October 31, 2011
game day and the future of manned space flight
Wasn't Saturday’s victory against Purdue just a comforting game? It was just one of those smooth games that didn’t play too much with our feelings. In certain respects I think the pregame flyover raised more feelings between tension and excitement. For those who did not show up to the game let me explain. Roughly ten minutes before the game there was an announcement that there was a flyover scheduled to take place and that it would be louder than usual so people should cover their ears. Little bit later we saw something very strange. The fly over was done with nothing less than a working jet pack. a technology such as this that even after such an extensive history behind it still causes wide eyed wonder.
Now why am I talking about jet packs on a astronomy blog? Because I want to remind people how certain devices we have built carry a sense of magic behind them. Devices such as the manned rockets and shuttles of the 60s and 80s. Devices that I think had a sense of wonder about them that helped glue countless eyes, minds and dreams to their accent. Let’s face it, manned space vehicles are strange. They function and move weirdly in an alien environment. They are also for all intents and purposes. Dead… for now.
My Saturday carried a more comforting and yet exhilarating sight that many did not get to see. At the engineering tailgate that Saturday I got to dock a new breed of manned space vehicle to the international space station. The vehicles name is Orion and will be ascending with manned crews by 2015. I had a chance to talk with two University of Michigan graduates who are currently working on the capsule. These gentlemen had a clear driving passion to see a grand return to manned space flight. And after experiencing the joystick controlled flight simulation and simply listening to the men making it happen, I am as well. I think soon in our future we will once again be drawn to the magic certain devices have. I think in the eyes of man space will once again be something more than a ceiling above us. It will be a vast and awe inspiring sea.
Mysterious Spot on Uranus
Larry Sromovsky, a planetary scientist, photographed a bright spot in Uranus' atmosphere which he believes to be the result of an eruption of methane ice. While Uranus shares many characteristics with the other gas giants, Uranus consists of more water, methane, and ammonia ice. Heidi Hammel, a fellow planetary scientist, explained that studying Uranus' atmosphere can lead to "unique insight into the energy balance in planetary atmosphere." Uranus is unique because it rotates on its side which results in extreme changes in seasons. Although the bright spots are not completely confirmed, planetary scientists are hoping further evidence will convince the operators of the Hubble Telescope to take a closer look to determine whether these bright spots are a result of methane ice eruptions.
Horrors of Alien Planets!
This article on DiscoveryNews has a decidedly Halloween themed article about the top 10 horrors of alien exoplanets, including a dust cloud shaped like the Eye of Sauron, ghost planets, atmosphere-stripping stellar winds, and unknown gravitational influences. Astronomers are still trying to understand these incredible planets, and they are only a few examples of how much we have yet to learn of the universe and its vast possibilities. Happy Halloween!
URL - http://news.discovery.com/space/top-10-exoplanet-horrors-halloween-111026.html
This article talks about a topic that we discussed in class a while back: expansion of the universe. It begins by stating that expansion is a known phenomenon but research in the force, called dark energy, that causes it has only been recently studied. The article discusses other topics we talked about in class. For example, how looking into space is like looking back in time. The article also discusses how dark energy came to be a force. This is a very interesting read that relates back to topics discussed in class.
Exotic Galaxy Reveals Tantalizing Tale
A galaxy with a combination of characteristics never seen before is giving astronomers a tantalizing peek at processes they believe played key roles in the growth of galaxies and clusters of galaxies early in the history of the Universe.
The galaxy, dubbed Speca by the researchers, is only the second spiral, as opposed to elliptical, galaxy known to produce large, powerful jets of subatomic particles moving at nearly the speed of light. It also is one of only two galaxies to show that such activity occurred in three separate episodes.
Giant jets of superfast particles are powered by supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies. Both elliptical and spiral galaxies harbor such black holes, but only Speca and one other spiral galaxy have been seen to produce large jets. The jets pour outward from the poles of rapidly-rotating disks of material orbiting the black hole. The on-and-off jet episodes have been seen in a dozen ellipticals, but only one other elliptical shows evidence, like Speca, for three such distinct episodes.
