Archive for the ‘Astronomy’ Category

I’m working away for the next fortnight, with no internet access. So I thought I’d put up something for the bright denizens of the talkshop to chew on while I’m gone. Bode’s Law is a heuristic equation which gives the approximate distance to the first seven major planets plus Ceres. reasonably well, but then goes completely off the rails as you can see in Figure 1 below.

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titus-bode_law

Figure 1 Titius-Bode equation (red) vs planets (blue)

I’ve always thought the Titius-Bode equation to be a fudge. It doesn’t relate to any physical concepts that have anything to do with orbits or gravity. So I’ve come up with something better.

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Subaru telescope, Hawaii (far left) [image credit: Wikipedia]

Subaru telescope, Hawaii (far left) [image credit: Wikipedia]


Being able to measure things like the mass, temperature and atmospheric composition of exoplanets should generate some interesting new data for analysis, with possible implications for climate theory.

A team of scientists and engineers led by Princeton researchers recently reported the successful operation of a new instrument for the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii that will allow astronomers to make direct observations of planets orbiting nearby stars.

The instrument, dubbed CHARIS, was designed and built by a team led by N. Jeremy Kasdin, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. It allows astronomers to isolate light reflecting from planets larger than Jupiter and then analyze the light to determine details about the planets’ size, age and atmospheric constituents.

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2012 Venus transit [credit:  JAXA/NASA/Lockheed Martin

2012 Venus transit [credit: JAXA/NASA/Lockheed Martin]

Venus is certainly an oddball in various ways. Is that the ghost of Velikovsky lurking in the background to this story?

Venus and Mercury have been observed transiting the Sun many times over the past few centuries. When these planets are seen passing between the Sun and the Earth, opportunities exist for some great viewing, not to mention serious research.

And whereas Mercury makes transits with greater frequency (three times since 2000), a transit of Venus is something of a rare treat. In June of 2012, Venus made its most recent transit – an event which will not happen again until 2117.

Luckily, during this latest event, scientists made some very interesting observations which revealed X-ray and ultraviolet emissions coming from the dark side of Venus.

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The Kuiper Belt region [credit: theplanets.org]

The Kuiper Belt region [credit: theplanets.org]


Details are sketchy but the object is said to be ‘beyond the pull of Neptune’s gravity’, so we can only speculate what and where its planetary master(s) might be.

A team of space scientists at the University of Michigan has discovered a dwarf planet that is approximately half the size of Pluto and twice as far from the sun, reports Phys.org.

The sighting was reported by NPR, which interviewed team lead physicist David Gerdes. He told them credit goes to a group of students who were challenged to find some new objects to add to the ongoing construction of a galaxy map.

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Brodgar standing stones, Orkney [image credit: BBC]

Brodgar standing stones, Orkney [image credit: BBC]

University of Adelaide research has for the first time statistically proven that the earliest standing stone monuments of Britain, the great circles, were constructed specifically in line with the movements of the Sun and Moon, 5000 years ago. H/T ScienceDaily

The research, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, details the use of innovative 2D and 3D technology to construct quantitative tests of the patterns of alignment of the standing stones.

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It’s finally happening. Thanks to Herculean efforts by Niklas Morner, we are presenting a two-day conference in central London on the 8-9th September. Speakers are coming from all over the world to present their work, and it is not to be missed!

conf-logo

Take the 8-9th September off work and join us for this historic event. The first UK climate conference in decades which will counter the scaremongering of the IPCC with a cool, rational approach to the study of climate change, presenting alternative explanations, new data, theory and commentary. Topics include solar-planetary theory, causes of ENSO, sea ice extent, sea level, ozone depletion, volcanos, regional forecasting, journal gatekeeping and many more.

The list of contributors is long, we are packing a huge number of presentations into this two day event. Speakers include Niklas Morner, myself, Ned Nikolov and Karl Zeller,  Nicola Scafetta, Per Strandberg, Jan-Erik Solheim, and thats before lunch on day one! Piers Corbyn will be there! So will  Christopher Monckton! See the full programme and the extended abstracts in this 35 Megabyte document for full details. There are also some travel and booking details on the geoethic.com website. An updated version is available on reseachgate

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Aurora on Jupiter [image credit: NASA/ESA]

Aurora on Jupiter [image credit: NASA/ESA]


NASA’s Juno spacecraft is closing in on Jupiter. Here the Daily Mail Online reviews the project from a layman’s perspective. Plus we get some Hubble pics.

On Earth they produce mesmerising riots of colour that light up the night sky around the poles. But our planet is not the only world to enjoy stunning aurora – better known as the northern and southern lights.

Now scientists are hoping to unravel the secrets of the biggest such polar light show in our solar system by focusing their attention on Jupiter’s aurora.

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Artist's impression [credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser]

Artist’s impression [credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser]


From Phys.org:
Is there life beyond our solar system? If there is, our best bet for finding it may lie in three nearby, Earth-like exoplanets.

For the first time, an international team of astronomers from MIT, the University of Liège in Belgium, and elsewhere have detected three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star, just 40 light years from Earth.

The sizes and temperatures of these worlds are comparable to those of Earth and Venus, and are the best targets found so far for the search for life outside the solar system. The results are published today in the journal Nature.

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The hunt for 'Planet 9' [image credit: Caltech]

The hunt for ‘Planet 9’ [image credit: Caltech]

Still no guarantee that such a planet exists, but the signs seem promising.
H/T Daily Mail Online

Since its discovery at the beginning of this year, the mysterious ‘Planet Nine’ has had scientists looking for the signs that could confirm its existence.

Now, astronomer Mike Brown of Caltech, one of the scientists behind the January announcement, claims he’s found further evidence to support it. The giant hidden planet is thought to sit on the edge of our solar system and is 10 times more massive than the Earth, gaseous, and similar to Uranus or Neptune.

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ceres-cone

Ceres giant ‘cone’ and adjacent ‘crater’

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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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