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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Astronomers Create First Large Scale Map of Stellar Ages in the Milky Way
Posted by Guy Pirro on 1/30/2016 10:25 AM
Using completely new ways of deducing the ages of red giant stars, astronomers have created the first large scale map that shows stellar ages in the Milky Way. Determining the ages of nearly 100,000 red giant stars, at distances of up to 50,000 light years from the galactic center, astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany were able to test key ideas about the growth of the Milky Way. Notably, the map confirms that our home galaxy has grown from the inside out -- Today, most old stars can be found in the middle and more recently formed ones in the outskirts.
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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Planet 9 From Outer Space
Posted by Guy Pirro on 1/21/2016 9:25 AM
Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system. The object, which the researchers have nicknamed "Planet Nine," has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on average than does Neptune (which orbits the sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). In fact, it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun. The researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, discovered the planet's existence through mathematical modeling and computer simulations but have not yet observed the object directly.
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Thursday, January 07, 2016

"Back in My Day, We Had Nine Planets" and Other Favorite Quotations
Posted by Guy Pirro on 1/7/2016 1:56 PM
This week is a bit slow on news, so I'll post some of my favorite quotations. Some are deep. Others not so much...
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Saturday, January 02, 2016

US Postal Service Honors NASA Planetary Achievements With 2016 Stamps
Posted by Guy Pirro on 1/2/2016 9:05 AM
The Postal Service has released a preview of its new 2016 stamps, which include eight new colorful Forever stamps of NASA images of solar system planets. Separately, Forever stamps of Pluto and the New Horizons spacecraft, Global Forever stamps dedicated to Earth's moon, and Forever stamps providing a tribute to 50 years of Star Trek will be issued.
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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Cosmic Deja Vu -- Refsdal Supernova Reappears Exactly as Predicted
Posted by Guy Pirro on 12/27/2015 10:43 AM
Due to the effects of gravitational lensing, as predicted by Einstein's general theory of relativity, a distant and massive cluster of galaxies is acting like a time machine, replaying for the second time in 13 months the explosion of a massive star 9.3 billion years ago located near the edge of the observable universe.
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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Have a Merry Christmas!
Posted by Paul Walsh on 12/26/2015 1:51 AM
And to all, a clear and cloudless night!
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Sunday, December 06, 2015

What Powers Gamma Ray Bursts? Researchers Think They Found the Source
Posted by Guy Pirro on 12/6/2015 8:59 PM
A supercomputer simulation of a mere 10 milliseconds during the collapse of a massive star into a neutron star proves that these catastrophic events, often called Hypernovae, can generate the enormous magnetic fields needed to explode the star and fire off bursts of gamma rays that are visible halfway across the universe. The simulation and visualization of the toroidal magnetic field that is formed from a collapsed massive star, required 130,000 computer cores operating in parallel over a span of two weeks on "Blue Waters" -- one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world.
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Monday, November 30, 2015

Mars Expected to Lose a Moon... But Gain a Ring
Posted by Guy Pirro on 11/30/2015 7:04 PM
Mars' largest moon, Phobos, is slowly falling toward the planet. But rather than smash into the surface, it will likely be shredded and the pieces strewn about the planet in a ring much like the one encircling Saturn, according to two scientists at the University of California - Berkeley. As Phobos gets closer to the planet, the force of gravity will be enough to actually pull the moon apart. This is because Phobos is highly fractured, with lots of pores and rubble. Dismembering it will be analogous to pulling apart a granola bar, scattering crumbs and chunks everywhere. Though inevitable, the demise of Phobos is not imminent. It will probably happen in 20 to 40 million years, leaving a ring that may persist for up to 100 million years.
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Friday, November 27, 2015

Posted by Paul Walsh on 11/27/2015 1:06 PM
A big Thank You to all of our Astromart Members.
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Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Simple, Elegant Solution for Determining the Distances to Planetary Nebulae
Posted by Guy Pirro on 11/21/2015 7:49 PM
There are thousands of planetary nebulae in our galaxy and they provide targets for professional and amateur astronomers alike, with the latter often taking spectacular images of these beautiful jewels. But despite intense study, scientists have struggled to measure one of their key properties -- their distance. Now, a new way of estimating more accurate distances to the planetary nebulae dispersed across our galaxy has been announced by a team of three astronomers at the University of Hong Kong. The new approach, which is both simple and elegant, allows astronomers to measure distances up to 5 times more accurately than previous methods.
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Friday, November 13, 2015

Ancient Stars Older Than the Milky Way Found at the Center of Our Galaxy
Posted by Guy Pirro on 11/13/2015 9:22 AM
An international team of astronomers, led by researchers from the University of Cambridge and the Australian National University, have discovered some of the oldest stars in our galaxy, whose chemical composition and movements could tell us what the Universe was like soon after the Big Bang. These stars, which have been at the very center of the Milky Way for billions of years, contain extremely low amounts of metal and are made up almost entirely of hydrogen, helium, and small amounts of lithium.
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Monday, November 09, 2015

