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A Dangerous Neighbourhood

Below is a video of a solar coronal mass ejection on 9/5/14 as observed by NASA’s IRIS satellite.

The eruption occurs at 1.5 million miles per hour. You don’t want to get in the way of that.

Rings around an Asteroid

I haven’t done an astronomy post for ages.

This one intrigued me. An asteroid with a ring system? Yes it would seem.

The animation and occultation measurements below appeared on Astronomy Picture of the Day on 9/4/14.

Saturn’s Hexagonal Polar Storm

This sequqnce appeared on The Daily Galaxy on Tuesday 4/2/14.

Phobos in the Round

This video of the larger of Mars’s two moons, Phobos, was Astronomy Picture of the Day for Dec 25th.

You can’t actually see this rotation from the surface of Mars as Phobos is tide-locked to its primary in the same way Earth’s Moon is to its.

Comet ISON Again

It looks like comet ISON has survived perihelion. At least in part.

This video was Astronomy Picture of the Day for 30/11/13.

Comet ISON Dives Toward the Sun from Babak Tafreshi on Vimeo.

Comet ISON Video

This is a video of comet ISON which, since it has now passed within about one solar diameter of the Sun, may have broken up and faded by now but otherwise promised to become a very bright object in the night sky. The video featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day yesterday.

The Sun: a Flash Spectrum

The sun gives out light across the visible spectrum (the colours of the rainbow) and beyond. We see the sun itself as yellow or red according to its position in the sky and what we experience as “white” light is made up of all the colours. If that light is passed through a prism or difraction grating it splits up into these colours.

What about when the sun’s rays are blocked?

Constantine Emmanouilidi caught a great picture of the sun’s spectrum split in this way but during an eclipse. This was Astronomy Picture of the Day for 15/11/13.

Sun's flash spectrum

Thanks to Mr Emmanouilidi for permission to copy his picture.

It was through images similar to this where a line spectrum is obtained that the chemical element helium was discovered in the sun’s atmosphere before it was isolated on Earth.

Rotating Moon

Since it’s tidally locked to its parent planet people from Earth do not normally see the Moon rotating. However the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has built up a series of pictures allowing a video of the rotating Moon to be compiled. This video was Astronomy Picture of the Day for 16/9/13.

It starts with the familiar view from Earth – a side which has an abundance of dark areas known as maria which are relatively low-lying – then the rotation shows the “far” side as much lighter in colour. This lightness is due to lunar highlands.

Don’t You Feel Small?

Earth and Moon from Cassini spacecraft

The above is a photo of the Earth and Moon as taken from the Cassini spacecraft in orbit around Saturn.

A slightly different view is given on yesterday’s Astronomy Picture of the Day.

The photo was taken on July 19th.

The JPL site (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) has more.

Patrick Moore

So sad to hear the news of the death of Patrick Moore.

I watched the latest episode of The Sky At Night only a week or so ago and he did look frail. It has been obvious for many years now that Chris Lintott was being lined up to take over the presentation duties but Patrick will be sorely missed.

He was one of Britsh TV’s glorious eccentrics – who else in the modern world wore a monocle? – and as well as his scientific credentials he could play a mean xylophone.

His long and productive life was overshadowed by sadness as his fiancée was killed during WW2 by a German bomb and he didn’t wish to settle for what he would have considered “second best.”

As a child I may have been aware of him as a late-night TV presenter (his record for continuously hosting a show will surely never be surpassed) but I certainly remember reading his Science Fiction – from that Children’s Section at Dumbarton Library accessed down the external stairs – where, along with the SF of Captain W E Johns (yes, the author of Biggles; whose WW1 adventures led me to other books coming from the same hands) I gained my introduction to the genre. Blame the pair of them.

Patrick must almost single-handedly have contributed to several generations of British astronomers taking up their trade and won a new set of admirers when he appeared on GamesMaster which is where my own sons came to know him well.

I have a particular debt to him myself as I drew on one of his astronomy books, which contained a reasonably detailed map of Mars that I found fascinating and invaluable, for the background of my first published story, The Face of the Waters.

Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore, CBE, FRS, FRAS: 4/3/1923-9/12/2012. So it goes.

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