Saturday, June 30, 2007

Interesting Articles

I have been busy lately, so instead of reading something I have written, I will direct you to some very good articles that I have read lately:

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Jupiter is Changing

With the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists are witnessing a large change in Jupiter's atmosphere.

Jupiter's clouds are always changing because the large bands of clouds move at hundreds of miles per hour with small effect at the global scale, but new Hubble images show something different.

The clouds are undergoing a drastic change. The bands of clouds near the equator are changing in both shape and color. The lighter bands of clouds (zones) have become darker, and the darker regions (belts) have become lighter.

These drastic changes have previously been seen, but with the Hubble's high resolution, Astronomers can study these changes with greater detail to understand how, "such global upheavals develop on Jupiter.

The Changes

In the left image, there is a thin strip of white clouds located above the equator. In the right image, these white clouds have become brown and the whole band looks as if it has combined with the band below it.

Image Credit: NASA & ESA
(Click for Hi-Res version with greater detail)

In the left image, there are large swirls of clouds south of the equator. Then in the image at the right, the lower portion of the large 'swirl band' seems to disappear and in its place there are many small swirls that are far from the equator.

Below the equatorial region, the brownish upside-down shark fin in the left-hand image disappears in the photo at right. Appearing instead are brownish tongue-shaped clouds with a stream of white swirls below them."

9th Carnival of Space

Sorry for the delay, but the current Carnival of Space is at the Planetary Society Blog hosted by Emily Lakdawalla, so check it out! (One of my articles is featured, yay!)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

HELP Astroversity!

Please help to shape this blog. Tell me what you want from this blog. Do you want all space news? Only major space news? Astronomy information? This blog is made only for the reader - you! Voice your concern and opinions by emailing me and giving feedback. This blog is going to go nowhere unless you get involved. You can help by sending an email and telling a friend about this blog. Get the word out. Send your emails to Astroversity. Thank You.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Double Supernova Discovered

Typically, a Supernova (life ending explosions of stars) occur every 25 to 100 years per galaxy. In the past six weeks, astronomers using NASA's Swift* satellite have discovered two supernovas in the same galaxy. The galaxy, MCG +05-43-16, lies in the constellation Hercules at distance of 380 million light-years away.

Image Credit: NASA

The first, Supernova 2007ck was a Type II event. These events occur when a star runs out of fuel, collapses gravitationally upon itself, and then repels the collapse by exploding outwards. The second, Supernova 2007co was a Type 1a Supernova. Type 1a supernovas are when a white dwarf receives so much material from a nearby star that it triggers a huge bomb-like explosion.

These two supernovas occurred a mere 16 days apart - an occurrence very rare in astronomy.

* NASA's Swift satellite is mainly used to study Gamma-Ray Bursts, but for this event, the Swift Satellite used and Ultraviolet/Optical telescope to photograph the event.

Original Article: Goddard Space Flight Center

Monday, June 25, 2007

Carnivals of Space

If you don't know, Blog Carnivals are events where bloggers that blog about a common subject, come together and share interesting articles, features, news, and many more things. There is also a Carnival of Space where the Astronomy Bloggers of the internet come together to talk about, guess what - Space. I'll let Fraser Cain of Universe Today explain:

"[Carnival of Space] is a roundup of cool articles about space and astronomy from bloggers and writers from across the Internet. By reading through this list of articles, we hope you'll find some new articles to enjoy, and some new blogs to follow."

The current Carnival is at Universe Today, and the next one will be at the Blog of The Planetary Society. Check out the articles the Carnivals of Space have to offer, they are really very interesting, you might find a new blog you would like to bookmark (And if you're visiting, maybe you'll subscribe to this one :) ).

