Monday, November 14, 2016

Supermoon November 2016: When, Where & How to See It

This year, the full moons of October, November and December all take place when the moon is at its closest point of approach in its orbit around Earth — a so-called supermoon. 

The next supermoon will be November’s full Beaver Moon, which is expected to reach the peak of its full phase on the morning of Monday, Nov. 14, at 8:52 a.m. EST (1352 GMT), but it will appear full to the casual observer in the day before and after the main event. It is the second of three consecutive supermoon full moons for 2016. Live webcasts of this supermoon begin Sunday night (Nov. 13) and run through Monday. Read our Supermoon Webcast Guide for details.

This full moon will be not only the closest and brightest supermoon of 2016but also the largest since 1948, Bob Berman, an astronomer at the Slooh Community Observatory, told What’s more, the full moon won’t come this close to Earth again until Nov. 25, 2034, according to a statement from NASA. The Slooh Community Observatory will offer a live broadcast for November’s full moon on Nov. 13 at 8 p.m. EST (0100 GMT on Nov. 14). You can also watch the supermoon live on, courtesy of Slooh.

A comparison of the Moon at perigee (its closest to Earth, at left) and at apogee (its farthest from us). The change in distance makes the full Moon look 14% larger at perigee than at apogee. and nearly 30% larger in area.

A full moon occurs each month when the sun, Earth and moon line up, with the moon on the side of the Earth opposite to the sun. The term “supermoon” is used to describe a full moon at its perigee — the point in the moon’s orbit when it is closest to Earth, causing it to appear up to 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter in the sky, NASA officials said in the statement. 

November’s full moon is also called the Beaver Moon because it arrives at the time of year (in the Northern Hemisphere) when hunters would set traps before the waters froze over, to ensure they had enough warm furs for the winter. 

The Beaver Moon follows the full Hunter’s Moon of October and the full Harvest Moon of September — both of which are also named for seasonal changes that marked times when people would begin to prepare for the colder months ahead. November’s full moon also has been referred to as the full Frost Moon, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac

The Slooh Community Observatory will offer a live broadcast for November’s full moon on Nov. 13 at 7:00 p.m. EST (0000 GMT on Nov. 14). You can also watch it live on, courtesy of Slooh.

Supermoons can appear 30 percent brighter and up to 14 percent larger than typical full moons.

To round out the trifecta of supermoons for 2016, December will see its full Cold Moon peak on Dec. 13 at 7:05 p.m. EST (0005 GMT on Dec. 14). 

“The supermoon of December 14 is remarkable for a different reason: It’s going to wipe out the view of the Geminid meteor shower,” NASA officials said in the statement. “Bright moonlight will reduce the visibility of faint meteors five- to ten-fold, transforming the usually fantastic Geminids into an astronomical footnote. Sky watchers will be lucky to see a dozen Geminids per hour when the shower peaks.”

So what do you think about this news? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. And be sure to subscribe to our website for more awesome posts like this.

See Also: Did Venus Have A Better Chance of Life Than Earth?

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Spectacular Bubble Nebula.. An Ancient Precursor for Life?

The building blocks for DNA could have been generated or combined within these interstellar clouds of the amazing Bubble Nebula!

Over 13 billion years ago at least one of the domains of life may have begun in nebular clouds, such as the Bubble Nebula. If restricted to the Milky Way, which is 13.6 billion years old, the first chemical combinations would have had billions of years to become a self-replicating organism with a DNA genome long before the existence of Earth.


The Bubble Nebula, NGC 7635 shown above, was discovered in 1787 by William Herschel and is shown here in a Hubble Space Telescope WFC3 image. The outer edge of the bubble – 7 light years across – comprises cold interstellar gas displaced by winds from a 45-solar-mass young O star (BD +60°2522), seen off-center at 10 o’clock. Dense pillars of cool hydrogen gas appear above and behind the bubble. Blue colors indicate oxygen, green is hydrogen, and red is nitrogen.

Above and left of the Bubble’s center is the hot, O-type star, several 100,000 times more luminous and approximately 45 times more massive than our Sun. Fierce stellar winds and intense radiation from that star has blasted out the structure of glowing gas against denser material in a surrounding molecular cloud.

The Bubble Nebula
The Bubble Nebula, also known as NGC 7635, is an emission nebula located 8 000 light-years away. This stunning new image was observed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to celebrate its 26th year in space.

