Astronomers searching for exomoons

This video says about itself:

The Hunt for Exomoons – Lightcurve Demo

from Alex Parker

In addition to the host of new planets discovered by the Kepler mission, we are now capable of detecting large moons circling planets around other stars. These exomoons modify the shape, timing, and duration of the transit lightcurve of their host planet, and this illustration demonstrates all of these effects.

New algorithms are being developed to detect these signatures in Kepler data, and if large moons are common in the universe, the first exomoon discovery could happen at any time.

From Scientific American about this:

What an Exomoon Would Look Like from Earth [Video]

Moons orbiting distant planets might be visible in existing spacecraft data

By Michael Moyer | January 1, 2014


In “Astronomers Search for Moons Circling Distant Exoplanets” author Lee Billings explores the hunt for moons orbiting distant planets—exomoons. The project uses data from the Kepler satellite mission, which (until technical issues sidelined it earlier this year) had been focusing on a single spot in the sky in the hope of catching so-called “transits”—instances when an exoplanet would pass in front of its host star, blocking some of the light. If any moons orbited those planets, they could also be visible in the data. This video animation by Alex Parker, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, shows what a theoretical exomoon would look like.

Outer space bird-like sounds

This video says about itself:


30 Sep 2013

CHORUS consists of brief tones which sounds like a chorus of birds at daybreak created when electrons hit the Earth’s atmosphere. This new audio composition has been created for the Trajectory Installation at Leicester University by Andrew Williams. It makes use of data collected by the Cluster 2 Satelite in 2001 using LWR (long wave radio).

Through a process of transposition and filtering the signal (which are naturally outside of the range of human hearing) the tones become audible. Andrew has shaped the material and developed a performance structure using a multi speaker difussion system to recreate the spatial qualities of the Earth Chorus within the gallery space. Andrew is Leverhulme Artist in Residence at the Space Research Centre, Leicester University.


British Project Reveals ‘Animalistic’ Sounds of Space

Dec 25, 2013

A project led by Andrew Williams from the University of Leicester’s Space Center has revealed the ‘animalistic’ sounds in the dark, cold vacuum of space.

The sounds were gathered from two main sources: electrons hitting the Earth’s upper atmosphere and plasma passing through the Sun.

“By transposing sounds recorded by satellites into the audible range, I have been able to present the data as audio, providing a glimpse of what space would sound like if we were there and if the sounds generated were in our audible range,” Williams said.

Using data collected on July 9, 2001 from the Cluster II satellite, Williams has created an audio composition entitled Chorus which reveals the brief, rising-frequency tones caused by the impacts of electrons.

Another composition is a deep pulsing sound recorded by NASA/ESA’s SOHO spacecraft caused by plasma passing through the Sun.

Williams has revealed the similarities of the sound created by electrons hitting the upper atmosphere of Earth to a dawn chorus of birds while the low hum of plasma passing through the Sun creates a pulsing rhythm reflecting the heartbeat of the Solar System.

“I was quite shocked at how similar electrons hitting the Earth’s atmosphere sound to bird song. Collectively, it is surprising to hear that space has an almost animalistic quality to its sounds which I have been quite struck by,” Williams said.

“People have reacted to these recordings in very different ways.”

“There have been quite a few people who have been happy to just sit and absorb the sounds and a glimpse into a part of space they would not normally have access to,” Williams said.

Coolest science of 2013, in GIFs

From Surprising Science blog in the USA:

December 24, 2013

The Coolest Science of 2013, in GIFs

An electronic circuit that dissolves in the presence of water. From video by University of Illinois

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, a GIF is easily worth a million. The file format—which uses a series of images to produce a looping video, like a flip book—is a tremendous way to convey all sorts of moving wonders, and 2013 was the year that the GIF truly went mainstream, with GIFs of celebrities, sports and politicians filling the Web.

But 2013 was also a banner year for science—so much so that the word ‘science’ was Merriam-Webster’s word of the year. It’s appropriate, then, that we use the GIF to explore some of the coolest, weirdest, most remarkable science stories of 2013. What follows is a non-exhaustive list of amazing science GIFs from 2013, in no particular order.

