Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Google and NASA to collaborate

Search engine Google and NASA announced that the two will collaborate to put information on the web. The effort aims to enable the public to view high-resolution 3D maps of the Moon and Mars, track the International Space Station and the space shuttles on flight on the web and basically make NASA's work publicly accessible.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Large Hadron Collider Nears Completion

The Large Hadron Collider of CERN is nearing completion with the delivery of the last superconducting main magnet to the facility last November 27. The LHC will be the biggest and most powerful particle accelerator in the world when it is completed and becomes operational in November 2007.

The facility hopes to study dark matter and other physical and cosmological phenomena, as well as create new particles, including the so-called God particle.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Lunokhod and the Dead Russian Spy

There's a big brouhaha right now in Great Britain regarding the mysterious death of a former Russian spy, who was discovered to have been poisoned with polonium-210. Interestingly, polonium-210, which is highly radioactive, was used by the Russian space program in the 1970s - primarily to power the Lunokhod rover that went to the moon. According to this article, a half-gram of polonium can generate 140 watts of energy by just decaying.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Arecibo Gone in 2011?

The New York Times has reported that the Arecibo radio telescope may be closed down in 2011 due to financial issues unless other sources of funding be obtained by the National Science Foundation. The Big Ear, as the radio telescope is known, is the most powerful radio telescope in the world, and is used by, among others, the SETI@Home project. Current astronomy projects being done in the facility may also be curtailed as Arecibo's budget may also be cut by 25% in the next three years.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Leonids Meteor Shower, Nov. 18-19

Astronomers are expecting a strong shower for this year's Leonids, which will be on November 18-19. At peak, 150 meteors and hour (ZHR) are expected to light up the sky and provide excitement to the meteor hunters around the world. The meteor shower will last for about 2 hours.

The NASA site for Leonids can be found here.

(Picture: 1996 Leonids)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

MGS Phone Home

The Mars Global Surveyor is still out of contact. The spacecraft, launched 10 years ago to map the Martian surface using high-resolution cameras, has been out of touch from its controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory more a week now, and NASA engineers and scientists are trying to re-establish contact with it. The MGS is currently in "safe mode" after it encountered a problem with its solar cell array.

The Mars Global Surveyor website can be found here.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

BOINC Status

I checked my BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) status today, and I was pleased with the number of work units crunched by my PC. These are my contributions to the grid computing project so far:

SETI@Home --- 3044.87 work units
Rosetta@Home --- 3367.61 work units
Einstein@Home --- 5652.76 work units

Total --- 12,272.21 work units

My accumulated work units are good enough to rank me #205,653 in the world and #95 in the Philippines

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Mercury Transits on Nov. 8

Mercury will transit the Sun on Wednesday, November 8, 2006, starting at 8:51 UT in the Philippines. The planet last transited in 2003 and the astronomical event will happen again in 2016. Mercury transits the Sun around 13 times a century.

Time zone listings of the transit can be found here.

(image: 2003 transit of Mercury)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Miss Manners in Space


Gizmodo compiled a list of tips on how to maintain proper decorum while floating in zero-G. The prescriptions, meant to maintain order and sanity while living inside cramp quarters, include things such as how to deal with mundane issues like nail clippings to more serious ones that involve carnal knowledge. The complete list can be found here.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Darth Vader Claims Space

George W. Bush recently signed a document that effectively extends Pax Americana to outer space. The document, called National Space Policy, underlines the strategic importance of having access to space. It stated that the national security of the US "is critically dependent upon space capabilities, and this dependence will grow." Hence, the US will "preserve its rights, capabilities, and freedom of action in space... and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to US national interests."

Klingons, you have been warned.

The document can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Simulation of Black Hole Collision

Aurora



A time-lapse movie of an aurora.

Heaviest Element Created

It seems periodic tables need to be reprinted again.
Researchers from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have created a new element.

Element 118 is touted to be the heaviest, yet a short-lived one, element created so far. The researchers were able to achieve the feat by using a cyclotron to bombard californium-249 with calcium ions. The three atoms created by the scientists lasted for less than 1/1000th of a second though.
The new element has 118 protons and 179 neutrons in its nucleus, and has an atomic weight of 297.

