Archive for the ‘Telescopes’ Category

Discovery of Earth-size planets in or near the “habitable zone,”

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Source – National Optical Astronomy Observatory:

NOAO: New Planet Kepler-21b discovery a partnership of both space and ground-based observations

The NASA Kepler Mission is designed to survey a portion of our region of the Milky Way Galaxy to discover Earth-size planets in or near the “habitable zone,” the region in a planetary system where liquid water can exist, and determine how many of the billions of stars in our galaxy have such planets. It now has another planet to add to its growing list. A research team led by Steve Howell, NASA Ames Research Center, has shown that one of the brightest stars in the Kepler star field has a planet with a radius only 1.6 that of the earth’s radius and a mass no greater that 10 earth masses, circling its parent star with a 2.8 day period. With such a short period, and such a bright star, the team of over 65 astronomers (that included David Silva, Ken Mighell and Mark Everett of NOAO) needed multiple telescopes on the ground to support and confirm their Kepler observations. These included the 4 meter Mayall telescope and the WIYN telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory. The accompanying figure shows the size of the Kepler field, seen over Kitt Peak.

With a period of only 2.8 days, this planet, designated Kepler-21b, is only about 6 million km away from its parent star. By comparison Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, has a period of 88 days and a distance from the sun almost ten times greater, or 57 million km. So Kepler 21b is far hotter than any place humans could venture. The team calculates that the temperature at the surface of the planet is about 1900 K, or 2960 F. While this temperature is nowhere near the habitable zone in which liquid water might be found, the planet’s size is approaching that of the earth.

The parent star, HD 179070, is quite similar to our sun: its mass is 1.3 solar masses, its radius is 1.9 solar radii, and its age, based on stellar models, is 2.84 billion years (or a bit younger than the sun’s 4.6 billion years). HD 179070 is spectral type F6 IV, a little hotter and brighter than the sun. By astronomical standards, HD 179070 is fairly close, at a distance from the sun of 352 light years. While it cannot be seen by the unaided eye, a small telescope can easily pick it out.

Part of the difficulty in detecting this planet is the realization, from the Kepler mission, that many stars show short period brightness oscillations. The effect of these must be removed from the stellar light in order to uncover the regular, but very small, dimming caused by the planet passing in front of the star. The Kepler mission observed this field for over 15 months, and the team combined the observations to enable them to detect this tiny, periodic signal. They also relied on spectroscopic and imaging data from a number of ground based telescopes. The attached figure 2 shows a light curve: a plot of the brightness of HD 179070 over time as the planet passes in front of it. This curve was built up over the many months of observing.

The results of this work have been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.

NOAO is operated by Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy Inc. (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation.

Astronomers Find Massive Diamond Planet Orbits Neutron Star

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

An Interview with John Dobson Jan 2010

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Source Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Lowry Dobson (born September 14, 1915) is a popularizer of amateur astronomy. He is most notable for being the promoter of a design for large, portable, low-cost Newtonian reflecting telescopes that bears his name, the Dobsonian telescope. The design is considered revolutionary since it allowed amateur astronomers to build extremely large telescopes. He is less known for his efforts to promote awareness of astronomy (and his unorthodox views of cosmology) through public lectures including his performances of “sidewalk astronomy.” John Dobson is also the co-founder of the amateur astronomical group, the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, an unusual, ghostly green blob of gas

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Source – Hubble Site News Center, January 10, 2011 :

One of the strangest space objects ever seen is being scrutinized by the penetrating vision of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. A mysterious, glowing green blob of gas is floating in space near a spiral galaxy. Hubble uncovered delicate filaments of gas and a pocket of young star clusters in the giant object, which is the size of our Milky Way galaxy.

The Hubble revelations are the latest finds in an ongoing probe of Hanny’s Voorwerp (Hanny’s Object in Dutch), named for Hanny van Arkel, the Dutch teacher who discovered the ghostly structure in 2007 while participating in the online Galaxy Zoo project. Galaxy Zoo enlists the public to help classify more than a million galaxies catalogued in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The project has expanded to include the Hubble Zoo, in which the public is asked to assess tens of thousands of galaxies in deep imagery from the Hubble Space Telescope.

In the sharpest view yet of Hanny’s Voorwerp, Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys have uncovered star birth in a region of the green object that faces the spiral galaxy IC 2497, located about 650 million light-years from Earth. Radio observations have shown an outflow of gas arising from the galaxy’s core. The new Hubble images reveal that the galaxy’s gas is interacting with a small region of Hanny’s Voorwerp, which is collapsing and forming stars. The youngest stars are a couple of million years old.

