Archive for the ‘Astronomy’ Category

A new paper shows how a recently re-discovered 50 year old photo of a clay tablet holds the key to a geometrical method used by the Babylonians to calculate the position of Jupiter.

babylon-jupiterAncient Babylonian astronomers developed many important concepts that are still in use, including the division of the sky into 360 degrees. They could also predict the positions of the planets using arithmetic. Ossendrijver translated several Babylonian cuneiform tablets from 350 to 50 BCE and found that they contain a sophisticated calculation of the position of Jupiter. The method relies on determining the area of a trapezium under a graph. This technique was previously thought to have been invented at least 1400 years later in 14th-century Oxford. This surprising discovery changes our ideas about how Babylonian astronomers worked and may have influenced Western science.

Science, this issue p. 482

 

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Out at the unfashionable end of the Asteroid Belt, lies a seldom seen squashed spud of rock known as Sylvia. NASA has this:

sylvia_compo680

Composite image showing the two moons at several locations along their orbits (shown by red dots). Image Credit: NASA

Discovered in 1866, main belt asteroid 87 Sylvia lies 3.5 AU from the Sun, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Also shown in recent years to be one in a growing list of double asteroids, new observations during August and October 2004 made at the Paranal Observatory convincingly demonstrate that 87 Sylvia in fact has two moonlets – the first known triple asteroid system. At the center of this composite of the image data, potato-shaped 87 Sylvia itself is about 380 kilometers wide. The data show inner moon, Remus, orbiting Sylvia at a distance of about 710 kilometers once every 33 hours, while outer moon Romulus orbits at 1360 kilometers in 87.6 hours. Tiny Remus and Romulus are 7 and 18 kilometers across respectively. Because 87 Sylvia was named after Rhea Silvia, the mythical mother of the founders of Rome, the discoverers proposed Romulus and Remus as fitting names for the two moonlets. The triple system is thought to be the not uncommon result of collisions producing low density, rubble pile asteroids that are loose aggregations of debris.

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Strange orbits of some outer solar system bodies

Strange orbits of some outer solar system bodies


A newly found object may set a new record for the most distant dwarf planet in the solar system. The object, called V774104, lies about nine and a half billion miles from the sun, or two to three times farther away than Pluto.

V774104 is a little less than half Pluto’s size, and like Pluto it may move closer toward or farther away from the sun during its orbit, but those details of its motion cannot yet be determined.

“That’s pretty much all we know about it. We don’t know its orbit yet because we only just discovered it about two weeks ago,” astronomer Scott Sheppard, of the Carnegie Institution for Science and one of the co-discoverers of the new object, said in an interview with Space.com .

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Impact [image credit: karbalion.com]

Impact [image credit: karbalion.com]


Another puzzle for planetary cycle researchers to ponder, as this phys.org report explains.

Mass extinctions occurring over the past 260 million years were likely caused by comet and asteroid showers, scientists conclude in a new study published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. For more than 30 years, scientists have argued about a controversial hypothesis relating to periodic mass extinctions and impact craters—caused by comet and asteroid showers—on Earth.

In their MNRAS paper, Michael Rampino, a New York University geologist, and Ken Caldeira, a scientist in the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology, offer new support linking the age of these craters with recurring mass extinctions of life, including the demise of dinosaurs. Specifically, they show a cyclical pattern over the studied period, with both impact craters and extinction events taking place every 26 million years.

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Surprise asteroid to give Earth a Halloween flyby

Posted: October 19, 2015 by oldbrew in Astronomy, News
Tags:

Just passing by [image credit : digitaltrends.com]

Just passing by [image credit : digitaltrends.com]


No need to duck, but an asteroid designated 2015 TB145 will pass by the Earth at around 1.3 lunar distances (approximately 310,000 miles or about 499,000 km) on October 31 this year, reports Gizmag.

Estimated to be anywhere between 280 to 620 m (918 to 2,034 ft) in diameter and traveling in excess of 126,000 km/h (78,293 mph), the asteroid was discovered less than two weeks ago using the Pan-STARRS array in Hawaii and is the largest object to so closely approach our planet in recent times.

