Yuri’s Night is Here

Update from here:  rain, rain, and more rain.

Today is 12 April!! You know what that means it is time for Yuri’s Night, the annual celebration of all things space and astronomy related and commemorating Yuri Gagarian the first human being ever to go to space — the date was 12 April 1961.

The concept of Yuri’s Night was first conceived by Loretta Hidalgo Whitesides, George T. Whitesides, and Trish Garner during the Space Generation Forum at the UNISPACE III conference in 1999.

I was hoping for decent weather this year and was planning on having all three of my scopes out.  According to the weather people I am going to be treated to heavy rain — sigh.  We have a local college with a REALLY nice observatory and they probably would have been open to the public.

So I will be spending ALL of my time over at the Yuri’s Night website.  If you go there you can see if there is an event in your area.  Oh yes, LOTS of events all over the world!

Go to the website and look around there is plenty to do and learn.  I will be looking for pictures of events on the live tab, so if you can get to one upload a picture with a note and say hi.

So Yuri’sNight.org  good job as usual and thank for the use of the logo!


The Clouds of Venus

Our next door neighbor so to speak, Venus often called Earth’s twin is a very different place than Earth. Shrouded in clouds the surface temperature of the planet is around 477 C / 890 F everywhere; there are no cool spots. Those clouds are not happy rain clouds like we have, they are clouds of sulfuric acid. The surface pressure on Venus is something like 90 earth atmosphere. A very nasty place!

Still it is quite a nice sight and you can see it shortly after sunset from now until around the end of May, in fact, it will be getting higher in the sky every night until then. Occasionally we get a chance to see Venus in the daylight, but not often, it has been a couple of years.

Image description From ESA: Our sister planet Venus is a dynamic and unusual place. Strong winds swirl around the planet, dragging thick layers of cloud with them as they go. These fierce winds move so speedily that they display ‘super-rotation’: Earth’s can move at up to a fifth of our planet’s rotation speed, but winds on Venus can travel up to 60 times faster than the planet.

Observations from ESA’s Venus Express, which orbited Venus from 2006 to 2014, and other international spacecraft have probed deeper into this wind and cloud in past years, and uncovered some peculiar behaviour.

The side of the planet facing away from the Sun is somewhat more mysterious than the other side, but what we do know shows it to be quite different, with never-before-seen cloud types, shapes and dynamics – some of which appear to be connected to features on the surface below.

Super-rotation appears to behave more chaotically on the night side than the day side, but climate modellers remain unsure why. Night-side clouds also create different patterns and shapes than those found elsewhere – large, wavy, patchy irregular and filament-like patterns – and are dominated by mysterious ‘stationary waves’. These waves rise up within the atmosphere, do not move with the planet’s rotation, and appear to be concentrated above steep and higher-altitude regions of the surface, suggesting that Venus’ topography may well affect what happens in the cloud layers way up above.

These three images from the visible and infrared camera on Venus Express show these cloud features in detail: stationary waves (left), dynamical instabilities (middle) and mysterious filaments (right).

Venus Express was launched in 2005 and began orbiting Venus in 2006; the mission ended in December 2014. This image is based on the news item Venus’ mysterious night side revealed, published in 2017.

Image: ESA, NASA, J. Peralta & R. Hueso

Hubble Finds a Ring

Be sure to click the image to see a larger version and get a better look at all those galaxies.

The Einstein Ring in the image is amazingly symmetrical. Click here for a larger version of the ring and see for yourself.

Here’s the caption (ESA): This image is packed full of galaxies! A keen eye can spot exquisite elliptical galaxies and spectacular spirals, seen at various orientations: edge-on with the plane of the galaxy visible, face-on to show off magnificent spiral arms, and everything in between.

With the charming name of SDSS J0146-0929, this is a galaxy cluster — a monstrous collection of hundreds of galaxies all shackled together in the unyielding grip of gravity. The mass of this galaxy cluster is large enough to severely distort the space-time around it, creating the odd, looping curves that almost encircle the center of the cluster.

These graceful arcs are examples of a cosmic phenomenon known as an Einstein ring. The ring is created as the light from a distant objects, like galaxies, pass by an extremely large mass, like this galaxy cluster. In this image, the light from a background galaxy is diverted and distorted around the massive intervening cluster and forced to travel along many different light paths toward Earth, making it seem as though the galaxy is in several places at once.

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA; Acknowledgment: Judy Schmidt
Text: European Space Agency

MACS j1149.5+223

Beautiful image of a huge galaxy cluster with the name of MACS j1149.5+223. The galaxy cluster is only 5,000-million light-years away!