“The star clusters are localized, confined to an area that is over a few thousand light-years wide,” explains astronomer William Keel of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, leader of the Hubble study. “The region may have been churning out stars for several million years. They are so dim that they have previously been lost in the brilliant light of the surrounding gas.”

Recent X-ray observations have revealed why Hanny’s Voorwerp caught the eye of astronomers. The galaxy’s rambunctious core produced a quasar, a powerful light beacon powered by a black hole. The quasar shot a broad beam of light in Hanny’s Voorwerp’s direction, illuminating the gas cloud and making it a space oddity. Its bright green color is from glowing oxygen.

“We just missed catching the quasar, because it turned off no more than 200,000 years ago, so what we’re seeing is the afterglow from the quasar,” Keel says. “This implies that it might flicker on and off, which is typical of quasars, but we’ve never seen such a dramatic change happen so rapidly.”

The quasar’s outburst also may have cast a shadow on the blob. This feature gives the illusion of a gaping hole about 20,000 light-years wide in Hanny’s Voorwerp. Hubble reveals sharp edges around the apparent opening, suggesting that an object close to the quasar may have blocked some of the light and projected a shadow on Hanny’s Voorwerp. This phenomenon is similar to a fly on a movie projector lens casting a shadow on a movie screen.

Radio studies have revealed that Hanny’s Voorwerp is not just an island gas cloud floating in space. The glowing blob is part of a long, twisting rope of gas, or tidal tail, about 300,000 light-years long that wraps around the galaxy. The only optically visible part of the rope is Hanny’s Voorwerp. The illuminated object is so huge that it stretches from 44,000 light-years to 136,000 light-years from the galaxy’s core.

The quasar, the outflow of gas that instigated the star birth, and the long, gaseous tidal tail point to a rough life for IC 2497.

“The evidence suggests that IC 2497 may have merged with another galaxy about a billion years ago,” Keel explains. “The Hubble images show in exquisite detail that the spiral arms are twisted, so the galaxy hasn’t completely settled down.”

In Keel’s scenario, the merger expelled the long streamer of gas from the galaxy and funneled gas and stars into the center, which fed the black hole. The engorged black hole then powered the quasar, which launched two cones of light. One light beam illuminated part of the tidal tail, now called Hanny’s Voorwerp.

About a million years ago, shock waves produced glowing gas near the galaxy’s core and blasted it outward. The glowing gas is seen only in Hubble images and spectra, Keel says. The outburst may have triggered star formation in Hanny’s Voorwerp. Less than 200,000 years ago, the quasar dropped in brightness by 100 times or more, leaving an ordinary-looking core.

New images of the galaxy’s dusty core from Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph show an expanding bubble of gas blown out of one side of the core, perhaps evidence of the sputtering quasar’s final gasps. The expanding ring of gas is still too small for ground-based telescopes to detect.

“This quasar may have been active for a few million years, which perhaps indicates that quasars blink on and off on timescales of millions of years, not the 100 million years that theory had suggested,” Keel says. He added that the quasar could light up again if more material is dumped around the black hole.

Keel is presenting his results on Jan. 10, 2011, at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, Wash.

Donna Weaver
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.

William Keel
University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science: Hubble Space Telescope (HST) COSTAR package On Exhibit

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

I made it to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) COSTAR package Saturday. The COSTAR is located near the T-rex Café. The package is protected by a Plexiglas covering It is about the size of a grand piano. COSTAR stands for Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement. This is the instrument that resolved the issue with flawed mirror problem that prevented Hubble from a clear focus. It needed eyeglasses and COSTAR was it. It was built by Ball Aerospace Corp. and installed in 1993. Since then other service missions have replace the old packages with their own corrective optics. COSTAR was removed from HST in 2009 during the fifth servicing mission and replaced by the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph.

Check out the photos in our gallery under telescopes at our website.

While I was there I also got to see the new upgraded IMAX. It is now digital and in 3-D. This was the first 3-D movie I seen in years. Wow how the technology has changed. I watched the HUBBLE 3-D movie wow between the sound system and the 3-D views it was amazing, I would recommend seeing it if you haven’t yet, it is definitely worth it.

Camera That Saved Hubble to Visit Museum : Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Source – Denver Museum of Nature :

DENVER – October 12, 2010 – Beginning this Friday, October 15, the Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, WFPC2, will be on display for a limited time at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. The supercamera, which is the size of a baby grand piano, is credited with saving the Hubble Space Telescope mission and providing unprecedented and crystal clear pictures of our universe.

