Label: Astronomy

January 5, 2011


10-year-old Kathryn Gray of Birdton, New Brunswick, Canada has discovered a supernova, the youngest person ever to make such a finding. How would a ten-year-old have access to the equipment needed to spot a supernova, you might ask? She was working with her father, astronomer Paul Gray.

Supernovas happen when huge stars explode and die. You can see it through a telescope because an exploding star gives off a very bright light, much more brilliant than anything around it. Kathryn’s supernova happened in a distant galaxy called UGC 3378, which is about 240 million light-years away from our Milky Way Galaxy.

Kathryn was helping her father by studying “before and after” images of the same place in that galaxy, using an instrument called a blink telescope – that way you can see when something new has happened. And sure enough, she found a supernova.

If her teacher asks the class this week to write about “what I did over my winter vacation,” Kathryn Gray is certainly going to have a story to tell!


Photo Credit: David Smith/AP


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Astronomy, Stars   •  Permalink (link to this article)

January 4, 2011


OK, so I know we usually only highlight one special science or nature photo each week. But, this is such a spectacular sight, we just have to show you.


People in Europe and the Middle East were treated to a partial solar eclipse when the sun rose this morning. Because the moon was covering 85% of the sun, the sun rose as a crescent. This is not something that you see everyday!


This photo was taken by Peter Rosen in Stockholm, Sweden. There are many more amazing images at


Posted by: Liz Nealon

(6) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Astronomy, Cool Photo, Photography, Eclipse   •  Permalink (link to this article)

January 3, 2011

This is a photograph of galaxy NGC 1275, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. Though this galaxy is 230 million light-years away, it is one of the closest to our own Milky Way galaxy. The thin red strings surrounding the galaxy are cool gases, as compared to the white hot - 100-million-degrees Fahrenheit! – gas in the center.



Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration; Acknowledgment: A. Fabian (Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, UK)


Posted by: Liz Nealon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Astronomy, Cool Photo, Photography, Stars, Hubble Telescope   •  Permalink (link to this article)

December 21, 2010

Nothing like setting your alarm for 3:10 am, only to discover that the skies were too overcast to see last night’s full lunar eclipse. We heard this from friends right across the U.S., unfortunately.

The good news is that NASA’s  Jet Propulsion Laboratory has posted hundreds of great photos - click here if you’d like to see more (SeeMore - get it? haha). 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Astronomy, Cool Photo, moon, Eclipse, Solstice   •  Permalink (link to this article)

November 18, 2010

If the forecast is for clear skies tonight, set your clock for about 4:30 am Friday morning, grab a blanket and head outside to see this year’s Leonid meteor shower. Once the moon has set (early in the morning - click here to check the time for the moonset where you live), you may see as many as 20 or 30 meteors streaking through the sky before sunrise. They are still there after the sun rises, of course, but you won’t see them because of the brightness of the sunlight.

Look east, near the constellation Leo (that’s why they are called "Leonids").   

The Leonid meteor shower happens every year in mid-November, because that is when the comet Tempel-Tuttle passes near our orbit on its regular trip through the solar system. Debris from its tail - gasses and dust - burns up when it enters our atmosphere, becoming flares in the night sky that we call meteors.

Here’s a tip from an experienced sky watcher. Either take a blanket and lie on the grass, or take a lawn chair that tips back. Otherwise, you’ll get a terrible stiff neck, which doesn’t make meteor viewing much fun at all!

Kids (and adults) who want to know more should go to, where they have a web page with the Top 10 Leonid Meteor Facts.

Happy meteor watching!


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Astronomy, Meteor   •  Permalink (link to this article)

October 4, 2010


Happy World Space Week! In 1999 the United Nations General Assembly decreed that every year from October 4-10 should be the largest annual space event on our Planet Earth!

 What can you do in your home or your school to celebrate World Space Week? Well, the most important thing is to simply take the time to look at, read about, and celebrate the wonders of our Universe. Years ago, I published a book of poetry called STAR WALK, 

in which I juxtaposed color photographs of space with poems by a range of authors. (As we all know, poetry doesn’t sell. The book is long out of print, although you may find it in your library). I wrote this in the introduction to the book:

As far back as early Native Americans such as the Passamaquoddy, and even before that, people have looked to the stars in wonder and appreciation. They wrote stories and poetry about the fixed stars and the wandering planets, the bright Sun and the changing shapes of the Moon…..the glowing comets and streaking meteors. They also drew pictures of what they had seen and, in more recent times, photographed the amazing sights of space.

Take some time and look at the night sky this week. Jupiter remains the brightest “star” in the sky, other than the moon, and is visible to the west every night. If you look through binoculars, you may even see one or more of its moons.

Look up at the millions upon millions of stars that make up the Milky Way. To the naked eye, our galaxy looks like a hazy band of light that stretches across the night sky. The longer you look and allow your eyes to adjust to the dark, the more stars you will see. But still, we only see a fraction of the stars that are out there. After all, Alpha Centauri, the closest star to us after the Sun, is 4.3 light-years, or 25-trillion miles, away. Even a spaceship traveling ten miles per second would take more than seventy-thousand years to get to Alpha Centauri!