It's Important to Land Space Shuttles in Florida

By: Astroversity

Last Friday, Space Shuttle Atlantis successfully landed at Edward’s Air Force Base in California. It was a textbook landing. The Shuttle was originally scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center a day earlier (Thursday), but due to bad weather, the landing was postponed. Then on Friday, the Space Shuttle had several chances to land, two at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and the other opportunities at Edward’s Air Force base in California. As the shuttle orbited the Earth, bad weather persisted at the Kennedy Center and the Shuttle was unable to land there. Eventually, the Shuttle landed on a picture perfect day at Edward’s Air Force Base.

During Friday, the weather at Edward’s Air Force Base was perfect: no clouds, calm winds, and open for a landing at any time. The conditions at the Base were perfect for landing, so why didn’t the shuttle land there in the first place? The answer to that question is money.

The home and launch site for all of the shuttles is at the Kennedy Space Center. Therefore, when shuttles land at Edward’s Air Force Base in California, they eventually have to go back to the Space Center in Florida. At the Space Center, they are continually inspected, tested, refurbished, and are stored.

This ride back home does not come cheap. At $1.7 million, the shuttle has to be taken atop a modified jumbo jet, and flown back. Workers have to be paid, fuel has to be bought, and the major problem is time. Everything has to be organized and prepared. So much effort has to be put in to send the shuttle back to Florida – $1.7 million dollars worth of effort.

If the shuttle lands in Florida, then both time and money is saved. If the shuttle lands in Florida, then NASA will save $1.7 million dollars and can spend that saved money on things such as research, shuttle repairs, labor costs, and mission expenses. The cost to launch a Space Shuttle comes at the huge price of $450 million dollars per mission and NASA wants to save every penny to put ahead for future costs.

The Kennedy Space Center is where the shuttles are stored, processed, and launched. It is always best that they land there. As the old saying goes, there is no place like home.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Space Shuttle Atlantis to Retire in 2010

After completing a successful landing and completing mission STS-117, the Space Shuttle Atlantis has been announced to be retired in 2010.It was previously announced that Atlantis would be retired in September or October of 2008, but NASA managers have now decided to postpone that retirement date to 2010 so it can serve a couple of extra missions. Atlantis and its counterparts the Space Shuttle Discover and Endeavour, will all now be retired in 2010; with the closing of the Space Shuttle Program.

Image Credit: NASA Spaceflight

Original Source: NASA Spaceflight

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Explained: Dark Energy

By: Astroversity

After the Big Bang, the universe began to expand. This expansion was mostly constant until around 4.5 billion years ago, when the expansion suddenly increased. Today, the universe is still expanding, but at an increasing rate. Dark Energy is the concept that explains the accelerating expansion.

Many people know that gravity is the force that keeps you on the Earth, and holds things together. Gravity can keep the Milky Way galaxy together, and it also keeps the planets revolving around the sun. Dark Energy is a force that acts like an “anti-gravity.” Dark Energy is a force that causes the expansion of space.

Most of the universe is empty space with vast distances from one galaxy to another. There is not much between these galaxies, just mostly empty space. Dark Energy increases the amount of space between galaxies. Moreover, as the amount of space increases, Dark Energy is able to overcome less gravity and then it is able to expand more space. Then with more space and less gravity, the expansion can grow even faster. This constant cycle will continue forever.

Most of the Universe is composed of Dark Energy.
Image Credit: NASA

This scenario can be looked at metaphorically. Think of dots, on an un-inflated balloon, as galaxies in space. As you blow air into the balloon, the dots seem to be moving farther away from each other. One might say that the dots are moving away from each other, but this is not the case. Instead, the space between the dots is being increased as more air is blown into the balloon. This is how Dark Energy works with the universe.

One might ask, “Then why doesn’t the space between the Earth and the Sun increase, or the space between me and my chair?” That is because things like galaxies, the Earth and Sun, and you and your chair, are gravitationally bound to each other. Gravity keeps those systems ‘tight’ to each other so the space does not change.

Since the Dark Energy cycle will continue forever, scientists now believe that all the galaxies will slowly seem to drift away from each other, and in about 3 trillion years, there will not be any visible galaxies other than our own. The universe has a date with expansion, and this expansion will continue endlessly.

