Friday, November 29, 2013
Saturday, November 16, 2013
Sunday, November 3, 2013
Monday, October 21, 2013
Friday, October 18, 2013
Saturday, October 12, 2013
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Friday, July 12, 2013
"This planet has been studied well in the past, both by ourselves and other teams, but measuring its colour is a real first — we can actually imagine what this planet would look like if we were able to look at it directly."TRESCA database. HD189733b has over 90 such observations from astronomers around the world.
"We saw the brightness of the whole system drop in the blue part of the spectrum when the planet passed behind its star. From this, we can gather that the planet is blue, because the signal remained constant at the other colours we measured."The planet's azure blue colour does not come from the reflection of a tropical ocean, but is due to a hazy, turbulent atmosphere thought to be laced with silicate particles, which scatter blue light. Earlier observations using different methods have reported evidence for scattering of blue light on the planet, but these most recent Hubble observations give robust confirming evidence, say the researchers. Looking out - Looking in! It is thought that inside the atmosphere the sunsets on HD 189733b could be red. If sodium absorbs red light and dust scatters red light, the atmosphere will redden light shining through it, but will appear blue in reflected light. The colours of Jupiter and Venus are both due to unknown particles within the atmospheres of the planets. Earth looks blue from space because the oceans absorb red and green wavelengths more strongly than blue ones, and reflect the blueish hue of our sky. The shorter blue wavelengths of sunlight are selectively scattered by oxygen and nitrogen molecules in our atmosphere via a process called Rayleigh scattering. So there we have it an azure blue planet that rains glass - I'll stop right there before I start to think of quirky analogies about what it takes to make glass ceilings come down. ;-) The new paper, titled "The deep blue colour of HD 189733b: albedo measurements with HST/STIS at visible wavelengths", will appear in the 1 August issue of the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters. The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.
Sunday, July 7, 2013
Saturday, June 15, 2013
Monday, June 10, 2013
Saturday, June 1, 2013
Monday, May 20, 2013
Sunday, April 28, 2013
Sunday, April 21, 2013
* Universities are under pressure
* Money is scarce
* Math and Science literacy standards are declining
And yet * The STEM curriculum has been put in place
* Social media and online collaboration are driving new communities of interest
* There are torrents of data "left over" from many science projects
* People are enjoying engaging with good communicators who can explain the wonders around us
* The good communicators are plugging energetic citizen scientists into quality projects
* Citizen scientists are being rewarded with the richest of gifts - a sense of community and belonging
Much of this activity in time will be self-sustaining. Uwingu was set up for exactly this purpose, to use social media and crowd-sourcing to raise money for science research. They have been running a naming competition for exo-planet Alpha Centauri Bb where people can spend $1 to vote for their favourite planet name. They have exercised their due diligence and pointed out there is no guarantee the names will ever stick and have made it a "fun thing" and of course people's competitive spirit has kicked in. The result has been a modest success, but still a great boundary pushing exercise, that has produced some fantastic potential names and raised over $6000 USD that will go towards science research. The competition closes on April 22nd and there is still time to participate in the fun and help fund science research. Each planet carries a Citation that details the thinking behind the nomination and these are well worth a read, as many are well thought out and significant to science, sci-fi authors, and famous scientists and astronauts. I have nominated Citizen Science as my contribution, although I was tempted to nomiate "The Australian Labor Party" as they seem to be on a very different planet, also cutting another $2.3 BILLION (Aud) out of University education funding this week. My citation for Citizen Science Reads:
Citizen Science is a term for leveraging the power of "the crowd" to process torrents of scientific data by leveraging the extra effort of "science aware" citizens through social media. Citizen Scientists are engaged to tap their enthusiasm for science and provide a faster and more innovative path to science goals by sorting and categorizing data and highlighting points of interest that professional scientists can explore with greater depth.Citizen Science is currently coming 6th behind the first three placeholders of Rakhat, Caleo and Amara. Rakhat is the planet at the center of Mary Doria Russell's "The Sparrow", a first contact novel about a Jesuit mission to the first identified inhabited planet. Caleo (pronounced ka.le.o) is Latin for "I am warm or hot" also figuratively "I am warm, new or fresh", again a very suitable name for a planet that is clearly not in the Goldilocks Zone. All this of course has been predictably poo-hoo-ed by the IAU who this week issued a press release assuring people they are doing their money. Once again