Tag: EarthSky blog

Out of this world!

Forgive my indulgence!

I wish I understood where my fascination with the night sky came from. Not that I am anything other than an amateur gazer (of the night sky, I should hasten to add!). I have never taken the trouble to gain any real knowledge.

Yet, some of the most serene moments of my life have been when I have been alone at sea under a night sky.

OK, that’s enough wallowing for anyone!

The last week has been an important one for those that take an interest in the planets in our solar system, or to be specific, take an interest in Jupiter.

For as EarthSky reported on the 8th April:

Today – April 8, 2017 – the planet Jupiter is closest to Earth for this year.

Yet yesterday was Jupiter’s opposition, when Earth flew between Jupiter and the sun, placing Jupiter opposite the sun in our sky. You’d think Jupiter was closest to Earth for 2017 yesterday as well … and yet it wasn’t. It’s closest to Earth for 2017 today, April 8, coming to within 414 million miles (666 million km).

EarthSky also included this image:

Jupiter at its April 7, 2017 opposition with the Great Red Spot and moons Io, Europa, and Ganymede (L to R). Photo by Rob Pettengill in Austin, Texas.

Then, Mother Nature Network yesterday presented more information:

Jupiter strikes a pose for Hubble portrait

April 12, 2017

During the month of April, Jupiter will be in opposition, meaning the planet is at its closest point to Earth. Thanks to the sun, it’s during this window that astronomers can enjoy a particularly close-up photo session that can help reveal how the planet’s atmosphere has changed over time by comparing it with previous such photos of the gas giant.

This photo of Jupiter was taken on April 3 by the Hubble Space Telescope when the enormous planet was 670 million kilometers (or about 416 million miles) from Earth. The photo shows the Great Red Spot, but it also shows something new: a weather feature called the Great Cold Spot, which is almost as large as its more well-known cousin.

“The Great Cold Spot is much more volatile than the slowly changing Great Red Spot, changing dramatically in shape and size over only a few days and weeks, but it has reappeared for as long as we have data to search for it, for over 15 years,” Tom Stallard, a planetary astronomer at the University of Leicester in the U.K. and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

The cold spot is nearly 15,000 miles by about 7,500 miles in size, and it’s dubbed the “cold” spot because it’s 200 degrees Kelvin (about 400 degrees Fahrenheit) cooler than the surrounding atmosphere.

The article included this stunning image of Jupiter.

Photo: A. Simon (GSFC)/NASA, ESA

Jaymi went on to write:

Here’s what some of the other details in the image mean:
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope reveals the intricate, detailed beauty of Jupiter’s clouds as arranged into bands of different latitudes. These bands are produced by air flowing in different directions at various latitudes. Lighter coloured areas, called zones, are high-pressure where the atmosphere rises. Darker low-pressure regions where air falls are called belts. Constantly stormy weather occurs where these opposing east-to-west and west-to-east flows interact. The planet’s trademark, the Great Red Spot, is a long-lived storm roughly the diameter of Earth. Much smaller storms appear as white or brown-coloured ovals. Such storms can last as little as a few hours or stretch on for centuries.

The Great Red Spot is an anticyclonic storm that is so large that Earth would fit inside it. That stormy spot — which is actually shrinking, though astronomers don’t know why — gives us a great perspective for understanding just how huge Jupiter is compared to our own blue dot in the solar system.

Finally, I’m taking the liberty of republishing in full an item that appeared on The Smithsonian site on April 7th.

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Hubble Snags Splendid Snapshot of Jupiter

The perfect photographic conditions make for a grand view of the gas giant

This snapshot shows Jupiter’s swirling, banded atmosphere and signature vortices. (NASA, ESA, and A. Simon (GSFC))
smithsonian.com
April 7, 2017

It’s been 27 years since the Hubble Space Telescope went into orbit, and the geriatric observatory is still going strong. When the telescope recently trained its sights on the solar system’s largest planet, the results were spectacular—proof that for the stellar spectator, age is but a number.

