Friday, February 27, 2009

Satellite Debris Update

Source - Space Weather News for Feb. 27, 2009:

SATELLITE DEBRIS UPDATE: US Strategic Command is still cataloguing debris from the Feb. 10th collision of Iridium 33 and Kosmos 2251 over northern Siberia. Orbits have been measured for more than 350 fragments. Check today's edition of for maps showing how the debris has scattered in the space around Earth.

PRETTY SKY ALERT: When the sun goes down tonight (Friday, Feb. 27th) step outside and look west. Venus and the crescent Moon are having a beautiful close encounter in the sunset sky. If you point a small telescope at the pair, you will see that Venus, like the Moon, is a crescent. The phases of the two are almost the same, adding an extra dimension of beauty to an already lovely show. Don't miss it!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pretty Sky Alert

Source - NASA Science News for February 26, 2009

The crescent Moon and Venus are converging for a conjunction of rare beauty on Friday evening, Feb. 27th.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Otherworldly Solar Eclipse

Source - NASA Science News for February 25, 2009

For the first time, a spacecraft from Earth has captured high-resolution video of a solar eclipse while orbiting another world.


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Monday, February 23, 2009

Are We Alone for 02/23/09 - It's the Science, Cupid!

Are We Alone - "It's the Science, Cupid!"
Love make us feel warm and mushy, but the sweet sting of Cupid's arrow makes a compelling chemistry lesson, too. Research into animal mating and human courtship provides clues to an eternal mystery: what's the purpose of love?

Learn lessons from the family values of field mice, and affectionate same-sex penguin pairs. Plus: Darwin's take on speed dating, and the science of smooching.

  • Helen Fisher - Anthropologist, Rutgers University
  • Saraj Woodley - Biologist, Duquesne University
  • Skyler Place - Doctoral Student, Indiana University's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
  • Larry Young - Neurobiologist, Emory University
  • Marlene Zuk - Biologist, University of California, Riverside
You can listen to this and other episodes at, and be sure to check out Are We A Blog?, the companion blog to the radio show.

The Great Cosmic Coincidence of Feb. 24, 2009

Source - Space Weather News for Feb. 23, 2009:

COSMIC COINCIDENCE: What are the odds? On Tuesday, Feb. 24th, Saturn and Comet Lulin will converge in the constellation Leo only 2 degrees apart. At the same time, Comet Lulin will be making its closest approach to Earth--the comet at its best!-- while four of Saturn's moons transit the disk of the ringed planet in view of backyard telescopes. Oh, and the Moon will be New, providing dark skies for anyone who wishes to see the show.

The best time to look is around 1 a.m. Tuesday morning (your local time) when the planet-comet combo ascend high in the southern sky. To the unaided eye, Comet Lulin looks like a faint patch of gas floating next to golden Saturn. Point your backyard telescope at that patch and you will see a lovely green comet with a double tail.

Visit for full coverage including photos, sky maps, and a live webcast.

Geographic Notes: Comet Lulin is visible from all parts of the globe--all longitudes and both hemispheres. Directions are reversed in the southern hemisphere; there the comet is located in the northern sky around 1 am. Saturn is globally visible, too, but the special quadruple transit of Saturn's moons starting around 3 a.m. PST on Feb. 24th is visible only to observers around the Pacific Rim. Details may be found here:

Friday, February 20, 2009

Kepler Mission to Hunt for Earth-like Planets

Source - NASA Science News for February 20, 2009

Are there other worlds like ours? Are we alone? NASA's Kepler spacecraft is about to begin an unprecedented journey that could ultimately answer these ancient questions.


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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Record-setting Gamma-ray Burst Detected

Source - NASA Science News for February 20, 2009

NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has detected a record-setting gamma-ray burst with the greatest total energy and fastest motions ever seen.


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Spectacular Photo-op on Saturn

Source - NASA Science News for February 19, 2009

Something is about to happen on Saturn that is so pretty, even Hubble will pause to take a look. Backyard astronomers can see it, too. Four of Saturn's moons will transit Saturn and cast their shadows on the planet's cloudtops at the same time.