Friday, October 06, 2006

AMD Names its Next-Gen Chips After Stars

Microprocessor company Advanced Micro Devices is naming its next-generation K8L microprocessors after stars. The 65-nm chips, slated to be released in 2007, will be named Antares, Altair, Arcturus, and Spica.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Big Bang Scientists Win Nobel Prize

John C. Mather and George F. Smoot, who studied and discovered the nature of blackbody radiation and contributed to the big bang theory, won the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physics. The studies of the two scientists were based from the data collected by the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE).

The Nobel Prizes will be presented on December 10.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip Two Unveiled

Take a peek at Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip Two, which will begin commercial space flights in 2009.

Armstrong was Grammatically Correct After All

Grumpy grammarians can get off Neil Armstrong's back at last. A computer programmer who studied the audio recordings of the first moon landing and found that Armstrong did say the oft-quoted words - one small step for a man, one giant step for mankind - correctly. It was previously thought that Armstrong omitted the "a," earning him the ire of anal grammarians everywhere.

Spacewoman's Blog

It seems that blogging has already reached outer space. If you're interested to read the thoughts of Anousheh Ansari, the first Muslim woman in space, while she was galivanting in the International Space Station, you can read her blog here.

Up next would probably be the lonely missives of a stranded Martian marooned somewhere in Uranus.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Frequent Flyer Miles to Space

Virgin Galactic, the space flight company owned by billionaire Richard Branson, gives the option of converting frequent flyer miles incurred on its twin company, Virgin Atlantic, into a free flight to space. Virgin Galactic will start having commercial suborbital flights starting 2009.

Pictured is the Virgin Galatic spacecraft being developed by famed aircraft designer Burt Rutan.

Virgin Galactic's website is here.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Saturn's New Ring

The Cassini spacecraft has discovered a new ring of Saturn. The ring, which crosses the orbits of moons Janus and Epimetheus, is located inside the outer E ring system. It is likely to be made up of water ice particles.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Shuttle Discovery's Amazing Backflip

The Space Shuttle Discovery doing an amazing pirouette before docking with the International Space Station

Meteor Crash

I saw this video on You Tube a few months back, and I'd say it fooled me pretty good the first time I viewed it. It think it's a commercial for a truck...

Friday, September 15, 2006

A Planet That Floats on Water

Astronomers have discovered a new class of huge planets but has a density lower than that of water. The newly discovered body was detected orbiting a binary star 450 light-years away at constellation Lacerta. According to the discoverers, the planet, designated HAT-P-1, has the same density as cork, but is bigger than Jupiter, and if there's a big enough tub, it will float in water.

Xena Renamed

The International Astronomical Union has renamed Xena, the minor planet that was the bane of Pluto's existence. Xena, designated 2003 UB313, is now officially known as Eris, after the Greek goddess for discord. Its moon, previously dubbed Gabrielle, was named Dynomia, after Eris's daughter.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Asteroid 134340

Asteroid 134340 is now the official designation of Pluto, underscoring its downgrade to minor planet status. The new designation was given by the Minor Planet Center. Because they are part of the Pluto system, the companion bodies Charon, Nix and Hydra will also be called 134340 I, II and III, respectively.

The center also designated numbers to newly discovered bodies Xena (Asteroid 136199), and Kuiper Belt Objects 2006 EL61 (Asteroid 136108) and KBO 2005 FY9 (Asteroid 136472).

Monday, September 04, 2006

They should have seen it coming...

It seems that the controversy regarding the demotion of Pluto has repercussions far more than the IAU had expected. Astrologers from all over had been calling foul over the astronomy body's decision to demote Pluto from its planet status.

Astrologers are specially concerned about the demotion's effects on people whose zodiac sign is Scorpio (like me, for instance) as Pluto has an affinity with the birth sign. Most decided to stick with Pluto. Other astrologers are also in the bind whether to include the minor planets into the astrology charts that they consult when making horoscopes. One was a bit pragmatic though, saying "UB313 is never going to tell you whether Wednesday is good for romance," as the minor planet is so far away in the Solar System.

