Tag: field (page 6 of 26)

The Best Star Gazing Binoculars for 2015

Excerpt from space.com

Most people have two eyes. Humans evolved to use them together (not all animals do). People form a continuous, stereoscopic panorama movie of the world within in their minds. With your two eyes tilted upward on a clear night, there's nothing standing between you and the universe. The easiest way to enhance your enjoyment of the night sky is to paint your brain with two channels of stronger starlight with a pair of binoculars. Even if you live in — or near — a large, light-polluted city, you may be surprised at how much astronomical detail you'll see through the right binoculars!
Our editors have looked at the spectrum of current binocular offerings. Thanks to computer-aided design and manufacturing, there have never been more high-quality choices at reasonable prices. Sadly, there's also a bunch of junk out there masquerading as fine stargazing instrumentation. We've selected a few that we think will work for most skywatchers.
There was a lot to consider: magnification versus mass, field of view, prism type, optical quality ("sharpness"), light transmission, age of the user (to match "exit pupil" size, which changes as we grow older), shock resistance, waterproofing and more. 

The best binoculars for you

"Small" astronomy binoculars would probably be considered "medium" for bird watching, sports observation and other terrestrial purposes. This comes about as a consequence of optics (prism type and objective size, mostly). "Large" binoculars are difficult to use for terrestrial applications and have a narrow field of view. They begin to approach telescope quality in magnification, resolution and optical characteristics.

Most of our Editors' Choicesfor stargazing binoculars here are under $300. You can pay more than 10 times that for enormous binocular telescopes used by elite enthusiasts on special mounts! You'll also pay more for ruggedized ("mil spec," or military standard) binoculars, many of which suspend their prisms on shock mounts to keep the optics in precise alignment.

Also, our Editors' Choices use Porro prism optics. Compact binoculars usually employ "roof" prisms, which can be cast more cheaply, but whose quality can vary widely. [There's much more about Porro prisms in our Buyer's Guide.]
We think your needs are best served by reviewing in three categories.
  • Small, highly portable binoculars can be hand-held for viewing ease.
  • Medium binoculars offer higher powers of magnification, but still can be hand-held, if firmly braced.
  • Large binoculars have bigger "objective" lenses but must be mounted on a tripod or counterweighted arm for stability.
Here's a detailed look at our Editor's Choice selections for stargazing binoculars:

Best Small Binoculars 

Editor's Choice: Oberwerk Mariner 8x40 (Cost: $150)

Oberwerk in German means "above work." The brand does indeed perform high-level optical work, perfect for looking at objects above, as well as on the ground or water. Founder Kevin Busarow's Mariner series is not his top of the line, but it benefits greatly from engineering developed for his pricier models. The Oberwerk 8x40’s treat your eyes to an extremely wide field, at very high contrast, with razor-sharp focus; they are superb for observing the broad starscapes of the Milky Way. Just 5.5 inches (14 cm) from front to back and 6.5 inches wide (16.5 cm), the Mariners are compact and rugged enough to be your favorite "grab and go binoculars." But at 37 ounces, they may be more than a small person wants to carry for a long time.

Runner-Up: Celestron Cometron 7x50 (Cost: $30)

Yes, you read that price correctly! These Celestron lightweight, wide-field binoculars bring honest quality at a remarkably low price point. The compromise comes in the optics, particularly the prism's glass type (you might see a little more chromatic aberration around the edges of the moon, and the exit pupil isn't a nice, round circle). Optimized for "almost infinitely distant" celestial objects, these Cometrons won't focus closer than about 30 feet (9.1 meters).  But that's fine for most sports and other outdoor use. If you're gift-buying for multiple young astronomers – or you want an inexpensive second set for yourself – these binoculars could be your answer. Just maybe remind those young folks to be a little careful around water; Celestron claims only that the Cometrons are "water resistant," not waterproof. 

Honorable Mention: Swarovski Habicht 8x30 (Cost: $1,050)

From the legendary Austrian firm of Swarovski Optik, these "bins" are perfect. Really. Very sharp. Very lightweight. Very wide field. Very versatile. And very expensive! Our editors would have picked them if we could have afforded them. 

Honorable Mention: Nikon Aculon 7x50 (Cost: $110) 

Nikon's legendary optical quality and the large, 7mm exit pupil diameter make these appropriate as a gift for younger skywatchers. 

Best Medium Binoculars

Editor's Choice: Celestron SkyMaster 8x56 (Cost: $210)

A solid, chunky-feeling set of quality prisms and lenses makes these binoculars a pleasant, 38oz. handful. A medium wide 5.8 degrees filed of view and large 7mm exit pupil brings you gently into a sweet sky of bright, though perhaps not totally brilliant, stars. Fully dressed in a rubber wetsuit, these SkyMasters are waterproof. Feel free to take them boating or birding on a moist morning. Their optical tubes were blown out with dry nitrogen at the factory, then sealed. So you can expect them not to fog up, at least not from the inside. Celestron's strap-mounting points on the Skymaster 8x56 are recessed, so they don't bother your thumbs, but that location makes them hard to fasten. 

Runner-Up: Oberwerk Ultra 15x70 (Cost: $380)

The most rugged pair we evaluated, these 15x70s are optically outstanding. Seen through the Ultra's exquisitely multi-coated glass, you may find yourself falling in love with the sky all over again. Oberwerk's method of suspending their BAK4 glass Porro prisms offers greater shock-resistance than most competitors’ designs. While more costly than some comparable binoculars, they deliver superior value. Our only complaint is with their mass: At 5.5 lbs., these guys are heavy!  You can hand-hold them for a short while, if you’re lying down. But they are best placed on a tripod, or on a counterweighted arm, unless you like shaky squiggles where your point-source stars are supposed to be. Like most truly big binoculars, the eyepieces focus independently; there’s no center focus wheel. These "binos" are for true astronomers. 

Honorable Mention: Vixen Ascot 10x50 (Cost:$165)

These quirky binoculars present you with an extremely wide field. But they are not crash-worthy – don't drop them in the dark – nor are they waterproof, and the focus knob is not conveniently located. So care is needed if you opt for these Vixen optics. 

