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Archive for October 7, 2011

Draconid Meteor Shower Outburst

October 7, 2011 Leave a comment

On October 8th, Earth will pass through a network of dusty filaments shed by Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner. Forecasters expect the encounter to produce anywhere from a few dozen to a thousand meteors per hour visible mainly over Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East. The meteors will stream from the northern constellation Draco–hence their name, the “Draconids.”

Peak rates should occur between 1600 UT and 2200 UT (noon – 6 pm EDT) as Earth grazes a series of filaments nearly intersecting our planet’s orbit.

Full Story: http://spaceweather.com/archive.php?month=10&day=07&year=2011&view=view

1st Detection of Abundant Carbon in Early Universe

October 7, 2011 Leave a comment

A research team of astronomers, mainly from Ehime University and Kyoto University in Japan, has successfully detected a carbon emission line (CIVλ1549) in the most distant radio galaxy known so far in the early universe. Using the Faint Object Camera and Spectrograph (FOCAS) on the Subaru Telescope, the team observed the radio galaxy TN J0924-2201, which is 12.5 billion light years away, and was able to measure its chemical composition for the first time. Their investigation of the detected carbon line showed that a significant amount of carbon existed as early as 12.5 billion years ago, less than a billion years after the Big Bang. This important finding contributes to our understanding of the chemical evolution of the universe and may provide clues about the chemical nature of humans, who are composed of various elements such as carbon and oxygen.

Our universe began with the Big Bang, about 13.7 billion years ago. Hydrogen and helium were the only elements in this newly created universe. If these were the only elements, when and how did other elements, the so-called “metals” heavier than hydrogen and helium, originate? The answer lies in the stars shining in the night sky. Supernovae phenomena as well as nuclear fusion in stars have given rise to the variety of elements that exist today. Chemical enrichment of the universe has progressed through the birth and death of numerous stars over an immense cosmological timescale. Understanding the chemical evolution of the universe reveals a lot about the evolution of the universe itself and the sources of our human chemistry.

Full Story: http://www.naoj.org/Pressrelease/2011/10/05/index.html

Clocking the Mosh Pit of Interstellar Space

October 7, 2011 Leave a comment

The space between the stars in the Milky Way and all other galaxies is full of dust and gas, the raw materials from which stars and planets are made.

But the dynamics of these galactic mosh pits, which are perhaps best known through the spectacular images from the Hubble Space Telescope of towering nebulas caught in the act of churning out stars, are still mysterious. Now, an international team of scientists, including two from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, has clocked the turbulence of the warm ionized gas in interstellar space, a measurement that promises a better handle on a process responsible for regulating the appearance and composition of the Milky Way.

Full Story: http://www.news.wisc.edu/19858

Did Earth’s Oceans Come from Comets?

October 7, 2011 Leave a comment

ESA’s Herschel infrared space observatory has found water in a comet with almost exactly the same composition as Earth’s oceans. The discovery revives the idea that our planet’s seas could once have been giant icebergs floating through space.

The origin of Earth’s water is hotly debated. Our planet formed at such high temperatures that any original water must have evaporated. Yet today, two-thirds of the surface is covered in water and this must have been delivered from space after Earth cooled down.

Comets seem a natural explanation: they are giant icebergs travelling through space with orbits that take them across the paths of the planets, making collisions possible. The impact of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter in 1994 was one such event. But in the early Solar System, when there were larger numbers of comets around, collisions would have been much more common.

Full Story: http://www.esa.int/esaSC/SEMER89U7TG_index_0.html

Aden Meinel, First Director of Kitt Peak National Observatory, Passed Away

October 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Astronomy and optical science lost a great pioneer and innovator when Dr. Aden Meinel passed away on 2 October 2011. Meinel led the development, and became the first Director, of the Kitt Peak National Observatory, located near Tucson, AZ. He then went on to become Director of the Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona, where he also founded the Optical Sciences program.

In the early 1950s, when the US astronomical community started talking about establishing a National Astronomical Observatory, the committee formed to guide the effort selected Meinel, an astronomer then at Yerkes Observatory, to lead the project. He knew that the skies in the Southwest were the most satisfactory, so his small team concentrated on the mountains there. In May 1955, Meinel arranged for his colleague Helmut Abt to fly in a small plane from McDonald Observatory in west Texas to assess the mountain summits. Based on that survey, Kitt Peak looked promising, and a visit to the summit was made in March 1956.

Full Story: http://www.noao.edu/news/2011/pr1105.php

MESSENGER Results After 6 Months in Mercury Orbit

October 7, 2011 Leave a comment

MESSENGER scientists will highlight the latest results on Mercury from MESSENGER observations obtained during the first six months (the first Mercury solar day) in orbit. These findings will be presented October 5 in 30 papers and posters as part of a special session of the joint meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress and the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society in Nantes, Frances.

Scientists will also look ahead to MESSENGER observations still to come and to the dual-spacecraft BepiColombo mission of the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s later this decade.

“This is the first major scientific meeting at which MESSENGER orbital observations are being presented to the scientific community,” says MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. “As the first spacecraft to orbit our solar system’s innermost planet, MESSENGER continues to reveal new surprises every week. It is timely to sum up what we’ve learned so far and to seek feedback from our international colleagues across planetary science on our interpretations to date.”

Full Story: http://www.europlanet-eu.org/outreach/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=356&Itemid=41