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Latest Occultation Stories

aee91cfffe2547a39b711b02cd0ceb621
2009-04-17 13:00:00

Picture this: It's 4:30 in the morning. You're up and out before the sun. Steam rises from your coffee cup, floating up to the sky where a silent meteor streaks through a crowd of stars. A few minutes later it happens again, and again. A meteor shower is underway. One of the streaks leads to the eastern horizon. There, just above the tree line, Venus and the crescent Moon hover side by side, so close together they almost seem to touch. Suddenly, Venus wavers, winks, and disappears. All of...

782c52530c30e938216a03bd106023a5
2008-10-03 10:00:00

When a treasure hunt comes up empty-handed, the hunters are understandably disappointed. But when astronomers don't find what they are looking for, the defeat can provide as much information as a successful search. The search in question, the Taiwanese-American Occultation Survey (TAOS), spent two years periodically photographing portions of the sky to look for small chunks of rock and ice orbiting beyond Neptune, in a region of the solar system called the Kuiper Belt. The survey targeted...

91376f15e5c9c90e4b88e5ab7a3af6a31
2008-04-04 15:55:00

ESA's Venus Express has measured a highly variable quantity of the volcanic gas sulphur dioxide in the atmosphere of Venus. Scientists must now decide whether this is evidence for active volcanoes on Venus, or linked to a hitherto unknown mechanism affecting the upper atmosphere. The search for volcanoes is a long-running thread in the exploration of Venus. "Volcanoes are a key part of a climate system," says Fred Taylor, a Venus Express Interdisciplinary Scientist from Oxford University....

2008-01-13 08:08:24

Here are some of the more noteworthy sky events that will take place this year. SPACE.com's weekly Night Sky column will provide more extensive coverage of each event as they draw closer. February 1 — Venus/Jupiter conjunction, Part 1. This will be the first of two meetings this year between the two brightest planets in our sky. This one will occur in the morning sky, low in the east-southeast and is best seen about 45 minutes before sunup. On Feb. 4, a beautiful crescent moon...

2007-12-21 10:46:14

If skies are clear in your area on Sunday night, Dec. 23, you'll be able to partake in a rather unusual sight as the full moon appears to glide very closely above the planet Mars. Mars, which made its closest approach to the Earth on Dec. 18, will be only hours from a Christmas Eve opposition with the sun and is now shining prominently with a bright yellow-orange glow. And if you're favorably positioned in certain parts of the Pacific Northwest, western Canada, or Alaska, you'll...

2007-12-14 06:55:36

Mars will be closer to Earth this month than any time until the year 2016. The red planet is now the brightest "star" in the evening sky and is already above the horizon as evening twilight fades away. But give it at least two more hours – until about 8 p.m. – for it to climb above the poor atmospheric seeing that's near the horizon. By then, this brilliant yellow-orange world will be at an altitude of around 30 degrees as seen from mid-northern latitudes. Your...

1a53f18a2b386efa161a9b0af9e5d58a1
2007-11-29 17:50:00

Ben Oppenheimer calls starlight "the bane of planet hunting." Although more than 250 planets are known to orbit other stars, so far no one has been able to get a good look at any of them. That's largely because a star's glare is millions of times brighter than a planet, so trying to see a planet next to a star is akin to trying to spot a firefly next to a spotlight, from thousands of miles away. But it's a problem Oppenheimer and his colleagues at the American Museum of Natural History in...

3f812c6a60f675545e68dc4161d390911
2007-11-06 08:58:31

Watching the stars set from the surface of the Earth may be a romantic pastime but when a spacecraft does it from orbit, it can reveal hidden details about a planet's atmosphere. The technique is known as stellar occultation. Jean-Loup Bertaux, Service d'Aeronomie du CNRS, France was the first to suggest its use on an ESA mission. It works by watching stars from space, while they drop behind the atmosphere of a planet under investigation, before disappearing from view below the planet's...

180fa5a8a29b1bf1e387f63c31a297341
2007-01-24 08:39:32

A pair of rare celestial alignments that occurred in November 2003 helped an international team of astronomers investigate the far-off world of Titan. In particular, the alignments helped validate the atmospheric model used to design the entry trajectory for ESA's Huygens probe. Now the unique results are helping to place the descent of Huygens in a global context, and to investigate the upper layers of Titan's atmosphere. Occasionally Titan passes directly in front of a distant star. When...

5a496981447e34a53fffbc5e0959de6a1
2006-02-11 12:45:47

Sunspot, NM -- The planet Venus is best known for the thick layers of clouds that veil its surface from view by telescopes on Earth. But the veil has holes, and a New Mexico State University scientist plans on using a solar telescope to peer through them to study the weather on Venus. "Observations of Venus from a nighttime telescope at a single location are very difficult because Venus is so close to the Sun in the sky," said Dr. Nancy Chanover, a planetary scientist at NMSU in Las Cruces,...


Word of the Day
cruet
  • A vial or small glass bottle, especially one for holding vinegar, oil, etc.; a caster for liquids.
This word is Middle English in origin, and ultimately comes from the Old French, diminutive of 'crue,' flask.
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