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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

An Accelerating Expanding Universe? Not So Fast...
Posted by Guy Pirro on 4/15/2015 6:14 PM
A University of Arizona-led team of astronomers has discovered that Type Ia Supernovae, which have been considered so uniform that cosmologists have used them as cosmic "beacons" to measure the depths of the universe, are not so constant after all. This discovery casts new light on the currently accepted view that the universe is expanding at a faster and faster rate, pulled apart by a poorly understood force called Dark Energy. The results have implications for big cosmological questions, including the possibility that the acceleration of the expanding universe may not be quite as fast as today's textbooks say.
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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Mars Has Belts of Frozen Water Glaciers
Posted by Guy Pirro on 4/8/2015 4:54 PM
Mars has distinct polar ice caps, but Mars also has belts of glaciers at its central latitudes in both the southern and northern hemispheres. A thick layer of dust covers the glaciers, so they appear as surface of the ground. But radar measurements show that underneath the dust there are glaciers composed of frozen water. New studies have now calculated the size of the glaciers and thus the amount of water in the glaciers. It is the equivalent of all of Mars being covered by more than one meter of ice.
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Thursday, April 02, 2015

Astronomers Without Borders Sets April as "Global Astronomy Month 2015"
Posted by Guy Pirro on 4/2/2015 10:55 AM
Global Astronomy Month, organized each April by Astronomers Without Borders, is the world's largest annual global celebration of astronomy. Astronomers Without Borders connects people worldwide through innovative programs that are accessible to everyone regardless of geography and culture. Combining local events with online technology and a global community, Astronomers Without Borders is a leader in promoting understanding and peaceful international relations, while also supporting outreach and education in astronomy. Astronomers Without Borders' motto is "One People, One Sky."
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Sunday, March 29, 2015

A New Spin on Saturn's Peculiar Rotation
Posted by Guy Pirro on 3/29/2015 9:11 AM
Tracking the rotation speed of solid planets, like the Earth and Mars, is a relatively simple task -- Just measure the time it takes for a surface feature to roll into view again. But giant gas planets Jupiter and Saturn are more problematic for planetary scientists, as they both lack measurable solid surfaces and are covered by thick layers of clouds, foiling direct visual measurements by space probes. Saturn has presented an even greater challenge to scientists, as different parts of this sweltering ball of hydrogen and helium are known to rotate at different speeds, whereas its rotation axis and magnetic pole are aligned. A new method devised by researchers at Tel Aviv University proposes a new determination of Saturn's rotation period and offers insight into the internal structure of the planet. The researchers also measured the rotation of Jupiter and hope to apply their method to other gaseous planets in the solar system such as Uranus and Neptune.
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Monday, March 23, 2015

Nova Vul of 1670 Was Not a Nova, But Rather Two Colliding Stars
Posted by Guy Pirro on 3/23/2015 3:15 PM
Some of the greatest astronomers of the 1600s, including Hevelius - the father of lunar cartography - and Cassini, carefully documented the appearance of a new star in the skies in 1670. Astronomers know it today by the name Nova Vul 1670. Now, new discoveries made by a team from the Max Planck Institut fur Radioastronomie in Bonn, Germany, reveal that this "new" star that astronomers saw in the sky in 1670 was not a nova, but rather a much rarer stellar collision. Using modern sub-millimeter telescopes, the team was able to finally unravel the mystery more than 340 years later by analyzing a fascinating variety of molecules in the stellar emissions that provided the required tell-tale evidence.
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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

