Celestial Event Calendar for 2014

  • January 1 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 11:14 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • January 2, 3 – Quadrantids Meteor Shower. The Quadrantids is an above average shower, with up to 40 meteors per hour at its peak. It is thought to be produced by dust grains left behind by an extinct comet known as 2003 EH1, which was discovered in 2003. The shower runs annually from January 1-5. It peaks this year on the night of the 2nd and morning of the 3rd. The thin crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for what could be an excellent show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Bootes, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • January 5 – Jupiter at Opposition. The giant planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Jupiter and its moons. A medium-sized telescope should be able to show you some of the details in Jupiter’s cloud bands. A good pair of binoculars should allow you to see Jupiter’s four largest moons, appearing as bright dots on either side of the planet.
  • January 16 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 04:52 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Wolf Moon because this was the time of year when hungry wolf packs howled outside their camps. This moon has also been known as the Old Moon and the Moon After Yule.
  • January 30 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 21:38 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • February 14 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 23:53 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Snow Moon because the heaviest snows usually fell during this time of the year. Since hunting is difficult, this moon has also been known by some tribes as the Full Hunger Moon.
  • March 1 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 08:00 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • March 16 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 17:08 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Worm Moon because this was the time of year when the ground would begin to soften and the earthworms would reappear. This moon has also been known as the Full Crow Moon, the Full Crust Moon, and the Full Sap Moon.
  • March 20 – March Equinox. The March equinox occurs at 16:57 UTC. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • March 30 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 18:45 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • April 8 – Mars at Opposition. The red planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Mars. A medium-sized telescope will allow you to see some of the dark details on the planet’s orange surface. You may even be able to see one or both of the bright white polar ice caps.
  • April 15 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 07:42 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Pink Moon because it marked the appearance of the moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the first spring flowers. This moon has also been known as the Sprouting Grass Moon and the Growing Moon.
  • April 15 – Total Lunar Eclipse. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes completely through the Earth’s dark shadow, or umbra. During this type of eclipse, the Moon will gradually get darker and then take on a rusty or blood red color. The eclipse will be visible throughout most of North America, South America, and Australia. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
  • April 22, 23 – Lyrids Meteor Shower. The Lyrids is an average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which was discovered in 1861. The shower runs annually from April 16-25. It peaks this year on the night of the night of the 22nd and morning of the 23rd. These meteors can sometimes produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. The second quarter moon will be a slight problem this year, blocking the less bright meteors from view. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Lyra, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • April 29 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 06:14 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • April 29 – Annular Solar Eclipse. An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon is too far away from the Earth to completely cover the Sun. This results in a ring of light around the darkened Moon. The Sun’s corona is not visible during an annular eclipse. The path of the eclipse will begin off the coast of South Africa and move across Antarctica and into the east coast of Australia. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
  • May 5, 6 – Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower. The Eta Aquarids is an above average shower, capable of producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. Most of the activity is seen in the Southern Hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, the rate can reach about 30 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet Halley, which has known and observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from April 19 to May 28. It peaks this year on the night of May 5 and the morning of the May 6. The first quarter moon will set just after midnight leaving fairly dark skies for what should be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • May 10 – Saturn at Opposition. The ringed planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Saturn and its moons. A medium-sized or larger telescope will allow you to see Saturn’s rings and a few of its brightest moons.
  • May 10 – Astronomy Day Part 1. Astronomy Day is an annual event intended to provide a means of interaction between the general public and various astronomy enthusiasts, groups and professionals. The theme of Astronomy Day is “Bringing Astronomy to the People,” and on this day astronomy and stargazing clubs and other organizations around the world will plan special events. You can find out about special local events by contacting your local astronomy club or planetarium. You can also find more about Astronomy Day by checking the Web site for the Astronomical League.
  • May 14 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 19:16 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Flower Moon because this was the time of year when spring flowers appeared in abundance. This moon has also been known as the Full Corn Planting Moon and the Milk Moon.
  • May 28 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 18:40 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • June 7 – Conjunction of the Moon and Mars. The Moon will pass within two degrees of the the planet Mars in the evening sky. The gibbous moon will be at magnitude -12.2 and Mars will be at magnitude -0.8. Look for both objects in the western sky just after sunset. The pair will be visible in the evening sky for about 6 hours after sunset.
  • June 13 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 04:11 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Strawberry Moon because it signaled the time of year to gather ripening fruit. It also coincides with the peak of the strawberry harvesting season. This moon has also been known as the Full Rose Moon and the Full Honey Moon.
  • June 21 – June Solstice. The June solstice occurs at 10:51 UTC. The North Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its northernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Cancer at 23.44 degrees north latitude. This is the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • June 27 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 08:08 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • July 12 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 11:25 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Buck Moon because the male buck deer would begin to grow their new antlers at this time of year. This moon has also been known as the Full Thunder Moon and the Full Hay Moon.
  • July 26 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 22:42 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • July 28, 29 – Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower. The Delta Aquarids is an average shower that can produce up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by debris left behind by comets Marsden and Kracht. The shower runs annually from July 12 to August 23. It peaks this year on the night of July 28 and morning of July 29. This should be a great year for this shower because the thin crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for what should a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
Lunar Eclipse from California by steveberardi on Flickr

Lunar Eclipse from California by steveberardi on Flickr

  • August 10 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 18:09 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Sturgeon Moon because the large sturgeon fish of the Great Lakes and other major lakes were more easily caught at this time of year. This moon has also been known as the Green Corn Moon and the Grain Moon. This is also the closest and largest full Moon of the year, an annual event that has come to be known as a “supermoon” by the media. The truth is that it is only slightly larger and brighter than normal and most people are not really able to tell the difference.
  • August 12, 13 – Perseids Meteor Shower. The Perseids is one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by comet Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862. The Perseids are famous for producing a large number of bright meteors. The shower runs annually from July 17 to August 24. It peaks this year on the night of August 12 and the morning of August 13. The waning gibbous moon will block out some of the meteors this year, but the Perseids are so bright and numerous that it should still be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Perseus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • August 18 – Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. Conjunctions are rare events where two or more objects will appear extremely close together in the night sky. The two bright planets will come unusually close to each other, only a quarter of a degree, in the early morning sky. Also, the beehive cluster in the constellation Cancer will be only 1 degree away. Look to the east just before sunrise.
  • August 25 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 14:13 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • August 29 – Neptune at Opposition. The blue giant planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Neptune. Due to its extreme distance from Earth, it will only appear as a tiny blue dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.
  • September 9 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 01:38 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Corn Moon because the corn is harvested around this time of year. This moon is also known as the Harvest Moon. The Harvest Moon is the full moon that occurs closest to the September equinox each year.
  • September 23 – September Equinox. The September equinox occurs at 02:29 UTC. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • September 24 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 06:14 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • October 4 – Astronomy Day Part 2. Astronomy Day is an annual event intended to provide a means of interaction between the general public and various astronomy enthusiasts, groups and professionals. The theme of Astronomy Day is “Bringing Astronomy to the People,” and on this day astronomy and stargazing clubs and other organizations around the world will plan special events. You can find out about special local events by contacting your local astronomy club or planetarium. You can also find more about Astronomy Day by checking the Web site for the Astronomical League.
  • October 7 – Uranus at Opposition. The blue-green planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view Uranus. Due to its distance, it will only appear as a tiny blue-green dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.
  • October 8 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 10:51 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Hunters Moon because at this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt. This moon has also been known as the Travel Moon and the Blood Moon.
  • October 8 – Total Lunar Eclipse. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes completely through the Earth’s dark shadow, or umbra. During this type of eclipse, the Moon will gradually get darker and then take on a rusty or blood red color. The eclipse will be visible throughout most of North America, South America, eastern Asia, and Australia. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
  • October 8, 9 – Draconids Meteor Shower. The Draconids is a minor meteor shower producing only about 10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet 21P Giacobini-Zinner, which was first discovered in 1900. The shower runs annually from October 6-10 and peaks this year on the the night of the 8th and morning of the 9th. Unfortunately the glare from the full moon this year will block out all but the brightest meteors. If you are extremely patient, you may be able to catch a few good ones. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Draco, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • October 22, 23 – Orionids Meteor Shower. The Orionids is an average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Halley, which has been known and observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from October 2 to November 7. It peaks this year on the night of October 21 and the morning of October 22. This will be an excellent year for the Orionids because there will be no moon to interfere with the show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Orion, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • October 23 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 21:57 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • October 23 – Partial Solar Eclipse. A partial solar eclipse occurs when the Moon covers only a part of the Moon, sometimes resembling a bite taken out of a cookie. A partial solar eclipse can only be safely observed with a special solar filter or by looking at the Sun’s reflection. The partial eclipse will be visible throughout most of North and Central America. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
  • November 5, 6 – Taurids Meteor Shower. The Taurids is a long-running minor meteor shower producing only about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is unusual in that it consists of two separate streams. The first is produced by dust grains from Asteroid 2004 TG10. The second stream is produced by debris left behind by Comet 2P Encke. The shower runs annually from September 7 to December 10. It peaks this year on the the night of November 5. Unfortunately the full moon this year will block out all but the brightest meteors. Those with patience may still be able to catch a few good ones. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Taurus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • November 6 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 22:23 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Beaver Moon because this was the time of year to set the beaver traps before the swamps and rivers froze. It has also been known as the Frosty Moon and the Hunter’s Moon.
  • November 17, 18 – Leonids Meteor Shower. The Leonids is an average shower, producing an average of up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak. This shower is unique in that it has a cyclonic peak about every 33 years where hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen. That last of these occurred in 2001. The Leonids is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1865. The shower runs annually from November 6-30. It peaks this year on the night of the 17th and morning of the 18th. The waning crescent moon will not be much of a problem this year. Skies should be dark enough for a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Leo, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • November 22 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 12:32 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • December 6 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 12:27 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Cold Moon because this is the time of year when the cold winter air settles in and the nights become long and dark. This moon has also been known as the Moon Before Yule and the Full Long Nights Moon.
  • December 13, 14 – Geminids Meteor Shower. The Geminids is the king of the meteor showers. It is considered by many to be the best shower in the heavens, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by debris left behind by an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon, which was discovered in 1982. The shower runs annually from December 7-17. It peaks this year on the night of the 13th and morning of the 14th. The waning gibbous moon will block out some of the meteors this year, but the Geminids are so bright and numerous that it should still be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Gemini, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • December 21 – December Solstice. The December solstice occurs at 23:03 UTC. The South Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its southernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.44 degrees south latitude. This is the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • December 22 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 01:36 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • December 22, 23 – Ursids Meteor Shower. The Ursids is a minor meteor shower producing only about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tuttle, which was first discovered in 1790. The shower runs annually from December 17-25. It peaks this year on the the night of the 22nd. This will be one of the best years to observe the Ursids because there will be no moonlight to interfere with the show. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

The above information from Sea and Sky website.. follow some of their useful links below for more..

Total eclipse of October 27, 2004 via Fred Espenak of NASA

Total eclipse of October 27, 2004 via Fred Espenak of NASA

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Van Allen Radiation Belts

Van Allen Probes Find Storage Ring in Earth’s Outer Radiation Belt

Since their discovery over 50 years ago, the Earth’s Van Allen radiation belts have been considered to consist of two distinct zones of trapped, highly energetic charged particles. Observations from NASA’s Van Allen Probes reveal an isolated third ring in the outer radiation belt.

A cutaway model of the radiation belts with the 2 RBSP satellites flying through them. The radiation belts are two donut-shaped regions encircling Earth, where high-energy particles, mostly electrons and ions, are trapped by Earth’s magnetic field. This radiation is a kind of “weather” in space, analogous to weather on Earth, and can affect the performance and reliability of our technologies, and pose a threat to astronauts and spacecraft. The inner belt extends from about 1,000 to 8,000 miles above Earth’s equator. The outer belt extends from about 12,000 to 25,000 miles. This graphic also shows other satellites near the region of trapped radiation.

