August 27, 2011

Berkeley Scientists Discover Supernova

A supernova discovered yesterday is closer to Earth — approximately 21 million light-years away — than any other of its kind in a generation. Astronomers believe they caught the supernova within hours of its explosion, a rare feat made possible with a specialized survey telescope and state-of-the-art computational tools.

The finding of such a supernova so early and so close has energized the astronomical community as they are scrambling to observe it with as many telescopes as possible, including the Hubble Space Telescope.

The green arrow points to the supernova, which can be seen to grow in size across the three images.
Joshua Bloom, assistant professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, called it “the supernova of a generation.” Astronomers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and UC Berkeley, who made the discovery predict that it will be a target for research for the next decade, making it one of the most-studied supernova in history.

August 23, 2011

Rare Earthquake Strikes Virginia

The magnitude 5.8 earthquake that struck Virginia today was a rare but significant event for the region, according to one quake expert. The Virginia earthquake struck at about 1:51 p.m ET near Mineral, Virgina, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) northwest of Richmond. The tremors shook buildings and prompted evacuations as far away as Washington, D.C., and New York City. The quake was followed by a magnitude 2.8 aftershock 45 minutes later. These events caused excitement and minor injuries, but minimal damage.

August 18, 2011

Go Green Forever

If you feel as if there's not much one person can do to make a positive impact on the environment—just take a look at the Go Green (Forever®)stamps offered by the United States Postal Service. They illustrate the simple things each of us can do every day to keep our environment healthy and save money at the same time.

Go Green, a pane of 16 stamps, is the Postal Service's social awareness issue for 2011. Award-winning animator, filmmaker, and illustrator Eli Noyes worked with Art Director Derry Noyes on this stamp project, using a colorful, playful style to convey the message that every American can take simple actions to conserve energy and improve the environment. These Forever stamps are and will always be equal in value to the current First-Class letter rate, no matter what price increases occur in the future.

August 12, 2011

NASA Rover Opportunity Reaches Endeavor Crater on Mars

A portion of the west rim of Endeavour crater
sweeps southward in this NASA image. 
After traveling persistently for more than two years, NASA's rover Opportunity just completed a 13-mile trip to allow scientists to examine a large Martian crater. It took the golf-cart-sized rover more than two years to reach the Endeavour crater after first exploring a smaller crater. Scientists have been eager to study the Endeavour crater, which seems to hold clay minerals that NASA says "may have formed in an early warmer and wetter period" on Mars.

Explaining why Endeavour's rocks are different, Mars Exploration Rover science team member Matthew Golombek says, "Clay minerals form in wet conditions, so we may learn about a potentially habitable environment that appears to have been very different from those responsible for the rocks comprising the plains."The Mars rovers have far exceeded expectations for their planned three-month mission. As a news release from NASA explains, "NASA launched the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity in the summer of 2003. Both completed their three-month prime missions in April 2004 and continued years of extended operations. They made important discoveries about wet environments on ancient Mars that may have been favorable for supporting microbial life."

In the photo above, a portion of the west rim of Endeavour crater sweeps southward in this color view from NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. According to NASA, "This crater, with a diameter of about 14 miles (22 kilometers), is more than 25 times wider than any that Opportunity has previously approached during the rover's 90 months on Mars."