Well said. But then again, they should have predicted this already.

Link to the story here.

Thanks for the tip on the story, Bamm.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Europe lands on Moon with a bang

SMART-1, Europe's first mission on the moon, has landed with a bang. Literally. The spacecraft, which was designed to crash on the moon's surface, did so at a planned 1.25 miles/hour. The resulting dust cloud of the explosion was observed by scientists, who hoped that the dusts will give a clue on the composition of the area around the impact site.

SMART-1 was launched last September 2003 from the French space facility in Kourou. It uses an solar-cell-powered ion engine for propulsion.

More about SMART-1 here.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Pluto Demoted

The votation made by the delegates of the International Astronomical Union in Prague did not bode well for Pluto - the controversial body demoted from its planet status to a "dwarf planet." The new designation leaves the solar system with eight planets and four dwarf planets: Pluto, Ceres, previously designated an asteroid, Charon (previously Pluto's moon) and 2003 UB313, also known as Xena. The three will also be known as trans-Neptunian objects.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Dark Matter Confirmed

NASA scientists using data from the Chandra-X space telescope has confirmed the existence of dark matter. The little-known dark matter - deemed to composed 80-90% of all the matter in the Universe - was observed when two giant gas clouds collided, an event observed by Chandra-X, the Hubble Space Telescope, the Very Large Telescope and the Magellan Telescope. This is the first direct evidence that the the-theoretical dark matter is not just a stuff of theoretical astrophysics.

Picture credit: www.astro.princeton.edu

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Solar System Gains 3 More Planets

An executive committee formed by the International Astronomical Union has approved a new definition of what a planet is, and by the new definition, the Solar System will have 12 planets, up from the present nine. Three bodies will be upgraded to the planet status: Charon, Ceres (formerly an asteroid), and Xena. The decision of the executive panel will be put on vote on August 24 by the delegates composing the IAU.

The new definition of a planet is: an object that circles the Sun, large enough to have gravitational forces that will compress it into a spherical shape, and at is least 250-500 miles in diameter.

The committee also came up with a new designation, called plutons, that encompasses planets that take at least 200 years to orbit the Sun. Plutons include Pluto, Charon and Xena. Ceres would just be an ordinary planet under the new definition, while Pluto and Charon, which orbit close to one another, will be a double planet system.

Many other objects might be upgraded to planet status, including Kuiper Belt Objects such as Sedna, Orcus and Quaoar, as well as asteroids such as Vespa, Pallas and Hygeia.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Quo Vadis, Pluto?

Members of the International Astronomical Union are gathering in Prague to discuss the fate of Pluto - whether to still consider the body as a planet or to demote it into a lesser status: asteroid, Kuiper Belt object, planetissimal. More importantly the outcome of IAU's discussio would be to define, for once and for all, what really a planet is. The group will also discuss the classification of newly discovered bodies like Xena and Segna. (And we think taxonomists had it easy classifying the platypus...)

My stance for the manner is that the IAU can set Pluto as the mininum size for a planet. This way Pluto's historical significance can still be preserved and saving us the trouble of updating all the books about the Solar System.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Carbon-based molecules found in space

It was reported that researchers using data gathered by the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope found eight types of complex carbon-based molecules in interstellar space. The molecules include acetamide, cyclopropenone, propenal, propanal and ketenimine, found in Sagittarius B2, and methyl-cyano-diacetylene, methyl-triacetylene and cyanoallene, found in the Taurus Molecular Cloud (TMC-1).

Sagittarius B2 is in the center of the Milky Way galaxy, around 26,000 ly from earth, while the TMC-1 is about 450 ly from Sagittarius B2.

Picture: model of acetamide

Sunday, August 06, 2006

This day in Astronomy: August 6

Ten years ago, NASA biochemist David McKay presented a Martian meteorite, named ALH84001, found to contain microscopic structures scientists surmise to be biological in origin. These structures are called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, commonly produced by biological processes - the main argument used by McKay in his thesis that life could have existed in Mars, but many scientists have argued that PAHs can also be produced by non-biological means.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Moon as DNA Vault

The International Herald Tribune has recently run a story about the Alliance to Rescue Civilization, which advocates turning the Earth's satellite into a repository of DNA from all of earth's creatures, as well as a "compendium of all knowledge" . The vault and its contents, according to the group, will act as an insurance from catastrophic events, such as a major world war or an asteroid collission, that could wipe out civilizations.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

SETI Coverup?