A cutaway model of the radiation belts with the 2 RBSP satellites flying through them. The radiation belts are two donut-shaped regions encircling Earth, where high-energy particles, mostly electrons and ions, are trapped by Earth’s magnetic field. This radiation is a kind of “weather” in space, analogous to weather on Earth, and can affect the performance and reliability of our technologies, and pose a threat to astronauts and spacecraft.

The inner belt extends from about 1000 to 8000 miles above Earth’s equator. The outer belt extends from about 12,000 to 25,000 miles. This graphic also shows other satellites near the region of trapped radiation.

Picture Credit: NASA

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NASA’s Van Allen Probes Discover a Surprise Circling Earth

28.02.13

After most NASA science spacecraft launches, researchers wait patiently for months as instruments on board are turned on one at a time, slowly ramped up to full power, and tested to make sure they work at full capacity. It’s a rite of passage for any new satellite in space, and such a schedule was in place for the Van Allen Probes when they launched on Aug. 30, 2012, to study two giant belts of radiation that surround Earth.

Van Allen Belts
But a group of scientists on the mission made a case for changing the plan. They asked that the Relativistic Electron Proton Telescope (REPT) be turned on early – just three days after launch — in order that its observations would overlap with another mission called SAMPEX (Solar, Anomalous, and Magnetospheric Particle Explorer), that was soon going to de-orbit and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere.

It was a lucky decision. Shortly before REPT turned on, solar activity on the sun had sent energy toward Earth that caused the radiation belts to swell. The REPT instrument worked well from the moment it was turned on Sep. 1. It made observations of these new particles trapped in the belts, recording their high energies, and the belts’ increased size.

Van Allen Belts 2
Then something happened no one had ever seen before: the particles settled into a new configuration, showing an extra, third belt extending out into space. Within mere days of launch, the Van Allen Probes showed scientists something that would require rewriting textbooks.

“By the fifth day REPT was on, we could plot out our observations and watch the formation of a third radiation belt,” says Shri Kanekal, the deputy mission scientist for the Van Allen Probes at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. and a coauthor of a paper on these results. “We started wondering if there was something wrong with our instruments. We checked everything, but there was nothing wrong with them. The third belt persisted beautifully, day after day, week after week, for four weeks.”

The scientists published their results in a paper in the journal Science on Feb. 28, 2013. Incorporating this new configuration into their models of the radiation belts offers scientists new clues to what causes the changing shapes of the belts – a region that can sometimes swell dramatically in response to incoming energy from the sun, impacting satellites and spacecraft or pose potential threats to manned space flight.

VanAllenBelts1

Published on 28 Feb 2013

Since their discovery over 50 years ago, the Earth’s Van Allen radiation belts have been considered to consist of two distinct zones of trapped, highly energetic charged particles. Observations from NASA’s Van Allen Probes reveal an isolated third ring in the outer radiation belt.

The radiation belts, or Van Allen belts, were discovered with the very first launches of satellites in 1958 by James Van Allen. Subsequent missions have observed parts of the belts – including SAMPEX, which observed the belts from below – but what causes such dynamic variation in the belts has remained something of a mystery. Indeed, seemingly similar storms from the sun have at times caused completely different effects in the belts, or have sometimes led to no change at all.

The Van Allen Probes consist of two identical spacecraft with a mission to map out this region with exquisite detail, cataloguing a wide range of energies and particles, and tracking the zoo of magnetic waves that pulse through the area, sometimes kicking particles up to such frenzied speeds that they escape the belts altogether.

Published on 28 Feb 2013

A new radiation belt and storage ring has been discovered above Earth; It is shown here using actual data as the middle arc of orange and red of the three arcs seen on each side of the Earth. The new belt was observed for the first time by Relativistic Electron-Proton Telescopes (REPT) flying on NASA’s twin Van Allen Probes, which launched on Aug. 30 2012. CREDIT: JHUAPL/LASP

“We’ve had a long run of data from missions like SAMPEX,” says Daniel Baker, who is the principal investigator for REPT at the University of Colorado in Boulder and first author on the Science paper. “But we’ve never been in the very throat of the accelerator operating a few hundred miles above our head, speeding these particles up to incredible velocities.”

In its first six months in orbit, the instruments on the Van Allen Probes have worked exceptionally well and scientists are excited about a flood of observations coming in with unprecedented clarity. This is the first time scientists have been able to gather such a complete set of data about the belts, with the added bonus of watching from two separate spacecraft that can better show how events sweep across the area.

Spotting something new in space such as the third radiation belt has more implications than the simple knowledge that a third belt is possible. In a region of space that remains so mysterious, any observations that link certain causes to certain effects adds another piece of information to the puzzle.

Baker likes to compare the radiation belts to the particle storage rings in a particle physics accelerator. In accelerators, magnetic fields are used to hold the particles orbiting in a circle, while energy waves are used to buffet the particles up to ever faster speeds. In such accelerators, everything must be carefully tuned to the size and shape of that ring, and the characteristics of those particles. The Van Allen Belts depend on similar fine-tuning. Given that scientists see the rings only in certain places and at certain times, they can narrow down just which particles and waves must be causing that geometry. Every new set of observations helps narrow the field even further.

“We can offer these new observations to the theorists who model what’s going on in the belts,” says Kanekal. “Nature presents us with this event – it’s there, it’s a fact, you can’t argue with it — and now we have to explain why it’s the case. Why did the third belt persist for four weeks? Why does it change? All of this information teaches us more about space.”

On Aug. 31, 2012, a giant prominence on the sun erupted, sending out particles and a shock wave that traveled near Earth.

› View larger
On Aug. 31, 2012, a giant prominence on the sun erupted, sending out particles and a shock wave that traveled near Earth. This event may have been one of the causes of a third radiation belt that appeared around Earth a few days later, a phenomenon that was observed for the very first time by the newly-launched Van Allen Probes. This image of the prominence before it erupted was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Credit:NASA/SDO/AIA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Scientists already have theories about just what kind of waves sweep out particles in the “slot” region between the first two belts. Now they must devise models to find which waves have the right characteristics to sweep out particles in the new slot region as well. Another tantalizing observation to explore lies in tracking the causes of the slot region back even further: on Aug. 31, 2012, a long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the sun’s atmosphere erupted out into space. Baker says that this might have caused the shock wave that led to the formation of the third ring a few days later. In addition, the new belt was virtually annihilated four weeks after it appeared by another powerful interplanetary shock wave from the sun. Being able to watch such an event in action provides even more material for theories about the Van Allen belts.

Despite the 55 years since the radiation belts were first discovered, there is much left to investigate and explain, and within just a few days of launch the Van Allen Probes showed that the belts are still capable of surprises.

“I consider ourselves very fortunate,” says Baker. “By turning on our instruments when we did, taking great pride in our engineers and having confidence that the instruments would work immediately and having the cooperation of the sun to drive the system the way it did – it was an extraordinary opportunity. It validates the importance of this mission and how important it is to revisit the Van Allen Belts with new eyes.”

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) built and operates the twin Van Allen Probes. The Van Allen Probes comprise the second mission in NASA’s Living With a Star (LWS) program to explore aspects of the connected sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. The program is managed by NASA Goddard.

› View NASA Press Release
› View briefing materials from the February 28, 2013 news conference

A playlist of 4 Video’s on the Radiation Belt Storm Probe (RBSP) mission will explore Earth’s Van Allen Radiation Belts. The protons, ions, and electrons in these belts can be hazardous to both spacecraft and astronauts.

Published on 28 Sep 2012

the twin Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) have recorded the “music” of the Van Allen Radiation Belts -actually radio waves at acoustic frequencies. These frequencies may play a role in speeding up electrons in the belts. Video From you tube user  ‘Coconut  Science Lab’ his website: Jungle Joel
Credit: NASA

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Van Allen Probes Find Storage Ring in Earth’s Outer Radiation Belt

NASA's Living With a Star (LWS) program is a space-weather focused and applications driven research program. Its goal is to develop the scientific understanding necessary to effectively address those aspects of the connected sun–Earth system that directly affect life and society.  The program is implemented by a series of inter-related science missions, space environment testbeds, and a targeted theory, modeling, and data analysis program.  The Van Allen Probes are the second mission in the LWS program.  Credit: NASA
 NASA’s Living With a Star (LWS) program is a space-weather focused and applications driven research program. Its goal is to develop the scientific understanding necessary to effectively address those aspects of the connected sun–Earth system that directly affect life and society. The program is implemented by a series of inter-related science missions, space environment testbeds, and a targeted theory, modeling, and data analysis program. The Van Allen Probes are the second mission in the LWS program.Credit: NASA

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80 x 40             PNG       36 KBThis two part movie shows an Aug. 31 coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun , the same event that caused depletion and refilling of the radiation belts just after the Relativistic Electron-Proton Telescope (REPT) instruments on the Van Allen Probes were turned on. The first movie shows the CME as captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO); the second shows several views of the same CME from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). Credit: NASA

This two part movie shows an Aug. 31 coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun , the same event that caused depletion and refilling of the radiation belts just after the Relativistic Electron-Proton Telescope (REPT) instruments on the Van Allen Probes were turned on. The first movie shows the CME as captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO); the second shows several views of the same CME from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).

Credit: NASA
Duration: 19.1 seconds
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This graph shows energetic electron data gathered by the Relativistic Electron-Proton Telescope (REPT) instruments, on the twin Van Allen Probes satellites in eccentric orbits around the Earth, from Sept. 1, 2012 to Oct. 4, 2012 (horizontal axis). It shows three discrete energy channels (measured in megaelectron volts, or MeV). The third belt region (in yellow) and second slot (in green) are highlighted, and exist up until a coronal mass ejection (CME) destroys them on Oct. 1. The vertical axis in each is L*, effectively the distance in Earth radii at which a magnetic field line crosses the magnetic equatorial plane. Credit: LASP

This graph shows energetic electron data gathered by the Relativistic Electron-Proton Telescope (REPT) instruments, on the twin Van Allen Probes satellites in eccentric orbits around the Earth, from Sept. 1, 2012 to Oct. 4, 2012 (horizontal axis). It shows three discrete energy channels (measured in megaelectron volts, or MeV). The third belt region (in yellow) and second slot (in green) are highlighted, and exist up until a coronal mass ejection (CME) destroys them on Oct. 1. The vertical axis in each is L*, effectively the distance in Earth radii at which a magnetic field line crosses the magnetic equatorial plane.Credit: LASP

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160 x 80           PNG       42 KBGraphic with annotations.

Graphic with annotations.

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160 x 80           PNG       43 KBOne of the two Relativistic Electron-Proton Telescope (REPT) instruments for the Van Allen Probes is shown prior to and then during integration into the spacecraft in 2012. Each Van Allen Probe carries an identical suite of five instruments; REPT is part of the Energetic Particle, Composition, and Thermal Plasma Suite (ECT) aboard the Van Allen Probes. Credit: JHUAPL

One of the two Relativistic Electron-Proton Telescope (REPT) instruments for the Van Allen Probes is shown prior to and then during integration into the spacecraft in 2012. Each Van Allen Probe carries an identical suite of five instruments; REPT is part of the Energetic Particle, Composition, and Thermal Plasma Suite (ECT) aboard the Van Allen Probes.Credit: JHUAPL
Duration: 18.6 seconds
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How to play NASA’s moviesThis long-term plot (approximately 12 years) from NASA’s Solar Anomalous and Magnetospheric Particle Explorer (SAMPEX) spacecraft shows the established two-belt structure of the Van Allen radiation belts above the Earth. The L value is distance above the Earth. New, more advanced instrumentation on the Van Allen Probes has revealed a third belt. Credit: NASA

This long-term plot (approximately 12 years) from NASA’s Solar Anomalous and Magnetospheric Particle Explorer (SAMPEX) spacecraft shows the established two-belt structure of the Van Allen radiation belts above the Earth. The L value is distance above the Earth. New, more advanced instrumentation on the Van Allen Probes has revealed a third belt.