Top: Dissolving Electronics

Over the past few years, the University of Illinois lab led by John Rogers (one of Smithsonian magazine’s American Ingenuity Award Winners) has engineered all sorts of amazing devices that bridge the gap between biology and technology: stretchable batteries that could be used in wearable gadgets or medical implants, tiny LEDs that can be implanted in the brain to manipulate individual neurons and ultrathin electronics that can graft circuits onto human skin.

Perhaps the most amazing creation, though, is their entirely dissolvable electronic circuit, which could someday be used in environmental monitoring and medical devices so that circuitry disappears after it’s no longer needed.

A Solar Eruption

From video by NASA

Solar activity, as you might imagine, can get pretty intense. In February, NASA released a video of a particularly turbulent day in the life of the sun, as a trio of events—a solar flare, a coronal mass ejection and shifting of magnetic field lines in the Sun’s atmosphere—all occurred at the same time.

Pitch Drop

From video via Trinity College, GIF via It’s Okay To Be Smart

In 1944, Trinity College physicist Ernest Walton set up one of two pitch-drop experiments worldwide, seeking to experimentally prove that pitch is a viscous, flowing material. Walton has since died, but 69 years after his legendary experiment began, Trinity researchers finally managed to catch a drop of pitch falling on camera this past July.

Chelyabinsk Meteor

Video and GIF via Gifric

In February, a massive, 12,000-ton meteor—the largest known to hit Earth since 1908—flew through the skies above Chelyabinsk, Russia at 60 times the speed of sound and shattered into pieces. The meteor caused damaged to about 7,200 buildings and caused nearly 1,500 people to seek medical attention for injuries. Luckily, no one was killed; luckier still, dozens of local residents caught the event on camera.

A Thought Moves Through a Fish’s Brain

From video via Current Biology, Muto et. al.

This one seriously sounds like science fiction: In the GIF above, that tiny purple blip zigging and zagging around is an individual thought of a zebrafish, moving around its brain.

Japanese scientists captured it by using a probe sensitive to florescence, relying upon a particular gene called GCaMP that reacts to the presence of calcium ions by fluorescing brightly. Because calcium concentrations fluctuate when neurons fire, the florescent spot is the location of neuron activity in the fish’s brain.  This was confirmed by the fact that the pattern above occurred after the researchers released a paramecium into the fish’s environment—and the particular brain areas activated matched the neurons that fired when the fish visually tracked a dot moving around in the same directions.

A Washcloth is Squeezed in Space

From video by Canadian Space Agency, GIF via io9

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who spent 166 days at the International Space Station before returning in May, is the ideal astronaut for the social media era: he frequently tweeted photos from space and posted videos to his followers on YouTube, who number just over one million, to show what life in space is really like. In April, in response to a question submitted by high school students, he posted a video showing what happens when you try to wring out a washcloth in the space station’s zero-gravity environment. Spoiler: it’s not too easy.

Artificial Muscles Dance

From video courtesy of Dr. Mingming Ma

Put these thin black polymer films down on a moist surface, and they’ll dance around of their own accord. In January, a group of MIT researchers revealed a special polymer that can move on its own, harnessing the energy present in water. They envision the material someday being useful in powering tiny electronics, utilizing an energy source that’s already abundant in the environment.

A Red Batfish Eats

From video by Enoshima Aquariaum

In October, our Smart News bloggers called attention to one of the ocean’s most peculiar creatures: the red batfish, found on the continental shelves of the Pacific. The GIF above, taken from a video filmed at Enoshima Aquarium in Fujisawa, Japan, shows the creature feeding on a piece of krill.

A Pineapple Rots

From video by Temponaut Timelapse

A pineapple, a time-lapse camera, and two months of time: That’s all you need to document the process of decomposition in a uniquely clear (and revolting) way. The video above, released in August, shows bacteria, fungi and ants hard at work, breaking down succulent pineapple flesh that was left out to be filmed as it decomposed.

The folks at Temponaut Timelapse have created all sorts of remarkable timelapses, of subjects both beautiful (New York City’s skyline, for instance) and wonderfully repulsive (rotting strawberries, bananas and grapes).

A Chain Levitates

From video by Earth Unplugged, GIF via io9

In June, a video that made the rounds seemed to depict the impossible: Earth Unplugged showed how a bead chain can appear to levitate as one end falls out of a beaker. As it turns out, there’s no magic involved, but rather a fascinating scientific explanation. Once some beads are dropped out of the container, their momentum pulls more beads along with them, and the limited flexibility of the chain causes it to assume shapes that appear to defy gravity as it falls.

