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November 10, 2006, 4:54 AM CT

Eye Of A Monster Storm On Saturn

Eye Of A Monster Storm On Saturn
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has seen something never before seen on another planet -- a hurricane-like storm at Saturn's south pole with a well-developed eye, ringed by towering clouds.

The "hurricane" spans a dark area inside a thick, brighter ring of clouds. It is approximately 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles) across, or two thirds the diameter of Earth.

"It looks like a hurricane, but it doesn't behave like a hurricane," said Dr. Andrew Ingersoll, a member of Cassini's imaging team at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. "Whatever it is, we're going to focus on the eye of this storm and find out why it's there".

A movie taken by Cassini's camera over a three-hour period reveals winds around Saturn's south pole blowing clockwise at 550 kilometers (350 miles) per hour. The camera also saw the shadow cast by a ring of towering clouds surrounding the pole, and two spiral arms of clouds extending from the central ring. These ring clouds, 30 to 75 kilometers (20 to 45 miles) above those in the center of the storm, are two to five times taller than the clouds of thunderstorms and hurricanes on Earth.

Eye-wall clouds are a distinguishing feature of hurricanes on Earth. They form where moist air flows inward across the ocean's surface, rising vertically and releasing a heavy rain around an interior circle of descending air that is the eye of the storm itself. Though it is uncertain whether such moist convection is driving Saturn's storm, the dark "eye" at the pole, the eye-wall clouds and the spiral arms together indicate a hurricane-like system.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

November 6, 2006, 9:11 PM CT

Could You Explain The Origins Of The Universe?

Could You Explain The Origins Of The Universe?
Formative Evaluation of the Large Hadron Collider Communications Project.

PPARC has commissioned research that asked adults, teachers and young people about their interest in, knowledge of and concerns about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) project. Due to start in late 2007, at CERN, Geneva, it will be one of the largest experiments in the history of science, and will investigate the Origin of the Universe.

Dr Ray Mathias (UK LHC Communications Manager) said "The research, which used focus groups and in-depth interviews, revealed a lot of interest, especially through links to the Big Bang, spin-offs to the healthcare sector, and human-interest stories, particularly those involving British scientists and engineers. These findings will guide how we invest in different outreach activities. The UK is contributing over 300M to the LHC, and we have a responsibility to engage the public in understanding and debating the excitement, implications and costs of the project".........

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November 1, 2006, 8:13 PM CT

First Sunrise on Hinode's instruments

First Sunrise on Hinode's instruments Hinodes
The Hinode (formerly Solar-B) satellite, a joint Japan/NASA/PPARC mission launched on 22nd September 2006, reported its first observations of the Sun with its suite of scientific instruments on 31st October 2006.

The satellite was renamed 'Hinode' which is Japanese for Sunrise, which is most appropriate since Hinode will watch at close hand massively explosive solar flares erupting from the Sun's surface and rising into interstellar space.

High resolution image of the Sun taken by the X-ray Telescope on Hinode.

Credit: JAXAHinode has three instruments: the Solar Optical Telescope (SOT), the X-Ray Telescope (XRT), and the EUV Imaging Spectrometer (EIS) which has been led by University College London's Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL).

"Waiting for the first data from an instrument that has taken years to design and build is always a heart-stopping moment," said Prof Len Culhane, EIS Principal Investigator, "We create incredibly sensitive detectors such as EIS, then strap them to a rocket and hurl them into space under extremely challenging conditions. Finding out that it survived and is working correctly is a huge relief because the options are very limited if it is not".

Image showing convection cells that are the locations of concentration of the magnetic field.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

October 31, 2006, 6:58 PM CT

Snake on a Galactic Plane!

Snake on a Galactic Plane!
Something scary appears to be slithering across the plane of our Milky Way galaxy in this new Halloween image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The snake-like object is actually the core of a thick, sooty cloud large enough to swallow dozens of solar systems. In fact, astronomers say its "belly" may be harboring beastly stars in the process of forming.