Credit: NASA

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This animation shows meridional (from north-south) plane projections of the REPT-A and REPT-B electron flux values. The animation first shows the expected two-belt Van Allen zone structure; from Sept. 3 through Sept. 6 only an intense belt of electrons remains and the inner zone and traditional slot region have not changed; next, the third ‘storage ring’ belt feature persists while a new slot region is seen and a completely new outer zone population has formed. Then, around Oct. 1, the storage ring feature remains while the outer zone decays away. Credit: LASP

This animation shows meridional (from north-south) plane projections of the REPT-A and REPT-B electron flux values. The animation first shows the expected two-belt Van Allen zone structure; from Sept. 3 through Sept. 6 only an intense belt of electrons remains and the inner zone and traditional slot region have not changed; next, the third ‘storage ring’ belt feature persists while a new slot region is seen and a completely new outer zone population has formed. Then, around Oct. 1, the storage ring feature remains while the outer zone decays away.Credit: LASP
Duration: 30.2 seconds
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This visualization, created using actual data from the Relativistic Electron-Proton Telescopes (REPT) on NASA’s Van Allen Probes, clearly shows the emergence of new third belt and second slot regions. The new belt is seen as the middle orange and red arc of the three seen on each side of the Earth. The twin Van Allen Probes launched on Aug. 30 2012. Credit: JHU/APL, from REPT data/LASP

This visualization, created using actual data from the Relativistic Electron-Proton Telescopes (REPT) on NASA’s Van Allen Probes, clearly shows the emergence of new third belt and second slot regions. The new belt is seen as the middle orange and red arc of the three seen on each side of the Earth. The twin Van Allen Probes launched on Aug. 30 2012.Credit: JHU/APL, from REPT data/LASP
Duration: 1.1 minutes
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Radiation regions like the belts are found throughout our solar system and the universe. We are fortunate that we have this region of interest just a few thousand kilometers above the planet – it is like having our very own particle accelerator in the backyard. Here are four objects with radiation regions: The sun, Earth, Jupiter, and the Crab Nebula. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL

Radiation regions like the belts are found throughout our solar system and the universe. We are fortunate that we have this region of interest just a few thousand kilometers above the planet – it is like having our very own particle accelerator in the backyard. Here are four objects with radiation regions: The sun, Earth, Jupiter, and the Crab Nebula.Credit: NASA/JHUAPL

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320 x 180         PNG     172 KBThis Sept. 28 coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun, captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), is the event which caused the near total annihilation of the new radiation belt and slot region on Oct. 1. Credit: NASA

This Sept. 28 coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun, captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), is the event which caused the near total annihilation of the new radiation belt and slot region on Oct. 1.Credit: NASA
Duration: 10.3 seconds
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This movie shows NASA’s Earth-orbiting heliophysics fleet as of 2013, from near Earth orbit out to the orbit of the moon. These missions study the thermosphere, ionosphere, and mesosphere; geospace and the magnetosphere; the heliosphere; and take solar observations and imagery. The Van Allen Probes (marked here as RBSP-A and RBSP-B) are in a highly elliptical orbit, shown in blue, around the Earth. Working as a team, these spacecraft provide the most comprehensive picture ever provided of how our sun interacts with our world. Credit: NASATo download the video, click here.

This movie shows NASA’s Earth-orbiting heliophysics fleet as of 2013, from near Earth orbit out to the orbit of the moon. These missions study the thermosphere, ionosphere, and mesosphere; geospace and the magnetosphere; the heliosphere; and take solar observations and imagery. The Van Allen Probes (marked here as RBSP-A and RBSP-B) are in a highly elliptical orbit, shown in blue, around the Earth. Working as a team, these spacecraft provide the most comprehensive picture ever provided of how our sun interacts with our world.Credit: NASA

To download the video, click here.

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320 x 180         PNG     293 KBThe Forecast Office of NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center is the nation's official source of alerts, warnings, and watches. The office, staffed 24/7, is always vigilant for solar activity that can affect critical infrastructure. Credit: NOAA.

 The Forecast Office of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center is the nation’s official source of alerts, warnings, and watches. The office, staffed 24/7, is always vigilant for solar activity that can affect critical infrastructure.

Credit: NOAA.

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How to play our movies

The Space Weather Prediction Center has offered an email subscription service to customers both nationally and internationally since 2005. Now numbering over 32,000 subscribers, the satellite community accounts for about 9,500. Credit:NOAA.

The Space Weather Prediction Center has offered an email subscription service to customers both nationally and internationally since 2005. Now numbering over 32,000 subscribers, the satellite community accounts for about 9,500. Credit:NOAA.

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80 x 40             PNG       26 KBSatellite industry revenues globally have grown at about nine percent on average since 2006. In 2011, the last year for which data are available, the revenue was more than $177B (USD). Credit: Satellite Industry Association.

Satellite industry revenues globally have grown at about nine percent on average since 2006. In 2011, the last year for which data are available, the revenue was more than $177B (USD).Credit: Satellite Industry Association.
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80 x 40             PNG       27 KBSatellite anomalies of various types are the result of high levels of charged particles. The Van Allen Probes offer unique measurements of these populations for the benefit of satellite builders and operators. Credit: JHUAPL

Satellite anomalies of various types are the result of high levels of charged particles. The Van Allen Probes offer unique measurements of these populations for the benefit of satellite builders and operators.Credit: JHUAPL

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for the Following Picture/ Video:

A narrated short video featuring visualizations of the Van Allen Belt’s three ring structure. This video was not part of the news briefing, but is included in the associated feature story.

For complete transcript, click here.

Duration: 1.0 minutes
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How to play our movies

A narrated short video featuring visualizations of the Van Allen Belt's three ring structure.  This video was not part of the news briefing, but is included in the associated feature story. For complete transcript, click here.

Short URL to This Page: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/goto?11212
Animation Number: 11212
Completed: 2013-02-27
Animator: Tom Bridgman (GST) (Lead)
Video Editor: Genna Duberstein (USRA)
Narrator: Karen Fox (ASI)
Producer: Genna Duberstein (USRA)
Scientists: Shrikanth G. Kanekal (NASA/GSFC)
Dan Baker (University of Colorado)
Nicola Fox (NASA/GSFC)
Writer: Karen Fox (ASI)
Goddard TV Tape: G2013-024 — Van Allen Probes Find Storage Ring in Earth’s Outer Radiation Belt
Keywords:
SVS >> CME
SVS >> Coronal Mass Ejection
SVS >> Magnetosphere
SVS >> Solar Flare
SVS >> Solar Ultraviolet
SVS >> Solar Wind
SVS >> Sun
SVS >> Radiation Belts
SVS >> Space Weather
SVS >> SDO
SVS >> Solar Dynamics Observatory
SVS >> Heliophysics
SVS >> Sun-Earth interactions
SVS >> Corona
SVS >> RBSP
SVS >> Van Allen Belts
SVS >> Van Allen Probes

Please give Credit for this item to:

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. However, individual items should be credited as indicated above.

The Moon and Phases for 2013

The presence of the Moon moderates Earth’s wobble on its axis, leading to a relatively stable climate over billions of years. From Earth, we always see the same face of the Moon because the Moon rotates once on its own axis in the same time that it travels once around Earth (called synchronous rotation).

The light areas of the Moon are known as the highlands. The dark features, called maria (Latin for seas), are impact basins that were filled with lava between 4 and 2.5 billion years ago.

moon 1

Though the Moon has no internally generated magnetic field, areas of magnetism are preserved in the lunar crust, but how this occurred is a mystery. The early Moon appears not to have had the right conditions to develop an internal dynamo, the mechanism for global magnetic fields for the terrestrial planets.

How did the Moon come to be? The leading theory is that a Mars-sized body collided with Earth approximately 4.5 billion years ago, and the resulting debris from both Earth and the impactor accumulated to form our natural satellite. The newly formed Moon was in a molten state. Within about 100 million years, most of the global “magma ocean” had crystallized, with less dense rocks floating upward and eventually forming the lunar crust.

2013 Phases of the Moon

NOTE: All times are Universal time (UTC); to convert to local time add or subtract the difference between your time zone and UTC, remembering to include any additional offset due to summer time for dates when it is in effect.

New Moon First Quarter
Day Time Solar
Eclipse
Day Time
         
11/01/13 19:44:00   18/01/13 23:45:00
10/02/13 07:20:00   17/02/13 20:31:00
11/03/13 19:51:00   19/03/13 17:27:00
10/04/13 09:35:00   18/04/13 12:31:00
10/05/13 00:28:00 Annular 18/05/13 04:34:00
08/06/13 15:56:00   16/06/13 17:24:00
08/07/13 07:14:00   16/07/13 17:24:00
06/08/13 21:51:00   14/08/13 10:56:00
05/09/13 11:36:00   12/09/13 17:08:00
05/10/13 00:34:00   11/10/13 23:02:00
03/11/13 12:50:00 Hybrid
Solar
10/11/13 05:57:00
03/12/13 00:22:00   09/12/13 15:12:00
Full Moon Last Quarter
Day Time Lunar
Eclipse
Day Time
      05/01/13 03:58:00
27/01/13 04:38:00   03/02/13 13:56:00
25/02/13 20:26:00   04/03/13 21:53:00
27/03/13 09:27:00   03/04/13 04:37:00
25/04/13 19:57:00 Partial
(Umbral)
02/05/13 11:14:00
25/05/13 04:25:00 Penumbral 31/05/13 18:58:00
23/06/13 11:32:00   30/06/13 04:53:00
22/07/13 18:15:00   29/07/13 17:43:00
21/08/13 01:45:00   28/08/13 09:35:00
19/09/13 11:13:00   27/09/13 03:55:00
18/10/13 23:38:00 Penumbral 26/10/13 23:40:00
17/11/13 15:16:00   25/11/13 19:28:00
17/12/13 09:28:00   25/12/13 13:48:00
A waxing crescent moon 17 jan 2013

A waxing crescent moon 17 jan 2013

Perigee and Apogee Dates and Times

Perigee  
Day Time Distance in
kilometres a
Closest
or most
distant b
Interval c
   
   
10/01/13 10:27:00 360047   N-1d 9h
07/02/13 12:10:00 365313   N-2d19h
05/03/13 23:21:00 369953   N-5d20h
31/03/13 03:56:00 367493   F+3d18h
27/04/13 19:49:00 362267   F+1d23h
26/05/13 01:46:00 358374   F+ 21h
23/06/13 11:11:00 356989     ++ F- 0h
21/07/13 20:28:00 358401   F- 21h
19/08/13 01:27:00 362264   N-2d18h
15/09/13 16:35:00 367387   N-3d18h
10/10/13 23:07:00 369811   N+5d22h
06/11/13 09:29:00 365361   N+2d20h
04/12/13 10:16:00 360063   N+1d 9h
Apogee
Day Time Distance in
kilometres a
Closest
or most
distant b
Interval c
 
 
22/01/13 10:53:00 405311   F-1d17h
19/02/13 06:31:00 404473   F-6d13h
19/03/13 03:14:00 404261   N+7d 7h
15/04/13 22:23:00 404864   N+5d12h
13/05/13 13:32:00 405826   N+3d13h
09/06/13 21:41:00 406486     – N+1d 5h
07/07/13 00:37:00 406491     — N-1d 6h
03/08/13 08:54:00 405833   N-3d12h
30/08/13 23:47:00 404882   F-5d11h
27/09/13 18:18:00 404308   F-7d 6h
25/10/13 14:26:00 404560   F+6d18h
22/11/13 09:51:00 405445   F+4d18h
19/12/13 23:50:00 406267     + F+2d14h

a:  For each perigee and apogee the distance in kilometres between the centres of the Earth and Moon is given. Perigee and apogee distances are usually accurate to within a few kilometres compared to values calculated with the definitive ELP 2000-82 theory of the lunar orbit; the maximum error over the years 1977 through 2022 is 12km in perigee distance and 6km at apogee.

b:  The closest perigee and most distant apogee of the year are marked with “++” if closer in time to full Moon or “–” if closer to new Moon. Other close-to-maximum apogees and perigees are flagged with a single character, again indicating the nearer phase. Following the flags is the interval between the moment of perigee or apogee and the closest new or full phase; extrema cluster on the shorter intervals, with a smaller bias toward months surrounding the Earth’s perihelion in early January.

c:  “F” indicates the perigee or apogee is closer to full Moon, and “N” that new Moon is closer. The sign indicates whether the perigee or apogee is before (“-“) or after (“+”) the indicated phase, followed by the interval in days and hours. Scan for plus signs to find “photo opportunities” where the Moon is full close to apogee and perigee

moon

Moon phases

As the relative position of the Sun, Moon and Earth changes, differing proportions of the Moon’s visible surface are illuminated by the Sun. The phases of the Moon are specific instances in this process.