Ancient Supernova Mystery is Solved
The 2,000 year old mystery of the supernova discovered by Chinese Astronomers is finally solved with help of "NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE)" This ancient supernova is now referred to as RCW 86 and tt was created due to the death of a star similar to our sun which then turned into a white dwarf.
NASA provides us with an image of the 1st supernova ever recorded by man-king at http://go.nasa.gov/pnv6Oy
For the full article refer to: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-329&cid=release_2011-329
Planets Shining in November
For anyone that is interested in looking at the planets in the night sky this coming month there is an article with descriptions of when and where to look to see the different planets in our solar system. The article mentions Venus, Mercury, Jupiter Mars, and even Saturn. You will find Venus and Mercury on the southern horizon and as the month progresses you will see the planets close together and then the distance will begin to increase. Jupiter will be found high in the eastern sky outshining other stars because of it's glow we learned about today in class. If you're looking to see Mars or Saturn you'll have to venture out early in the morning. If you go planet-gazing make sure to bring your binoculars!!
A city-block-sized asteroid will swing by Earth on November 8
According to this blog post on the Discovery Magazine Website, a “city-block-sized asteroid” will have a “close” (in astronomical terms) encounter with the Earth on November 8th. A 400 meter wide asteroid will be in motion 320,000 kilometers (approximately 200,000 miles) from the surface of the Earth, which is far enough away so those of us on Earth don’t have to worry about a collision but close enough so we can clearly see the asteroid in flight (with a “decent-sized” telescope). The blogger comments positively about current technology, which allows close-up shots of the asteroid to be taken and quickly transmitted around the world.
The Sunspot Cycle
The number of sunspots on the sun is constantly changing overtime. The average sunspot cycle is about eleven year, although not always exact. When the number of sunspots reach the highest point, it is called solar maximum, while when the sun reaches the lowest point, it is called solar minimum. With increased sunspots, the amount of solar activity increases as well.
Currently, the number of sunspots is increasing, on its way to the solar maximum. Scientists speculate that the sunspots are caused by a magnetic phenomenon. The north and south poles of the sun are eventually completely reversed as the inside matter is constantly stretching, twisting, and crossing.
The increase in sunspots is taking longer than usual, and scientists epect a slower than usual cycle, but the cause of this is unclear.
For full article, go to:
Someone recently posted a really interesting article about light pollution and its effects on wildlife. Well, here is the website to a group called the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). It is a group that is committed to reducing the amount of light pollution in the world to the bare minimum. They provide the best and simplest summary I could find: "We promote one simple idea: light what you need, when you need it." This group has a really strong message, and a simple goal that I think everyone can get behind: let the stars shine at night again. Here's the link to their website: http://www.darksky.org/about-ida
Let's get rid of light pollution, so we don't have to travel to a dark zone to see the night sky the way it should be seen.
October 30, 2011
First comet found with ocean-like water
This was the first time ocean-like water was detected in a comet. The results show that the amount of material out there that could have contributed to earth's oceans is perhaps larger than we thought. This is a new evidence supports the theory that comets delivered a significant portion of earth's oceans, which scientists believed formed about 8 million years after the planet itself. We always think our ocean came from comet, but we never have convincing evidence to support it. Now we have:)
Most pristine known asteroid is denser than granite
Astronomers claim that asteroid 21 Lutetia may be the second largest asteroid ever seen by a spacecraft. The European spacecraft Rosetta discovered Asteroid Lutetia at 50,000 kilometers per hour. They say that most asteroids that spacecrafts take pictures of appear to be chunks of debris that were loosely held together by gravity. Astronomers say Lutetia is very dense and that it seems to have survived the fierce collisions in the early solar system intact. The rock is said to have one of the highest asteroid densities ever measured, at 3.4 tons per cubic meter, which in fact is denser than granite. Astronomers say that its density suggests that Lutetia may have heavy metals in its core. However, this suggestion may be contradicted because the space craft Rosetta showed an unmelted surface covered in craters, providing no signs of an interior made up of heavy metals. Although astronomers have discovered quite a significant amount from Lutetia, they say in order to learn more about the composition of the material they would need to analyze it with a lander, or bring back a part of it to conduct in depth analysis. You can visit this link in order to see the article yourself. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21101-most-pristine-known-asteroid-is-denser-than-granite.html
October 29, 2011
Urban Light Pollution
Recent studies have shown that urban light pollution not only blocks our view of the stars to an extent at night, but some nocturnal animals are having trouble navigating their celestial compasses as well.....I found it interesting that animals could use the stars for navigation. Here is the whole article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111027112513.htm
Climate Change is Definitely Occuring
There has been recent evidence that only strengthens the already widely accept concept that climate change is real, and is/has already been occurring.
