Astronomy Features

News: Time-Lapse Video of Sunday's Annular Solar Eclipse

The annular solar eclipse was amazing. It was so much fun watching the sun transform from a thin crescent to a ring and then to a thin crescent going the other direction. I'll be posting up the pictures used to make this video in various resolutions on my photography website over the next few days, all of the way up to the full 16 megapixel ultra-detailed images.

Earth's Shadow: Time-Lapse Video of the Total Lunar Eclipse of 12/10/11

I woke up at 4:00 am this morning in order to take some video of the last total lunar eclipse visible from North America till 2014. The eclipse was beautiful. It was amazing to watch the shadow of our planet creep slowly across our nearest neighbor. Once the shadow was blocking out most of the light from the sun, the moon was significantly dimmer and the color had changed to a reddish orange. This color is caused by the same effect that makes our sunrises and sunsets so colorful. The light fr...

How To: Watch Asteroid 2012 DA14 Zoom Past Earth Today

Earlier today, a meteorite flew over the Chelyabinsk region of Russia, triggering a shock wave that injured hundreds of people and caused damage to buildings and vehicles in the area. Witnesses describe seeing a bright ball of light streak through the sky followed by a loud boom as the 10-ton meteorite entered the Earth's atmosphere and exploded.

News: New Computer Simulation Reveals How Our Milky Way Really Formed After the Big Bang

For years, astronomers have been trying to figure out how our galaxy came to be. Even with the help of high-performance computers, no model of a spiral galaxy has ever been able to recreate the Milky Way, until now. An international team of researchers has created the first successful simulation of what happened 14 billion years ago to give our galaxy its unique shape. Turns out, all they needed was a bigger bang. Photo by IntelFreePress

News: Solar Scope Dialed in for the Eclipse

It's taken me several weeks to figure out the Meade Coronado SolarMax II 60 Double Stack telescope that I bought to produce a timelapse video of the solar eclipse but I'm pretty happy with the images I can produce now. Here's hoping for clear skies tomorrow!

News: Galactic Search Finds Exoplanets Are More Common Than Stars

Recent research published in an issue of Nature suggests that there are actually more planets in our universe than stars. Using the Milky Way as the focus, the researchers found that each star has an average of about 1.6 planets in orbit around it, which suggests that extrasolar planets (exoplanets) outnumber stars, bringing new hope for the search of extraterrestrial life.

News: Proof of Water on Mars

Since the first time we've been to Mars, the question was 'Did there used to be life here?'. That all changed for the better when NASA told us that the Opportunity rover found signs of water- the essential part to life. NASA officials on Wednesday said the rover discovered a mineral vein of gypsum running along the rim of a crater called Endeavor. The gypsum was deposited by flowing water billions of years ago. The vein is about 20 inches long. They found it while studying a rock called Tisda...

News: Watch NASA's Tracer Rockets Light Up the Sky with Cloud Trails

This morning, NASA launched the five suborbital sounding rockets from Virginia as part of ATREX (Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment). Each rocket was launched 80 seconds apart and released chemical tracers that created "milky, white clouds at the edge of space." Now, I've seen plenty of bullet tracers in my life, but these are far more poetic. Take a look at the time-lapse video and see for yourself. Why shoot these tracer rockets? To help scientists "better understand the process responsi...

News: Solar Flare Gives Earth Biggest Radiation Storm in 7 Years; Auroras Likely

NASA reports that the sun erupted late last night with a large solar flare—an M8.7 class flare. The classification is calculated according to the peak flux of 100 to 800 picometer x-rays near Earth measured from the GEOS weather satellite. There are 5 letter classifications for solar flares, each with a linear 1-9 number scale of severity. M is the fourth most powerful class, with X leading the way. But last night's earth-directed coronal mass ejection (CME), captured by the Solar Dynamics Ob...

News: Astronomical Observing News (02/01 - 02/06)

This week's AON might be a little short, but finally, the Garradd comet's peak has come! I picked the Garradd comet to follow because it's a bright and easy-to-follow comet. Be sure to observe it! If you need help finding it, you can find more information here.

How To: Observe the Quadrantid Meteor Shower

Note: This shower is only visible in the Northern Hemisphere. The Quadrantid meteor shower is one of my personal favorites, mainly because of the amount of meteors it produces. You can sight more than 100 meteors per hour- that's more than 1 meter per minute. Even though that doesn't sound like much, it will make your observing experience much more exciting. The peak is short, typically lasting no more than an hour or so. It is more easily observed on the fourth, with its peak at 1:00 AM EST.

How To: Watch NASA's Curiosity Rover Land on the Surface of Mars Tonight (Live Online)

NASA will be attempting to land the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars tonight, and you can watch it live. Curiosity (the Mars Science Laboratory) was launched almost a year ago on November 26, 2011, and will be finishing its 354 million mile journey to the red planet tonight (Sunday, August 5th) at around 8:30pm PST. The craft will be deploying a supersonic parachute to slow itself, as it will be traveling at upwards of 1,000 mph. The show's not over though, as the first images from the ...

News: Two Bright Nebulae in Orion's Sword

My attempt at real astrophotography. The two bright nebula are M 42 and M 43 located in Orion's Sword. I took about 20 images at ISO 800 and 1.6 second exposures using a 300 mm lens and stacked them in Photoshop after repositioning them because of the movement of the sky. This is cropped in just a tiny bit.

How To: Find and Observe the Garradd Comet

If you haven't seen one, a comet is one of the most spectacular astronomical objects in the sky, partially because it is so close to Earth. At the closest, it is only 1.3 a.u. (194,477,400 kilometers) away from Earth. Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd was discovered by Gordon J. Garradd on August 13, 2009. It never comes closer to the sun than Mars's orbit. Usually, a comet moves fast, but it has stopped moving so fast recently, making it really easy to observe. It can be observed by a telescope or wit...

News: Lyrid Meteors Time Lapse Video and Still Pictures

The peak of the Lyrid meteor shower of 2012 was the night of Saturday, April 21, and I went to Whiskeytown Lake near Redding, California and took about 1,000 pictures. I used 3 Panasonic GH2s with various lenses and edited all of the shots together to make the time-lapse video below. You really have to watch it in full screen at 720p or 1080p HD in order to appreciate it. This is only my second attempt at a time-lapse video and my second attempt at filming meteors, but I was pretty happy with...

News: Astronomical Observing News (3/28 to 4/3)

Grab your binoculars and telescopes, because there's a lot going on in the night skies this week. The usually dim Little Dipper will appear brighter as it moves to the right of Polaris, creating a cool effect with the Big Dipper. There's also a first-quarter moon and a really good view of Saturn. If you know of something else, share with us in the comments below!

News: Timelapse Footage of a Moonrise

This is a really quick video I took of a moonrise last year. It has been sped up by a factor of 8 and was taken using a 2600 mm equivalent lens (75 times zoom for a 35 mm lens). The mountain it is rising over is about 40 miles away.

News: Photo Highlights from the Quadrantid Meteor Shower

If you slept in during the peak of the Quadrantid meteor shower this morning, don't fret, because plenty of early risers did manage to wake up—with their cameras. Even if you did wake up and managed to withstand the cold morning air, you might not have seen anything. Cloud cover could have made it impossible, as well as bright city lights. But some stargazers made it their mission to photograph the Quadrantids, and lucky for you, they did.

News: Astronomical Observing News (3/7 to 3/13)

AON is moving to Wednesdays! There are lots of things going on this week in the skies above, so be sure to observe. As usual, there's a lot to see around Jupiter, with its moons eclipsing and transiting. Also, a star from the Virgo constellation will be in conjunction with our Moon.