Monday, May 16, 2011

It Is Carnival Time!!!

Welcome to the 197th Carnival of Space where bloggers far and wide come together and blog about all things space. I have the privilege of hosting this fine event this week. If you have a blog that just needs to get out and see some people then by all means send Brian Wang an e-mail Here.  Submit your blog   You can even volunteer to host the Carnival of Space. That's enough of the Housekeeping stuff Lets get to the Carnival!

First up is the far thinking blog , Crowlspace. Adam ponders aliens living within Black holes. New thinking and novels of the past point to a maybe.   So what about us? Could we travel to a black hole and live there too? It could happen but chances are we would never know about it. Tough getting the news out of a black hole...  And with all that time dilation going on in a black hole, would it be possible to buy a vacation time-share?Adam lays it all down here at the Crowlspace

Now walk this way to Next Big Future Brian Wang (our overlord here at the Carnival) has a trifecta this week with three very good articles about: a new engine that delivers the same power with less radioactive material. Click Here, to Roger Longstaff, engineer at Reaction Engines Ltd (REL), said that the company intends to test its amazing "pre-cooler" technology in June, 2011. Click Here and last but not least... NASA has selected a mission to Saturn's Moon for Discovery Program Development. The Titan Mare Explorer, or TiME, would perform the first direct inspection of an ocean environment beyond Earth by landing in, and floating on, a large methane-ethane sea on the cloudy, complex moon.  Click Here Brian's blog is always full of new on the edge the cutting edge stuff. After every read I am glad I live in these times. I can hardly wait for the Next Big thing!

Speaking of waiting,  How about the wait on the Endeavour's launch. I have more than a few friends that have been waiting to make a beeline down south and catch the last launch of Space Shuttle, Endeavour.They are on the way!  The Space Writer's Ramblings Carolyn Collins Petersen, muses on the scrubbed launch of Endeavour; next launch attempt is May 16th. And good luck to the crew as they take another exciting journey. For a great read as always follow This Link to the Space writer.

Beagle 2 art
One of my favorite blogs is the very classic and classy Vintage Space. Your host, Amy Shira Teitel  takes a look at two Mars landers that disappeared: NASA's Mars Polar Lander and the ESA's Beagle 2. Engineers were able to determine the root cause of the loss of MPL and revive the mission years later as the Phoenix lander. The fate of Beagle 2, however, remains a mystery. These two missions are a prime example of the importance of thorough testing and telemetry collection on an interplanetary spaceflight.Take a look Here I love this blog as I have grown up with the space race of the 50's-60's to the modern day hunts for other worlds. Thanks Amy for writing it.

Weird Warp takes another look trying to make heads or tales out of the elevated methane issue on Mars. Deep fractures have been found around the giant Isidis impact basin on Mars. This area called NiliFossae is of interest to scientists because telescopes on Earth measured an increase in methane in Mars’s atmosphere over this area. This could mean life or it could be geological. Some of these incisions are up to 500 m deep and probably formed at the same time as the basin formed. For the scoop go to Weird Warp

 For a great look at how they build them South African style the Urban Astronomer Last weekend saw the tenth outing of South Africa's premier Astronomy and Amateur Telescope Making expo. Allen Versfeld the Urban Astronomer was there to see the sights and chat to the regulars. Go Here for a great look at great skill.

Over at the Armagh Planetarium's Blog site Astronotes the discussion is about NASA’s Space Shuttles have become a familiar sight in their thirty years of service, but there have been other shuttle designs which never left the ground. Some were ingenious alternative concepts to the vehicle
 which is shortly to be retired, some were potential replacements and
there was even a couple of foreign competitors. take a look Here at Armagh Planetarium's blog examination of  space shuttles that never were.
Now for something completely different... Vega 0.0 takes us to the classroom as we learn a thing or two about how to gauge the brightness of minor planets, asteroids.  You know, those tumbling crazy shaped chunks of space gravel! This post explains how to calculate the absolute magnitude for asteroids and other minor bodies. sharpen your pencil and  head for Vega. Take a translator with you or use the one provided.

We all know the Crab Nebula was formed when a star blew up way back in 1054 and has been getting bigger and bigger. Chandra Blog has been keeping an eye on this explosion in the making. A new Chandra movie shows changes in the Crab from September 2010 to April 2011. The  Chandra blog can be found Here

Starry Critters is last offering of this very exciting Carnival and Starry Critters does not disappoint. You need to check out  Here what Hubble is cooking with a look at images of the Meat Hook galaxy and friends  Hubble never ceases to amaze. Starry Critters explores three new galactic images from Hubble; NGC 4214, NGC 5774, and NGC 2442, the Meathook Galaxy.

