Astronomers are all atwitter #Betelgeuse #astronomy #sciku #poetry #poem

artist's rendering of star BetelgueseBetelgeuse grows dim
Is the supernova blast
On its way to Earth?

by Kate Rauner, with thanks to

Betelgeuse is a bright star in Orion, a constellation many folk can find. Right now, in the northern hemisphere, Orion dominates the winter night sky. Betelgeuse has  dimmed and brightened before, but this is especially notable. It’s supposed to be detectable with the unaided eye. Hmm. When my current snow storms clear out, I’ll have to bundle up and check.

PS: Don’t worry. Betelgeuse is 642.5 light years away. If it goes supernova, it will be way cool to observe (even visible in the daytime) but not dangerous to life on Earth. As far as we can tell.

diagram of constellation Orion

Cosmology #sciku #poem # poetry #cosmology #haiku

Milky Way spiral
A Local Group galaxy
Such a tiny place

Cosmic Microwave Background

Or, in longer form:

Once we thought the skies
Were calm and smooth above.
But that’s not true close to home.
Could it be uniform,
Sort of,
If extremely far
We roam?

Data now accumulates
Along an odd anomaly.
Something’s wrong,
We do not grasp
This provocative

With human eyes,
It’s hard to see
On a megaparsec scale.
With human minds,
It’s hard to know
The universal tale.

Expand our search,
Look farther still,
That’s the essential key,
Till finally we move in step
With dancing galaxies.

Kate Rauner

Thanks to astronomers led by Oliver Müller at the University of Strasbourg in France. “What I really like about this stuff is just that we are still at the pioneering phase,” said Müller. “That’s super exciting.”

Cosmic Event Coming Soon… Maybe – there’s always a maybe! #astronomy #stars #space #telescope

Constellation Cygnus outlined as Northern Cross


KIC 9832227 is a binary star in the constellation Cygnus, and it’s about to explode.

Most statements like that about cosmic events then go on to say “in a billion years” or something similar. Time is different for you and me versus the universe.

Not KIC 9832227! The two stars are:

likely to merge into a single star in the year 2022 and create an explosive event called a red nova that should be visible to the naked eye.

The stars are currently orbiting so close to one another that they’re actually touching and sharing a single atmosphere. They’re spinning faster and faster and getting closer together.

We should see KIC 9832227 brighten to a magnitude 2 (about as bright as Polaris) for about six months. The exact timing is projected to be 2022.2 ±.6. From Brian Dunn,

Sigh. There’s a “maybe.” Wikipedia, those spoilsports, say this date is unlikely because of some variations in stellar movements that we don’t understand well.

It seems that I’ll find out who’s right soon enough.

Lunar Eclipse – watch it January 20, 2019 #sciku #haiku #lunareclipse #lunareclipse2019

Earth’s bronze shadow falls
Reveals truth to human eyes
As God tips His hand

lunar eclipse 2018

Lunar eclipse as seen from my house last year, Jan 2018

Kate Rauner

If the weather cooperates, a lunar eclipse is easy to observe (though I think media often exaggerate the color.) There are many articles – here’s one.

Planet X in the Far-flung Outer Solar System #poem #poetry #astronomy #solarsystem #planet

Man From PLanet X movie poster

This is the best I can do, since there is no image of Planet X yet

Watching perturbations.
In planets far away,
In cold realms way-past Jupiter,
Past Saturn, wobbles sway.

When Lowell discovered Pluto,
A store of luck was spent.
The famous dwarf is just too small
To tug

But orbital mechanics
Cannot be denied.
Something’s out there, far away.
Perhaps a Planet Nine.

Dwarf planets with companions
Among the plutoids hide.
The more we find, the better guess
Where Planet X resides.

Kate Rauner

Thanks to for their article on Goblin (2015 TG387), another Pluto-sort of object tripped over in a long-term, ongoing sky survey that may ultimately find Planet X.

And we expect
Someone will spot
This Planet X.

The more plutoids
That we find,
The more our theories
Are refined.

Water, Water Everywhere in the Galaxy #exoplanet #space #NASA

exoplanet populationsScientists have shown that water is likely to be a major component of those exoplanets (planets orbiting other stars) which are between two to four times the size of Earth…

Hopefully atmosphere observations in the future — of thick steam atmospheres — can support or refute the new findings.   Goldschmidt Conference

Many of these detected exoplanets are larger than Earth, but it sounds like a lot of that extra mass is water – up to 50% of the planet’s weight, while water on Earth is only 0.02%. Our watery blue world is a desert in comparison.

It makes me wonder… if our Sun had more heavy elements, would Earth be larger? Would it have captured more of the solar system’s water? Would you and I be fish?

We have earlier generations of stars to thank for any watery world including our own. Hydrogen is, of course, everywhere – the most abundant element starting from the Big Bang. But heavier elements owe their existance to fusion within stars and subsequent nova and supernova explosions. That includes oxygen. So water seems to be common in the galaxy.


Expanding Universe Will Leave Us Alone #astronomy #poetry #poem #universe #cosmology

expanding universeThe universe expands
Ever faster as we gaze,
Carries off our cosmic kin
Farther every day.

Light from other galaxies
Won’t have time
to reach our own.
In a few billion years,
Look up! We seem alone.

Kate Rauner

A short poem this week – and late! But I’ve been working a fire with my volunteer fire department, and my dog is sick, so I have excuses. I have had time to think about cosmology.

It’s hard to wrap my head around, but the universe is expanding and accelerating. So the speed of light stays constant, but distances grow. Eventually, other galaxies will be moving away from us so fast that their light can’t reach our own. Of course, human beings won’t exist by then and even our solar system may be gone.

If there are people in that distant future, what will they think of the universe? A Steady State model will explain what they’ll see, so they may never know there was a Big Bang. Perhaps the same thing has happened to us. The early universe may have been different in ways we can’t imagine. We may be missing the full truth, just like our hypothetical future brethren will.