Hanny’s Voorwerp

The Awl has the cheering story of Hanny van Arkel, a 24-year-old primary school teacher in the Netherlands, who one day idly clicked through from Brian May’s website to Galaxy Zoo, a site which posted a million galaxy photos and asked readers to help classify them.
When she spotted an unidentified blue smudge on one of the pictures, Hanny became the discoverer of what astronomers named Hanny’s Voorwerp, a cloud of gas being hit by an x-ray jet from an active black hole.
To have a go at finding your own astronomical phenomenon, go here.

Spring on Saturn

With all the fuss about Phoenix Mars, the Cassini-Huygens mission, still twirling around Saturn four years on, seems to get forgotten – but I still find the pictures of Saturn’s rings it’s sending back mind-blowing. It’s like they got to the moon and found there really was a big smiley face on it.
Saturn’s seasons last seven years, and now it’s going into spring, so the colours of the north and the south are gradually changing.

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Ask an Astrobiologist

The Nasa Astrobiology Unit offers this useful service – submit your own, or browse other people’s astrobiological queries. An understandable note of exasperation seems to creep into the answers, as the astrobiologist in question is exposed to the full force of the public’s stupidity about his subject. In particular the endless drivelling questions about evolution (‘Are we from adam or are we from monkey? if we are somehow like a monkey why the other ones couldn’t be humans?’) and UFO conspiracies push the poor man to his limit:
‘Greetings, I cannot help but be skeptical of the govt’s ufo claim that they simply do not exist.’
Answer: ‘If you choose to disbelieve the opinions millions of experts, that is your choice. But then why do you take the trouble to write to “Ask an astrobiologist”?’
‘Sir the life on other plasnet also exista this has came became clear now by the video of aliens on the moon /why u hide these thinmgs from us’
Answer: ‘You are badly misinformed…’

Lunar Eclipse

If you didn’t go out and look at the total lunar eclipse last night you must be crazy. Or maybe living somewhere where it wasn’t visible. The moon turned blood red. The Dictionary of Superstitions tells me that it’s a bad idea to undertake any business of importance during a lunar eclipse, and ‘as to Nativities this is very remarkable’ – although it doesn’t specify in what way the nativities are remarkable. Hopefully in a good way. Also, it’s unlucky to point at the moon, whatever it’s doing. Penalties vary from being struck blind to being denied access to heaven, but all of them are severe.