The whole hillside at the Roque de Los Muchachos is in bloom. But where heather moors go purple, The peaks of La Palma go yellow with sticky broom (Adenocarpus viscosus, or codeso in Spanish) and Frech broom (Genista benehoavensis or retamón palmero in Spanish)
Carolyn Porco is head of NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn.
As a teenager in the Bronx she saw Saturn through a friend’s telescope, and was immediately addicted to astronomy. So that’s what she did at university. After graduating, she knew she wanted to study planets. NASA was sending unmanned ships to Mars and Venus, and she wanted to be part of it, and did her Ph.D. on the dynamics of Saturn’s rings, using data from NASA’s Voyager mission. Aged 30, she joined the Voyager team in time for the encounters with Uranus in 1986 and Neptune in 1989. She did the calculations for the famous Pale Blue Dot photograph.
Then she joined the team of the Cassini–Huygens mission as leader of the Imaging Team, so she’s responsible for some amazing photos. She’s also on the team for the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.
Every year NASA holds a competition to chose the best photo of Earth. The Canary Islands won this year’s Tournament: Earth is again. (Last year’s winner was a photo of the submarine eruption off El Hierro.)
The Canary Islands sit in the trade winds and the Canary current, both of which come from the north east. This photo, taken by NASA’s Terra satellite on June 15, 2013, shows long shiny areas of sea stretching downwind and downstream from each island. This is because the sea is either rougher or smoother (probably smoother) on the leeward of the islands.
You can also see a long trail of cloud coming off Tenerife, looking like smoke from a cigarette. That’s caused by Mt Teide, which is 3,718-metres (12,198 ft) high.
Josh Worth has created what he calls a “tediously accurate scale model of the Solar System: If the moon were only 1 pixel
There’s lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of empty space out there.
A new supernova has been spotted just 12 light years away in M 82, the Cigar galaxy, which is between Ursa Major (the Great Bear or Big Dipper) and Ursa Minor. It’s a type 1a supernova, which is what happens when a white dwarf sucks gas from a companion red giant, until the white dwarf reaches 1.4 solar masses (the Chandrasekhar mass) when the core becomes hot enough to fuse carbon, which starts a runaway reaction, and the whole star goes FOOM!
Since this is the 10th supernova spotted this year, its official name is SN 2014J (SN for supernova, 2014 for the year, and then the first supernova of the year is SN2014A, etc.). On Monday night it was magnitude 11 (easily visible through a small telescope), and it should reach maximum brightness on about January 31st. It might be visible through binoculars by then.
Every year La Palma holds an astrophotography contest, and the winning entries from the 2013 contest are now on display in the island’s museum. The inauguration was held on Friday night, and the winners received their prizes.
It’s well worth a visit, because the photos are wonderful, and the rest of the museum is interesting too.
The museum (and the exhibition) is open from 10 am – 8 pm Monday – Saturday, and 10 am – 2 pm on Sundays. The exhibition will be there until March 17th.
Happy new year.
We started 2014 with a new moon. Here it is setting on January 2nd from La Palma.
Have a wonderful Christmas, (or whatever else you celebrate). I hope 2014 brings you whatever you most hope for.
As far as I can tell, Comet ISON is neither alive not dead, but in some stage in-between. Something came out from behind the sun. Watch this space.