October 5 2011 Astronomy Newsletter
Here's the latest article from the Astronomy site at BellaOnline.com.
Exotic Exoplanets Tour
We're used to a tidy Solar System. But there are some pretty strange planets orbiting stars far, far away. On one it doesn't rain water, it rains rock. Another has the density of cork. One has a double sun. And what would you do with a diamond the size of a planet?
*Nobel Prize for Astronomers*
There is no Nobel Prize for Astronomy, but you may have noticed that three astronomers were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics: Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess. Their work led to the discovery of dark energy, a still-unexplained force that seems to be accelerating the expansion of the universe.
Two teams were at work studying distant supernovae. The universe expanded after the Big Bang, but gravity would have acted to slow down the expansion. The two groups worked independently to determine how much the expansion had slowed. Three years of data gave them an answer that they didn't expect or even believe. The expansion wasn't slowing down, it was speeding up. If you'd like to find out more or hear about the work from those who did it, this is an excellent interactive video: http://hubblesite.org/hubble_discoveries/dark_energy/
The other evening I was startled to see four aircraft on the approach to our nearby airport, because you shouldn't be able to see more than three - even at night. Looking more closely, I realized that one of the "aircraft" was Jupiter. I just happened to catch it on a line of sight with the approaching planes. That should give you an idea how bright it is. Have a look to the east. With decent binoculars you should be able to see up to four of the Galilean planets too.
*World Space Week (October 4 – 10)*
Is there a World Space Week event near you? Have a look at the calendar: http://www.worldspaceweek.org/calendar_2011.php The week started yesterday, because the first artificial satellite was launched on October 4, 1957. Here is a picture of a technician putting the finishing touches on Sputnik before it was sent skyward: http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/201353main_rs_image_feature_924_946x710.jpg
That's all for now. Wishing you clear skies.
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