Thursday, December 24, 2009

Does the Jolly Old Elf Navigate By the Stars?

It is the Christmas season and time to ponder the important things of life, like Peace on Earth and good will toward Man and probably the most important of all on this night... Does Santa use a GPS or is he Old school and uses the stars to navigate by? I have come to the conclusion that St.Nick still navigates by the stars and here is why I think that ...

Number 1 on my list is battery life. Santa has just about 4 hours or so to get it all done using a GPS. That man has got to be loaded to the Gills with Magic if he can deliver all the toys all over the world in less than 4 hours. The sleigh has no battery So I am guessing it is all about the battery located inside the GPS. With those facts laid out, the GPS is looking a little thin.

The stars have been around for many billions of years. Man has navigated by them during the Day (our Sun) and at night using the North star (Polaris) or Crux (Southern Cross) way on down south. Man would then know his position on Earth and get out his trusty map and compass and the world was his. This is a tried and true method and I believe It is still used today by Father Christmas.

Gentleman his is something for the defense of our honor when lost. When my wife says :Honey just stop and ask for directions... I always say Hey Santa never asks for directions. With That I take my leave on this glorious eve. I thank you all for having a look at my Blog from time to time. I hope I have put some information in your head, provoked a thought or two and put laughter in your heart. Merry Christmas to all and a Joyous New Year full of discovery!

Clear skies and great seeing too!

Steve T

Friday, December 18, 2009

Where Did Our Atmosphere Come From?

Wow! Now there is a question. I believe we have comets and meteors hitting our planet in the Late Heavy Bombardment(LHB) period to thank for not only our atmosphere but our oceans as well. I just read a paper published in the journal Science that pushes me a long way to believe that is the way it happened. For a long time scientists have known the whole terrestrial planet building process is unfriendly to a planet having an atmosphere like ours.

One theory suggests that our volcanoes were the cause of our atmosphere . (I had a hard time with that from the very start many years ago while in school) While Gasses absolutely do escape our volcanoes, I just never believed that they were sufficient to cause the atmosphere we have today. Dr. Greg Holland and a team of researchers took samples from Volcanic gasses and discovered a strong Meteor marker of Krypton and Xenon in the mix.

The techniques used, enabled the team to measure tiny quantities of the nonreactive volcanic trace gases Krypton and Xenon, which revealed an isotopic 'fingerprint' matching that of meteorites which is different from that of 'solar' gases. The paper goes on to say, From that we now know that the volcanic gases could not have contributed in any significant way to the Earth's atmosphere.

So there we are, left with the hundred dollar question... Where did all this air come from? The best theory for me out there suggests that meteors and comets from the LHB had a great deal to do with it. Water in large quantity and organic molecules are found in comets. The cooler clime of the Oort cloud houses the building blocks of life better than a terrestrial planet so close to the Sun.

I am being convinced that Earth's atmosphere got a jump start from comets. Do I believe that all our water came from comets no... I think through contraction the water vapor etc were out-gassed and thus there was some on the planet to begin with. I am still a chemosynthesis man but with a twist! In light of this new discovery,I would love to hear your competing theory. I believe the whole out-gassing of the mantel and crust to form our atmosphere might have to be rethought. Until next time,

Clear skies and great seeing too

Steve T

Thursday, December 10, 2009


The WISE spacecraft, (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) promises big discoveries in the near future for NASA. WISE is capable of finding the coolest stars, dark asteroids and the most luminous of galaxies. WISE will be taking a north pole to south pole route for about one and half orbits in nine months to map the entire sky in the infrared. The scheduled launch for the 11th was postponed when a steering rocket was producing a movement anomaly. Launch for this spacecraft was moved to the 12th of December but the weather doesn't look good for then either with only a 20 % chance of launch. There are many scientists that believe there are as many brown dwarfs in the universe as main sequence stars. This will be one of the targets of WISE if it ever gets off the ground.