The Register is reporting the controversy regarding the alleged cover-up committed by the SETI Institute on the detection of alien signals from space. According to the report, SETI watcher Steven Greer accused the SETI Institute of covering up the the detection of signals that he believes to be part of an alien transmission. Greer also alleges that an organization also stepped in to block the said signals.

Sounds like Mulder and Scully are back again.

Stardust@home to go online August 1

Stardust@home, a new distributed computing project designed to look for microscopic interstellar dust grains collected by the Stardust mission, is set to go online on August 1. The program will use web-based virtual microscope programs to look for the tiny dust grains collected by the Stardust Interstellar Dust Collector. Around 50 dust grains are expected to be found from the tiles of aerogel used to collect the dusts. The Stardust spacecraft gathered samples near the comet Wild 2.

If you want to volunteer your computer time for the project, go here. The project is a joint effort between the Planetary Society and University of California at Berkeley.

Monday, July 31, 2006

ET Phones Home

I had a change of heart and decided to once again to participate in the SETI@home project. I now participate in three grid computing projects: Einstein@home, which aims to search for pulsars using data from the LIGO and GEO facilities, Rosetta@home, which investigates protein folding, and SETI@home, which looks for signals from little green men. SETI@home analyzes signals recorded by the Arcecibo radio telescope.

As of this moment, I have done 1,553 work units for Einstein@home and 149 work units for Rosetta@home, for a world ranking of 415,948th. I'm also ranked 189th for all participants from the Philippines.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Japan has fastest supercomputer?

It seems that Japan is again poised to take over the numero uno position in the supercomputing list once again. It was reported here that the MDGrape-3 supercomputer of RIKEN in Yokohama, managed to achieve a speed of one quadrillion floating-point operations per second - the first to reach petaFLOP speed. It is about three times faster than the current champ, the IBM-built Blue Gene/L. Blue Gene/L deposed the previous record holder from Japan, the Earth Simulator.

Supercomputers have applications in astrophysics, cryptography, nuclear physics and climate simulation, among others. For the comprehensive list of top supercomuters, go here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Over the Hedge cartoon


I find this Over the Hedge cartoon very funny.

Note: This is copyrighted material.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Is SETI Worth It?





The Wall Street Journal ran an article last week about how SETI@Home has been an exercise of futility. SETI@Home is the online grid computing project that harvests idle CPU cycles from thousands of volunteers around the world and uses the computing power to search for that elusive "WOW" signal from aliens.

According to the author, Lee Gomes, SETI@Home has crowded out other grid computing projects that are more feasible and useful to humanity, projects such as Climate Prediction and Protein Folding Project that aims to find cures for diseases such as HIV and cancer.

There have been plenty of debate regarding Gomes' article. For me, I am now volunteering my CPU cycles to the Einstein@Home project - I think that illustrates fairly my views on the matter. While I won't discourage anyone from joining SETI@Home - as I also see it as a notable scientific exercise - I'd say that there are also plenty of other worthwhile projects around waiting for your idle CPU cycles.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Gallivant in Space for $35M

Space Adventures, the space tourism firm that put the first space tourist in orbit, is now offering space walks for $35 million a pop. The space walk, to be done outside the International Space Station, will last for one and a half hours.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Rocket Failure Cause by $5 Nut

This one could be funny if it weren't so tragic - yet another case of careless engineering? DARPA has announced that the cause of the March 24 crash of Falcon 1 rocket was a busted aluminum nut that cost only $5.

Falcon 1 was a rocket built by private company called Space Exploration (SpaceX). The rocket blew up shortly after launch due to a fuel leak caused by a corroded nut.

SpaceX plans to launch another Falcon 1 rocket in November.

