I found some really good free planetarium software. It’s called Stellarium. Today, I was able to use this software, but I’m going to download it and use it at home.
You see, I’m going to be using this software at work extensively. This should give you an idea about what I’m going to be doing. When I said I’ll be using my university degree in my job, I meant it. I’ll be educating people on astronomy and physics. But that’s not all. There’s something else I’m not telling you, and I think that will remain a secret for now. Sorry!
What I’ve been able to do with this software is look at stars, nebulae, galaxies, planets, and the Moon. I’ve looked at the movement of Jupiter’s moons over time, watched the Moon’s phases, and examine the night sky around 100,000 years in the past and future. There’s a lot more I can do, and I’ll explore it as much as I can before I start using it at work.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m finally using my university degree in a job! Do you use your degree in your job?
Just what is this? Well, it’s Europa superimposed on an image of Europa taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. See that white stuff coming from the bottom left? That seems so similar to what we’ve seen from Enceladus. That’s a possible water plume!
So, what does this mean? It means that water is making it to the surface of Europa. This also means that we may have a much easier time accessing the water than we thought. We already have an extremely good idea about the internal structure of Europa, which likely includes a very deep liquid water ocean. Europa is one of the best candidates for life in the solar system, and with upcoming missions to Europa and the other icy moons of Jupiter coming soon, we’ll have an excellent opportunity to know what the composition of this water is. It’s suspected to be salty, but how salty is it? And does it support life?
This is the biggest exoplanet news ever. 4.25 light years away, a tiny red dwarf star has revealed something extremely important: a potentially Earth-like planet. The ESO announced today that they have discovered a planet orbiting the nearest star to our solar system, Proxima Centauri.
So, how big is this planet? At least 1.3 times the size of Earth, or possibly up to 3 Earths. This would mean it’s either an Earth-like planet or a Super Earth. It is most likely to be terrestrial and due to its proximity to its star, it’s tidally locked. One side always faces its star. However, it’s in that very special place in a star’s orbit where liquid water can exist. That’s the good thing. The bad thing is that ultraviolet and X-rays from Proxima Centauri could make the surface of the planet potentially uninhabitable. With that being said, life could thrive below the surface.
What would it be like on the planet, though? The side facing the star would be hot and blasted by radiation. The side facing away from the star would probably be extremely cold, possibly covered in ice. The area that’s perpetually at sunset would be the most habitable and comfortable. If there’s a significant atmosphere, then temperatures could be stabilised all around the planet, and likely to be a constant wind flowing from the day side to the night side.
Breakthrough Starshot, a project started by billionaire Yuri Milner, physicist Stephen Hawking, and others, now has a destination. This project, designed to send tiny probes at 20% the speed of light into interstellar space, could reach Proxima Centauri b in only 20 years, then another 4.25 years to transmit data back to the Earth. The probes would take pictures and send them back. However, the estimated launch date is 2060, so many of us today would unlikely get to see this. Well, I plan to be around in 2084. I’ll only be 107 years old. I want to see this planet!
This has a lot of people excited, including me. I really want to know more about this planet. I wish we could go now. To see the surface of a world orbiting another star would be the dream of any astronomer or astronomy enthusiast. This is big!
Can you believe this is 10:40 pm? Edmonton is at around 53.5 degrees north. That means it’s closer to the Arctic than it is to the tropics. When I lived in Japan, I was at 35.4 degrees north. Sunset was around 7 pm at this time of year. Sunset in Edmonton is 10:06 pm. Too late?
What time does the sun set for you around the summer solstice?
NASA announced recently that they would be making a big announcement today about a discovery by the Kepler Telescope. Well, the announcement is that 1,284 planets have been discovered. And what’s really big is that there’s a 99% chance that they are planets. Here’s a graph of the planets that have been discovered so far.
Of course, before the announcement was made, many people were speculating on what the announcement would be. This includes science groups on Facebook. Groups that I would think would know better. You see, this is what people were saying: NASA is going to announce aliens!!!!
First of all, science groups were saying this. Really? Too many science groups are promoting both junk science and hype.
Secondly, NASA is not going to announce aliens when they said they were talking about a Kepler discovery. Kepler is not designed to detect life. It cannot detect life. Kepler deals with detecting planets that cross in front of their stars. That does not include detecting alien civilisations or even life. Further observation is required to study the atmosphere, and even then, we can’t be certain if there’s life.
However, several of the new planets are fairly close to Earth-sized and in the habitable zone of their stars. That is exciting. Those planets will be studied to pinpoint their sizes and atmospheres.
So, relax. No aliens will be discovered by Kepler. I don’t know why people even thought that.
Last night, I checked the Aurora Forecast app on my phone. This is what I saw:
I’m at the red pin position. All that red just to the north. Well, a quick check outside revealed a faint aurora all over the sky. There were a lot of lights around, so it wasn’t very bright. I told my wife that we could see aurora outside, and we quickly went out. We took my sister’s car to the next neighbourhood over, which is right on the edge of the city, and we went into a park under construction. No lights. The result? Amazing aurora. Best I have ever seen.
We came back home, and my wife got her camera. Turns out we could’ve just gone to the park near the house and it was nearly as good. And she took pictures. Here are a couple she took.
It was green! We could see that it was green with the naked eye, but the camera captured it wonderfully. But I really like the next picture.
Aurora and city lights with a pond reflection. Although it’s somewhat blurry, that’s what you get when you don’t have a tripod and have a longer exposure.
And you know what? There’s a possible repeat performance for the next two nights.
Did you see the northern lights last night? Have you ever seen it? Let me know in the comments below.
The official blog of Jay Dee Archer. Exploring new worlds, real and fictional.