See Also: What Is The Future Of Earth In 10 Quintillion Years? [Video]

Nebular clouds are thought to be most likely environment for synthesizing and promoting the evolution of molecules needed for the origin of life. The building blocks for DNA could have been generated or combined within interstellar clouds and DNA would become part of the molecular-protein-amino acid complex. Hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, calcium, sulfur, nitrogen and phosphorus for example are continually irradiated by ions, which can generate small organic molecules which evolve into larger complex organic molecules that result in the formation of amino acids and other compounds.

Phosphorus, for example, is rare in our solar system and may have been non-existent on the early Earth; phosphorus is essential for the manufacture of DNA.

Polarized radiation in the nebula cloud leads to the formation of proteins, nucleobases and then DNA. The combination of hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, cyanide and several other elements, could create adenine, which is a DNA base, whereas oxygen and phosphorus could ladder DNA base pairs. Glycine has also been identified in the interstellar clouds.

Fast forward 4.6 billion years, on Earth the steps leading from the random mixing of chemicals to the first nano-particle would likely require hundreds of millions and even billions of years before the first self-replicating molecular compound was fashioned. Even after billions of years, the first replicon may not have possessed DNA.

So what do you think about this news? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. And be sure to subscribe to our website for more awesome posts like this.

See Also: Finding Earth Like Planet: What Are The Chances?

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Earth Like Planet Found Orbiting Proxima Centauri

According to reports, astrophysicists plan to announce they’ve discovered an Earth-like planet orbiting our nearest neighboring star Proxima Centauri.

The hunt for exoplanets has been heating up in recent years. Since it began its mission in 2009, over four thousand exoplanet candidates have been discovered by the Kepler mission, several hundred of which have been confirmed to be “Earth-like” (i.e. terrestrial). And of these, some 216 planets have been shown to be both terrestrial and located within their parent star’s habitable zone (aka. “Goldilocks zone”).

But in what may prove to be the most exciting find to date, the German weekly Der Spiegel announced recently that astronomers have discovered an Earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, just 4.25 light-years away. Yes, in what is an apparent trifecta, this newly-discovered exoplanet is Earth-like, orbits within it’s sun’s habitable zone, and is within our reach. But is this too good to be true?

For over a century, astronomers have known about Proxima Centauri and believed that it is likely to be part of a trinary star system (along with Alpha Centauri A and B). Located just 0.237 ± 0.011 light years from the binary pair, this low-mass red dwarf star is also 0.12 light years (~7590 AUs) closer to Earth, making it the closest star system to our own.

What About Previous Discoveries?

In the past, the Kepler mission has revealed several Earth-like exoplanets that were deemed to be likely habitable. And recently, an international team of researchers narrowed the number of potentially-habitable exoplanets in the Kepler catalog down to the 20 that are most likely to support life. However, in just about all cases, these planets are hundreds (if not thousands) of light years away from Earth.

See Also: Found: The Most Powerful Supernova Ever Seen In Universe!

They claim that the discovery was made by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) using the La Silla Observatory‘s reflecting telescope. Coincidentally, it was this same observatory that announced the discovery of Alpha Centauri Bb back in 2012, which was also declared to be “the closest exoplanet to Earth”. Unfortunately, subsequent analysis cast doubt on its existence, claiming it was a spurious artifact of the data analysis.

Earth Like Planet Found Orbiting Proxima Centauri
Artist’s impression of the Earth-like exoplanet discovered orbiting Alpha Centauri B by the European Southern Observatory on October 17, 2012. Credit: ESO

Real Or Not?

However, according to Der Spiegel’s unnamed source – whom they claim was involved with the La Silla team that made the find – this latest discovery is the real deal, and was the result of intensive work. “Finding small celestial bodies is a lot of hard work,” the source was quoted as saying. “We were moving at the technically feasible limit of measurement.”

The article goes on to state that the European Southern Observatory (ESO) will be announcing the finding at the end of August. But according to numerous sources, in response to a request for comment by AFP, ESO spokesman Richard Hook refused to confirm or deny the discovery of an exoplanet around Proxima Centauri. “We are not making any comment,” he is reported as saying.

