In the search for life-sustaining planets we must first choose the right host star. There are many factors that would make a star system too hostile for life to even get started, let alone survive for…
Ness Crouch's insight:
This is a great article to read and discuss with students. Understanding that life cannot exist just anywhere is important not only for understanding our planet and how amazing it is but also to develop our understanding of why other planets are not suitable or too distant.
As Earth orbits the sun, it continually ploughs through dust and debris left behind by passing comets and asteroids. On any night of the year, a keen-eyed observer might see five, or even ten, meteors…
Ness Crouch's insight:
For those who love watching the night sky this article will give you some information about where to see an upcoming meteor shower.
"Superclusters – regions of space that are densely packed with galaxies – are the biggest structures in the Universe. But scientists have struggled to define exactly where one supercluster ends and another begins. Now, a team based in Hawaii has come up with a new technique that maps the Universe according to the flow of galaxies across space. Redrawing the boundaries of the cosmic map, they redefine our home supercluster and name it Laniakea, which means ‘immeasurable heaven’ in Hawaiian. Read the research paper here."
"Astronomers using NASA data have calculated for the first time that in our galaxy alone, there are at least 8.8 billion stars with Earth-size planets in the habitable temperature zone. For perspective, that's more Earth-like planets than there are people on Earth."
"The end of "do not touch": Use the Smithsonian X 3D Explorer to explore and manipulate museum objects like never before. Create and share your own scenes and print highly detailed replica of original Smithsonian collection pieces."
Sprites, also known as red lightning, are electrical discharges that appear as bursts of red light above clouds during thunderstorms.Because the weather phenomenon is so fleeting (sprites flash for just milliseconds) and for the most part not visible from the ground, they are difficult to observe and even more difficult to photograph, rather like the mischievous air spirits of the fantasy realm that they’re named for. Ahrns and his colleagues, however, have captured extremely rare photographs of the red lightning, using DSLR cameras and high speed video cameras positioned in the plane’s window. The researchers hope to learn more about the physical and chemical processes that give rise to sprites and other forms of upper atmospheric lightning.
What’s it like to capture images of some of nature’s most short-lived and erratic features? I questioned Ahrns over email, and he explained what sprites are, why they occur, how scientists find them and why he’s so interested in the elusive phenomena.
A sprite is a kind of upper atmosphere electrical discharge associated with thunderstorms. A large electric field, generated by some lightning strokes, ionizes the air high above the cloud, which then emits the light we see in the pictures. They obviously beg comparison to the regular lightning bolts we see all the time, but I like to point out that the sprites are much higher, with the tops reaching up to around 100 kilometers, and higher. A lightning bolt might stretch around 10 kilometers from the cloud to the ground, but a sprite can reach 50 kilometers tall.
The best meteor shower of the year should put on an impressive display this weekend – weather permitting – with the annual Geminids poised to light up the sky with bright, long meteors visible as frequently…
Ness Crouch's insight:
Meteor showers are a good way of encouraging families and chidlren into science! Check out the Geminids this weekend!
A detailed study of comets orbiting the young nearby star Beta Pictoris is published today in the journal Nature, and it reveals striking similarities to the comets found in our solar system. Over the…
Thanks to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, we’ve recently heard a great deal about how the Earth’s climate is changing. The IPCC’s cautious assessment of the…
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