Archive for the ‘Astronomy & Space’ Category
By: Marc J. Kuchner
Eighty-seven years ago, this week, Clyde Tombaugh was poring over a pair of photographic plates, hoping to change the world. He was staring hard into an arcane device called a blink comparator, which allowed him to rapidly switch from viewing one image to the next. In those days before computers, that was the best tool he had for finding the faint, moving dot he was seeking, a new planet in our solar system.
When Tombaugh discovered Pluto in those photographic plates on February 18, 1930, the news made headlines all around the globe. “In the little cluster of orbs which scampers across the sidereal abyss under the name of the solar system there are, be it known, nine instead of a mere eight, worlds,” said the New York Times. It was a victory for Tombaugh, and for astronomy. Read the rest of this entry »
Help researchers monitor and understand light pollution with a simple smartphone app
Guest post by Christopher Kyba
How many stars can you see when you look up at the night sky? The answer depends a bit on your vision and a lot on where you live. The bright sky over cities reduces the contrast between the stars and the spaces between them, making them difficult or impossible to see. It’s similar to how the noise from traffic makes it hard to hear singing birds.
This phenomenon is known as light pollution and is of concern for both ecological and human health reasons. For example, the croaking of frogs and toads is a nighttime breeding ritual and artificial right disrupts this activity, reducing populations. Similarly, birds that migrate or hunt at night can have their navigation severely affected by artificial light. Read the rest of this entry »
Help NASA understand clouds by reporting your observations with the citizen science project S’Cool
Clouds are so democratic. You don’t need to be rich or famous or smart or athletic to enjoy the majesty of clouds. You can just look up into the sky wherever you are and be knocked out by their beauty and elegance, their size and changing shapes, their relationship to light–the way clouds glow lit from behind, the way dawn edges them with a fluting of pink and sunset colors them orange and gold. Throughout the day, you can watch clouds billow and mass, flat-bottomed ships sailing and crashing, cloud architecture, cloud turrets, cloud towers, cloud streets, weird streaks, wisps, tails, cumulus, cumulonimbus, stratus, cirrus, mamma, virga. On some days, you stand transfixed under a cloudscape so continuously grand and mystical that the mind eventually loses interest. You sigh and continue on your errands. What’s for lunch? Read the rest of this entry »