11
Mar 10

The Many Colors of Star Birth

Source: Gemini Observatory

A dramatic image from the Gemini North telescope illustrates the dynamic and sometimes violent process of star birth. It also demonstrates the capabilities of new filters available to researchers using the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS).

Known as Sharpless 2-106 (Sh2-106), the hourglass-shaped (bipolar) nebula in the new Gemini image is a stellar nursery made up of glowing gas and light-scattering dust. The material shrouds a natal high-mass star thought to be mostly responsible for the hourglass shape of the nebula due to high-speed winds (more than 200 kilometers/second) which eject material from the forming star deep within (see the recent Gemini press release on the birth of a massive star which exhibits evidence of similar processes). Research also indicates that many sub-stellar objects are forming within the cloud and may someday result in a cluster of 50 to 150 stars in this region. (read more)

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10
Mar 10

The constellation of Gemini

For the first of our late winter early spring constellations let’s take a look at Gemini. The constellation is dominated by Castor and Pollux, two bright stars that appear relatively close together, encouraging the mythological link between the constellation and twin-ship. The twin to the right is Castor, whose brightest star is α Geminorum (more commonly called Castor) and the twin to the left is Pollux, whose brightest star is β Geminorum (more commonly called Pollux); the other stars can be visualized as two parallel lines descending from the two main stars, making it look like two figures. At present a further “bright star” can be found to the left of Castor & Pollux, the star is in fact the planet Mars.

Viewed with good amateur telescopes Castor can be split into three components: Castor A and Castor B revolve around each other with a period of 420 years (less good telescopes may only split Castor into two blue-white stars of 2nd and 3rd magnitude). The third component, Castor C (also known as YY Gem) circulates this pair with a period of several thousand years.

There are two double stars in Gemini that are best viewed in small telescopes, epsilon Gem and 38 Gem. The first consists of a 3rd magnitude yellow super giant with a 9th magnitude companion. The second splits into a pair of white and yellow 5th and 8th magnitude stars.

With the help of small telescopes the planetary nebula NGC 2392 reveals an 8th magnitude blue-green disk about the size of Jupiter. When viewed with larger telescopes it shows a funny shape, which is why it is named Eskimo or Clown Face Nebula.

The open cluster M35 (also known as NGC 2168) is an outstanding cluster with about 200 stars. In binoculars or small telescopes it is visible as a hazy patch.

In the next posting we’ll take a look at Cancer.

Photo credits: Constellation chart IAU, M35 NASA.
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10
Mar 10

The constellation of Gemini

For the first of our late winter early spring constellations let’s take a look at Gemini. The constellation is dominated by Castor and Pollux, two bright stars that appear relatively close together, encouraging the mythological link between the constellation and twin-ship. The twin to the right is Castor, whose brightest star is α Geminorum (more commonly called Castor) and the twin to the left is Pollux, whose brightest star is β Geminorum (more commonly called Pollux); the other stars can be visualized as two parallel lines descending from the two main stars, making it look like two figures. At present a further “bright star” can be found to the left of Castor & Pollux, the star is in fact the planet Mars.

Viewed with good amateur telescopes Castor can be split into three components: Castor A and Castor B revolve around each other with a period of 420 years (less good telescopes may only split Castor into two blue-white stars of 2nd and 3rd magnitude). The third component, Castor C (also known as YY Gem) circulates this pair with a period of several thousand years.

There are two double stars in Gemini that are best viewed in small telescopes, epsilon Gem and 38 Gem. The first consists of a 3rd magnitude yellow super giant with a 9th magnitude companion. The second splits into a pair of white and yellow 5th and 8th magnitude stars.

With the help of small telescopes the planetary nebula NGC 2392 reveals an 8th magnitude blue-green disk about the size of Jupiter. When viewed with larger telescopes it shows a funny shape, which is why it is named Eskimo or Clown Face Nebula.

The open cluster M35 (also known as NGC 2168) is an outstanding cluster with about 200 stars. In binoculars or small telescopes it is visible as a hazy patch.

In the next posting we’ll take a look at Cancer.

Photo credits: Constellation chart IAU, M35 NASA.
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6
Mar 10

Something is not right about Phobos.

Source: ESA

Phobos image by Mars Express. Credit: ESA

Mars Express encountered Phobos last night, smoothly skimming past at just 67 km, the closest any manmade object has ever approached Mars’ enigmatic moon. The data collected could help unlock the origin of not just Phobos but other ‘second generation’ moons.

Something is not right about Phobos. It looks like a solid object but previous flybys have shown that it is not dense enough to be solid all the way through. Instead, it must be 25-35% porous. This has led planetary scientists to believe that it is little more than a ‘rubble pile’ circling Mars. Such a rubble pile would be composed of blocks both large and small resting together, with possibly large spaces between them where they do not fit easily together.(read more)

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5
Mar 10

Asteroid killed off the dinosaurs

Source: Cambridge University

Artist's impression about dinossaur extinction.
Credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, www.sayo-art.com, copyright 2009.

The Cretaceous–Tertiary mass extinction, which wiped out the dinosaurs and more than half of species on Earth, was caused by an asteroid colliding with Earth and not massive volcanic activity, according to a comprehensive new review of all the evidence.

A panel of 41 international experts, including UK researchers from Cambridge, Imperial College London, University College London and the Open University reviewed 20 years' worth of research to determine the cause of the Cretaceous-Tertiary (KT) extinction, which happened around 65 million years ago.