New moon

A new Moon occurs when the apparent longitudes of the Moon and Sun differ by 0°. At this time, the Moon does not appear to be illuminated.

First quarter

Occurs when the apparent longitudes of the Moon and Sun differ by 90°. At this time 50 per cent of the Moon’s visible surface is illuminated.

Full moon

Occurs when the apparent longitudes of the Moon and Sun differ by 180°. At this time 100 per cent of the Moon’s visible surface is illuminated.

Last quarter

Occurs when the apparent longitudes of the Moon and Sun differ by 270°. At this time 50 per cent of the Moon’s visible surface is illuminated.

Moonrise and moonset

Moonrise

Moonrise is defined as the instant when, in the eastern sky, under ideal meteorological conditions, with standard refraction of the Moon’s rays, the upper edge of the Moon’s disk is coincident with an ideal horizon.

Moonset

Moonset is defined as the instant when, in the western sky, under ideal meteorological conditions, with standard refraction of the Moon’s rays, the upper edge of the Moon’s disk is coincident with an ideal horizon.

Equinoxes and Solstices

The equinoxes represents either of two times of the year when the Sun crosses the plane of the Earth’s equator and day and night are of equal length, while the solstices is either of the two times of the year when the Sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator.

Uploaded on 20 Feb 2012

New images acquired by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft show that the moon’s crust is being slightly stretched, forming small valleys – at least in some small areas. High-resolution images obtained by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) provide evidence that these valleys are very young, suggesting the moon has experienced relatively recent geologic activity.

Smithsonian Institution Senior Scientist Tom Watters explains more about the moon’s recent geological activity in this short video.

Night Sky: Visible Planets, Moon Phases & Events, January 2013

How Moon Phases Work

via Space Dot Com

by Geoff Gaherty , (Space.Com) Starry Night Education
Date: 13 August 2012

Fact or fiction?

The phases of the moon are caused by the shadow of the Earth falling on the moon.

Fiction!

This is probably the most commonly held misconception in all astronomy. Here’s how the moon’s phases really come about:

The moon is a sphere that travels once around the Earth every 29.5 days. As it does so, it is illuminated from varying angles by the sun. At “new moon,” the moon is between the Earth and sun, so that the side of the moon facing towards us receives no direct sunlight, and is lit only by dim sunlight reflected from the Earth. As it moves around the Earth, the side we can see gradually becomes more illuminated by direct sunlight.

How Moon Phases Work

Here’s how the moon changes phases as it orbits the Earth, constantly changing the angle that sunlight hits the moon and is reflected, or not, to our eyes.
CREDIT: Starry Night Software

After a week, the moon is 90 degrees away from the sun in the sky and is half illuminated, what we call “first quarter” because it is about a quarter of the way around the Earth.

A week after this, the moon is 180 degrees away from the sun, so that sun, Earth and moon form a line. The moon is fully illuminated by the sun, so this is called “full moon.” This is the only time in the whole month when the Earth’s shadow is anywhere close to the moon. The Earth’s shadow points towards the moon at this time, but usually the moon passes above or below the shadow and no eclipse occurs.

A week later the moon has moved another quarter of the way around the Earth, to the third quarter position. The sun’s light is now shining on the other half of the visible face of the moon.

Finally, a week later, the moon is back to its new moon starting position. Usually it passes above or below the sun, but occasionally it passes right in front of the sun, and we get an eclipse of the sun.

So, the moon’s phases are not caused by the shadow of the Earth falling on the moon. In fact the shadow of the Earth falls on the moon only twice a year, when there are lunar eclipses.

This article was provided to SPACE.com by Starry Night Education, the leader in space science curriculum solutions. Amateur astronomer Geoff Gaherty operates his own Foxmead Observatory in Coldwater, Ontario, Canada.

A SEN Image
Links to story at SEN: Our Solar System
Moon Phase and Liberation, 2013

Dial-A-Moon At NASA, new interactive tool.

Frame 0081
Example only; the following Information when Astro’s article was Published

Time Friday, January 04, 2013, 08:00 UT
Phase 59.1%
Diameter 1880.3 arcseconds
Distance 381174 km (29.91 Earth diameters)
J2000 Right Ascension, Declination 12h 6m 49s, -5° 5′ 45″
Subsolar Longitude, Latitude -86.114°, 1.181°
Sub-Earth Longitude, Latitude -6.519°, 5.181°
Position Angle 24.462°

A pretty Moon

The animation archived on this page shows the geocentric phase, libration, position angle of the axis, and apparent diameter of the Moon throughout the year 2013, at hourly intervals. Until the end of 2013, the initial Dial-A-Moon image will be the frame from this animation for the current hour.

Published on 20 Nov 2012

This visualization shows the moon’s phase and liberation throughout the year 2013, at hourly intervals. Each frame represents one hour. In addition, this visualization also shows other relevant information, including moon orbit position, sub earth and sub solar points, distance from the Earth. Click each graphic to learn more about what it means! Finally, to learn more about this visualization, or to see what the moon will look like at any hour in 2013, visit http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/goto?4000!

This video is public domain and can be downloaded at:http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/goto?4000

The jagged, cratered, airless lunar terrain casts sharp shadows that clearly outline the Moon’s surface features for observers on Earth. This is especially true near the terminator, the line between day and night, where surface features appear in high relief. Elevation measurements by the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) make it possible to simulate shadows on the Moon’s surface with unprecedented accuracy and detail.

The Moon always keeps the same face to us, but not exactly the same face. Because of the tilt and shape of its orbit, we see the Moon from slightly different angles over the course of a month. When a month is compressed into 24 seconds, as it is in this animation, our changing view of the Moon makes it look like it’s wobbling. This wobble is calledlibration.

The word comes from the Latin for “balance scale” (as does the name of the zodiac constellation Libra) and refers to the way such a scale tips up and down on alternating sides. The sub-Earth point gives the amount of libration in longitude and latitude. The sub-Earth point is also the apparent center of the Moon’s disk and the location on the Moon where the Earth is directly overhead.

The Moon is subject to other motions as well. It appears to roll back and forth around the sub-Earth point. The roll angle is given by the position angle of the axis, which is the angle of the Moon’s north pole relative to celestial north. The Moon also approaches and recedes from us, appearing to grow and shrink. The two extremes, called perigee (near) and apogee (far), differ by more than 10%.

The most noticed monthly variation in the Moon’s appearance is the cycle of phases, caused by the changing angle of the Sun as the Moon orbits the Earth. The cycle begins with the waxing (growing) crescent Moon visible in the west just after sunset. By first quarter, the Moon is high in the sky at sunset and sets around midnight. The full Moon rises at sunset and is high in the sky at midnight. The third quarter Moon is often surprisingly conspicuous in the daylit western sky long after sunrise.

Celestial north is up in these images, corresponding to the view from the northern hemisphere. The descriptions of the print resolution stills also assume a northern hemisphere orientation. To adjust for southern hemisphere views, rotate the images 180 degrees, and substitute “north” for “south” in the descriptions.