Best Large Binoculars

Don't even think about hand-holding this 156-ounce beast! The SkyMaster 25x100 is really a pair of side-by-side 100mm short-tube refractor telescopes. Factor the cost of a sturdy tripod into your purchase decision, if you want to go this big.  The monster Celestron comes with a sturdy support spar for mounting. Its properly multi-coated optics will haul in surprising detail from the sky.  Just make sure your skies are dark; with this much magnification, light pollution can render your images dingy. As with many in the giant and super-giant class of binoculars, the oculars (non-removable eyepieces) focus separately, each rotating through an unusually long 450 degrees.  Getting to critical focus can be challenging, but the view is worth it. You can resolve a bit of detail on face of the new moon (lit by "Earthshine") and pick out cloud bands on Jupiter; tha's pretty astonishing for binoculars. 

Runner-Up: Orion Astronomy 20x80 (Cost: $150)

These big Orions distinguish themselves by price point; they're an excellent value. You could pay 10 times more for the comparably sized Steiners Military Observer 20x80 binoculars! Yes, the Orions are more delicate, a bit less bright and not quite as sharp. But they do offer amazingly high contrast; you'll catch significant detail in galaxies, comets and other "fuzzies." Unusually among such big rigs, the Astronomy 20x80 uses a center focus ring and one "diopter" (rather than independently focusing oculars); if you’re graduating from smaller binoculars, which commonly use that approach, this may be a comfort. These binoculars are almost lightweight enough to hold them by hand. But don't do that, at least not for long periods. And don't drop them. They will go out of alignment if handled roughly. 

Honorable Mention: Barska Cosmos 25x100 (Cost: $230)

They are not pretty, but you're in the dark, right? Built around a tripod-mountable truss tube, these Barskas equilibrate to temperature quickly and give you decent viewing at rational cost. They make for a cheaper version of our Editors' Choice Celestron SkyMasters. 

Honorable Mention: Steiner Observer 20x80 (Cost: $1,500)

Not at all a practical cost choice for a beginning stargazer, but you can dream, can't you? These Steiner binoculars are essentially military optics "plowshared" for peaceful celestial observing. 

Why we chose NOT to review certain types

Image stabilized?

Binoculars with active internal image stabilization are a growing breed. Most use battery-powered gyroscope/accelerometer-driven dynamic optical elements. We have left this type out of our evaluation because they are highly specialized and pricey ($1,250 and up). But if you are considering active stabilization, you can apply the same judgment methods detailed in our Buyer's Guide.

Comes with a camera?

A few binoculars are sold with built-in cameras. That seems like a good idea. But it isn't, at least not for skywatching. Other than Earth's moon, objects in the night sky are stingy with their photons. It takes a lengthy, rock-steady time exposure to collect enough light for a respectable image. By all means, consider these binocular-camera combos for snapping Facebook shots of little Jenny on the soccer field. But stay away from them for astronomy.

Mega monster-sized?

Take your new binoculars out under the night sky on clear nights, and you will fall in love with the universe. You will crave more ancient light from those distant suns. That may translate into a strong desire for bigger stereo-light buckets.

Caution: The next level up is a quantum jump of at least one financial order of magnitude. But if you have the disposable income and frequent access to dark skies, you may want to go REALLY big. Binocular telescopes in this class can feature interchangeable matching eyepieces, individually focusing oculars, more than 30x magnification and sturdy special-purpose tripods. Amateurs using these elite-level stereoscopes have discovered several prominent comets.

Enjoy your universe

If you are new to lens-assisted stargazing, you'll find excellent enhanced views among the binocular choices above. To get in deeper and to understand how we picked the ones we did, jump to our Buyer's Guide: How to Choose Binoculars for Sky Watching.

You have just taken the first step to lighting up your brain with star fire. May the photons be with you. Always. 

Skywatching Events 2015

Once you have your new binoculars, it's time to take them for a spin. This year intrepid stargazers will have plenty of good opportunities to use new gear.

On March 20, for example, the sun will go through a total solar eclipse. You can check out the celestial sight using the right sun-blocking filters for binoculars, but NEVER look at the sun directly, even during a solar eclipse. It's important to find the proper filters in order to observe the rare cosmic show. 

Observers can also take a look at the craggy face of the moon during a lunar eclipse on April 4. Stargazers using binoculars should be able to pick out some details not usually seen by the naked eye when looking at Earth's natural satellite.

Skywatchers should also peek out from behind the binoculars for a chance to see a series of annual meteor showers throughout the year.

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Meteorite is ‘hard drive’ from space ~ Researchers decode ancient recordings from asteroid ~ BBC

Pallasite meteorite
The Esquel meteorite consists of gem-quality crystals embedded in metal.

Excert from bbc.com

Researchers have decoded ancient recordings from fragments of an asteroid dating back billions of years to the start of the Solar System. 

They found tiny "space magnets" in meteorites which retain a memory of the birth and death of the asteroid's core.
Like the data recorded on the surface of a computer hard drive, the magnetic signals written in the space rock reveal how Earth's own metallic core and magnetic field may one day die.

The work appears in Nature journal.

Using a giant X-ray microscope, called a synchrotron, the team was able to read the signals that formed more than four-and-a-half billion years ago, soon after the birth of the Solar System.

Start Quote

It's like a cosmic archaeological mission”
Dr James Bryson University of Cambridge
The meteorites are pieces of a parent asteroid that originally came from asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter.
They represents the left-over fragments of a planet that failed to form. The magnetic recording within it traps a signal of the precise moments when an iron-rich core formed in the asteroid as well as when it froze, killing its magnetic field.
The new picture of metallic core solidification in the asteroid provide clues about the magnetic field and iron-rich core of Earth.
Core values "Ideas about how the Earth's core evolved through [our planet's] history are really changing at the moment," lead researcher Dr Richard Harrison, from the University of Cambridge, told BBC News.
"We believe that Earth's magnetic field is linked to core solidification. Earth's solid inner core may have started to form at very interesting time in terms of the evolution of life on Earth.
"By studying an asteroid we get to see this in fast forward. We can see the start of core solidification in the magnetic records as well as its end, and start to think about how these processes work on Earth."

Magnetic fieldThe Earth's magnetic field will likely die off when the core completely freezes
The meteorites studied by the team originally fell to Earth in Argentina, and are composed of gem-quality crystals enclosed in a metallic matrix of iron and nickel. 

Tiny particles, smaller than one thousandth the width of a human hair, trapped within the metal have retained the magnetic signature of the parent asteroid from its birth in the early Solar System.

"We're taking ancient magnetic field measurements in nano-scale materials to the highest ever resolution in order to piece together the magnetic history of asteroids - it's like a cosmic archaeological mission," said Dr James Bryson, the paper's lead author. 

"Since asteroids are much smaller than Earth, they cooled much more quickly, so these processes occur on a shorter timescales, enabling us to study the whole process of core solidification."

