Jun 15

Hubble observes chaotic dance of Pluto’s moons

Source: ESA/Hubble

heic1512aThe chaotic spin of Pluto’s moon Nix.
Image credits: NASA, ESA, M. Showalter (SETI Inst.), G. Bacon (STScI).

In a new study, scientists have gathered all available NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope data on the four outer moons of Pluto to analyse the system in more depth than ever before. The observations show that at least two of Pluto’s moons are not neatly rotating on their axes but are in chaotic rotation while orbiting around Pluto and its companion Charon. The study also hints that one of the moons has a mysterious jet-black colouring. These surprising results appear in the 4 June issue of the journal Nature.(read more)

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May 13

Planets Aligning in the Sunset Sky

Source: NASA Science Casts - YouTube

Mercury, Venus and Jupiter are lining up for a beautiful sunset conjunction at the end of May.

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Nov 12

Born-again star foreshadows fate of Solar System

Source: ESA

Abell 30: a born-again planetary nebula.
Image credits: Main image: X-ray: ESA/XMM-Newton;
optical: NSF/NOAO/KPNO; inset: NASA/CXC/IAA-CSIC/M. Guerrero et al;
optical: NASA/STScI

Astronomers have found evidence for a dying Sun-like star coming briefly back to life after casting its gassy shells out into space, mimicking the possible fate our own Solar System faces in a few billion years. (read more)

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Sep 12

Is Triton Hiding an Underground Ocean?

At 1,680 miles (2,700 km) across, the frigid and wrinkled Triton is Neptune’s largest moon and the seventh largest in the Solar System. It orbits the planet backwards – that is, in the opposite direction that Neptune rotates – and is the only large moon to do so, leading astronomers to believe that Triton is actually a captured Kuiper Belt Object that fell into orbit around Neptune at some point in our solar system’s nearly 4.7-billion-year history.

Briefly visited by Voyager 2 in late August 1989, Triton was found to have a curiously mottled and rather reflective surface nearly half-covered with a bumpy “cantaloupe terrain” and a crust made up of mostly water ice, wrapped around a dense core of metallic rock. But researchers from the University of Maryland are suggesting that between the ice and rock may lie a hidden ocean of water, kept liquid despite estimated temperatures of -97°C (-143°F), making Triton yet another moon that could have a subsurface sea.

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Jul 12

Action Sun at St Pauls Senior Girls School Dublin 12 - What's up for July 2012 from Jane Houston Jones

3rd class girls St Pauls Senior Girls NS Greenhills Dublin 12
We built the sun at school

3rd class girls St Pauls Senior Girls NS Greenhills Dublin 12
We built the sun at school

St Pauls Senior Girls National School in Greenhill’s Dublin 12 is just a few minutes’ walk from the house where I grew up.  It was fortuitous to have the opportunity to carry out my third Action Sun for a school in this area.

On June 25th 47 young girls from third class, took part in building the sun. This was a very positive group all eager to get going and get busy. Streamers of orange and red paper flew through the air in vast amounts. In a short time the photosphere began to grow in the schools courtyard.

The activity of Action Sun supports the school curriculum in its art as it uses mixed media to create the sun. The program uses paint and paper to convey activity and explosive movement on the solar disc. Action Sun also supports primary school art as it enables children to use the characteristics of the materials to make structures and features on the solar disc. Making the sun in this way is both creative and explorative. Learning a little science through the arts facilitates the use of many kinds of intelligences.  The learning process in the making is as valuable as the finished suns. Textures and spatial   organisation also comes into the creation of this work. The girls at St Pauls School were very good at working as a group, helping each other out. They also made good decisions during the activity which showed they were an excellent team. This is kinesthetic learning, learning by doing.

Action Sun compliments science in the primary school curriculum on several levels.   A short information talk in between making the suns features informs the children about our suns role in the solar system. We talk about the scale of the sun and the Earth. We talk about the energy of the sun and its function in relation to the other planets.  The mini talks make sure that the children understand that the sun is our main source of heat and light.  By building the sun the children learn by hands on investigation. The children literally explore the physical features of the sun with their hands in mini scale. A quick review of the evaluation sheets shows the quality of the learning. Several children not only drew sketches of the complex sun but also put in arrows to the different features and labelled them all correctly. The action of throwing the paper was very popular, signing their names was also a highlight and for some children carrying the sun into the hall was the stand out moment of the day.

When I look at the sun in my solar telescope I see a huge amount of detail and very often in the past I have shared that view with children. However it takes a long time to show this view to a large group as the sun presents as a small disc with tiny features. It is difficult for children to comprehend the enormous scale of our nearest star.  I put Action Sun together to bridge that gap and help more people achieve some understanding of this wonderful star in safety with a big fun element.

