astronomy round-up: 20 July 2012

Barred Spiral Galaxy

My astronomy news this week is that it looks like I get to go to the Oregon Star Party this year! I’m pretty excited about this, and am investing a good bit of time and energy in making sure Dysautonomia won’t be a problem. I’ll probably feel the altitude, but it doesn’t look like the site is at a high elevation to cause real problems for me, and I’ll be packing lots of water and a sun shade to help deal with the heat (I also understand there’s a swimming hole not far away).

Now for the stories I’ve been following this week:

  • X-rays reveal the violent side of the universe

    “Astronomers study light from all across the electromagnetic spectrum to piece together the story of the universe. X-ray astronomy looks at high energy, short wavelength light ? over 40 times smaller than the shortest wavelength our eyes can detect. This light, emitted by gas heated to millions of degrees, provides a glimpse into extreme environments like black holes, neutron stars, and colliding galaxies.”

  • Bicycle Astronomer Battles Light Pollution With Inspiration

    “Yet just as dreams end with the blaring of an alarm clock, so too is that night sky being lost to light pollution. And it?s because of this that Doug Reilly, an amateur astronomer based in Geneva, New York, believes that astronomy can be one of the greatest tools of social awareness. He hopes to bring this about by inspiring a sense of wonder, and is bringing this about by creating Bicycle Astronomy and building a new type of bicycle and a new type of telescope to make it possible.”

  • Can astronomers detect exoplanet oceans?

    “Given the plethora of confirmed exoplanets, many researchers have turned their attention to studying these strange new worlds in greater detail. With several exoplanets thought to orbit in the ?habitable zone? of their host star where liquid water might be stable, different methods of detecting surface water are under development. One such proposed method of detecting water oceans on an exoplanet is via specular re?ection, also known as ?glint?. If you’ve seen a bright reflection of sunlight on a lake or ocean here on Earth, you’ve seen an example of the glint effect.”

  • 6 Astronomy Movies That Won?t Bore You To Death

    “The initial reaction people have when someone talks about astronomy or astronomy movies is to find an exit strategy. The one exception to this is on a first date: it can be charming and actually work to your advantage, as long as you know what you’re talking about. For the most part, astronomy is generally considered too complex and is not something people would want to watch onscreen for an extended period of time. However, there are a number of astronomy movies out there that won’t bore you to death, ranging from documentaries to feature films with incredible stories.”

  • Exoplanet smaller than Earth discovered

    “Astronomers say a planet two-thirds the size of Earth and 33 light-years away may be the nearest world to our solar system smaller than our home planet.”

  • Astronomers discover oldest spiral galaxy in the universe (+video)

    “Ancient starlight traveling for 10.7 billion years has brought a surprise ? evidence of a spiral galaxy long before other spiral galaxies are known to have formed.”

  • Multi-telescope view two million times sharper than human eye reveals black hole

    “Scientists using three telescopes spaced thousands of miles apart have caught the best look ever of the center of a distant quasar, an ultra-bright galaxy with a giant black hole at its core. By linking powerful radio telescopes in Chile, Arizona and Hawaii together, astronomers created a deep-space observing system with 2 million times sharper vision than the human eye, which gave them the most detailed direct view ever of a supermassive black hole inside a galaxy 5 billion light-years from Earth.”

  • ‘Deflector Shields’ protect the Lunar Surface

    “Scientists from RAL Space at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory have solved a lunar mystery and their results might lead the way to determining if the same mechanism could be artificially manipulated to create safe havens for future space explorers. Their work focussed on the origin of the enigmatic “lunar swirls” – swirling patches of relatively pale lunar soil, some measuring several tens of km across, which have been an unresolved mystery – until now.”

  • 1 million Earths

    “Have you ever tried to visualize how many Earth’s would fit in the Sun? The Sun’s diameter is roughly 100 times larger than the Earth’s so, in volume, that means around 100x100x100 (1 million) Earth’s fit within the Sun. 1 million is a large number and can be tricky to imagine. The Universe Awareness Project in Germany have created this ball of Earth’s to show exactly that.”

  • How to Build a Middleweight Black Hole

    “A new model shows how an elusive type of black hole can be formed in the gas surrounding their supermassive counterparts. In research published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, scientists from the American Museum of Natural History, the City University of New York, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology, and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics propose that intermediate-mass black holes?light-swallowing celestial objects with masses ranging from hundreds to many thousands of times the mass of the Sun?can grow in the gas disks around supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies. The physical mechanism parallels the model astrophysicists use to describe the growth of giant planets in the gas disks surrounding stars.”

Creative Commons photo by NASA Goddard Photo and Video.

Posted in astronomy & science.

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