The Nightly News
An Astronomy blog by Joe Bauman, Salt Lake City
Blog
  1. Blog 58: Nature's geometry
    07 Aug, 2018
    Blog 58: Nature's geometry
    The first time I read Walden all the way through, I thought Henry David Thoreau was stretching a comparison beyond its breaking point. In the chapter "Spring," he writes, with quotations chosen from two separated paragraphs, "Few phenomena gave me more delight than to observe the forms which thawing sand and clay assume in flowing down the sides of a deep cut on the railroad through which I passed on my way to the village. ... Innumerable little streams overlap and interlace with one another,
  2. Blog 57: Messier 33, a hard-to-see giant
    27 Jul, 2018
    Blog 57: Messier 33, a hard-to-see giant
    The galaxy Messier 33 is a beautiful spiral star-city that is relatively close and therefore huge from our viewpoint, but it has such low surface brightness that it can be hard to find by telescope. M33 is also unusual for other reasons, including that a New General Catalog object resides within it. A quick explanation of the Messier (M) and New General Catalog (NGC) numbers: *** Charles Messier, 1730-1810, who served as chief astronomer at the Marine Observatory, Paris, searched diligently
  3. Blog 56: Serenity and chaos
    17 Jul, 2018
    Blog 56: Serenity and chaos
    Sunday night presented one of those astronomical alignments that can soothe the mind: Venus and the Moon were nearly cuddling, about one degree apart. [Here and above: telephoto view of the conjunction of Venus and the Moon, taken by Richard Garrard of the Utah Astronomy Club about 9:30 p.m., June 15, 2018. This exposure was made to show the part of the moon illuminated by Earthshine.] Cory and I were out to shop and walk in the park. We first noticed the lovely conjunction as we prepared to
  4. Blog 55: Visiting the Eagle Nebula with friends
    07 Jul, 2018
    Blog 55: Visiting the Eagle Nebula with friends
    We had just called on a globular star cluster and Paul Ricketts wondered where our next adventure should take place. Knowing he likes nebulas, I suggested that we try to photograph one. He chose a complex, sprawling, breathtaking example in the summer sky, the Eagle Nebula. Ricketts ordered the University of Utah’s great 32-inch-diameter telescope to slew toward the nebula, technically named Messier 16 (M16), and the instrument began to shift position. This was Saturday night, June 30. A few
  5. Blog 54: TESS is flying!
    27 Jun, 2018
    Blog 54: TESS is flying!
    NASA’s new planet hunting satellite, TESS, has entered its planned orbit, says a Utah native who is a member of the science team analyzing data to discover planets beyond the solar system -- and the last he checked it was "operating properly.” The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base, FL, on April 18. It looped through a unique program of complex orbits, taking it around the Earth three times and past Moon before settling into a stable orbit that
  6. Blog 53: Diamond brooches
    17 Jun, 2018
    Blog 53: Diamond brooches
    An unforgettable experience at the eyepiece, almost akin to seeing Saturn, is one's first look at a globular cluster. Hanging in the black of space is a spherical mass of stars whose center is so tightly packed that individual orbs cannot be picked out, while around the ball are stellar streamers and loops, the whole conglomeration glowing like gems. They are a galaxy's brilliant diamond brooches. As far as we know, star clusters are of two types, open and globular (the preferred pronunciation
  7. Blog 52: Life on Mars?
    07 Jun, 2018
    Blog 52: Life on Mars?
    Who hasn't read books or seen movies in which Martian organisms play a critical role? We could enumerate dozens of space operas, pulp fiction books and sci-fi films. From the clothing-challenged but beautiful Deja Thoris in Edgar Rice Burroughs' 1912 novel A Princess of Mars to the movies Mars Attacks! and Total Recall, a favorite locale for fictional alien life is the fourth planet. The narratives get pretty ridiculous. But today, Martian aliens may be verging on reality, if only life in
  8. Blog 51: Ready for prime time, it's Jupiter
    27 May, 2018
    Blog 51: Ready for prime time, it's Jupiter
    Jupiter, our solar system's king of planets, has been known as a special light in the sky probably since early humans stopped scratching long enough to look up. It and the other anciently-known planets are distinguished from the stars by relative brightness (most), their propensity to wander and their refusal to twinkle. The ancient Greeks named it Zeus, after the ruler of the gods, and the Romans carried on with their own version of the name, which we use today. As Bruce McClure of
  9. Blog 50: Astronomical fun
    19 May, 2018
    Blog 50: Astronomical fun
    I was stoked for my astronomy trip Wednesday. For the first time in many months, my telescope was repaired, the new camera system was fixed, weather predictions were for mostly clear skies and the moon would set early. I reviewed the night's most interesting photographic subjects and wrote this list of possibilities -- "For May 16, 2018: "NGC 4438 (and NGC 4435), 'The Eyes,' in the Virgo Galaxy, part of Markarian’s Chain. Take a deep exposure, with long subs, to pick up the many smaller
  10. Blog 49: Join the battle against light pollution
    07 May, 2018
    Blog 49: Join the battle against light pollution
    Civilization is losing a vital force that mystified and inspired humans for thousands of years: the dark night sky. Until about a century ago it was a universal source of awe, beauty and spiritual feelings; an anchor for legends; a cosmic signal about when to plant, and an ever-present reminder of Nature’s cycles. Now the resource is destroyed in many regions throughout the world. Of course, the impacts are worst in cities, towns and suburban areas. A photograph of nighttime Salt Lake City
  11. Blog 48: Surprise! Welcome the Utah Astronomy Club
