Archive for the ‘Astronomy’ Category

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It has been billed as The Comet of The Year.

Spaceweather.com

Nov. 26, 2018: Small but hyperactive Comet 46P/Wirtanen is approaching Earth and could soon become visible to the naked eye. On Dec. 16th, the kilometer-wide ball of dirty ice will be less than 11.5 million km away–making it one of the 10 closest-approaching comets of the Space Age. It already looks magnificent through amateur telescopes. On Nov. 26th, Gerald Rhemann took this picture using a 12-inch reflector in Farm Tivoli, Namibia:

“The comet is currently gliding through the southern constellation Fornax,” says Rhemann. “If you look carefully at the image, you can see galaxy NGC 922 near the comet’s head, and another galaxy ESO 479-2 on the left.”

Rhemann says that the comet’s emerald green atmosphere is 50 arcminutes wide. In other words–almost twice as wide as a full Moon. Its apparent diameter could double in the weeks ahead as the comet comes even closer. Because Wirtanen’s brightness is spread…

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Image credit: howstuffworks.com


The ancients may even have recorded the supposed ‘Younger Dryas’ comet strike.

Some of the world’s oldest cave paintings have revealed how ancient people had relatively advanced knowledge of astronomy, says Phys.org.

The artworks, at sites across Europe, are not simply depictions of wild animals, as was previously thought. Instead, the animal symbols represent star constellations in the night sky, and are used to represent dates and mark events such as comet strikes, analysis suggests.

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Credit: NASA


Meet ‘The Goblin’. This body’s maximum distance from the Sun is a massive 2300 times further out than Earth’s.

A newly spotted dwarf planet, 2015 TG387, adds to the mounting evidence that an unseen super-Earth prowls the edge of the solar system, reports Cnet.

Astronomers have found a small object far beyond Pluto that orbits the sun in a lonely, oblong loop, a discovery that supports the notion of a larger, more distant planet — often referred to as Planet X — wandering the edge of our solar system.

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A rapid-fire lecture on solar-planetary links, sunspots, volcanoes, ice cores, climate and a whole lot more, including a closer look at the Spörer Minimum.

CO2 is Life

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Solar system cartoon [NASA]


If a planet – assuming it exists – is very far away, extremely faint, could be almost anywhere, and is barely moving relative to its background (maybe one degree every few decades), then however large it may be the chances of finding it any time soon are not great.

Astronomers think that Planet Nine exists at the edge of the Solar System, says the Tech Times.

Here’s one possible reason why the body remains elusive despite circumstantial evidence that it exists beyond planet Neptune.

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Water ice found on the Moon

Posted: August 21, 2018 by oldbrew in Astronomy, News, solar system dynamics

Mosaic of images of the Moon taken by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper. Blue shows the signature of water [image credit: NASA]


Even Mercury has polar water ice, despite being much closer to the Sun, so perhaps this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.

Lunar scientists have confirmed the ‘definitive’ discovery of water ice on the surface of the Moon, reports the BBC’s Sky At Night magazine.

Astronomers have ‘definitively’ proven the existence of water ice on the surface of the Moon.

The ice deposits could be ancient, and have been found at the lunar poles.

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There’s a new paper coming out in Astronomy and Astrophysics from Wu, Usoskin et al that is of interest to us. It reconstructs solar activity over 9 millennia. When I get a copy of the data, I’ll compare it to Steinhilber et al’s 2012 effort.

solar-9k-usoskin

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A montage of Uranus’ large moons and one smaller moon: from left to right Puck, Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania and Oberon. Size proportions are correct. [image credit: Vzb83 @ Wikipedia (from originals taken by NASA’s Voyager 2)]


The five major moons of Uranus in ascending distance from the planet are:
Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania and Oberon

Of these, the first three exhibit a synodic resonance similar to that of Jupiter’s Galilean moons, as we showed here:
Why Phi? – the resonance of Jupiter’s Galilean moons

Quoting from that post:
The only exact ratio is between the synodic periods which is 3:2:1.
It isn’t necessary to have an exact 4:2:1 orbit ratio in order to get a 3:2:1 synodic ratio.

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Astronomer announces he has discovered … Mars

Posted: March 22, 2018 by oldbrew in Astronomy, humour

Mars [image credit: NASA]


As banana skins go, this is a good one. Bad luck, professor!

In an online publication, this astronomer reports the detection of a very bright object in the night sky that wasn’t there before. Turns out, he’s thousands of years late for this discovery, says LiveScience.

Astronomer Peter Dunsby just made a groundbreaking discovery, after noticing a very bright “star” pop up in his field of view at an observatory at the University of Cape Town that was not present two weeks prior.

Too bad Dunsby was perhaps thousands of years late … the bright object was the planet Mars.

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NASA releases stunning photo of cartwheel galaxy

Posted: January 24, 2018 by oldbrew in Astronomy


It’s an enhancement of an earlier image, but this just has to be seen.
H/T Sci-News

NASA has released the sharpest image ever taken of the Cartwheel Galaxy, a lenticular galaxy in the constellation Sculptor.

The Cartwheel Galaxy was first spotted on wide-field images from the U.K. Schmidt telescope and then studied in detail using the Anglo-Australian Telescope.

Also known as LEDA 2248, ESO 350-40 and IRAS 00352-3359, the galaxy is an estimated 150,000 light-years in diameter and has a mass of about 3 billion solar masses.

Along with the two galaxies on the left, the Cartwheel is part of a group of galaxies approximately 500 million light-years away.

According to astronomers, the cartwheel shape of the galaxy is the result of a violent galactic collision.