Thanks for taking a look at the carnival this week. After My Darling Daughter Meghan is wed in June things will be less crazy at the Astrocorner.
Until next time,
Keep looking Up!

Steve T

Friday, April 15, 2011

Shades of Galileo

When you have a bit of time on your hands, you start looking for stuff to do and lately Galileo has been on my mind. So let's test the new Galileo scope I just built  on Saturn! The scope was a gift from the Cincinnati Observatory Center  because I do so much out reach for any and all things astronomy. Whether it is for the COC or the Cincinnati Astronomical Society or various other agencies near the Queen City, I work hard to bring astronomy into the reach of the public. The Galileo scope, birthed out of the 2009 International Year of Astronomy, is a plastic telescope with remarkable lenses for the cost (about $25.00). I built it to the 25X power configuration. The scope is a 50 mm objective Refractor. It boasts a modest light gathering ability. I knew Saturn was still a nice target and it was then my quest started to take shape. I thought about what Galileo saw when he first turned his scope to this ringed beauty in the year of 1610. It was hardly a ringed anything. What he saw in his tiny scope was a planet that had moons on either side of it  or maybe it was three planets together. So there is my goal of sorts to see if my little scope of about the same power and light gathering could deliver a ringed planet or maybe with some luck and a wink from the sky gods the famed triple planet that Galileo saw in his first glimpse.

I did not have a 1610 mount on me at the time. Actually no one cared enough to write down or draw Galileo's first mount so no body knows what he used. I imagine it would have been simple and somewhat effective. Remember he wanted to get eyes on the sky as quick as possible. If that was sufficient for the father of modern astronomy... So  not to be under done I sloughed off the go to mount and opted for a super cheap spindly camera tripod. I would say this equaled the stick and string setup? that captured Jupiter and his four big moons and Saturn to boot.  We were ready for the night to descend and gaze upon its wonders.

This night was also a celebration of a birthday for our number two child of the family.  He and his wife brought their ever so inquisitive daughter, Holly. Now Holly walked right up to me on the deck and ask: Paw paw what is that? (pointing at the telescope) Holly is 2 years old and knows where the Moon is which I think is great. She pointed toward the Moon and said The Moon!  to which I said do you want to see the Moon in the telescope? She said yes and got up on my lap as I centered the Moon in the field of view. Oh yeah this would be the very first look through a telescope for her  how exciting well for me any way!. I said OK look and she did with both eyes into the eyepiece which as you might guess does not work too good.  So I had her cover one of her eyes and then look with the "working" eye. she did and what did she see?.... She said I see my eye! She was looking at the reflection of her eye in the eyepiece. Hey she's 2! what did you expect?We all got a good chuckle.

The sky was darkening and the stars started to creep into view now that the sun had given way. and there it was in all of its glory Saturn. I took time to bring the scope to rest upon this distant gas giant. I took care to slide the end in to focus his black beauty and WOW  there it was... Saturn but not the ringed one . I was the three planet variety and I started to try and get the scope refocussed but every time I did it the scope would sharpen to reveal three points of light just like Galileo saw 201 years ago! What makes this such a great thing in my book is the coincidence of looking through a Galileoscope to see the same exact site that Galileo saw those many nights ago. I can just imagine the awe and marveling at this wondrous thing called Saturn. And now some 400 years later the same awe and wonder comes from almost everyone that steps up to take a peak at Saturn. That's why when you show Saturn to someone for the first time, Galileo lives on through that Wow that comes out of their mouths. Definitely shades of Galileo...

Until next time,
Keep looking up!

Steve T

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Carnival of Space 189 is Now Open Come One, Come All!

The Carnival of Space is a weekly event hosted by a blogger of any and all things space. Welcome to Steve's Astro-corner. Get ready to be wowed and awed by what you see and read and in some cases by what you  hear. Today I am presenting for your pleasure, a fine assortment of blogs submitted to Brian Wang of the Next Big Future Blog . He rides herd on the dozens of space blog sites that send their blogs to the Carnival every week. If by chance, you own a blog that you wish to share with the world and in the process meet some really great people with a deep love for space "stuff" then by all means send your URL and a bit about the blog in an email to and you will be added to the editorial circulation list.  Previous episodes can be found here.  So with all that said, let's step in to the carnival and enjoy the show!
The first blog we come to is the always well written blog UniverseToday with senior editor, Nancy Atkinson submitting. This week Nancy shares the before and after shots of the terrible earthquake and Tsunami that rocked Japan last week. The post can be found Here.
(as a side note) I personally wish the people of Japan  a speedy and safe recovery from the collection of calamities that have struck this country.

