Geminids Meteor Shower – Live Webcam

Cloudy skies, but still want to see the Geminids?

NASA has created a live webcam feed from their all-sky meteor camera at the Marshall Space Flight Center. A radio-static “soundtrack” is being played along with the video.

When a meteor burns up in the atmosphere, it also produces a trail of ionized particles that reflect radio waves. If the meteor is located in the right spot in Huntsville’s sky, the signal from the station transmitter is reflected to the radio receiver, and you will hear a “ping” above the static noise. – NASA

If you have clear skies, make it a late night and watch what should be a brilliant meteor shower. If the handful of fireballs I’ve seen over the past few nights are any indication, we should have a nice show as the Geminids peak this evening and into tomorrow morning. The best views will certainly be after the Moon sets, especially between 1am and 3am local time; however, if you cannot stay up that late look towards the East before you go to bed and you should see a handful.

Ascent – Commemorating The Shuttle Program

This video is making its rounds on the internet. It serves as a beautiful tribute to NASA’s shuttle program. The video is 45-minutes long, but you don’t have to watch it in one sitting; in fact, you can skip around a bit and just enjoy the amazing high-definition, slow-motion, videos of the shuttle systems.

It’s going to be very difficult to say goodbye to the shuttle program, early next year.

Cosmic Paparazzi – Pismis 24

Pismis 24
(Click to biggify)

The small open star cluster Pismis 24 lies in the core of the NGC 6357 nebula in Scorpius, about 8,000 light-years away from Earth. The brightest object in the center of this image is designated Pismis 24-1 and was once thought to weigh as much as 200 to 300 solar masses. This would not only have made it by far the most massive known star in the galaxy, but would have put it considerably above the currently believed upper mass limit of about 150 solar masses for individual stars.

However, Hubble Space Telescope high-resolution images of the star show that it is really two stars orbiting one another that are each estimated to be 100 solar masses.

In addition, spectroscopic observations with ground-based telescopes further reveal that one of the stars is actually a tight binary that is too compact to be resolved even by Hubble. This divides the estimated mass for Pismis 24-1 among the three stars. Although the stars are still among the heaviest known, the mass limit has not been broken due to the multiplicity of the system.

The images of NGC 6357 were taken with Hubble’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 in April 2002.

ImageCredit: NASA, ESA, and J. Maíz Apellániz (Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, Spain)

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