Posts tagged: astronomy
It’s generally been assumed that the story of the death of Dutch astronomer Tycho Brahe is what really happened— that he died after his bladder burst because he was holding his piss for too long. But new research on Brahe’s body shows that story may be just a myth, not the reality. It looks like he might have been murdered, possibly by his assistant, Johannes Kepler.
holy shit Kepler murdered a guy
Cosmic GDP crashes 97% as star formation slumps
While parts of the world experience economic hardship, a team of Portuguese, UK, Japanese, Italian and Dutch astronomers has found an even bigger slump happening on a cosmic scale. In the largest ever study of its kind, the international team of astronomers has established that the rate of formation of new stars in the Universe is now only 1/30th of its peak and that this decline is only set to continue. The team, led by David Sobral of the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, published their results in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society…
(Read more: PhysOrg) (image: Chandra / NASA / NOAO / KIPAC)
sweet jigglypuff thats terrifying
the rate of decline is exponential
someday there will be so few new star systems left that we’ll have explored all there is to explore of space
A Startling Vortex on the South Pole of Titan
The Cassini imaging team released today a near-true-color image and a movie taken during a flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan on June 27, 2012 by the Cassini spacecraft. The image reveals a swirling, whirling vortex forming high in the atmosphere overlying the south pole of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, as the moon’s southern hemisphere slowly becomes engulfed in the darkness of deep autumn. The south pole of Titan (3,200 miles across) is near the center of the view. Scientists have long known that the entire winter hemisphere of Titan can exhibit a polar “hood” of haze made of condensing organic compounds, but this is something new and amazing.
What Earth would look like if it had rings like Saturn
This video is from 2009 and it might be a repost, but it’s worth reposting if it is. Beyond just thinking about how cool it would be to see Earth from a distance if we had thick Saturnian rings, it’s fascinating to imagine how human civilization and mythology would have been incredibly different with rings in the sky.
The amateur astronomy community is abuzz over a strange phenomenon spotted over Mars last week. Astrophotographer Wayne Jaeschke reports on his website of a “strange feature” over the Martian plain called Acidalia that moves with the planet and seems to rise over the limb.
The discovery has professional astronomers taking note. NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft will try to image the cloud with a camera that can take pictures in visible and infrared light simultaneously.
Could giant asteroid Vesta actually be a planet?
For years, scientists have been calling Vesta an asteroid. Granted, it’s a big asteroid — at 330 miles across, it’s the second biggest in the solar system — but NASA’s Dawn spacecraft recently got its closest look at Vesta yet, and according to Dawn’s principle investigator Christopher Russel, astronomers have been finding it hard not to refer to the asteroid as a planet.
Of course, the odds of the International Astronomical Union convening to name Vesta a planet (the same way they met in 2006 to reclassify Pluto as a dwarf planet) are basically zero. So instead, astronomers have taken to describing the massive asteroid as “transitional.” But what’s with all the confusion in the first place?
Long story short: Vesta resembles a planet. And not just any planet; Vesta is home to a lot of features typically associated with terrestrial bodies like Earth. The ratio between its topography (the elevation of its various surface characteristics) relative to its radius, for instance, is more like a rocky planet’s than an asteroid’s.
It also harbors something called impact melt, the remnants of at least one collision event so powerful, it actually liquified portions of Vesta’s surface — something never observed on an asteroid before. Researchers think that this impact melt, which would have flowed readily across Vesta’s face following an extraterrestrial collision, may explain why they’ve found no evidence of volcanic activity in the form of lava flows. Scientists are convinced that Vesta’s past was characterized by long periods of volcanism, but it’s possible that any sign of volcanic activity has been hidden by collisions and impact melt.
“[It’s] because of all the impact processing over Solar System history,” explained Arizona State’s Dave Williams to BBC News. “It has destroyed all the evidence.”
The Dawn spacecraft is scheduled to continue orbiting Vesta until July of this year, when it will set a course for Ceres, the largest asteroid in the Solar System. Ceres is significantly larger than Vesta; at close to 600 miles in diameter, it actually qualifies as the smallest of the dwarf planets. It’ll be very interesting to see if its surface features are as stereotypically “planet-like” as Vesta’s.
Read more about Dawn’s latest views of giant asteroid Vesta over on BBC News.
Top image via NASA