ars_belli: Abell 2744 (Abell 2744)
[personal profile] ars_belli
Long-time lurker, first-time poster here...
Every week (most) astrophysics papers (amongst other fields) go up as pre-prints in a site called arXiv, which enables the community to see who is doing what and which topics are hot now, etc. etc. There's no better way to check that one's understood a paper than to explain it to a non-specialist audience. So I thought I would take a small collection (not more than half-a-dozen) of the hundred-plus papers which appear in General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology and Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics and summarize them in a paragraph for a non-astrophysics audience. Is this the sort of thing in which [community profile] science would be interested?

Edit: Apologies for the earlier HTML fail...

Comet ISON

Nov. 28th, 2013 12:24 pm
nanila: fulla starz (lolcat: science)
[personal profile] nanila
The comet ISON is on approach to the sun and has entered the field of view of the long-running SOHO (Solar Heliospheric Observatory) mission. There are some fantastic shots of it traversing towards the sun through a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) on the SOHO web site. The images were captured by the LASCO instrument on board the spacecraft. Stunning stuff - have a look!

This is LASCO's perspective on the sun and the comet. The sun is in the centre, blocked out so that the instrument can focus on what's going on around the edge of it. If you watch the latest movie on the web site, you'll see a big CME forming on the lower right side of the sun, and then ISON appears from the side and streaks toward the centre.

Images and movies from today's data on the SOHO NASA web site.

ETA 20:50 GMT: It looks like the comet may have broken up at perihelion (closest approach to the sun), as shown in this video by another sun-observing spacecraft, STEREO.
nanila: fulla starz (lolcat: science)
[personal profile] nanila
If you want to show a bit of love for a spacecraft currently in lonely orbit around a planet 900 million miles away, you can do so by waving at Saturn on Friday or Saturday, 19 or 20 July, depending on your time zone. Cassini will be taking a photograph that includes the Earth.

If you're in Britain you will be wanting to wave at around 10:30 PM on Friday. If you're on the west coast of the USA, you will be wanting wave at around 2:30 PM on Friday. If you're in (most parts of) Australia, you'll want to wave at 7:30 AM on Saturday.

The NASA page about the photo Cassini is going to take
The "Wave at Saturn" Facebook event page
Where to look in the sky for Saturn (US-centric)
"Wave at Saturn" banners in different languages

jjhunter: Serene person of color with shaved head against abstract background half blue half brown (scientific sage)
[personal profile] jjhunter
[personal profile] sparkymonster is looking for not-textbook-but-more-technical-and-sciency-than-the-usual-popular-science-book book recommendations for her brother here, who requested:
"a book about one of these: planetary geology, life on other planets, astronomy, earth geology. I'd like a book that focuses on the science itself, not the sociology of science, not the cultural history of history. Something like Stephen Hawkins' A Brief History of Time, but not that specifically since I've already read it and probably not another book him."
nanila: fulla starz (lolcat: science)
[personal profile] nanila
The European Space Agency has selected its first L-class mission, the JUICE mission to Jupiter and its Galilean moons.

Here's a quote from the article (from my boss):

"People probably don't realise that habitable zones don't necessarily need to be close to a star - in our case, close to the Sun," explained Prof. Michele Dougherty, a Juice science team member from Imperial College London, UK.

"There are four conditions required for life to form. You need water; you need an energy source - so the ice can become liquid; you need the right chemistry - nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen; and the fourth thing you need is stability - a length of time that allows life to form.

"The great thing about the icy moons in the Jupiter system is that we think those four conditions might exist there; and Juice will tell us if that is the case," she told BBC News.

It's scheduled to launch in 2022. Fingers crossed that I will be working on it then, too!
nanila: fulla starz (lolcat: science)
[personal profile] nanila
It's been 1 year since the discovery of Neptune! One Neptunian year, that is. (1 NY = 164.79 Earth years.)
pinkadot89: (science)
[personal profile] pinkadot89
A newly discovered comet may or may not be the "celestial spectacle of the decade." I've never seen a comet, so I'm hoping that this one does give us quite a show.