Prof Wyn William, from the University of Edinburgh, who was not involved in the study, commented: "To be able to get a time stamp on these recordings, to get a cooling rate and the time of solidification, is fantastic. It's a very nice piece of work."

The key to the long-lived stability of the recording is the atomic-scale structure of the iron-nickel particles that grew slowly in the asteroid core and survived in the meteorites. 

Making a final comment on the results, Dr Harrison said: "In our meteorites we've been able to capture both the beginning and end of core freezing, which will help us understand how these processes affected the Earth in the past and provide a possible glimpse of what might happen in the future." 

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5 Sky Events To Enjoy this Week

Skychart by A. Fazekas/SkySafari

Excerpt from 

Green Giant, Lunar Triangle and Jovian Shadows A planetary pairing and moon dances take center stage in the heavens this week.

Neptune meets Mars this week for stargazers, while Jupiter's retinue plays shadow games.

Neptune and Mars. About an hour after sunset on Monday, January 19, look towards the southwestern sky for Venus and Mercury hanging near the horizon. Look higher up to see the ruddy beacon of Mars.

Telescopes trained on the red planet will reveal the very faint and tiny aquamarine disk of Neptune only 0.2 degrees north. The distant ice giant present quite a color contrast with ruddy Mars.

A stunning celestial trio low in the southwest sky forms this week with the crescent moon, Venus and Mercury.
Lunar Triangle. Just after the sun sets on Wednesday, January 21, gaze towards the thin crescent moon, which rests low in the sky toward the western horizon.

Joining it in a stunning triangular formation, and particularly eye-catching through binoculars, are the two innermost planets in our solar system, Mercury and Venus.

The waxing moon acts as a wonderfully convenient guide to spotting these two worlds.

Moon meets Mars. On Thursday, January 22, Earth’s lone natural satellite rises higher in the sky and pays a visit to the red planet. The curl of the moon's crescent will almost seem to point to Mars, just off to its left.

And wait just one more day, on Friday, January 23, when the moon will continue its journey across the sky, climbing higher to form a straight line connection with Mars and Venus. The dawn star will hang below its two companions, just above the horizon.

This skychart shows the moon pointing to Uranus in the early morning western sky.
Skychart by A. Fazekas/SkySafari

Moon and Uranus. After night falls on Sunday, January 25, look for the moon pairing up with the seventh planet from the sun, Uranus.

The two solar system objects will reside only 7 degrees apart, making them just fit into the same field of view in binoculars.

Look for Jupiter in the early morning southeast sky and with a telescope soak in a triple Jovian moon shadow transit.
Skychart by A. Fazekas/SkySafari

Triplet Jovian Eclipse. In the early morning hours of Saturday, January 24, telescopes will reveal a trio of tiny black dots trekking across the face of Jupiter.

Three of the gas giant’s moons, Calisto, Io, and Europa all cast their shadows tight on the cloud tops of Jupiter at once starting at 1:27 am EST to 1:53 am .
Happy hunting!

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The Kinross Air Force Base Incident ~ Did a jet disappear while chasing a UFO?

A Northrop F-89C Scorpion, like the one flown by Moncla and Wilson. (credit: Flight Collection)

Excerpt from ufoevidence.org
On the evening of 23 November 1953, an Air Force radar controller became alerted to an "unidentified target" over Lake Superior, and an F-89C Scorpion jet was scrambled from Kinross AFB. Radar controllers watched as the F-89 closed in on the UFO, and then sat stunned in amazement as the two blips merged on the screen, and the UFO left. The F-89 and it’s two man crew, pilot Felix Moncla and radar operator Robert Wilson, were never found, even after a thorough search of the area.

Press article, regarding the incident, in the Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI), Nov. 25, 1953.

1st Lt. Felix E. "Gene" Moncla, Jr., pilot of the F89C Scorpion jet. Moncla was accompanied by radar operator Robert Wilson in the rear seat.

"The Disappearance of Lt. Felix Moncla"

The channel that connects Lake Superior with the other Great Lakes flows through the Soo Locks near Saulte Ste. Marie, Michigan. On one side of the channel is the U.S., and on the other side is Canada. The fact that this area is on a U.S. national border makes it a restricted airspace. As such, it was monitored by the Air Defense Command in 1953.

On the evening of 23 November 1953, an Air Defense Command Ground Intercept radar controller at Truax AFB became alerted to an "unidentified target" over Soo Locks. He sounded the alert, and an F-89C Scorpion jet was scrambled from nearby Kinross Field. The jet was piloted by 1st Lieutenant Felix Moncla, Jr., with 2nd Lieutenant Robert Wilson in the rear seat as radar operator.

Ground Control vectored the jet toward the target, noting that the target changed course as the F-89 approached it at over 500 mph. Lt. Wilson had problems tracking the target on his onboard radar, so ground control continued to direct the jet to the target. For thirty minutes, the jet pursued the radar blip and began to close the gap as the UFO accelerated out over Lake Superior.

As Ground Control watched, the gap between the two blips on the radar screen grew smaller and smaller until the two blips became one blip. Ground Control thought that Moncla had flown over the target and that the two blips would separate again as he moved past it.

That didn't happen. Suddenly, the single blip flashed off the screen and the radar screen was clear of any return at all.

Frantically, Ground Control tried to contact the F-89 by radio. There was no response. Marking the last radar position, Ground Control dispatched an emergency message to Search and Rescue. That last sighting was about seventy miles off Keweenaw Point in upper Michigan, at an altitude of 8,000 feet, approximately 160 miles northwest of Soo Locks.

After an all night air/sea rescue search, not a trace of the plane or the men was ever found. No debris, no oil slick, nothing was ever found.

Officials at Norton Air Force Base Flying Safety Division issued a statement that "the pilot probably suffered from vertigo and crashed into the lake." However, this was merely speculation and was based on hearsay reports that Moncla was prone to vertigo.

The Air Force explained the unknown radar target at first as a Canadian DC-3, then later as a RCAF jet. Canadian officials responded that there were no Canadian aircraft in the airspace over the lake at any time during the chase. The Air Force finally stated that the F-89 had exploded at high altitude, ignoring the fact that this would have left a lot of debris on the lake surface.

NICAP investigators found that mentions of Moncla's mission - chasing an unidentified target - had been obliterated from official records. Project Bluebook files simply listed the case as an "accident."

Off the record, those that were present in the Ground Control radar room that day have expressed other opinions. They think that whatever the F-89 was chasing directly caused the disappearance of the jet...