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Comet Lulin Update

Source - Space Weather News for Feb. 18, 2009:

COMET LULIN UPDATE: Comet Lulin is approaching Earth and brightening rapidly. Observers say it is now visible to the naked eye as a faint (magnitude +5.6) gassy patch in the constellation Virgo before dawn. Even city dwellers have seen it. Backyard telescopes reveal a vivid green comet in obvious motion. Just yesterday, amateur astronomers watched as a solar wind gust tore away part of the comet's tail, the second time this month such a thing has happened. Lulin's closest approach to Earth (38 million miles) is on Feb. 24th; at that time the comet could be two or three times brighter than it is now. Browse the gallery for the latest images:

SATELLITE DEBRIS: More than a week has passed since the Feb. 10th collision of Iridium 33 and Kosmos 2251 over northern Siberia, and the orbits of some of the largest fragments have now been measured by US Strategic Command. Today's edition of features global maps showing where the debris is located. Only 26 fragments are currently plotted, but that number will grow as radar tracking of the debris continues. Check back often for updates.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Weekend Fireballs

Source - Space Weather News for Feb. 16, 2009:

WEEKEND FIREBALLS: A daylight fireball over Texas on Sunday, Feb. 15th, triggered widespread reports that debris from a recent satellite collision was falling to Earth. Those reports were premature. Researchers have studied video of the event and concluded that the object was more likely a natural meteoroid about one meter wide traveling more than 20 km/s--much faster than orbital debris. Meteoroids hit Earth every day, and the Texas fireball was apparently one of them.

There's more: On Friday, Feb. 13th, people in central Kentucky heard loud booms, felt their houses shake, and saw a fireball streaking through the sky. This occurred scant hours after another fireball at least 10 times brighter than a full Moon lit up the sky over Italy. Although it is tempting to attribute these events to debris from the Feb. 10th collision of the Iridium 33 and Kosmos 2251 satellites, the Kentucky and Italy fireballs also seem to be meteoroids, not manmade objects. Italian scientists are studying the ground track of their fireball, which was recorded by multiple cameras, and they will soon begin to hunt for meteorites.

Videos, eye-witness reports and more information about these events may be found at

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Are We Alone for 02/16/09 - Life's Stories

Are We Alone - "Life's Stories"
ENCORE PRESENTATION: How did the first cells make the scene? Could there be critters on some newly discovered planets? And what happens if we ever encounter weird life? These may not be the sort of questions you hear being bandied about in your local coffee shop, but they were hot topics at the AbSciCon conference held recently in Santa Clara, California, and sponsored by the SETI Institute.

AbSciCon stands for Astrobiology Science Conference, and Seth was there, talking to researchers about progress in puzzling out how life began on Earth, and where it might have gained a claw-hold elsewhere. Could there be certain parts of our Galaxy that are off-limits for life? Also, hear whether our universe has special properties that render it just dandy for life, and whether we should be looking for viruses on Mars.

Guests: You can listen to this and other episodes at, and be sure to check out Are We A Blog?, the companion blog to the radio show.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Satellites Collide in Space

Source - Space Weather News for Feb. 12, 2009:

COLLIDING SATELLITES: Experts are calling it an "unprecedented event." Two large satellites have collided in Earth orbit. Kosmos 2251 crashed into Iridium 33 on Tuesday, Feb. 10th, approximately 800 km over northern Siberia; both were destroyed. The resulting clouds of debris contain more than 500 fragments, significantly increasing the orbital debris population at altitudes where the collision occurred. The Air Force Space Surveillance Radar is monitoring the clouds as they pass over the radar facility in Texas. We, in turn, are monitoring signals from the radar and you may be able to hear debris "pings" by tuning in to our live audio feed. This is a story that will unfold in the days ahead as researchers study the evolution of the debris clouds and piece together the details of the collision. Stay tuned to for full coverage.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Remarkable Flare Star Attracts Attention

Source - NASA Science News for February 10, 2009

A gamma-ray flare star 30,000 light years from Earth is putting on a remarkable show for NASA spacecraft. Highlights include ghostly x-ray "light halos" and eruptions packing more total energy than the Sun puts out in 20 years.