The image at right, was produced by a supercomputer to show the distribution of dark energy. Clicking on the image will reveal a high-resolution version. The image shows a part of the Universe, with Galaxies shown as bright dots, surrounded by filaments of matter. Dark Energy is shown to fill in the rest of the image, in-between the galactic lines of matter.

Image Credit: James Wadsley, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario

Alternate Article: Dark Energy

Friday, June 22, 2007

Space Shuttle Atlantis Has Landed: Mission Summary

By: Astroversity

After landing successfully, the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis have faced problems, but at the same time, they have achieved many success during the STS-117 mission.

First, a small part of the shuttle's thermal blanket was discovered to have peeled off, but it was then repaired by a sewing kit with stainless steel wire by the astronauts. Then, Russian computers crashed aboard the International Space Station. These computers controlled the oxygen supply and the orientation of the ISS. These computers were then fixed by Russian Astronaut who used a cable to bypass a circuit board.

Image Credit: MSNBC

This mission also accomplished a lot. The Atlantis crew installed a new truss on the ISS, unfurled a new pair of solar arrays, and activated a rotating joint that would point the solar arrays toward the Sun.

When time came for landing on June 21 (Thursday) bad weather prevented landing, and today (Friday, June 22) the shuttle had five chances to land - two at Kennedy Space Center and 3 chances at Edward's Air Force Base in California.

Bad weather still continued to delay landing at the Kennedy Space Center, while conditions at Edwards Air Force Base are good for the shuttle to land. Flight managers finally decided that because bad weather continued at the Kennedy Space Center, they would take the first opportunity to land at Edward's Air Force Base. They then successfully landed at Edward's Air Force Base. Now STS-117 comes to an end.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Hubble Photographs Two Asteroids

By: Robert Roy Britt (

The Hubble Space Telescope has imaged two of the largest known asteroids, revealing craters and other features that will soon be the targets of close-up observations by NASA's Dawn spacecraft.

Ceres is round , like a planet, and 590 miles (950 kilometers) wide. The rock, about the size of Texas, contains some 30 to 40 percent of all the mass in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Thought to be a planet after its discovery in 1801, Ceres was later reclassified as an asteroid. But under the new and contrversial planet definition that demoted Pluto, Ceres is now considered a dwarf planet.

Image Credit:

Vesta, the other target, is irregularly shaped and about 330 miles (530 kilometers) wide-about the size of Arizona.

On July 7, NASA plans to launch Dawn-a mission that had been cancelled but was reistated last year-on a four-year journey to the asteroid belt. The robotic probe will go into orbit around Vesta in 2011 and Ceres in 2015. The new images will help astronomers fine tune mission plans.

The images, released today, were taken with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2.

The picture of Vesta allowed astronomers to map the asteroid's southern hemisphere. A crater there, caused by an ancient collision, is a whopping 285 miles (456 kilometers) across. Researchers have known that the collision spawned many smaller asteroids that they call vestoids.

Color differences in the image reflect differences in surface chemicals, some of it possibly due to volcanic activity, that Dawn will explore for clues to the asteroid's interior structure. The effects might be similar to dark "seas" and bright highlands on Earth's moon, astronomers said in a prepared statement.

The pictre of Ceres reveals bright and dark regions that could be topographic features such as craters, researchers said. Or they could just show areas of different surface material.
Ceres' round shape suggests its interior is layered, like Earth's is, astronomers said. It might have a rocky core, an icy mantle and a thin dusty crust. There could be water inside, too.

Original Article: Hubble Photographs Two Asteroids

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Cosmic Horseshoe, a Nearly Complete Einstein Ring

By: Fraser Cain (Universe Today)

If you want to peer into the furthest reaches of space, a regular telescope won't do. You need to harness the power of a massive galaxy to bend light from an even more distant galaxy - a gravitational lens. And a team of European astronomers have found one of the luckiest discoveries of all, an Einstein ring, where the lens and more distant galaxy line almost perfectly. Because of its unique shape, they're calling it "The Cosmic Horseshoe".

