astronomy round-up: 17 August 2012

Curiosity Landing Site in Gale Crater (NASA, Mars, 2001)


It’s Oregon Star Party week! We’re actually up in the Ochocos right now—I’ve pre-loaded this week’s round-up—and hope to have stories and photos to share upon our return.

So, admit it: Just how big is your crush on NASA’s “Mohawk Guy”?

This week’s round-up of astronomy and science stories:

  • UCLA scientist discovers plate tectonics on Mars

    “For years, many scientists had thought that plate tectonics existed nowhere in our solar system but on Earth. Now, a UCLA scientist has discovered that the geological phenomenon, which involves the movement of huge crustal plates beneath a planet’s surface, also exists on Mars.”

  • First 360° panorama from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover

    “Remarkable image sets from NASA’s Curiosity rover and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRS) are continuing to develop the story of Curiosity’s landing and first days on Mars.”

  • Scientists Discover Galactic Cluster Rapidly Giving Birth To Stars

    “Located 5.7 billion light years from Earth, the galaxy at the center of the Phoenix is – or at least was several billion years ago – the site of some of the most rapid star formation that astronomers have ever seen.”

  • Mining the astronomical literature

    “The ADS service provides access to abstracts for virtually all of the astronomical literature. But it also provides access to the full text of more than half a million papers, going right back to the start of peer-reviewed journals in the 1800s. The service has links to online data archives, along with reference and citation information for each of the papers, and it’s all searchable and downloadable.”

  • What Can We Do to Reduce Our Light Footprint?

    “Americans do squander a lot of electricity keeping things lit up at night while most of us sleep. This light blocks our view of the night sky and stars, creates glare hazards on roads, messes with our circadian sleep-wake rhythms, interrupts the patterns of nocturnal wildlife, and is by and large annoying. It also takes a financial toll: The federally funded National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) reports that poorly-aimed, unshielded outdoor lights waste $2 billion (17.4 billion kilowatt-hours) of energy in the U.S. each year.”

  • Will we find life in space?

    “One of my favorite aspects of astronomy is how it tackles the biggest questions we humans have. How did this all begin? What is the ultimate fate of the Universe? Are we alone?”

  • Neptune’s time to shine

    “Now’s the time to search out Neptune. On August 24, this distant planet reaches opposition, meaning it lies opposite the Sun in our sky, giving it the year’s biggest and brightest appearance. It then rises in the east at sunset, remains visible all night among the stars of Aquarius the Water-bearer, and sets in the west at sunrise. The world is still too dim and distant to see with naked eyes, but it shines at a relatively bright magnitude of 7.8 and should be easy to spot through binoculars or a telescope.”

  • What if all the Kepler exoplanet candidates orbited one star?

    “This is pretty cool: astronomer Alex Parker took all the planet candidates found by the Kepler telescope – nearly 2300 planets in all – and made an animation showing what they would look like if they all orbited one star.”

  • Recreating a Slice of the Universe

    “Scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and their colleagues at the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) have invented a new computational approach that can accurately follow the birth and evolution of thousands of galaxies over billions of years. For the first time it is now possible to build a universe from scratch that brims with galaxies like we observe around us.”



Creative Commons photo by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.



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