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Ryan Deal

12 of the Most Fascinating Astronomy Stories of 2009

Posted By: on December 22, 2009

This year has been a big one for astronomy and astrophysics… We’ve found water on Mars and on the moon, set new records with the LHC, and bombed the moon. With such big things going on in our universe, it’s time to take a look back at some of the most fascinating pictures of 2009.

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If you went outside at exactly the same time every day and took a picture that included the Sun, how would the Sun appear to move? With great planning and effort, such a series of images can be taken. The figure-8 path the Sun follows over the course of a year is called an analemma. More info

balloon image

Teenagers with a £56 camera and latex balloon have managed to take stunning pictures from 20 miles above Earth. Proving that you don’t need Google’s billions or the BBC weather centre’s resources, the four Spanish students managed to send a camera-operated weather balloon into the stratosphere.

Taking atmospheric readings and photographs, the Meteotek team of IES La Bisbal school in Spanish Catalonia completed their incredible experiment at the end of February this year. Read more

the sun

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Yes, that is in fact the Space Shuttle Atlantis silhouetted against the Sun. But wait, there’s something else, isn’t there. What’s that spot below the Shuttle? That, me droogs, is the Hubble Space Telescope. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Holy Haleakala!

The exceptionally gifted astrophotographer Thierry Legault captured this stunning tableau just minutes before the crew of Atlantis caught up with and captured Hubble for its very last servicing mission on May 13, 2009. This shot has never been accomplished before, and it’s magnificent. He used a 13 cm telescope, and camera that took a series of 16 images of 1/8000th of second each. More info

earth and jupiter

*actual image is much larger [click to enlarge]

This is a photo of the Earth and its moon and Jupiter and its moons. In the same frame. It’s taken from Mars, and it’s humbling and incredible. Be sure to click the picture to see its full scope. Via Gizmodo and Reddit.

panoramic view of milky way galaxy

The image has been digitally processed and increasingly stretched at high altitudes to make it rectangular. In the foreground on the image right is an unusually placed rock that was pushed by high winds onto Racetrack Playa after a slick rain. In the background is a majestic night sky, featuring thousands of stars and many constellations. The arch across the middle is the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy. More info

neil armstrong's face

An amazing new photograph showing Neil Armstrong’s face through his space suit visor has come to light on the 40th anniversary of the first manned Moon landing.

The image was shot by the movie camera mounted on the lunar lander famously called ‘Eagle’, but the frame lasts for only a fleeting moment. It shows Armstrong’s face in clear view as he walks across the lunar surface. More info

CERN announced early Monday that the Large Hadron Collider has become the world’s highest-energy particle accelerator. The LHC pushed protons to 1.18 TeV (trillion electron volts), surpassing the previous record of 0.98 TeV held by Fermilab’s Tevatron.

There was a mechanical failure just a week after it fired up for the first time in September 2008. Now, 10 days after it turned on again, scientists are celebrating with their fingers crossed that the machine is safely on its way to the physics experiments they plan to begin next year when the LHC has reached its target energy of 7 TeV. More info

The Known Universe is the most complete 4D map of the cosmos. It takes viewers from the Himalayas through our atmosphere and the inky black of space to the afterglow of the Big Bang. Every star, planet, and quasar seen in the film is possible because of the world’s most complete four-dimensional map of the universe, the Digital Universe Atlas that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History. The new film, created by the Museum, is part of an exhibition, Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe, at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan through May 2010.

mars rover

The two Mars rovers operating right now on the surface of Mars, Spirit and Opportunity, will turn five the 3rd and 24th respectively. Their original 90-days of service has been surpassed by more than 20x as both rovers still carry out missions even today on the red planet – weather permitting, of course. Read more

A Fireball over Texas was captured on video February 15, 2009. News 8 out of Austin has video of the fireball! I can now state unequivocally that this is not the result of the satellite collision. The meteor is moving far too quickly for that; satellite collision debris would fall at perhaps 10 km/sec max, while incoming meteoroids are moving at 11km/sec at a minimum, and this thing is screaming across the sky at several dozen km/sec (assuming it’s at a typical meteor height of 50 or more km). Read more

100 billion

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The new Wide Field Camera 3 aboard the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has taken the deepest image yet of the Universe in near-infrared light. The faintest and reddest objects in the image are likely the oldest galaxies ever identified, having formed between only 600–900 million years after the Big Bang. Read more

Space junkies and wannabe astronauts rejoice – we’ve got exclusive video of Virgin Galactic’s recent test flight in the Mojave.

Wired.com got its mitts on the first official cockpit video and other footage from the recent test of Virgin Mothership Eve at the Scaled Composites skunkworks operation in sunny SoCal. Scaled Composites and Virgin tend to keep the test results hush-hush but say “several recent published articles have been sufficiently inaccurate and negative” to make them “set the record straight.”

One Response to “12 of the Most Fascinating Astronomy Stories of 2009”

  1. Brooke says:

    Hey, wow, this is hot stuff, keep up the good work.Cheers

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