astronomy round-up: 15 June 2012

NuSTAR

No, I haven’t dropped off the face of the Earth, though I’ve certainly not blogged much—at all—this past week. I’ve had family visiting from out of town, and I expect to be back on the blogging bandwagon next week. In the meantime . . .

It’s Friday! Time for another astronomy and space sciences stories round-up!

There were more than a handful of stories about economic impacts to astronomy being felt by amateurs and professionals alike—from a Maryland couple putting their mobile observatory RV up for sale, to car washes and shoe-shining operations to raise money and awareness for NASA initiatives as the agency faces program cuts.

This week also saw the launch of the NuStar black-hole-hunter satellite.

  • WISE Finds Few Brown Dwarfs Close to Home

    “Astronomers are getting to know the neighbors better. Our sun resides within a spiral arm of our Milky Way galaxy about two-thirds of the way out from the center. It lives in a fairly calm, suburb-like area with an average number of stellar residents. Recently, NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has been turning up a new crowd of stars close to home: the coldest of the brown dwarf family of “failed” stars.”

  • Ridley Scott movie ‘Prometheus’ rests on some real astronomy

    “Astronomers have discovered more than 700 worlds orbiting nearby stars in the last two decades, and the moviegoing public is just getting the message about the new planets, say astronomers such as Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute. So, in a way, pop culture is reflecting science, including efforts such as NASA’s Kepler space telescope, which is looking to find more planets in their stars’ “habitable zone,” warm enough for liquid oceans like Earth’s that may be able to support life forms.”

  • Plenty on show as astronomers look up and learn

    “WHILE the sighting of Venus’ transit caused starry-eyed excitement in Canberra this week, attentions are set to stay skyward as more astronomical wonders alight over the capital.
    Canberra Astronomical Society president Bill Frost said the sky was a fascination for adults and children alike. ”The biggest ‘wow’ factors we get are the rings of Saturn and the craters of the moon,” Mr Frost said.”

  • Global Warming on Mars?

    “The European Space Agency (ESA) Mars Express has provided images of a remarkable crater on Mars that may show evidence that the planet underwent significant periodic fluctuations in its climate due to changes in its rotation axis.”

  • Hubble Spots a Bright Spark in a Nearby Spiral Galaxy

    “A new image, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows a detailed view of the spiral arms on one side of the galaxy Messier 99. Messier 99 is a so-called grand design spiral, with long, large and clearly defined spiral arms — giving it a structure somewhat similar to the Milky Way.”

  • Amateur astronomers put mobile RV observatory up for sale

    “Maryland-based amateur astronomers Dave and Pat Garland have put their custom built mobile RV observatory up for sale. Offered at a bargain price of $19,900.00 the 20-foot-long observatory – based on a Pace American cargo trailer with a tandem axle – incorporates a manual rotating dome and a Meade 12 inch LX200 GPS telescope.”

  • Astronomy students host car wash to oppose NASA cuts

    “Members of the New Mexico State University Astronomy Department worked to halt proposed cuts to NASA’s planetary exploration budget Saturday by hosting a car wash to raise funds and, more importantly, awareness about the issue. Motorists traveling on East Lohman Avenue were heralded by a shiny, silver robot to a parking lot beside the nearby AutoZone store where several graduate students and professors from NMSU’s Astronomy Department educated drivers on the proposed cuts that they say will be devastating to the nation’s future in space exploration, all while making sure their vehicles were sparkling clean.”

  • Search for alien life hit by the recession

    “Astronomers scanning the universe for signs of extra-terrestrial activity are facing a financial crisis that threatens to stall the 52-year search for intelligent life beyond Earth. The respected SETI Institute in California, which scours for clues to the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the universe, will be forced to curtail its radio telescope operations, which sweep the heavens for signals from other worlds, unless it can plug a multi-million dollar funding gap.”

  • Fast-snapping photographer captures Venus AND the Hubble telescope crossing the sun in once in a lifetime moment

    “As if catching a once-in-a-lifetime view of Venus crossing the sun wasn’t awesome enough, one lucky photographer managed to capture a little something extra with it. In less than a single second’s time, Astrophotographer Thierry Legault’s quick trigger-finger snapped NASA’s Hubble telescope zipping across the sun last week, in the same moment Venus made its own trek.”

  • What is sidereal time?

    “A sidereal day measures the rotation of Earth relative to the stars rather than the sun. It helps astronomers keep time and know where to point their telescopes without worrying about where Earth is in its orbit.”

  • Star brightness, put to music

    “At the Georgia Tech Sonification Lab, scientists have turned all sorts of data sets into music, including stock market prices and election results. Now, they’ve turned to data from distant stars.”

  • Alien Earths Could Form Earlier than Expected

    “Building a terrestrial planet requires raw materials that weren’t available in the early history of the universe. The Big Bang filled space with hydrogen and helium. Chemical elements like silicon and oxygen – key components of rocks – had to be cooked up over time by stars. But how long did that take? How many of such heavy elements do you need to form planets?”

  • NuSTAR Space Telescope Blasts Off

    “This morning, NASA’s NuSTAR telescope was launched into the low-Earth orbit from which it will begin exploring the high-energy X-ray universe to uncover the secrets of black holes, the dense remnants of dead stars, energetic cosmic explosions, and even our very own sun.”

  • Small Planets Don’t Need ‘Heavy Metal’ Stars to Form

    “The formation of small worlds like Earth previously was thought to occur mostly around stars rich in heavy elements such as iron and silicon. However, new ground-based observations, combined with data collected by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, show small planets form around stars with a wide range of heavy element content and suggest they may be widespread in our galaxy.”

  • Black Hole Growth Found to Be Out of Sync

    “New evidence from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory challenges prevailing ideas about how black holes grow in the centers of galaxies. Astronomers long have thought that a supermassive black hole and the bulge of stars at the center of its host galaxy grow at the same rate — the bigger the bulge, the bigger the black hole. However, a new study of Chandra data has revealed two nearby galaxies with supermassive black holes that are growing faster than the galaxies themselves.”


Creative Commons photo by NASAblueshift.



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