The image above is the latest picture of Jupiter. The snapshot was taken by Hubble on April 3 with the help of the telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3, a high-res instrument that lets the telescope observe using different wavelengths. It combines light on the visible, ultraviolet, and infrared spectrum to create an image of a massive planet in constant atmospheric flux.

In a press release, the European Space Agency, which co-runs Hubble with NASA, said that Hubble was able to take advantage of the planet’s current opposition with Earth to take the close-up. At the moment, Jupiter is lined up perfectly with the sun, and Earth is lined up with both the sun and Jupiter. Think of it as a truly heavenly photographic opportunity—a chance to look at the planet head-on. Better yet, Jupiter’s position relative to the sun means that it’s brighter than at any other time of year, which lets telescopes trained on the gigantic planet see even more detail than usual.

As The Washington Post’s Amy B. Wang notes, there were no new discoveries in the picture per se, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to look at. As ESA explains, scientists will compare the photo to previous views of the planet to hopefully learn more about the atmosphere. And for the rest of us, there’s a strangely soothing view of Jupiter’s layered cloud bands and impressive vortices.

The gas giant is thought to have sucked up most of the space debris left over after the sun formed, grabbing dust and gas with gravity. Scientists think it has two times as much debris as all of the other bodies in the solar system combined—and all of that material swirls through cloud layers in its quickly-rotating atmosphere.

Since Jupiter doesn’t exactly have a surface, it has nothing to slow the spots and vortices that appear in its atmosphere. The most famous, the Great Red Spot, is thought to have been swirling around for more than 150 years, and even though it’s unclear which gases give it that red hue, it’s the planet’s most recognizable feature. As NASA writes, the cloudiness of Jupiter’s atmosphere makes it hard to understand what might be contributing to it. But that doesn’t decrease its allure.

Want to delve even further into the mesmerizing bands of a huge planet’s atmosphere? A high-res version of the snapshot is available online. And if you prefer seeing things live, it’s a great time to check out Jupiter through in the night sky. You can find Jupiter in the east right after the sun goes down—a massive mystery that’s brighter than any star.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/hubble-snags-splendid-snapshot-jupiter-180962832/#2QLP7buDDb5PJaGK.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
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Let me finish up with another incredible fact.

Namely, that the universe came into existence some 13.82 billion years ago. The power of natural evolution that came with that event eventually brought along homo sapiens some 200,000 years ago. 200,000 is 0.0000145 of 13.82 billion.

Or to put it another way, we humans have only been a part of this universe for 1/10th of 1% of the life of said universe! (Oh, and dogs came along 100,000 years ago!)

Celestial certainties

Our December Solstice

I deliberately planned for this post to be published at the precise moment, in Pacific Time that is, when the solstice occurs.

Welcome to the shortest day of 2016.

Winter Solstice at the Stonehenge Monument in Southern England.
Winter Solstice at the Stonehenge Monument in Southern England.

I am now republishing much of what appeared on the EarthSky blog a few days ago.

Late dawn. Early sunset. Short day. Long night. For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the December solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of the year. Meanwhile, on the day of the December solstice, the Southern Hemisphere has its longest day and shortest night. This special day is coming up on Wednesday, December 21 at 10:44 UTC (December 21 at 4:44 a.m. CST). No matter where you live on Earth’s globe, a solstice is your signal to celebrate.

Want to know what time it is where you are living?

When is the solstice where I live? The solstice happens at the same instant for all of us, everywhere on Earth. In 2016, the December solstice comes on December 21 at 4:44 a.m. CST. That’s on December 21 at 10:44 Universal Time. It’s when the sun on our sky’s dome reaches its farthest southward point for the year. At this solstice, the Northern Hemisphere has its shortest day and longest night of the year.

To find the time in your location, you have to translate to your time zone. Click here to translate Universal Time to your local time.

World Time Zones
World Time Zones

Roll on Summer!