A newfound comet discovered by astronomers using a telescope in Hawaii will swing through the inner solar system in 2013, with some astronomers and skywatchers hoping for a cosmic spectacle when it arrives.

The comet is C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS), an object named after the asteroid-hunting Pan-STARRS 1 telescope that detected the icy wanderer during the overnight hours of June 5 and 6.

Since the comet's discovery, hopes have risen that this "dirty snowball" presently heading sunward from the depths of the solar system could evolve into a memorable sight. Indeed, some forecasters have already suggested that comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) could become the celestial sight of the decade.
Read more at the source...


May. 16th, 2011 12:57 pm
nanila: fulla starz (lolcat: science)
[personal profile] nanila
The penultimate space shuttle launch, STS-134, is in about an hour. Watch it on NASA-TV here:

ETA: A successful launch! The Endeavour is now on her way to the ISS. With squids.
jeweledeyes: Sailor Venus thinks you're a loser (Nerdular nerdence)
[personal profile] jeweledeyes
Has anyone else been following Project Icarus? It's a 5-year study into the possibility of an unmanned interstellar mission. Everything about this project excites me. Discovery News has posted a series of articles that examine the different aspects of such a project, and I thought I'd share them here for anyone interested:

How would we get a spacecraft out of our solar system?

Construction and fuel options:

Design considerations:

nanila: fulla starz (lolcat: science)
[personal profile] nanila
[personal profile] holyschist asked: "If you could get the public to understand one key thing about your field or science in general, what would it be?"

Space-based planetary exploration isn't just blue-skies curiosity-driven research. It has a very pertinent message for us: the Earth is special. Really special. At this point, for us, irreplaceably special, because there are no planetary bodies within reach of our feeble spaceflight technology that could possibly support its diverse ecosystem. So we'd better start caring for it much more wisely than we have been.
nanila: fulla starz (lolcat: science)
[personal profile] nanila
I wrote up a short summary of a science meeting I attended in Noordwijk, the Netherlands this week during which the potential Europa-Jupiter System Mission, projected launch date 2020, was discussed. I thought perhaps some of you might be interested in reading it.

Jupiter as gas giant archetype: Progress on the Europa-Jupiter System Mission

Participants from around the world came to the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Noordwijk aan Zee, The Netherlands, from 17-19 May 2010 to discuss the research potential of the Europa-Jupiter System Mission (EJSM). EJSM has been designed to study the emergence of habitable worlds around gas giants using Jupiter as an archetype. Its baseline form consists of two primary flight elements: the Jupiter Europa Orbiter (JEO), led by NASA, and the Jupiter Ganymede Orbiter (JGO), led by ESA.

JEO: image from NASA
The meeting opened with an overview of the objectives of EJSM. The development status of each of the spacecraft, JGO and JEO, was presented in detail, with emphasis on the planned trajectories. Senior scientists outlined strategies for addressing critical questions about the oceans and internal structure of the Galilean moons, their geology, composition and space environment. What are the depths and extent of the liquid water oceans on Europa, Ganymede and Callisto? What processes occurred during their evolution to produce such large differences in the internal and surface structures of the four moons? To what extent do exchange processes between the Jovian magnetosphere and the moons’ exospheres influence their atmospheres and surfaces?

JGO: image from NASA
Stimulating discussions followed each session. The potential for complementary and synergistic observations proved to be a recurring theme and strengthened the reasoning behind a two-spacecraft mission. Exciting examples included simultaneous remote/in situ scenarios such as one spacecraft performing remote sensing measurements of volcanic activity on Io while the other is in the torus making in-situ measurements of the plasma response. Simultaneous in situ scenarios could yield interesting results. For instance, while JGO is in orbit around Ganymede, JEO will make multiple flybys of the moon, permitting synchronous observation of activity in Ganymede’s intrinsic magnetic field (JGO) and its interaction with Jupiter’s surrounding magnetic field (JEO). Complementary ground measurements, spacecraft-to-ground and spacecraft-to-spacecraft occultations also provide opportunities to investigate phenomena such as atmospheric activity at Jupiter and Europa and particle size populations in Jupiter’s rings.

