astronomy round-up: 1 June 2012

Venus Transit 8th June 2004

We’re already into June! I’m still swimming in astronomy stories that I’ve not had a chance to even look at yet this week; I’ll try to catch up with these for next. The big news right now is of course the Venus transit coming up early next week.

If you’d like to see this for yourself, contact your local science museum or astronomy club to see if they’ll have viewing opportunities, or find a resource for watching online. DO NOT LOOK AT THE SUN DIRECTLY WITHOUT PROPER EYE PROTECTION whether Venus is transiting or not. (And please note that sunglasses don’t count as proper eye protection for solar viewing!)

In a pinch, Astronomers Without Borders will stream the transit event online.

1. Dragon hunting above, dragon hunting below

“On May 23 — the day after the SpaceX Dragon capsule launch — International Space Station astronaut André Kuipers snapped this shot of the Earth . . .”

2. Eyes on the skies: OSU super- cameras, telescopes will help locate hard-to-find Earth-like planets

“Taking a series of pictures of millions of stars in hopes of finding faint flickers of light to detect hidden Earth-like planets? Not so easy.”

3. How the transit of Venus opened the planet to our forefathers

“When the event occurred on June 3, 1769, scientists – including the famous Captain James Cook – fanned around the globe in an attempt to uncover the secrets of the universe. … In his new book The Day the World Discovered the Sun: An Extraordinary Story of Scientific Adventure and the Race to Track the Transit of Venus, author Mark Anderson uncovers the tales of the men who literally went to the ends of the earth in search of discovery.”

4. Press Release Images for the June 5-6 Transit of Venus

5. NASA Lunar Spacecraft Complete Prime Mission Ahead of Schedule

“PASADENA, Calif. — A NASA mission to study the moon from crust to core has completed its prime mission earlier than expected. The team of NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, with twin probes named Ebb and Flow, is now preparing for extended science operations starting Aug. 30 and continuing through Dec. 3, 2012.”

6. South Africa’s telescope success may threaten gas plans

“South Africa’s winning the rights to host the bulk of the world’s biggest radio telescope looks set to clash with plans to use the high-pressure pumping method fracking, which can cause earth tremors, to extract gas from its vast shale deposits.”

7. Careers in Astronomy

“Question: Hello, I’m looking for some help and guidance so I can pursue a career in astronomy. I have many questions if someone wouldn’t mind talking to me?”

8. Rainbow Pinwheel galaxy

” I have no shame in admitting I love face-on spiral galaxies. Scientifically, of course, they’re fascinating; spread out in front of us are all the inner workings of a galaxy. It’s like having an X-ray of human body in front of you, making it easier to understand anatomy. . . . But their beauty… well.”

9. There’s more star-stuff out there but it’s not Dark Matter: More atomic hydrogen gas – the ultimate fuel for stars – is lurking in today’s Universe than we thought

“Just after the Big Bang the Universe’s matter was almost entirely hydrogen atoms. Over time this gas of atoms came together and generated galaxies, stars and planets — and the process is still going on. Astronomers want to understand where, when and how the atomic gas is transformed to better understand the Universe in which we live.”

10. Strange Arctic Landscape Similar to Jupiter’s Moon Europa

“It’s not easy looking for life on Jupiter’s moon Europa. Just getting there can be a problem. So scientists would love to find a place on Earth that resembles the sulfur-laden surface of Europa. And now they have.”

11. Electric Moon Jolts the Solar Wind

“With the moon as the most prominent object in the night sky and a major source of an invisible pull that creates ocean tides, many ancient cultures thought it could also affect our health or state of mind – the word “lunacy” has its origin in this belief. Now, a powerful combination of spacecraft and computer simulations is revealing that the moon does indeed have a far-reaching, invisible influence – not on us, but on the Sun, or more specifically, the solar wind.”

12. Stellar Archaeology Traces Milky Way’s History

“Unfortunately, stars don’t have birth certificates. So, astronomers have a tough time figuring out their ages. Knowing a star’s age is critical for understanding how our Milky Way galaxy built itself up over billions of years from smaller galaxies. But Jason Kalirai of the Space Telescope Science Institute and The Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Astrophysical Sciences, both in Baltimore, Md., has found the next best thing to a star’s birth certificate.”

13. ALMA turns its eyes to Centaurus A

“A NEW IMAGE of the center of the distinctive galaxy Centaurus A, made with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), shows how the new telescope, which is still under construction, allows astronomers to see with unprecedented quality through the opaque dust lanes that obscure the galaxy’s center.”

14. STFC island site telescopes: response from the Royal Astronomical Society

“The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) today expressed deep regret at the decision of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) to end support for two major astronomical telescopes. The decision, a consequence of ongoing real terms cuts to the UK science budget by the Government, will almost certainly see the Hawaii-based UK Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) cease operations in the autumn of 2013 and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) do the same a year later, with the loss of around 40 jobs.”

15. NASA’s Hubble Shows Milky Way is Destined for Head-On Collision

“NASA astronomers announced Thursday they can now predict with certainty the next major cosmic event to affect our galaxy, sun, and solar system: the titanic collision of our Milky Way galaxy with the neighboring Andromeda galaxy. . . . The Milky Way is destined to get a major makeover during the encounter, which is predicted to happen four billion years from now. It is likely the sun will be flung into a new region of our galaxy, but our Earth and solar system are in no danger of being destroyed.”

16. Enceladus Plume is a New Kind of Plasma Laboratory

“Recent findings from NASA’s Cassini mission reveal that Saturn’s geyser moon Enceladus provides a special laboratory for watching unusual behavior of plasma, or hot ionized gas. In these recent findings, some Cassini scientists think they have observed “dusty plasma,” a condition theorized but not previously observed on site, near Enceladus.”

17. Live Webcast of the Transit of Venus

“Millions will look skyward as Venus crosses the Sun on June 5 for the last time more than 100 years. The very rare transit of Venus can be seen anywhere that the Sun is visible during the more than 6 hours it will take Venus to make its journey. . . . Astronomers Without Borders will be webcasting live from world-famous Mount Wilson Observatory during this rare event, along with top experts in the history of astronomy, authors, and others will gather at the best location for seeing the Venus transit on the North American continent.”

18. X-ray ‘Echoes’ Map a Supermassive Black Hole’s Environs

“An international team of astronomers using data from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) XMM-Newton satellite has identified a long-sought X-ray “echo” that promises a new way to probe supersized black holes in distant galaxies.”


Creative Commons photo by astroshots42.



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