See Also: What Is The Future Of Earth In 10 Quintillion Years? [Video]

Good News For Tech Companies As Well

What’s more, the folks at Project Starshot are certainly excited by the news. As part of Breakthrough Initiatives – a program founded by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner to search for intelligent life (with backing from Stephen Hawking and Mark Zuckerberg) – Starshot intends to send a laser-sail driven-nanocraft to Alpha Centauri in the coming years.

This craft, they claim, will be able to reach speeds of up to 20% the speed of light. At this speed, it will able to traverse the 4.37 light years that lie between Earth and Alpha Centauri in just 20 years. But with the possible discovery of an Earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, which lies even closer, they may want to rethink that objective.

Earth Like Planet Found Orbiting Proxima Centauri
Project Starshot, an initiative sponsored by the Breakthrough Foundation, is intended to be humanity’s first interstellar voyage. Credit:

Naturally, there is the desire (especially amongst exoplanet enthusiasts) to interpret the ESO’s refusal to comment either way as a sort of tacit confirmation. And knowing that industry professionals are excited it about it does lend an air of legitimacy. But of course, assuming anything at this point would be premature.

If the statements made by the unnamed source, and quoted by Der Speigel, are to be taken at face value, then confirmation (or denial) will be coming shortly. In the meantime, we’ll all just need to be patient. Still, you have to admit, it’s an exciting prospect: an Earth-like planet that’s actually within reach! And with a mission that could make it there within our own lifetimes.

This is the stuff good science fiction is made of, you know.

So what do you think about this news? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. And be sure to subscribe to our website for more awesome posts like this.

See Also: Finding Earth Like Planet: What Are The Chances?

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Astronomers Baffled by Remarkable Object Near Neptune

A newly discovered object, Niku, is lurking beyond Neptune and is baffling scientist due to its unusual orbit.

With each new space discovery, we realize how much we still don’t know about the solar system. Astronomers recently detected a mysterious object near Neptune that doesn’t move through space as expected. The trans-Neptunian object (TNO) actually moves backwards around the sun, and it has scientists scratching their heads.

Trans-Neptunian Object Niku
A collection of some of the Trans-Neptunian Objects in the Solar System’s outer reaches. Courtesy GSFC/NASA

Using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System 1 Survey (Pan-STARRS 1) in Hawaii, a team of astronomers discovered the mysterious object. They nicknamed the TNO “Niku”, a Chinese word for ‘rebellious.’ The movement of Niku is so weird because angular momentum generally dictates that objects in a planetary system move in the same direction. Astronomer Michele Bannister of Queens University, Belfast told New Scientist, “Angular momentum forces everything to have that one spin direction all the same way. It’s the same thing with a spinning top, every particle is spinning the same direction.”

See Also: Top 10 Fascinating Facts About Neptune

Niku has gone rogue

Except, of course, for Niku. Since the TNO is moving backwards, and also upwards, the astronomers think it must have been “knocked off course”. But we don’t yet know what exactly bumped the TNO. At first the astronomers thought the abnormal movement of Niku could be related to Planet Nine, another baffling object even further away than Neptune. But they’ve tossed that theory out for now, as Niku is “too close to the solar system” to really be influenced by Planet Nine.

Trans Neptunian Object Niku
An artist’s rendition of the still unseen Planet Nine that lives beyond Neptune. Courtesy NASA

Matthew Holman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said, “It suggests that there’s more going on in the outer solar system than we’re fully aware of.”

Bannister tweeted, “I hope everyone has buckled their seatbelts because the outer solar system just got a lot weirder.”

See Also: Scientists Now Think Pluto’s Ocean Under Its Surface Is Liquid!

The Wandering Niku

The little object is special in a lot of ways. First of all, it’s in retrograde. That means it’s orbiting the sun in the opposite direction of most of the other stuff in our solar system.

It also has a tremendously high inclination. What does that mean? Well, our solar system is called ‘coplanar’. All the planets revolve around the sun in the same basic two dimensional plane, like the rings around Saturn. A high inclination means an object is outside of this plane. In case of Niku, way outside the plane, moving in a “nearly polar orbit.”

But Niku isn’t alone, and that’s odd as well. The team has determined there’s likely at least a small group of similar, high inclination, retrograde and non-retrograde little objects floating around in our solar system. But what the team wasn’t able to determine is how they got there. Usually objects like this were pushed or kicked into their odd orbits when they got too close to the the gravitational pull of other objects.

But in the case of Niku and its buddies, the team ruled out all of the obvious candidates. That suggests either there’s something else out there, or that there’s something going on we don’t understand.

