The Creation of a Unified System of Constellations


Constellations pic


Valerie Varnuska of Westbury, NY, is passionate about the natural world. Fascinated by the beauty of the night sky, Valerie Varnuska has a strong interest in astronomy and natural phenomenon beyond the earth.

A recent article on examined the development of constellations, the naming of a group of stars that form a recognizable pattern, which began formally in 2nd-century BC Greece with Hipparchus’ 48 classical constellations. These constellations had their roots in ancient Babylon and included some obvious star clusters that had been independently recognized by cultures around the world.

Several decades later, Ptolemy created the Almagest catalog of constellations, which was passed down virtually intact to modern Europeans. Additions included 14 new constellations visible only to seafarers as they explored the Southern Hemisphere. In the 1930s, a formal set of 88 constellations was codified worldwide through the efforts of the International Astronomical Union.


Wind-Tunnel Testing for a Massive Telescope Set to Launch in 2024


Spotting the Planets in 2018


Mars pic


An art enthusiast, Valerie Varnuska of Westbury, NY, appreciates dance, music, literature, and opera. Additionally, Valerie Varnuska maintains a keen interest in science, particularly astronomy.

While the total solar eclipse of 2017 is now part of astronomical history, 2018 will have its own remarkable astronomical events for stargazers to look forward to. Starting in March, each of the five planets that can be seen by the naked eye — Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter — will be visible after sunset. First to appear will be Mercury the week of March 15, followed by Venus making itself visible from March 18 to October. Jupiter will begin to shine brightly on May 9 in the southeast sky, and, over a month later on June 27, Saturn will be visible for the entire summer.

A favorite for many starwatchers, Mars will make its appearance on July 27 at a distance of 35.8 million miles from Earth. This is the closest the planet has been to Earth since 2003.

Astronomers Study Unique Interstellar Asteroid for Signs of Life


Oumuamua pic


Residing in Westbury, NY, Valerie Varnuska likes to volunteer and enjoy nature. A fan of astronomy, Valerie Varnuska takes great pleasure in stargazing.

In late 2017, astronomers detected a large, oblong object flying through space. Dubbed, ‘Oumuamua, it is notable as the first known interstellar asteroid to pass through our solar system.

‘Oumuamua is of particular interest to those studying both life on Earth and the potential for life elsewhere in the universe. One theory for the origin of life on Earth, known as panspermia, surmises that it may have started elsewhere in the universe and hitched a ride on a meteorite, comet, or asteroid that eventually found its way to our planet.

While the idea may seem farfetched, we already know of some organisms that can survive the harsh, freezing vacuum of space. In 2007, scientists sent the hardy microorganisms known as tardigrades into low-Earth orbit, and found the creatures were able to survive with no protection against the outside environment.

Another notable feature of the ‘Oumuamua asteroid is its unusual cigar-like shape, something astronomers have never seen before in any asteroid inhabiting our own solar system. ‘Oumuamua’s contours initially led astronomers to question what the object was, as the shape would be ideal for a spacecraft designed for interstellar travel. However, scientists have not yet detected any radio signals of artificial origin, which would almost certainly be present in an interstellar spacecraft.

Whether or not the asteroid harbors life, intelligent or simple, the discovery is still monumental as the first of its kind. Now that astronomers know this type of asteroid exists, they can widen their search of the stars for similar objects.

Astronomers Discover Two Massive Galaxies From the Early Universe

 Antarctica’s South Pole Telescope pic

Antarctica’s South Pole Telescope

Valerie Varnuska, a resident of Westbury, NY, divides her free time between being outdoors and learning about different subjects. Over the years, Valerie Varnuska has developed a strong interest in vintage trains, geology, and astronomy.

In December 2017, a study was published detailing astronomers’ discovery of two huge galaxies that were formed during the universe’s early history. The galaxies were spotted using Antarctica’s South Pole Telescope and their discovery was published in Nature, an international science journal.

The galaxies discovered existed within 800 million years of the Big Bang. Finding these galaxies was a challenge for astronomers because a different galaxy was situated in front of them, which altered the light coming from the duo and prevented them from seeing the galaxies in high resolution. As a result, further observations were made with Chile’s Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA).

Additionally, astronomers noticed that the two galaxies were forming 2,900 solar masses each year, a rapid pace for a galaxy to form stars, and they concluded that the two galaxies must be merging. Astronomers also spotted a large, dark matter halo around the galaxies, suggesting that dark matter played a role in the construction of these massive galaxies.