"The snake is an ideal place to hunt for massive forming stars as they have not had time to heat up and destroy the cloud they are born in," said Dr. Sean Carey, also known as "Dr. Scarey," of NASA's Spitzer Science Center. Dr. Scarey, who is leading the new research, was also principal investigator of a previous Halloween image from Spitzer, showing a 'great galactic ghoul'.

Spitzer was able to spot the sinuous cloud using its heat-seeking infrared vision. The object is hiding in the dusty plane of our Milky Way galaxy, invisible to optical telescopes. Because its heat, or infrared light, can sneak through the dust, it first showed up in infrared images from past missions. The cloud is so thick with dust that if you were to somehow transport yourself into the middle of it, you would see nothing but black, not even a star in the sky. Now, that's spooky!

Spitzer's new view of the snake provides the best look at what lurks inside. The yellow and orange spots located on and around it are massive stars just beginning to take shape. The bright red spot located on its belly is a monstrous stellar embryo, with about 20 to 50 times the mass of our sun.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

October 31, 2006, 6:48 PM CT

Esperanza Fire

Esperanza Fire
Smoke from the Esperanza Fire washed over the mountains southeast of Los Angeles and over the Pacific Ocean.
Waves of gray-brown smoke washed over the mountains southeast of Los Angeles and out over the Pacific on Oct. 26, 2006, on the same day on which four firefighters were killed fighting the blaze. West of Palm Springs, Calif., the Esperanza Fire had ballooned under the influence of Santa Ana winds to encompass more than 19,000 acres as of the morning of Oct. 27, according to the daily report from the National Interagency Fire Center. Racing through grass, brush, and timber, the blaze had forced hundreds to evacuate, and it killed several firefighters who were working to protect homes. Fire officials are reporting the cause of the blaze as arson.

This photo-like image shows the fire and surrounding area captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite on Oct. 26. Places where MODIS detected actively burning fire are outlined in red. The Santa Ana Mountains peak out from beneath the smoke near the southeastern suburbs of Los Angeles.

Santa Ana winds are a California firefighter's nightmare. These blustery, dry and often hot winds blow out of the desert and race through canyons and passes in the mountains on their way toward the coast. The air is hot not because it is bringing heat from the desert, but because it is flowing downslope from higher elevations. As fall progresses, cold air begins to sink into the Great Basin deserts to the east of California. As the air piles up at the surface, high pressure builds, and the air begins to flow downslope toward the coast. When winds blow downslope, the air gets compressed, which causes it to warm and dry out. In fact, the air can warm at a rate of 10 degrees Celsius per kilometer of descent (29 degrees Fahrenheit per mile). Canyons and passes funnel the winds, which increases their speed. Not only do the winds spread the fire, but they also dry out vegetation, making it even more flammable.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

October 31, 2006, 6:39 PM CT

Halloween For Nebula

Halloween For Nebula Credit: Adam Block, NOAO, AURA, NSF
The dark nebula SH2-136 appears to be celebrating Halloween all of the time. The complex process of star formation create dust clouds of many shapes and sizes -- it is human perception that might identify a ghoulish creature, on the right of the above image, chasing humans.

Halloween's modern celebration retains historic roots in dressing to scare away the spirits of the dead. Since the fifth century BC, Halloween has been celebrated as a cross-quarter day, a day halfway between an equinox (equal day / equal night) and a solstice (minimum day / maximum night in the northern hemisphere). With our modern calendar, however, the real cross-quarter day will occur next week. Other cross-quarter markers include Groundhog Day and Walpurgis Night.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

October 27, 2006, 5:04 AM CT

Latest views of the V838

Latest views of the V838
Hubble has returned to the intriguing V838 Monocerotis many times since its initial outburst in 2002 to follow the evolution of its light echo. Two new images provide the most astonishing views of V838 to date.

The unusual variable star V838 Monocerotis (V838 Mon) continues to puzzle astronomers. This previously inconspicuous star underwent an outburst early in 2002, during which it temporarily increased in brightness to become 600,000 times more luminous than our Sun. Light from this sudden eruption is illuminating the interstellar dust surrounding the star, producing the most spectacular "light echo" in the history of astronomy.

