These Astronomy Basics Will Help You Avoid Embarrassment If You Meet Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Astronomy Basics Eclipse

Oh, hi Sauron! The Ring is over there. Don’t hurt us, okay? Source: MPE

Space is really cool. Like, cooler than the coolest thing ever. Some people find it boring, but that’s probably because astronomers sometimes speak an arcane language that doesn’t connect the intrinsic coolness of what they do for a living with whatever dumb thing is going on here on the muddy Earth. Also, there’s math. Lots and lots of math seems to be involved, as does some really expensive viewing equipment.

But the thing is, you’re in space right now. Earth is part of space, so it behooves you to know a thing or two about the neighborhood. As most of us don’t have access to multimillion-dollar telescope arrays (sadly), here’s some stuff that’s reasonably close and doesn’t require a degree in physics to understand. Some of the things in this gallery are visible with the unaided eye, some take a nice set of binoculars or a cheap telescope to spot, and some couldn’t be found without a billion-dollar orbiting space telescope.

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Astronomy Basics Lagrange Diagram

Trojan asteroids are a lot of fun. They're stuck in little pockets of stability where gravity and centrifugal force (the tidal force, if you're a pedant) cancel each other out and produce something like a net-zero force on objects that blunder into them. These are Lagrange points, and every set of orbiting bodies has five of them. Because it takes more energy to escape a Lagrange point than it does to stay in one, these points hold some of the oldest stuff in the solar system. Trojan asteroids have generally spent the last 4.5 billion years just sort of slowly oscillating around a single point in space like a marble in the bathtub, which means they're a pretty good example of the material that was originally in the cloud that condensed to make, among other things, us. Source: Wikipedia

Astronomy Basics LaGrange Asteroid

Another neat thing about Trojans is how hard they are to see. After their existence was first predicted, astronomers turned their telescopes to one of the nearest spots, L5—just to the right of the Moon, and saw nothing. It turns out that they were looking wrong. Telescopes peer deeply into tight little spots, but seeing these dim, scattered asteroids takes a wide angle. Amusingly, the human eye is better at spotting close-in Trojans than telescopes are, if only because we can see the forest for the trees. This Trojan, however, is 2010 TK7. It's in the Sun-Earth L4 point, and it's a bit too close to the Sun to be easily seen, hence the crappy resolution. See the dot in that little green circle? It's a 1,000-foot asteroid that took a space telescope to spot simply because of the Sun's glare. It's the first Earth Trojan ever found, and we have no idea how many more there could be. Source: WIkipedia

Astronomy Basics Orbit

The green line traces out 2010 TK7's figure-8 path around the Sun. Which it's been doing for longer than life has existed on Earth. Source: Wikipedia

Astronomy Basics Lunar Crater

Looking at the Moon through any decent telescope, or even through really good binoculars, is enough to put you in an alien world. A place without air, water, or life usually doesn't erode quickly, so almost every black eye the Moon has gotten in the last 4 billion years has left its mark. How long is that? Imagine how long you'd have to wait for an asteroid to hit your house. Now, imagine how long it would take for another asteroid to hit the crater left by the first one. That's how slow things go on the Moon. Note: it's a lot easier to pick out details like this during quarter- and half-moons when sunlight is streaming in from a low angle. Source: Astrosurf

Tranquility Base

Tranquility base, site of the Apollo 11 landing. High-resolution images reveal that the flag was knocked over by wash from the rockets when the LM lifted off. The other flags from later missions seem to be fine, though. Source: ASU

Apollo 16

Source: Area Voices

Astronomy Basics ISS Transit

The International Space Station isn't that high up. Here it is crossing the Sun in 2010. You probably shouldn't try seeing this without special equipment. Source: Reddit

Astronomy Basics ISS Night

The ISS again. Imaged with a long exposure to capture its transit across the sky. Source: Universe Today

Astronomy Basics ISS Atlantis

ISS and the Space Shuttle Atlantis. You can't see this anymore because the US government sucks. Source: Maryland Weather

Astronomy Basics ISS Discovery

ISS and Discovery. Source: Wordpress

Astronomy Basics Saturn

You can get a pretty good view of several planets through a medium-power telescope set up in your back yard. This is Saturn, duh. Source: Reddit

Astronomy Basics Saturn Moons

Source: Pix Good

Astronomy Basics Jupiter

Source: Pho Win

Astronomy Basics Jupiter Moon

Jupiter with a few of its moons. Source: Wordpress

Comet Australia

Occasionally, the universe tosses astronomers a treat. This image of Comet Lovejoy was taken through an 8-inch telescope. Source: National Geographic

Comet Soaring

Source: El Correo

Comet Moon

Source: Telescope

Astronomy Basics Eclipse VIolet

Earth isn't anything special, as far as planets go, but we do have one thing that's guaranteed to bring in some space-tourist money when we make contact with aliens: total solar eclipses. It's a coincidence that the Moon and the Sun have an almost identical annular size as seen from Earth's surface. This coincidence is what allows the Moon to completely block the disk of the Sun and bring out the blazing corona. Source: Wolaver