Image Credit: Universe Today

The discovery was made by more than a dozen astronomers from a handful of European universities, from England to Russia. They published their discovery in a research paper called The Cosmic Horseshoe: Discovery of an Einstein Ring around a Giant Luminous Red Galaxy, which has been submitted to the Astrophysics Journal.

They turned up the object after poring through data in the massive Sloan Digital Sky Survey. This survey uses robotic telescopes to capture images of the night sky; eventually it will map out 25% of the sky, seeing 100 million objects. Astronomers regularly look through this vast quantity of data, and pull out all kinds of interesting objects.

Such as the Cosmic Horseshoe.

Then they did follow-up observations using the 2.5 metre Isaac Newton Telescope in La Palma and the 6 metre BTA telescope in Russia. This gave the detailed image attached to this story, as well as the spectral information to determine the chemical constituents of the lens and lensed object.

Look at the picture, and you can see a red spherical galaxy surrounded almost completely by a blue ring. In reality, this is a relatively nearby galaxy, located 4.6 billion light-years away (the lens), and then a more distant blue galaxy located 10.9 billion light-years away (the lensed object).

The two line up perfectly from our point of view, so that light from the blue galaxy is focused by the gravity of the lens. Light that would head off into space is turned back towards the Earth. All this additional light allows astronomers to see what would normally be an invisible object. In fact, the two are lined up so perfectly, that the lensed galaxy has been turned into a ring that wraps 300-degrees around the lens.

The lens is an extremely massive luminous red galaxy, containing 5 trillion times the mass of the Sun. For comparison, our own Milky Way only contains 580 billion solar masses.
And this is just the "telescope".

The more distant, lensed object is a starburst galaxy undergoing furious rates of star formation - evidenced by the blue spectrum of its light. If it weren't behind the lens, astronomers wouldn't even know it was there. But because it's directly behind the lens, its light has been focused into a nearly complete ring around the lens. Since it's 10.9 billion light-years away, we see it at a time when the Universe was less than 3 billion years old.

This discovery gives astronomers two useful directions for further research: dark matter distribution around luminous red galaxies, and the formation of stars in the early Universe.

Original Article: Universe Today

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Eris Has Been Weighed

By HubbleSite (Full Story)

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has teamed up with the W.M. Keck Observatory to precisely measure the mass of Eris, the largest member of a new class of dwarf planets in our solar system. Eris is 1.27 times the mass of Pluto, formerly the largest member of the Kuiper Belt of icy objects beyond Neptune.

Image Credit: Hubble Site

Hubble observations in 2006 showed that Eris is slightly physically larger than Pluto. But the mass could only be calculated by observing the orbital motion of the moon Dysnomia around Eris. Multiple images of Dysnomia's movement along its orbit were taken by Hubble and Keck.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

More Evidence for an Ancient Ocean on Mars

By: Fraser Cain (Universe Today)

Planetary geologists have been puzzled by a strange paradox on Mars. Images of the planet show several shorelines where there much have once been ancient oceans on the Red Planet. But these shorelines vary in elevation by kilometres in some cases. How could the height of these shores change by such an amount?

Researchers think they have the answer: the planet tumbled in the past.

Just like the Earth, Mars is wider around its equator than it is from pole to pole. At some point, several billion years ago, when the planet still had an ocean, it experienced a redistribution in its mass. Perhaps this came from a series of volcanic eruptions, such as the ones that created the Tharsis Bulge and Olympus Mons. This additional mass caused the planet to rebalance its spin, shifting its pole 50 degrees away from its position.

Image Credit: Taylor Perron/UC Berkeley

Parts of the planet which were once at the poles were moved closer to the equator, and vice versa. This could explain the dramatically shifting sea levels. And then when the oceans disappeared, absorbed into the Martian interior, or blown away by the solar wind, the poles shifted again to their current position.