Flirting With Disaster -- Two Stars in a Final Kiss
Posted by Guy Pirro on 11/9/2015 8:44 AM
Using ESO's Very Large Telescope, an international team of astronomers have found the hottest and most massive double star with components so close that they touch each other. The two stars in the extreme system VFTS 352 could be heading for a dramatic end, during which the two stars either coalesce to create a single giant star, or form a binary black hole.
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Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Notre Dame Astrophysicists Produce the First Age Map of the Milky Way Halo
Posted by Guy Pirro on 11/3/2015 5:30 PM
University of Notre Dame astronomer Timothy Beers and his Galactic Archaeology team have produced the first chronographic (age) map of the halo of the Milky Way galaxy. The halo, along with the disk and bulge, are the primary components of the galaxy. Using a sample of 4700 Blue Horizontal-Branch (BHB) stars from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), the research team showed that the oldest stars are concentrated in the central region of the galaxy. In addition, the researchers also resolved the ages of dwarf galaxies and the stellar debris that was stripped from them due to their gravitational interaction with the Milky Way.
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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Largest Astronomical Image of All Time -- The Milky Way in 46 Billion Pixels
Posted by Guy Pirro on 10/27/2015 7:45 PM
Astronomers at the Ruhr-Universitat Bochum in Germany have compiled the largest astronomical image of the night sky to date -- A picture of the Milky Way containing 46 billion pixels. In order to view it, Dr. Rolf Chini, Professor of Astrophysics, and his team of researchers have developed an online tool. The image contains data gathered in astronomical observations over a period of five years.
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Monday, October 19, 2015

Geochronological Analysis of Shocked Zircon Puts Age of Moon Into Question
Posted by Guy Pirro on 10/19/2015 11:53 AM
Phenomenally durable crystals called zircons are used to date some of the earliest and most dramatic cataclysms of the solar system. The super collision that ejected material from Earth to form the moon roughly 50 million years after Earth formed is one of these events. Another is the late heavy bombardment -- a wave of violent impacts that created the hellish surface conditions on the young Earth -- about 4 billion years ago. Both events are widely accepted but unproven, so geoscientists are eager for more details and better dates. Many of the currently accepted dates come from zircons retrieved from the moon during NASA's Apollo voyages in the 1970s. However, a new study of zircons from a gigantic meteorite impact in South Africa casts doubt on the methods used to date lunar impacts.
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Friday, October 09, 2015

Imagine That... Pluto Has Blue Skies and Water Ice
Posted by Guy Pirro on 10/9/2015 3:22 PM
The first color images of Pluto's atmospheric haze, returned by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft last week, reveal an unexpected rich blue color. The way the haze particles scatter the blue light has gotten the attention of the New Horizons science team. On Earth, particles in the atmosphere are very tiny nitrogen molecules. On Pluto they appear to be larger, but still relatively small, soot-like particles called tholins.
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Friday, October 02, 2015

New "Stealth Dark Matter" Theory May Explain Universe's Missing Mass
Posted by Guy Pirro on 10/2/2015 4:41 PM
Dark matter makes up 83 percent of all matter in the universe and does not interact directly with electromagnetic or strong and weak nuclear forces. Light does not bounce off of it and ordinary matter goes through it with only the feeblest of interactions. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists have now come up with a new theory that may identify why dark matter has evaded direct detection in Earth-based experiments. They believe that even though dark matter is naturally "stealthy" today, it would have been easy to see via interactions with ordinary matter in the extremely high temperature plasma conditions that pervaded the early universe.
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Monday, September 28, 2015

Percival Lowell Was Right After All -- There Is Flowing Water on Mars
Posted by Guy Pirro on 9/28/2015 10:22 AM
New findings from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present day Mars. Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks have been seen on the Red Planet. These darkish streaks appear to ebb and flow over time. They darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons and then fade in cooler seasons, indicating the presence of flowing water.
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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"Supermoon" Total Lunar Eclipse to be Visible on Sunday Night
Posted by Guy Pirro on 9/22/2015 11:35 AM
For the first time in more than 30 years, we'll be able to witness a "Supermoon" in combination with a total lunar eclipse. Late on Sunday, September 27, 2015, in the USA and in much of the world, a total lunar eclipse will mask the moon's face for more than an hour. So, what makes this a "Supermoon" total eclipse? On September 27th, we're going to have a perigee full moon -- That is the moon will be at its closest point to the Earth for the year. The timing of the total eclipse will coincide with the perigee full moon and the moon will appear 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter in the night sky than during an apogee full moon. The total eclipse will last one hour and 12 minutes and will be visible in North and South America, Europe, Africa, parts of West Asia, and the eastern Pacific.
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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

One Decade After Launch, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Still Going Strong
Posted by Guy Pirro on 9/15/2015 11:48 AM
Although designed originally for a two year mission, ten years after launch, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) continues to reveal the Red Planet's diversity and activity, returning more data about Mars every week than the weekly total from all six other active Mars missions... Yet its work is far from over. The spacecraft has been orbiting Mars at an altitude of about 186 miles (300 kilometers), passing near the north and south poles about 12 times a day. The workhorse orbiter is now playing a key role in NASA's Journey to Mars planning as it searches for candidate sites where humans will first explore the Martian surface in the 2030s.
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