Subsequent short talks covered diverse topics ranging from the space plasma environment into the deep interiors of the moon and from fast processes such as auroral dynamics to those occurring on a geological time scale, such as space weathering of impact craters. The poster sessions focused on instrument design and justification for EJSM. Measurement ranging capabilities and technical design aspects, particularly radiation tolerances, were prime considerations.

JMO: image from JAXA
Potential companion Japanese and Russian missions, the Jupiter Magnetospheric Orbiter (JMO) and the Europa Lander, also present prospects for multipoint measurements and synergistic science. If JMO enters the Jovian system in 2028, JEO and JGO will be localized around their respective moons. With its plasma imaging package and high inclination orbits, JMO provides an excellent platform to observe the environment in which the moons are embedded. The Russian Europa Lander mission, a spacecraft comprised of an orbiter and a lander with shallow sub-surface access capabilities, will search for signatures of life in Europa’s crust. It will investigate Europa during JEO’s orbital tour and help establish the geophysics and chemistry of the surface and exosphere.

The meeting demonstrated the viability of the necessary technology for EJSM, the strength of the science case and the commitment of the international community to supporting it.

EJSM Science Meeting attendees, 18 May 2010

If anyone is interested in delving into a serious amount of further reading, you can access PDFs of most of the presentations (10-15 minutes long) online. I don't recommend going past Sessions 1 through 4 for anyone who isn't specializing in planetary science, as the talks become subfield-specific after that point. You can get to them here.

cross-posted to personal journal [personal profile] nanila
ilyat: (Coyote - Scatter the Stars)
[personal profile] ilyat
Over a period of a year, one of Jupiter's two main dark belts -- the dark stripes most visible in amateur telescopes -- has faded completely away. The South Equatorial Belt (SEB) is gone, leaving just the north belt (NEB) viewable in small telescopes.

(x-posted from [community profile] astronomy)
[personal profile] semblance
I didn't see this link posted yet on passing glance, so I decided to go ahead and throw it out there. Apologies if this is an old hat.
queenbarwench: (aurora blue)
[personal profile] queenbarwench
Mysteries of Saturn as seen by Cassini probe

I recently saw a very cool documentary* on how the rings of Saturn are helping us study the formation of the solar system. So when the headline came up on [syndicated profile] newscientist_feed I went to have a look. Piccies are very cool; #7 is my favourite.

* Link is to BBC iPlayer, so probably won't work outside the UK. Sorry :(
nanila: fulla starz (lolcat: science)
[personal profile] nanila
Hey amateur astronomers: Want to help measure the effects of light pollution on a global scale? From Wednesday 3 March (that's tomorrow) to Tuesday 16 March, participate in the GLOBE at Night project.

It's really very easy. All you have to do is go outside every evening after sunset (between 7 and 10 PM), look for Orion, eyeball the magnitude of its brightness, and report your observations on the site linked above. The site gives you all the information you need to find your latitude & longitude, to locate the constellation and to evaluate the brightness of the stars. I'll be doing this from the Huxley building at Imperial College London (Lat: 51.49915066919835 Long: -0.17953097820281982) and from my home in Cambridge.
nanila: fulla starz (lolcat: science)
[personal profile] nanila

Calling all space enthusiasts: you can help physicists & astronomers by tracking storms on the Sun. Using data from the cameras aboard the two STEREO spacecraft orbiting the sun, movies have been placed on the galaxyzoo forum to bring in support from amateur astronomers. The identification tool is currently in the beta version and can be found here.

A movie narrated by Chris Davis from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) to demonstrate the kind of phenomena amateur astronomers will be asked to identify is here, on YouTube.

Those of you in the UK may be interested to know that this project, which is led by the team at RAL, has the support of the Greenwich Observatory who have set up a solar storm season to mark the start of this project. An exhibition opens Saturday, 6th February. Details can be found here.
cesy: "Cesy" - An old-fashioned quill and ink (Default)
[personal profile] cesy
I have created a load of space-related feeds.