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Kepler Space Telescope Finds More Earth-like Planets ~ Learn how to join the search


Excerpt from

NASA's Kepler Space Telescope has been hunting the cosmos for exoplanets since March of 2009.  In its nearly five years of searching the stars, it has found thousands of possible candidates.  Scientists recently verified the thousandth planet Kepler had found, and even more exciting, they announced that Kepler had found three more Earth-like planets.
Those three planets bring Kepler's Earth-like planet count to a total of eight.  In order to qualify as "Earth-like," these exoplanets must be less than twice the size of the Earth and orbit their own sun within the habitable zone.  This "Goldilocks zone" is a belt in solar systems where it's neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist.

"Each result from the planet-hunting Kepler mission's treasure trove of data takes us another step closer to answering the question of whether we are alone in the Universe," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “The Kepler team and its science community continue to produce impressive results with the data from this venerable explorer."

The Kepler team has also found super-Earths and gas giants like Jupiter around other stars.  NASA artists compiled retro-style travel posters from three discovered planets.
Kepler finds planets by watching distant stars for fluctuation in light.  If the light hitting the telescope drops dramatically and then returns to normal levels, chances are a planet came in between the star and Kepler.  Scientists can analyze the data and light filtered by the candidate planet's atmosphere to make guesses at the size, mass and composition.

"With each new discovery of these small, possibly rocky worlds, our confidence strengthens in the determination of the true frequency of planets like Earth," said co-author Doug Caldwell, SETI Institute Kepler scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California. "The day is on the horizon when we’ll know how common temperate, rocky planets like Earth are.”

The space telescope actually has two crippled stabilizing gyros.  But instead of giving up on the mission, engineers are using pressure from photons emitted by the sun to stabilize the telescope.  The first space telescope looking for alien worlds is literally balancing on a sunbeam to continue its mission, and that's not science fiction, that's science fact.

Citizen scientists can also participate in the mission.  The website PlanetHunters.org contains catalogs of data from K1, the original Kepler mission, and K2, the extended mission making use of the sun to balance the telescope.  The K2 data has been sorted through, but Planet Hunters still needs help sifting through the K1 data.
The website's instructions read:

"As the planet passes in front of (or transits) a star, it blocks out a small amount of the star’s light, making the star appear a little bit dimmer. You’re looking for points on the light curve that appear lower than the rest. When you spot a potential transit, mark each one on the light curve."

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Age of stars can now be pinned to their spin

Excerpt from bbc.comAstronomers have proved that they can accurately tell the age of a star from how fast it is spinning. We know that stars slow down over time, but until recently there was little data to support exact calculations. For ...

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Top 6 tips for using ordinary binoculars for stargazing

Excerpt from earthsky.org

Admit it.  You’ve probably got a pair of binoculars lying around your house somewhere. They may be perfect – that’s right, perfect – for beginning stargazing. Follow the links below to learn more about the best deal around for people who want to get acquainted with the night sky: a pair of ordinary binoculars.
1. Binoculars are a better place to start than telescopes
2. Start with a small, easy-to-use size
3. First, view the moon with binoculars.
4. Move on to viewing planets with binoculars.
5. Use your binoculars to explore inside our Milky Way.
6. Use your binoculars to peer beyond the Milky Way.

1. Binoculars are a better place to start than telescopes. The fact is that most people who think they want to buy a telescope would be better off using binoculars for a year or so instead.  That’s because first-time telescope users often find themselves completely confused – and ultimately put off – by the dual tasks of learning the use a complicated piece of equipment (the ‘scope) while at the same time learning to navigate an unknown realm (the night sky).
Beginning stargazers often find that an ordinary pair of binoculars – available from any discount store – can give them the experience they’re looking for.  After all, in astronomy, magnification and light-gathering power let you see more of what’s up there.  Even a moderate form of power, like those provided by a pair of 7×50 binoculars, reveals 7 times as much information as the unaided eye can see.

You also need to know where to look. Many people start with a planisphere as they begin their journey making friends with the stars. You can purchase a planisphere at the EarthSky store. Also consider our Astronomy Kit, which has a booklet on what you can see with your binoculars.

2. Start with a small, easy-to-use size.  Don’t buy a huge pair of binoculars to start with! Unless you mount them on a tripod, they’ll shake and make your view of the heavens shakey, too. The video above – from ExpertVillage – does a good job summing up what you want. And in case you don’t want to watch the video, the answer is that 7X50 binoculars are optimum for budding astronomers.  You can see a lot, and you can hold them steadily enough that jitters don’t spoil your view of the sky.  Plus they’re very useful for daylight pursuits, like birdwatching. If 7X50s are too big for you – or if you want binoculars for a child – try 7X35s.

February 24, 2014 moon with earthshine by Greg Diesel Landscape Photography.
February 24, 2014 moon with earthshine by Greg Diesel Landscape Photography.

3. First, view the moon with binoculars. When you start to stargaze, you’ll want to watch the phase of the moon carefully. If you want to see deep-sky objects inside our Milky Way galaxy – or outside the galaxy – you’ll want to avoid the moon. But the moon itself is a perfect target for beginning astronomers, armed with binoculars. Hint: the best time to observe the moon is in twilight. Then the glare of the moon is not so great, and you’ll see more detail.

You’ll want to start your moon-gazing when the moon is just past new – and visible as a waxing crescent in the western sky after sunset. At such times, you’ll have a beautiful view of earthshine on the moon.  This eerie glow on the moon’s darkened portion is really light reflected from Earth onto the moon’s surface.  Be sure to turn your binoculars on the moon at these times to enhance the view. 
Each month, as the moon goes through its regular phases, you can see the line of sunrise and sunset on the moon progress across the moon’s face. That’s just the line between light and dark on the moon. This line between the day and night sides of the moon is called the terminator line.  The best place to look at the moon from Earth – using your binoculars – is along the terminator line. The sun angle is very low in this twilight zone, just as the sun is low in our sky around earthly twilight.  So, along the terminator on the moon, lunar features cast long shadows in sharp relief.

You can also look in on the gray blotches on the moon called maria, named when early astronomers thought these lunar features were seas.  The maria are not seas, of course, and instead they’re now thought to have formed 3.5 billion years ago when asteroid-sized rocks hit the moon so hard that lava percolated up through cracks in the lunar crust and flooded the impact basins. These lava plains cooled and eventually formed the gray seas we see today.