The features of the sun itself were totally new to this young group, but at the end of the programme words like photosphere, chromosphere, filaments, prominences and sunspots were all a little more familiar. We closed our eyes at the end of the build and held our faces up to the sun to feel its heat and remind ourselves that it takes eight minutes for its light to get to us here on Earth, a 93 million mile smile. Building the sun took about 90 minutes. The 7.9 X 4.9 meter tarpaulin was pre prepared at home using four litres of matte black masonry paint. During  the activity we used approx 3,500 individual pre cut  pieces of crepe paper ,15 litres of washable  PVA glue, 6 litres of yellow paint , 1 litre of red paint,  plus the energy of forty seven eight and nine year old third class girls.

My thanks to Sarah Jayne Reid for setting up Action Sun at St Pauls and to Phil Curran for all her efforts prior to, during and post the build. Thanks to Ms Keating, Ms Daly and Principal Sr Maureen for their support during the activity.  NASA Sun Earth Day bookmarks, posters and other educational material were provided to the teachers.  The solar feature data for this Action Sun was an observation of the disc made from my PST earlier that morning.  The Solar Dynamics Observatory website was pointed out to the girls so they could continue to watch the sun safely.


More images on my blog here

Whats Up for July 2012 from Jane Houston Jones

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Jun 12

Voyager 1 at the Final Frontier

Source: NASA Science Casts


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Apr 12

News from Ireland

As the city gears up for Dublin: City of Science 2012, we take a journey with amateur astronomer and artist Deirdre Kelleghan whose equal passion for science and art is demonstrated in her work. Deirdre is a Discover Science and Engineering Science Ambassador 2012, Vice Chair of the Irish Federation of Astronomical Societies, National Co-ordinator for Astronomers Without Borders, as well as being UNAWE rep in Ireland. Deirdre will also be contributing to the Dublin City Public Libraries programme of events for Dublin: City of Science 2012.

The city on a sun drenched day.  The Spire reflects and swirls the vibrant life of Dubliners mingled with mirrored   clouds and the dominant blue light from our nearest star. Flower sellers petals are jollied by the brightness.  Mica within the Liffey’s walls sparkle; ice cream melts down smiling faces. Celtic skin hovers in winters long lost vitamin, a gift from the sun, 93 million miles from the city. We enjoy our sophisticated fully functioning star, down here on one of the left over bits from its formation.

When we analyse light from our sun or any star we can see the arrangement of elements within its spectra.  Looking into a star’s pattern of elements is like looking at the code of that star, its personal finger print, its DNA.  Humans are bound together by the same elements which were created during   the birth and death of stars. Our essence is ultimately recycled throughout unimaginable eons of time, black space and accreted molecular clouds.

Read More here On Life and Light full version

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Apr 12

My April Blog - Astronomy to Inspire and Educate Young Children: EU Universe Awareness Workshop from 26 Mar 2012 through 30 Mar 2012 - What's Up for April 2012


Windmill in central Leiden
'The Rhine is one of  the longest rivers in Europe' this long lost primary school fact popped into my head as I ate my delicious Goats Cheese, Nuts and Honey Salad. I was sitting on the deck surrounding my hotel in Leiden, watching Dutch families enjoying the waterway. Their Sunday picnics were neatly arranged onboard, as they glided along in the welcome sunshine. 

When I arrived in Amsterdam some hours earlier I admired the fact that the train station was in the airport and then the bus station was in the train station in Leiden.  This was joined up thinking and so was the week ahead of me.  

Professor George Miley and Pedro Russo had invited me to come to Leiden University to take part in a UNAWE workshop and series of talks with other like minded individuals. It turned out to be a very eclectic mix of outreach educators all with a common affiliation too UNAWE or AWB or both. In the invited group of 59 individuals there was 26 countries represented. It was inspiring to be part of such an erudite gathering of minds and intentions.

I was particularly pleased to be asked to give a PechaKucha 20X20 presentation about my new activity for children called Action Sun. This Art/ Science activity is designed to bring the sun to Earth in real time using paper paint and energy.

A PenchaKucha talk is 20 slides with 20 seconds to speak about each slide. The slides change automatically so you have to stick to the subject and get your points across in double quick time. Twelve other PenchaKucha's followed mine from a wonderful bunch of presenters.