Footnote:

This morning I read an interesting set of facts about the Solstice over on the Mother Nature Network. It included this:

The word “solstice” comes from the Latin solstitium, meaning “point at which the sun stands still.” Since when has the sun ever moved?! Of course, before Renaissance astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (aka “super smartypants”) came up with the ‘ol heliocentric model, we all figured that everything revolved around the Earth, sun included. Our continued use of the word “solstice” is a beautiful reminder of just how far we’ve come and provides a nice opportunity to give a tip of the hat to great thinkers who challenged the status quo.

What a Moon!

This is a night to be outside! (And that includes you, Susan L.)

It has been receiving quite a lot of publicity in recent days. I’m speaking of the “Supermoon”.

Or in the opening words of a recent Smithsonian Magazine article:

The Biggest Supermoon in 68 Years Will Leave You “Moonstruck”

It hasn’t been this close since 1948 and won’t be again for the next 18 years

(Adrian Scottow via Flickr)
(Adrian Scottow via Flickr)

In terms of when this is happening then I will draw on Mother Nature Network:

According to NASA, the full moon that rises on Nov. 13 will be the closest one to Earth since 1948. If viewing conditions are clear, the moon will not only appear 30 percent brighter, but also 14 percent larger. While the nighttime viewing is supposed to be spectacular, the true closest approach of the supermoon will take place on the morning of Nov. 14 at 8:52 a.m. EST.

Just how special is this super supermoon? Humanity won’t get another show like this one until Nov. 25, 2034.

Or as the EarthSky blogsite puts it:

The moon turns precisely full on November 14, 2016 at 1352 UTC. This full moon instant will happen in the morning hours before sunrise November 14 in western North America and on many Pacific islands, east of the International Date Line.

For those of us on Pacific time that equates to 0852 PST.

So the balance of today’s post will comprise the republication, with permission, of a recent essay on The Conversation blogsite.

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Supermoons are big and bright, but not as rare as the hype would suggest.

November 8, 2016

By

Senior Lecturer and Associate Department Head for Undergraduate Programs in Astronomy & Astrophysics, Pennsylvania State University.

As an observational astronomer who teaches students about the behavior of the moon, I’m thankful for anything that inspires people to go out and look at the sky. For me it’s second nature to pay attention to the moon; when my son was born, I would take him out at night to observe with me, and one of his very first words was “moon.”

But I have mixed feelings about what’s being billed as the upcoming “super-supermoon.” Many astronomers do not like using the term because reports overhype the factors that make certain full moons unusual. Most of what you’ve likely read has probably misled you about what you can expect to see on Nov. 14 and just how rare this event is. Beautiful, yes. Worth looking up for, definitely. Once in a lifetime… that’s a bit overblown.

he moon’s phases as it revolves around the Earth. Orion 8, CC BY-SA
The moon’s phases as it revolves around the Earth. Orion 8, CC BY-SA

The moon’s cyclical phases

Just about everyone is familiar with the moon’s changing appearance as it goes through its phases from crescent, to half-illuminated (first quarter), to gibbous, to full, and then back through gibbous, to half-illuminated (third quarter), to crescent, to new.

This pattern occurs because the moon orbits the Earth. When the moon is between the Earth and sun, it’s a new moon, and you don’t see it that day. When the moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun we get a full moon as the sun’s light illuminates almost its entire face. The complete sequence of phases takes about the same amount of time as it does for the moon to orbit the Earth once – just about a month.

As the moon makes its monthly trip around our planet, it travels on an elliptical, not circular, path. Every object in the solar system orbits like this, including the Earth around the sun; over the course of the year, the Earth is sometimes closer to the sun and sometimes more distant. Same for the moon – sometimes it’s closer to us and sometimes farther away.

The changes are proportionally not large; at “perigee” (the closest it gets to the Earth) the moon’s approximately 10 percent closer to the Earth than at “apogee” (most distant point on its orbit). Over the year, the moon’s distance from Earth varies from around 222,000 to 253,000 miles.