    28 Apr, 2018
    Blog 48: Surprise! Welcome the Utah Astronomy Club
    Welcome a new little nebula into the world of star-gazing, that is, the Utah Astronomy Club. You can join it by going to its site on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/groups/638816972950322/, or by sending me an email at [email protected] Those who prefer not to use Facebook I will attempt to update by email. Please tell others who may be interested about it; by far most will be accepted. Actually, this small nebula is not brand new. I launched it on Facebook in June 2016; it's been
  12. Blog 47: More ideas about cosmology
    17 Apr, 2018
    Blog 47: More ideas about cosmology
    Why are conditions in our universe conducive to life? The properties of matter and energy, as well as we know them today, are detailed in theories like General Relativity and the Standard Model of Particle Physics. As explained by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, the Standard Model is a set of basic building blocks of matter governed by four fundamental forces. The building blocks include subatomic particles like leptons and quarks and their relatives; the forces are named
  13. Blog 46: Getting a bang out of cosmology
    07 Apr, 2018
    Blog 46: Getting a bang out of cosmology
    Here’s a riddle. Most astronomers agree that the Big Bang, the start of our universe, began about 13.8 billion years ago. So how would you describe the period 14 billion years ago? Was everything dark? Did a void or a vacuum exist? No, is the scientific consensus. While we may discuss conditions 12 billion or nearly 13.8 billion years in the past, the phrase 14 billion years ago is meaningless. No such period existed. *** The standard Big Bang theory Time itself began, just as the entire
  14. Blog 45: New findings, by Jove
    27 Mar, 2018
    Blog 45: New findings, by Jove
    NASA’s Juno spacecraft is deepening our understanding of the solar system’s largest planet, with findings that suggest its swirling weather patterns continue 1,900 miles into the atmosphere. The planet is about 89,000 miles across at the equator, so we now know that leaves a core below the weather of more than 85,000 miles in diameter. Launched from Cape Canaveral, FL, in 2011, Juno reached Jupiter in 2016. Between then and March 8, when the latest discoveries were announced, it had carried out
  15. Blog 44: Remembering Stephen Hawking
    17 Mar, 2018
    Blog 44: Remembering Stephen Hawking
    A boy in his early teens stood beside Stephen Hawking's wheelchair, asking a scientific question. The world's most famous astrophysicist smiled up at him with his lopsided grin -- and then nothing happened. Minutes passed. He must not have been impressed with the query, or maybe he didn't hear, I thought. But then came Hawking's famous, computer-generated voice, giving an insightful answer. During that pause, I learned later, his barely-noticeable hand motions had been moving his computer's
  16. Blog 43: Kepler times 400
    07 Mar, 2018
    Blog 43: Kepler times 400
    As early as next month or as late as June, NASA plans to launch the next generation planet-finder, an orbiting telescope called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which will have a field of view 400 times that of the Kepler instrument. Since its launch on March 6, 2009, Kepler has discovered 3,705 confirmed planets with 612 in multiple-planet systems and 4,496 candidate planets, according to the latest count. The new orbiter promises to open the heavens, in terms of planetary
  17. Blog 42: Tyson Chappell, dark-sky poet with a camera
    27 Feb, 2018
    Blog 42: Tyson Chappell, dark-sky poet with a camera
    Meet Tyson Chappell, professor by day, dark-sky poet with a camera by night. His views of Utah's desert landscapes after sunset, with their starry backdrops, are works of art, while his affection for these magnificent lands and his appreciation of the views are those of a modern Thoreau. Chappell is a professor of anatomy and physiology at Utah State University Eastern, Price, where he is starting his tenth year of teaching; the institution is the former College of Eastern Utah. He has
  18. Blog 41: Oceans 235 trillion miles away?
    17 Feb, 2018
    Blog 41: Oceans 235 trillion miles away?
    This month exciting news about distant worlds has been arriving at light speed. *** On Feb. 5, the European Southern Observatory announced that the seven known Trappist-1 planets "are all made mostly of rock, and some could potentially hold more water than Earth." It was only in February last year that NASA told this world that the Trappist-1 star, located 40 light-years (about 235 trillion miles) from Earth hosts seven Earth-size planets, three of which are in the presumably habitable zone
  19. Blog 40: Astronomy
    07 Feb, 2018
    Blog 40: Astronomy
    I considered writing this blog about yesterday's epochal launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. We watched the spectacular take-off live via iPhone, as well as the successful upright landing of two of the three motors, and the views of Elon Musk's sporty red Tesla Roadster rotating in space with Earth in the background. Then came the firing of the top stage, which sent the Roadster and its "spaceman" mannequin soaring toward the asteroid belt. But what could I say that everyone isn't already
  20. Blog 39: The Hypatia Stone
    27 Jan, 2018
    Blog 39: The Hypatia Stone
    By definition, anything superlative is the most-whatever of its type; the coldest winter, the greatest rainfall, the highest mountain. It's unique, untouchable among its kind. The tiny Hypatia Stone is such an object. It's the strangest rock on Earth. In December 1996, Aly A. Barakat, a researcher with the Geological Survey of Egypt, was in the southwestern section of his country participating in an Egyptian-Italian expedition to the site of "Lybian desert glass." The glass is an unusual

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