Every Halloween – and a few days before and after – the brilliant star Arcturus sets at the same time and on the same spot on the western horizon as the summer sun. What’s more, this star rises at the same time and at the same place on the eastern horizon as the sun does during the dog days of summer.
Computer animation of Deinocheirus mirificus walking. The bizarre-looking dinosaur had unusually large forearms and features that seem cobbled together from other dinosaurs.
Ghost lights used to be called will-o-the-wisps. They were a weird glow over swamps or bogs. Nowadays, people report strange lights in the sky in all sorts of places. Some are more famous than others. The ghost lights closest to me are in the desert-like Davis Mountains near Marfa, Texas, but you can also see them in the Brown Mountains of North Carolina, and other places in North America. There are modern, very ordinary explanations for these lights. Yet people still love to try to spot them. Follow the links inside to some samples of North American ghost lights.
“She waits patiently through the night on her invisible web, stars dimly glowing in the background…” A spooky way to launch your Halloween celebration.
Two sky tips for today. First, as Halloween approaches, try looking for the star Beta Persei, otherwise known as Algol in the constellation Perseus. This star’s proper name comes from the Arabic for head of the ghoul, or head of the demon. That’s why Algol is sometimes called the Ghoul Star. Second, have you been watching the moon lately? Find it near Mars again tonight!
Astronomers using the ALMA telescope in Chile have peered 460 light-years away – in the direction of our constellation Taurus – to discover a young multiple star system they say appears as a wheel within a wheel. In other words, there appear to be two disks, one within the other, and the astronomers have found gas flowing in the region between the two disks. They say this gas might let planets form in the gravitationally perturbed environment of this system.
Astronomers at the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (IAA-CSIC) in Spain say they have at last discovered a population of quiet, distant quasars. Nearly all the quasars we see at great distances are ultraluminous, and no wonder. They must be extremely luminous in order for us to glimpse them over the vastness of space. And yet astronomers have thought there must be, at those same vast distances, some quasars that were relatively quiet. Now, they say, they’ve found some.
Ebola’s first documented outbreak was in 1976. But the Ebola virus family has been around for 16 to 23 million years, says new research.
The Chinese Chang’e 5 test vehicle captured this extraordinary view of Earth over the far side of the moon yesterday. From Earth, the phase of the moon was a waxing crescent. From the moon, the Earth is in a waning gibbous phase. More detail about features visible on this photo on the far side of the moon, inside.
Astronomy is said to be the people’s science in part because anyone, regardless of training, can participate. There is so much you can observe in the sky even without a telescope, and of course meteors – also called shooting stars – are high on the list. Observing planets counts as a big thrill, too. On this late October 2014 night, you can catch the moon and two planets in the evening, sporadic meteors from late night till dawn, plus two planets in the morning sky.