We are part of a vast, fascinating Universe, and with advances like the Hubble Space Telescope and other emerging exploration technologies, we are just at the beginning of a golden age of discovery.

I’m going to leave you with the words of one of my heroes, the great scientist and astronomer Sir Isaac Newton.


I seem to have been only a boy playing on the seashore,

and diverting myself in now and then

finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary,

whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.


Happy World Space Week to all my readers!

—- Seymour 


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Astronomy, Exploration, Space   •  Permalink (link to this article)

October 1, 2010

NASA has annnounced that a team of planet hunters including scientists from the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s teams has discovered a planet with three times the mass of Earth orbiting a nearby star at a distance that places it squarely in the middle of the star’s “habitable zone,” an area where liquid water could exist on the planet’s surface. If confirmed, this would be the most Earth-like exoplanet yet discovered, and the first strong case for a potentially habitable one.

What is a "Goldilocks" planet? A planet that is not too hot, not too cold, but JUST RIGHT for life as we know it to exist. This is the first exoplanet discovered that is just right!  This is very exciting news because it means that Goldilocks Planets may be very common in the Milky Way Galaxy. Just think: Science Fiction authors may have been right all along in their stories about life on distant stars. 

The large planet in the foreground of this artist’s image is the newly discovered GJ 581g.  Image Credit: Lynette Cook/NASA



Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Astronomy, Exploration, Planets   •  Permalink (link to this article)

September 20, 2010

I can just imagine how excited I would have been for this event when I was a young kid and a member of the Junior Astronomy Club at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Wait a second there, young Seymour   I’m STILL excited about it! Here’s what’s going on this evening: Jupiter, the biggest planet in our solar system, will be overhead in the night sky at midnight, shining brighter than everything except the Moon.

Jupiter and Earth each revolve around the sun in their respective orbits. Earth takes 365 days, one Earth year, to make one revolution.  It takes Jupiter nearly 12 Earth years, 4330 Earth days, to make one revolution around the sun. That means that the two planets are rarely very near each other in their orbits. But not tonight. Earth and Jupiter are the closest together in space that they will be for the 12 years, until 2022.

If you look through even a small telescope or a pair of high-magnification binoculars you should see Jupiter’s four big moons (called the Galilean moons because of their discovery in 1610 by the great scientist Galileo).  Galileo used a small telescope that is about 20x magnification.The four moons he discovered are name Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

 Here’s a photo of Jupiter and the shadow of Io on the surface of the planet. This was taken by Anthony Wesley of Australia (he used a much higher magnification, so you won’t be able to see Jupiter quite like this).  


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Astronomy, planets, Jupiter, Sky Watching   •  Permalink (link to this article)

August 26, 2010

Dear Neil DeGrasse Tyson,
I’ve been wanting to write to you for sometime now after I read your autobiography a number of years ago, and finally decided to do so. (My autobiography, From Paper Airplanes to Outer Space, is published by Richard C. Owen.)First of all, I’d like to tell you some of the common background we share. I’m also a graduate of Bronx HS of Science and was an amateur astronomer all through my HS years and beyond. During HS years, the AMNH hosted an office (in the basement) for the Junior Astronomy Club. I was at different times,  Editor of their magazine (JAC NEWS), Vice President and then President. We used to have observation meetings in Central Park and some of us (including me) had passes to get into the Museum at off hours to use our office and to work on the magazine. After graduating HS, most members went on to become members of the adult group, The Amateur Astronomy Association. It was a very good time to be a Junior Astronomer in NYC.
I went on to become a writer of science books for children. I’ve written over 250 books, currently they are copublished by Collins/Smithsonian. My website is
Here are of my current blogs about astronomy.  Please come by and take a look. I’d love for you to grant me permission to post one of your pieces about Pluto on my site. Is that at all possible?
In any event, I wanted to say hi and to also say that I’m very proud that we’re both graduates of Bronx Science (despite the fact that I’m sentimental about Pluto)!
P.S. I can’t find your current email address anywhere! If you get this post, please write to me. Seymour Simon

Posted by: Seymour Simon

August 21, 2010

This just in from one of my favorite sites, A coronal hole on the sun is turning to face Earth. Coronal holes are places in the sun’s atmosphere where the magnetic field opens up and allows solar wind to escape. Here is a magnetic map of the hole from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory:

  photo coronal hole


The magnetic field lines are color-coded in this very cool image. White lines are closed; they are holding the solar wind in. Golden lines are open; they allow the solar wind out. A stream of solar wind flowing from this coronal hole is expected to reach Earth on or about August 24th.

 People in high latitudes (closer to the poles) have a chance of seeing auroras (also known as northern lights) this week, so keep your eyes peeled!


Image: Karel Schrijver, Lockheed Martin SAL

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Astronomy, Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights, Space Weather   •  Permalink (link to this article)

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