This bit cross-posted to dw_feed_promo )

There is also [syndicated profile] badastronomy_feed and [syndicated profile] badscience_feed. Are there any other good space/astronomy-related or general science feeds on Dreamwidth?
nanila: fulla starz (cience)
[personal profile] nanila
This is a terribly exciting week for space exploration. The European Space Agency (ESA) is launching two spacecraft nested together in the nose cone of a big rocket from their launch site in French Guyana later today. I haven't seen much coverage of these in non-European media, as the Shuttle mission to service the Hubble telescope is currently grabbing the media spotlight, so I thought I'd take a stab at explaining why they're interesting as simply as possible.

The Ariane 5 rocket, with Herschel & Planck tucked inside

Let's start off with the smaller, humbler one, Planck. Its main purpose is to measure what's known as the "Cosmic Microwave Background" or CMB. This is a type of radiation (read: light, except you can't see it) which is everywhere, but very very weak. It was released quite close to the beginning of the universe, so studying it is a way to understand what sort of physical processes were happening then. Planck is going to make what is called an all-sky map of the CMB. This means it will spin around and around, taking pictures of the sky in strips, until it's looked at everything.

Surely this has been done before, you say. Yes, it has, but not at high enough resolution to answer all the questions scientists have about it. And, as this webcomic illustrates (see panel 2), unlike in the movies, when you order someone to enhance an image that is already at the limit of its can't. You could try and "interpolate between pixels", but in this case, that would be more commonly known as "making things up".

The aim of Planck, then, is to take the resolution of the all-sky maps of the CMB from the images on the left to the image on the right.
Old maps of the CMBPlanck's map of the CMB (predicted)

More detail == more information == better understanding of the birth of the universe.

Herschel, on the other hand, is like the Hubble telescope, except a lot bigger. Its 3.5 m mirror eclipses Hubble's by more than a meter. It also operates in the infrared - again, a region of light that we can't see with our eyes. Its size and the type of light it uses means that it will be able to peer far into deep space to see very distant objects. It will also be able to see closer, but rather cold objects - at least when compared with stars - such as planets that aren't in our solar system.

Both of these spacecraft represent a remarkable technological achievement, as they operate at tenths of a degree above absolute zero. But they're in space, you protest, or at least my mum did. Surely it's not difficult to be cold in space. Actually, it's surprisingly difficult. Space, in our solar system, is about 3 degrees Kelvin. Spacecraft also generate quite a bit of heat, just from being powered on. Herschel & Planck are cryo-cooled by liquid helium. This means they only work as long as the supply of liquid helium is there. These missions have strictly limited lifetimes, like Replicants. Most spacecraft can keep going as long as they have enough power to keep their instruments on. Herschel & Planck are also going to be quite far from the Earth, beyond the reach of the space shuttle (see below). They can't be serviced by humans once they run out of liquid helium. Shuttle missions are also expensive, which means that it'll likely be cheaper to build new robotic spacecraft and send them out to replace Herschel & Planck than to try and refill their cooling systems.

Herschel & Planck's orbits

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The launch is today. Good luck to them both, and their teams!

ETA: You can follow these spacecraft on Twitter: Herschel & Planck. ESA also has a Flickr account here, from which I poached that lovely image at the top.

ETA 2: The launch has been a success. The spacecraft have separated, are in communication with the Earth and are on their way to their orbits around the L2 point illustrated above. Yay!
cesy: Cambridge University Spaceflight - picture of the curvature of the earth against space, taken by us. (CU Spaceflight)
[personal profile] cesy
I noticed that we have several people in here who do cool space-related stuff.

I posted about some space stuff that interests me at my personal journal.

What interests you most about space/astronomy/cosmology? What interesting work or projects have you done that were to do with space?

Edited to add: [personal profile] niqaeli also posted some stuff about wanting to go into space.
ladyseishou: (Default)
[personal profile] ladyseishou
Astronomy Day is the grassroots movement that’s all about "Bringing Astronomy to the People" since 1973. This spring, the official date is Saturday, May 2 but Astronomy Week begins today and continues through Sunday, May 3.
more_info_here )


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