The review, published in this week's Science, shows the extinction was caused by a massive asteroid around 15 kilometres wide slamming into Earth at Chicxulub, Mexico. (read more)

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4
Mar 10

Cerro Armazones is the probable location for E-ELT

Source: ESO Announcement ann1013


E-ELT site testing — Cerro Armazones by night.
Credit: ESO/S. Brunier

ESO Council received a report with the main conclusions from the E-ELT Site Selection Advisory Committee. These conclusions confirm that all sites examined in the final short list (Armazones, Ventarrones, Tolonchar and Vizcachas in Chile, and La Palma in Spain) have very good conditions for astronomical observing, each one with its particular strengths. The technical report concludes that Cerro Armazones, near Paranal, stands out as the clearly preferred site, because it has the best balance of sky quality across all aspects and it can be operated in an integrated fashion with the existing ESO Paranal Observatory.(read more)

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3
Mar 10

The late winter early spring sky

Now that the moon is out of the way in the evening sky, take the opportunity to find some of the late winter, early spring constellations. If you have been looking at the sky regularly and at the same time each night (21h00 is a good time), you will have noticed that Orion has slowly “drifted” to the right (west) and its position has been replaced by other stars. The constellations that will dominate this part of the sky for the next month or so are Gemini (The Twins), Cancer (The Crab) and Leo (The Lion), all three being constellations of the Zodiac.

All three are interesting, but not all are easy to find; Gemini is very easy to find, just look for the two bright stars called Castor and Pollux. They represent the heads of the twins, while fainter stars sketch out two bodies; although Cancer the Crab is one of the more famous constellations, it is mostly made of dim stars; Leo's head and mane are formed by an asterism known as the Sickle which looks like a backward question mark, one of the brightest spring stars, Regulus being at the base of the question mark.

Try to find these constellations in the sky and over the next few postings will take a look at some of the interesting objects that can be seen with a pair of binoculars or a small telescope – double stars, star clusters, galaxies ……….

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3
Mar 10

The late winter early spring sky

Now that the moon is out of the way in the evening sky, take the opportunity to find some of the late winter, early spring constellations. If you have been looking at the sky regularly and at the same time each night (21h00 is a good time), you will have noticed that Orion has slowly “drifted” to the right (west) and its position has been replaced by other stars. The constellations that will dominate this part of the sky for the next month or so are Gemini (The Twins), Cancer (The Crab) and Leo (The Lion), all three being constellations of the Zodiac.

All three are interesting, but not all are easy to find; Gemini is very easy to find, just look for the two bright stars called Castor and Pollux. They represent the heads of the twins, while fainter stars sketch out two bodies; although Cancer the Crab is one of the more famous constellations, it is mostly made of dim stars; Leo's head and mane are formed by an asterism known as the Sickle which looks like a backward question mark, one of the brightest spring stars, Regulus being at the base of the question mark.

Try to find these constellations in the sky and over the next few postings will take a look at some of the interesting objects that can be seen with a pair of binoculars or a small telescope – double stars, star clusters, galaxies ……….

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3
Mar 10

The Cosmic Bat - An Island of Stars in the Making on the Outskirts of Orion

Source: ESO Photo Release ESO1009


NGC 1788 - The Cosmic Bat

The delicate nebula NGC 1788, located in a dark and often neglected corner of the Orion constellation, is revealed in a new and finely nuanced image that ESO is releasing today. Although this ghostly cloud is rather isolated from Orion’s bright stars, the latter’s powerful winds and light have had a strong impact on the nebula, forging its shape and making it home to a multitude of infant suns.(read more)

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2
Mar 10

Dark Matter still in the darkness

Source: University of Florida

Physicists may have glimpsed a particle that is a leading candidate for mysterious dark matter but say conclusive evidence remains elusive.

A 9-year search from a unique observatory in an old iron mine 2,000 feet underground has yielded two possible detections of weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs. But physicists, who include two University of Florida researchers, say there is about a one in four chance that the detections were merely background noise — meaning that a worldwide hunt involving at least two dozen different observatories and hundreds of scientists will continue. (read more)

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1
Mar 10

Mars Express heading for closest flyby of Phobos

Source: ESA

Phobos. Credits: ESA/ DLR/ FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

ESA's Mars Express will skim the surface of Mars' largest moon Phobos on Wednesday evening. Passing by at an altitude of 67 km, precise radio tracking will allow researchers to peer inside the mysterious moon.(read more)

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1
Mar 10

Eratosthenes Project Launched

Following the deliberations approved at the EAAE GA held in Madrid in December 2009, Working Group 1 "Collaborative Projects" has began to work
in a new project related to the Eratosthenes Experiment.

A workshop about the Moon during the Summer School.

The President of the EAAE Rosa Maria Ros contacted directly with the Director of the Library of
Alexandria and made an agreement for a “videoconference” envolving institutions from EAAE member states and the Library of Alexandria. This idea was accepted and contact with Alexandria and
Syene will be guaranteed in order to see the Eratosthenes Experiment done on its original places.

WG1 Coordinator Charles-Henri will coordinate the mentioned videoconference and a marathon videoconference with institutions of all EAAE countries (more or less 20 schools, one for
each country).

The EAAE webmaster has created a special website for this new project and a database to gather the information sent from schools or other institutions that want to promote this event with young people all around the world.

The project intends to allow schools to reproduce the Eartothenes Experiment locally.

Materials that will help the schools to reproduce the Eratosthenes Experiment locally where created and are available on the website. Calculators to help schools confirm their calculations based on their measurements were created.These calculators can also be used by small children school to make the calculations that the children cannot do because the don't have the mathematical skills to do them.

The Eratosthenes website also has links to several complementary Didactical Materials that can be used by teachers when preparing this project or for many other purposes.

A new EAAE member Antonio Perez Verde
will now be the webmaster of this project.

Another EAAE new member, Anna Artigas, will coordinate the project.

Links:
The EAAE Eratosthenes Project

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