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This is über-cool. A bunch of guys created a true scale model of the solar system in the Black Rock desert of Nevada. They used to-scale sun and planet diameters and traced out to-scale orbital paths in the sand. Earth was a blue marble and the sun was about a meter and a half in diameter. Posts driven into the ground at orbit distances had planet models mounted atop them. The accompanying video is very well done, and the slickest part is where their cars were driven around the orbital paths at night with headlights on. I was disappointed, though, that Pluto was left out just because a bunch of pointy-headed scientists demoted it to a 'dwarf planet' ...
"Purdue University scientists announced the discovery of a previously unknown crater on the surface of the moon. The crater, temporarily named after aviator Amelia Earhart, was discovered using data provided by NASA's GRAIL mission. The team of researchers behind this find say that the crater appears to measure about 124 miles ..."
"NASA tests the 'Ferrari of rocket engines' for mission to Mars - CNET If we're going to get humans to Mars, we're going to need a bigger rocket with a much more powerful engine. This is the RS-25, the engine designed for NASA's Space Launch System rocket, intended to launch the Orion spacecraft and, eventually, see humanity on its way to Mars: the ..."
Super-low-noise-figure receivers are absolutely essential in radio astronomy work. The need has driven major advances in the state of the art of cryogenically cooled front ends with noise temperatures near absolute zero. Antenna technology has also benefitted from radio astronomy due to the need for precision steering and narrow beam widths. Phased arrays for interstellar targets requires that element spacing being large enough to require separate antennas as the elements, which creates a very large effective aperture, hence greater angular resolution. Networks located continents apart are synchronized with the use of atomic clocks to allow signal time of arrival and therefore phase to be accurately measured. This story gives some of the early efforts.
"Jupiter's moons are invisible to the naked eye and therefore can have no influence on the earth, and therefore would be useless, and therefore do not exist." - Francisco Sizzi (Prof. of Astronomy), dismissing Galileo's sighting of the moons. Now there is a prime example of reductio ad absurdum absurdity.
It was while I was in the USAF at Robing AFB, Georgia, that my interest in astronomy was rekindled and I decided to move from a cheap 2" Tasco refractor to a 'real' telescope that had more light collecting capacity and was on an equatorial mount with a sidereal drive system. My Air Force pay did not allow for anything as nice as a Celestron or Meade model, but an advertisement in Astronomy magazine by Criterion Manufacturing made the goal seem obtainable in the RV-6 'Dynascope.' For a mere $279.95, I could purchase a 6", f-8 Newtonian telescope with a pillar-type tripod mount and an equatorial drive. I immediately wrote a check and mailed it off to the company's location in Connecticut. Then, I waited... and waited... and waited, but no telescope arrived after more than ...
There are some really excellent pieces of software available to amateur astronomers ranging in function from presenting the night sky in incredible detail and can even control your telescope (TheSkyX) to image processing (RegiStax). Screen shots and hyperlinks are given below. RegiStax is free to anyone, but to get TheSkyX free, you have to buy a Celestron telescope that bundles it with the hardware (as low as $80 for the PowerSeeker 70AZ). Stellarium is a totally free, open source sky chart program. It appears to do everything TheSkyX does, including …
Asteroid QE2 Close Pass
to Earth on Friday
You have probably seen the news about asteroid "QE2" (1.5 miles wide, like the one which eradicated the dinosaurs) that will pass within 3.6 million miles of the Earth on May 31. That might seem like far, but it is only 15x the distance between Earth and the moon. Anyway, this Frank and Ernest comic strip appeared on May 13th and I cut it out to remind me to post it today, on the eve of QE2. QE2, BTW, is a nerd pun on the potential destruction to Earth that the government's Quantitative Easing policy might cause.
Amateur Radio Astronomy
in QST Magazine
QST is the official publication of the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL), the world's oldest and largest organization for Ham radio enthusiasts. Many amateur radio operators also have an interest in astronomy and as such, occasionally articles appear covering topics on amateur radio astronomy. There are also quite a few articles dealing indirectly with aspects of astronomy such as Earth-Moon-Earth (EME) communications where signals are bounced off the moon's surface in order to facilitate transmission (although it is really more of a hobby achievement). The October 2012 edition of QST had an article entitled, "Those Mysterious Signals*," which discusses galactic noise in the 10-meter band. Arch Doty (W7ACD) writes about the low-level background noise that is persistent in the high frequency (HF) bands. At HF, Cygnus A and Cassiopeia A are major sources of cosmic noise, for example. Low level signals come from pulsars...
"NASA's Pluto experts have revealed new high resolution close up images of the surface of Pluto - and admit they are stunned by the planet. They reveal a 'bewildering variety of surface features' that have scientists reeling because of their range and complexity. 'If an artist had painted this Pluto before our flyby, I probably would have called it over the top — but that's what is actually there,' said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the SwRI, Boulder ..."
"The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) at Green Bank, West, Virginia, has asked that hams notify the facility if they plan to operate within 10 miles of either the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) or the Sugar Grove Research Station in Sugar Grove, West Virginia. The internationally renowned scientific research facilities ..."
National defense needs have pushed back the frontiers of science and technology since time immemorial. Mechanics, chemistry, medicine, mathematics, psychology, astronomy, electricity, and as of the late nineteenth century, electronics. Astronomy was useful as a navigational tool and required a very sophisticated knowledge of geometry and algebra to make it accessible to seafaring men, cartographers, and land surveyors. Since the early 1900s, radio astronomy has played a huge role in the advancement of super-sensitive receiver designs. Most people think of information arriving to them in two or maybe three forms: sound, visible light, and some (but not many) even consider radio waves. As over-the-air AM and FM radio broadcasts die out, even fewer people are aware of radio …
Glowing Trees a Problem
A controversy brews over the merits of breeding plants that glow like a lightning bug. Proponents say glowing trees could eventually replace electric street lights, thereby reducing pollution created by generating stations. Opponents say messing around with tree genes is dangerous and should be disallowed since it could lead to unanticipated environmental ramifications on both plant and animal species. The unique aspect of this effort is that it is being pursued primarily by genetic hobbyists rather than corporations - at least for now. There is bound to be a huge financial potential for such a copyrighted line of plants. My opposition to the concept is primarily a concern for light pollution projected skyward. Astronomers have a difficult enough time with ever-encroaching sources of ambient light, but a planet overrun by cross-bred and mutated glowing plants (and possibly animals), especially if they are capable of emitting levels high enough to replace street lights, would effectively blind billions of dollars of investments in telescopes ...