Northern and southern light videos

This is a northern light video from the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

This video, Comet and the Northern Lights, is from Tromsø in Norway.

This video is from Oregon in the USA.

This video is from Michigan in the USA.

This video is called Aurora Australis TimelapseTasmania, Australia – May Day 2013.

This video is from Alberta in Canada.

This video says about itself:

12 Nov 2013

Flying on a Virgin Atlantic flight from London to New York when the aurora forecast was high, I balanced my camera on a rucksack and left it snapping away out the window … what an amazing spectacle was to be seen! You can see some of the still pictures that formed this time-lapse here.

Chinese Jade Rabbit rover begins exploring the moon

This video says about itself:

15 Dec 2013

China’s Jade Rabbit begins its Moon mission after the probe that brought it there made a successful soft landing.

At 12:18 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time on Aug. 2, 1971, Commander David Scott of Apollo 15 placed a 3 1/2-inch-tall aluminum sculpture onto the dusty surface of a small crater near his parked lunar rover. At that moment the moon transformed from an airless ball of rock into the largest exhibition space in the known universe. Scott regarded the moment as tribute to the heroic astronauts and cosmonauts who had given their lives in the space race. Van Hoeydonck was thrilled that his art was pointing the way to a human destiny beyond Earth and expected that he would soon be “bigger than Picasso”: here.

Chinese spacecraft lands on moon

This video from China is called China’s Chang’e 3 landing on the Moon [Exclusive Video].

From the NASA in the USA:

China’s Chang’e-3 and Jade Rabbit duo land on the Moon

December 14, 2013 by Rui C. Barbosa

China’s Chang’e-3 and the lunar rover Yutu (Jade Rabbit) have landed on the lunar surface at 1:11 pm UTC on Saturday. The duo were launched by a Long March 3B on December 1, which was followed by a nominal flight into lunar orbit and subsequently China’s first soft landing on the Moon.

China’s Mission to the Moon:

The Chinese duo have enjoyed a trouble-free flight towards the Moon, with the spacecraft entering a reported 210.3 x 389109.2 km x 28.5 deg orbit during the week. …

This was the first lunar landing since Luna-24 launched on August 9, 1976. That mission touched down on the surface of the moon on August 18 of that year, ahead of a soil retrieving mission that returned to Earth six days later.

Geminid meteor shower, night of December 13th

This video says about itself:

16 Dec 2011

Geminid Meteor Shower; beautiful video created by Henry Jun Wah Lee of the 2010 Geminid Meteor Shower in December. People around the globe sat up to watch the sky for the meteor showers across the sky.

From eNature in the USA:

Don’t Miss The Geminid Meteor Shower The Night Of December 13th

Posted on Wednesday, December 04, 2013 by eNature

The December night sky is busy. We’ll see the Geminid meteor shower as well as the less well known Ursids closer to Christmas

And later in the month we have the the Winter solstice— the first day of winter.

The Geminid’s Meteors Should Be Easy to See

The night of the 13th will be the peak of one of the best meteor showers of the year. Known as the Geminid meteor shower, it gets its name because the meteors appear to be zipping towards an observor from the constellation Gemini. In the United States, head out after dark (best viewing is usually after 9 PM) and look a little north of due east. As long as you avoid other lights, you should be able to observe this year’s shower with the naked eye. Note that this year the light of the waxing gibbous moon will interfere with the Geminids throughout most of the peak night, so your best bet is to watch on the mornings of December 13 and 14, from moonset until dawn.

Once the moonlight dies down, you may be able to see as many as 100 a meteors per hour on the night of December 13/14. In fact, the International Meteor Organization ( predicts the hourly rate might be 120 meteors an hour at the peak of the shower. Click here for an easy to use sky map and more details.

The Ursids are visible December 17th-23rd, peaking the night of the 21-22. This shower is often neglected because it peaks just before Christmas and the rates are lower than the Geminds, which peaks the week before the Ursids. Observers will normally see 5-10 Ursids per hour during the late morning hours on the date of maximum activity although there have been occasional outbursts when rates have exceeded 25 per hour.