A group of astronomers including Holman and 16 other scientists from institutions in Taiwan, Hawaii, the UK and Germany submitted a paper earlier this month detailing the find, and it has been accepted for publication in the journal ApJ Letters.

So what do you think about this news? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. And be sure to subscribe to our website for more awesome posts like this.

See Also: What is the surface temperature of Neptune?

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Future Space Missions by NASA, ESA, and JAXA [Infographic]

From 2017 through till 2025, there are no shortage of exciting future space missions lead by NASA, ESA, JPL, and JAXA!

Future space missions will take us to the moon (not “us”, but a lander to collect a sample); the Sun; Jupiter and its moon, Europa; Mars and its moon, Phobos; and the asteroid Bennu.  Other missions will discover new exoplanets and learn more about other, while others will peer into deep space to uncover the secrets of dark matter and energy.

It is truly a golden age for astronomy.  Take a look at this infographic which summarizes future space missions (click on it to see a larger, more legible version).

Future Space Missions by NASA, ESA, JPL, and JAXA.

So what do you think of this Infographic? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. And be sure to subscribe to our website for more awesome posts like this.

See Also: 10 Myths About Space That You Probably Believe [Video]



Thursday, August 11, 2016

Abundant Oxygen Measured in a 12-Billion-Year-Old Galaxy

Astronomers have measured oxygen levels in a galaxy called COSMOS-1908. The findings could help to unravel more about the evolution of galaxies.

A new study suggests a key ingredient needed to support life is in short supply in some distant reaches of the universe.

Astronomers have for the first time accurately measured the amount of oxygen in a distant galaxy around 12 billion light years from Earth.

They found the galaxy, called COSMOS-1908, contains just 20 percent of abundance of oxygen found in our sun. 

This gives the oxygen levels relative to other materials in the galaxy.

Our sun currently contains just trace levels of oxygen, suggesting levels of this gas in this relatively young galaxy are still extremely low.

Oxygen is created inside stars and released into the interstellar gas when these stars die.

The galaxy COSMOS-1908 (highlighted with the arrow above) is 12 billion light years from Earth and has just 20 per cent of the oxygen abundance of our sun.

The findings promise to help reveal new details about distant galaxies, which, due to the time it takes light from them to reach Earth, astronomers are seeing early in the life of the universe.

Researchers say their study could help them understand how galaxies have evolved through time since the Big Bang as oxygen levels have increased.

See Also: Scientists Have Detected Oxygen On Mars!

Early in the universe’s history, there was relatively little oxygen in young galaxies as only the lightest elements – such as hydrogen and helium – were abundant.

Possibly the Oldest Galaxy with Measured Oxygen

Professor Alice Shapley, an astronomer at the University of California Los Angeles, said: ‘This is by far the most distant galaxy for which the oxygen abundance has actually been measured.

‘We’re looking back in time at this galaxy as it appeared 12 billion years ago.’

COSMOS-1908 contains around 1 billion stars, making it far smaller than the Milky Way, which contains around 100 billion.

While measuring oxygen in nearby galaxies has been possible for some time, working out the levels in distant galaxies has not been possible before.

Astronomers instead have to rely on indirect and imprecise techniques for estimating oxygen abundance in far off galaxies.

But in the new study, which is published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, the researchers have used a direct measurement for the first time.

Mechanism for Measurement

The researchers used an advanced instrument called the Multi-Object Spectrometre for Infrared Exploration (MOSFIRE) at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii.

This collects visible light from distant galaxies to produce a spectrograph, allowing astronomers to determine the chemical contents of galaxies due to the spectral fingerprints they create.

To characterise the chemical contents of COSMOS-1908, the researchers analysed a particular wavelength in the MOSFIRE spectrum of this galaxy that is sensitive to the amount of oxygen.

Professor Shapley said this technique should help to reveal new information about how oxygen is created in distant and very ancient galaxies.

Oxygen largely produced by large stars that explode violently in supernova, sending the gas across the galaxy.

However, oxygen can also be lost to ‘super winds’, which propel the interstellar gases out of galaxies at hundreds of thousands of miles per hour.

See Also: ‘Forbidden Symmetry’ Found in 4.5-Billion-Year-Old Meteorite

‘If we can measure how much oxygen is in a galaxy, it will tell us about all these processes,’ said Shapley.

