A Mercury Transit Sequence

Tomorrow — Monday — Mercury will cross the face of the Sun, as seen from Earth. Called a transit, the last time this happened was in 2016. Because the plane of Mercury’s orbit is not exactly coincident with the plane of Earth’s orbit, Mercury usually appears to pass over or under the Sun. The featured time-lapse sequence, superimposed on a single frame, was taken from a balcony in Belgium shows … Read More →

Saturn the Giant

On May 25, 1961 U.S. president John Kennedy announced the goal of landing astronauts on the Moon by the end of the decade. By November 9, 1967 this Saturn V rocket was ready for launch and the first full test of its capabilities on the Apollo 4 mission. Its development directed by rocket pioneer Wernher Von Braun, the three stage Saturn V stood over 36 stories tall. It had a … Read More →

Messier 45: The Daughters of Atlas and Pleione

Hurtling through a cosmic dust cloud a mere 400 light-years away, the lovely Pleiades or Seven Sisters open star cluster is well-known for its striking blue reflection nebulae. It lies in the night sky toward the constellation Taurus and the Orion Arm of our Milky Way Galaxy. The sister stars and cosmic dust cloud are not related though, they just happen to be passing through the same region of space. … Read More →

21st Century M101

One of the last entries in Charles Messier’s famous catalog, big, beautiful spiral galaxy M101 is definitely not one of the least. About 170,000 light-years across, this galaxy is enormous, almost twice the size of our own Milky Way Galaxy. M101 was also one of the original spiral nebulae observed with Lord Rosse’s large 19th century telescope, the Leviathan of Parsonstown. In contrast, this multiwavelength view of the large island … Read More →

Spiral Galaxies Spinning Super Fast

Why are these galaxies spinning so fast? If you estimated each spiral‘s mass by how much light it emits, their fast rotations should break them apart. The leading hypothesis as to why these galaxies don’t break apart is dark matter — mass so dark we can’t see it. But these galaxies are even out-spinning this break-up limit — they are the fastest rotating disk galaxies known. It is therefore further … Read More →