 The moon’s orbit is elliptical and changes over time. Rfassbind
The moon’s orbit is elliptical and changes over time. Rfassbind

The time it takes the moon to go from perigee to perigee (about 27.3 days) is shorter than the time it takes to go through a complete set of phases (about 29.5 days). Because these timescales are different, the phase at which perigee occurs varies. Sometimes perigee occurs when the moon is full, but it is just as likely for perigee to occur when the moon is in the first quarter phase, or any other. Whichever phase the moon is in when it’s at perigee will be the one that looks largest to us here on Earth for that month.

wo full moons as seen from Earth: at perigee on the left, at apogee on the right. Catalin Paduraru
Two full moons as seen from Earth: at perigee on the left, at apogee on the right. Catalin Paduraru

At perigee, the moon can appear 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than an apogee full moon. But this is complicated by the fact that our eyes play tricks on us and convince us the moon looks larger when it is near the horizon than when it is higher in the sky. Every full moon will look big and bright whether it happens at perigee or apogee.

So what’s a supermoon?

The first time I heard the phrase “supermoon” was in 2011, and someone had to explain the suddenly in vogue term to me. People were using it to describe the full moon that happened to occur within an hour of perigee in March of that year. The moon’s perigee distance also varies a bit, and March 2011 was the moon’s closest perigee of that year.

 A 2013 supermoon as seen from Ireland. John Finn, CC BY-NC-ND
A 2013 supermoon as seen from Ireland. John Finn, CC BY-NC-ND

This was a somewhat rare event – a full moon occurring not just at perigee, but at the closest perigee of the year. But many people got the impression that this was an exceedingly unusual event, and rushed to see and capture images of this supposedly ultra-rare moon. Depending on how closely you require the full moon to occur to perigee in order to call it a supermoon, though, these events happen at least roughly once a year, and often more frequently.

Which brings us to this month’s much ballyhooed “super-supermoon.” News stories are hyping the upcoming full moon as a once-in-a-lifetime viewing opportunity. It’s true that the Nov. 14 full moon is the closest since 1948, and the next time the full moon will be closer is in 2034.

But this month’s full moon is only 0.02 percent closer – a mere 41 miles! – than the March 2011 supermoon. These tiny distances make no noticeable difference in the moon’s appearance.

 Get out there and enjoy this supermoon! AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
Get out there and enjoy this supermoon! AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Please do go out and observe the November full moon. If you are good with photography, try to document that the moon does appear larger than the other months this year. Just be aware you’ll have other virtually equivalent opportunities to do so pretty much every year for the rest of your life. So don’t worry if you miss it. You can catch the supermoon next time around.

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Fingers crossed our local weather will enable Jean and me to view this moon and I will try and photograph it.

If any readers also get to see this moon do let us know your thoughts and feelings.

The meaning of it all!

Celebrating the life and times of Albert Einstein.

Albert-EinsteinYesterday was the centenary of the birth of Albert Einstein (14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955). It has been widely reported. For example, a piece on the EarthSky blog:

March 14, 1879. This is the anniversary of the birth of Albert Einstein, undoubtedly the most famous scientist of the modern era.

Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany, where an uncle – Jakob Einstein, an engineer – introduced him to science and math. At age 17, he enrolled in the Swiss Polytechnic Institute after failing the entrance exam the previous year. He graduated in 1900, and in 1902 he became a junior patent examiner in the Swiss Patent Office in Bern, Switzerland, where he specialized in electrical devices.

The year 1905 came to be known as Einstein’s Miracle Year. He was 26 years old, and in that year he published four papers that reshaped physics.

Now before you read on let me proclaim that today’s post has absolutely nothing to do with dogs! (Unless dogs exist in parallel universes!)

But a recent documentary that was published on Top Documentary Films was really fascinating and incredibly well presented. Thus, in terms of the likes of you and I better understanding what Einstein revealed about our universe, I couldn’t resist sharing it with you all today. It is just 29 minutes long.

STORYLINE

One hundred years have passed since Albert Einstein first unleashed his highly influential Theory of General Relativity unto the world. These revelations charted a future course of scientific pursuit, and never cease to inform our understanding of the universe today. In celebration of that impressive legacy, the documentary short Einstein’s Extraordinary Universe travels to three research facilities in different regions across the globe, and shows us how Einstein’s work continues to challenge, shape and inspire the scientific discoveries of tomorrow.

