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Mega flares from a mini star

NASA’s Swift satellite has detected flares from a nearby red dwarf star that are the strongest, hottest, and longest-lasting sequence of stellar flares ever seen. The initial blast from this record-setting series of explosions – detected by Swift in April, 2014 – was as much as 10,000 times more powerful than the largest solar flare ever recorded.

New origin for mysterious lunar Ocean of Storms

The Ocean of Storms on the moon is a vast lunar mare on the western edge of the moon's near side.  In this image, It shows the dark Oceanus Procellarum in the upper center, with Mare Imbrium above it and the smaller circular Mare Humorum below.

The Ocean of Storms (Oceanus Procellarum) on the moon is a vast lunar mare on the western edge of the moon’s near side. In this image, the dark Oceans of Storms is in the upper center, with the Sea of Rains (Mare Imbrium) above it and the smaller circular Sea of Moisture (Mare Humorum) below.

The Oceans of Storms on the moon (Oceanus Procellarum) is the only one of the lunar maria or seas to be called an ocean. That’s because it’s the largest of the maria, stretching more than 1,600 miles (2,500 km) across. Early theories about this part of the moon suggested it was the site of an ancient asteroid impact. Now scientists studying data from the Grail mission – which orbited the moon in 2011 and 2012 – believe they have found evidence that this region formed not in an asteroid impact, but instead via processes going on beneath the moon’s surface.

Dates of lunar and solar eclipses in 2014 and 2015

This is what a total eclipse looks like.  This is the total eclipse of October 27, 2004 via Fred Espenak of NASA, otherwise known as Mr. Eclipse.  Visit Fred's page here.

This is what a total eclipse looks like. This is the total eclipse of October 27, 2004 via Fred Espenak of NASA.

The next eclipse is a total eclipse of the full moon – the Northern Hemisphere’s full Hunter’s Moon – on the night of October 7-8, 2014. Can’t wait? Follow the links inside to learn the dates for upcoming solar and lunar eclipses for the rest of 2014 and 2015. Enjoy.

Is it possible to have three eclipses in one month?

solar-eclipse-annular

Is it possible to have three eclipses in one month? Yes, it’s possible. You can have two solar eclipses and one lunar eclipse in one month. Or you can have two lunar eclipses and one solar eclipse in one month. However, it’s quite rare to have three eclipses in one calendar month. Follow the links inside to learn more about past and future months in which there are three eclipses.

How many solar and lunar eclipses in one calendar year?

Image credit: Luc Viatour

Image credit: Luc Viatour

Eclipses of the sun and moon excite more interest than any other event in astronomy. And no wonder. It’s a thrill to go outdoors, witness these grand spectacles of nature, and stand in line with the sun, Earth and moon. How rare are these events? Follow the links inside to learn more about lunar and solar eclipses.

Possible Mars landing site in 2018

Mawrth Vallis, one of four candidate landing sites under consideration for the ExoMars 2018 mission.  Landing ellipses under evaluation are indicated.  They cover an area of 170 x 19 km.  Image via ESA/DLR/FU Berlin & NASA MGS MOLA Science Team

Mawrth Vallis is one of four candidate landing sites under consideration for the ExoMars 2018 mission. Image via ESA/DLR/FU Berlin & NASA MGS MOLA Science Team

Say hello to Mawrth Vallis on Mars. Mawrth means Mars in Welsh, and Vallis just means valley. This region on Mars is an ancient channel, thought by most Mars scientists to have been carved by outburst floods in Mars’ past. It’s one of four candidate landing sites under consideration for the ExoMars 2018 mission.

See the sky’s brightest star, Sirius, before dawn

09oct09_430

Sirius, nighttime’s brightest star, is most enchanting, so much so that – every year, beginning in the fall – we get many, many questions about a multicolored star twinkling in the southeastern to southern sky after midnight. This star is Sirius in the constellation Canis Major the Greater Dog. It’s sometimes called the Dog Star.

Lifeform of the week: Fishing cats

Duloup_cat

As a teenager, I volunteered at the local animal shelter. One of the tasks I performed there was assisting in the bathing of newly acquired cats and kittens. From this I learned two important pieces of information: 1) cats hate water and 2) they will gladly claw your face off to escape a bath. Many wild felines also display a lack of enthusiasm for getting wet, but not the fishing cat. This species regularly and willingly enters water. They swim, they dive and, most importantly, they catch fish – thus earning them their common name.

2014 State of the Birds report: Mixed marks for U.S. birds

A male Rufous hummingbird. Image Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A male Rufous hummingbird. Image Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The annual State of the Birds report documents the health of bird populations across the United States. This year’s findings: While some wetland birds appear to be doing well because of conservation programs, but other birds are experiencing steep declines in population numbers.

Of the more than 800 species of birds in the U.S., 233 have been placed on a Watch List in the new report. The Watch List provides an early warning system for birds that are most in danger of becoming extinct in the years ahead if significant conservation actions are not put in place to protect their populations. The list includes all native Hawaiian forest birds and birds in the continental U.S. such as the Rufous hummingbird, California condor, and wood thrush.

What’s the birthstone for October?

Photo credit: Orbital Joe

Tourmaline via Orbital Joe

Meet tourmaline. It’s one of two birthstones for October. The other October birthstone is opal. More info inside this post. And happy birthday October babies!