they miss the point, people who band together around a community of interest and put their money on the table for the common good, are creating new business models, and new methods are getting "more done with more". Once upon a time, we called these types of organizations co-ops. The Dairy Co-Ops of 30-40 years ago have been monstered by market economics, but the community spirit and sense of belonging that under pins much of our human need lives on. Dr Pamela Gay has the most marketable commodity of all in her skillset - the ability to answer endless questions that are never treated as silly, and communicate science in a way that makes you want to be part of it. After 30 years of corporate life, my interest in Astronomy and in particular exo-planets was re-engaged by a seemly silly statement - "we will find a water world just waiting for a B Grade movie to be filmed on it". That statement was made by Pamela on a podcast - new media - reaching fresh faces through the new economic platform of the iTunes store. What an impact that one "silly" statement has had: My telescope now does over 60 hours of science every month, it is a vital part of H06 the "Top 30" asteroid hunting Observatory run by iTelescope.net, is used by Universities from Seoul to our friends in Boston, and I have been graciously included as a co-author on two science papers, due to my own observations. LESSON: People WILL engage and contribute for the greater good, enabling science and education to do "more with more". Resources are abundant if you know how to gather people, leverage the crowd, and keep their strengths aligned to the goals of a community. Dr Pamela Gay and her amazing staff will prevail! The real question is will NASA be the beneficiaries or the spectators as this happens. Astronomy's Paradigm is shifting - FAST! Are you going to make it happen, watch it happen, or wonder what happened! Please support them at Cosmoquest. Vote for Citizen Science at uwingu.com Further reading: Astroswanny's great article on Astronomy 3.0 in the December 2012 newsletter of Variable Stars South.
Friday, April 12, 2013
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Sunday, March 31, 2013
The Carnival of Space is a community of interest blog carnival, bringing together the best and brightest Astronomy & Space Blogs at a single point in space and time (commonly referred to as a web address) each week. Previous episodes can be found here. If you run an astronomy or space science blog you can contact carnivalofspace @ gmail.com to be added to the editorial circulation list.
Saturday, March 30, 2013
Friday, March 29, 2013
Friday, March 1, 2013
Many questions......where to start!
Image Credit: 4m AAT at Siding Spring. (c)P.Lake
Like - why is this such an A1 comet? Perhaps we won't go the humor angle, but as it is the first comet of the new year, discovered by Rob McNaught that's just what it is A1. Rob McNaught is a well known asteroid and comet hunter (Observatory Code E12) who is the front line of southern asteroid hunting with over 450 asteroid discoveries to his credit. Some people think its A1 because there is a very slim chance, it just might, do something that no one has ever seen before - hit Mars.
Comet discoveries are announced by the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams at the International Astronomy Union often after passing through the Minor Planet Center, and carry both the numerical designation and the name of the discoverer of the comet. Rob has so many discoveries he can pretty much name them what he likes.
C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) is an apt name as it is where Rob does most of his work. The Siding Spring Observatory is a premier astronomy site managed by the Australian National University, and home of the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO). See my article on CosmoQuest about the recent fires that recently ripped through the area. It is also known as Mount Woorat in the Warrumbungle Ranges - Warrumbungle means "Crooked Mountains" in the local Aboriginal dialect.
Image Credit: The "crooked mountains" from the viewing platform behind the 4m Australian Astronomical Telescope. (c) P.Lake
There is a most interesting way to find your way to Siding Spring. In a master stroke of tourism marketing the local shire has constructed the world's longest Solar System Drive where no matter which direction you come from, you drive through a 1:38 million scale Solar System with great signage of each planet at strategic little stops along the highway. AND YES FOLKS.......Pluto is still a planet in this solar system, or at least deserving of a sign still at the little town of Bellata on the Newell Highway.
Talking of long distance travel..... NASA has a mission on its way to Mars, and of course, three rovers already there not to mention the other satellites in orbit. The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) Mission is going to Mars to study the possible reason's for the loss of Mars atmosphere. It takes off on November 18 2013 and will arrive at Mars on September 16th 2014, just weeks before Comet 2013 A1 (Siding Spring) has its incredibly close encounter with Mars. The latest astrometry being processed suggests the Coma could actually dust the surface of Mars if its current MOID (minimum distance) is proven to be correct and doesn't increase with the collection of more data. Its still early days in the data gathering!