Brown dwarfs or failed stars are stars with about one eighth of the Sun's mass and just not big enough to start fusion process. They are almost impossible to detect in the visual spectrum but they show off well in the infrared.If all goes like the simulations performed at Cal-Tech then dozens of brown dwarfs should be found within 25 light years of Earth. These are important to science to answer questions about how our Universe formed in general and how star formation happens or does not happen in the case of brown dwarfs.

Very bright galaxies are also on the menu as WISE maps the entire sky. When galaxies collide, they occasionally produce large numbers of stars as dust and gasses condense. This whole process produces lots of infrared light,and WISE will be there to take it all in. It takes hundreds of millions of years for galaxies to collide, so scientists will just get to see a slice of the process. With such an all-encompassing scan, researchers hope to see thousands of dust discs condensing around stars, these corrolate to young planetary systems.

Other items to scan for will be dark asteroids. Dark asteroids present a hazard to Earth in the form of a run in.These asteroids do not reflect light very well and because of this, cannot be picked up in a telescope.There are estimated 100,000 of these Asteroids orbiting undetected. WISE will be able to see these Astro-boulders because they absorb the Sun's heat and then reflect it in the infrared.This wide-field surveyor will map where they are and then it can be determined if they are a threat to Earth.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Welcome To The Carnival of Space #132

Greetings and welcome to the launching of this weeks action packed carnival. I have the honor of hosting this event for the first time. If this is your first time to visit my blog then a double welcome to you. This blog tries very hard to be informative and entertaining at the same time. It is always a juggling act.

This week is jammed packed and stacked with great blogs so let's get right to them. First up is the closing of a Astronautical landmark after 30 years. No they did not launch rockets from there or set any records for speed or distance but astronauts did drink and hang out there at the Outpost Tavern near the Johnson Space center. Get the full story and a great one over at collectSPACE.

We are value oriented here at the Carnival of Space. The next Blog you need to read is a Twofer. It comes to us from NEXT BIG FUTURE. The talk on this blog is that we are closer all the time to getting off this third rock from the Sun and heading out into space with some very doable and need to be doable technologies in our tool box. Check it out at NEXT BIG FUTURE. and if you like that piece you will like a very good interview with Brad Edwards of Black Line Ascension. You will get the ups and downs of space elevator design right here.

Over at Cheap Astronomy the Podcast offering is all about type 1A supernovas questions, Dark Matter and if we (as a universe) just expand or do we go crunch. It is all about the critical density Man! I love theoretical stuff!

Now over at the Planetary Society we are talking Advent Calendars and these are some spectacular ones to boot. The door is swinging open to reveal the first treat of Advent and it is.... found here Hey you have got to go look.

The case for life on Mars is heating up again. Alice's astroinfo has the details. That's way up there on the potential wow meter if you ask me. Now here is another take on the life on Mars debate found oddly enough at the blog of Martian chronicles!

I love Phil Plait's blog on Bad Astronomy. In this blog It seems that the city of Denver Colorado will get the chance to vote on forming a UFO commission. I'm not kidding! Go and read this for yourself at Bad Astronomy!

Attention people we have another player in the space race and it is none other than New Zealand! Get the full story on their successful rocket launch at AArt Scope Blog. There are new photos there of the launch.

We had some late arrivals but had to include these too. Some great tips on what to look for in a scope purchase. These pearls of wisdom can be found over at Mang's Bat Page

Stuart Atkinson over at Cumbrian Sky waxes eloquently about some parallel journeys separated by 1.75 Million years. Man has left his mark. See this fascinating take at Cumbrian Sky .

Lastly we arrive at Steve's Astro corner (that sounds familiar)and it is all about where we fit in on our size in the Universe. See my blog offering here. I get that question all the time at public events. Speaking of public events, I was out on the night of the 5th of December in 22 degree F (cold!) weather showing the sky to 18 brave souls for our local park service. Is that dedicated or just dumb? Well that is it for this session so until next week,

Clear skies and great seeing too!

Steve T