Webisode: Space Glasses! [Hubble 3D]

For nearly 20 years, the Hubble Space Telescope has dazzled us with unprecedented views of the cosmos—from the splendor of our celestial neighborhood to galaxies billions of light years away. A new IMAX film, Hubble 3D is blasting off at HMNS on Mar. 19. Be sure to look at some of the amazing photos of the universe around us, courtesy of NASA.

Hubble 3D will transport you to galaxies that are 13 billion light years away, back to the edge of time.

Just can’t wait until March 19? Never fear – IMAX is releasing webisodes from the production of the film, and we’ll be featuring them here on the blog.

In the first webisode, find out what happens when you launch a billion dollar telescope with an off-kilter lens – and just how delicate this spectacular instrument really is. In this behind the scenes interview, astronaut Mike Massimino talks about his space mission to repair the Hubble Telescope in May of 2009.

Can’t see the video? Click here to watch it.

Check back here for exclusive videos and more behind the scenes interviews before and after the launch of Hubble 3D in IMAX.

Is anyone else out there? [Life in the Universe]

Are we alone in the universe? Is there intelligent life out there?

If you escape from the city lights and stare up at the night sky, you will see hundreds of stars. With a telescope you can see thousands, and with the help of the Hubble and computers we can see millions of stars.

Our sun has eight (nine if you’re sentimental like me) planets circling it. Not every star is going to have planets, but others will have multiple. How many million of unexplored planets are there out in the universe? Also remember that most of the stars we can see are located within our own galaxy, and that there are countless other galaxies with countless other stars and planets.

With so many billions of planets and moons, I personally believe there is at least some form of life out there in the universe. And although these may just be simple life forms, there is also a good chance that there is intelligent life somewhere in the universe.

For those of you who stare up at the night sky and wonder about the universe, we have a new planetarium show just for you, opening today.

Life in the Universe first explores our own solar system and discusses the possibility and likelihood of whether there could be simple life hidden somewhere beneath the surface of a planet or moon. Second, it delves into the galaxy and universe around us, discussing whether or not we might be alone in the universe, and why we haven’t been able to find anyone else so far.

For those of you who are interested in whether or not little green men might soon invade, or just want to learn more about the solar system, the galaxy and the universe that we live in, come on down to the Burke Baker Planetarium and check out Life in the Universe.

Go Stargazing! November Edition

Creative Commons License photo credit: chipdatajeffb

The “main event” of November evenings occurs in the southwest at dusk, where you can watch Venus close in on Jupiter.  Look towards the southwest right as night falls for the two brightest objects in the sky, other than the Moon.  The brighter one low in the southwest is Venus, which outshines everything in the sky except the Sun and the Moon.  Jupiter is closer to due south at dusk and is the dimmer of the two, although it still outshines all the stars we see at night. 

Venus and Jupiter begin the month just under 30 degrees apart (your fist at arms length blocks about 10 degrees).  However, Venus will close that gap quite noticeably each night, until it appears directly under Jupiter on November 30.  The two planets will then be about 2 degrees apart.  When two or more planets are roughly in the same line of sight, astronomers say they are in conjunction. Saturnis still visible at this time of year, it resides high in the east and can be seen around dawn.  Mars is lost in the Sun’s glare this month, and will remain out of sight into 2009. 

Look for the enormous Summer Triangle, consisting of the stars Deneb, Vega and Altair, high in the west.  The Great Square of Pegasus is high in the east at dusk.  The star in its upper left hand corner is also the head of Andromeda.  Facing north, you’ll see five stars in a distinct ‘M’ like shape—this is Cassiopeia, the Queen.  Her stars are about as bright as those in the Big Dipper, and she is directly across the North Star from that Dipper.  In fall, while the Dipper is low and out of sight, Cassiopeia rides high.

Our Milky Way Galaxy..
Creative Commons License photo credit:
Sir Mervs (byaheng bicol)

You’ll notice that November skies at dusk, especially to the south and east, contain many fewer bright stars than skies of summer or winter.  This is because we are facing out of the galaxy plane when we look in that direction.  The Summer Triangle and Cassiopeia are in the galaxy plane, where most bright stars are.  Looking away from that, we see a large are of dim stars known to the ancients as the ‘Celestial Sea’.  By late evening (10 pm now, 8 pm by the 30th), dazzling Orion rises in the east, reminding us that winter is on the way.

Moon Phases in November 2008:

1st Quarter          November 5, 10:03 am
Full                      November 13, 12:18 pm
Last Quarter         November 19, 3:32 am
New                     November 27, 10:55 pm

Love Astronomy? Check these out:
Why do we dress up on Halloween – is it A Trick or a Treat?
What’s the difference between a meteorite and a plain old rock?
Why won’t the other planets let Pluto play? Is eight enough?

Science Doesn’t Sleep (9.11.08) Hurricane Ike Edition

Released to Public: Super Typhoon Cimaron Image by Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center (NASA)
Creative Commons License photo credit: pingnews.com

And neither will any of us in the Houston-Galveston area this weekend, as Hurricane Ike barrels in from the Gulf.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to consider whether you need to get out of Dodge – but please – let the people in mandatory evacuation zones get out first.

This is a high-tech hurricane – Ike’s got a Twitter feed. You can also get the latest from @chronsciguy and @HoustonChron.

And, since there are other things happening in the world of science…

The world survived the initial tests – so now the question is, will CERN discover The God Particle?

Astronomers observed a gamma ray burst that was briefly so bright that it outshone the galaxy that contained it.

Maybe you really shouldn’t walk under that ladder – superstitions may have originally evolved as a survival instinct.  

It’s the like Terra Cotta Warriors – but with trees. Scientists have found fossil forests in mines that span thousands of hectares.