As light from the eruption propagates outward into the dust, it is scattered by the dust and travels to the Earth. The scattered light has travelled an extra distance in comparison to light that reaches Earth directly from the stellar outburst. Such a light echo is the optical analogue of the sound echo produced when an Alpine yodel is reflected from the surrounding mountainsides.

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has been observing the V838 Mon light echo since 2002. Each new observation of the light echo reveals a new and unique "thin-section" through the interstellar dust around the star. This release shows new images of the light echo from the Hubble Advanced Camera for Surveys taken in November 2005 (left) and again in September 2006 (right). The numerous whorls and eddies in the interstellar dust are particularly noticeable. Possibly they have been produced by the effects of magnetic fields in the space between the stars.........

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October 26, 2006, 5:04 AM CT

200-million-year-old Baby Galaxies

200-million-year-old Baby Galaxies This figure shows the relation between redshift and the age of the universe
Astronomers have taken amazing pictures of two of the most distant galaxies ever seen. The ultradeep images, taken at infrared wavelengths, confirm for the first time that these celestial cherubs are real. The researchers* are now able to weigh galaxies and determine their age at earlier times than ever before, providing important clues about the evolutionary origins of galaxies like our Milky Way. The work appears in the October 1 issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Carnegie Fellow Ivo Labbe, along with Rychard Bouwens and Garth Illingworth of the UCO/Lick Observatory at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Marijn Franx of the Leiden Observatory, examined galaxies in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF) using the sensitive Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) aboard NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The HUDF, scanned by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in late 2003, remains the deepest view ever taken at visible and near-infrared wavelengths.

The two galaxies are seen when the universe was just a baby-700 million years after the Big Bang, or five percent of the universe's current age. They belong to a precious small sample of similarly ancient galaxies, discovered two years ago by Bouwens, Illingworth, and Franx and analyzed in-depth in Nature last month. The relative deficit of such far-away luminous sources indicates that this early period is when galaxies were rapidly building up from a very small number of stars to the massive galaxies we see at later times.........

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October 25, 2006, 5:02 AM CT

The Space Tourism Industry Can Really Make Money

The Space Tourism Industry Can Really Make Money
So far, only one craft has flown in space, sending test pilots to the final frontier at an expense of $25 million-plus to win the $10 million Ansari X Prize. Market right now doesn't show the prospects that were expected by the investors in the space tourism industry.

But this doesn't mean that people in the real world don't have any respect for this industry. Space Tourism is not aimed at "space geeks" only. This seems the way it is because people in the real world can't afford the million dollars ride into the space and it looks like they are less bothered about what is going on in the space tourism industry.

Every body around the world would like to see the futuristic industry to succeed in the splendid mission they are trying to achieve. The market will sooner prove that investors can really make money on space tourism. There are no doubt high risks in investing millions or billions of dollars. But all of this is going to come out in its totality in two to four years.


Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

October 24, 2006, 8:31 PM CT

Direct Proof Of Stellar Sorting In A Globular Cluster

Direct Proof Of Stellar Sorting In A Globular Cluster
A seven year study with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has provided astronomers with the best observational evidence yet that globular clusters sort out stars according to their mass, governed by a gravitational billiard ball game between stars. Heavier stars slow down and sink to the cluster's core, while lighter stars pick up speed and move across the cluster to its periphery. This process, called "mass segregation", has long been suspected for globular star clusters, but has never before been directly seen in action.

Imagine trying to understand how a football game works based on just a few fuzzy snapshots of the game in play. This is the just the kind of challenge faced by astronomers trying to understand the dynamics of the swarm of stars in the globular star clusters that orbit our Milky Way Galaxy. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has provided the best observational evidence to date that globular clusters sort stars according to their mass, governed by a gravitational billiard ball game between stars. Heavier stars slow down and sink to the cluster's core, while lighter stars pick up speed and move out across the cluster to its periphery. This process, called mass segregation, has long been suspected for globular star clusters, but has never been seen in action directly before.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

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