2.    Jaya Ramchandani (India): Universe in a box
3.    Grace Kimble (UK): Evaluation
4.    Angela Perez (Colombia): Astronomy Clubs for Children
5.    Claudio Paulo (Mozambique): Astronomy education in Mozambique
6.    Cristina Olivotto (Italy/Netherlands): Space Camps for Children
7.    Catalina Movileanu (Romania): UNAWE Romania
8.    Premysl Velek (Belgium): Scientix
9.    Eric Chisholm (Canada): Astronomy & Art projects for Children
10.  Avivah Yamany Ryadi (Indonesia): Transit of Venus 2012 and Children
11.  Thilina Heenatigala (Sri Lanka): UNAWE Sri Lanka
Mponda Sibuor (France ) Astronomy in Tanzania
13.  Carla Natário (Portugal/ Netherlands): Transit of Venus 2012 UNAWE
Project  Timor-Leste

To my delight Action Sun was very well received and I hope it will be part
of Dublin City of Science 2012 shortly.

The activity I have created  helps groups of children to  understand the sun and some of  its features safely without the need for viewing the solar disc visually.  I have developed both an outdoor and indoor version all of which will be extremely colourful and I hope satisfying to the children who will  take part in it over the next few months.

It was an honour to hear talks given by  scientists and educators who had a wealth of experience over many years in outreach. It was a joy to meet several people who were only known to me via e mail and with whom I had engaged on interesting astronomical projects. One of the most useful activities of the week  for me was talking part in the evaluation working  groups  and meeting up with some people who were very adept at that aspect of outreach education. 

One of the most uplifting experiences was seeing the vast numbers of children and young people being touched by astronomy in many ways. Professor Mark Baileys Human Orrery in Armagh, Olayinka Fagbemiro (Nigeria) with her enormous smiling childrens group in Africa. Marcello  Souza's fun energetic outreach in Brazil , Mponda Sibuor beautiful work in Tanzania all stick in my mind. It was also amazing to listen to Maria Luchetti tell her story of twenty years doing creative but very practical astronomy outreach teacher training  at the Rosa Sansat teacher training facility (via   translator Rosa Ros (Barcelona, Spain)

Before I left the University I recorded a piece to camera for Brazilain TV via Marcelo de Oliveira Souza and a piece to camera for 365 Days of Astronomy for UNAWE via  Jaya Ramchandani . The entire experience gave me new eyes to look at both myself and others. It gave me a huge respect for outreach education being carried on in Africa and other countries with many difficulties in their  everyday lives.

The group  attending the workshop week were collectively delighted when Professor George Miley founder of UNAWE  was presented with  The Order of the Lion (the Netherlands highest honour) at the official opening of the talks at the old observatory in Leiden.

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Feb 12

Alien Matter in the Solar System: A Galactic Mismatch

Source: NASA Science Casts

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Jan 12

The two faces of Titan's dunes

Source: ESA

Dune fields on Titan (Belet and Fensal)compared with two
similar dune fields on Earth in Rub Al Khali, Saudi Arabia.
Image credit: NASA/JPL–Caltech/ASI/ESA and USGS/ESA
A new analysis of radar data from the international Cassini spacecraft has revealed regional variations amongst Titan's sand dunes. The result yields new clues to the giant moon's climatic and geological history.(read more)
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Nov 11

Probe data shows evidence of liquid water on icy Europa

Source: NASA/Galileo Mission

Artist's concept depicts Europa's "Great Lake.
Image credits: Britney Schmidt/Dead Pixel VFX/Univ. of Texas at Austin.


Data from a NASA planetary mission have provided scientists evidence of what appears to be a body of liquid water, equal in volume to the North American Great Lakes, beneath the icy surface of Jupiter's moon, Europa.

The data suggest there is significant exchange between Europa's icyshell and the ocean beneath. This information could bolster arguments that Europa's global subsurface ocean represents a potential habitat for life elsewhere in our solar system. The findings are published in the scientific journal Nature.(read more)

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Oct 11

Deadly Moons for Our Lady of the Wayside National School, Bluebell, Dublin 12 Sept 27th 2011

Moon artists at Our Lady of the Wayside National School

Deirdre Kelleghan

Bluebell,  what a lovely fresh word evoking joy, wonder and energy. These were the qualities I found in the children who took part in Deadly Moons at their school in west Dublin on Tuesday September 27th.   This group had multicultural backgrounds, Irish Travellers, Irish, Polish, African the Philippines and other communities were represented in their little faces.

The woman in the Moon ( adapted )  from a Traveller legend was one of the stories I told about the full Moon. I used Peter Riesett’s   black and white harvest Moon image to put over this story as his photograph  clearly illustrated the Woman in the Moon hidden in the lunar maria very well indeed.  Several children were captivated by this story which I found on The Barefoot Pavee website.   I like to tell tiny stories about various moons in the presentation as children listen and retain stories better than just plain facts.

