September 30th, 2014

Indian Spacecraft Snaps Spectacular Portrait of Mars (Photo)

India’s first spacecraft to visit Mars has beamed home its greatest photo of the Red Planet yet, a view that reveals the planet from pole to pole.

The new photo of Mars from India’s Mangalyaan probe was unveiled today (Sept. 29) by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It shows Mars as a red globe in space, with the planet’s southern ice cap clearly visible, while a huge dust storm blankets part of the northern region. “Something’s brewing here!” ISRO officials wrote in a Twitter post for the Mars orbiter.

The Mangalyaan spacecraft used its Mars Color Camera to capture the amazing photo from a distance of 46,292 miles (74,500 kilometers) above the Red Planet on Sunday (Sept. 28), according to an ISRO photo description. It is the third and best view of Mars from Mangalyaan since the spacecraft arrived in orbit around the planet last week. The Mars Color Camera is one of five different instruments riding aboard Mangalyaan to study Mars from orbit.

Mangalyaan (the name is Sanskrit for “Mars Craft”) is the centerpiece of India’s $74 million Mars Orbiter Mission, which launched toward the Red Planet in November 2013 and arrived in orbit on Sept. 24 of this year. The spacecraft arrived at Mars just days after the U.S.-built MAVEN orbiter arrived at the Red Planet on its own mission for NASA.

India’s Mars orbiter circles the Red Planet in a highly elliptical orbit that brings the spacecraft within 227 miles (365 km) of the planet at its closest approach. The orbit reaches out 49,710 miles (80,000 km) at its farthest point. The mission is expected to last between six and 10 months.

Credit: Indian Spacecraft Snaps Spectacular Portrait of Mars (Photo).

September 22nd, 2014

Sun at zenith over Earth’s equator on the September equinox



The 2014 northern autumnal equinox (southern spring equinox) takes place on Tuesday, September 23 at 2:29 UTC. If you could be standing on the sun at that moment, at the instant of the 2014 autumnal equinox, you’d see the part of Earth shown on the image at the top of this post facing your direction.

Although the equinox happens at the same instant for everyone worldwide, the clock time for the equinox varies by time zone. In the U.S., the equinox come on Monday, September 22. The time will be 10:29 p.m. EDT, 9:29 p.m. CDT, 8:29 p.m. MDT or 7:29 p.m. PDT.

At this special moment – the instant of the September equinox – the midday sun will be atzenith, or straight overhead, at the Earth’s equator. That’s the meaning of this equinox. At the September equinox sun crosses the sky’s equator, going from north to south. Because the path of the sun is heading southward, this equinox signals the beginning of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere and spring in the Southern Hemisphere.

On the day of the equinox, the sun rises due east and sets due west all over the world, with everyone worldwide receiving approximately the same amount of day and night.

As soon as the beginning of October, however, that’ll change dramatically. By then, the sun will rise noticeably south of due east and will set noticeably south of due west. That’ll mean shorter days and longer nights for the Northern Hemisphere, and longer days and shorter nights in the Southern Hemisphere.

After the equinox, the sun and the migrating birds will continue to travel southward to the southern climes. Arctic sea ice will begin to freeze; Antarctic ice will start melting. The great wheel of the seasons will continue to turn.

How to celebrate? Try to watch as the sun rises due east and sets due west on this day of the equinox.


Worldwide map, showing the day and night sides of Earth at the instant of the September 2014 equinox (2014 September 23 at 2:29 Universal Time)

Text Credit:

September 19th, 2014

Aurora over Maine


Image Credit & Copyright: Jeremy P. Gray

It has been a good week for auroras. Earlier this month active sunspot region 2158 rotated into view and unleashed a series of flares and plasma ejections into the Solar System during its journey across the Sun’s disk. In particular, a pair of Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs)impacted the Earth’s magnetosphere toward the end of last week, creating the most intense geomagnetic storm so far this year. Although power outages were feared by some, the most dramatic effects of these impacting plasma clouds were auroras seen as far south as Wisconsin, USA. In the featured image taken last Friday night, rays and sheets of multicolored auroras were captured over Acadia National Park, in MaineUSA. Since another CME plasma cloud is currently approaching the Earth, tonight offers another good chance to see an impressive auroral display.

September 10th, 2014

Three Days Of Daytime Moon Hunting and a #SWFullMoonChallenge

Well, actually, it’s Waning Gibbous, but still pretty darn big and shiny with its super-full-harvest-moon afterglow. The Moon this month sure does have a lot of titles, and it gives us a great opportunity for some fun with a camera. Astronomers advise us to look in the East before going to bed, to catch the Moon over the eastern horizon.  Another good moment might be right after sunrise tomorrow, or in the next few mornings, that will hopefully allow us to see the daytime moon over the western horizon.


An Airplane in Front of the Moon. Credit & Copyright: Chris Thomas

Snap a pic of the Moon and post it to Facebook, Twitter, of Instagram, tagged with #SWFullMoonChallenge. On Friday, we will choose 15 pictures we like best, and send a free code for Star Walk 2 to each of them. We will also repost some of your pictures to our followers along the way.

September 5th, 2014

Best New App for Little Stargazers

Star Walk Kids features hand-picked information to inspire children to learn about space. Browsing across the sky with live motion tracking, the young users can tap on any object they find to learn its name, size relative to the Sun, distance, and what it is known for. Selected objects are explained in short animated films voiced by professional actors. Users will learn what Polaris is, how to find it on the night sky, and how to determine cardinal directions on the spot, and much more.



- Narrated educational cartoons and fun facts

- Live motion tracking to find out what stars are above you

- Time Machine to speed up the time and see how celestial objects move

- Colorful setting and simple controls

Download here.