After that dose of reality a little escape to the movies might be in order and  Ian O'Neill of the Discovery Space News website  has the ticket. Ian says "Despite the bad press, I really enjoyed 'Battle: Los Angeles.' It is, after all, just a movie about war, aliens and mankind's desire not to be exterminated without a fight." Check out  his movie review at Discovery

Next in our quest for all things space we have Allen Versfeld and his Blog: Urban Astronomer. Here, Allen discusses how New observations made by the Hubble Space Telescope have refined our measurements of the expansion of the universe.  These new figures strengthen the case for Dark Energy by eliminating a competing theory. Sounds like a team of scientists just got sacked! ouch that always stings when it is your research. I feel their pain. I just knew the Ether was a sure thing...

On to our next big thing and that is  Next Big Future. Brian Wang, the thinking man's Thinking Man sorts out, In space it is relatively easy to move quite large space rocks using solar sails, ion drives and other means. There are a lot of space rocks and a survey could be done to select the rocks that would have to be moved with the least amount of effort. Then once each asteroid is moved into place they would be locked into place. It could be easier to gather asteroids to make desired shapes instead of digging out a larger asteroid. Different sized asteroids could be used from 500 kg, to tons up to asteroids that are 100 to 1000 meter across. Brian is amazing! I would love to hang out with him but I am afraid my head would explode. His  thought provoking article can be found Here

On to Ian Musgrave of Astroblogger fame  Ian tackles the Super Moon issue. Is it the bringer of death and carnage or is it just another full moon that just so happens to be at Perigee? Ian sheds some light on this well written piece. Yes, I slipped a pun in there... Go Here for all things Super Moon.

Vega 0.0 Fran Sevilla of Vega 0.0 delivers big with an Introduction to the comoving coordinates in cosmology. This is number 16 in a series so you might have some catching up to do there but as always a fascinating read. This Blog is in Spanish but have no worries if you scroll down on the right side you will find the Google translator application. translate it to the language of your choice and enjoy getting your head around our ever expanding universe. Check this blog out... Here

Time to get retro and when it comes to retro space there are few better than  Amy Shira Teitel and her blog: Vintage Space. This time around Amy takes a look back  at some of NASA's "trial and error" testing methods in selecting the ultimate shape for the Mercury capsule.  This is a real trip down memory lane. These were some exciting times for space travel. Did I mention dangerous too? When I'm the test pilot the last thing I really want to hear the aerospace engineers say is: "Well...  let's try this." Read all about the trial  and tribulations of the US mercury program Here

Peter Lake of Astroswanny takes opportunity to video some of my favorite Space stuff; that being the fascinating world of cataclysmic variables. Astroswanny has been logging some telescope time on FS Aur as part of Dr Vitaly Neustroev's research project. Peter has created a great little video that shows off some of the odd behavior of this cataclysmic variable. Peter is one of those citizen scientists doing real science  on behalf of a full time scientist doing research.  Now that is something to hang your hat on Peter! Get an eyeful --->  Here

J P Skipper of Weird Sciences discusses Atlantis  and the possibility it did exist but they built their empire on some  very shaky ground. Lots of underwater mapping to look at and some leaps to make but hey that's what it takes sometimes to make that big discovery. Check out the hang out of Atlas and his kin at Weird Sciences

Steve Nerlich over at Cheap Astronomy  has a treat for your ears and mind. Steve delves into the  unravel the whole density wave spiral arm story. Take a listen  and then think about that! Pick up what Steve is putting down right Here . I really don't have a logo to post for  Steve because he is frugal or I would!

How can our universe (or the one we are in at the moment) exist at the same time as another one? Would the other universe be a mirror image of this universe or would it have the same stuff in it but the stuff act differently from what we are experiencing now?  Those are some very good questions and for the answers or some answers. Go to the venerable Sage of Warp Chris Dann and his Blog Weird Warp for the skinny.

The Space writer (Carolyn Collins Petersen)   muses on the events of 25 years ago, when observations of Comet Halley were at their peak.  It is very hard to believe that it has been that long since the Halley experience was upon us. I am that old ... Read a great story by a great writer over at The Space  Writer

For a series of videos presented by the blog: We are all in the gutter, go here, here and here
This week They've been showcasing a series of videos about the Universe made by astronomers in Portsmouth. Three have been posted here with two more to be seen at this site.

