by Alex Autin


25 Years of Hubble’s Imagery



In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope a group of videos highlighting a selection of the telescope’s images has been featured on its YouTube channel. The videos represent a glimpse into Hubble’s quarter century of service. Here’s a look at one of those videos, Flight to Star Cluster Westerlund 2, which was released to commemorate a quarter century of Hubble exploration and discoveries since its launch on April 24, 1990.

Flight to Star Cluster Westerlund 2: Published on Apr 23, 2015, this visualization provides a three-dimensional perspective of the nebula Gum 29 with the star cluster Westerlund 2 at its core. In the video we ‘fly’ past foreground stars to approach the lower left rim of Gum 29, along the way we pass through wispy dark clouds before arriving at bright gas illuminated by the intense radiation of the newly formed stars of Westerlund 2. Within the nebula, several pillars of dark, dense gas are being shaped by light and strong stellar winds from the cluster of thousands of stars. Video Credit: NASA, ESA, G. Bacon, L. Frattare, Z. Levay, and F. Summers (Viz3D Team, STScI), and J. Anderson (STScI)

All 31 of Hubble’s commemorative videos can be found HERE!


Celestial Fireworks: The sparkling centerpiece of Hubble’s anniversary fireworks is a giant cluster of about 3,000 stars called Westerlund 2, named for Swedish astronomer Bengt Westerlund who discovered the grouping in the 1960s. The cluster resides in a stellar breeding ground known as Gum 29, located 20,000 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Carina. Image Credit: NASA/ESA

The Hubble Space Telescope was built and launched by NASA, with contributions from the European Space Agency, and is operated by the Space Telescope Science Institute. Hubble is one of NASA’s Great Observatories, along with the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope.


Shortest Lunar Eclipse of the Century


Got a short attention span? Have trouble staying focused for any extended period of time? If you answered ‘yes’ to either of these questions, then the Sun and Moon are about to team up to bring you the event of your lifetime: The Shortest Lunar Eclipse Of The Century!

Yep, you read it right – taking place in less than five minutes, the April 5 total eclipse of the moon will leave you hours and hours of free time to do other things, things like suddenly remembering that beer you put in the freezer to ‘quick cool’ six months ago, or bookmarking every single YouTube video lasting under 30 seconds for later viewing cus you “ain’t got time for that right now“, or asking your room-mate the exact same question you’ve asked four freaking times in the past 24 hours yet can’t be bothered to recall the answer. (Disclaimer #1: While the totality, or the total phase, of the eclipse will last less than five minutes, the entire thing including penumbral and partial phases lasts several hours. Don’t panic! Viewing just the totality will completely qualify you as a participant in the entire event.)

Sounds easy, right? Just a few minutes of time and you’re suddenly an ‘Eclipse Boss’. Years from now you can boast to your grandchildren about that time back in ’15 when you viewed the shortest lunar eclipse of the century. Be sure to throw in something like, “They don’t make eclipses like that anymore, I tell ya.” And all you have to do to join this elite eclipse club is (somehow!) manage to ignore that Twitter Notification tab for five minutes.

There are a couple of stipulations though, primarily – where you live…


Western North America, eastern Asia, Australia, New Zealand: You’re in the club! Europe, Africa and the Middle East: Better luck next century.

Another stipulation: How early are you willing to get out of bed…on a Saturday? Folks in Australia, New Zealand, eastern Asia, no worries, you’ll get the best view and, for you, the eclipse will take place after sunset. North Americans, for you, this is gonna require a little effort, your eclipse will take place before sunrise. I know, I know. But wait! Don’t give up just yet. There’s an added bonus! Check this out…


See that narrow band across North America and across Asia labeled ‘U3’? If you happen to live along that band you just might, maybe, be in position to witness selenelion (that’s a thing when, thanks to atmospheric refraction, an eclipsed Moon and the Sun both appear above the horizon simultaneously). It’s kinda rare, and that possibility alone has to be worth getting out of bed a bit early? Right? And you don’t have to be directly along U3! Folks anywhere on the map between U1 and U4, given clear skies and an unobstructed horizon, might have some chance (maybe!) of seeing a partially eclipsed moon and the sun in the same sky. It could happen! (Maybe.) (Disclaimer #2: Ok, I’ll admit that even if you’re along the U3 path, the short duration of this very shallow eclipse might make selenelion a bit, you know, tricky to observe, but don’t focus on that. Besides, you’re not good at focusing anyway. Just enjoy!)

For exact lunar eclipse times for your location, to learn about tetrads, and for more cool maps and graphs check out NASA’s Ask An Astronomer.

Image Credits:

Dec 20, 2012 total lunar eclipse over Sagamihara, Japan: NASA/MSFC/Alphonse Sterling

First Map: Larry Koehn

Second Map: Fred Espenak, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Volcán de Colima

César Cantú Strikes Again!


The Colima Volcano with lightning arcing through a plume of ash, captured March 29, 2015 by César Cantú.

Known also as the Fire Volcano, Volcán de Colima, located about 301 miles west of Mexico City, is one of the most active volcanoes in North America. Since its first documented eruption in 1576 Volcán de Colima has erupted more than 40 times, and it’s at it again currently spewing out large plumes of ash nearly 3 kilometers into the air.

Luckily for us, astrophotographer César Cantú, of Juárez, is there to capture the action. And wow! What a capture! How can lightning strike in an ash cloud? According to a March 31 article at Universe Today, “Through friction, particles of the ash can charge each other by rubbing against each other during the eruption. When the energy is discharged, it can create lightning bolts.”

To see the volcano in action check out this video Cantú captured on the night of March 29…

To see more of Cantú’s work you can visit his website, or his YouTube channel. You can also check out my two previous posts on his work titled 7,000 Miles of Clear Skies, and Cielito Lindo.


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