I just love the imagery in these descriptions of Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, in Friday’s NYT 3/13:
Cassini Gets a Cool Shower From an Ice-Spewing Moon
Then again, no other 310-mile-wide ice-ball moon in the solar system has a geyser of icy particles shooting out of its south pole.
Geysers of ice. Truly, this world is more wondrous than dreams could ever be.
… That some folks think this is somehow not enough to contemplate, by itself, but that they also have to concoct something even more amazing — makes me sad. Icy geysers draw out the reverent in me. Adding, “… this is proof of the magnificence of God who is even more awesome” is just sad, like an emotionally damaged person who can’t hear of someone else’s success without trying to talk about their own.
Well, not only tonight, but only tonight for the last several and next few years. An amazing lunar eclipse will be highly visible in North America tonight (Wed., Feb. 20) — 10-11pm Eastern time, a total eclipse of the full moon. Sky and Telescope describes it as “America’s best lunar eclipse in years”. In addition to the colors of the eclipse — which are supposed to have beautiful colors tonight — Saturn will also be in good view. So if you have a telescope, you’ll be able to see the rings without much difficulty. The star Regulus will also be nearby.
If you miss this one, you won’t have the opportunity for a total eclipse until December, 2010 — and not even partial ones over the Americas until June 2010. So, get thee out-of-doors and witness the awesomeness of our universe.
More info in the Feb. 2008 issue of Sky & Telescope or, for the subscription-impaired, online at the S&T website. Also check out bad astronomy and orbiting frog for details.
God I love it when people discover more solar systems and planets. A new technique that permits detection of solar systems that include large outer planets, as opposed to large planets close to their suns, is proving fruitful. The solar system that was discovered includes large outer planets and may have small rocky planets, akin to our own. The sun is smaller than ours, and red (Darkover?).
One of the best things about this discovery is the role of amateurs.
Among those who provided crucial data and appeared as lead authors of the paper in Science were a pair of amateur astronomers from Auckland, New Zealand, Jennie McCormick and Grant Christie, both members of a group called the Microlensing Follow-Up Network, or MicroFUN. Ms. McCormick, who described herself as “an ordinary New Zealand mother,” said she had done her observing with a 10-inch Meade telescope from a shed in her back yard.
One of the other best things about this discovery (there are lots of best things about it) is that, since the technique itself can only work in a very specific set of circumstances, and it has already proven so fruitful (this solar system and a few other planets), we can infer that these kinds of solar systems — our kind of solar system — are abundant.