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[image credit: etsy.com]

[image credit: etsy.com]


Something a bit off-beat here: a paper entitled ‘The Multiperiodic Pulsating Star Y Cam A as a Musical Instrument’. A music extract can be played in the linked Phys.org report. It’s described as ‘a mixed bag of eerie pulsating sounds combined with a simple piano melody.’

Astronomer Burak Ulaş, with the Izmir Turk College Planetarium in Turkey has taken his work into a musical dimension, using star oscillations as a source for a musical composition. He has uploaded a paper describing what he has done along with sheet music and an audio recording of his work to the preprint server arXiv—along with a shout-out to other pioneers in the field, from Kepler to Pythagoras to modern composer scientists Jenő Keuler and Zoltán Kolláth.

Astronomers and other star-gazers have long associated celestial bodies with music, the twinkling of some stars offers a tempting back-beat and some stars in particular offer a variety of opportunities. One such star, Y Cam A, Ulaş noted, offered enough oscillation data for its use in creating chords.

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moon-cartoonWASHINGTON, May 28, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, June 3, to discuss the Hubble Space Telescope’s surprising observations of how Pluto’s moons behave, and how these new discoveries are being used in the planning for the New Horizons Pluto flyby in July.

Participants in the teleconference will be:

  • John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington
  • Mark Showalter, senior research scientist at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California
  • Douglas Hamilton, professor of astronomy at the University of Maryland, College Park
  • John Spencer, scientist at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado
  • Heidi Hammel, executive vice president of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington

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NASA's next exoplanet hunter (TESS)  [image credit: MIT]

NASA’s next exoplanet hunter (TESS)
[image credit: MIT]


Try to imagine Saturn and Uranus orbiting the Sun in 8 and 12 days respectively. Far-fetched? In our solar system, yes, but something very similar has been observed in an exoplanetary star system, as was recently discussed by scientist and blogger Hugh Osborn, one of the co-authors of a study of the surprising 2-planet system.

In his blog post, Osborn notes re the March 2015 solar eclipse:
Calculating something so far ahead seems like an impressive feat but in fact astronomers can precisely work out exactly when and where eclipses will occur for not just the next hundred, but the next million years. Such is the way for most transiting exoplanets too, the calculations for which could probably be valid in thousands of years.

But a new planetary system, discovered by a team that includes Warwick astronomers (including me), doesn’t yet play by these rules. It consists of two planets orbiting their star, a late K star smaller than our sun, in periods of 7.9 and 11.9 days. The pair have radii 7- and 4-larger than Earth, putting them both between the sizes of Uranus and Saturn. They are the 4th and 5th planets to be confirmed in data from K2, the rejuvenated Kepler mission that monitors tens of thousands of stars looking for exoplanetary transits. (36 other planet candidates, including KIC201505350b & c, have been released previously).

But it is their orbits, rather than planetary characteristics, that have astronomers most excited. “The periods are almost exactly in a ratio of 1:1.5” explains Dave Armstrong, lead author of the study. This can be seen directly in how the star’s brightness changes over time. This lightcurve appears to have three dips of different depths, marked here by green, red and purple dips. ”Once every three orbits of the inner planet and two orbits of the outer planet, they transit at the same time”, causing the deep purple transits.

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Things that wink in the night

Image

Analysis of Moon impact flashes detected during the 2012 and 2013 Perseids
José M. Madiedo, José L. Ortiz, Faustino Organero, Leonor Ana-Hernández, Fernando Fonseca, Nicolás Morales and Jesús Cabrera-Caño
A&A, 577 (2015) A118
Published online: 13 May 2015
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/201525656 (open access on registration)

ABSTRACT
We present the results of our Moon impact flash detection campaigns performed around the maximum activity period of the Perseid meteor shower in 2012 and 2013. Just one flash produced by a Perseid meteoroid was detected in 2012 because of very unfavorable geometric conditions, but 12 flashes were confirmed in 2013. The visual magnitude of the flashes ranged between 6.6 and 9.3. A luminous efficiency of 1.8×10 -3 has been estimated for meteoroids from this stream. According to this value, impactor masses would range between 1.9 and 190 g. In addition, we propose a criterion for establishing, from a statistical point of view, the likely origin of impact flashes recorded on the lunar surface.