The film opens in Tuscany. Under the shadows of Galileo’s groundbreaking work on gravity research, a group of astrophysicists are exploring Einstein’s theories related to the occurrence of gravitational waves through space and time. Can modern technologies and advanced scientific intellect result in actual proof of such waves?

Viewers are then taken to the world’s largest underground laboratory. Hidden far beneath Italy’s Gran Sasso mountains, the lab serves as a home to researchers who work tirelessly to prove another of Einstein’s grandiose theories: the existence of dark matter. The vast majority of our universe is made up of materials that we have not yet been able to detect through forces of light and energy. The dedicated team who toil away in this impressive underground lair hope they can lay the groundwork in changing that.

The filmmakers’ next stop is Switzerland, where they are given a tour of one of the most impressive displays of scientific testing technology on the planet. Housed by the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, the Large Hadron Collider is the most powerful particle accelerator on the planet, and is being used to question and examine the substance of all matter in our universe.

Through each destination on this incredible journey, what amazes most is how prescient Einstein’s theories have proven even after a century has passed. His work continues to test the limits of our scientific understanding, and sets a groundwork from which researchers still strive for answers. Featuring a plethora of illuminating interviews with many top figures in the fields of scientific study, Einstein’s Extraordinary Universe is certain to delight seasoned science geeks and novices alike.

What an extraordinary mind he had!

Truly out of this world.

Just puts everything back into perspective.

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has revisited one of its most iconic and popular images: the Eagle Nebula’s Pillars of Creation. This image shows the pillars as seen in visible light, capturing the multi-coloured glow of gas clouds, wispy tendrils of dark cosmic dust, and the rust-coloured elephants’ trunks of the nebula’s famous pillars. The dust and gas in the pillars is seared by the intense radiation from young stars and eroded by strong winds from massive nearby stars. With these new images comes better contrast and a clearer view for astronomers to study how the structure of the pillars is changing over time.
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has revisited one of its most iconic and popular images: the Eagle Nebula’s Pillars of Creation. This image shows the pillars as seen in visible light, capturing the multi-coloured glow of gas clouds, wispy tendrils of dark cosmic dust, and the rust-coloured elephants’ trunks of the nebula’s famous pillars. The dust and gas in the pillars is seared by the intense radiation from young stars and eroded by strong winds from massive nearby stars. With these new images comes better contrast and a clearer view for astronomers to study how the structure of the pillars is changing over time.

I subscribe to EarthSky and the link to this image and background information was in yesterday’s daily summary. The mind-blowing facts are that the Eagle Nebula is found in the constellation Serpens and is 6,500 light-years away from our dear planet.  To put that into context, that is 38,210 trillion miles from us. The star cluster associated with the nebula is about 5.5 million years old.

EarthSky has the very interesting text of the NASA Press Release regarding this new, high-resolution image.

For me, I just want to let that image wash over me. Not least because it reminds me that I am a very lucky person to be living at a time when one can lose oneself in such sights.

Here’s the image again, this time without the explanation.

New view of the Pillars of Creation — visible

The tail of the dog!

Or should that be the tell of a dog!

In the funny way that items flow around the internet, I recently read an item that appeared on the daily email summary from EarthSky. It was entitled: Read the message your dog sends with his tail. That, in turn, had been prompted by an article published on the website ScienceDirect. It was a study announced in Current Biology and published on the 18 November 2013, (Pages 2279–2282). Here’s how that article opens (and go here to read the numbered references):

Seeing Left- or Right-Asymmetric Tail Wagging Produces Different Emotional Responses in Dogs
Marcello Siniscalchi, Rita Lusito, Giorgio Vallortigara, Angelo Quaranta

Summary

Left-right asymmetries in behavior associated with asymmetries in the brain are widespread in the animal kingdom [1], and the hypothesis has been put forward that they may be linked to animals’ social behavior [2 and 3]. Dogs show asymmetric tail-wagging responses to different emotive stimuli —the outcome of different activation of left and right brain structures controlling tail movements to the right and left side of the body. A crucial question, however, is whether or not dogs detect this asymmetry. Here we report that dogs looking at moving video images of conspecifics exhibiting prevalent left- or right-asymmetric tail wagging showed higher cardiac activity and higher scores of anxious behavior when observing left- rather than right-biased tail wagging. The finding that dogs are sensitive to the asymmetric tail expressions of other dogs supports the hypothesis of a link between brain asymmetry and social behavior and may prove useful to canine animal welfare theory and practice.