What’s more, this image contains a star which is “visible” because of a gravitational lens effect, it is actually much more distant. You’ll not see it in the image above but there is a link in ESA’s description below that does show it.

Before we get to the description, I was must musing about who is going to be the one(s) that come up with a way to reconstruct the lensed images? Oh it’s coming all right, has to be, we have too much great talent out there. It will be Nobel Prize time.

The original caption from ESA:

  • This image shows the huge galaxy cluster MACS J1149.5+223, whose light took over 5 billion years to reach us.The huge mass of the cluster is bending the light from more distant objects. The light from these objects has been magnified and distorted due to gravitational lensing. The same effect is creating multiple images of the same distant objects.

    Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have found the most distant star ever discovered. The hot blue star existed only 4.4 billion years after the Big Bang. This discovery provides new insight into the formation and evolution of stars in the early Universe, the constituents of galaxy clusters and also on the nature of dark matter.

    Go to Hubble uses cosmic lens to discover most distant star ever observed [heic1525] to learn more.

    Image: NASA, ESA, S. Rodney (John Hopkins University, USA) and the FrontierSN team; T. Treu (University of California Los Angeles, USA), P. Kelly (University of California Berkeley, USA) and the GLASS team; J. Lotz (STScI) and the Frontier Fields team; M. Postman (STScI) and the CLASH team; and Z. Levay (STScI)

Cosmic Cold Front

Original caption (via NASA) — A gigantic and resilient “cold front” hurtling through the Perseus galaxy cluster has been studied using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. This cosmic weather system spans about two million light years and has been traveling for over 5 billion years, longer than the existence of our Solar System.

This graphic shows the cold front in the Perseus cluster. The main panel contains X-ray data from Chandra – for regions close to the center of the cluster – along with data from ESA’s XMM-Newton and the now-defunct German Roentgen (ROSAT) satellite for regions further out. The Chandra data have been specially processed to brighten the contrast of edges to make subtle details more obvious.

The cold front is the long vertical structure on the left side of the image. It is about two million light years long and has traveled away from the center of the cluster at about 300,000 miles per hour.

The inset shows a close-up view of the cold front from Chandra. This image is a temperature map, where blue represents relatively cooler regions (30 million degrees) while the red is where the hotter regions (80 million degrees) are.

The cold front has not only survived for over a third of the age of the Universe, but it has also remained surprisingly sharp and split into two different pieces.

Astronomers expected that such an old cold front would have been blurred out or eroded over time because it has traveled for billions of years through a harsh environment of sound waves and turbulence caused by outbursts from the huge black hole at the center of Perseus,

Instead, the sharpness of the Perseus cold front suggests that the structure has been preserved by strong magnetic fields that are wrapped around it. The comparison of the Chandra X-ray data to theoretical models also gives scientists an indication of the strength of the cold front’s magnetic field for the first time.

While cold fronts in the Earth’s atmospheres are driven by rotation of the planet, those in the atmospheres of galaxy clusters like Perseus are caused by collisions between the cluster and other clusters of galaxies. These collisions typically occur as the gravity of the main cluster pulls the smaller cluster inward towards its central core. As the smaller cluster makes a close pass by the central core, the gravitational attraction between both structures causes the gas in the core to slosh around like wine swirled in a glass. The sloshing produces a spiral pattern of cold fronts moving outward through the cluster gas.

Aurora Simionescu and collaborators originally discovered the Perseus cold front in 2012 using data from ROSAT (the ROentgen SATellite), ESA’s XMM-Newton Observatory, and Japan’s Suzaku X-ray satellite. Chandra’s high-resolution X-ray vision allowed this more detailed work on the cold front to be performed.

The results of this work appear in a paper that will be published in the April issue of Nature Astronomy and is available online. The authors of the paper are Stephen Walker (Goddard Space Flight Center), John ZuHone (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), Jeremy Sanders (Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics), and Andrew Fabian (Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, England.)

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra’s science and flight operations.

Image and caption: Credit: NASA/CXC/GSFC/S. Walker, ESA/XMM, ROSAT

Hubble Measures Distance to a Globular

Distance is a one measure we are continually striving to improve in the broad category of astronomy,  distance really matters!

Hubble is doing its part and now we have a “best yet”  measure to a globular cluster.

Here’s how:

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have for the first time precisely measured the distance to one of the oldest objects in the universe, a collection of stars born shortly after the big bang.

This new, refined distance yardstick provides an independent estimate for the age of the universe. The new measurement also will help astronomers improve models of stellar evolution. Star clusters are the key ingredient in stellar models because the stars in each grouping are at the same distance, have the same age, and have the same chemical composition. They therefore constitute a single stellar population to study.

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