The white highlands, nestled between the maria, are older terrain pockmarked by thousands of craters that formed over the eons. Some of the larger craters are visible in binoculars. One of them, Tycho, at the six o’clock position on the moon, emanates long swatches of white rays for hundreds of miles over the adjacent highlands. This is material kicked out during the Tycho impact 2.5 million years ago.

View Larger. Photo of Jupiter's moons by Carl Galloway. Thank you Carl! The four major moons of Jupiter - Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto - are easily seen through a low-powered telescope. Click here for a chart of Jupiter's moons
Photo of Jupiter’s moons by Earthsky Facebook friend Carl Galloway. Thank you Carl! The four major moons of Jupiter are called Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. This is a telescopic view, but you can glimpse one, two or more moons through your binoculars, too.

4. Move on to viewing planets with binoculars. Here’s the deal about planets.  They move around, apart from the fixed stars.  They are wanderers, right?

You can use our EarthSky Tonight page to locate planets visible around now.  Notice if any planets are mentioned in the calendar on the Tonight page, and if so click on that day’s link.  On our Tonight page, we feature planets on days when they’re easily identifiable for some reason – for example, when a planet is near the moon.  So our Tonight page calendar can help you come to know the planets, and, as you’re learning to identify them, keep your binoculars very handy. Binoculars will enhance your view of a planet near the moon, for example, or two planets near each other in the twilight sky. They add a lot to the fun!

Below, you’ll find some more simple ideas on how to view planets with your binoculars.

Mercury and Venus. These are both inner planets.  They orbit the sun closer than Earth’s orbit.  And for that reason, both Mercury and Venus show phases as seen from Earth at certain times in their orbit – a few days before or after the planet passes between the sun and Earth.  At such times,  turn your binoculars on Mercury or Venus. Good optical quality helps here, but you should be able to see them in a crescent phase. Tip: Venus is so bright that its glare will overwhelm the view. Try looking in twilight instead of true darkness.

Mars. Mars – the Red Planet – really does look red, and using binoculars will intensify the color of this object (or of any colored star). Mars also moves rapidly in front of the stars, and it’s fun to aim your binoculars in its direction when it’s passing near another bright star or planet.

Jupiter. Now on to the real action!  Jupiter is a great binocular target, even for beginners.   If you are sure to hold your binoculars steadily as you peer at this bright planet,  you should see four bright points of light near it.  These are the Galilean Satellites – four moons gleaned through one of the first telescopes ever made, by the Italian astronomer Galileo. Note how their relative positions change from night to night as each moon moves around Jupiter in its own orbit.

Saturn.Although a small telescope is needed to see Saturn’s rings, you can use your binoculars to see Saturn’s beautiful golden color.  Experienced observers sometimes glimpse Saturn’s largest moon Titan with binoculars.  Also, good-quality high-powered binoculars – mounted on a tripod – will show you that Saturn is not round.  The rings give it an elliptical shape.

Uranus and Neptune. Some planets are squarely binocular and telescope targets. If you’re armed with a finder chart, two of them, Uranus and Neptune, are easy to spot in binoculars. Uranus might even look greenish, thanks to methane in the planet’s atmosphere. Once a year, Uranus is barely bright enough to glimpse with the unaided eye . . . use binoculars to find it first. Distant Neptune will always look like a star, even though it has an atmosphere practically identical to Uranus.

There are still other denizens of the solar system you can capture through binocs. Look for the occasional comet, which appears as a fuzzy blob of light. Then there are the asteroids – fully 12 of them can be followed with binoculars when they are at their brightest. Because an asteroid looks star-like, the secret to confirming its presence is to sketch a star field through which it’s passing. Do this over subsequent nights; the star that changes position relative to the others is our solar system interloper.

Milky Way Galaxy arching over a Joshua tree

Pleiades star cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters
Pleiades star cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters

5. Use your binoculars to explore inside our Milky Way.  Binoculars can introduce you to many members of our home galaxy. A good place to start is with star clusters that are close to Earth. They cover a larger area of the sky than other, more distant clusters usually glimpsed through a telescope.

Beginning each autumn and into the spring, look for a tiny dipper-like cluster of stars called the Pleiades.  The cluster – sometimes also called the Seven Sisters – is noticeable for being small yet distinctively dipper-like. While most people say they see only six stars here with the unaided eye, binoculars reveal many more stars, plus a dainty chain of stars extending off to one side. The Pleiades star cluster is looks big and distinctive because it’s relatively close – about 400 light years from Earth. This dipper-shaped cluster is a true cluster of stars in space.  Its members were born around the same time and are still bound by gravity.  These stars are very young, on the order of 20 million years old, in contrast to the roughly five billion years for our sun.

Stars in a cluster all formed from the same gas cloud. You can also see what the Pleiades might have like in a primordial state, by shifting your gaze to the prominent constellation Orion the Hunter. Look for Orion’s sword stars, just below his prominent belt stars. If the night is crisp and clear, and you’re away from urban streetlight glare, unaided eyes will show that the sword isn’t entirely composed of stars. Binoculars show a steady patch of glowing gas where, right at this moment, a star cluster is being born. It’s called the Orion Nebula. A summertime counterpart is the Lagoon Nebula, in Sagittarius the Archer.

With star factories like the Orion Nebula, we aren’t really seeing the young stars themselves. They are buried deep within the nebula, bathing the gas cloud with ultraviolet radiation and making it glow. In a few tens of thousands of years, stellar winds from these young, energetic stars will blow away their gaseous cocoons to reveal a newly minted star cluster.

Scan along the Milky Way to see still more sights that hint at our home galaxy’s complexity. First, there’s the Milky Way glow itself; just a casual glance through binoculars will reveal that it is still more stars we can’t resolve with our eyes . . . hundreds of thousands of them. Periodically, while scanning, you might sweep past what appears to be blob-like, black voids in the stellar sheen. These are dark, non-glowing pockets of gas and dust that we see silhouetted against the stellar backdrop. This is the stuff of future star and solar systems, just waiting around to coalesce into new suns.

Andromeda Galaxy from Chris Levitan Photography.
Andromeda Galaxy from Chris Levitan Photography.

Many people use the M- or W-shaped constellation Cassiopeia to find the Andromeda Galaxy.  See how the star Schedar points to the galaxy?  Click here to expand image.
Many people use the M- or W-shaped constellation Cassiopeia to find the Andromeda Galaxy. See how the star Schedar points to the galaxy?

