observations on anything headed our way, Chodas and his colleagues would know about it.

“If there were any object large enough to do that type of destruction in September, we would have seen something of it by now,” he stated.

Another thing Chodas and his team do know — this isn’t the first time a wild, unsubstantiated claim of a celestial object about to impact Earth has been made, and unfortunately, it probably won’t be the last.  It seems to be a perennial favorite of the World Wide Web. 

In 2011 there were rumors about the so-called “doomsday” comet Elenin, which never posed any danger of harming Earth and broke up into a stream of small debris out in space. Then there were Internet assertions surrounding the end of the Mayan calendar on Dec. 21, 2012, insisting the world would end with a large asteroid impact. And just this year, asteroids 2004 BL86 and 2014 YB35 were said to be on dangerous near-Earth trajectories, but their flybys of our planet in January and March went without incident — just as NASA said they would.

“Again, there is no existing evidence that an asteroid or any other celestial object is on a trajectory that will impact Earth,” said Chodas. “In fact, not a single one of the known objects has any credible chance of hitting our planet over the next century.”

NASA detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets passing 30 million miles of Earth using both ground- and space-based telescopes. The Near-Earth Object Observations Program, commonly called “Spaceguard,” discovers these objects, characterizes the physical nature of a subset of them, and predicts their paths to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet. There are no known credible impact threats to date — only the continuous and harmless infall of meteoroids, tiny asteroids that burn up in the atmosphere.

JPL hosts the office for Near-Earth Object orbit analysis for NASA’s Near Earth Object Observations Program of the Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena

Image Credit: A Geminid meteor by  Jimmy Westlake