Archive for the ‘Astronomy’ Category

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.


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.’


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)
(open access with registration)


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.


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.


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’.



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: . This post reproduces the one at Ian’s blog.


Exceptionally detailed image of a young star 450 light years away reveals detail of proto-planetary disc with gaps. :

This image compares the size of the Solar System with HL Tauri and its surrounding protoplanetary disc. Although the star is much smaller than the Sun, the disc around HL Tauri stretches out to almost three times as far from the star as Neptune is from the Sun.

This image compares the size of the Solar System with HL Tauri and its surrounding protoplanetary disc. Although the star is much smaller than the Sun, the disc around HL Tauri stretches out to almost three times as far from the star as Neptune is from the Sun.

HL Tauri — a young star, about 450 light-years away, which is surrounded by a dusty disc [1]. The resulting image exceeds all expectations and reveals unexpectedly fine detail in the disc of material left over from star birth. It shows a series of concentric bright rings, separated by gaps [2].

“These features are almost certainly the result of young planet-like bodies that are being formed in the disc. This is surprising since such young stars are not expected to have large planetary bodies capable of producing the structures we see in this image,” said Stuartt Corder, ALMA Deputy Director.

When we first saw this image we were astounded at the spectacular level of detail. HL Tauri is no more than a million years old, yet already its disc appears to be full of forming planets. This one image alone will revolutionise theories of planet formation,” explained Catherine Vlahakis, ALMA Deputy Program Scientist and Lead Program Scientist for the ALMA Long Baseline Campaign.


imageAfter ten years, five months, four days and six and a half billion kilometres,  the Rosetta space probe has arrived in orbit around Comet 67P.


From, a new paper which looks at how dry atmosphere’s of some exoplanets could cast doubt on long cherished notions about planet formation. Current mainstream thinking is that big planets form a long way out and migrate inwards. Perhaps the opposite may be the case, and ‘hot jupiters’ form near the parent star and increase the size of their orbits asthay gain angular moentum. Supporting this possibility, a recent paper by Poppenhaeger on the electromagnetic coupling of proto-planetary discs with the host star posit a slowing the stellar rotation and a shift of its angular momentum to the forming planets.

hd189733Scientists searching for worlds outside of the Solar System say that three such planets — distant gas giants that resemble Jupiter — are surprisingly dry.

The atmospheres of these exoplanets, known as ‘hot Jupiters’, contain between one-tenth and one-thousandth water vapour than predicted, measurements from the Hubble Space Telescope show. The findings, published 24 July in Astrophysical Journal Letters1, are at odds with theories of how planets form.

Madhusudhan thinks that it is possible, but not likely, that clouds are skewing his results. The particles would have to be high in the atmosphere, above the water vapour, for this to be true. That would place the clouds in the thinnest part of each exoplanet’s atmosphere, but they could be too heavy to stay aloft. The clouds would also need to survive in the wide range of temperatures the three planets’ atmospheres span — 900–2,200 ºC — which models can’t yet explain. “There is just no candidate cloud composition or physics that can do it,” he says.


Thanks to commenter ‘psc3113′ for finding the concluding part of HC Russells’ paper on a lunar 19 year cycle in drought records, taken from The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939)  Saturday 4 July 1896. At the conclusion of the article, the probably cause of the 19 year cycle identified is elucidated.

Periodicity of Good and Bad Seasons
(Continued from last Week.)

Hurricanes Come in Droughts.
I should like it to be clearly understood that I do not mean ordinary hurricanes, which are as much parts of ordinary weather conditions in some parts of the world as our southerly winds are here. What I mean are extraordinary hurricanes, those that come at long intervals to terrify mankind by their power for destruction. These are connected with droughts, and, therefore should be discussed here. I had long since observed that the connection between the two was obvious enough sometimes, and during the past year I was reminded of it very often by the frequent reports of heavy gales met with by ships coming to this port, indicating great atmospheric energy. Then on the 3rd January, 1803, came the hurricane over the Tongan group of islands, and not one of the vessels in the harbour rode out the storm; every one of them was wrecked in the harbour before morning, and the wind was of such exceptional violence that after it was over the islands looked as if they had been bombarded.

Then I turned to storms on this coast, some of which were of terrible violence. And as I write, the 28th ‘May, we have the report of a terrible cyclone in America, by which three of the States, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana were damaged and the city of St. Louis wrecked. and 1300 people killed by falling buildings, and damage to property caused to the extent, estimated, of twenty million dollars; another fragment of the present D drought.



A newly discovered planet pair orbiting a red dwarf a mere 13 light years from our solar system is in a near 2:5 orbital resonance. From National Geographic:

An international team of astronomers reports the discovery of two new planets orbiting Kapteyn’s star, a nearby red dwarf with a long history. One of its newly discovered worlds, dubbed Kapteyn b, circles the star at the right distance to allow seas to survive on its surface, where water is seen as a key ingredient of life as we know it.



Time flies on beta Pictoris b, a behemoth gas planet orbiting a young neighbor star about 63 light-years from Earth.

A day there lasts just eight hours, making beta Pic b a faster spinner than even Jupiter, which rotates in 10 hours. Pic b is the first planet beyond the solar system to have its rotational rate clocked, scientists said in an article published in this week’s Nature.

