Space Disco : Discovery Space 14 Jun 2009, 09:47 UTC Astronomers have made an interplanetary weather report, spotting brightness alterations in a brown dwarfs atmosphere. The brown dwarf in question is SIMP 0136, the brightest "T dwarf" in the northern hemisphere. Although SIMP 0136 is classed as a failed star, have astronomers uncovered more of a planetary phenomenon?Etienne Artigau and his team at the Gemini South Observatory carried out an observing campaign for five days and realized that not only was SIMP 0136 varying in brightness, its atmosphere was changing. On each day, dark and light patches moved across its surface, indicating the motion of dust clouds.
Mike Brown's Planets 13 Jun 2009, 22:32 UTC Being a professor at Caltech, I get to dress up in a gown and funny hood one morning every June and sit on stage, watch hundreds of new Doctors and Masters and Bachelors go by and listen to a commencement speaker impart words of wisdom on the graduates. One June, a few years ago, I even got to be one of those commencement speakers. [...] It went something like this: "First, I’d like to thank President Rosser for inviting me to be here to share this morning with you. I’d like to thank all of the students for inviting me, too, except that I can see all of you down there discretely picking up your programs and flipping through saying “um, who exactly is this guy again and why is he here?” So let me help you out with those two because really if you ask your neighbor he or she probably won’t know either, but that’s OK. Who am I? You got the quick intro: astronomer, professor at that much smaller university about 5 miles north of here, discoverer of the 10th planet or perhaps destroyer of the 9th planet depending on who you talk to."
Cosmic Diary 13 Jun 2009, 22:07 UTC WISE, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, is all put together at BATC in Boulder and undergoing final testing before shipping to Vandenberg for launch into a polar orbit late in 2009. One of the tests is an acoustic test which simulates the intense noise during launch. Even from 3 miles away the noise is very loud. The photo shows WISE in a clean room tent surrounded by banks of speakers and amplifiers that could power a large rock concert, but all the speakers are pointing inward.
Lunar Networks 13 Jun 2009, 19:41 UTC Kaguya investigators produced a Fly-Over Tour of the Alpine Valley, presenting another familiar near side telescopic feature as never before seen. Dr. Jun'ichi Haruyama,Principal Investigator, Terrain Camera, Kaguya: "The Terrain Camera is the first high-resolution camera to capture three-dimensional topographic images of the surface of the entire globe. Another important feature of the camera is its ability to take images of very dark and very bright places..."
Just A Theory 13 Jun 2009, 15:41 UTC Three stories for you today from the great big universe out there. First up, astronomers have found evidence for the birth of a new planet orbiting a binary star system. A rotating molecular disk formed around a pair of stars known as V4046 Sagittarii is thought to be a planet in the making. It is also first confirmation that planets can emerge from binary star systems, giving us new places to look in the search for other planets. David Wilner of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics says:“This is strong evidence that planets can form around binary stars, which expands the number of places we can look for extrasolar planets. Somewhere in our galaxy, an alien world may enjoy double sunrises and double sunsets.”Whilst that star system is growing, another one is getting smaller. The red supergiant Betelgeuse, located in the top left of the constellation Orion, has shrunk by 15% in 15 years.Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have been monitoring the star, but don’t know the cause for the shrinkage. Betelgeuse is about ten times wider than the distance from the Earth to the Sun, meaning it has shrunk be a distance equivalent to the orbit of Venus.Discoveries ...
TheSpaceWriter's Ramblings 13 Jun 2009, 13:51 UTC The Devil is in the Details I’ve been a bit scarce lately, got my head into a couple of very intriguing projects. One of them involves planetary formation, which is a topic always of interest to me. The grand, epic picture of planetary formation goes something like this: You have this nebula, swirling around in space. Eventually it starts to contract due to gravitational fluctuations and maybe even an outside influence (like a passing star). Material collects in the center, which gains more mass and more gravitational influence, sucking stuff in from the immediate environment. If the center gets hot enough, and the mass is great enough, a star “turns on”. It immediately begins blasting out radiation, maybe a pair of jets, and scoops out a cavern around itself in the nebula.
Space Fellowship 13 Jun 2009, 09:13 UTC (NASA) - MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. – NASA robots soon will begin exploring the dusty, rocky terrain of a barren desert on Earth much like the moon. Scientists and engineers will study the images and information the robots gather to help plan where humans should venture next. To simulate robots scouting on the lunar surface before a [...]
Cosmic Log 13 Jun 2009, 01:12 UTC NASA / JPL / SSI A natural-color image provided by the Cassini orbiter shows Saturn's southern hemisphere and the planet's main rings. Click on the image for a larger version. Did you know that Saturn's wings are wavy? Which Mars probe is back in business after it ran into trouble? How many rookies are on the space shuttle Endeavour? Which Apollo 11 crew member never set foot on the moon? Test your wits - and exercise your curiosity....(read more)
Lowell Observatory Blog 12 Jun 2009, 17:15 UTC A research balloon was spotted over Mars Hill and photographed yesterday evening. Here is the initial heads up staff got from Lowell Observatory research assistant, Brian Skiff: Another large high-altitude balloon was launched early todayfrom the Fort Sumner site in New Mexico. It ought to be prominent here in the southwest close to sunset…The payload is actually a polarimeter measuring the cosmic microwave background, not a weather balloon.A map of the path including its altitude is here…..and more details about the science package is here Image at right: by Ted Dunham, Lowell Instrument Scientist, Taken with 8″ reflecting telescope around 6:00 or 6:30 PM on June 11Here are excerpts from Brian Skiff’s follow-up e-mail from this morning:[The balloon] was widely observed in Arizona Thursday evening …alsoJenn Polakis got it from Phoenix with a commercial plane passing through the fieldThough I was estimating perhaps 200 feet diameter for the balloon,good estimates of the angular size vs distance suggests 600 feetmight be more nearly correct.[Lowell outreach] staff got the instrument in a portable telescope, which made [last night's] public viewing more interesting. At about 9pm local the Google map showed the balloon at only41000 feet, so evidently they must bring them down ...