Dr. Bruce Cordell has been perusing the latest data from the Kepler mission  and finds the mission seems to suggest Earths are 'Relatively Scarce'. Are we the only ones? no Galactic pen pals? Dr. Cordell is leaning in that direction. Find out all about it at Bruce's 21st Century Waves

A simple sentence can sometimes say a whole lot. So when you read Einstein's work was crucial to virtually every aspect of modern physics, what does that make you think? To wade out into those waters is none other than the Chandra Blog I guess Chandra was super busy way up in space taking some killer x-ray images so Megan Watzke stepped in to say happy birthday to Albert Einstein. He would have been 132 on March 14th. check out this short muse Here

Lastly, I offer for your enjoyment the witty repartee of Steve's Astrocorner as he takes a look at the Sun with a filter of course and ponders the latest study going about solar cycles. You can look at the Sun talk Here

I knew if I was ever going to get "witty repartee" and my blog in the same sentence I was going to have to do it my self . With  That my friends  is the end  of Carnival 189 I hope you enjoyed it. As I leave you. I just wanted to say happy birthday to the Cincinnati Astronomical Society as they celebrate 100 years of astronomical excellence.
Until next time,
Keep looking up!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What is Up With The Sun?

Have you noticed the Sun has been in the news a lot lately? The reason is the current cycle is finally starting to wake up and send out more flares and solar storms. I am happy about it and my solar filter is happy as well.  It finally gets to come out of the box and play! Its recent turmoil is particularly newsworthy because the Sun was very quiet for a super long time. Astronomers had a tough time explaining the extended solar minimum. New computer simulations imply that the Sun's long quiet spell resulted from changing flows of hot plasma within it.

The Sun is made of  plasma,  not liquid solid or gas. Plasma contains negative electrons and positive ions which flow freely. Flowing plasma creates magnetic fields, which lie at the core of solar activity like flares, eruptions, and sunspots. The Sun contains huge streams of plasma kind of like our Earth's ocean currents. Those plasma currents affect solar activity. 

The Sun also operates in cycles... many cycles. In one of the cycles the Sun's activity rises and falls on 11 year increments. At its most active, called solar maximum, dark sunspots are scattered on the Sun's surface and frequent eruptions, explosions you name it send billions of tons of hot plasma into space. If the plasma collides with Earth, it can disrupt communications and electrical grids and short out satellites.

During solar minimum, the Sun calms down and both sunspots and eruptions are rare. The effects on Earth, while less dramatic, are still significant.  the solar wind that blows through the solar system  weakens,  and add to that the Sun's magnetic field weakening and more cosmic rays reach us from interstellar space. This is not a good thing.
The most recent solar minimum had an unusually long number of quiet and spotless days: 780 days during 2008-2010. Can you say wow? In a typical solar minimum, the Sun goes spot-free for about 300 days, making the last minimum the longest since 1913.
The last solar minimum had two major characteristics, one being no sunspots and  the other a weak polar magnetic field.
The team studying this phenomena used computer simulations to model the Sun's behavior over 210 activity cycles spanning some 2,000 years. He specifically looked at the role of the plasma rivers that circulate from the Sun's equator to higher latitudes. These currents flow much like Earth's ocean currents: rising at the equator, streaming toward the poles, then sinking and flowing back to the equator. At a typical speed of 40 miles per hour, it takes about 11 years to make one loop.
A team of scientists discovered that the Sun's plasma rivers speed up and slow down like a malfunctioning conveyor belt. They find that a faster flow during the first half of the solar cycle, followed by a slower flow in the second half of the cycle, can lead to an extended solar minimum. The cause of the speed-up and slowdown likely involves a complicated feedback between the plasma flow and solar magnetic fields. 
This study  is trying to make sense of this wandering current of plasma flow."It's like a production line - a slowdown puts 'distance' between the end of the last solar cycle and the start of the new one," says Team member Munoz-Jaramillo.

The ultimate goal of studies like this is to predict upcoming solar maxima and minima - both their strength and timing. At the moment predicting minimums is still not a reality. The sun has an endless multiple feed back system,  so making predictions will take some time get right. Watching these plasma flows and measuring  strength of poles etc will allow science to get a better picture of when these cycles might begin and end. Until then, we are using the 11 year plan give or take a couple of years!
Until next time,

Keep looking up!

Steve T