Category Archives: Astronomy

Orion Nebula: The Hubble View


Very few cosmic spacescapes excite my imagination in a way that the Orion Nebula does, this recently published ‘super hi-res’ image from the Hubble telescope is pretty damn epic.

(click to enlarge)

Also known as M42, the nebula’s glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1,500 light-years away. The Orion Nebula offers one of the best opportunities to study how stars are born partly because it is the nearest large star-forming region, but also because the nebula’s energetic stars have blown away obscuring gas and dust clouds that would otherwise block our view – providing an intimate look at a range of ongoing stages of starbirth and evolution. This detailed image of the Orion Nebula is the sharpest ever, constructed using data from the Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys and the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla 2.2 meter telescope. The mosaic contains a billion pixels at full resolution and reveals about 3,000 stars.

Source APOD

Disneyland on Mercury

Mickey Mouse Spotted on Mercury
Mickey Mouse Spotted on Mercury!

I know this is quite funny, but the official statement from NASA was…

This scene is to the northwest of the recently named crater Magritte, in Mercury’s south. The image is not map projected; the larger crater actually sits to the north of the two smaller ones. The shadowing helps define the striking “Mickey Mouse” resemblance, created by the accumulation of craters over Mercury’s long geologic history.

This image was acquired as part of MDIS’s high-incidence-angle base map. The high-incidence-angle base map is a major mapping activity in MESSENGER’s extended mission and complements the surface morphology base map of MESSENGER’s primary mission that was acquired under generally more moderate incidence angles. High incidence angles, achieved when the Sun is near the horizon, result in long shadows that accentuate the small-scale topography of geologic features. The high-incidence-angle base map is being acquired with an average resolution of 200 meters/pixel.

The MESSENGER spacecraft is the first ever to orbit the planet Mercury, and the spacecraft’s seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation are unraveling the history and evolution of the Solar System’s innermost planet. Visit the Why Mercury? section of this website to learn more about the key science questions that the MESSENGER mission is addressing. During the one-year primary mission, MESSENGER acquired 88,746 images and extensive other data sets. MESSENGER is now in a yearlong extended mission, during which plans call for the acquisition of more than 80,000 additional images to support MESSENGER’s science goals.

Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Zeta II Reticuli

Prometheus Origins FeaturetteToday saw the release of the new Prometheus featurette titled “Origins,” thankfully it doesn’t spoil anything in regards to the mystery of how the movie will play out for the crew of the spacecraft Prometheus. What it does confirm is that the lifeforms they track down, is on what Ridley Scott calls the Planet Zeta II Reticuli which is quite interesting as this is where the crew of the Nostromo say they’re in the vicinity of when they picked up the so-called distress signal in “Alien
Prometheus Zeta II Reticuli
Prometheus Landing on Zeta II Reticuli

Alien Fact 1 | The Planets

Zeta Reticuli (ζ Ret, ζ Reticuli) is an actual ‘REAL’ binary star system in the southern constellation of Reticulum. From the southern hemisphere the Zeta Reticuli 1 & 2 can be seen with the naked eye as a double star in very dark skies. Based upon parallax measurements, this system is located at a distance of about 39 light-years (12 parsecs) from the Earth, also quoted in the original Alien movie.
Zeta Reticuli (ζ Ret, ζ Reticuli) is a binary star system in the southern constellation of Reticulum
Zeta Reticuli is circled in Red

Alien Fact 2 | The Robots

A nice little touch I came across today was that the synthetic robots’ names in the series are in alphabetical order, according to film release dates: Ash is in “Alien” (1979), Bishop is in “Aliens” (1986) and Alien 3 (1992), Call is in “Alien: Resurrection” (1997) and now David, played by Michael Fassbender in “Prometheus.”.

The SuperMoon

I have to say I have a bit of a fetish for photographing the moon, and last nights Super Moon, scientifically know as the Perigee moon was no exception, as it appears 14% bigger and 30% brighter as it passes closer to Earth. It this apparent increase in size, as it comes within 221,457 miles of the big blue marble, that is most striking and is like a ‘moth to a flame’ for us photographers.

Super Moon over Leeds 6th May 2012
I captured this early evening time, just as Luna was rising through the clouds. I tweeted it saying ‘Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s SuperMOON! over Leeds’

As usual much of the UK was swaddled in the traditional bank holiday blanket of rain and even snow clouds, so it wasn’t the greatest of sky watching weekends. However!!, after last years ‘no-show’ Leeds saw one of the natural world’s most spectacular light shows, and I was there ready with ‘old trusty’ the camera. Continue reading The SuperMoon