Once again Saturn’s moon Tethys was a must do for some children, while the image of our Moon in false colour prompted many positive vocal gasps. Lennox was very keen to try to draw the harvest moon in black and white including the Woman in the Moon. Eddie age 9 was such a busy helpful  boy, he produced an energetic drawing of our moon in false colour including Tycho and its rays. Ben age 8 created a gorgeous subtly shaded moon in false colour and added an explosive Tycho crater ray system afterwards.  There was great variety in the drawings produced   by this group , Atlas by Aaron age 8 , Callisto by Saviour , First Quarter Moon by Alannah age 9 and a half, all wonderful drawings !!

The entire group were very engaged, there was a lot of energy in the room all going into the drawings and the learning.  As each moon was finished they were put on display until all the work was on the wall, looking great.

Our Lady of the Wayside National School is under the DEIS scheme and benefits in many ways because of it.  Creativity in the Classroom facilitator Liz McMahon  invited me to run my workshop for the children of Ms.Dalton's 3rd and 4th and Ms. McDermott's 3rd and 4th classes. The school also had an excellent audio visual set up, this is one of the many extra‘s this school has at its disposal because it is in a designated disadvantaged area.

Liz McMahon  is intending over the next few weeks to build on what the children have learnt and continue to create drawings and creative works inspired directly from their experiences at my workshop. Our Lady of the Wayside National School Bluebell Dublin

Moon cards provided by Jane Houston Jones JPL/NASA were given to each child. Educational outreach material which was also provided by JPL/NASA was given to each teacher for the classroom.

A few children who lived near the school were invited to talk to me after the workshop to see how it all went for them.  The interview is here, unedited just the way it unfolded, some quiet children, some very vocal children, all little gems.



Deadly Moons Drawing Workshop in Bluebell Dublin an informal chat with some of the children


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Aug 11

The Sky by Eye from Durrus Co Cork Ireland plus What's Up for August 2011 - Windy Worlds plus Juno to Jupiter


A drawing of the night sky in Durrus Co Cork n Persei to a Cyg

August 17th /18th    2010

Time : 23:45 UT - 00:45 UT

August 2010 I was staying in a cute house  close to the village of Durrus in Co Cork. This little place is the gateway to exploring the outstanding Sheeps Head peninsula.  The night sky down there was seriously beautiful to the eye; one did not need a telescope to enjoy it.


Earlier in the evening I had a look into Sagittarius before it got too low, then as the night followed on I was inspired to do a naked eye drawing of the sky above my head.




To give me the best option for a sketch I retreated to the back garden, away from the car park lights. I turned off the lights in the house; the village light pollution was minimal. Dark adaption came to me in about 25 minutes, and death would come to anybody who turned on a light.

Bliss greeted my eyes as the wonders of the summer sky opened up for me, the seeing was good.
We had brought along comfy canvas beach chairs, one of these was fine to sink into and observe.  My tools for the drawing were a sheet of black paper, a clip board, a white gel pen, finely grated white pastel, blending stick ,cotton wool,  and a red head light.

My working area was the star n Persei and from that visualy  along the galaxy  to a Cyg. I carefully added the stars in each visible  constellation .  Larger brighter dots according to magnitude and so on and so forth till I had a star map on my paper which mirrored the sky above my head and toward the North East. The Double Cluster and Andromeda were crystal clear naked eye objects, not usual from my home garden at all. The placement of these objects was very helpful in lining up significant stars like alpha Cyg ie Deneb in the constellation Cygnus and all the stars that made  paths in the sky to each other.

A small wad of cotton wool loaded carefully with finely grated white pastel was how I added the magnificent Milky Way and all its visible star laden tendrils. When my drawing was almost finished a long trailing Perseid shot from n Persei, went flying past Cassiopeia and ended its journey just short of   delta Cep . At its leading end for a nano second I noticed a sickle shaped flick of white. This meteor and its unusual flick was added into my drawing . It was a few weeks before I could look this up and discover that some Perseids produce visible bow shocks in front of themselves as they enter our atmosphere.  However so far I have only come across records of Perseids bow shocks that were caught on film, so would love to know if anyone has seen one by eye while observing. skysketcher@gmail.com

Deirdre Kelleghan

What's Up for August 2011 Windy Worlds and JUNO to Jupiter

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Jul 11

Cassini spacecraft captures images andsounds of big Saturn storm

Source: NASA/Cassini

Huge storm churning through the atmosphere in Saturn's northern hemisphere.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

Scientists analyzing data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft now have the first-ever, up-close details of a Saturn storm that is eight times the surface area of Earth.