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Not this time [credit: northshireneedle.com]

Not this time [credit: northshireneedle.com]

Daily Telegraph report:
Scientists monitoring an Australian radio telescope have discovered that a series of strange signals which have baffled astrophysicists for 17 years were caused by the facility’s kitchen microwave being opened while in use.

The finding was made by Emily Petroff, a PhD student, who set up an interference monitor at the site to investigate the signals, known as perytons, which were thought to be from space but were also known – somewhat unusually – to be detected only during business hours.

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Hubble telescope reaches 25 year milestone

Posted: April 21, 2015 by oldbrew in Astronomy, innovation
Tags:

Hubble telescope orbiting Earth [credit: NASA]

Hubble telescope orbiting Earth [credit: NASA]


Hubble, the first telescope to revolutionize modern astronomy and change our view of the universe by offering glimpses of distant galaxies, marks its 25th year in space this week, reports phys.org

“Hubble absolutely has changed the way humans look at the universe and our place in it,” said astronomer Jennifer Wiseman, one of the telescope’s senior scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“It shows us that the universe has been changing over time, that stars in fact are an integral part of producing the type of element that we need for life, for planets, for our well-being,” she told AFP.

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Super-sized exoplanet rings [credit: Ron Miller / Astronomy Now]

Super-sized exoplanet rings [credit: Ron Miller / Astronomy Now]


They say ‘the diameter of the ring system is nearly 120 million kilometres’. Imagine the forces in play to keep all that in order. Astronomy Now reports:

Astronomers at the Leiden Observatory, The Netherlands, and the University of Rochester, USA, have discovered that the ring system that they see eclipse the very young Sun-like star J1407 is of enormous proportions, much larger and heavier than the ring system of Saturn. The ring system — the first of its kind to be found outside our Solar System — was discovered in 2012 by a team led by Rochester’s Eric Mamajek.

A new analysis of the data, led by Leiden’s Matthew Kenworthy, shows that the ring system consists of over 30 rings, each of them tens of millions of kilometres in diameter. Furthermore, they found gaps in the rings, which indicate that satellites (“exomoons”) may have formed. The result has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.

Read the rest here.

Back in 2011. Tim Channon used his cycles analysis software to predict the evolution of the solar polar fields. The basis of the curve he produced is the motion of the gas giant planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. As they orbit the Sun, they force the Sun to move relative to the centre of mass of the entire solar system. We see this motion when astronomers look out into the near cosmos and observe other stars ‘wobbling’. By measuring the wobble with respect to time, they are able to deduce the mass and distance of planets orbiting those stars, even though they are too small and dim to see directly.

Tim found that our Sun’s wobble due to the gas giant planets matched the observational data of the evolution of the Solar polar magnetic fields mentioned in the post put up by Stuart ‘Oldbrew‘ yesterday.

Here’s the plot Tim put up in 2011

Evolution of combined solar polar fields (red) vs motion of Sun relative to barycentre caused by planetary motion

At the time, it looked like the data was going to diverge from the prediction, but read on below the break to see the outcome.

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H/T Oldbrew.

Golden rings of star formation

NGC 3081 is seen here nearly face-on. Compared to other spiral galaxies, it looks a little different. The galaxy’s barred spiral centre is surrounded by a bright loop known as a resonance ring. This ring is full of bright clusters and bursts of new star formation.

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Kepler Space Telescope [NASA]

Kepler Space Telescope [NASA]


A very interesting report of a new science paper has appeared in the New Scientist:

‘William Ditto and his colleagues at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, compared the two strongest oscillations, or tones, made by the variable star KIC 5520878, using observations by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. They noticed that dividing the frequency of the secondary note by that of the primary, or lowest, note gives a value near the “golden ratio” – a number that shows up often in art and nature and is close to 1.618′

So is it real or did they perhaps just imagine it?
Let’s start with the abstract :

‘The unprecedented light curves of the Kepler space telescope document how the brightness of some stars pulsates at primary and secondary frequencies whose ratios are near the golden mean, the most irrational number.’