Continued here.

K2-138 could even have more than five planets. [image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech]


And it’s a good one. The abstract says: ‘The periods of the five planets are 2.35, 3.56, 5.40, 8.26, and 12.76 days, forming an unbroken chain of near 3:2 resonances.’

The Exoplanet Explorers project has led to the first discovery of a multi-planet system solely through crowdsourcing efforts, as Futurism reports.

Through a project called Exoplanet Explorers, a band of citizen scientists has discovered K2-138, a far-off planetary system that houses least five exoplanets.

This is the first time that a multi-planet system has been discovered entirely through crowdsourcing.

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Star system has record eight exoplanets

Posted: December 14, 2017 by oldbrew in Astronomy, Astrophysics, News
Tags: ,

Kepler Space Telescope [credit: NASA]


The two nearest planets to the star Kepler-90 (90b and 90c) are very close to a 5:4 (i.e. first order) orbit ratio.

Nasa finds a distant star circled by eight planets, equal to the complement in our own Solar System, BBC News reports.

It’s the largest number of worlds ever discovered in a planetary system outside our own.

The star known as Kepler-90, is just a bit hotter and larger than the Sun; astronomers already knew of seven planets around it.

The newly discovered world is small enough to be rocky, according to scientists.

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A/2017 U1 may be from beyond our solar system [image credit: Tony873004 / Wikipedia]


This is real, unlike the object in the 1980s spoof ‘It Came From Somewhere Else’, described by one critic as ‘filmed on a shoestring budget, without the shoe and without the string’ – but amusing anyway. “We have been waiting for this day for decades,” said one scientist.

A small, recently discovered asteroid – or perhaps a comet – appears to have originated from outside the solar system, coming from somewhere else in our galaxy, says Phys.org. If so, it would be the first “interstellar object” to be observed and confirmed by astronomers.

This unusual object – for now designated A/2017 U1 – is less than a quarter-mile (400 meters) in diameter and is moving remarkably fast.

Astronomers are urgently working to point telescopes around the world and in space at this notable object. Once these data are obtained and analyzed, astronomers may know more about the origin and possibly the composition of the object.

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Saturn’s moon Janus


Cassini maintains its reputation for surprises right to the end. It’s the ‘moon resonances’ that maintain ring stability, but with a new twist.

For three decades, astronomers thought that only Saturn’s moon Janus confined the planet’s A ring – the largest and farthest of the visible rings.

But after poring over NASA’s Cassini mission data, Cornell astronomers now conclude that the teamwork of seven moons keeps this ring corralled, as Phys.org explains.

Without forces to hold the A ring in check, the ring would keep spreading out and ultimately disappear.

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Star KIC 8462852 in infrared (2MASS survey) and ultraviolet (GALEX) [credit: NASA]


One observer commented about “Tabby’s Star” that ‘every explanation that doesn’t involve aliens has some sort of problem’. Its nickname is the WTF star, reports Phys.org.

Round 5 a.m. on a Tuesday this past May, Tabetha “Tabby” Boyajian sat staring at a laptop, cross-legged on her couch in the living room of her Baton Rouge, La., home. The coffee table was cluttered with the artifacts of an all-nighter: an empty wine glass to calm her nerves alongside an empty coffee mug to fuel her through the night.

Since midnight, Boyajian had been downloading and analyzing data from the Las Cumbres telescopes—two on Maui, Hawaii, and two more on the Spanish island of Tenerife off the coast of West Africa—that sat trained on an F-type star, bigger and hotter than the sun, near the constellation Cygnus.

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Mercury [image credit: NASA]


The first photos of ice at Mercury’s poles were released in 2014 but this research goes a step further, as Phys.org reports. It finds that ‘the total area of the three sheets [is] about 3,400 square kilometers—slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island’.

The scorching hot surface of Mercury seems like an unlikely place to find ice, but research over the past three decades has suggested that water is frozen on the first rock from the sun, hidden away on crater floors that are permanently shadowed from the sun’s blistering rays.

Now, a new study led by Brown University researchers suggests that there could be much more ice on Mercury’s surface than previously thought.

The study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, adds three new members to the list of craters near Mercury’s north pole that appear to harbor large surface ice deposits.

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Where is Planet 9? [credit: NASA]


This may say something about what is not likely to be true about the mysterious, or mythical, Planet 9 but obviously it’s still all in the realms of theory. If it did form around the sun, how did it get to be so much further away from it than the known major planets in the solar system?

Astronomers at the University of Sheffield have shown that ‘Planet 9’ – an unseen planet on the edge of our solar system – probably formed closer to home than previously thought, reports Phys.org.

A team led by Dr Richard Parker from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Physics and Astronomy has found that Planet 9 is ‘unlikely’ to have been captured from another planetary system, as has previously been suggested, and must have formed around the sun.

The outskirts of the solar system have always been something of an enigma, with astronomers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries searching for a giant planet that wasn’t there, and the subsequent discovery of Pluto in 1930.

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Showing all of the Moon including the side we never see from Earth. Composite from images taken by the Lunar Orbiter

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Much media attention on this new paper this week. Is there a surprise lurking in the details now that the orbit period of the seventh planet has been confirmed?.

What the numbers in the diagram show is the orbits per planet in a fixed period (top row), the conjunctions per planet pair in the same period (second row), and the ratios that represents (third row).

The number of conjunctions of any two planets is the difference between the two orbit numbers in a given period, which in this case is equivalent to just under 1446 Earth days (see data below).

Apart from the obvious symmetry of the ratios, something else arose from the science paper.

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