Prepare to feel small and insignificant #CityOfRocks #DarkSkies

Find a weekend, pack a tent, hotdogs and smores, and stay at the City of Rocks, NM. The dark skies in New Mexico are one of our greatest assets . 1 hour from Las Cruces, 30 minutes from Silver City, and you might as well be alone in this universe. Go see the beauty of the Milky Way with your own eyes.



Seeing me, seeing you #42Earths #3000Planets

We now have over 3000 planets identified in our galaxy, 42 of which are probably Earth-like.

Looking at these points in the sky, anyone looking back?


Does your camera phone do this? – 46 billion pixels of Milky Way #amacrojot @profmcateer

One of the hardest parts of science is trying to study some parts of it in detail, while not forgetting that any one topic is just part of a much bigger picture. Sometimes we get so stuck on the details of the trees, that we miss the forest.  A team of scientists from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum have came up with a new tool to help us keep this perspective in astrophysics.

Over a series of nights in the last 5 years,  a campaign was carried out by the scientists in an attempt to create a catalogue of objects with variable brightness (e.g., when exoplanets crosses its stellar disk. They used telescopes based in Chile’s Atacama desert to shoot the same patches of the southern sky repeatedly over several days. Now they have taken all these data and compiled the largest astronomical image, ever. About 268 images have been aligned and captures in one image in order to create a vast 194-gigabyte galactic mosaic.

Even if you spend $10,000 on your 4K resolution, 8 million pixel tv, you’ll still be left disappointed. This stunning vista is comprised of an impressive 46 billion pixels. It so large that the researchers have provided a special online tool in order to allow viewers to take in the cosmic scene. Like google maps for the milky way. The online tool allows viewers to observe and zoom in on stunning aspects of the Milky Way in incredible detail. You can also search for objects such as stars and nebulae via the input box on the lower left of the screen.

A big milky way galaxy, finally captured in all glory, and all its detail.

Welcome to Laniakea, your home, #laniakea

Home, sweet home. A new discovery published today in Nature, shows that our galaxy, the Milky Way, is part of an enormous supercluster of galaxies. The name they have chosen for this supercluster is Laniakea, a word that comes from the Hawaiian words for “immeasurable heaven.” Stretching over 500 million light years across and containing over 100,000 galaxies with the mass of a hundred million billion suns, this new structure is the biggest gravitational object we know. All our structure is defined by gravity – without it there would be nothing – no planets, no stars, no galaxies, nothing. But at the largest sizes bigger than galaxies, another force kicks in – the mysterious dark energy that seems to accelerating the universe expansion.

Now scientists have a detailed enough understanding of the balance between gravity and dark energy to make our biggest ever map of our locality. And now we knowledge our full cosmic address does not end at our galaxy. Now we’re proud citizens of Laniakea. Better get your passport.

A stellar smile, #FlourineStar

Consider this when you are brushing your teeth this evening -that fluorine came from a dead star. Fluorine can only be formed in the conditions available inside stars much like our Sun. Then, in the moments before they die, these stars shed their outer layers, including the Fluorine. That is spat into the space between stars, the interstellar, where new stars are formed. So when our Sun and planets were formed from a mass of gas and dust, all the Fluorine present, must have came from one of our Sun’s ancestors.

Makes you think twice before you go to bed.

You can’t find the full story in

Imminent supernova!


Betelgeuse is an old star that could explode any moment from the red super giant stage to supernova. The movie above is a simulation of what we could see when that happens. When it does explode, the people of Earth could have two months of continuous light. The star is a famous one among amateur astronomers not only for its size and brightness, but also because it is part of Orion, a bright winter constellation in the Northern Hemisphere. It easy to find as the top left shoulder or Orion

Professional astronomers also keep a close eye on the star, as it is notoriously variable: its diameter changes from anywhere between 550 to 920 times the sun’s diameter. In 2013, astronomers said Betelgeuse is likely to crash into a “cosmic wall” of interstellar dust in a few thousand years.

When astronomers say Betelgeuse is expected to explode soon, they mean shortly in astronomical terms: within a million years, according to several sources. Predicting exactly when it will turn into a supernova is difficult, however, as it depends on precise calculations of its mass as well as an understanding of what is going on inside the star.

Dark skies


Here in the southwest USA we are spoiled with our dark skies. Anyone only has to travel a few miles into the desert and they will be able to see the wonder of the universe first hand. Elsewhere things are not so good. Many people have never even had the chance to see our own galaxy, the Milky Way. From now through Earth Day, April 22, an on-line “Earth and Sky” photo contest is open for submission by any photography enthusiasts of any age from around the world. International projects The World at Night and Global Astronomy Month along with the National Optical Astronomy Observatory are the organizers of the Earth and Sky Photo Contest. The contest was founded by TWAN and Dark Skies Awareness project in 2008 as a regional program. It was expanded to an international effort in 2009 during the International Year of Astronomy. In 2012 participants from about 50 countries submitted a wonderful collection of nightscape images. The contest news was broadcasted by major science news media world-wide and the winning images were widely promoted. With the growing efforts of Astronomers Without Borders (AWB), the organization behind the Global Astronomy Month, the Earth and Sky Photo Contest will have an even larger feedback this year.

Galactic dung beetles


I never thought we could connect cosmology and critters, but then science does continue to amaze.
Celestial navigation has guided man around the world for several thousand years. From Columbus to Drake to De Gama, the stars showed them the way. Even I can safely use the sun to know whether I am driving north, south, east or west. But a new study suggests it could also be guiding dung beetles.

Marie Dacke, a zoologist at Sweden’s Lund University, studies the way animals navigate. In a study online this week in Current Biology, she and a team of researchers looked into the surprisingly sophisticated navigational habits of the dung beetle, finding that they too have their eyes on the skies. Dung beetles like to maintain straight lines as they run. As they’re going about their beetle business, when a pile of droppings catches their eye, they roll it into a ball and, walking backward, push it somewhere safe to eat. A straight course ensures they don’t return to the fierce competition back at the dung pile. Researchers placed African ball-rolling dung beetles in a planetarium, and found they could navigate just as easily with only the Milky Way visible as with a full starlit sky. Under overcast conditions, the beetles lost their way. Nocturnal beetles can stay their course even on moonless nights, guided by the stars.

Birds and seals have also been known to use the stars for navigation, but this is the first time insects have been found to use them for the same purpose. It’s also the first documentation of animals using the Milky Way specifically. And they have been doing this long before mankind worked it out.