LEONIDS: Meteor shower over North America

Skywatchers in the United States are in for a visual feast of shooting stars this Sunday as the Leonid meteor shower will be hitting its annual peak in skies over much of the country.  Hundreds of professional and amateur astronomers will have their telescopes trained upwards for a glimpse of the meteors, which are one of many meteor showers that pass through the Earth’s orbit annually. What makes this month’s shower even more special is that 2013 has been described as an ‘off-year’ for intense showers, according to astronomy website Universe Today. In the north American night sky, the Leonids … Continue reading LEONIDS: Meteor shower over North America

DEATH OF THE DINOSAURS: It may have been a speeding comet, US scientists say

Sixty-five million years ago, a massive object from outer space slammed into the Earth near what is now the Yucatan peninsula in modern-day Mexico. It released thousand of times the energy of an atomic bomb, leaving behind a crater more than 180 kilometres wide. The collision rained molten and pulverised rock over an area of more than 2,500 kilometres in diameter, creating devastating firestorms. It also caused worldwide temperatures to plummet as millions of tonnes of dust was thrown up into the atmosphere, blocking out the Sun for decades. As plants died off, the food chains that supported land dinosaurs … Continue reading DEATH OF THE DINOSAURS: It may have been a speeding comet, US scientists say

THE PLANET WITH FOUR SUNS: An armchair, a laptop and a discovery from deepest space

A planet accompanied by not one, but four suns, has been discovered deep in space by two part-time astronomers. In what has been billed as one of the most exciting recent developments in the study of the universe, the planet and its four suns have been spotted in a galaxy 5,000 light years from Earth. The extraterrestrial world was discovered by American volunteers in collaboration with the website PlanetHunters.org, run by a team of scientists including Dr Chris Lintott of the UK’s Oxford University. PlanetHunters.org relies on its international panel of ‘armchair astronomers’ to collect and interpret data in its … Continue reading THE PLANET WITH FOUR SUNS: An armchair, a laptop and a discovery from deepest space

J1 AND J2: Jupiter’s tiny new moons

Jupiter, as any keen astronomer or long-suffering student in a science classroom will tell you, is our Solar System’s fifth planet and it’s largest. This massive gas giant has two and a half times the mass of all the other planets. Its appearance, with its distinctive marbled surface of white, grey, orange and brown, has intrigued sky-watchers since the dawn of human civilisation. The Romans named it after the senior god in their pantheon and it was an important feature in ancient Chinese and Indian astrology. This celestial mammoth of hydrogen (and a small amount of helium) has also the … Continue reading J1 AND J2: Jupiter’s tiny new moons