The Solar Eclipse

If you have not heard, the entire continental United States will, weather cooperating, be able to see at least a partial solar eclipse on Monday, 21 August. It is still too far away for an accurate weather forecast, but I am hoping that we have good weather in Philadelphia that day. Or else why bother working from home that day?

In the meantime, enjoy this eclipse-related piece from xkcd that ties together my love for astronomy things with my love for political things.

This weekend will be crazy town
This weekend will be crazy town

Credit for the piece goes to Randall Munroe.

New Neighbours

Among the many, many stories that broke during my month-long radio silence, I got fairly excited about the discovery of a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri. And not just any planet, but a likely rocky planet within the star’s habitable zone. Put that all together and there is the possibility that the planet could host life as we know it. How can that not be exciting? Thankfully the Guardian put together a graphic to support an article detailing the discovery.

Our newest neighbour
Our newest neighbour

Credit for the piece goes to the Guardian’s graphics department.

Quasi-satellite Asteroid Orbits

Scientists discovered Earth has a new quasi-satellite. It is an asteroid, and it does not orbit the Earth. But, because of the relationship between its orbit and Earth’s around the sun, it is involved in what NASA described as a dance with Earth. This is not Earth’s only dance partner, however, as we interact with a second asteroid as well. The screenshot of a YouTube video (from user britoca) shows how gravity choreographs the second dance.

Cruithne's orbit
Cruithne’s orbit

Credit for the piece goes to YouTube user britoca.

What Comprises Planet Nine

Well, to start, we don’t really know for sure. We also don’t really know Planet Nine exists for sure. But, you plug its existence into mathematical models and it explains some of the quirks we see in the Kuiper Belt, the cloud of dust and ice at the outer reaches of the Solar System. A team of intrigued Swiss scientists then created a model exploring the range of characteristics Planet Nine might exhibit. The BBC published an article that featured an image of the interior characteristics of the plent.

The possible interior of the possible Planet Nine
The possible interior of the possible Planet Nine

Credit for the graphic goes to Christoph Mordasini and Esther Linder.

Supermoon Lunar Eclipse

Last night we experienced a total lunar eclipse here in Chicago. Unfortunately, significant cloud cover meant that much of the event went unseen. That was unfortunate, because eclipses are fantastic. To explain it we have this piece from the BBC.

What is a lunar eclipse
What is a lunar eclipse

And for those were either unable to see it or did not know about it, here is one of the photos I took.

During the eclipse
During the eclipse

Credit for the diagram goes to the BBC graphics department.

Credit for the photo is mine.

Kepler 452b

So this is sort of a recycled post, in the sense that I talked about it back in April of 2013. But it’s worth revisiting in light of last month’s announcement of Kepler 452b. For those unaware, the planet is a little bit larger than Earth, but is believed to be a potentially rocky planet like Earth that orbits a star very similar to our Sun in a very similar orbit.

Kepler 452b
Kepler 452b

Credit for the piece still goes to Jonathan Corum.

A Year on Pluto

Last week, NASA’s Dawn probe entered orbit above Ceres, a dwarf planet in the asteroid belt. But later this summer, the New Horizons spacecraft is set to race past Pluto, formerly a planet but now a dwarf planet. New Horizons launched in 2006 and will have taken nine years to reach Pluto. But how long is a year on Pluto? Thanks to the New Horizons team, we can see how one year on Pluto is 248 Earth years, or longer than the history of the independent United States.

A year on Pluto
A year on Pluto

Credit for the piece goes to the NASA/New Horizon team graphics department.

Habitable Exoplanets

What is out there beyond our solar system? Are there little green men in flying saucers? Or Klingons waging war? The first step in figuring that out is knowing how many planets can be inhabited by life as we know it. This interactive graphic from National Geographic explores just that. And as it turns out, most of the exoplanets we have discovered are not habitable. But a few offer promise. If only we could warp on over and properly explore them.

Exoplanet habitability
Exoplanet habitability

Credit for the piece goes to John Tomanio and Xaquín G.V.

Comet Siding Spring

Today we head off to the stars. Well, more appropriately the comets. The New York Times had a piece a little while back that looked at the orbits of several comets that pass near the Sun. Siding Spring in particular is highlighted because of its near approach later this autumn.

Comet paths near the sun
Comet paths near the sun

Credit for the piece goes to Jonathan Corum.