Astronomers Sniff A Super-Earth’s Atmosphere

Smells like teen spirit, er, I mean like hydrogen and helium laced with bitter almonds. Using data gathered with the Hubble Space Telescope and new analysis techniques, the exoplanet 55 Cancri e was found to have a dry atmosphere bereft of water vapor but rich in the simplest elements that are also the most common in the…
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Aurora Alert Tonight Feb. 16-17

I feel a little sheepish with another aurora report after the Valentine’s night display failed to happen. But I’m gonna do it anyway. All afternoon, the Kp index, an indicator of magnetic activity high in the atmosphere, has been at 5 and 6, numbers that indicate a minor to moderate geomagnetic storm in progress. As of 6:30…
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Happy Birthday Galileo, You Old Iconoclast You

Can you imagine if Galileo had a Facebook page how many likes and birthday wishes he’d wake up to today? Born 452 years ago in 1564 in Pisa, Italy, Galileo was a mathematics teacher with a keen eye toward nature. He was the first child in a family of six born to Vincenzo Galilei and Giulia…
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Half-moon’s Heart Set On The Hyades

Tonight, the half moon enters the constellation Taurus about a fist from both the Hyades and Pleiades star clusters. After crescent phase, first quarter is my favorite because I like seeing a perfectly straight-up-and-down terminator. That’s the line that divides the sunlit half of the moon from the half still in darkness. The terminator neatly bisects…
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Valentine’s Night Aurora May Melt Your Heart

Good news if you’re looking for a last minute Valentine’s Day gift. An explosive coronal mass ejection (CME) on late on Feb. 11 sent a cloud of high-speed, flea-like electrons and protons toward Earth. They’re expected to get here late tomorrow afternoon and spark a minor display of the northern lights. This will probably be…
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