The three main compilations of mean global temperatures-NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)and the Hadley CRU in Britain-have all agreed that the surface of our planet has undergone a temperature increase of 0.9°C in the past half century. While skeptics have drawn attention to the potential for uncertainty in the raw data collected by each of these organizations, a new group formed on the University of California Berkeley's campus has set out to get rid of these uncertainties.
By developing an algorithm that weighs in every data point, the group called Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature is able to sufficiently analyze larger and smaller sizes of data than the 3 compilations. In addition, Berkeley Earth has been able to further deter skeptics with their relatively new status as an organization. This rules out the possible involvement of scientists involved in the "Climegate" scandal, notorious for the involvement of climate scientists covering up inconvenient data.
By overcoming the challenges made by skeptics against the 3 compilations, those 3 organizations have found support in their concurrence as Berkeley Earth has confirmed their statement of the 0.9°C increase.
Discovering the origins of Earth's Water
There has been a new discovery that might be able to explain how Earth originally obtained water. Before, there were two main beliefs. One was that comets brought water to earth since they contained a lot of it, but the article states that less than 10% could be obtained from these comets. The theory about asteroids was also another option, but asteroids didn’t contain very much water. Hartley 2 was sighted by a high powered telescope, and it showed almost an identical ratio of D/H as Earth has. This shows that it must have been a mix of asteroids and meteors, instead of just one certain place that Earth’s water came from. It is hard to tell if these results are true yet since it was only tested on one object in space.
October 28, 2011
Evidence of icy bodies raining down in an alien solar system
NASA's telescope has detected evidence of icy bodies raining down in an alien solar system. The downpour closely resembles our solar system several billion years ago during a period of "Late Heavy Bombardment" This period brough water and other life-forming ingredients to Earth. During this time, comets and other frosty objects flung from the otuehr solar system pummeled othe inner planets. The telescope, Spitzer, has spotted a band of dust around a nearby bright star in the northern sky, Eta Corvi. Eta Corvi strongly matches the contents of an obliterated giant comet. Carey Lisse, senior research scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, thinks that Eta Corvi system should be studied in detail to learn more about the rain of impacting comets and other objects that may have started life on our own planet.
For more information,
New Primitive Body
As according to the European Space Agency (ESA) there has been a recent discovery regarding an asteroid called Lutetia. Scientists began their studies on Lutetia after discovering that this asteroid was the largest to be witnessed by a spacecraft. After speculation and comparative research scientists speculate that Lutetia may be an old primitive miniature world. Its old age was determined by the significant amount of craters on the surface of the asteroid. Additionally scientist have been able to compare the surface features of Lutetia to those of Earth, and they hypothesize that it was round when it formed. In contrast to these surface studies, scientists have also investigated the interior nature of this asteroid and they concluded that while Lutetia lacks an iron core it does however have one of the highest asteroid densities. The Lutetia asteroid is unique in many ways, and it has further contributed to our understanding of our solar system. It provides valuable information, for scientists now and in the future.