6. Use your binoculars to view beyond the Milky Way.  Let’s leap out of our galaxy for the final stop in our binocular tour. Throughout fall and winter, she reigns high in the sky during northern hemisphere autumns and winters: Andromeda the Maiden. Centered in the star pattern is an oval patch of light, readily visible to the unaided eye away from urban lights. Binoculars will show it even better.

It’s a whole other galaxy like our own, shining across the vastness of intergalactic space. Light from the Andromeda Galaxy has traveled so far that it’s taken more than 2 million years to reach us.
Two smaller companions visible through binoculars on a dark, transparent night are the Andromeda Galaxy’s version of our Milky Way’s Magellanic Clouds. These small, orbiting, irregularly-shaped galaxies that will eventually be torn apart by their parent galaxy’s gravity.

Such sights, from lunar wastelands to the glow of a nearby island universe, are all within reach of a pair of handheld optics, really small telescopes in their own right: your binoculars.

John Shibley wrote the original draft of this article, years ago, and we’ve been expanding it and updating it ever since. Thanks, John!
Bottom line: For beginning stargazers, there’s no better tool than an ordinary pair of binoculars. This post tells you why, explains what size to get, and gives you a rundown on some of the coolest binoculars sights out there: the moon, the planets, inside the Milky Way, and beyond. Have fun!

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Dinosaur Researchers Say They’re in a ‘Golden Age’ of Discovery Due to the ‘Jurassic Park’ effect

Excerpt from nbcnews.com

This was a great year for dinosaurs. Dreadnoughtus, "Jar Jar Binks," and a swimming Spinosaurus all made headlines — and 2015 could hold even more surprises. 

It wasn't always like this. From 1984 to 1994, there were about 15 new dinosaur species named per year. This year, nearly one species was discovered every week. 

"We're absolutely in a golden age of dinosaur discovery," David Evans, who oversees dinosaur research at the Royal Ontario Museum, told NBC News. "It is probably a better time to be a dinosaur paleontologist now than any other time in the last century." 

The 'Jurassic Park' effect

When it comes to finding dinosaurs in the dirt, paleontologists are using the same tools that they were 30 years ago. Satellite images might give them a better view of dig sites, but for the most part the process has not changed much. 

So why are there so many dinosaur discoveries these days? More people are looking for them. Evans estimates that the number of dinosaur paleontologists has more than quadrupled in the last 30 years. 

Every paleontologist interviewed for this story pointed to one catalyst for the paleontology boom: Steven Spielberg's 1993 blockbuster "Jurassic Park." 

"It put the most lifelike, scientifically accurate dinosaurs ever on the big screen," Evans said. "That helped the public moved beyond the classical view of dinosaurs as slow, dim-twitted creatures."
Famed Montana State University paleontologist Jack Horner admits he has a special affection for the film. He served as scientific adviser for the original "Jurassic Park" and was the inspiration for Dr. Alan Grant, the movie's protagonist. He also consulted on the upcoming "Jurassic World" starring Chris Pratt.

"'Jurassic Park' attracted an incredible number of people to the field," Horner told NBC News. "I'm hoping that we put together something cool with 'Jurassic World' that people will really like and get more children interested in paleontology." 

Increased interest led to increased paleontology budgets for museums and universities, Evans said. That has made a big difference in places like China and Argentina, relatively unexplored areas where a new generation of paleontologists has unearthed most of the recent headline-grabbing discoveries. 

"The number of dinosaur researchers is much higher now than in the '90s," Thomas Holtz, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Maryland, told NBC News. "Anytime you are exploring a region and a slice of time that hasn't been sampled before, chances are that everything you are finding is new."

2014 and beyond

Some of the biggest discoveries of the year were not new species. Instead, they were more complete fossils of dinosaurs the scientific community knew very little about. 

Take Spinosaurus, a massive carnivore that was even bigger than Tyrannosaurus rex. While its teeth indicated it ate fish, scientists were divided on whether it roamed the land and water looking for prey.

This year, the matter was settled. A new paper showed that the dinosaur's unique body structure — tiny hind limbs, dense bones, crocodile-like receptors in its snout — was best suited for the water and caused it to waddle on land. 

"That was probably the most significant find of the year," Horner said. 

There were other big discoveries in 2014. Dreadnoughtus fossils discovered in Argentina belonged to a creature that measured 85 feet (26 meters) long and weighed about 65 tons (59 metric tons), or about as much as a dozen elephants. 

Image: Deinocheirus mirificus, the largest known member of a group of ostrich-like dinosaurs 
This undated handout image provided by Michael Skrepnick, Dinosaurs in Art, Nature Publishing Group, shows a Deinocheirus mirificus, the largest known member of a group of bird-like dinosaurs.

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Must-See Geminid Meteor Shower Peaks This Weekend: An Observer’s Guide

2014 Geminid Meteor Shower Sky Map

Excerpt from

The spectacular Geminid Meteor shower hits peak activity this weekend. Though competing with some unfortunate moonlight, the shower still should make for a must-see astronomical event.

While moonlight will somewhat hinder this year's Geminid meteor shower, intrepid observers with good weather and low light pollution should still be able to catch a good meteor show Saturday (Dec. 13) night.

"If you have not seen a mighty Geminid fireball arcing gracefully across an expanse of sky, then you have not seen a meteor," note astronomers David Levy and Stephen Edberg. 

Even if you can't see the meteor display from your part of the world, you can watch them online. The online Slooh Community Observatory will host a live webacst of the Geminid meteor display on Saturday night beginning at 8 p.m. EST (0100 Dec. 14 GMT).You can also watch the Slooh webcast directly:http://live.slooh.com/. NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke will also host a live Geminids webchat on Saturday night from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. EST (0400 to 0800 GMT), as well as a live webcast.
You can watch the webcasts of the Geminid shower live on Space.com, starting at 8 p.m. EST, courtesy of Slooh and NASA. The Italy-based Virtual Telescope Project will also host a Geminds webcast, beginning at 9 p.m. EST (0200 GMT).

Although the bright moon will be high in the sky by 11:30 p.m. local time Saturday (Dec. 13) (during the shower's peak), skywatchers can still catch a potentially incredible show before the moon creeps above the horizon, washing out the sky. Stargazers might be able to see an average of one or two Geminid meteors per minute Saturday before the moon rises.

By around 9 p.m., the constellation Gemini — the part of the sky where the meteors seem to emanate from — will have climbed more than one-third of the way up from the horizon. Meteor sightings should begin to really increase noticeably thereafter. By around 2 a.m., the last-quarter moon will be low in the east-southeast, but Gemini will stand high overhead. So you might still see a good number of meteors in spite of the moon's presence.