The phase and libration of the Moon for 2013, at hourly intervals. Includes supplemental graphics that display the Moon's orbit, subsolar and sub-Earth points, and the Moon's distance from Earth at true scale. The phase and libration of the Moon for 2013, at hourly intervals. Includes supplemental graphics that display the Moon’s orbit, subsolar and sub-Earth points, and the Moon’s distance from Earth at true scale.
Duration: 4.9 minutes
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The phase and libration of the Moon for 2013 at hourly intervals, with music, titles, supplemental graphics, and transcript. The phase and libration of the Moon for 2013 at hourly intervals, with music, titles, supplemental graphics, and transcript.
Duration: 5.3 minutes
Available formats:
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The phase and libration of the Moon for 2013, at hourly intervals. The full-resolution frames include an alpha channel. The phase and libration of the Moon for 2013, at hourly intervals. The full-resolution frames include an alpha channel.
Duration: 4.9 minutes
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The phase and libration of the Moon for 2013 at hourly intervals, with music, titles, and transcript. The phase and libration of the Moon for 2013 at hourly intervals, with music, titles, and transcript.
Duration: 5.3 minutes
Available formats:
1920×1080 (29.97 fps) QT (YouTube) 169 MB
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1280×720 (29.97 fps) QT (ProRes) 1 GB
1280×720 (29.97 fps) WMV (Windows) 146 MB
960×540 (29.97 fps) MPEG-4 (AppleTV) 134 MB
640×360 (29.97 fps) MPEG-4 (iPod) 60 MB
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The orbit of the Moon in 2013, viewed from the north pole of the ecliptic, with the vernal equinox to the right. The sizes of the Earth and Moon are exaggerated by a factor of 30. The frames include an alpha channel. The orbit of the Moon in 2013, viewed from the north pole of the ecliptic, with the vernal equinox to the right. The sizes of the Earth and Moon are exaggerated by a factor of 30. The frames include an alpha channel.
Duration: 4.9 minutes
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From this birdseye view, it’s somewhat easier to see that the phases of the Moon are an effect of the changing angles of the sun, Moon and Earth. The Moon is full when its orbit places it in the middle of the night side of the Earth. First and Third Quarter Moon occur when the Moon is along the day-night line on the Earth.The First Point of Aries is at the 3 o’clock position in the image. The sun is in this direction at the spring equinox. You can check this by freezing the animation at the 1:03 mark, or by freezing the full animation with the time stamp near March 20 at 11:00 UTC. This direction serves as the zero point for both ecliptic longitude and right ascension.The north pole of the Earth is tilted 23.5 degrees toward the 12 o’clock position at the top of the image. The tilt of the Earth is important for understanding why the north pole of the Moon seems to swing back and forth. In the full animation, watch both the orbit and the “gyroscope” Moon in the lower left. The widest swings happen when the Moon is at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions. When the Moon is at the 3 o’clock position, the ground we’re standing on is tilted to the left when we look at the Moon. At the 9 o’clock position, it’s tilted to the right. The tilt itself doesn’t change. We’re just turned around, looking in the opposite direction.
An animated diagram of the subsolar and sub-Earth points for 2013. The Moon's north pole, equator, and meridian are indicated. The frames include an alpha channel. An animated diagram of the subsolar and sub-Earth points for 2013. The Moon’s north pole, equator, and meridian are indicated. The frames include an alpha channel.
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The subsolar and sub-Earth points are the locations on the Moon’s surface where the sun or the Earth are directly overhead, at the zenith. A line pointing straight up at one of these points will be pointing toward the sun or the Earth. The sub-Earth point is also the apparent center of the Moon’s disk as observed from the Earth.In the animation, the blue dot is the sub-Earth point, and the yellow dot is the subsolar point. The lunar latitude and longitude of the sub-Earth point is a measure of the Moon’s libration. For example, when the blue dot moves to the left of the meridian (the line at 0 degrees longitude), an extra bit of the Moon’s western limb is rotating into view, and when it moves above the equator, a bit of the far side beyond the north pole becomes visible.At any given time, half of the Moon is in sunlight, and the subsolar point is in the center of the lit half. Full Moon occurs when the subsolar point is near the center of the Moon’s disk. When the subsolar point is somewhere on the far side of the Moon, observers on Earth see a crescent phase.
An animated diagram of the Moon's distance from the Earth for 2013. The sizes and distances are true to scale, and the lighting and Earth-tilt are correct. The frames include an alpha channel. An animated diagram of the Moon’s distance from the Earth for 2013. The sizes and distances are true to scale, and the lighting and Earth-tilt are correct. The frames include an alpha channel.
Duration: 4.9 minutes
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The Moon’s orbit around the Earth isn’t a perfect circle. The orbit is slightly elliptical, and because of that, the Moon’s distance from the Earth varies between 28 and 32 Earth diameters, or about 356,400 and 406,700 kilometers. In each orbit, the smallest distance is called perigee, from Greek words meaning “near earth,” while the greatest distance is called apogee. The Moon looks largest at perigee because that’s when it’s closest to us.The animation follows the imaginary line connecting the Earth and the Moon as it sweeps around the Moon’s orbit. From this vantage point, it’s easy to see the variation in the Moon’s distance. Both the distance and the sizes of the Earth and Moon are to scale in this view. In the full-resolution frames, the Earth is 50 pixels wide, the Moon is 14 pixels wide, and the distance between them is about 1500 pixels, on average.Note too that the Earth appears to go through phases just like the Moon does. For someone standing on the surface of the Moon, the sun and the stars rise and set, but the Earth doesn’t move in the sky. It goes through a monthly sequence of phases as the sun angle changes. The phases are the opposite of the Moon’s. During New Moon here, the Earth is full as viewed from the Moon.
Waxing crescent. Visible toward the southwest in early evening. Waxing crescent. Visible toward the southwest in early evening.Available formats:
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First quarter. Visible high in the southern sky in early evening. First quarter. Visible high in the southern sky in early evening.Available formats:
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Waxing gibbous. Visible to the southeast in early evening, up for most of the night. Waxing gibbous. Visible to the southeast in early evening, up for most of the night.Available formats:
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320 x 320         PNG     352 KB
Full Moon. Rises at sunset, high in the sky around midnight. Visible all night. Full Moon. Rises at sunset, high in the sky around midnight. Visible all night.Available formats:
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320 x 320         PNG     398 KB
Waning gibbous. Rises after sunset, high in the sky after midnight, visible to the southwest after sunrise. Waning gibbous. Rises after sunset, high in the sky after midnight, visible to the southwest after sunrise.Available formats:
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Third quarter. Rises around midnight, visible to the south after sunrise. Third quarter. Rises around midnight, visible to the south after sunrise.Available formats:
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Waning crescent. Low to the east before sunrise. Waning crescent. Low to the east before sunrise.Available formats:
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New Moon. By the modern definition, New Moon occurs when the Moon and Sun are at the same geocentric ecliptic longitude. The part of the Moon facing us is completely in shadow then. Pictured here is the traditional New Moon, the earliest visible waxing crescent, which signals the start of a new month in many lunar and lunisolar calendars. New Moon. By the modern definition, New Moon occurs when the Moon and Sun are at the same geocentric ecliptic longitude. The part of the Moon facing us is completely in shadow then. Pictured here is the traditional New Moon, the earliest visible waxing crescent, which signals the start of a new month in many lunar and lunisolar calendars.Available formats:
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Published on 20 Nov 2012

This visualization shows the moon’s phase (Only no detail) and liberation throughout the year 2013, at hourly intervals. Each frame represents one hour

Another cool link to an Interactive MOON Guide 

Night Sky: Visible Planets, Moon Phases & Events, January 2013

Mark Thompson’s guide to the Moon 

Via SEN

Earth s only moon is 3,476 km in diameter & orbits at an average distance of 384,400km
Earth’s only moon is 3,476 km in diameter & orbits at an average distance of 384,400km

By Mark Thompson 24 August 2011

There can be few objects that have inspired both artists and scientists as much as the Moon. Perhaps surprisingly its appearance has barely changed in the thousands of years that mankind has walked the Earth and ancient civilisations enjoyed much the same view as the one we see today. During the Moon’s relentless orbit around the Earth it has witnessed civilisations come and go, entire species evolve and die out and even continents slowly shift. The one thing that has changed over all those years though is our understanding of it, and its still giving us plenty of surprises.

As natural planetary satellites go, the Moon is actually quite large with a diameter of 3,476km (2,155 miles) around the equator. It orbits the Earth at an average distance of 384,400km (238,000 miles) but this varies from its closest, or perigee at 362,570km (225,000 miles) to its most distant point, or apogee of 405,410km (251,000 miles). There are a couple of things people will always think of when you mention the Moon: craters and phases which can both be observed without a telescope.

The phases of the Moon are simple to understand and anyone who has looked at it over a series of nights will notice that it changes progressively night after night with a whole cycle taking about a month. In fact the word month has its origin in the word Moon relating to the approximate length of a full lunar phase cycle. To understand the phases its important to realise that we only see the Moon because it’s a sphere and reflects sunlight – turn the Sun off and the Moon would no longer be visible.

We see the phases change as the Moon orbits around the Earth and the angle between the Sun and Moon alters. During a full Moon, the Sun and Moon are opposite each other in the sky and we see the fully illuminated or daytime face, but at new Moon they are both in the same direction and we see the night time portion of the Moon. As it moves around the Earth, the angle between the Earth, Sun and Moon changes and we see varying amounts of the daytime/nighttime side.The line between the illuminated and un-illuminated faces is called the terminator and its down this line where the Sun is just rising or setting.

From an observational point of view, the surface features are much more prominent if observed when they are near the terminator. The low altitude of the Sun from that point means the shadows cast by the features are much longer making them stand out clearly against the lunar surface. The worst time to observe the Moon is when it’s full and the shadows are minimal.

The phases of the Moon are a little more complicated than I’ve just explained though because the orbit of the Moon around the Earth is very slightly tilted with respect to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. If it wasn’t then every time we had a full Moon the Earth would block sunlight from reaching the Moon and we would see a lunar eclipse. Clearly we don’t have one every month and its because the Moon’s orbit is tilted that on most occasions the Moon is slightly above or below the Earth’s shadow.

Look at the Moon more closely and you will see dark grey patches, turn binoculars or even a telescope on it and some will turn into great plains while others turn into cavernous craters. The craters were created by meteoric impacts where pieces of space rock smashed into the lunar surface. We see evidence of this process throughout the Solar System even here on Earth. The larger plains, or mare as they are properly called, are the aftermath of much larger impacts that have cracked the lunar surface allowing molten lava to seep up through the mantle. The lava solidifies over time leaving the plains we see today. Before good quality telescopes it was thought these great plains were actually lunar seas.

Another effect of the Moon’s orbit around the Earth are the tides. Like the Earth, the Moon has a gravitational pull and as a result it pulls on the Earth producing a bulge. As the Earth spins once on its axis it ‘passes underneath’ the bulge which we then experience as a tide. There are actually two bulges, one pointing roughly toward the Moon, the other in the opposite direction. When a location passes under the bulge it’s seen as high tide, hence we see two every day.

This bulge is pretty crucial and is having a big impact on the Earth-Moon system. You would think that the bulge lies directly between the Earth and Moon, given that it’s the pull of the Moon’s gravity that causes it. It turns out that the rotation of the Earth drags the bulge a little ahead of the Moon in its orbit. As it lays ahead of the Moon, the extra ‘lump’ of material produces a little extra pull on the Moon causing it to accelerate in its orbit. If you accelerate an orbiting object, it moves into a higher orbit -in other words, it moves further away. Thanks to the Apollo astronauts who left a special mirror on the surface, we can now accurately measure its distance and have found that the Moon is moving away from the Earth at a rate of 3.8cm per year!

It’s not only the Earth that experiences the tides, the Moon too has tides, though to a much lesser degree. The gravitational pull from Earth acts to distort the Moon and produce a lunar tidal bulge toward the Earth. When the Moon first formed it was spinning much faster than it does today and its rotation displaced the tidal bulge from its alignment between the Earth and Moon. The Earth’s gravitational pull still acted upon this bulge causing a braking effect on the Moon’s rotation. Over many millions of years this tidal interaction caused the Moon to slow down so much that it now rotates once on its axis for every orbit around the Earth, every 29.5 days. It’s an effect called captured or synchronous rotation and its result is that we now only ever see one half of the Moon from Earth. In reality we see can see a little more than 50% but this is due to the Moon’s orbital properties allowing us to glance a little further around.

With the Moon moving away from Earth it would be reasonable to assume that at some point they were in the same place. It is believed that the Moon was in fact once part of the Earth. At the time the Earth formed, the Solar System was a war zone with large chunks of rock and proto-planets flying around at ballistic speed. One piece about the size of Mars is thought to have smashed into the Earth throwing vast amounts of material into orbit. It’s believed that most of the heavy elements settled back on Earth while the lighter material stayed in orbit. Recent studies suggest that two moons could have formed, sharing the same orbit, which ultimately collided forming the Moon we see today. This new theory nicely accounts for the observation that one side of the Moon seems to have a much thicker crust which is now thought to be the remains of the Moon’s ancient companion.

Perhaps one of the most incredible discoveries in recent years was the discovery of water ice in some of the deep lunar craters. In these deep craters, that remain almost permanently in shadow, temperatures remain sub zero all year round allowing the ice crystals to form. This discovery opens up tantalising possibilities for future space exploration. The water molecules on the Moon could be harnessed for and purified for future explorers to drink. Taking this a step further, separate the water molecules into their hydrogen and oxygen components and they could be used to create rocket fuel for further onward exploration. No longer can we consider the Moon as a lifeless and hostile place, instead its becoming more likely that mankind’s next step out into the Solar System will involve using the Moon as an outpost for future giant leaps!

Tools from Moon Connection
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One Side of Moon
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RELATED LINKS AT SEN and NASA

Comets ISON and Hale Bop

Comet ISON to be visible to the naked eye by November 2013 in the Northen Hemisphere

It could be brighter than any comet of the past century and may even be visible in DAYLIGHT.   Discovered by Russian astronomers, ISON is thought to originate from the Oort Cloud and may end up crashing into the Sun
Comet Hale Bop above Alaska

Comet Hale Bop above Alaska

TOP NEWS from Reuters
Fri, Dec 28 22:29 PM GMT

By Irene Klotz

(Reuters) – A comet blazing toward Earth could outshine the full moon when it passes by at the end of next year – if it survives its close encounter with the sun.

The recently discovered object, known as comet ISON, is due to fly within 1.2 million miles (1.9 million km) from the center of the sun on November 28, 2013 said astronomer Donald Yeomans, head of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

As the comet approaches, heat from the sun will vaporize ices in its body, creating what could be a spectacular tail that is visible in Earth’s night sky without telescopes or even binoculars from about October 2013 through January 2014.

If the comet survives, that is.

Comet ISON could break apart as it nears the sun, or it could fail to produce a tail of ice particles visible from Earth.

Celestial visitors like Comet ISON hail from the Oort Cloud, a cluster of frozen rocks and ices that circle the sun about 50,000 times farther away than Earth’s orbit. Every so often, one will be gravitationally bumped out from the cloud and begin a long solo orbit around the sun.