For more information go to:
October 26, 2011
Genetically Altered Astronaut Poo? NASA Wants to Know
Obviously the title of the article caught my eye. Upon further investigation, apparently it is one of the many questions asked by a NASA team in charge of choosing artifacts to be preserved. There's a $30 million dollar contest at stake depending on these guidelines. The 28 contenders compete for a privately funded expedition to the moon. You can read the rest of the article at:
October 25, 2011
2,000-Year-Old Supernova Mystery Solved By NASA Telescopes
Almost two thousand years ago, Chinese astronomers were fascinated by a "guest star" that appeared in their sky and was visible to them for over eight months. It wasn't until the 1960s that scientists determined what they had seen to be a supernova. Now, by using new technology and looking at the area by seeing the infrared part of the spectrum, NASA can view the remnants of this supernova to discover new clues about how stars die and how supernovae form. To learn more about how NASA's new telescopes can view the infrared part of the spectrum, read full article at
Series of Bumps Sent Uranus Into Its Sideways Spin, New Research Suggests
Uranus' highly tilted axis (98 degrees) makes it an oddball in our Solar System. The most widely accepted theory of how this tilt came to be was that Uranus was knocked on its side by a single large impact. However, new research presented at the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting in Nantes rewrites that theory of how Uranus became so tilted and it also sheds light on the position and orbits of its moons and how they came to be. Using simulations of planetary formation and collisions, it seems that in Uranus' early life it experienced a succession of small impacts instead of the one huge impact.
Planet-Sized Object as Cool as Earth Revealed in Record-Breaking Photo
ScienceDaily (Oct. 19, 2011) — The photo of a nearby star and its orbiting companion -- whose temperature is like a hot summer day in Arizona -- will be presented by Penn State Associate Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics Kevin Luhman during the Signposts of Planets conference at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center on Oct. 20, 2011.
A paper describing the discovery will be published in the Astrophysical Journal.
"This planet-like companion is the coldest object ever directly photographed outside our solar system," said Luhman, who led the discovery team. "Its mass is about the same as many of the known extra-solar planets -- about six to nine times the mass of Jupiter -- but in other ways it is more like a star. Essentially, what we have found is a very small star with an atmospheric temperature about cool as the Earth's."
Luhman classifies this object as a "brown dwarf," an object that formed just like a star out of a massive cloud of dust and gas. But the mass that a brown dwarf accumulates is not enough to ignite thermonuclear reactions in its core, resulting in a failed star that is very cool. In the case of the new brown dwarf, the scientists have gauged the temperature of its surface to be between 80 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit -- possibly as cool as a human.
Ever since brown dwarfs first were discovered in 1995, astronomers have been trying to find new record holders for the coldest brown dwarfs because these objects are valuable as laboratories for studying the atmospheres of planets with Earth-like temperatures outside our solar system.
Astronomers have named the brown dwarf "WD 0806-661 B" because it is the orbiting companion of an object named "WD 0806-661" -- the "white dwarf" core of a star that was like the Sun until its outer layers were expelled into space during the final phase of its evolution. "The distance of this white dwarf from the Sun is 63 light years, which is very near our solar system compared with most stars in our galaxy," Luhman said.
"The distance of this white dwarf from its brown-dwarf companion is 2500 astronomical units (AU) -- about 2500 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun, so its orbit is very large as compared with the orbits of planets, which form within a disk of dust swirling close around a newborn star," said Adam Burgasser at the University of California, San Diego, a member of the discovery team. Because it has such a large orbit, the astronomers say this companion most probably was born in the same manner as binary stars, which are known to be separated as far apart as this pair, while remaining gravitationally bound to each other.
Luhman and his colleagues presented this new candidate for the coldest known brown dwarf in a paper published in spring 2011, and they now have confirmed its record-setting cool temperature in a new paper that will be published in the Astrophysical Journal.
To make their discovery, Luhman and his colleagues searched through infrared images of over six hundred stars near our solar system. They compared images of nearby stars taken a few years apart, searching for any faint points of light that showed the same motion across the sky as the targeted star. "Objects with cool temperatures like the Earth are brightest at infrared wavelengths," Luhman said. "We used NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope because it is the most sensitive infrared telescope available."
