Snippets

compiled by Bryan Hubbard

NASA X-ray concept inspired from a roll of Scotch® tape
Published: Thursday, July 26, 2012 – 18:03 in Astronomy & Space

The inspiration behind NASA scientist Maxim Markevitch’s quest to build a highly specialized X-ray mirror using a never-before-tried technique comes from an unusual source: a roll of Scotch® tape. Markevitch and a team of X-ray optics experts at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., have begun investigating the feasibility of fashioning a low-cost mirror from plastic tape and tightly rolling it like the sticky adhesive commonly found in most homes and offices.

“I remember looking at a roll of Scotch tape and thinking, ‘was it possible to use the same design for capturing hard X-rays,'” Markevitch recalled. “I talked with a few people, and to my surprise, they didn’t see any principal reasons why it couldn’t be done.”

The complete article may be found at: X-ray concept from Scotch® tape

Astronomers report the earliest spiral galaxy ever seen, a shocking discovery
Published: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 – 13:03 in Astronomy & Space

Astronomers have witnessed for the first time a spiral galaxy in the early universe, billions of years before many other spiral galaxies formed. In findings reported July 19 in the journal Nature, the astronomers said they discovered it while using the Hubble Space Telescope to take pictures of about 300 very distant galaxies in the early universe and to study their properties. This distant spiral galaxy is being observed as it existed roughly three billion years after the Big Bang, and light from this part of the universe has been traveling to Earth for about 10.7 billion years. “As you go back in time to the early universe, galaxies look really strange, clumpy and irregular, not symmetric,” said Alice Shapley, a UCLA associate professor of physics and astronomy, and co-author of the study. “The vast majority of old galaxies look like train wrecks. Our first thought was, why is this one so different, and so beautiful?”

For the full story go to – Earliest spiral galaxy

The electric atmosphere: Plasma is next NASA science target
Published: Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 – 18:03 in Astronomy & Space

Our day-to-day lives exist in what physicists would call an electrically neutral environment. Desks, books, chairs and bodies don’t generally carry electricity and they don’t stick to magnets. But life on Earth is substantially different from, well, almost everywhere else. Beyond Earth’s protective atmosphere and extending all the way through interplanetary space, electrified particles dominate the scene. Indeed, 99% of the universe is made of this electrified gas, known as plasma. Two giant donuts of this plasma surround Earth, trapped within a region known as the Van Allen Radiation Belts. The belts lie close to Earth, sandwiched between satellites in geostationary orbit above and satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) are generally below the belts. A new NASA mission called the Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP), due to launch in August 2012, will improve our understanding of what makes plasma move in and out of these electrified belts wrapped around our planet.

The complete article may be found at: The electric atmosphere

Astronomers discover Houdini-like vanishing act in space
Published: Thursday, July 5, 2012 – 16:05 in Astronomy & Space

Astronomers report a baffling discovery never seen before: An extraordinary amount of dust around a nearby star has mysteriously disappeared. “It’s like the classic magician’s trick — now you see it, now you don’t,” said Carl Melis, a postdoctoral scholar at UC San Diego and lead author of the research. “Only in this case, we’re talking about enough dust to fill an inner solar system, and it really is gone!”

“It’s as if the rings around Saturn had disappeared,” said co-author Benjamin Zuckerman, a UCLA professor of physics and astronomy. “This is even more shocking because the dusty disc of rocky debris was bigger and much more massive than Saturn’s rings. The disc around this star, if it were in our solar system, would have extended from the sun halfway out to Earth, near the orbit of Mercury.”

For the full story go to – Vanishing act in space

New instrument sifts through starlight to reveal new worlds
Published: Thursday, July 5, 2012 – 17:03 in Astronomy & Space

An advanced telescope imaging system that started taking data last month is the first of its kind capable of spotting planets orbiting suns outside of our solar system. The collaborative set of high-tech instrumentation and software, called Project 1640, is now operating on the Hale telescope at the Palomar Observatory in California after more than six years of development by researchers and engineers at the American Museum of Natural History, the California Institute of Technology, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The project’s first images demonstrating a new technique that creates extremely precise “dark holes” around stars of interest were presented July 5 at the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE) Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation meeting in Amsterdam by Ben R. Oppenheimer, a curator in the Museum’s Department of Astrophysics and principal investigator for Project 1640.

For the full story go to – New instrument reveals new worlds

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