A brilliant shower

The Geminids are, for those willing to brave the chill of a December night, a very fine winter shower, and usually the most satisfying of all the annual showers. They can even surpass the brilliant August Perseid meteor shower.

Studies of past displays show that the Geminid shower is rich both in slow, bright, graceful meteors and fireballs, as well as in faint meteors, with relatively fewer objects of medium brightness. Many Geminids appear yellowish in hue; some even appear to form jagged or divided paths.     

These meteors travel at a medium speed and appear to emanate, specifically, from near the bright star Castor, in the constellation of Gemini, the Twins, hence the name "Geminid." In apparent size, that's less than half the width of the moon. As such, this is a rather sharply defined radiant as most meteor showers go. It suggests the stream is "young," perhaps only several thousand years old.

Generally speaking, depending on your location, Castor begins to come up above the east-northeast horizon right around the time evening twilight comes to an end. As the Gemini constellation begins to climb the eastern sky just after darkness falls, there is a fair chance of perhaps catching sight of some "Earth-grazing" meteors. Earthgrazers are long, bright shooting stars that streak overhead from a point near to even just below the horizon. Such meteors are so distinctive because they follow long paths nearly parallel to the Earth's atmosphere. 

Because Geminid meteoroids are several times denser than the comet dust that supply most meteor showers and because of the relatively slow speed with which the Geminids encounter Earth (22 miles or 35 kilometers per second), these meteors appear to linger a bit longer in view than most. As compared to an Orionid or Leonid meteor that can whiz across your line of sight in less than a second, a Geminid meteor moves only about half as fast. Personally, their movement reminds me of field mice scooting from one part of the sky to another.

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How to Watch Tonight’s Explosive Geminids Meteor Shower

How to Watch This Week's Big Ass Perseid Meteor Shower


Thank you, tiny space rocks. Because of you, the entire population of planet Earth will be treated to one of 2014's most spectacular celestial displays. The Geminids meteor shower is the most active of the annual meteor showers—by a long shot—and it's just about to peak.

Tonight, the shower might produce as many as 120 meteors per hour (though back in 2011, the Geminids hit a peak rate of 198 meteors per hour). Compare this count to the second most abundant shower, the Perseids, which take place in late August and top out at around 60 meteors per hour.

The annual December display is largely due to asteroid 3200 Phaethon, a three-mile wide chunk of rock that crosses the paths of all the inner rocky planets and travels closer to the sun than any other named asteroid. As ol' 3200 heats up close to the sun during its 1.5-year orbit, it expels materials and forms a trail much like a comet (indeed, it is sometimes referred to as a "rock comet"). But that's not the full story. Recent observations have shown that 3200 mostly expels dust as it is baked by the sun. And while this periodic "dusting" does help replenish the debris field, it's not enough material to account for all the Geminids' activity.

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Albert Einstein Letter Concerning Haters & How To Deal With Them

Excerpt from inquisitr.com

Albert Einstein is a man that has been seen not only as a genius, but as someone that knew how to have a good time and just enjoy life. Sure, he’s also been known as a man that’s far ahead of his time, but no-one may have ever realized just how far his brilliance reached.

The man actually wrote a letter to Marie Curie back on November 23, 1911, that advised her how to deal with haters and can even be used as a way to deal with Internet trolls.

Yes, a full 80 years before the Internet was even invented.
The Guardian revealed that a treasure trove of Einstein’s old letters were released, and they all show his genius and wit. One of them was the true gem though, and it was a letter to Curie, who was a rising science phenomenon at the time. He simply let her know that haters gonna hate and she need not bother with them.
“Highly esteemed Mrs. Curie,
“Do not laugh at me for writing you without having anything sensible to say. But I am so enraged by the base manner in which the public is presently daring to concern itself with you that I absolutely must give vent to this feeling. However, I am convinced that you consistently despise this rabble, whether it obsequiously lavishes respect on you or whether it attempts to satiate its lust for sensationalism!

“I am impelled to tell you how much I have come to admire your intellect, your drive, and your honesty, and that I consider myself lucky to have made your personal acquaintance in Brussels. Anyone who does not number among these reptiles is certainly happy, now as before, that we have such personages among us as you, and Langevin too, real people with whom one feels privileged to be in contact. If the rabble continues to occupy itself with you, then simply don’t read that hogwash, but rather leave it to the reptile for whom it has been fabricated.
“With most amicable regards to you, Langevin, and Perrin, yours very truly,
A. Einstein”
To the untrained eye, it may seem just like a very sweet letter from Albert Einstein to Marie Curie on how to keep moving forward in life and ignore those that criticize her. In reality, the letter can be applied to today’s world and ward off trolls.

Curie had her application to the French Academy of Sciences denied, and it was rumored that it happened because she was Jewish. Others said it was due to her possibly having an affair with physicist Paul Langevin, a married man.

According to Pop Sugar, Einstein even added a small P.S. to the letter that may then go over the heads of everyone.
“P.S. I have determined the statistical law of motion of the diatomic molecule in Planck’s radiation field by means of a comical witticism, naturally under the constraint that the structure’s motion follows the laws of standard mechanics. My hope that this law is valid in reality is very small, though.”

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How will the world end? From ‘demonic’ AI to nuclear war — seven scenarios that could end human race


Humanity may have already created its own nemesis, Professor Stephen Hawking warned last week. The Cambridge University physicist claimed that new developments in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) mean that within a few decades, computers thousands of times more powerful than in existence today may decide to usurp their creators and effectively end humanity’s 100,000-year dominance of Earth.
This Terminator scenario is taken seriously by many scientists and technologists. Before Prof. Hawking made his remarks, Elon Musk, the genius behind the Tesla electric car and PayPal, had stated that “with artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon,” comparing it unfavourably with nuclear war as the most potent threat to humanity’s existence.
Aside from the rise of the machines, many potential threats have been identified to our species, our civilization, even our planet. To keep you awake at night, here are seven of the most plausible.
Getty Images / ThinkStock
Getty Images / ThinkStockAn artist's depiction of an asteroid approaching Earth.
Our solar system is littered with billions of pieces of debris, from the size of large boulders to objects hundreds of kilometres across. We know that, from time to time, these hit the Earth. Sixty-five-million years ago, an object – possibly a comet a few times larger than the one on which the Philae probe landed last month – hit the Mexican coast and triggered a global winter that wiped out the dinosaurs. In 1908, a smaller object hit a remote part of Siberia and devastated hundreds of square kilometres of forest. Last week, 100 scientists, including Lord Rees of Ludlow, the Astronomer Royal, called for the creation of a global warning system to alert us if a killer rock is on the way.
Probability: remote in our lifetime, but one day we will be hit.
Result: there has been no strike big enough to wipe out all life on Earth – an “extinction-level event” – for at least three billion years. But a dino-killer would certainly be the end of our civilization and possibly our species.
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.When artificial intelligence becomes self-aware, there is a chance it will look something like this scene from Terminator 3.
Prof. Hawking is not worried about armies of autonomous drones taking over the world, but something more subtle – and more sinister. Some technologists believe that an event they call the Singularity is only a few decades away. This is a point at which the combined networked computing power of the world’s AI systems begins a massive, runaway increase in capability – an explosion in machine intelligence. By then, we will probably have handed over control to most of our vital systems, from food distribution networks to power plants, sewage and water treatment works, and the global banking system. The machines could bring us to our knees without a shot being fired. And we cannot simply pull the plug, because they control the power supplies.