Luhman and his team discovered the brown dwarf WD 0806-661 B moving in tandem with the white dwarf WD 0806-661 in two Spitzer images taken in 2004 and 2009. The images, which together show the movement of the objects, are available online (http://science.psu.edu/alert/photos/research-photos/astro/Luhman-moving-labels.gif). "This animation is a fun illustration of our technique because it resembles the method used to discovery Pluto in our own solar system," Luhman said.
In a related new discovery involving a different cool brown dwarf, Penn State Postdoctoral Scholar John Bochanski and his colleagues have made the most detailed measurement yet of ammonia in the atmosphere of an object outside our solar system. "These new data are much higher quality that previously achieved, making it possible to study, in much more detail than ever before, the atmospheres of the coldest brown dwarfs, which most closely resemble the atmospheres that are possible around planets," Bochanski said.
"Brown dwarfs that are far from their companion stars are much easier to study than are planets, which typically are difficult to observe because they get lost in the glare of the stars they orbit," Burgasser said. "Brown dwarfs with Earth-like temperatures allow us to refine theories about the atmospheres of objects outside our solar system that have comparatively cool atmospheres like that of our own planet."
This research was sponsored by grants from the National Science Foundation and the NASA Astrophysics Theory Program.
October 24, 2011
Taking the Temperature of Ancient Mars
A meteorite blasted off the surface of Mars, ALH 84001, was found to have fossilized microbes in it. Until recently it was unknown the fossils were caused by actual life or just heat and various weather impacts. Because of a new theory developed by John Eiler, however, it has been implied that the formation temperature of ALH 84001 is only 18 degrees celsius. Given this temperature, ancient Mars may have had a cooler climate than originally suspected.
Oldest Recorded Supernova
Using data from four telescopes and comprising an image of the supernova remnants, NASA was able to determine the type and the cause of a supernova that occurred back in 185 AD, as observed by the Chinese. Scientists were not only able to classify it as a Type Ia supernova, but were also able to figure out how the star had grown so large in so little time. It had been the result of the star (a white dwarf) blowing winds to create a low-density 'cavity' surrounding it. This cavity is what enabled it to be a larger explosion than usual when the white dwarf went supernova.
The star is called RCW 86, and is at an estimated 8,000 light years away.
Youngest planet seen as it's forming
A newly froming star was captured by an astronomer. The astronomer combined the power of the 10-meter Keck telescopes to capture the process of still-forming planet.
The process of young gas building up and sucking the dust and the gas around it is very interesting and delightful.
October 23, 2011
Yet Another Satellite Ready to Fall to Earth
A month earlier, the UARS Satellite made an unexpected trip back to Earth. Another satellite plans to join the club, as the satellite Rosat is yet another object ready to fall down to Earth. Like UARS, nobody knows how or where it will fall, but scientists proclaimed that it will hit the ground on Sunday anywhere on Earth. The satellite was shut down in February of 1999 and has been descending ever since. The calculated amount of mass the satellite will bring to Earth is around 1.6 tons of materials and is not expected to burn when entering the atmosphere.
Full article: http://www.theatlanticwire.com/technology/2011/10/another-satellite-plummeting-toward-earth/44006/
October 21, 2011
Nearby Planet-Forming Disk Holds Water for Thousands of Oceans
ScienceDaily (Oct. 20, 2011) — For the first time, astronomers have detected around a burgeoning solar system a sprawling cloud of water vapor that's cold enough to form comets, which could eventually deliver oceans to dry planets.
Water is an essential ingredient for life. Scientists have found thousands of Earth-oceans' worth of it within the planet-forming disk surrounding the star TW Hydrae. TW Hydrae is 176 light years away in the constellation Hydra and is the closest solar-system-to-be.
University of Michigan astronomy professor Ted Bergin is a co-author of a paper on the findings published in the Oct. 21 edition of Science.