On September 21, two amateur astronomers from Russia spotted what appeared to be a comet in images taken by a 16-inch (0.4-meter) telescope that is part of the worldwide International Scientific Optical Network, or ISON, from which the object draws its name.

“The object was slow and had a unique movement. But we could not be certain that it was a comet because the scale of our images are quite small and the object was very compact,” astronomer Artyom Novichonok, one of the discoverers, wrote in a comets email list hosted by Yahoo.

Novichonok and co-discoverer Vitali Nevski followed up the next night with a bigger telescope at the Maidanak Observatory in Uzbekistan. Other astronomers did likewise, confirming the object, located beyond Jupiter’s orbit in the constellation Cancer, was indeed a comet.

“It’s really rare, exciting,” Novichonok wrote.

Comet ISON’s path is very similar to a comet that passed by Earth in 1680, one which was so bright its tail reportedly could be seen in daylight.

The projected orbit of comet ISON is so similar to the 1680 comet that some scientists are wondering if they are fragments from a common parent body.

“Comet ISON…could be the brightest comet seen in many generations – brighter even than the full moon,” wrote British astronomer David Whitehouse in The Independent.

In 2013, Earth has two shots at a comet show. Comet Pan-STARRS is due to pass by the planet in March, eight months before ISON’s arrival.

NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover may be able to provide a preview.

Comet ISON is due to pass by the red planet in September and could be a target for the rover from its vantage point inside Gale Crater.

The last comet to dazzle Earth’s night-time skies was Comet Hale-Bopp, which visited in 1997. Comet 17P/Holmes made a brief appearance in 2007.

(Editing by Kevin Gray and Leslie Gevirtz)

Halebopp031197

Comet Hale-Bopp. Author shot this image at Zab...

Comet Hale-Bopp observed from the MIR space st...

Quasars and Pulsars

Quasars and Pulsars 

The word “quasar” refers to a “quasi-stellar radio source.” The first quasars were discovered in the 1960s when astronomers measured their very strong radio emissions. Later, scientists discovered that quasars are actually radio-quiet, with very little radio emission. However, quasars are some of the brightest and most distant objects we can see.

An artist’s rendering of the most distant quasar

An artist’s rendering of the most distant quasar

These ultra-bright objects are likely the centers of active galaxies where supermassive black holes reside. As material spirals into the black holes, a large part of the mass is converted to energy. It is this energy that we see. And though smaller than our solar system, a single quasar can outshine an entire galaxy of a hundred billion stars.

To date, astronomers have identified more than a thousand quasars.

Joining the dots:

from starburst to elliptical galaxies

Starburst galaxies appear in red. Credit: ESO, APEX (MPIfR/ESO/OSO), A. Weiss et al., Spitzer
Starburst galaxies appear in red. Credit: ESO, APEX (MPIfR/ESO/OSO), A. Weiss et al., Spitzer  
 

By Amanda Doyle at SEN

27 January 2012

(Sen) – Astronomers observing ancient starburst galaxies have made a connection between them and the elliptical galaxies we see today.

There are many different types of galaxies in the Universe and astronomers have long desired to join the dots and solve the puzzles of galaxy evolution. Looking at galaxies that are far, far away is also a way of looking back in time. Their light has taken billions of years to reach us, and thus we see those galaxies as they were billions of years ago. Galaxies in the ancient Universe are often very different than the host of spiral and elliptical galaxies that we are surrounded by today. For example, the extremely bright quasars are common in the distant Universe and yet none exist locally.

However, astronomers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope along with ESO’s Very Large Telescope and 12 metre Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope have managed to see how distant submillimetre galaxies, quasars, and modern elliptical galaxies fit together in the jigsaw of the Universe.

Sub~millimetre galaxies (SMGs) are situated 10 billion light years from us, and are extremely bright in the infrared region of the spectrum, specifically the submillimetre band. Because the SMGs are located so far away, the light emitted by the galaxies is shifted to much longer wavelengths. These galaxies are also starburst galaxies, meaning that for a short while there is a phenomenal rate of star formation. A supernova explosion would occur every few years and on a planet in a starburst galaxy the night sky would be almost as bright as day.

Astronomers have been able to measure the mass of the dark matter halos surrounding a group of SMGs. Dark matter is invisible and we don’t know what it is, but indirect detections tells us that galaxies are usually engulfed in it. The dark matter typically extends far beyond the edge of the visible galaxy. But measuring the mass of dark matter halos 10 billion light years away is no easy task. Ryan Hickox, lead author of the paper on the subject, explains to Sen how this was done.

“We measure how strongly the galaxies are clustered together in space, using a statistical tool called a ‘correlation function’. If the galaxies were distributed randomly, the correlation function would be equal to zero. However if they are clustered together (sort of like buildings in towns and cities) then they have a positive correlation function. We know from simulations of the Universe how halos of dark matter are clustered together, and this clustering depends strongly on the mass of the halos. Galaxies that live in these halos will be clustered the same way. So by measuring the clustering of the galaxies, we can tell how massive the typical halos that host them are.”

By knowing the mass of the halos of the SMGs, Hickox and his colleagues were able to use computer simulations to fast forward to the present day and show that these galaxies will eventually form giant elliptical galaxies in the modern Universe. However, elliptical galaxies are typically devoid of star formation. So what stopped the immense star formation in the SMGs? Continue Reading

Quasars

Light that is bent by a galaxy can be used to measure the galaxy’s mass. Credit: Joerg Colberg, Ryan Scranton, Robert Lupton, SDSS
Light that is bent by a galaxy can be used to measure the galaxy’s mass. Credit: Joerg Colberg, Ryan Scranton, Robert Lupton, SDSS  

By Amanda Doyle at SEN

14 February 2012

Researchers have used advanced computer simulations to show that the space between galaxies is teeming with dark matter.

Everything that we can see around us in the Universe only makes up around 4.5 per cent of the total mass of the Universe. The remaining “missing mass” is made up of dark matter and dark energy, and the origin of both of these is still a mystery.

While dark matter cannot be directly detected, its presence can be inferred from an effect known as gravitational lensing. Light from a distant object, such as a quasar, is bent around a foreground galaxy so that the light from the quasar becomes distorted. The way in which the light is bent depends on the mass of the “lens” galaxy.

The image on the left shows a simulation of how light from distant sources should appear if there is no intervening “lens,” while the image on the right shows how light can be distorted when there is a galaxy between us and the distant light sources.

However the mass of galaxies is usually much greater than what is expected from looking at the amount of matter that is visible. It has been known for some time that large dark matter halos exist around galaxies, which stretch up to 100 million light years from the centre of the galaxies.

New computer simulations now show that the dark matter does not end at 100 million light years, but instead knows no boundaries as it extends into intergalactic space.  Continue Reading

For daily space news follow Sen on Twitter: @sen. They’re also on  Google+

Ancient Galaxy Cluster Still Producing Stars

Black hole quasar NASA

Space dot Com Video

Astronomers have found a quasar that’s more than five times more powerful than any previously seen. Quasars are mega-bright geysers of matter and energy powered by super-massive black holes at the centers of young galaxies.
Credit: SPACE.com / ESO

NGC 1132: A Mysterious Elliptical Galaxy (An e...

Quasars: Radio Stars 

from Sea and Sky

Quasars are the brightest and most distant objects in the known universe. In the early 1960’s, quasars were referred to as radio stars because they were discovered to be a strong source of radio waves. In fact, the term quasar comes from the words, “quasi-stellar radio source”. Today, many astronomers refer to these objects as quasi-stellar objects, or QSOs. As the resolution of our radio and optical telescopes became better, it was noticed that these were not true stars but some type of as yet unknown star-like objects. It also appeared that the radio emissions were coming from a pair of lobes surrounding these faint star-like objects. It was also discovered that these objects were located well outside our own galaxy. Quasars are very mysterious objects. Astronomers today are still not sure exactly what these objects are. What we do know about them is that they emit enormous amounts of energy. They can burn with the energy of a trillion suns. Some quasars are believed to be producing 10 to 100 times more energy than our entire galaxy. All of this energy seems to be produced in an area not much bigger than our solar system.

Distant Lights

We do know that quasars are extremely distant. In fact, they may be the most distant objects in the universe. They also have the largest red shift of any other objects in the cosmos. Astronomers are able to measure speed and distance of far away objects by measuring the spectrum of their light. If the colors of this spectrum are shifted toward the red, this means that the object is moving away from us. The greater the red shift, the farther the object and the faster it is moving. Since quasars have such a high red shift, they are extremely far away and are moving away from us at extremely high speeds. It is believed that some quasars may be moving away from us at 240,000 kilometers per second or nearly 80% the speed of light. Quasars are, in fact, the most distant objects to ever be detected in the universe. We know that light travels a certain distance in a year. Quasars are so far away that the light we see when we observe them has been traveling for billions of years to reach us. This means that quasars are among the most ancient objects known in the universe. The most distant quasars observed so far are over 10 billion light-years away. This means we are seeing them as they appeared 10 billion years ago. It is entirely possible that some or all of the quasars we see today may not even exist any more.

Peering back to the early Universe, Europe’s Very Large Telescope has found gas-filled galaxies that lacked the gravity dynamics to form stars. A long-sought faint fluorescent glow was detected, revealing these previously invisible objects.
Credit: ESO, Digitized Sky Survey 2, Akira Fujii/David Malin Images. Music: Disasterpeace

What is a Quasar

We still do not know exactly what a quasar is. But the most educated guess points to the possibility that quasars are produced by super massive black holes consuming matter in an acceleration disk. As the matter spins faster and faster, it heats up. The friction between all of the particles would give off enormous amounts of light other forms of radiation such as x-rays. The black hole would be devouring the equivalent mass of one Sun per year. As this matter is crushed out of existence by the black hole, enormous amounts of energy would be ejected along the black hole’s north and south poles. Astronomers refer to these formations as cosmic jets. Another possible explanation for quasars is that they are very young galaxies. Since we know very little about the evolutionary process of galaxies, it is possible that quasars, as old as they are, represent a very early stage in the formation of galaxies. The energy we see may be ejected from the cores of these very young and very active galaxies. Some scientists even believe that quasars are distant points in space where new matter may be entering our universe. This would make them the opposite of black holes. But this is only conjecture. It may be some time before we really understand these strange objects.

Finding Quasars

The first identified quasar was called 3C 273 and was located in the constellation Virgo. It was discovered by T. Matthews and A. Sandage in 1960. It appeared to be associated with a 16th magnitude star like object. Three years later, in 1963, It was noticed that the object had an extremely high red shift. The true nature of this object became apparent when astronomers discovered that the intense energy was being produced in a relatively small area. Today, quasars are identified primarily by their red shift. If an object is discovered to have a very high red shift and appears to be producing vast amounts of energy, it becomes a prime candidate for quasar research. Today more than 2000 quasars have been identified. The Hubble space telescope has been a key tool in the search for these elusive objects. As technology continues to enhance our windows to the universe, we may one day fully understand these fantastic lights

Pulsars

Cosmic Beacons

Pulsars are among the strangest objects in the universe. In 1967, at the Cambridge Observatory, Jocelyn Bell and Anthony Hewish were studying the stars when they stumbled on something quite extraordinary. It was a star-like object that seemed to be emitting quick pulses of radio waves. Radio sources had been known to exist in space for quite some time. But this was the first time anything had been observed to give off such quick pulses. They were as regular as clockwork, pulsing once every second. The signal was originally thought to be coming from an orbiting satellite, but that idea was quickly disproved. After several more of these objects had been found, they were named pulsars because of their rapidly pulsing nature. Bright pulsars have been observed at almost every wavelength of light. Some can actually be seen in visible light. Many people tend to get pulsars confused with quasars. But the two objects are totally different. Quasars are objects that produce enormous amounts of energy and may be the result of a massive black hole at the center of a young galaxy. But a pulsar is a different animal entirely.

