Category Archives: News from the Cosmos

What’s Up for January 2015 by NASA’s JPL

Jupiter’s moons are putting on an amazing show this month. The orbital path of the moons is tilting edge-on to Earth and the sun. This lineup makes it possible to watch the moons pass in front of each other and even eclipse each other with their shadows. Get all the details, including where to find Jupiter in the sky this month, in this edition of What’s Up.

Voyager 1 Experiences Three “Tsunami Waves” in Interstellar Space

The Voyager 1 spacecraft has experienced three “tsunami waves” in interstellar space. This kind of wave occurs as a result of a coronal mass ejection erupting from the sun. The most recent tsunami wave that Voyager experienced began in February 2014, and may still be going. Listen to how these waves cause surrounding ionized matter to ring like a bell.

Gamma Ray Bursts and Black holes

During the Astro Camp some of you had queries regarding Gamma Ray Bursts and also about hyper novae and black holes. Watch this documentary to give you more info on this.

It was one of the greatest mysteries in modern science: a series of brief but extremely bright flashes of ultra-high energy light coming from somewhere out in space. These gamma ray bursts were first spotted by spy satellites in the 1960s. It took three decades and a revolution in high-energy astronomy for scientists to figure out what they were.

NASA’s Orion Soars on First Flight Test- Watch the lift off.

NASA’s Orion spacecraft launched successfully atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket Dec. 5 at 7:05 a.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Orion’s Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), is the first flight test for NASA’s new deep space capsule and is a critical step on NASA’s journey to Mars. The 4.5 hour flight is scheduled to conclude with the splashdown of Orion in the Pacific Ocean.

ORION – NASA’s Deep Space Exploration Spacecraft – Explained in Detail

The testing of ORION – NASA’s Deep Space Exploration Spacecraft has been postponed once again. This video explains in detail NASA’s new deep space exploration spacecraft called Orion which will take humans farther into space than ever before including landing on an asteroid, the moons of Mars, and Mars itself.

Alex Filippenko – How will the Universe End?

New Astronomy Technique Reveals Monster at the Center of the Milky Way

Stripping away the Milky Way’s stars, planets, rocks and dust reveals a massive black hole lurking just 26,000 light years from Earth.

The first image sent by Philae from the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Congratulations ESA! Fantastic achievement.
Title: Welcome to a comet
Released: 13/11/2014 10:39 am
Copyright: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA
Description:  Rosetta’s lander Philae is safely on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, as these first two CIVA images confirm. One of the lander’s three feet can be seen in the foreground. The image is a two-image mosaic. The full panoramic from CIVA will be delivered in this afternoon’s press briefing at 13:00 GMT/14:00 CET.




Rosetta Landing On Comet – Philae Lander Descends On Comet – ESA

Is There an Edge to the Universe? Documentary

It is commonly theorized that the universe began with the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. But since we can only see as far as light has traveled in that time, we can’t actually make out the edge of the universe. Could it be that the universe is infinite? Is there any way to find out what the shape of the universe really is? Can we find the edge, discover what might lie beyond it, and perhaps even discover a universe next to ours? Narrated by Morgan Freeman

14th Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate 2013 – The Existence of Nothing

14th Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate conducted by the American Museum of Natural History hosted by the Director of the Hayden Planetarium and Celebrity Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. He welcomes a distinguished panel of scientist to discuss and debate the Existence of Nothing. Panelists include Richard Gott, Lawrence Krauss, Eve Silverstein, Jim Holt and Charles Seife. This is a great debate watch till the end.

The Biggest Stars In The Universe

The details in this video are as of 2009. I have posted it only for you to compare the sizes and get an idea of scale. The largest star identified as of now is  UY Scuti. Click here for the complete list from Wikipedia.

VY Canis Majoris (VY CMa) is a red hypergiant star located in the constellation Canis Major. With a size of 2600 solar radii, it is the largest known star and also one of the most luminous known. It is located about 1.5 kiloparsecs (4.6×1016 km) or about 4,900 light years away from Earth. Unlike most stars, which occur in either binary or multiple star systems, VY CMa is a single star. It is categorized as a semiregular variable and has an estimated period of 6,275,081 days, or just under 17,200 years.

Antares is a red supergiant star in the Milky Way galaxy and the sixteenth brightest star in the nighttime sky (sometimes listed as fifteenth brightest, if the two brighter components of the Capella quadruple star system are counted as one star). Along with Aldebaran, Spica, and Regulus it is one of the four brightest stars near the ecliptic. Antares is a variable star, whose apparent magnitude varies from +0.9 to +1.8.

The Pistol Star is a blue hypergiant and is one of the most luminous known stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. It is one of many massive young stars in the Quintuplet cluster in the Galactic Center region. The star owes its name to the shape of the Pistol Nebula, which it illuminates. It is located approximately 25,000 light years from Earth in the direction of Sagittarius. It would be visible to the naked eye as a fourth magnitude star, if it were not for the interstellar dust that completely hides it from view in visible light.