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This is a visual treat. Hubble has made a 4.3gigabyte image of Andromeda. The three minute youtube video below explores about a quarter of the rich detail. Cool music too. H/T to @karlos1705

Celestial light and earthshine

Posted: January 17, 2015 by tchannon in Astronomy, climate, Clouds, Measurement, moon, Uncertainty

This paper is about adding a further layer of correction to earthshine measurements and therefore albedo determination by terrestrial based observations.

Influence of celestial light on lunar surface brightness determinations: Application to earthshine studies
P. Thejll, H. Gleisner, C. Flynn
A&A 573 A131 (2015)
http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/201424824
(open access with registration)

ABSTRACT

Aims. We consider the influence of celestial-sphere brightness on determinations of terrestrial albedo from earthshine intensity
measurements. In particular, the contributions from zodiacal light and starlight are considered.

Results. We find that celestial-sphere surface brightness can be so large that a considerable and unacceptable error level would have
an impact on half of typical earthshine-based albedo-determinations if left unaccounted for. Considering the empirical uncertainty on
ZL, we show that almost all our earthshine data can be used if a sky correction is made. In real observations we find up to a 1% effect
on albedo results of correcting for the celestial brightness.

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Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger being given weekly whippings, as an introduction to his ten year sentence, by the oppressive regime it is his misfortune to live under, wrote in praise of the religious scholasticism which characterises islamic science institutions. This from a longer article sampling his writings in the Guardian.

In September 2011 Badawi launched a witheringly sarcastic attack on Saudi clerics after a TV preacher called for astronomers to be punished on the grounds that they encouraged scepticism about sharia law.

Actually, this venerable preacher has drawn my attention to a truth that had been hidden from me Moon_Wizardand my dear readers – namely, the existence of the so-called “Sharia astronomer”. What a wonderful appellation! In my humble experience and in the course of my not inconsiderable research into the universe, its origins and the stars, I have never once come across this term. I advise NASA to abandon its telescopes and, instead, turn to our Sharia astronomers, whose keen vision and insight surpass the agency’s obsolete telescopes.

Indeed, I advise all other scholars the world over, of whatever discipline, to abandon their studies, laboratories, research centres, places of experimentation, universities, institutes etc. and head at once to the study groups of our magnificent preachers to learn from them all about modern medicine, engineering, chemistry, microbiology, geology, nuclear physics, the science of the atom, marine sciences, the science of explosives, pharmacology, anthropology etc. – alongside astronomy, of course.

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Reblogged from Ishtar’s Gate, a blog covering diverse subjects relating to antiquity, myth, culture, legend and ancient arts. Although the idea that the Aubrey holes around the outside of the stone complex have an astronomical observation and eclipse prediction purpose has been dismissed because later cremations were found in them, their number, spacing and mathematical relationship to the station stones indicates otherwise. Ishtar’s introduction follows:

This is from the book of the same title by the highly regarded Robin Heath, and it is a deeply researched and expert interpretation of the sacred geometrical azimuths and alignments of Stonehenge.

It is well established that the axis of Stonehenge aligns approximately to the midsummer rising sun azimuth. In addition, the station stone rectangle is constructed perpendicular to the axis and has a ratio of 5:12. In Megalithic yards, this is 40:96, i.e. the units of the rectangle’s ratio are expressed in 8 MY ‘quanta’.

stonehenge

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venus-transit-2012Congratulations to Astrophysicist Ian Wilson who has had a new paper published at Pattern Recognition in Physics:
Discussion of this paper is going to be in the form of a workshop with specific objectives, and comments will be strictly moderated for relevance. The objectives will be announced by the main participants, Ian Wilson and Paul Vaughan, in their opening comments. Basically, unless you have something to contribute to the mathematical exposition, please sit this one out and watch.

This new peer-reviewed paper is available for (free) download at: http://www.pattern-recognition-in-physics.com/pub/prp-2-75-2014.pdf . This post reproduces the one at Ian’s blog.

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