A team of astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array (ALMA) has spotted sugar molecules in the gas surrounding a young Sun-like star. This is the first time sugar been found in space around such a star, and the discovery shows that the building blocks of life are in the right place, at the right time, to be included in planets forming around the star.
The astronomers found molecules of glycolaldehyde — a simple form
of sugar  — in the gas surrounding a young binary star, with
similar mass to the Sun, called IRAS 16293-2422. Glycolaldehyde has been seen in interstellar space before , but this is the first time it
has been found so near to a Sun-like star, at distances comparable to
the distance of Uranus from the Sun in the Solar System. This
discovery shows that some of the chemical compounds needed for life existed in this system at the time of planet formation .
“In the disc of gas and dust surrounding this newly formed star, we
found glycolaldehyde, which is a simple form of sugar, not much
different to the sugar we put in coffee,” explains Jes Jørgensen
(Niels Bohr Institute, Denmark), the lead author of the paper. “This
molecule is one of the ingredients in the formation of RNA, which —
like DNA, to which it is related — is one of the building blocks of
Full Story: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1234/
Heralding the change in season, a full Moon will rise in the eastern twilight sky on August 31st for the second time this month (the first time came on August 1st). Many people use the expression “once in a blue Moon” to mean something that occurs rarely, and you might be tempted to call August 31st’s big, bright orb a “Blue Moon” too. While the former meaning can be traced back centuries, the latter definition is much newer — and it’s wrong! At least if you’re a stickler about these things.
“In modern usage, the second full Moon in a month has come to be called a ‘Blue Moon.’ But it’s not!” says Kelly Beatty, Senior Contributing Editor for Sky & Telescope magazine. “This colorful term is actually a calendrical goof that worked its way into the pages of Sky & Telescope back in March 1946, and it spread to the world from there.”
Sky & Telescope admitted to its “Blue Moon blooper” in its May 1999 issue. Canadian folklorist Philip Hiscock and Texas astronomer Donald W. Olson had helped the magazine’s editors figure out how the mistake was made, and how the two-full-Moons-in-a-month meaning spread into the English language.
A team of astronomers led by researchers from The University of Texas at Austin has confirmed the emission of gravitational waves from the second-strongest known source in our galaxy by studying the shrinking orbital period of a unique pair of burnt-out stars. Their observations tested Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity in a new regime. The results will be published soon in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Last year, the same team discovered that the two white dwarf stars are so close together that they make a complete orbit in less than 13 minutes, and they should be gradually slipping closer. The system, called SDSS J065133.338+284423.37 (J0651 for short), contains two white dwarf stars, which are the remnant cores of stars like our sun.
Einstein’s theory of general relativity predicts that moving objects create subtle ripples in the fabric of space-time, called gravitational waves. Though not yet directly observed, gravitational waves should carry away energy, causing the stars to inch closer together and orbit each other faster and faster.
Gravitational waves, much like the recently discovered Higgs boson, are
notoriously difficult to observe. Scientists first detected these ripples in the fabric of space-time indirectly, using radio signals from a pulsar-neutron star binary system. The find, which required exquisitely accurate timing of the radio signals, garnered its discoverers a Nobel Prize. Now a team of astronomers has detected the same effect at optical wavelengths, in light from a pair of eclipsing white dwarf stars.
“This result marks one of the cleanest and strongest detections of the effect of gravitational waves,” said team member Warren Brown of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO).
The team discovered the white dwarf pair last year. (White dwarfs are the remnant cores of stars like our Sun.) The system, called SDSS J065133.338+284423.37 (J0651 for short), contains two white dwarf stars so close together — one-third of the Earth-moon distance — that they make a complete orbit in less than 13 minutes.
The United States Naval Observatory (USNO) has released the Fourth Edition of its USNO CCD Astrograph Catalog (UCAC4), the most precise and comprehensive star catalog ever produced by ground-based instrumentation. The catalog contains data on about 113 million stars and is complete for all stars from the brightest, Sirius, to about 16th magnitude. Stars brighter than about 8th magnitude are supplemented from other sources, mainly the FK6, Hipparcos and Tycho Catalogs, and were not directly observed by the astrograph.
In addition to the sheer number of stars that the UCAC4 entails, it is the
precision and accuracy of the stars’ positions that set this catalog apart from all of its predecessors.
Astronomers measure the sky in terms of angular degrees, minutes, and seconds of arc. The apparent size of the disc of the Full Moon is approximately 30 arcminutes, or one-half of a degree. The apparent size of the disc of Mars at its most favorable oppositions is just over 25 arcseconds, slightly less than one-half of an arcminute. One arcsecond is the apparent size that a U.S. penny coin would appear if it were viewed from a distance of about 2.4 miles (3.9 kilometers).
The International Astronomical Union’s (IAU) Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) programme is announcing a number of exciting new partnerships that will assist with the IAU’s decadal strategic plan, aimed at realising the societal benefits of astronomy. These landmark decisions involve establishing two new coordinating centres that use astronomy as a tool for development in the East and South East Asian regions, as well as launching an array of exciting programmes and events with different institutions across the world.
The first of these pioneering agreements, concerning a coordinating centre to be established in the East Asian region (in China), was signed on Tuesday 21 August 2012 by a consortium of institutes: the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics (KIAA, Peking University), Beijing Planetarium and Yunnan Astronomical Observatory. The consortium is supported in their efforts by various important partners including the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC), the East Asian Core Observatories
Association (EACOA), and Pyongyang Astronomical Observatory (PAO).
Attendees of the International Astronomical Union Congress in Beijing are being treated to a special “sneak preview” of a fulldome video on light pollution called “Losing the Dark”. The five and a half minute public service announcement showing at the Beijing Planetarum on August 29th, 2012 is a joint collaboration between the International Dark-Sky Association and Loch Ness Productions, a U.S.-based fulldome video production company. Science and technical advisor for the production is Dr. Connie Walker, National Optical Astronomy Observatory’s Senior Science Education Specialist and chair of the IDA
According to producer Carolyn Collins Petersen, CEO of Loch Ness Productions, the presentation is a public service announcement that
brings the important facts about light pollution to a wide audience.
“Our team designed the show to emphasize some of the most important problems and effects of light pollution,” she said. “Light pollution is ubiquitous; it affects our ability to see the night sky. In addition, it
turns out that light pollution has effects on human health, and we’ve known for a long time that it affects plant and animal life. On top of all that, it costs us money and wastes scarce fuel resources.”
Full Story: http://www.darksky.org/losingthedark