‘Measuring the oxygen content of galaxies over cosmic time is one of the key methods we have for understanding how galaxies grow, as well as how they spew out gas into the intergalactic medium.’

Universe’s First Oxygen?

Scientists have glimpsed the earliest oxygen ever seen in the universe, in a galaxy 13.1 billion light years away, giving an insight in the universe’s first stars.

Studying heavy elements from this era provides clues about what triggered the nature of the first stars, and how galaxies were born. 

Various elements are found around us in the present universe, but just after the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago only the lightest elements, hydrogen, helium, and lithium, existed.

Heavier elements, such as carbon and oxygen, have been formed in stars and accumulated in the Universe over time. 

The researchers found evidence for the oxygen in SXDF-NB1006-2, a galaxy discovered in 2012. 

So what do you think of these facts about this news? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. And be sure to subscribe to our website for more awesome posts like this.

See Also: Did Venus Have A Better Chance of Life Than Earth?

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Saturday, August 6, 2016

What Is The Future Of Earth In 10 Quintillion Years? [Video]

What’s the future of Earth, our beloved planet and the human race? Scientists and researchers have made predictions of the events for the next 1,000, 1,000,000 and up to 10 Quintillion years into the future!

The folks at Dark Nook have compiled a video showing just that. So let’s go through this journey together! 

Here’s the Breakdown

One thousand years from now:

Due to rapid evolution of languages, no single present day word will have survived. Gamma Cephei replaces Polars so we will have a new North Star.

Two thousand years from now:

Ice sheet completely melted with extreme global warming +8C. Greenland ice melted. Sea levels 6 meters higher.

Did you know that 5125 year is the end of the Mayan calendar and, according to Mayan, a doomsday (again). If we survive 5125 than in 20 000 years Chernobyl will finally be safe.

50 000 years from now:

Niagara Falls disappears, The remaining 32 km to Lake Erie erodes away and the waterfall ceases to exist. Greenland Ice Melted. Completely melted with moderate global warming +2C.

100 000 years from now:

The titanium in your MacBook starts to corrode. Either a super volcano or a large climate-altering asteroid likely to have affected the Earth. The stars in the heavens look completely different due to Earth’s movement through the galaxy.

See Also: 8 Facts About Space That Will Shock You!

In 500 000 years:

The spent fuel in today’s reactors will finally be safe and there will be new global freeze.

In 1 000 000 years:

All glass created to date will have finally degraded. Massive stone structures like Giza or sculptures at Mount Rushmore may still exist. Everything else gone.

Some have proposed that in 5 000 000 the Y chromosome could die out – making men impossible.

50 000 000 years from now:

Africa has collided with Eurasia, sealing off the Mediterranean Basin and create a mountain range similar to the Himalayas. Antarctica ice migrates north and melts, raising sea levels by 75 m. Don’t worry the entire galaxy could be colonized by that time.

Not looking good , is it..

In 60 000 000 years:

The Earth’s orbit will become unpredictable.

In 250 000 000 years:

The continents will start moving and create a new supercontinent.

800 000 000 years from now: C4 photosynthesis no longer possible and as a result multicellular life dies.

Future Of Earth

2 000 000 000 years from now: Earth core freezes and the planet stops the rotation – no rotation – no magnetic fields – no protection from the Sun. Future Of Earth looks bleak. Surface temperature hits 147C. All life dies.

See Also: 5 Strange Theories On What Happens Inside A Black Hole

In 7 000 000 000 years:

The Sun will hit max radius – 256 times current size. Mercury, Venus and maybe Earth will be destroyed then the Sun becomes a carbon-oxygen white dwarf with about 50 percent its present mass.

20 000 000 000 years from now:

One potential end of the universe. All matter is torn apart by the expansion of the universe. All distances become infinite.

100 000 000 000 000 years from now:

All the stars will have died. The only objects left are remnants like White Dwarfs, Neutron Stars and Black Holes.

And finally in 100 000 000 000 000 000 000 years:

If not consumed by its own Sun, the Earth’s orbit will have finally decayed and it will plunge back into the Sun. And that’s all there is to the future of Earth and the Universe.

So what do you think of this video? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks again to Dark Nook for this awesome video! Be sure to subscribe to our website for more awesome posts like this.

See Also: 10 Myths About Space That You Probably Believe [Video]




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