Technically, what is interesting is that it was so easy to do these observations,

lead researcher Ignas Snellen, with Leiden University, Netherlands, wrote in an email to Discovery News.


lollianus-mavortiusQuintus Flavius Maesius Egnatius Lollianus signo Mavortius (fl. 330 – 356) was a politician of the Roman Empire. Known as Roman consul Lolliano Mavorzio in the local dialect, an acephalous [headless] statue of Mavortius was discovered in Puteoli, then Pozzuoli (near Naples, Italy) in the C18th. He was Governor of Campania from 328 to 335, comes Orientis from 330 to 336, Proconsul of Africa from 334 to 337, Praefectus urbi of Rome in 342,Consul in 355 and Praetorian prefect of Italy for Constantius II between 355 and 356.

Being a well travelled man who had probably conversed with the scribes of   the Serapeum, had made many naked eye observations of the heavens, and taking a strong interest in the subject himself, he encouraged the senatorial writer Julius Firmicus Maternus to write an astrological essay, the Matheseos libri VIII. It is among the last extensive handbooks of a “scientific” astrology that circulated in the West before the appearance of Arabic texts in the 12th century. According to Firmicus Maternus, the system of horoscopic astrology was given early on to an Egyptian pharaoh named Nechepso and his priest Petosiris. The Hermetic texts were also put together during this period.


This is a major new paper published in the March issue of prestigious journal ‘Solar Physics’ by solar-planetary theorists Ken McCracken, Jurg Beer and Friedhelm Steinhilber, which makes a newer and more extensive analysis of planetary motion in relation to the Carbon 14 and Beryllium 10 Glactic cosmic ray proxies than the 2400 yr Hallstat cycle study we looked at yesterday. The paper has been in the works a long time (submitted in July 2012), achieving final acceptance in late February this year. I can’t make the whole paper available due to copyright restrictions, but the abstract gives a clue as to the content. I’ve added one of the figures up to help convey some of the more important results. I’ve also appended the bibliography, as this isn’t part of the paper’s main text, it’s great to see Geoff Sharp and Ian Wilson getting citations. We can discuss other parts of their paper in comments. Boy is Martin Rasmussen going to look stupid in the future, by axing PRP for publishing our solar-planetary special edition.




Our friend Semi has sent me a paper to  first publish here at the talkshop. There are some interesting puzzles and some speculative ideas in it which will intrigue our readers. Since as Hans Jelbring showed the other day, we tend to be sceptical of ‘grand theories’, we should also temper our scepticism  with an openness to alternative ideas lest it becomes a dour cynicism. The great thing about having an open mind is the ability to filter things out of it as well as allow things into it. So we can take the parts of someone else’s work we find interesting or useful, and leave the parts we aren’t interested in, without feeling the need to pass judgement on them.

Semi emailed this introduction along with the paper:

This winter I’ve sent you one my works, and said, there is another work pending, which I’m attaching now…
It is related to the Curvature Cosmology by David F. Crawford and original Einstein’s hyper-spherical universe, of which Albert E. was  incorrectly persuaded by his colleagues at that time, that it was incorrect. This idea of (hyper)spherical universe is as revolutionary, as once was the idea of a spherical Earth.


This’ll keep Oldbrew and me busy with the calculators  for a while. :)


The artist concept depicts multiple-transiting planet systems, which are stars with more than one planet. The planets eclipse or transit their host star from the vantage point of the observer. This angle is called edge-on.
Image Credit: NASA

NASA’s Kepler mission announced Wednesday the discovery of 715 new planets. These newly-verified worlds orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system.

Nearly 95 percent of these planets are smaller than Neptune, which is almost four times the size of Earth. This discovery marks a significant increase in the number of known small-sized planets more akin to Earth than previously identified exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system.

The Kepler team continues to amaze and excite us with their planet hunting results. That these new planets and solar systems look somewhat like our own, portends a great future when we have the James Webb Space Telescope in space to characterize the new worlds.


From the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, news that won’t surprise talkshoppers too much. Interesting though. Large magnetic field links binary pair

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Astronomers have found a giant magnetic loop stretched outward from one of the stars making up the famous double-star system Algol. The scientists used an international collection of radio telescopes to discover the feature, which may help explain details of previous observations of the stellar system.

Artist’s conception of Algol star system
with radio image superimposed on grid.
CREDIT: Peterson et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF

“This is the first time we’ve seen a feature like this in the magnetic field of any star other than the Sun,” said William Peterson, of the University of Iowa.

The pair, 93 light-years from Earth, includes a star about 3 times more massive than the Sun and a less-massive companion, orbiting it at a distance of 5.8 million miles, only about six percent of the distance between Earth and the Sun. The newly-discovered magnetic loop emerges from the poles of the less-massive star and stretches outward in the direction of the primary star. As the secondary star orbits its companion, one side — the side with the magnetic loop — constantly faces the more-massive star, just as the same side of our Moon always faces the Earth.


Steven Hawking has told Nature


The absence of event horizons means that there are no black holes – in the sense of regimes from which light can’t escape to infinity,

Stephen Hawking has shocked physicists by admitting ‘there are no black holes’. Professor Hawking instead argues in the paper, called Information Preservation and Weather Forecasting For Black Holes that the idea of an event horizon, from which light cannot escape, is flawed.


Guest post by Tim Cullen covering natural philosophy from pre-historic Scotland, Plato and Kepler to a sub-atomic theory developed by an eminently well qualified nuclear physicist.

Phi in the Sky - As Above So Below

The renaissance of Natural Philosophy in the Renaissance period laid the foundation stones which enabled the construction of the modern scientific edifice.

The Renaissance also renewed interest in anti-Aristotelian theories of nature considered as an organic, living whole comprehensible independently of theology, as in the work of Nicholas of Cusa, Nicholas Copernicus, Giordano Bruno, Telesius, and Tommaso Campanella.