Planet Nine May Have Once Been an Exoplanet

It hasn’t even been found yet (they’re still working on that) but the recently-announced Planet Nine is already spurring discussion amongst the world’s astronomers. One of the recent topics surrounding this alleged new planet is (again, besides where it’s hiding) how it formed and how it got into the incredibly distant orbit it’s thought to be…

SDO Enters Its Seventh Year Observing Our Sun

Happy Launchiversary SDO! NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory lifted off aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral on Feb. 11, 2010, and has been observing our home star in high-definition ever since. SDO has provided us with unprecedented views of the Sun’s ever-changing atmosphere and data on the space weather it creates over the course of…

Supplement Your Day With This Calcium Image of the Sun

Our Sun may be made up of 98% hydrogen and helium but the remaining two percent comprises many other elements, detectable by their unique absorption lines within the gamut of white light we receive on Earth. One of those elements is calcium, which exists in ionized form in relatively tiny amounts in the Sun’s chromosphere…

Hinode Watches the Sun Weave Its Magnetic Web

Many of the features seen on the Sun might look like tongues of flame or fiery eruptions, but there’s no fire or lava on the Sun – its energetic outbursts are driven by powerful magnetic fields that rise up from its internal regions and twist, loop, and coil far out into space. In addition to these…

SpaceX Sends NOAA’s DSCOVR On a Million-Mile Journey

Third time was definitely a charm today for SpaceX, NASA, and NOAA as the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) launched from Cape Canaveral aboard a Falcon 9 rocket after two scrubbed attempts. Liftoff occurred at 6:03 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Feb. 11 into a clear sky as the Sun was setting – a truly picturesque backdrop for…

Happy 5th Launchiversary SDO!

Five years ago today, at 10:23 a.m. EST on Feb, 11, 2010, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory launched aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, sending the most advanced solar observatory satellite into orbit and giving us an amazing new look at our home star. Since then SDO has been monitoring the…

A Matter of Scale

Note: this post was first published on Feb. 22, 2011. I’m reposting it again today because 1. the video creator has since updated the soundtrack, and 2. it’s still awesome. One of the things that fascinates me so much about the Universe is the incredible vastness of scale, distance and size. On Earth we have…

Four Years of SDO

It’s hard to believe it’s already been four years that NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory has kept a watchful eye on our home star, but here we are: 2014, and the four-year anniversary of the Feb. 11 launch has come and gone. Amazing. But what’s even more amazing are all the incredible observations and discoveries SDO…

The Brightest Lights: 12 Awesome Space Stories of 2013

What a year for space exploration! With 2013 coming to a close I thought I would look back on some of the biggest news in space that I’ve featured here on Lights in the Dark. Rather than a “top ten” list, as is common with these year-end reviews, I’m going to do more of a…

Watch the Sun’s Skin Split Open (and Then Heal Itself)

Like some kind of stellar superhero (or maybe a cosmic vampire!) our Sun’s surface splits apart and then fuses itself back together in this mesmerizing video from SDO and the folks at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center — check it out! All right now, while the Sun doesn’t really have skin like we do or…

Alan Friedman on Photographing the Sun

I’ve featured many of Alan Friedman’s amazing photos of the Sun here on Lights in the Dark, starting from the very first one I came across via the venerable Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) in November 2009. I’ve even featured Alan’s work in several articles I’ve written for National Geographic News, Discovery News, and Universe…