The research, carried out by scientists from UC Berkeley is published in the most current edition of the journal Nature.

Thermal Blanket To Be Reparied On Space Shuttle

By: Astroversity

The astronauts aboard space shuttle Atlantis will have to use a sewing kit, that is usually used to repair spacesuits, to repair the space shuttle's thermal blanket. To accomodate the repair, the 11-day mission will be extended by two days for the repair. The 4 by 6 inch piece of the blanket will be sewn together during the third spacewalk on Friday, or possibly on Sunay during the fourth spacewalk. The stainless steel wire will help secure the pad, and make the space shuttle safer.

Image Credit: NASA

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Explained: The Big Bang & The Universe

The Big Bang is a theory that explains how the universe expanded from a single point. The Big Bang occurred 13.7 billion years ago. All the matter, energy, and light; were all compacted into an infinitely dense point. The universe then expanded tremendously.

As the seconds passes; this condensed energy was spread out, and the forces such as gravity can into existence. Around 300,000 years after the Big Band, the universe was abundant with floating particles. These particles then slowly came to each other. The most simplest elements came into existence, most found was hydrogen (with 1 proton) and helium (with 2 protons).

Image Credit: NASA/WMAP Science Team

The different atoms were able to form and then these particles became more and more condensed. Soon matter was formed. The early stars were made up of very simple elements and so they had very short lifespans of only millions of years. But the nuclear fusion in the cores' of these early stars slowly created heavier elements; which when the star died, would become a part of a new star.

These stars were created in small groups and attracted other stars. These stars were grouped in irregular shapes. Then the different shapes merged to form the first galaxies.
Then as more galaxies formed, they became grouped in galaxy clusters, and then these clusters were contained in super clusters.

Today, scientist know about a force called dark energy. Dark energy acts like an anti-gravity and does the opposite of gravity. Dark energy is currently the cause of the expansion of the universe. The universe is expanding at an accelerating rate today.

With the discovery of dark energy, many scientist now believe the the universe will continue to expand forever and all of the matter in the universe will eventually decay within a trillion years.

Image Credit: NASA

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Most Massive Star Just Discovered

Located 20,000 light-years away, a newly weighed star simply known as A1 has been discovered to weigh 114 solar masses. This means that the star weighs 114 times more than the sun. A1 took the record from the previous holder, a star weighing 83 solar masses.

Image Credit: University of Montreal

Scientists were able to measure the A1's mass by using its companion star (a binary system that two orbit a common center of gravity), and used A1's orbit data, the two stars' Doppler shift, and the eclipses made by the stars, all to help figure out the mass.

Scientists have believed that the largest a star can reach is 150 solar masses, and this new discovery has helped to add more reliance to that theory.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Explained: The Solar System

The Solar System is where Earth and my other objects are located. The sun is at the center of the solar system. The Sun’s huge size and massive gravity keep many things in orbit around it. The solar system is comprised of eight planets and three dwarf planets. The four inner planets (or terrestrial planets), Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars are the four closest planets. These planets are rocky and have a solid surface.

Image Credit: Wikimedia

Beyond the rocky planets lies the four gas planets (or Jovian planets), Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. These four planets are comprised mostly of gas. These outer planets are larger than the inner planets. Of the four gas planets, Jupiter is the largest.

Image Credit: NASA JPL

Between the orbit of Mars and Jupiter lies a region known as the asteroid belt. Many asteroids are located in this belt and orbit the sun. The asteroids are the leftovers from the creation of the solar system, from the sun, and planets. The largest of these asteroids is Ceres, a dwarf planet.

Past the orbit of Neptune are the other two dwarf planets, Pluto and Eris. Pluto and Eris lie on the border between our solar system and a region of rock known as the Kuiper belt. The Kuiper belt is akin to the asteroid belt, but contains large and small bodies of cold ice and some rock, which were left over from the makings of the solar system. Image Credit: Wikimedia

Alternate Article: Solar System