Graphical Abstract

Wagging tails

In terms of understanding for the non-scientific minded, then the EarthSky article is an easier read.

Read the message your dog sends with his tail

Tail-wagging is a reflection of what’s happening in your dog’s brain. Learn to read your dog’s tail signals, and you’ll know if he’s happy … or stressed.

Tail-wagging in dogs is the classic signal for happiness. But researchers have found that tail-wagging can mean that your dog is either happy or stressed.

Activation of the left-brain causes a dog’s tail to wag to the right. Activation of the right-brain causes a wag to the left. That’s not new knowledge. Scientists detected that difference seven years ago.

What is new is that, not surprisingly, other dogs can easily read the message your dog is sending with his tail. And so can you.

Researchers at the University of Trento in Italy tested 43 dogs of various breeds for their ability to distinguish between tail wags. They showed the dogs videos of other dogs wagging their tails (much like the one above) and monitored the dogs’ heart rates and reactions. How could they be sure that the dogs weren’t watching their canine buddies’ facial or body cues? The researchers also showed the dogs only a silhouetted version of a tail-wagging dog.

As it turned out, every dog responded the same way. Dogs watching other dogs wag their tails to the left looked anxious, and their heart rates increased. In other words, they, too, became stressed. But dogs watching others swing their tails to the right stayed calm and relaxed — an indication that right wags are an expression of companionship and confidence, according to these scientists.

Why study tail wags in dogs? The team said in the summary to their study, which was published in Current Biology last year:

The finding that dogs are sensitive to the asymmetric tail expressions of other dogs supports the hypothesis of a link between brain asymmetry and social behavior and may prove useful to canine animal welfare theory and practice.

Bottom line: A dog wagging his tail to the right is happy, but a dog wagging to the left is stressed, say researchers.

Let me finish off today’s post with the following video.

So here’s to dozens of people watching their dogs’ tails!

Breathtaking beauty of our world.

The awe-inspiring pictures of the recent Aurora.

I stuck this in my drafts folder and then promptly forgot about it!

But despite the aurora taking place nearly two months ago, the pictures are stunning and I wanted still to share them with you.  They came to my attention thanks to the EarthSky blogsite.

From where today’s post is taken.

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August 19 aurora from space and Earth

One of the first auroras of the 2014 autumn season appeared last night at northerly latitudes. Astronaut Reid Wiseman caught it from space. Photographer Göran Strand caught it from Sweden.

aurora-space-Wiseman-tweet-1-e1408536767203

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aurora-space-wiseman-tweet-2-e1408536756730

Astronaut Reid Wiseman captured these images from the window of the International Space Station last night (August 19, 2014). SpaceWeather.com says:

A moderate (G2-class) geomagnetic storm that erupted following a CME strike on August 19th is subsiding now. At its peak, the storm sparked auroras around both poles visible from the ground and from space.

Follow astronaut Reid Wiseman on Twitter – he’s our eyes from above!

More awesomeness from the International Space Station.

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Downloaded from here.
Downloaded from here.

Fotograf Göran Strand

The Aurora season is here

Last night I got to see my first Aurora for the season, two days earlier than last year but five days later than my personal record from 2011 (August 14th).

It was a faint aurora that lasted for several hours and as you can see it was quite cloudy. The orange/yellow clouds to the right are clouds that are lit up by the street lights from the city of Östersund and Frösön.

Finally the dark nights are here so we can enjoy the auroras ahead and let us hope that there will be lots of them during the coming season.

Don’t you think Göran Strand’s photograph is just wonderful!

