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Archive for November 30, 2011

New Exhibition, Website Guide Visitors through the Evolving Universe

November 30, 2011 Leave a comment

The cosmos constantly changes. Stars are born, live out their lives, and die – sometimes calmly, sometimes explosively. Galaxies form, grow, and collide dramatically. A new exhibition and website, developed jointly by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, reveal the dynamic and evolving universe through breathtaking photographs and informative captions.

“The Evolving Universe” explores how the stars, galaxies and universe undergo the same stages as life on Earth: from birth, to maturity and, eventually, to death. This remarkable journey from present-day Earth to the far reaches of space and time will be on view in the museum in Washington, D.C., through July 7, 2013.

A worldwide audience also can experience the exhibition through its website, located at www.mnh.si.edu/exhibits/evolving-universe. All of the images featured in the museum gallery can be downloaded in high-resolution jpegs or PDFs formatted in poster size.

Full Story: http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2011/pr201132.html

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Ground- & Space-Based Observations Yield New Planet Kepler-21b

November 30, 2011 Leave a comment

The NASA Kepler Mission is designed to survey a portion of our region of the Milky Way Galaxy to discover Earth-size planets in or near the “habitable zone,” the region in a planetary system where liquid water can exist, and determine how many of the billions of stars in our galaxy have such planets. It now has another planet to add to its growing list. A research team led by Steve Howell, NASA Ames Research Center, has shown that one of the brightest stars in the Kepler star field has a planet with a radius only 1.6 that of the earth’s radius and a mass no greater that 10 earth masses, circling its parent star with a 2.8 day period. With such a short period, and such a bright star, the team of over 65 astronomers (that included David Silva, Ken Mighell and Mark Everett of NOAO) needed multiple telescopes on the ground to support and confirm their Kepler observations. These included the 4 meter Mayall telescope and the WIYN telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory. The accompanying figure shows the size of the Kepler field, seen over Kitt Peak.

With a period of only 2.8 days, this planet, designated Kepler-21b, is only about 6 million km away from its parent star. By comparison Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, has a period of 88 days and a distance from the sun almost ten times greater, or 57 million km. So Kepler 21b is far hotter than any place humans could venture. The team calculates that the temperature at the surface of the planet is about 1900 K, or 2960 F. While this temperature is nowhere near the habitable zone in which liquid water might be found, the planet’s size is approaching that of the earth.

Full Story: http://www.noao.edu/news/2011/pr1108.php

Homer Glen, IL, Becomes 3rd Int’l Dark Sky Community

November 30, 2011 Leave a comment

The Village of Homer Glen, Illinois, became the world’s third International Dark Sky Community on 21 November. Located 30 miles southwest of Chicago, Homer Glen’s proximity to a major city presented large challenges but also valuable opportunities to raise awareness on the negative effects of wasteful outdoor lighting.

A primary goal of the International Dark Sky Places program is to improve sky quality relative to an area, and Homer Glen has worked hard to provide a respite to the famously excessive lighting of Chicago. Sky glow prohibits astronomical quality skies, but Homer Glen’s statewide leadership and education campaign for smart lighting policy has earned the recognition of this prestigious award.

Work in Homer Glen is — hands down — the initiator of the dark sky movement for the entire state of Illinois. The Village passed the state’s first stand-alone lighting ordinance in 2007, and its promotion of Earth Hour attracted the support of then-Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn, who commended Homer Glen for its “environmentally friendly” outdoor lighting ordinance in 2008 during a ceremony held jointly by representatives of IDA and the World Wildlife Fund.

Full Story: http://astronews.us/2011-11-30-1159.html

365 Days of Astronomy Podcast to Continue in 2012

November 30, 2011 Leave a comment

The award-winning 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is proud to announce the project will continue for yet another year – its fourth consecutive year — and is now accepting sign-ups for participants for more podcasts in 2012.

365 Days of Astronomy (which will last 366 days in 2012, a leap year) is a legacy project of the International Year of Astronomy (IYA), and in 2009 was a major project of the IYA. All the podcast episodes are written, recorded and produced by people all around the world.

“During the past three years, we’ve shared astronomy with the world, and we’ve heard from many different voices in astronomy – from professionals and amateurs to those who just enjoy the all the incredible discoveries and beautiful images of our Universe,” said Nancy Atkinson, who is now an advising producer for the project.

Full Story: http://365daysofastronomy.org/2011/11/29/breaking-365-days-of-astronomy-podcast-to-continue-in-2012/