Astronomy Basics Eclipse Night

If the Moon was bigger or closer, it would block too much of the Sun to get this effect. If it was smaller or farther away, it would just dim the Sun a bit during transit. This view is unique in our solar system, and it might not be very common in the universe. Source: Astronomy

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Microscopic Nature: Winners Of The 2014 Olympus Bioscapes Competition

Microscopic Photography Barnacle

3rd Place: Dr. Igor Siwanowicz – HHMI Janelia Research Campus // Ashburn, VA, USA.
The appendages of a barnacle are used to move food for consumption. Technique: Confocal microscopy, 100x

Now in its second decade, the Olympus Bioscapes photography competition celebrates the stunning beauty of and discoveries in the field of science. But it comes with a catch: this beauty must be found beneath the lens of a microscope. Amateur and professional scientists from over 70 different countries submit thousands of entries per year in the hopes of being recognized in the competition, which is widely regarded as the world’s best showcase for this unique brand of photographic landscapes. The images that follow contain both winners and honorable mentions for 2014.

Microscopic Photography Mosquito Larvae

Honorable mention: Mr. Charles Krebs – Issaquah, WA, USA.
Specimen: Mosquito larva.
Technique: polarized dark field illumination, 100x

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20 Dramatic Weather Photos That Make You Wonder Why We Use It For Small Talk

Weather is so much a part of our lives that we usually take it for granted. Talking about the weather is the textbook example of meaningless small talk, something we do when discussing substantive issues would make everybody feel awkward and uncomfortable. In general, weather is a nice, safe topic that doesn’t get anybody all worked up or end with people slamming doors and calling each other misogynists.

Some weather, however, is so dramatic that it demands to be the center of attention. Talking about the tornado that just destroyed your house, for example, isn’t the kind of chatter one uses to break the ice at parties, though it would probably do the trick. Here are 20 of Earth’s most dramatic weather formations that you can talk about at your next cocktail party, if those are still a thing people do.

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Dramatic Weather Lightning Alps

Some people live the kind of lives that let them see stuff like this all the time. You do not live one of those lives. Source: My Birdie

Dramatic Weather Alps


Dramatic Weather Lenticular Antarctica

These are lenticular clouds clinging to Mt. Erebus in Antarctica. Lenticular clouds are believed by sane people to explain many UFO sightings. Other sightings are probably aliens, though. Source:

Dramatic Weather Lenticular Arizona

Source: Wikipedia

Dramatic Weather Lenticular UFO

Source: Blogspot

Dramatic Weather Beach Haboob

Have you ever been standing on the beach and suddenly been hit by a second, much larger beach that's roaring sideways as fast as a car on the freeway? This is a haboob, which is a hilariously named horizontal sandstorm that can arrive suddenly in arid areas. Source: All Hip Hop

Dramatic Weather Ocean Haboob

Source: Daily Mail

Dramatic Weather Lightning Manchester

Okay, let's start slow with the lightning. Here it is, touching ground behind a small house in Manchester. Source: Manchester Evening News

Dramatic Weather Lightning Barcroft

Here it is, hitting Barcroft with quite a bit more enthusiasm. Source: The Mirror

Dramatic Weather Lightning Liberty

Take that, New Jersey! Source: BBC

Dramatic Weather Lightning Volcano

Do you suppose the ancient Romans ever wrote erotic fan fiction about Jupiter getting down with Vulcan and having the angriest sex ever? This is what they had in mind. Source: ABC

Dramatic Weather Volcano Iran

Source: Hotcloob

Dramatic Weather Lightning Dianetics

Okay, you can believe in Thor, or you can be a Scientologist. Not both. Source: Blogspot

Dramatic Weather Round Cloud

This is just the kind of thing you have to get used to if you live in Kansas. Source: End Time Upgrade

Dramatic Weather Tornado House

If you lived here, you'd be calling your insurance carrier now. Source: Blogspot

Dramatic Weather Fire Tornado

This is a fire tornado moving over water. Immediately after this picture was taken, a group of Israelites drowned after following it into the river. Source: Cat In Water

Dramatic Weather Tornado Lightning

The good news is that the tornado spared your house. The bad news is that it burned down after being struck by lightning. Source: WVUA TV

Dramatic Weather Rainbow Lake

Always go out on a high note. Source: Photo Furl

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10 Interesting Science Fair Projects That Made It Big

For most people, the thought of science fairs conjures sentiments of general anxiety as well as images of Styrofoam planets and toilet paper tube volcanoes. But then again, most of us don’t consider science fair projects to be an opportunity to take on the task of killing biological weapons or coming up with cheaper ways to travel through space. Using the science fair project as their point of entry, the students featured here have developed technologies that may change the tapestry of science forever.

Using Meth Addiction To Develop New Treatments

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