Not of immediate concern!

Milky Way galaxy heading for a collision – in about 4,000,000,000 years!

As with huge numbers of others who come to this blog, the night sky has always been of incredible fascination to me.  To reinforce that fact, one of the favourite posts on Learning from Dogs for the last three years has been The night sky above published back on the 27th March, 2011.  If you haven’t read it, do pop across and do so as the title is misleading in terms of the post.

Thus it was unavoidable not to pick up on an item recently referred to by Naked Capitalism that had been published by the EarthSky blog.  This particular item was called Night sky as Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies merge.  It began thus:

As seen on Cosmos … the collision and merger between our Milky Way galaxy and the nearby Andromeda galaxy 4 billion years from now.

The video below illustrates what NASA scientists announced in 2012 – and what the Cosmos TV series featured in 2014 – that the nearby Andromeda galaxy will collide and merge with our Milky Way galaxy 4 billion years from now. The video (from the Hubble Space Telescope news center) is from a series of photo illustrations, showing the predicted merger between our two titan spiral galaxies, as seen in Earth’s sky. Will Earth as a planet survive long enough to see this? A word about that at the end of this post.

The video lost a lot for me by not carrying a commentary.  But no problem as one was found that did have a ‘voice-over’.  However, the article photographs were stunning.  For example:

merger-milky-way-andromeda-NASA-e1395662599173
This series of photo illustrations shows the predicted merger between our Milky Way galaxy and the neighboring Andromeda galaxy. Via NASA; ESA; Z. Levay and R. van der Marel, STScI; T. Hallas, and A. Mellinger

A description of what’s happening in the images above:

First Row, Left: Present day.
First Row, Right: In 2 billion years the disk of the approaching Andromeda galaxy is noticeably larger.
Second Row, Left: In 3.75 billion years Andromeda fills the field of view.
Second Row, Right: In 3.85 billion years the sky is ablaze with new star formation.
Third Row, Left: In 3.9 billion years, star formation continues.
Third Row, Right: In 4 billion years Andromeda is tidally stretched and the Milky Way becomes warped.
Fourth Row, Left: In 5.1 billion years the cores of the Milky Way and Andromeda appear as a pair of bright lobes.
Fourth Row, Right: In 7 billion years the merged galaxies form a huge elliptical galaxy, its bright core dominating the nighttime sky.

The sequence is inspired by dynamical computer modeling of the inevitable future collision between the two galaxies.

Further on in the article one reads:

This illustration shows the collision paths of our Milky Way galaxy and the Andromeda galaxy. The galaxies are moving toward each other under the inexorable pull of gravity between them. Also shown is a smaller galaxy, Triangulum, which may be part of the smashup. Via NASA; ESA; A. Feild and R. van der Marel, STScI.
This illustration shows the collision paths of our Milky Way galaxy and the Andromeda galaxy. The galaxies are moving toward each other under the inexorable pull of gravity between them. Also shown is a smaller galaxy, Triangulum, which may be part of the smashup. Via NASA; ESA; A. Feild and R. van der Marel, STScI.

Will Earth survive long enough to see this merger of galaxies, as depicted in the video above? Earth as a planet might, but life on Earth – probably not. Astronomers say that the luminosity, or intrinsic brightness, of our sun will steadily increase over the next 4 billion years. As the sun’s luminosity increases, the amount of solar radiation reaching the Earth will also increase. It’s possible that – around 4 billion years from now – the increase in the Earth’s surface temperature will cause a runaway greenhouse effect, perhaps similar to that going on now on the planet next door, Venus, whose surface is hot enough to melt lead. No one expects to find life on Venus. Likewise, life on Earth will probably not exist 4 billion years from now. What’s more, our sun is expected to become a red giant star eventually. A probable fate of the Earth is absorption by the sun in about 7.5 billion years, after our sun has entered the red giant phase and expanded to cross Earth’s current orbit.

Anyhow, I mentioned that I found a better video on YouTube than the one included in the original article, and that is now presented.

Rather puts the grunt and grind of daily life into perspective! 😉