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Archive for September 3, 2013

Dramatic Pairing Of Crescent Moon And Venus On September 8th

September 3, 2013 1 comment

Soon after the Sun dips below the western horizon on Sunday, September 8th, anyone looking in that direction will see a dramatic sight: a pretty crescent Moon paired closely with the dazzling planet Venus, the “Evening Star.”

“This is one you won’t want to miss,” says Alan MacRobert of Sky & Telescope magazine. “These are the two brightest objects in the nighttime sky.”

Start looking for the pair about 30 minutes after sunset. The farther south and east you are in North America, the closer they’ll appear. From locations along the East Coast, the they’ll be only about 1½° apart — about the width of your index finger at arm’s length. By the time darkness falls on the West Coast, the Moon will have edged slightly farther away.

Full Story: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/about/pressreleases/Moon-and-Venus-September-8th.html

UK Scientists Begin 5 Year Quest To Solve Cosmic Detective Puzzle

September 3, 2013 1 comment

A five year quest is underway (3 September 2013) looking to solve the cosmic detective puzzle of why the expansion of the universe is speeding up. UK physicists and astronomers working alongside colleagues from around the world, from an observatory in Chile, are using the world’s most powerful digital camera – the Dark Energy Camera – to try and answer some of the most fundamental questions about our universe.

For hundreds of nights over the next five years, the researchers taking part in this Dark Energy Survey (DES) aim to find out not only why the growth of the universe is accelerating, instead of slowing down due to gravity, but also to probe the mystery of dark energy, the force believed to be causing that acceleration.

Scientists on the survey team will systematically map one-eighth of the sky (5000 square degrees) in unprecedented detail. The start of the survey is the culmination of ten years of planning, building, and testing by scientists from 25 institutions in six countries, including the Universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Portsmouth, Sussex and University College London in the UK.

Full Story: http://www.stfc.ac.uk/2841.aspx

The World’s First Interferometric Image At 500 GHz With ALMA Band 8 Receivers

September 3, 2013 1 comment

Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

ALMA opens another window to the universe in the 500 GHz frequency band. Astronomers successfully synthesized the distribution of atomic carbon around a planetary nebula NGC 6302 in test observations with the ALMA Band 8 receiver, developed by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). This is the first 500 GHz band astronomical image captured by a radio interferometer with unprecedentedly high resolution.

NGC 6302 is a planetary nebula, which is in the final stage of the life of a star with a mass several times that of the Sun. Visible light image shows a bipolar shape of gas ejected from the dying star. ALMA with the Band 8 receivers targeted at the center of the nebula and revealed that the distribution of carbon atom is concentrated in a small part, which is similar to a dust and gas disk around the central star that has been found by previous observations with other telescopes. Further observations of carbon atom with better resolution will give us more detailed view of the chemical environment in the nebula.

Full Story: http://www.nao.ac.jp/en/news/topics/2013/20130902-alma-band8.html

Massive Storm Pulls Water And Ammonia Ices From Saturn’s Depths

September 3, 2013 1 comment

Once every 30 years or so, or roughly one Saturnian year, a monster storm rips across the northern hemisphere of the ringed planet.

In 2010, the most recent and only the sixth giant storm on Saturn observed by humans began stirring. It quickly grew to superstorm proportions, reaching 15,000 kilometers (more than 9,300 miles) in width and visible to amateur astronomers on Earth as a great white spot dancing across the surface of the planet.

Now, thanks to near-infrared spectral measurements taken by NASA’s Cassini orbiter and analysis of near-infrared color signatures by researchers at UW-Madison, Saturn’s superstorm is helping scientists flesh out a picture of the composition of the planet’s atmosphere at depths typically obscured by a thick high-altitude haze.

Full Story: http://www.news.wisc.edu/22083