The researchers used the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far-Infrared (HIFI) on the orbiting Hershel Space Observatory to detect the chemical signature of water.
October 20, 2011
Blue Stragglers: Astronomers discover how mysterious stars stay so young
All stars age with time, and most stars show that age through their color, brightness, and temperature. However, there are exceptions to this rule, and they are called "Blue stragglers." These stars are old, however they "burn hot and blue," unlike stars of their age. Up until this day, no one could explain this strange phenomena. But now, Aaron M. Geller from Northwestern University and Robert Mathieu from the University of Chicago seem to have discovered the reason. According to their research, a process called mass transfer allows a planet to "eat up the mass, or outer envelope" of a companion star. This allows the blue straggler to burn more fuel and thus preserve its blue, young-looking appearance.
October 18, 2011
Dark Matter Mystery Deepens
After completing a recent study, the mystery surrounding dark matter has been deepened. Matt Walker claims that after completing this study, we know less about dark matter than we did before. Simulations show that dark matter should be densely packed in the center of galaxies. However, new measurements of two dwarf galaxies show that they contain a smooth distribution of dark matter. This suggests that the standard cosmological model may be wrong. "Our measurements contradict a basic prediction about the structure of cold dark matter in dwarf galaxies. Unless or until theorists can modify that prediction, cold dark matter is inconsistent with our observational data" Walker goes on to say. These results make dwarf planets ideal targets for study for astronomers seeking to study dark matter. The new measurements lead to new possibilities that either normal matter affects dark matter more than expected or dark matter isn't cold. To read the full article go to: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111017124344.htm
October 17, 2011
Astronomers find bounty of failed stars: One youngster only six times heftier than Jupiter
Astronomers have found 24 new brown dwarfs. a brown dwarf is a failed star that after a length of time shows planet like characteristics such as atmospheres. The exciting part about these new found brown dwarfs is their relative small size, some of them being from 6 to 20 times the size of Jupiter. This means that astronomical objects much bigger than Jupiter but depending on size form the same way as stars if they are big or form like planets if they are small. Astronomers used the combination of Surbaru Telescope and the Very Large Telescope to to locate and view these brown dwarfs both on optical and infrared wavelengths in the NGC 1333 and rho Ophiuchi star clusters.
Full Article http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=34969
October 16, 2011
New Titanium Troves Found On Moon
A new map of the moon combining visible and ultraviolet wavelengths shows areas of the moon rich in titanium. Titanium is a key component for astronomers because it helps detect what the moon's interior is made up of. The map was created by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera which images seven different wavelengths with a pixel resolution of 100 to 400 meters of the moon per pixel. Using a collection of 4,000 photos, Mark Robinson and his team constructed the map of the titanium present on the moon.
Full article available at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111007102109.htm.
European plans to launch sun-orbiting satellite and universe probe
The European Space Agency has planned to launch in a couple years a satellite which can go close enough to the sun, and they also have planned for a probe which is able to "map the structure of the universe". This project is called "Solar Orbiter and Euclid". Aside from compliment and budget estimate for the project, the article reported that the satellite can go as far as "26 million miles from the sun's fiery surface" and make observations of the sun. The satellite is expected to reveal some truth about the relationship between the sun and the solar system. On the other hand, the probe will be launched from earth and fly to a gravitationally neutral point between earth and sun so that it can stay firmly while observing. The probe "Elucid" will provide an insight into the dark matter and dark energy by "measuring the accelerated expansion of the universe".
October 13, 2011
NASA Detects Planet Dancing With a Pair of Stars
The article I found for this entry is one that Professor Miller actually brought up in class a few times. It is a planet that has two suns just like Tatooine in Star Wars. I found this especially cool because I watched Star Wars a lot growing up. The planet is estimated to be about the same size and density as Saturn. This discovery caused scientists to wonder how planets that orbit two stars form. Before the discovery scientists thought that a planet like this one would need to be twice the distance it is from the stars in orbits for it to survive. It is interesting to think that with discoveries Astronomers make could always lead to new questions more than answers.