Probability: unknown, although computing power is doubling every 18 months. We do not know if machines can be conscious or “want” to do anything, and sceptics point out that the cleverest computers in existence are currently no brighter than cockroaches.
Result: if the web wakes up and wants to sweep us aside, we may have a fight on our hands (perhaps even something similar to the man vs. machines battle in the Terminator films). But it is unlikely that the machines will want to destroy the planet – they “live” here, too.
Handout/AFP/Getty Images
Handout/AFP/Getty ImagesLaboratory technicians and physicians work on samples during research on the evolving Ebola disease in bats, at the Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases research Laboratory of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in Pretoria on Nov. 21, 2011.
This is possibly the most terrifying short-term threat because it is so plausible. The reason Ebola has not become a worldwide plague – and will not do so – is because it is so hard to transmit, and because it incapacitates and kills its victims so quickly. However, a modified version of the disease that can be transmitted through the air, or which allows its host to travel around for weeks, symptom-free, could kill many millions. It is unknown whether any terror group has the knowledge or facilities to do something like this, but it is chilling to realize that the main reason we understand Ebola so well is that its potential to be weaponized was quickly realized by defence experts.
Probability: someone will probably try it one day.
Result: potentially catastrophic. “Ordinary” infectious diseases such as avian-flu strains have the capability to wipe out hundreds of millions of people.
AP Photo/U.S. Army via Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
AP Photo/U.S. Army via Hiroshima Peace Memorial MuseumA mushroom cloud billows about one hour after a nuclear bomb was detonated above Hiroshima, Japan Aug. 6, 1945.
This is still the most plausible “doomsday” scenario. Despite arms-limitations treaties, there are more than 15,000 nuclear warheads and bombs in existence – many more, in theory, than would be required to kill every human on Earth. Even a small nuclear war has the potential to cause widespread devastation. In 2011, a study by NASA scientists concluded that a limited atomic war between India and Pakistan involving just 100 Hiroshima-sized detonations would throw enough dust into the air to cause temperatures to drop more than 1.2C globally for a decade.
Probability: high. Nine states have nuclear weapons, and more want to join the club. The nuclear wannabes are not paragons of democracy.
Result: it is unlikely that even a global nuclear war between Russia and NATO would wipe us all out, but it would kill billions and wreck the world economy for a century. A regional war, we now know, could have effects far beyond the borders of the conflict.
CERN)/MCTThis is one of the huge particle detectors in the Large Hadron Collider, a 17 mile-long tunnel under the French-Swiss border. Scientists are searching for evidence of what happened right after- and perhaps before- the Big Bang.
Before the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the massive machine at CERN in Switzerland that detected the Higgs boson a couple of years ago, was switched on, there was a legal challenge from a German scientist called Otto Rossler, who claimed the atom-smasher could theoretically create a small black hole by mistake – which would then go on to eat the Earth.
The claim was absurd: the collisions in the LHC are far less energetic than those caused naturally by cosmic rays hitting the planet. But it is possible that, one day, a souped-up version of the LHC could create something that destroys the Earth – or even the universe – at the speed of light.
Probability: very low indeed.
Result: potentially devastating, but don’t bother cancelling the house insurance just yet.
AP Photo/Oculus Rift/Fox
AP Photo/Oculus Rift/FoxThis photo shows a scene fromX-Men: Days of Future Past virtual reality experience. Oxford University philosopher Nick Bostrom has speculated that our universe may be one of countless "simulations" running in some alien computer, much like a computer game.
Many scientists have pointed out that there is something fishy about our universe. The physical constants – the numbers governing the fundamental forces and masses of nature – seem fine-tuned to allow life of some form to exist. The great physicist Sir Fred Hoyle once wondered if the universe might be a “put-up job”.
More recently, the Oxford University philosopher Nick Bostrom has speculated that our universe may be one of countless “simulations” running in some alien computer, much like a computer game. If so, we have to hope that the beings behind our fake universe are benign – and do not reach for the off-button should we start misbehaving.
Probability: according to Professor Bostrom’s calculations, if certain assumptions are made, there is a greater than 50% chance that our universe is not real. And the increasingly puzzling absence of any evidence of alien life may be indirect evidence that the universe is not what it seems.
Result: catastrophic, if the gamers turn against us. The only consolation is the knowledge that there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastFloodwaters from the Souris River surround homes near Minot State University in Minot, N.D. on June 27, 2011. Global warming is rapidly turning America the beautiful into America the stormy and dangerous, according to the National Climate Assessment report released Tuesday, May 6, 2014.
Almost no serious scientists now doubt that human carbon emissions are having an effect on the planet’s climate. The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested that containing temperature rises to below 2C above the pre-industrial average is now unlikely, and that we face a future three or four degrees warmer than today.
This will not literally be the end of the world – but humanity will need all the resources at its disposal to cope with such a dramatic shift. Unfortunately, the effects of climate change will really start to kick in just at the point when the human population is expected to peak – at about nine billion by the middle of this century. Millions of people, mostly poor, face losing their homes to sea-level rises (by up to a metre or more by 2100) and shifting weather patterns may disrupt agriculture dramatically.
Probability: it is now almost certain that CO2 levels will keep rising to 600 parts per billion and beyond. It is equally certain that the climate will respond accordingly.
Result: catastrophic in some places, less so in others (including northern Europe, where temperature rises will be moderated by the Atlantic). The good news is that, unlike with most of the disasters here, we have a chance to do something about climate change now.

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