Wishlist: Astronomer's Versatool

I saw this while browsing on the Net, a sort of Swiss knife for astronomers - the Astronomers Versatool. It's a multifunction tool with 21 attachments useful for a night out with the stars, including an optics brush, hex keys for collimation, a red LED flashlight, wrenches and even a pen. It's priced something like $25.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Discovery is back

The Space Shuttle Discovery landed safety at the Kennedy Space Center after a 13-day mission. The shuttle, with a complement of six crews, carried supplies to the International Space Station and perform some maintenance and experiments during the mission.

After the successful mission NASA scheduled 16 shuttle flights up to 2010, of which the shuttles will then be retired. The next shuttle flight will be on August 28, this time with Atlantis. Discovery will also fly again in December.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Einstein@Home

I just signed up to the Einstein@Home project, which aims to find pulsars using data from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) and GEO 600 gravity wave detectors. Einstein@Home will use my computer's idle CPU cycles to process some of the data collected by the detectors. Previously I donated my CPU cycles to the SETI@Home project.

If you are interested to join the project, please go to this site. You also need to download a BOINC client here.

LIGO's site can be found here. GEO 600's website can be accessed at this link.

Picture: The GEO 600 gravity wave interferometer, located in Hannover, Germany

Friday, July 07, 2006

St. Ignatius Stargazing

This is a painting of a Jesuit friend of mine, Fr. Jason Dy. Entitled Inigo, nakahangad sa mga bitoon, ug namalandong (IƱigo, stargazing and meditating), it depicts St. Ignatius looking at the stars. Aside from its religious undertones, I think the painting should be a fitting tribute to the Jesuit penchant for astronomy. It was the Society of Jesus which founded the Manila Observatory in 1865 in the Philippines, which became the forerunner of the Weather Bureau and later the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).

"Inigo: Nakatingla sa mga Tala"
2005
oil paster on paper
Jason Dy, SJ


Fr. Jason's blog is here

Lunar Hits

China's Moon Probe will broadcast music

China announced that its lunar orbiter, Chang'e, will broadcast Chinese music while it is orbiting the moon. The spacecraft, planned for 2007 launch, will take 3D pictures of the lunar surface and analyze the lunar soil. The $170-million probe will also broadcast music - ranging from Chinese folk songs to Hong Kong pop - to increase public awareness to the Sino space program.

The lunar craft was named after the legendary Chinese goddess who flew to the moon.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Is Pluto a Planet?

There was an ongoing discussion on the UP Astronomical Society e-group about the upcoming vote on the classification of Pluto as a planet by the International Astronomical Union. Apparently, according to Bamm, one of the members, the Philippine representative to the IAU, Dr. Cynthia Celebre, has been consulting the local astro community regarding the issue. IAU will vote on the issue in August, and the Philippines will have a vote in the General Assembly.

The problem with this issue is that there is no clear definition of what a planet is . Originally planets include the seven bodies visible to the naked eye, including the moon. The standard definition now is: a planet is an accreted body orbiting a star (and small enough to not trigger a thermonuclear fusion reaction on itself), but almost all of the bodies orbiting the sun could fall into this definition. For a long time now the designation of a planet has been somewhat arbitrary.

For me what Dr. Celebre should consider and ask the Filipino astro community is: What should be the scientific definition of a planet. If the IAU can settle this (as it promised to release a ruling on this one in September), then the issue on Pluto (and the classification of all other subsequent bodies discovered or to be discovered in the future, like Sedna and Xena) will be settled as well.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Discovery Launched

The aging Space Shuttle Discovery was launched yesterday, July 4. On a 12-day mission, the shuttle safely reached orbit but is still plague with falling-foam problems that spelled doom to Columbia in 2003. Pieces of the insulating foam were seem falling from the fuel tank of the shuttle moments after launch.

The shuttles are slated to be retired in 2010.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Asteroid Flyby on July 3

The asteroid 2004 XP14 is expected to approach Earth on July 3. Though not exactly a doomsday scenario, the half-mile diameter rock will flyby at a distance of roughly 268 thousand miles, a hairpin in astronomical terms.