“The Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 ranks right up there with Galileo’s telescope and Newton’s apple, from a space science standpoint,” said Steven Lee, PhD, the Museum’s curator of planetary science. “From the public standpoint, this camera is Hubble. Hosting the WFPC2 is an amazing opportunity our museum, especially given the timing of our IMAX 3D grand opening featuring the Hubble film and our Space and Sea Spectacular scheduled for this weekend.”

Museum visitors will have a unique opportunity to see this remarkable scientific instrument, complete with several “craters” in its outer skin that were caused by micrometeorite impacts during its years in orbit. Special related programming will be offered on Saturday, October 16, and Sunday, October 17, during the Museum’s Space and Sea Spectacular, which is included with general admission. Additionally, visitors to the Museum’s new IMAX 3D theater will experience actual 3D footage taken in 2009 when shuttle astronauts removed WFPC2 from Hubble.

The Story of the WFPC2
The WFPC2 camera replaced the first camera on board NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, which was launched in 1990 with the promise that it would bring in a new era of astronomical discovery. Soon after the launch, NASA learned that the first camera had a defective main mirror and transmitted only blurred images back to Earth. After three years of work by NASA scientists, the WFPC2 was installed and soon the camera began offering stunning, razor-sharp images of our universe.

For 16 years, the WFPC2 offered front-row seats to the impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter, provided dramatic evidence for super-massive black holes at the core of many galaxies, detected thousands of galaxies in a “blank” region of the sky, observed weather on many of our neighboring planets, and returned views of star-birth in the Eagle Nebula’s “Pillars of Creation.” Many of these images were not only incredibly valuable to scientists, but also incredibly beautiful to the general public. Hubble became “the people’s telescope,” and the WFPC2 was the workhorse instrument of the mission; it was the camera that saved Hubble.

The WFPC2 was replaced with a new camera and returned to Earth in 2009, during the final Shuttle mission to service the Hubble–and this effort became the storyline of Hubble, now playing in IMAX 3D at the Museum. Since May 2010, the camera has been on display at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, where it was built. Through a special loan arrangement with NASA, it will make a brief stop in Denver while en route to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Facility in Maryland.

Space & Sea Spectacular – IMAX 3D Opening Celebration
Free with Museum Admission on Saturday, October 16 and Sunday, October 17
The Museum is celebrating the grand opening of its new IMAX 3D theater with a weekend full of free special programs and activities centered around space and sea. Visitors will learn about 3D photography, view the Sun through solar telescopes, explore the world of robotics, and take a look at some of the amazing sea shells from the Museum’s collections. Special guests will conduct chemistry experiments, give tours of the universe, answer questions about the fin whale skeleton floating overhead, and more. Below are highlights.

• 12:30 p.m. on Sunday – Astronaut Emeritus Bruce McCandless II shares stories of his space exploration and connection to the Hubble. He worked on designing Hubble to be serviceable in orbit, and was an astronaut on the April 1990 space shuttle mission that carried the telescope into orbit. He will participate in Q&A with the audience and be surrounded by dramatic space images within the planetarium.
• 3 p.m. on Sunday – McCandless shows the WFPC2 and the explains features engineered into Hubble and its instruments that allow for the on-orbit “house calls” and have made Hubble one of the premier scientific endeavors of all time
• 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday – Steve Lee, the Museum’s space science curator, will explain his use of the Hubble Space Telescope and WFPC2 to observe weather on Mars.
IMAX 3D Digital Upgrades
The Museum recently completed digital upgrades to the latest IMAX 3D technology, which now delivers the world’s most immersive movie experience. Enhancements in the theater include IMAX’s powerful digital projection system, IMAX’s latest digital sound system, and a new IMAX screen.

Hubble 3D
Hubble 3D offers a gripping story full of hope, crushing disappointment, dazzling ingenuity, bravery, and triumph. Hubble recounts the amazing journey of the Hubble Space Telescope, arguably the most important scientific instrument since Galileo’s original telescope and the greatest success in space since the moon landing. Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio and presented with the latest 3D technology, Hubble will change the way you see the universe. Showing daily at 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m., and 4 p.m., with an additional showing at 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. View the trailer and see ticket prices.

Camera That Saved Hubble to Visit Museum : Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

Images from the WFPC2

NASA’s Kepler Mission Discovers Two Planets Transiting the Same Star

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Source – JPL NASA August 26, 2010: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA’s Kepler Mission Discovers Two Planets Transiting the Same Star Worlds on the Edge
The star system is oriented edge-on, as seen by Kepler, such that both planets cross in front, or transit, their star, named Kepler-9. This is the first star system found to have multiple transiting planets.

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. — NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has discovered the first confirmed planetary system with more than one planet crossing in front of, or transiting, the same star.