For the full article written by Dennis Overbye visit this site:
October 12, 2011
New Mystery On Mars' Forgotten Plains
Recently, scientists studying a flat plain on Mars, called Hesperia Planum, have found new evidence that is against what people have thought. This plain was supposedly caused by volcanic activity, but Tracy Gregg, of State University of New York, found very little evidence to support that theory. Gregg is currently studying the moon to determine possible explanations and causes for the channels on Mars and hopes to find that neither water nor lava flows created these channels. Gregg believes that Hesperia Planum is a lot more complicated than what people have long thought and hopes to discover what exactly caused these geological structures.
full article at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111012083440.htm
October 11, 2011
Life on Enceladus
So it's not real of course but I think the comic is funny and insightful. When you look at NASA's funding in the past decade it seems to have maintained a steady decline and is, as mentioned in lecture, no where close to where it used to be in say, the 1960s. Maybe the public needs a little push to remember that we've still explored so little of the "final frontier". What do you think of the comic? Do you think the public we'll ever be as invested in extraterrestrial exploration as it was in the '60s? Is a manned journey to Enceladus, Mars, or another moon in the near future?
October 09, 2011
Possible sibling of Earth
Last month, astronomers located a planet 36 light-years away from us that falls in the habitable zone of its solar system. The planet, known as HD 85512b, lies in the constellation Vela and is 3.6 times more massive than Earth. Due to its location in the solar system, this planet may contain water at the surface bringing up the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Astronomers did caution, however, that we do not have the telescopes yet to determine if there is water, let alone life. Check out an artist's rendition of HD 85512b, looks overwhelmingly similar to our own planet.
Full article at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/13/science/space/13planet.html?_r=1&ref=astronomyandastrophysics
If you're up with technology and have a smartphone there are now new apps that can help you enjoy start gazing much easier. You can download apps for iphone, ipad, and android phones to facilitate your astronomical adventures. These apps will help you track things that we learned about in class like the phases of the moon, when the equinoxes and solstices are, and when and where meteor showers will be visible from. One of the apps, called "Sky Map", can do some cool things like let you disregard stars on your phone so that you'll only see planets or constellation lines. Just another way technology is making astronomy and space exploration easier for everyone.
See the full article at:http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/06/technology/personaltech/watching-stars-fall-cellphone-in-hand.html?_r=1&ref=space
October 08, 2011
Although this is not entirely related to the idea of stars and the universe it is certainly in the sky, it relates to the divison of white light into separate colours and it's also pretty cool. We all know that we still get excited when we see a rainbow, just as we did when were younger.
October 07, 2011
Venus has an ozone layer!!!!
It was announced on Thursday (6th of October) that the Venus express spacecraft, a satellite that studies the atmosphere of Venus, has discovered an ozone layer on the planet Venus. What is fascinating and important about this discovery is that scientists say that "ozone on a planet may indicate the presence of life". The ozone was discovered when it was noted that it had absorbed some of the ultraviolet from the starlight of Venus (chapter 5!, we are applying our knowledge of light absorption)
Now as it stands there are currently three planets in our solar system with an ozone layer; Earth, Mars, and Venus. Could there possibly be more???
The full article is provided in the following URL:
October 05, 2011
Powdery snow on Saturn's moon, Enceladus
NASA's Cassini Orbiter took some pictures of Enceladus ( one of the moons around Saturn) and found out that its surface is covered with powdery snow around 330 feet thick.
October 04, 2011
Nobel-winning astronomer initially thought his discovery was an error.
It was just revealed today that Adam Wiess, a Nobel Prize winner for his theory on the accerlation of the expansion of the universe, initially thought his theory and discovery was a mistake. Staying humble, like a rational scientist always should, he stated that he always makes mistakes and when things don't go according to plan he always double checks his work. The implications of an ever expanding universe are huge, he mentions the universe freezing over, this will eventually be known as the heat death of the universe, as there is only a finite amount of energy in the universe but an ever increasing volume for which the energy to fill. Truly interesting and groundbreaking discovery.