On Dec. 5, 2010, Cassini first detected the storm that has been raging ever since. It appears at approximately 35 degrees north latitude on Saturn. Pictures from Cassini's imaging cameras show the storm wrapping around the entire planet covering approximately 1.5 billion square miles (4 billion square kilometers).

The storm is about 500 times larger than the biggest storm previously seen by Cassini during several months from 2009 to 2010. Scientists studied the sounds of the new storm's lightning strikes and analyzed images taken between December 2010 and February 2011. Data from Cassini's radio and plasma wave science instrument showed the lightning flash rate as much as 10 times more frequent than during other storms monitored since Cassini's arrival to Saturn in 2004. The data appear in a paper published this week in the journal Nature.(read more)

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Jul 11

Clocking the spin of Neptune

Source: Space Daily

By tracking atmospheric features on Neptune, a UA planetary scientist has accurately determined the planet's rotation, a feat that had not been previously achieved for any of the gas planetsin our solar system except Jupiter.

A day on Neptune lasts precisely 15 hours, 57 minutes and 59 seconds, according to the first accurate measurement of its rotational period made by University of Arizona planetary scientist Erich Karkoschka. (read more)

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Jun 11

NASA Mission suggests Sun and planets constructed differently

Source: NASA/Genesis

Image credit: NASA.

Analysis of samples returned by NASA's Genesis mission indicates our sun and its inner planets may have formed differently than scientists previously thought.

The data revealed slight differences in the types of oxygen and nitrogen present on the sun and planets. The elements are among the  most abundant in our solar system. Although the differences are slight, the implications could help determine how our solar system evolved.

The air on Earth contains three different kinds of oxygen atoms, which are differentiated by the number of neutrons they contain. Nearly 100 percent of oxygen atoms in the solar system are composed of O-16, but there also are tiny amounts of more exotic oxygen isotopes called O-17 and O-18. Researchers studying the oxygen of Genesis samples
found that the percentage of O-16 in the sun is slightly higher than on Earth, the moon, and meteorites. The other isotopes' percentages were slightly lower. (read more)

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Jun 11

Cassini observes icy spray of Enceladus' water plumes

Source: NASA/Cassini

Plumes spray water ice out of the surface of Enceladus.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/SSI.

Cassini spacecraft has discovered the best evidence yet for a large-scale saltwater reservoir beneath the icy crust of Saturn's moon Enceladus. The data came from the spacecraft's direct analysis of salt-rich ice grains close to the jets ejected from the moon.

Data from Cassini's cosmic dust analyzer show the grains expelled from fissures, known as tiger stripes, are relatively small and usually low in salt far away from the moon. But closer to the moon's surface, Cassini found that relatively large grains rich with sodium and potassium dominate the plumes. The salt-rich particles have an "ocean-like" composition and indicate that most, if not all, of the expelled ice and water vapor comes from the evaporation of liquid salt-water. The findings appear in this week's issue of the journal Nature.(read more)

Related link: ESA

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Jun 11

Phobos slips past Jupiter

Source: ESA

Conjunction: before, during and after.
Image credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum).

Earlier this month, ESA’s Mars Express performed a special manoeuvre to observe an unusual alignment of Jupiter and the martian moon Phobos. The impressive images have now been processed into a movie of this rare event. (read more)

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Jun 11

Recalculating the distance to interstellar Space

Source: NASA/Voyager

Artist's concept shows NASA's two Voyager spacecraft exploring the heliosheath.
Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Scientists analyzing recent data from NASA's Voyager and Cassini spacecraft have calculated that Voyager 1 could cross over into the frontier of interstellar space at any time and much earlier than previously thought. The findings are detailed in this week's issue of the journal Nature.

Data from Voyager's low-energy charged particle instrument, first reported in December 2010, have indicated that the outward speed of the charged particles streaming from the sun has slowed to zero. The stagnation of this solar wind has continued through at least February 2011, marking a thick, previously unpredicted "transition zone" at the edge of our solar system. (read more)

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Jun 11

NASA probes suggest magnetic bubbles reside at solar system edge

Source: NASA

Artist's interpretation depicting the new view of the heliosphere.
Image credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/ CI Lab.

Observations from NASA's Voyager spacecraft, humanity's farthest deep space sentinels, suggest the edge of our solar system may not be smooth, but filled with a turbulent sea of magnetic bubbles.

While using a new computer model to analyze Voyager data, scientists found the sun's distant magnetic field is made up of bubbles approximately 100 million miles wide. The bubbles are created when magnetic field lines reorganize. The new model suggests the field lines are broken up into self-contained structures disconnected from the solar magnetic field. The findings are described in the June 9 edition of the Astrophysical Journal. (read more)

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