The transit signatures of two distinct planets were seen in the data for the sun-like star designated Kepler-9. The planets were named Kepler-9b and 9c. The discovery incorporates seven months of observations of more than 156,000 stars as part of an ongoing search for Earth-sized planets outside our solar system. The findings will be published in Thursday’s issue of the journal Science.

Kepler’s ultra-precise camera measures tiny decreases in the stars’ brightness that occur when a planet transits them. The size of the planet can be derived from these temporary dips.

The distance of the planet from the star can be calculated by measuring the time between successive dips as the planet orbits the star. Small variations in the regularity of these dips can be used to determine the masses of planets and detect other non-transiting planets in the system.

In June, mission scientists submitted findings for peer review that identified more than 700 planet candidates in the first 43 days of Kepler data. The data included five additional candidate systems that appear to exhibit more than one transiting planet. The Kepler team recently identified a sixth target exhibiting multiple transits and accumulated enough follow-up data to confirm this multi-planet system.

“Kepler’s high quality data and round-the-clock coverage of transiting objects enable a whole host of unique measurements to be made of the parent stars and their planetary systems,” said Doug Hudgins, the Kepler program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Scientists refined the estimates of the masses of the planets using observations from the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. The observations show Kepler-9b is the larger of the two planets, and both have masses similar to but less than Saturn. Kepler-9b lies closest to the star with an orbit of about 19 days, while Kepler-9c has an orbit of about 38 days. By observing several transits by each planet over the seven months of data, the time between successive transits could be analyzed.

“This discovery is the first clear detection of significant changes in the intervals from one planetary transit to the next, what we call transit timing variations,” said Matthew Holman, a Kepler mission scientist from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. “This is evidence of the gravitational interaction between the two planets as seen by the Kepler spacecraft.”

In addition to the two confirmed giant planets, Kepler scientists also have identified what appears to be a third, much smaller transit signature in the observations of Kepler-9. That signature is consistent with the transits of a super-Earth-sized planet about 1.5 times the radius of Earth in a scorching, near-sun 1.6 day-orbit. Additional observations are required to determine whether this signal is indeed a planet or an astronomical phenomenon that mimics the appearance of a transit.

NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., manages Kepler’s ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., managed Kepler mission development.

Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo., developed the Kepler flight system and supports mission operations with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder. The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore archives, hosts and distributes the Kepler science data.

NASA’s Kepler Mission Discovers Two Planets Transiting the Same Star.

Wow a 30 inch Dob.

Monday, July 19th, 2010

This weekend we had our Monthly Public Star Party at Observatory Park on Saturday.
The weather cooperated with us again for the 2nd month in a row the weather will start out cloudy windy and threating rain. Then the Sun goes down and the clouds go away, and tada it clear. I think this is the reason why we have had such low turnouts the last two month. People see its cloudy and think it’s going to be a bad night. I’m real glad it worked out. Neil from our group brought out his 30 inch dob to share with everyone. You can see it at this link in our gallery under star parties July 17, 2010 Public Star Party Wow M13 looks like you could almost count ever star in it. Then Jupiter oh me oh my gosh……

Public Star Party and Essay Contest Winner

Monday, June 21st, 2010

We had a wonderful day at Observatory Park on Saturday June 19th. At about 3:30pm we announced the the winner of The Brighton Astronomy Essay Contest.
The contest was open to all current Brighton High School and Prairie View High School students. We received four entries from Brighton High School.
Dori was declared the winner by The Brighton Astronomy Group, and was awarded with a Computerized and Motorized Meade 4.5” Reflector Telescope. With here paper titled “What’s in a name.”
Dane a runner up with his paper on “Black Holes” received a soft sided brief case with a bunch of Astronomy Goodies and videos.
Later that day the Bromley Creek Sub-Division hosted their yearly Picnic the School 27j had a Ice Cream Social.
For a day that started off mostly cloudy you could not ask for a better start. We thought we might get clouded out for the rest of the night. With astronomy you have to have patience and perseverance. This night it paid off. By 9pm the sky was mostly clear, and a few hours later it was a beautiful night until about 12 am when we must have hit the dew point. We were able to see the Moon, Venus, Mars and Saturn, the Ring Nebula, and several globular clusters. We also demonstrated the Celestron Sky Scout.
Check out some the pictures in the Gallery under star parties, then Bromley Creek HOA 2010.

James Webb VS. The Hubble Telescope

Friday, June 11th, 2010

The James Webb Space Telescope has been called the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. How will the Webb telescope be different than Hubble?
Follow the link below to see the differences

Interactive of how the James Webb stacks up to the Hubble.