life in and around NYC is insane

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Celestial Happenings

Have you noticed, the best time for star gazing is in the dead of winter?  Really, on cold winter nights the stars seem to be brighter than at any other time of the year. 

So as I turn my gaze skyward tonight...the news from space.

NASA announced that Scott Kelly was able to grow a zinnia on the international space station.  A good sign for the possible colonization of space someday.

Five planets paraded across the dawn sky early yesterday morning in a rare celestial spectacle set to repeat every morning until late next month.  Headlining the planetary performance are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. It is the first time in more than a decade that the fab five are simultaneously visible to the naked eye.    If I can get myself out of bed, I'm going to try to see this parade.

Recent discoveries:

Astronomers in California have discovered evidence of another planet beyond Pluto.    They haven't seen the actual planet yet, but they've seen lots of secondary evidence pointing towards its existence.  They believe it is at least as large as Earth, more likely about the size of Neptune.
 
Astronomers have discovered a giant ball of hot gas, 3.8 billion light years away, that is radiating the energy of hundreds of billions of suns.   At the center is an object about 10 miles in diameter that scientists think might be a rare type of star called a magnetar. The explosion was 570 billion times brighter than the sun and 20 times brighter than all the stars in the Milky Way galaxy combined, according to a statement from The Ohio State University.  The ball may be the most powerful supernova ever seen.
 
And then there's the discovery from Texas.  Astronomers noticed two gigantic waves of gas being "burped" by the massive black hole at the center of NGC 5195, a small galaxy 26 million light years from Earth. It's one of the closest "supermassive" black holes to our planet to be showing such activity.   The team believes the outburst is a consequence of the interaction of NGC 5195 with a nearby, larger galaxy. The energy generated by the sudden inflow of gas towards the black hole caused the outburst, which, according to the team, amassed enough material to prompt the formation of new stars.

Finally, a tribute:
 
Fittingly, David Bowie is now immortalized in the night sky.  A group of Belgian astronomers registered a seven-star constellation in the shape of a lightning bolt in David Bowie's name this week. Now a star is waiting for the Starman .
 

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