The Apollo-class asteroid (which means it has an Earth-crossing orbit), was discovered on December 10, 2004, and is classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid. It will be closest to the earth at 4:25 UT on Monday.

semimajor axis = 1.032 AU
eccentricity = 0.162
inclination = 32.5°
perihelion = 0.865 AU
aphelion = 1.199 AU

More on Near-Earth Objects here

Monday, June 26, 2006

Hubble Camera Fails

Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys failed last week. The ACS, installed in 2002, reportedly had problems with its power supply and was shut down last Monday. NASA engineering are currently looking into the problem and how to repair the camera.

The HST main site is here

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Meet Nix and Hydra

Newly Discovered Moons of Pluto Named

The International Astronomical Union named the two newly discovered moons of Pluto - Nix and Hydra. The moons, spotted by the Hubble Space Telescope and discovered by astronomers led by Alan Stern in 2005, are named after Greek myth characters. Nix is the goddess of darkness and Hydra is the many-headed monster in the underworld.

Now, if only the IAU can make up its mind on whether Pluto is a planet...

Photo credit: NASA

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Quote, Unquote: Calvin

"Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us."

Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Quote, Unquote: Stephen Hawking

"It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species. Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of."


- Stephen Hawking, quoted in a news conference held at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, on June 13, 2006. He will give a lecture there on June 15.

Why Genesis Crashed

NASA has released a report discussing the demise of the Genesis space probe. A set of gravity switches installed backwards did the space probe in as it re-entered the earth's atmosphere on September 8, 2004. Genesis was designed to collect solar wind atoms and return the samples back to earth after a 3-year mission. Because of the flawed switches, the Genesis crash landed on its re-entry. The container housing the samples cracked thereby exposing its payload to contamination.

The Genesis was launched on August 8, 2001 and began collecting samples on December of that year.

Photo credit: Caltech/NASA

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Brit Robot for Mars

British scientists have unveiled "Bridget," the autonomous robotic craft designed to explore Mars. Its designers are hoping that the robot will be included in the European Space Agency's ExoMars mission to be launched in 2011.

The 150-kg autonomous vehicle is expected to go further than NASA's Sojourner or Spirit robots, and will cost up to 150 million euros.

More here


Monday, June 12, 2006

Google Earth's Birthday

Today is Google Earth's first birthday. Google Earth is the fine virtual globe program downloadable free from Google that has sent shivers to dictators and military men everywhere for its hi-res imagery of the earth's surface. I once used the software to locate the airfield of the famed Area 51 in Nevada, and a site even sponsors a contest to locate black helicopters (ostensibly the ones used in covert ops). The same site even reported that al Qaeda uses the software to stalk its targets.

With the new version, Google Earth 4, the software now runs on OS X and Linux, aside from its Windows flavor. Resolution was also improved, from 15 meters per pixel to 70 cm/pixel (some countries can be viewed at an amazing 10 cm per pixel). At this resolution you can well see Kim Jong Il's rump as he moons SoKor troops over the DMZ.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Lucy in the skies with diamonds

It has been reported that astronomers using data from Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer, or FUSE, have deduced that planets may be orbiting the star Beta Pictoris, around 60 ly away from us. Beta Pictoris is said to be teeming with carbon, as such, the planets around it may have encrusted with diamonds as large as boulders.The planetary system and Beta Pictoris itself are relatively young, around 20 million years old.

I won't be surprised if they name the planets Lucy, deBeers, and Tiffany.

More from NASA here and here.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Ancient record of supernova explosion?

John Barentine of Apache Point Obsevatory is suggesting that ancient Native Americans may have recorded a supernova explosion in AD 1066. The purported record is carved in a rock found in Arizona. The petroglyph apparently shows an eight-pointed star and a scorpio, which according to Barentine, could be the supernova explosion that occured at the vicinity of Scorpius more than a millenia ago.

Comments:

It could be a possibility, but it is not conclusive, as Barentine himself conceded. It is not clear whether ancient Native Americans see the constellation Scorpio as indeed something that looks like a scorpio, so the representation could be just coincidental. Who knows, maybe it was just a kid drawing a flower beside a scorpion?

Apache Point Observatory website is here.

Photo by John Barantine/Apache Point Observatory