New telescope in Chile
Yesterday, in the Chilean Atacama desert, a ground-based telescope became fully operational. This telescope was a joint project by the U.S, Canada, Chile, the E.U., Japan, and Taiwan. The new telescope is described as the most "powerful millimeter/submillimeter-wavelength telescope ever." This new telescope differs from visible-light and infrared telescopes because it uses a set of linked antennas that act as a single giant telescope. These antennas can detect longer wavelengths than visible light telescopes, which allows for this telescope to portray images not seen by normal telescopes. Also, because of its location, this new Chilean telescope will allow for more unobstructed viewings of the sky because it is in the middle of a desert. For the full article, go to:
Epic volcanic activity flooded Mercury's north polar region
Geological professor James W, Head III at Brown University and two dozen colleagues recently discovered that Mercury has had volcanic activity. The data came from the orbiting MESSENGER spacecraft which was sent to to examine Mercury's undiscovered northern high latitudes. The report claims that Mercury had volcanic activity 3.5-4 billion years ago. The magnitude of the volcanic activity was big enough to cover 60% of the United States. In some parts of the planet the lava was a mile deep. To distinguish lava flows on Mercury from lava flows on Earth, Professor head stated that, "the lava flows don't build volcano like we see on Hawaii; rather they cover up the place where the lava is coming out, and they're difficult to understand in the context of the current Earth eruption conditions". The MESSENGER spacecraft has been orbiting Mercury since March. The team hopes that the spacecraft MESSENGER will allow them to better understand the minerals and chemical composition in the northern high latitudes. They also hope to compare the volcanic activity on different parts of Mercury.
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October 03, 2011
Two Small Asteroids Zoom Within the Moon's Orbit
Although neither of the asteroids posed a threat to Earth, they are indicative of how much "stuff" comes near us every day. Within the article you learn that these flybys happen almost daily. If the asteroids were to hit Earth, they could potentially cause a large sum of damage. Nothing on the global level, but still, lives could be lost and millions in damage done. One of the most amazing quote from the article is, "Astronomers initially estimated that there were about 1,000 mountain-size asteroids in orbits that brought the space rocks near Earth. Using the WISE observations, scientists were able to lower that number to 981, with 911 of those asteroids already known and well-tracked." Just knowing that there are HUNDREDS of mountain sized rocks floating near us is pretty mind blowing.
You can read the full article here:
Lots of Supernovas
News came out in an article from the Science Daily website that a group of Astronomers at the Chalmers and Onsala Space Observatory discovered as many as seven supernova in a galaxy called Arp 220, located 250 million light years away. The article stated that this galaxy has long been known as a galaxy that can create a lot of stars very efficiently. It would follow then that these stars need to die, and therefore Arp 220 would be home to a lot of supernovas. And that is indeed what these Astronomers found. To give some perspective as to how many supernova are in Arp 220 compared to our Milky Way Galaxy Rodrigo Parra, an astronomer at the European Southern Observatory, gave some values. He stated, "we estimate that a star explodes in Arp 220 once every quarter. In the Milky Way, there is only one supernova per century."
Just another fascinating galaxy in our universe.
You can read the full article at:http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110930071705.htm
October 02, 2011
MNN.COM›Earth Matters› Space Diamond planet discovered by astronomers
Astronomers from the Swishburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia have made an astonishing discovery. According to a report by New Scientist, they have discovered a new planet orbiting a pulsar about 4,000 light years away. This planet has a mass that is roughly equal to that of Jupiter. Unlike Jupiter, however, this newly observed planet orbits the pulsar at such a close distance that any gas giant planet would be ripped apart by the gravitational forces. In fact, any planet of this size experiencing these forces would likely crystallize. Researchers predict that this planet is most likely carbon based, and so this crystallization would result in a planet composed primarily of diamond. This discovery is just another example of the amazing spectacles that space exploration still has to offer.