Remember, tonight (April 8th) is the best nice to catch Mars glowing brightly! It’ll be approximately at its closest distance to Earth, so it’ll look bigger too. It glows red, and will be visible in the constellation Virgo. Hike up a hill, go to the beach, escape the hazy pollution as best you can to get a good view of this astronomical event :) Happy stargazing! [image source]
‘Borrowed Light’ The last patron of an abandoned observatory takes on an impossible task to show the surrounding city something incredible. A short animation about conflicting existences, natural wonders, and petty theft on a grand scale.
If you missed it, Bob Parks, Executive Director of the International Dark Sky Association delivered a (pun intended) “illuminating” interview on the perils - economically, psychologically, ecologically, astronomically, historically and physiologically - of light pollution on all living organisms of our planet. The feature, “How bad is light pollution?” was broadcast on CBS In The Morning. You can watch the 5-minute segment HERE.
The intriguing mounds of Juventae Chasma revealed by Mars Express
Intriguing mounds of light-toned layered deposits sit inside Juventae Chasma, surrounded by a bed of soft sand and dust.
The origin of the chasma is linked to faulting associated with volcanic activity more than 3 billion years ago, causing the chasma walls to collapse and slump inwards, as seen in the blocky terrain in the right-hand side of this image.
At the same time, fracturing and faulting allowed subsurface water to spill out and pool in the newly formed chasm. Observations by ESA’s Mars Express and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show that the large mounds inside the chasma consist of sulphate-rich materials, an indication that the rocks were indeed altered by water.
The mounds contain numerous layers that were most likely built up as lake-deposits during the Chasma’s wet epoch. But ice-laden dust raining out from the atmosphere – a phenomenon observed at the poles of Mars – may also have contributed to the formation of the layers.
While the water has long gone, wind erosion prevails, etching grooves into the exposed surfaces of the mounds and whipping up the surrounding dust into ripples.
The image was taken by the high-resolution stereo camera on ESA’s Mars Express on 4 November 2013 (orbit 12 508), with a ground resolution of 16 m per pixel. The image centre is at about 4°S / 298°E.
The 2013 Geminid meteor shower peaks today! (and on the nights of December 13-14)
Although the Geminid shower favors the Northern Hemisphere, it’s visible from the Southern Hemisphere, too. The Geminids start streaking the sky by mid-evening in the Northern Hemisphere, but people at temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere may have to wait until late evening, or close to midnight, to see the beginning of the meteor shower. (More information. Full video.)
It’s the ultimate question, isn’t it? It’s also the subject of this week’s It’s Okay To Be Smart. I think you’re gonna like this one.
As we continue to tally Earth-like planets in our galaxy, we are closer than ever to being able to answer mankind’s ultimate question of existence: Are we the lone intelligent, curious, communicative life form in the universe?
I don’t know the answer to that. But here’s the other questions I tackle this week: We don’t have telescopes (yet) capable of directly imaging far-off worlds to scan them for signatures of living chemistry, but if we did, what would we look for? If we can’t see these worlds, can we listen for them? How are we advertising ourselves to the galaxy? Is the expiration date for life on Earth sooner than we think? What can we do about it?
Inside, you’ll find a heavy dose of extraterrestrial longing, some research done by Carl Sagan, a whole lot about the letter “L”, me doing my best “death metal” voice, and a really special treat from Ray Bradbury at the end.