The MAVEN Mission folks need to go an buy a lotto ticket - seriously! Whilst the NASA folks get the calculators out and evaluate the pros and cons of losing three rovers Vs Parking a satellite sent to study the volatile evolution of atmospheres inside the coma of a comet. Time will tell what they are going to be thinking about that!
Image Credit: Dr Ian Musgrave's [Astroblog] simulation in the Celestia Software package
On top of that, the chatter on the Minor Planet mailing lists is that if a (still very unlikely) impact were to occur, the energy release would be about 3 times as much as the impact of Shoemaker-Levy 9 fragment G that hit Jupiter on my birthday in 1994. Well placed in Australia, with the first impact just after dusk, I was one of the first in the world to see it live on my little 4.5 inch reflector with a maxed out barlow. This literally had a big impact on me and was one of two events that re-engaged me with my childhood love of astronomy. The cloud kicked up by SL-9 fragment G was bigger than Earth!
So one of my favourite spots on planet earth - Siding Spring is in the news again, hopefully we can all share some more excitement about the home of telescopes in the "Crooked Mountains".
PS: I'll grab some photos of C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) from iTelescope.net's Observatory as soon as the weather clears.
Friday, February 22, 2013
The amazing events of the past astronomical week have been quite breath taking.
From discovering that Russia has the highest density of dashboard camera's of any nation on earth to the complete overshadowing of a significant asteroid pass by (in the tradition of modern TV Marketing) something that no-one saw coming!!!
What a week its been!
The interesting thing about the Chelyabinsk Meteor, according to NASA, its officially the biggest event/impact since Tunguska in 1908. 2008 TC3 about 5-8 meters diameter was the first asteroid to be picked up by astronomers just hours before it hit the earth over Sudan in October 2008, appears to have been somewhat smaller than the Chelyabinsk Meteor.
So here I am just as guilty spending all my time talking about the Chelyabinsk Meteor and not about 2012 DA14.
At its closest approach 2012 DA14 was hooting across the sky at 3000 arcsecs per minute, in fact it went from near the Southern Celestial Pole to close to the Northern Celestial Pole in less than 24 hours. It was very difficult to photograph, as until it began its seriously fast run across the sky, it was very low in the south and very close to the horizon limits of most telescopes and setting shortly after dark.
Image Credit - iTelescope.net Observatory at Siding Spring - Peter Lake
Its now a little more reachable and travelling at a much slower speed, which means its time to get busy. The OSIRIS-Rex Team have also asked for photometry on it as well. It is now well placed in the north but as it Zooooooomed past earth, the new iTelescope.net observatory was the center of the action with some great images shot from there, including one that made it onto the NASA News page by Ernesto Guido and Nick Howes.
Anyway I hope you little my little video of some of the action on the evening of the 18th Feb.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Last night's Occultation of Jupiter by our Moon was a hoot.
Its actually quite deceptive, as due to the rotation of the earth, the moon moves across the sky fairly quickly, but takes some time to catch up with Jupiter, moving about 12 degrees per 24 hours against the back ground stars - half a degree per hour.
Jupiter for the purpose of this exercise is practically stationary, but you can see Jupiter's own moons move over the course of an hour.
An Occcultation occurs when the (our) Moon moves in front of Jupiter - This can happen a number of times in a year depending on where you are located, the last visible from South Australia in the predawn back in Oct 2012.
Last nights occultation resulted in a first touch at 22:56:17 Local (11:56 UT) and was complete at 23:07:48 12:07 UT).
In spite of a few dramas with flat camera batteries needing quick a re-charge and the Moon disappearing behind trees, it was a good result all round. ENJOY!
Sunday, January 13, 2013
Potentially hazardous asteroid 99942 Apophis passed earth this week allowing astronomers a window of opportunity to get some radar data (highly accurate) on it pass.
Astronomers from NASA, JPL and MPC announced that Apophis will miss the earth in 2036, something they were unable to definitely say previously.
I captured these images from the new iT30 0.5m Planewave at iTelescope.net's new SSO observatory.
Also there is a little bonus at the end of the video with a scan code for a free download of my signature shot of the Swan Nebula. Enjoy!
Also please vote in my poll on how bright will Comet ISON be in 2013/2014. (see right hand side bar). I am going to try and up the level of interaction and rate of posts this year, as I am getting so much great feedback from you all.
Happy New Year and a great 2013 to you all!!!