Rigel (β Ori / β Orionis / Beta Orionis) is the brightest star in the constellation Orion and the sixth brightest star in the sky, with visual magnitude 0.18. Although it has the Bayer designation “beta”, it is almost always brighter than Alpha Orionis (Betelgeuse).

Aldebaran (α Tau, α Tauri, Alpha Tauri) is an orange giant star located about 65 light years away in the zodiac constellation of Taurus. With an average apparent magnitude of 0.87 it is the brightest star in the constellation and is one of the brightest stars in the nighttime sky. The name Aldebaran is Arabic (الدبران al-dabarān) and translates literally as “the follower”, presumably because this bright star appears to follow the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters star cluster in the night sky. This star is also called the Bull’s Eye because of its striking orange color and its location in the bull’s head shaped asterism. NASA’s Pioneer 10 spacecraft, which flew by Jupiter in 1973, is currently traveling in the direction and will reach it in about two million years.

Arcturus (α Boo / α Boötis / Alpha Boötis) is the brightest star in the constellation Boötes. With a visual magnitude of −0.05, it is also the third brightest star in the night sky, after Sirius and Canopus. It is, however, fainter than the combined light of the two main components of Alpha Centauri, which are too close together for the eye to resolve as separate sources of light, making Arcturus appear to be the fourth brightest. It is the second brightest star visible from northern latitudes and the brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere. The star is in the Local Interstellar Cloud.

Pollux (β Gem / β Geminorum / Beta Geminorum) is an orange giant star approximately 34 light-years from the Earth in the constellation of Gemini (the Twins). Pollux is the brightest star in the constellation, brighter than Castor (Alpha Geminorum). As of 2006, Pollux was confirmed to have an extrasolar planet orbiting it.

Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky. With a visual apparent magnitude of −1.46, it is almost twice as bright as Canopus, the next brightest star. The name Sirius is derived from the Ancient Greek Σείριος. The star has the Bayer designation α Canis Majoris (α CMa, or Alpha Canis Majoris). What the naked eye perceives as a single star is actually a binary star system, consisting of a white main sequence star of spectral type A1V, termed Sirius A, and a faint white dwarf companion of spectral type DA2, termed Sirius B.

The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. The Sun has a diameter of about 1,392,000 kilometres (865,000 mi) (about 109 Earths), and by itself accounts for about 99.86% of the Solar System’s mass; the remainder consists of the planets (including Earth), asteroids, meteoroids, comets, and dust in orbit. About three-fourths of the Sun’s mass consists of hydrogen, while most of the rest is helium.

Documentary-Extreme Orbits: How the Universe Works

In this Documentary you will understand the importance of Orbits of heavenly bodies and the speciality of Earth’s Orbit.

What’s Up for September 2014- From NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab

Cassini Saturn Arrival-The 10th Anniversary of Cassini

On June 30, 2004 (PDT), as mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory held their collective breath, the international Cassini-Huygens mission successfully arrived in orbit around Saturn. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft delivered the European Space Agency’s Huygens probe to Titan in early 2005. Cassini completed its four-year primary mission in 2008 and went on to perform dozens more flybys of Titan, Enceladus and Saturn’s other icy moons through its 10th anniversary in 2014. The mission may continue through 2017.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Space to Ground: See the Weekly Space Station Update from the International Space Station

NASA’s Space to Ground is your weekly update on what’s happening aboard the International Space Station. Got a question or comment? Use #spacetoground to talk to them.

Laniakea: Our Home Supercluster | Sky & Telescope

Please check this link below to know more about our galaxy and its position in a supercluster of galaxies. Laniakea: Our Home Supercluster | Sky & Telescope.

The Most Distant Galaxy Ever Measured

I know all of you are busy preparing for your terminal exams, so I am posting only videos of shorter duration. On Oct 19th 2010, astronomers announced the measurement of a redshift of 8.6 for one of the galaxies in the Ultra Deep Field. Here’s the news release from ESO’s website. This is old news but relevant to understanding the Cosmos.

What Caused the Big Bang?

The question of what caused the Big Bang is one of the most difficult facing humanity. We may never find an answer, and even if we do, we probably won’t understand it. It’s difficult to imagine an event occurring without a cause, and yet, that is precisely the prospect we are faced with when it comes to this question.

Interview with Lawrence Krauss

Theoretical Physicist Lawrence Krauss gives a great interview on significant discoveries in modern physics and also discusses some ideas from his book, A Universe From Nothing. Lawrence articulates his ideas very well in this video. A special shout out to the interviewer Steve Paikin who asks tremendous questions. This interview was given in 2013 in Canada and this is the first part. His book  “A Universe from Nothing: Why there is something rather than nothing” is a fantastic read and I recommend it strongly for people having questions and those interested in knowing about the origin of the Universe.

The Comet’s Tale-Documentary about Comets

The Rosetta Mission Asks: What is a Comet?

In response to one of my posts earlier on the Rosetta Mission, some of you had asked me why should we study a comet. In this Video from JPL, scientists tell you why.