And Don’t Forget The Start Of Winter

Saturday, December 21st is the Winter Solstice, which marks the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere (although it started a few weeks back for many folks!). The solstice is actually a very specific event and time. This year it’s at 5:11 PM Universal Time (what most of us used to call Greenwich Mean Time). That’s five hours ahead of US Eastern Standard and eight hours ahead of US Pacific Standard Time. Here’s a handy link to calculate the exact time for your location

At precisely that time, the Earth’s axial tilt is at its most distant from the sun and North America gets the least amount of sunlight it experiences all year. So even though we’re still facing several months of cold weather across the US, we’ll soon see days start to get longer, and eventually warmer, from this point forward.

So are you ready for winter? Is your local wildlife?

Website has a great summary of the Geminds.

Comet ISON survives sun encounter partially?

This video says about itself:

Comet ISON Survives Perihelion 11 29 13

29 Nov 2013

Comet ISON first appeared to have vaporized due to the heat and tidal forces of the sun, but the comet was seen again on the other side of the sun, disintegrated but still visible.

From Nature:

Remnants suggest comet ISON still going

First given up for dead, ‘dirty ice ball’ may have partially survived close brush with the Sun.

Alexandra Witze

29 November 2013

Comet ISON entered the annals of astronomical history on the night of 28 November, when it flew past the Sun and, latest updates suggest, emerged in tatters on the other side after many skywatchers had given it up as dead.

Still, the most recent images hint that most of ISON’s nucleus disintegrated as the comet approached the Sun, leaving only a slim chance there will be anything left to see with the naked eye over the northern hemisphere in coming weeks.

Analysis of the light coming from ISON will determine whether it is now just a spray of dust and gas, or any significant portion survived, says Gerhard Schwehm, former head of Solar System Science Operations Division and comet expert at the European Space Agency. “Either there’s only a small piece left, or the nucleus is really totally disintegrated and we just see the debris of the comet travelling along,” he says.

ISON’s future remains unclear, but it has already upended scientific understanding of these ‘sungrazing’ comets. ISON was making its first, and possibly only, journey from the deep freeze of the outer Solar System into the furnace of the star’s outer corona. Never before have researchers followed a comet so pristine coming so close to the Sun.

Comet ISON Barely Survives Thanksgiving Solar Roast: here.

Mars, from long ago till now, video

This video says about itself:

NASA | Mars Evolution

13 nov 2013

Billions of years ago when the Red Planet was young, it appears to have had a thick atmosphere that was warm enough to support oceans of liquid water – a critical ingredient for life. The animation shows how the surface of Mars might have appeared during this ancient clement period, beginning with a flyover of a Martian lake. The artist’s concept is based on evidence that Mars was once very different. Rapidly moving clouds suggest the passage of time, and the shift from a warm and wet to a cold and dry climate is shown as the animation progresses. The lakes dry up, while the atmosphere gradually transitions from Earthlike blue skies to the dusty pink and tan hues seen on Mars today.

See also here.

Nasa’s Maven spacecraft set for Mars mission: here.

Aldebaran and oystercatcher against light pollution

This video is called Full Moon, Jupiter with Galilean Moons and Aldebaran. It says about itself:

Full Moon with Jupiter with Galilean Moons (and the RINGS) and Aldebaran. It was an amazing formation to view tonight, 29 November 2012 in the skies. A full moon with an L-shaped alignment very close by of the planet Jupiter and the fabled star of Taurus, Aldebaran. This is the smallest full moon of 2012, by the way!

Photos: here.

Our last evening on Texel island. 26 October 2013, after the Schorren nature reserve birds. In the dark, the stars, like Aldebaran, are visible.

Maybe a bit better visible than usually. As tonight is a special night, a night against light pollution. People are asked to turn off electric lights, as they harm some wildlife.

They don’t harm all wildlife, Texel ornithologist Adriaan Dijksen said. Grey herons profit from it by fishing at night near the lampposts of Den Burg, the biggest village on Texel.

Then, to the dark Wadden Sea dike. Far away, the lights of the lighthouses of Texel, Vlieland and Terschelling islands. Many birds don’t sleep all the time at night. We heard oystercatcher and gray lag goose calls.

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