Sunday, January 6, 2013

Astronomy in the News

This blog post will include links to ongoing news about astronomy discoveries. This is a golden age of discovery in the field. We are learning some amazing things about the structure of existence, and these links will try to capture some of that amazement.

For most astronomy work, see my Crowded Cosmos blog at crowded

Nasa's Stereo solar imaging satellites are providing remarkable views of the intense nuclear furnace that gives us nice, sunny beaches and sun tans. A pair of satellites orbit the sun, one before, one after the Earth in its orbit.

The Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient Greek astronomical computer. Here's one of the best sites that describes how this remarkable, 2,000+ year old device was found and what it is.

A Path to Life Initiation, the PAH World hypothesis
Here's a link to a wiki article about the hypothesis that life originated by a process aided by molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PAHs, that are the most common polyatomic species in the interstellar medium. 

White House refuses to pursue construction of Death Star
Responding to an official petition to the White House, signed by 34,000+ people so far, Paul Shawcross, chief of the Science and Space Branch of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote a classic response. Read the short petition and then scroll down to the response.

Carbonaceous Chondrites
These are extremely ancient meterorites that have very similar composition to the sun, and that have never been heated and remelted since the formation of the solar system. Hence, they are on the order of 4.6 billions years old. The most pristine ones have never been heated above 50 ÂșC, as noted in this article. That means that they have brought carbon compounds to Earth from the galaxy that may contain undamaged, higher molecular weight organic compounds... A little alien DNA, anyone?

Pancake Dwarf Galaxy Discovery
In a discovery that has completely upended what we thought we knew about the origins of galaxies, dwarf galaxies have been found that are orbiting our neighboring galaxy, Andromeda, in a vast "pancake" structure. Scientists have believed that galaxies go through a process of coalescing that damps down motions and flattens out the inner portions of the collapsing gas cloud to form a disk portion, but that leaves outer regions orbiting in a roughly spherical, random set of orientations. To find many dwarf galaxies orbiting Andromeda at some distance, all in an orderly, flattened out plane, is a complete surprise. What mechanism may have led to this structure? Computer simulations to date have never produced such a result.

Pancake structure of Andromeda dwarfs

Here's the Mars site from Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Many resources with various satellites and rovers.

A great animation of the voyage, landing, and explorations of the Mars Curiosity rover.

A stunning video compiled from the Curiosity's perspective of its landing on Mars and a pan around the landing site.

The Mars explorer, Curiosity has found proof of water on the surface (in the past). This has been believed, but now there is proof of actively flowing water, and that implies conditions that may have produced life. Here's a link in the Washington Post.

A recent paper suggests that life may have made its way to earth from distant solar systems.

NASA’s Pic of the Day:

UW’s Astronomy Dept. Site

A regularly updated set of astronomy links in Sky and Telescope magazine. S&T is one of the famous astronomy buff magazines.

Gorgeous images from the official Hubble Space Telescope gallery.

This site “Showcases how anyone with a digital camera can capture stunning astro-photographs.”

A British astronomy magazine

Here's a group that wants to deliberately spread our life forms to space. Might be a great way to annihilate other civilizations. The best of intentions...

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