Prof. Brian Cox speaking to School Students

Dr.Brian Cox is a popular Physicist who makes science interesting for young people. In this video he is speaking to the students and teachers of schools in the UK about the universe. Please see the video patiently till the end. We have discussed much of it in our meetings earlier but hearing from Prof. Cox is different.  If you have any doubts note them down and I will clear them the next time we meet or you may leave a comment and I will try to clarify where ever possible.

Documentary on Jupiter and NASA’s Juno probe

Mission Juno – A great documentary on Jupiter and NASA’s Juno probe arriving at the gas giant in 2016. Will answer many of your questions on Jupiter.

Jupiter Globe Rotation

Jupiter is the largest Planet in our solar system and it is a gas giant. There are four gas giants in our solar system Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune and these planets are also called the Outer or Jovian planets. Jupiter is mainly made of Hydrogen and Helium. Its core could be rocky consisting of heavier elements. Its atmosphere contains trace amounts of methane, water vapor, ammonia, silicon-based compounds and also carbon, ethane, hydrogen sulfide, neon, oxygen, phosphine, sulphur, benzene and other hydrocarbons. The outermost layer of the atmosphere contains crystals of frozen ammonia and is visibly segregated into several bands at different latitudes, resulting in turbulence and storms along their interacting boundaries which results in the Great Red Spot, a giant storm. Jupiter has at least 67 moons and you have seen the four largest amongst them during your astro camps.

Pictures taken by the Hubble telescope have been put together in this video to show  a full rotation of Jupiter.

About this video:
The giant planet Jupiter has a diameter of more than 10 times Earth’s diameter. Its striped and dynamic atmosphere, dotted with massive, powerful storms, has been a continuing Hubble target over the years. A collection of images from 2007 have been combined to get full, even coverage of Jupiter. The resulting mosaic has been mapped onto a sphere, and one full rotation is presented in the visualization.

Visualization: G. Bacon (STScI)

Data: A. Simon-Miller (GSFC), A. Sánchez-Lavega, R. Hueso, S. Pérez-Hoyos (UPV/EHU), E. García-Melendo (FOED), G. Orton (JPL)

The Rosetta Space Probe reaches the Comet


Rosetta is a robotic space probe built and launched by the European Space Agency to perform a detailed study of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. On 6 August 2014 it approached the comet to a distance of about 100 km and reduced its relative velocity to 1 m/s (3.3 ft/s), thus becoming the first spacecraft to rendezvous with a comet with the intention to enter orbit.

Rosetta orbiter deploying the Philae lander to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko: Artists Impression

Rosetta orbiter deploying the Philae lander to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko: Artists Impression


Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

The adventure began March 2004, when a European Ariane 5 rocket lifted off from Kourou in French Guiana. During a circuitous ten-year trek across the Solar System, Rosetta crossed the asteroid belt and travelled into deep space, more than five times Earth’s distance from the Sun. Its destination the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and Rosetta now lie 405 million kilometres from Earth, about half way between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars, rushing towards the inner Solar System at nearly 55 000 kilometres per hour. The comet is in an elliptical 6.5-year orbit that takes it from beyond Jupiter at its furthest point, to between the orbits of Mars and Earth at its closest to the Sun. Rosetta will accompany it for over a year as they swing around the Sun and back out towards Jupiter again.

Comets are considered to be primitive building blocks of the Solar System and may have helped to ‘seed’ Earth with water, perhaps even the ingredients for life. But many fundamental questions about these enigmatic objects remain, and through a comprehensive,in situstudy of the comet, Rosetta aims to unlock the secrets within. The Rosetta orbiter will rendezvous with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and remain in close proximity to the icy nucleus as it plunges towards the warmer inner reaches of the Sun’s domain. At the same time, a small lander will be released onto the surface of this mysterious cosmic iceberg.

More than a year will pass before the remarkable mission draws to a close in December 2015. By then, both the spacecraft and the comet will have circled the Sun and be on their way out of the inner Solar System.The Rosetta mission will achieve many historic firsts.

  • Rosetta will be the first spacecraft to orbit a comet’s nucleus.
  • It will be the first spacecraft to fly alongside a comet as it heads towards the inner Solar System.
  • Rosetta will be the first spacecraft to examine from close proximity how a frozen comet is transformed by the warmth of the Sun.
  • Shortly after its arrival at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the Rosetta orbiter will despatch a robotic lander for the first controlled touchdown on a comet nucleus.
  • The Rosetta lander’s instruments will obtain the first images from a comet’s surface and make the first in situ analysis to find out what it is made of.
  • On its way to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, Rosetta will pass through the main asteroid belt, with the option to be the first European close encounter with one or more of these primitive objects.
  • Rosetta will be the first spacecraft ever to fly close to Jupiter’s orbit using solar cells as its main power source.
  • Scientists will be eagerly waiting to compare Rosetta’s results with previous studies by ESA’s Giotto spacecraft and by ground-based observatories. These have shown that comets contain complex organic molecules – compounds that are rich in carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. Intriguingly, these are the elements which make up nucleic acids and amino acids, the essential ingredients for life as we know it. Did life on Earth begin with the help of comet seeding? Rosetta may help us to find the answer to this fundamental question.

SOURCE: European Space Agency