NASA's Chandra Watches the GK Persei Nova Expand Into Space
Posted by Guy Pirro on 3/17/2015 9:40 AM
The GK Persei Nova became a sensation in the astronomical world in 1901 when it suddenly appeared as one of the brightest stars in the sky for a few days, before gradually fading away in brightness. Today, astronomers cite GK Persei as an example of a Classical Nova -- an outburst produced by a thermonuclear explosion on the surface of a white dwarf star. Chandra first observed GK Persei in February 2000 and then again in November 2013. This 13-year baseline has provided astronomers with enough time to notice important differences in the X-ray emission and its properties. These new observations are helping astronomers develop a better understanding of the births, lives, and deaths of stars and how they interact with their surroundings.
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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Happy "Pi" Day
Posted by Guy Pirro on 3/14/2015 9:13 AM
Saturday is "Pi" Day. It is March 14 of the year 2015, or 3-14-15 -- the first five digits of the constant "Pi." At 9:26 AM and 53 seconds, "Pi" will be represented to 10 digits -- 3.141592653. The Greek letter "Pi" is the symbol used in mathematics to represent the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, which is approximately 3.141592653... Pi has been calculated to over 12 trillion digits beyond its decimal point. As an irrational and transcendental number, it continues infinitely without repetition or discernible pattern. So, to all of our AstroMart friends around the world, Happy "Pi" Day.
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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Jupiter Moon Ganymede Has a Saltwater Ocean
Posted by Guy Pirro on 3/12/2015 9:48 PM
Nearly 500 million miles from the Sun lies a moon orbiting Jupiter that is slightly larger than the planet Mercury and may contain more water than all of Earth's oceans. Temperatures are so cold, though, that water on the surface of Ganymede freezes as hard as rock and the ocean lies roughly 100 miles below the crust. Nevertheless, where there is water there could be life as we know it. Though the presence of an ocean on Ganymede has been long predicted based on theoretical models, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has now found the best evidence for it to date.
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Saturday, March 07, 2015

A Thermonuclear Supernova Ejected Our Galaxy's Fastest Star
Posted by Guy Pirro on 3/7/2015 7:26 AM
Scientists using the W. M. Keck Observatory and Pan-STARRS1 telescopes on Hawaii have discovered a star that breaks the galactic speed record -- traveling with a velocity of about 1200 kilometers per second or 2.7 million miles per hour. This velocity is so high that the star will escape the gravity of our galaxy. The team showed that this compact star was ejected from an extremely tight binary by a thermonuclear supernova explosion.
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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

"Life Not as We Know It" Possible on Saturn's Moon Titan
Posted by Guy Pirro on 3/3/2015 5:39 PM
Liquid water is a requirement for life on Earth. But in other, much colder worlds where water is a solid, life might exist beyond the bounds of water-based chemistry. Cornell University chemical engineers and astronomers have offered a template for life that could thrive in a harsh, cold world like Titan - the giant moon of Saturn. A planetary body awash with seas not of water, but of liquid methane at temperatures of 292 degrees below zero, could harbor methane-based, oxygen-free cells that metabolize, reproduce, and do everything life on Earth does -- except it would be "Life Not as We Know It."
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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Trans-Neptunian Objects -- More Planets in Our Solar System?
Posted by Guy Pirro on 2/26/2015 7:41 PM
There could be at least two unknown planets hidden well beyond Pluto, whose gravitational influence determines the orbits and strange distribution of objects observed beyond Neptune. This has been revealed by numerical calculations made by researchers at the Complutense University of Madrid and the University of Cambridge. If confirmed, this hypothesis would revolutionize solar system models.
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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A close call of 0.8 light years
Posted by Russ Carroll on 2/18/2015 11:11 AM
A group of astronomers from the US, Europe, Chile and South Africa have determined that 70,000 years ago a recently discovered dim star is likely to have passed through the solar system's distant cloud of comets, the Oort Cloud
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Friday, February 06, 2015

Charles Townes, Inventor of the Laser and Maser, Passes Away at 99
Posted by Guy Pirro on 2/6/2015 8:28 PM
Charles H. Townes, professor emeritus of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, who shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics for invention of the laser and maser, and subsequently pioneered the use of lasers in astronomy, died on January 27, 2015 in Oakland, California. He was 99. Until last year, Townes visited the campus daily, working either in his office in the physics department or at the Space Sciences Laboratory.
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Friday, January 30, 2015

NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Captures Best Ever View of Dwarf Planet Ceres
Posted by Guy Pirro on 1/30/2015 11:04 AM
NASA's Dawn spacecraft has returned the sharpest images ever seen of the dwarf planet Ceres. The images were taken 147,000 miles (237,000 kilometers) from Ceres on January 25, 2015. Ceres, the largest body between Mars and Jupiter in the main asteroid belt, has a diameter of about 590 miles (950 kilometers). The mysterious world was discovered in 1801 by astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi. Originally described as a planet, Ceres was later categorized as an asteroid and then reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006. Some scientists believe the dwarf planet harbored a subsurface ocean in the past and liquid water may still be lurking under its icy mantle.
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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Unique Quasar Has a Built-in Dimmer Switch
Posted by Guy Pirro on 1/27/2015 9:39 AM
Quasars are enormously bright objects at the edge of our universe that emit massive amounts of energy. In an optical telescope, quasars appear point-like, similar to stars from which they derive their name (Quasar = Quasi-Stellar). Quasars draw their energy from super-massive black holes at their center that power the explosive energy output. Until now, scientists have been able to study both bright phase quasars and dim phases quasars, but they have never seen a quasar change from a bright to dim state. Now, Yale-led researchers have spotted a quasar that has dimmed by a factor of six or seven, compared with observations from only a few years ago. Catching one as it changes within a human lifetime is unprecedented and will hopefully help fill in many gaps in our understanding of the life cycle of a quasar.
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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Large Observable Asteroid to Scoot By Earth on January 26th
Posted by Guy Pirro on 1/15/2015 7:47 AM
An asteroid designated 2004 BL86 will safely pass about three times the distance of Earth to the Moon on January 26, 2015. From its reflected brightness, astronomers estimate that the asteroid is about a third of a mile (0.5 kilometers) in size. The flyby of the asteroid will be the closest by any known space rock this large until asteroid 1999 AN10 flies past Earth in 2027. At the time of its closest approach on January 26th, the asteroid will be approximately 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Earth. It is expected to be observable to amateur astronomers with small telescopes and strong binoculars.
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Wednesday, January 07, 2015

NASA's Kepler Marks 1000th Verified Exoplanet Discovery
Posted by Guy Pirro on 1/7/2015 8:19 AM
How many stars like our Sun host planets like Earth? NASA's Kepler Space Telescope continuously monitored more than 150,000 stars beyond our solar system, and to date has offered scientists an assortment of more than 4000 candidate planets for further study -- the 1000th of which was recently verified.
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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

So long, 2014
Posted by Paul Walsh on 12/31/2014 2:38 AM
Have a Great 2015!
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Friday, December 19, 2014

Nice Surprise -- Quantum Physics Just Got Less Complicated
Posted by Guy Pirro on 12/19/2014 8:36 AM
Here's a nice surprise: quantum physics is less complicated than we thought. An international team of researchers at the National University of Singapore has proved that two peculiar features of the quantum world previously considered distinct are actually different manifestations of the same thing. The researchers found that Wave-Particle Duality is simply the Quantum Uncertainty Principle in disguise, reducing two mysteries to one. Wave-Particle Duality is the idea that a quantum object can behave like a wave and a particle at the same time. The Quantum Uncertainty Principle is the idea that it's impossible to know the exact speed and exact position of a particle at the same time. These concepts have been known to physicists since the early 1900s. This discovery deepens our understanding of quantum physics and could prompt ideas for new applications of wave-particle duality.
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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Strange Galaxy Perplexes Astronomers
Posted by Guy Pirro on 12/13/2014 4:15 PM
With the help of citizen scientists participating in the Galaxy Zoo Project, a team of astronomers has found an important new example of a very rare type of galaxy. The galaxy, nearly 800 million light-years from Earth, is a spiral galaxy like our own Milky Way. What is unique about this galaxy is that it has prominent jets of subatomic particles propelling outward from its core at nearly the speed of light... But the problem is that spiral galaxies like this are not supposed to have such large jets. So what is this?
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