Find out about the Science@NASA Podcast feed at

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Dusky Lunar Eclipse

Source - Space Weather News for Feb. 8, 2009

DUSKY LUNAR ECLIPSE: On Monday, Feb. 9th, the full Moon will pass through the outskirts of Earth's shadow, producing a penumbral lunar eclipse. The event will be visible to the naked eye as a dusky shading of the northern half of the Moon. Maximum eclipse occurs between the hours of 1400 and 1520 UT (6:00 am - 7:20 am PST). The timing favors observers in east Asia, Australia, Hawaii and western parts of North America. Visit for a visibility map, animations, and more information.

COMET LULIN UPDATE: The plasma tail of Comet Lulin, torn off by a solar wind gust on Feb. 4th, has already grown back. Also, observers in dark-sky locations report that the comet is now visible to the naked eye as a pale "fuzzy patch" in the constellation Libra before dawn. The comet is brightening as it approaches Earth for a 38-million-mile close encounter on Feb. 24th. See the latest images in the Comet Lulin Photo Gallery:

Are We Alone for 02/09/09 - Skeptical Sunday: Que Sera... No Sera?

Are We Alone - "Skeptical Sunday: Que Sera... No Sera?"
We all want to peek into the future and find out what fate has in store: Will I get that raise? Is love around the corner? What’s the winning combo in Las Vegas? Some people claim the ability to see events before they occur. Find out how accurate their prognostications are.

Plus, how the job market drove the granddaddy of “I told you so” – Nostradamus – into the business of soothsaying.

Also, how the brain misfires to produce déjà vu. Also, how the brain misfires to produce déjà vu. And, astronomical predictions for the final apocalypse … will the world end in fire or in ice?

Guests: You can listen to this and other episodes at, and be sure to check out Are We A Blog?, the companion blog to the radio show.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Astronauts Swab the Deck

Source - NASA Science News for February 6, 2009

Even in space, someone has to clean the bathroom. ISS astronauts are using a tricorder-like device to help them 'swab the decks.'


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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Approaching Comet Loses its Tail

Source - Space Weather News for Feb. 5, 2009:

COMET TAIL: Comet Lulin (C/2007 N3) is approaching Earth and putting on a good show for amateur astronomers. Yesterday, Feb. 4th, observers witnessed a "disconnection event." A gust of solar wind tore off part of the comet's tail in plain view of backyard telescopes. Photos of the event are featured on today's edition of Activity in the comet's tail and atmosphere will become even easier to see in the weeks ahead as Lulin nears closest approach on Feb. 24th. At that time the comet will lie only 38 million miles from Earth and it should be visible to the naked eye. In the meantime, please note that Feb. 5th-7th, is an especially good time to find Comet Lulin in the pre-dawn sky. The comet is gliding beautifully close to the naked-eye double star Zubenelgenubi. Just point your binoculars at the double star and the comet will materialize right beside it. Visit for photos, sky maps and more information.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Green Comet Approaches Earth

Source - NASA Science News for February 4, 2009

A green comet of rare beauty is approaching Earth and may become visible to the naked eye later this month. 

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Mars Technology Helps Create Inauguration Mega-Picture

Source - NASA Science News for February 2, 2009

A private photographer has used NASA's Mars technology to create a 1,474 megapixel panoramic photo of President Obama's inauguration. The interactive mega-snapshot has become an international sensation, viewed by more than two million people in 186 countries. Today's story from Science@NASA presents the photo and tells how it was made.


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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Are We Alone for 02/02/09 - Feather Knows Best

Are We Alone - "Feather Knows Best"
Can animals think? Merely asking the question was once thought ridiculous. But studies that range from chimps to birds to sea creatures have prompted scientists to reassess the cognitive capabilities of our animal friends. These results challenge not only our idea of intelligence, but man’s unequivocal perch at the top.

Learn the secret communication between camouflaging cuttlefish… how the smarts of Alex the parrot turned “birdbrain” into a compliment… and why brawn sometimes trumps brains in evolution.

Plus, how tool-making made humans smarter: the new field of cognitive archaeology.

Guests: You can listen to this and other episodes at, and be sure to check out Are We A Blog?, the companion blog to the radio show.