Alien worlds that orbit the energetic dead stars known as pulsars may leave electric currents behind them – anomalies that could help researchers find more of these strange planets.

Astronomers know of only four “pulsar planets” so far, and much remains unknown about such worlds, but scientists propose that they formed in the chaos after the supernova explosions that gave birth to the pulsars.

pulsar is a kind of neutron star, a stellar corpse left over from a supernova, a giant star explosion that crushes protons with electrons to form neutrons. Neutron star matter is the densest known material: A sugar cube-size piece weighs as much as a mountain, about 100 million tons. The mass of a single neutron star surpasses that of the sun while fitting into a ball smaller in diameter than the city of London.

The Lighthouse Factor

A pulsar is basically a rapidly spinning neutron star. A neutron star is the highly compacted core of a dead star, left behind in a supernova explosion. This neutron star has a powerful magnetic field. In fact, this magnetic field is about one trillion times as powerful as the magnetic field of the Earth. The magnetic field causes the neutron star to emit strong radio waves and radioactive particles from its north and south poles. These particles can include a variety of radiation, including visible light. Pulsars that emit powerful gamma rays are known as gamma ray pulsars. If the neutron star happens to be aligned so that the poles face the Earth, we see the radio waves every time one of the poles rotates into our line of sight. It is a similar effect as that of a lighthouse. As the lighthouse rotates, its light appears to a stationary observer to blink on and off. In the same way, the pulsar appears to be blinking as its rotating poles sweep past the Earth. Different pulsars pulse at different rates, depending on the size and mass of the neutron star. Sometimes a pulsar may have a binary companion. In some cases, the pulsar may begin to draw in matter from this companion. this can cause the pulsar to rotate even faster. The fastest pulsars can pulse at well over a hundred times a second

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Quasar

Quasar

From @Spacedotcom >

The Nine Most Brilliant Comets Ever Seen

And a History of Comets

Excitement is riding high in the astronomical community with the recent discovery of Comet ISON, which is destined to pass exceedingly close to the sun in late November 2013 and might possibly become dazzlingly bright.

The latest information issued by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory suggests that this comet could get as bright as magnitude -11.6 on the astronomers’ brightness scale; that’s as bright as nearly full moon!  That would also be bright enough for Comet ISON to be visible during the daytime.

Comets that are visible to the naked eye during the daytime are rare, but such cases are not unique.  In the last 332 years, it has happened only nine other times.  Here is a listing of past comets that have achieved this amazing feat.

In this list we quote the brightness of the comets in terms of magnitude.  On this scale, larger numbers represent dimmer objects; the brightest stars are generally zero to first magnitude, while super-bright objects such as Venus and the moon achieve negative magnitudes. [Spectacular Comet Photos (Gallery)]

Great Comet of 1680 —This comet has an orbit strikingly similar to Comet ISON, begging the question of whether both objects are one and the same or at the very least are somehow related.  Discovered on Nov. 14, 1680 by German astronomer Gottfried Kirsch, this was the first telescopic comet discovery in history. By Dec. 4, the comet was visible at magnitude +2 with a tail 15 degrees long.  On Dec. 18 it arrived at perihelion — its closest approach to the sun — at a distance of 744,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers).

A report from Albany, N.Y. indicated that it could be glimpsed in daylight passing above the sun.  In late December, it reappeared in the western evening sky, again of magnitude +2, and displaying a long tail that resembled a narrow beam of light that stretched for at least 70 degrees. The comet faded from naked-eye visibility by early February 1681.

Great Comet of 1744 — First sighted on Nov. 29, 1743 as a dim 4th-magnitude object, this comet brightened rapidly as it approached the sun.  Many textbooks often cite Philippe Loys de Cheseaux, of Lausanne, Switzerland as the discoverer, although his first sighting did not come until two weeks later.  By mid-January 1744, the comet was described as 1st-magnitude with a 7-degree tail.

By Feb. 1 it rivaled the star Sirius in brightness and displayed a curved tail 15 degrees in length.  By Feb. 18 the comet was as bright as Venus and now displayed two tails.  On Feb. 27, it peaked at magnitude -7 and was reported visible in the daytime, 12 degrees from the sun.  Perihelion came on March 1, at a distance of 20.5 million miles (33 million km) from the sun.  On March 6, the comet appeared in the morning sky, accompanied by six brilliant tails that resembled a Japanese hand fan.

Great Comet of 1843 — This comet was a member of the Kruetz Sungrazing Comet Group, which has produced some of the most brilliant comets in recorded history. Such comets actually graze through the outer atmosphere of the sun, and often do not survive.

The 1843 comet passed only 126,000 miles (203,000 km) from the sun’s photosphere on Feb 27, 1843.  Although a few observations suggest that it was seen for a few weeks prior to this date, on the day when of its closest approach to the sun it was widely observed in full daylight.  Positioned only 1 degree from the sun, this comet appeared as “an elongated white cloud” possessing a brilliant nucleus and a tail about 1 degree in length.  Passengers onboard the ship Owen Glendower, off the Cape of Good Hope described it as a “short, dagger-like object” that closely followed the sun toward the western horizon.

In the days that followed, as the comet moved away from the sun, it diminished in brightness but its tail grew enormously, eventually attaining a length of 200 million miles (320 million km). If you were able to place the head of this comet at the sun’s position, the tail would have extended beyond the orbit of the planet Mars!

The great comet of 1881 by Trouvelot
A chromolithograph of the great comet of 1881 by Trouvelot
CREDIT: E.L. Trouvelot/NYPL
View full size image and Story at Space.com

Great September Comet of 1882 — This comet is perhaps the brightest comet that has ever been seen; a gigantic member of the Kreutz Sungrazing Group.  First spotted as a bright zero-magnitude object by a group of Italian sailors in the Southern Hemisphere on Sept.1, this comet brightened dramatically as it approached its rendezvous with the sun.

By Sept. 14, it became visible in broad daylight and when it arrived at perihelion on the 17th, it passed at a distance of only 264,000 miles (425,000 km) from the sun’s surface.  On that day, some observers described the comet’s silvery radiance as scarcely fainter than the limb of the sun, suggesting a magnitude somewhere between -15 and -20!

The following day, observers in Cordoba, Spain described the comet as a “blazing star” near the sun.  The nucleus also broke into at least four separate parts. In the days and weeks that followed, the comet became visible in the morning sky as an immense object sporting a brilliant tail.  Today, some comet historians consider it as a “Super Comet,” far above the run of even Great Comets.

Great January Comet of 1910 — The first people to see this comet —  then already at first magnitude —  were workmen at the Transvaal Premier Diamond Mine in South Africa on Jan. 13, 1910.  Two days later, three men at a railway station in nearby Kopjes casually watched the object for 20 minutes before sunrise, assuming that it was Halley’s Comet.

Later that morning, the editor of the local Johannesburg newspaper telephoned the Transvaal Observatory for a comment.  The observatory’s director, Robert Innes, must have initially thought this sighting was a mistake, since Halley’s Comet was not in that part of the sky and nowhere near as conspicuous. Innes looked for the comet the following morning, but clouds thwarted his view.  However, on the morning of Jan. 17, he and an assistant saw the comet, shining sedately on the horizon just above where the sun was about to rise.  Later, at midday, Innes viewed it as a snowy-white object, brighter than Venus, several degrees from the sun.  He sent out a telegram alerting the world to expect “Drake’s Comet” —  for so “Great Comet” sounded to the telegraph operator.

It was visible during the daytime for a couple more days, then moved northward and away from the sun, becoming a stupendous object in the evening sky for the rest of January in the Northern Hemisphere. Ironically, many people in 1910 who thought they had seen Halley’s Comet instead likely saw the Great January Comet that appeared about three months before Halley. [Photos of Halley’s Comet Through History]

Comet Skjellerup-Maristanny, 1927 —Another brilliant comet, first seen as a 3rd magnitude object in early December 1927, had the unfortunate distinction of arriving under the poorest observing circumstances possible.  The orbital geometry was such that the approaching comet could not be seen in a dark sky at any time from either the Northern or the Southern Hemisphere.

Nonetheless, the comet reached tremendous magnitude at perihelion on Dec. 18.  Located at a distance of 16.7 million miles (26.9 million km) from the sun, it was visible in daylight about 5 degrees from the sun at a magnitude of -6.  As the comet moved out of the twilight and headed south into darker skies, it faded rapidly, but still threw off an impressively long tail that reached up to 40 degrees in length by the end of the month.

40 Years Ago: A Great Comet

This painting of Comet Ikeya-Seki, visible during the day, was done by now-retired Hayden Planetarium artist Helmut K. Wimmer and was based on a description made by Hayden’s Chief Astronomer, Ken Franklin, from an airplane hovering over West Point, New York. It was originally published in the February 1966 issue of Natural History magazine. Republished with permission.

Comet Ikeya-Seki, 1965 — This was the brightest comet of the 20th century, and was found just over a month before it made perihelion passage in the morning sky, moving rapidly toward the sun.

Like the Great Comets of 1843 and 1882, Ikeya-Seki was a Kreutz Sungrazer, and on Oct. 21, 1965, it swept within 744,000 miles (1.2 million km) of the center of the sun.  The comet was then visible as a brilliant object within a degree or two of the sun, and wherever the sky was clear, the comet could be seen by observers merely by blocking out the sun with their hands.

From Japan, the homeland of the observers who discovered it, Ikeya-Seki was described as appearing “ten times brighter than the full moon,” corresponding to a magnitude of -15. Also at that time, the comet’s nucleus was observed to break into two or three pieces.  Thereafter, the comet moved away in full retreat from the sun, its head fading very rapidly but its slender, twisted tail reaching out into space for up to 75 million miles (120 million km), and dominating the eastern morning sky right on through the month of November.

Comet West, 1976 — This comet developed into a beautiful object in the morning sky of early March 1976 for Northern Hemisphere observers.  It was discovered in November 1975 by Danish astronomer Richard West in photographs taken at the European Southern Observatory in Chile. Seventeen hours after passing within 18.3 million miles (29.5 million km) of the sun on Feb. 25, 1976, it was glimpsed with the naked eye 10 minutes before sunset by John Bortle.

In the days that followed, Comet West displayed a brilliant head and a long, strongly structured tail that resembled “a fantastic fountain of light.”  Sadly, having been “burned” by the poor performance of Comet Kohoutek two years earlier, the mainstream media all but ignored Comet West, so most people unfortunately failed to see its dazzling performance.

New Comet is Brightest in 30 Years

Michael Jager and Gerald Rhemann photographed comet C/2006 P1 (McNaught) from Austria in twilight 45 minutes before sunrise on Jan. 3. Rhemann told SPACE.com they used 7×50 binoculars to find the comet. They estimate that today (Jan. 5) it shone at magnitude +1 and they expect to see it with the naked eye next week. 

Comet McNaught, 2007 —Discovered in August 2006 by astronomer Robert McNaught at Australia’s Siding Spring Observatory, this comet evolved into a brilliant object as it swept past the sun on Jan. 12, 2007 at a distance of just 15.9 million miles (25.6 million km).  According to reports received from a worldwide audience at the International Comet Quarterly, it appears that the comet reached peak brightness on Sunday, Jan. 14 at around 12 hours UT (7:00 a.m. EST, or 1200 GMT).  At that time, the comet was shining at magnitude 5.1.

Some observers, such as Steve O’Meara, located at Volcano, Hawaii, observed McNaught in daylight and estimated a magnitude as high as -6, noting, “The comet appeared much brighter than Venus!”

