April 27 2011 Astronomy Newsletter
Here's the latest article from the Astronomy site at BellaOnline.com.
First Orbit - Film Review
On April 12, 1961 Yuri Gagarin saw what no human had ever seen before: the Earth from space. Now "First Orbit" allows you to imagine that you are making the historic voyage. Film shot from the International Space Station creates the views, but you'll also have Philip Sheppard's music.
*Hubble comes of age*
The Hubble Space Telescope was 21 on Monday April 24. Despite its having been sent into space with a faulty mirror, it has been mended, adjusted and kept going by space shuttle astronauts. And the years have certainly not been wasted, for its pictures have advanced astronomy and delighted the public like no other.
In order to celebrate, Hubblesite released a picture of two interacting galaxies. I won't even try to describe this beautiful picture, but you can have a look here: http://imgsrc.hubblesite.org/hu/db/images/hs-2011-11-a-web.jpg
"Life" has also put together a gallery of famous Hubble images: http://www.life.com/gallery/42002/image/52349410#index/0
*Last chance to vote on the Shuttle song*
Voting is open until April 30 at 12.00 midnight EDT. Here's the link:
Thursday, April 28th, has three astronomy birthdays.
(1) Jan Oort (1900-1992) was a Dutch radio astronomer who made a number of discoveries about the galactic center. However his name is now best known because the Oort Cloud was called after him. This has never been directly observed, but most astronomers accept the idea that it is a spherical cloud of comets well beyond the Kuiper Belt. It's thought to be the origin of long-term comets.
(2) Bart Bok (1906-1983) was a Dutch-American astronomer. He was a great science communicator and served as director of Mount Stromlo Observatory near Canberra, Australia and of the Steward Observatory in Arizona. He was the first to observe what are now known as Bok globules. These are dark, dense star-forming regions.
(3) Eugene Shoemaker (1928-1997) wasn't Dutch or even, properly speaking, an astronomer. He was a geologist, but his particular interest was in asteroids and meteors and their craters. Shoemaker helped extend this knowledge to an understanding of planetary science in general and was a possible candidate for an Apollo mission. He was ruled out on health grounds, but helped to train the astronauts. He was a co-discoverer (with his wife Carolyn and David Levy) of nine comets. After his death in a road accident, some of his ashes went to the Moon with the Lunar Prospector.
If you hate getting up early, this item may not be for you – but I think this is worth getting up for. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings, there will be four planets close together (in conjunction) and a crescent moon. You'll need a clear eastern horizon as they'll be low in the sky, but you should be able to pick out Venus, Mercury and Jupiter with your unaided eye. Here's a diagram: http://media.skyandtelescope.com/images/Webvic11_Apr30mo.jpg
Mars will be tricky because it is so close to Jupiter. Binoculars will be a help here. WARNING: If you're using binoculars or a telescope, take care not to point it at the Sun. Viewing the Sun through a lens causes permanent eye damage.
That's all for this now. Wishing you clear skies.
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Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor
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