After passing the sun, Comet McNaught developed a stupendously large, fan-shaped tail somewhat reminiscent of the Great Comet of 1744. Unfortunately for Northern Hemisphere observers, the best views of Comet McNaught were mainly from south of the equator.

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for The New York Times and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for News 12 Westchester, New York.

Universe Feature and Star Map of the Galaxy

European Southern Observatory

17 December 2012: Astronomers from around the world have been meeting in Chile to discuss the exciting first year of scientific results from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope. ALMA started Early Science operations at the end of September 2011, and the first scientific papers have recently been appearing in refereed journals. …   Read more

This VLT image of the Thor’s Helmet Nebula was taken on the occasion of ESO’s 50th Anniversary, 5 October 2012

This VLT image of the Thor’s Helmet Nebula was taken on the occasion of ESO’s 50th Anniversary, 5 October 2012

12 December 2012: A video compilation of time-lapse footage of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is now available. The video is a collection of time-lapse shots of the ALMA site in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile, showing the synchronised dance of the array’s antennas as they observe the clear night sky …      Read more

Current Playlist from ESO

Colour composite image of Centaurus A, revealing the lobes and jets emanating from the active galaxy’s central black hole.

Colour composite image of Centaurus A, revealing the lobes and jets emanating from the active galaxy’s central black hole.

The following image via ESO is a composite image of the brown dwarf object 2M1207 (centre) Picture also links to ESO’s current Star Images.  The fainter object seen near it, at an angular distance of 778 milliarcsec. Designated “Giant Planet Candidate Companion” by the discoverers, it may represent the first image of an exoplanet. read more

a brown dwarf

From NASA Oct 2012

The interstellar boundary region shields our solar system from most of the dangerous galactic cosmic radiation that otherwise would enter the solar system from interstellar space.

› Link to Media Advisory

› Link to Press Release

› Link to Feature Story

› Link to Presenter Bios

› Link to Associated Media

IBEX Full Sky Map 01.31.2012 via NASA

Color-coded full sky neutral atom map, as obtained with IBEX at energies where the interstellar wind is the brightest feature in the maps. In Earth’s orbit, where IBEX makes its observations, the maximum flow (in red) is seen to arrive from Libra instead of Scorpio because the interstellar wind is forced to curve around the Sun by gravity. Credit: NASA/Goddard/UNH

› Link to associated news item

2 Articles From New Scientist

20 December 2012

by Lisa Grossman at New Scientist (< full story link)

We’re about to get a better grasp of one of the biggest ideas in the universe:inflation. The first maps of the cosmos from the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite are due out in early 2013. They should help us to hone descriptions of how, after the big bang, the universe grew from smaller than a proton into a vast expanse in less than a trillionth of a trillionth of a second.

The early universe was a featureless soup of hot plasma that somehow grew into the dense galaxy clusters and cosmic voids we know today. On a large scale, regions far apart from each other should look very different, according to the laws of thermodynamics. But studies of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) – the first light to be released, some 300,000 years after the big bang – show that the universe still looks virtually the same in all directions.

Best ever map of the early universe

From 2006  by  Stephen Battersby

And the new evidence agrees that the universe went through a traumatic growth spurt before it was a billionth of a billionth of a second old

The universe went through a traumatic growth spurt before it was a billionth of a billionth of a second old, according to the latest data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP).

The probe has also given physicists their first clues about what drove that frantic expansion, and revealed that the cosmic “dark age” before the first stars switched on was twice as long as previously thought.

On Thursday, the WMAP team revealed the best map ever drawn of microwaves from the early universe, showing variations in the brightness of radiation from primordial matter. The pattern of these variations fits the predictions of a physical theory called inflation, which suggests that during the first split second of existence the universe expanded incredibly fast.

The variations in the density of matter that the microwave map shows up were created by quantum fluctuations during the expansion, according to the theory. If so, then those fluctuations provided the seeds for the gravitational growth of galaxies and stars – without inflation the universe would still be a featureless cloud of gas.

^^

(Image: NASA/WMAP Science Team)

(Image: NASA/WMAP Science Team)

The white bars on this new, more detailed map of the infant universe show the polarisation direction of the oldest light, which provides clues about events in the first trillionth of a second of the universe (Image: NASA/WMAP Science Team)

new map

The latest (in 2006) WMAP data supports the idea of rapid inflation at the universe’s birth followed by much more gradual expansion

WMAP Team Releases Final Results, Based on Nine Years of Observations

Since its launch in 2001, the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) space mission has revolutionized our view of the universe, establishing a cosmological model that explains a widely diverse collection of astronomical observations. Led by Johns Hopkins astrophysicist Charles L. Bennett, the WMAP science team has determined, to a high degree of accuracy and precision, not only the age of the universe, but also the density of atoms; the density of all other non-atomic matter; the epoch when the first stars started to shine; the “lumpiness” of the universe, and how that “lumpiness” depends on scale size.

In short, when used alone (with no other measurements), WMAP observations have made our knowledge of those six parameters above about 68,000 times more precise, thereby converting cosmology from a field of often wild speculation to a precision science.

Now, two years after the probe “retired,” Bennett and the WMAP science team are releasing its final results, based on a full nine years of observations.

“It is almost miraculous, says Bennett, Alumni Centennial Professor of Physics and Astronomy and Johns Hopkins Gilman Scholar at the Johns Hopkins University’s Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. “The universe encoded its autobiography in the microwave patterns we observe across the whole sky. When we decoded it, the universe revealed its history and contents. It is stunning to see everything fall into place.”

WMAP’s “baby picture of the universe” maps the afterglow of the hot, young universe at a time when it was only 375,000 years old, when it was a tiny fraction of its current age of 13.77 billion years. The patterns in this baby picture were used to limit what could have possibly happened earlier, and what happened in the billions of year since that early time. The (mis-named) “big bang” framework of cosmology, which posits that the young universe was hot and dense, and has been expanding and cooling ever since, is now solidly supported, according to WMAP.

WMAP observations also support an add-on to the big bang framework to account for the earliest moments of the universe. Called “inflation,” the theory says that the universe underwent a dramatic early period of expansion, growing by more than a trillion trillion-fold in less than a trillionth of a trillionth of a second. Tiny fluctuations were generated during this expansion that eventually grew to form galaxies.

Remarkably, WMAP’s precision measurement of the properties of the fluctuations has confirmed specific predictions of the simplest version of inflation:  the fluctuations follow a bell curve with the same properties across the sky, and there are equal numbers of hot and cold spots on the map. WMAP also confirms the  predictions that the amplitude of the variations in the density of the universe on big scales should be slightly larger than smaller scales, and that the universe should obey the rules of Euclidean geometry so the sum of the interior angles of a triangle add to 180 degrees.

Recently, Stephen Hawking commented in New Scientist that WMAP’s evidence for inflation was the most exciting development in physics during his career.

The universe comprises only 4.6 percent atoms. A much greater fraction, 24 percent of the universe, is a different kind of matter that has gravity but does not emit any light — called “dark matter”. The biggest fraction of the current composition of the universe, 71%, is a source of anti-gravity (sometimes called “dark energy”) that is driving an acceleration of the expansion of the universe.

“WMAP observations form the cornerstone of the standard model of cosmology, “says Gary F. Hinshaw of the University of British Columbia, who is part of the WMAP science team. “Other data are consistent and when combined we now know precise values for the history, composition, and geometry of the universe.”

WMAP has also provided the timing of epoch when the first stars began to shine, when the universe was about 400 million old.  The upcoming James Webb Space Telescope is specifically designed to study that period that has added its signature to the WMAP observations.

WMAP launched on June 30, 2001 and maneuvered to its observing station near the “second Lagrange point” of the Earth-Sun system, a million miles from Earth in the direction opposite the sun. From there, WMAP scanned the heavens, mapping out tiny temperature fluctuations across the full sky.  The first results were issued in February 2003, with major updates in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, and now this final release. The mission was selected by NASA in 1996, the result of an open competition held in 1995. It was confirmed for development in 1997 and was built and ready for launch only four years later, on-schedule and on-budget.

“The last word from WMAP marks the end of the beginning in our quest to understand the Universe,” comments fellow Johns Hopkins astrophysicist Adam G. Riess, whose discovery of dark energy led him to share the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics. “WMAP has brought precision to cosmology and the Universe will never be the same.”

“WMAP has brought precision to cosmology and the Universe will never be the same.”

Related links:

Bennett’s webpage

Hinshaw’s webpage 

Hawking on WMAP

ALL BELOW LINKS from JOHN HOPKINS UNIVERSITY Related>

December 21, 2012 Tags: 

Posted in Academic DisciplinesHomewood Campus NewsInstitutional NewsPhysics and AstronomyUniversity-Related

All Credits to John Hopkins University, NASA and New Scientists Author’s at all above links
This colour image of the region known as NGC 2264 — an area of sky that includes the sparkling blue baubles of the Christmas Tree star cluster and the Cone Nebula

This colour image of the region known as NGC 2264 — an area of sky that includes the sparkling blue baubles of the Christmas Tree star cluster and the Cone Nebula

Planck Science Team Home

2nd announcement of ESLAB 2013 – The Universe as seen by Planck: An international conference dedicated to an in-depth look at the initial scientific results from the Planck mission. ESA/ESTEC, Noordwijk, The Netherlands, 2-5 April 2013. For more information, please visit http://congrexprojects.com/13a11.

Hubble sees back to the cosmic dawn

by Jenny Winder

(Sen) – Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have discovered a population of six previously unseen galaxies that formed 13 billion years ago. They also refined the distance of a seventh galaxy, identified as UDFj-39546284, as the most distant galaxy on record, which we are seeing as it was when the universe was only 380 million years old, less than 3% of its current age. That is further back in time than any object seen before.

The survey of a part of the sky called the Ultra Deep Field (UDF) has given scientists the first robust sample of galaxies that show how abundant they were in the era when galaxies first formed, and support the theory that galaxies assembled continuously over time and could have provided enough radiation to reionize the universe just a few hundred million years after the big bang.

Planck spots hot gas bridging galaxy cluster pair

by Sarah Cruddas

(Sen) – The European Space Agency’s Planck telescope has detected a bridge of hot gas connecting a pair of galaxy clusters. It’s the first conclusive detection of hot gas connecting clusters and is measured across a distance of 10 million light years.

Illustration of the Planck spacecraft. Credit: ESA/C. Carreau

Illustration of the Planck spacecraft. Credit: ESA/C. Carreau

The finding is important because it shows the ability of Planck to probe galaxy clusters, examining their connection with the gas that permeates the entire Universe and from which all groups of galaxies formed.

According to ESA “this marks Planck’s first detection of inter-cluster gas using the SZ effect technique”. The SZ effect technique is named after the scientist Sunyaev–Zel’dovich, who discovered it. If the Cosmic Microwave Background light interacts with the hot gas permeating these huge cosmic structures, its energy distribution is modified in a characteristic way, known as the SZ effect.

In the past Planck has used the SZ effect to detect galaxy clusters, but it also provides a way to detect faint filaments of gas that might connect one cluster to another. At the very early stages of the universe, it’s believed that the cosmos was filled with filaments of gaseous matter, with clusters eventually forming in the densest areas.

Up until now much of this tenuous, filamentary gas has remained undetected. However astronomers expect that it could most likely be found between interacting galaxy clusters, where the filaments are compressed and heated up, making them easier to spot. read more at Sen >

Black Hole Outburst in Spiral Galaxy M83 (NASA...

Black Hole Outburst in Spiral Galaxy M83 (NASA, Chandra, Hubble, 04/30/12) (Photo credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center)

Black Hole Outburst in Spiral Galaxy M83 (NASA...

Black Hole Outburst in Spiral Galaxy M83 (NASA, Chandra, Hubble, 04/30/12) (Photo credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center)