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Star KIC 8462852 Mystery Deepens:
Star dimming dramatically and no one knows why.
the most unusual stars in our galaxy, KIC 8462852, has been the subject
of an immense amount of interest in the last few months.
Interest in the star, which is 1,480 light-years away, began last
October when Yale scientists found unusual fluctuations in its
light. Now a new study has claimed the entire star has also been dimming
in a dramatic way.
the new study, which is not yet peer-reviewed, Caltech astronomer Ben
Montet and Joshua Simon of the Carnegie Institute measured the light
from the star that Kepler recorded during its four-year mission. For the
first few years, it dimmed at about 0.34 percent per year, they found.
However, then its light level dropped dramatically by about 2.5 percent
in 200 days - before it returned to the original slow fade rate.
astronomers looked at 500 other stars in the vicinity, and saw nothing
else like it.
Kepler mission monitored the star for four years, looking at two unusual
incidents, in 2011 and 2013, when the star's light dimmed in dramatic,
never-before-seen ways. When a planet orbits a star, the star's
brightness usually reduces by around one per cent. But KIC 8462852 -
nicknamed Tabby's star - has had a reduction of around to 22 per cent,
which suggests something huge may be moving past it, according to a
study by Louisiana State University (LSU).
some cases, the flux dropped down to below the 20 per cent level and
lasted anywhere between five and 80 days at a time.
study out last month claims the signals were in fact caused by the
breakup of 30 massive Halley-like comets which blocked the starlight
from view. Astronomers studied the star using the Submillimeter Array
and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. They
wanted to track down dust associated with a possible planetary
collision, according a report in Discovery, but they found none.
result is consistent with the breakup of huge comets that would block
the starlight from sight - although how such a huge amount of comets
would disintegrate is unknown.
Image of the Month:
Spiral galaxy ESO 137-001 hurtles through massive galaxy cluster
Abell 3627 some 220 million light years away.
The distant galaxy is seen in this colorful Hubble/Chandra composite
image through a foreground of the Milky Way's stars toward the
southern constellation Triangulum Australe. As the spiral speeds
along at nearly 7 million kilometers per hour, its gas and dust are
stripped away when ram pressure with the cluster's own hot, tenuous
intracluster medium overcomes the galaxy's gravity. Evident in
Hubble's near visible light data, bright star clusters have formed
in the stripped material along the short, trailing blue streaks.
Chandra's X-ray data shows off the enormous extent of the heated,
stripped gas as diffuse, darker blue trails stretching over 400,000
light-years toward the bottom right. The significant loss of dust
and gas will make new star formation difficult for this galaxy. A
yellowish elliptical galaxy, lacking in star forming dust and gas,
is just to the right of ESO 137-001 in the frame.
Click on image to enlarge to full resolution.
New Telescope in Chile Now Searching for
A new alien-planet–hunting telescope has just come online in Chile, and
it could help scientists peer into the atmospheres of relatively small
planets circling nearby stars.
The Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS for short)
— located at the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Paranal
Observatory — is designed to seek out planets two to eight times the
diameter of Earth as they pass in front of their stars. Such a planet
will cause the light of the star to dip ever so slightly when passing in
front of it, allowing the telescope to detect the planet during its
"We are excited to begin our search for small
planets around nearby stars," Peter Wheatley, an NGTS project lead from
the University of Warwick, U.K., said in as statement. "The NGTS
discoveries, and follow-up observations by telescopes on the ground and
in space, will be important steps in our quest to study the atmospheres
and composition of small planets such as the Earth."
The instrument is designed to measure the
brightness of stars more accurately than any other ground-based
wide-field survey, ESO officials said. The NGTS is made up of 12
telescopes that will operate robotically, according to ESO. Astronomers
using the survey hope to find small, bright planets in order to learn
more about the densities of them.
By taking these measurements, scientists might be
able to learn more about what makes up the planets — that is, whether
the planets could be rocky, gaseous, watery or composed of other
materials, ESO officials added.
"It may also be possible to probe the atmospheres
of the exoplanets whilst they are in transit," ESO officials said in the
same statement. "During the transit, some of the star's light passes
through the planet's atmosphere, if it has one, and leaves a tiny, but
detectable, signature. So far, only a few such very delicate
observations have been made, but NGTS should provide many more potential
NGTS' work is only the beginning. Scientists will
use other telescopes to conduct follow-up studies of planet candidates
that the survey finds when looking at the sky.
A consortium from the United Kingdom, Sweden and
Germany built the NGTS. ESO is an astronomy organization supported by 15
different countries. The organization operates three observing sites,
including Paranal, around Chile.
"We needed a site where there were many clear
nights and the air was clear and dry so that we could make very accurate
measurements as often as possible — Paranal was the best choice by far,"
Don Pollacco of the University of Warwick and an NGTS project lead, said
in a statement.
International Space Station
High Definition Earth Viewing
High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment places four commercially
available HD cameras on the exterior of the space station and uses them
to stream live video of Earth for viewing online. The cameras are
enclosed in a temperature specific housing and are exposed to the harsh
radiation of space. Analysis of the effect of space on the video
quality, over the time HDEV is operational, may help engineers decide
which cameras are the best types to use on future missions. High school
students helped design some of the cameras' components, through the High
Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) program, and student
teams operate the experiment.
Black Image = ISS is on the night side of the
Earth. Gray Image = Switching between cameras, or communications with
the ISS is not available.
The Hubble Deep Field: The most important image ever taken.
It is the farthest we have ever seen into space using the most
advanced telescope we have.
Weather / Sky
The Clear Sky Clocks below are the
astronomers forecast. They show at a glance when, in the next 48
hours, we might expect clear and dark skies for one specific
observing site. The site is specifically intended for amateur
astronomers. The forecast data comes from a numerical weather model
run by The Canadian Meteorological Center.
Clear Sky Clocks
Cerro Paranal is an
astronomers paradise with its stunningly dark, steady and transparent
sky. Located in the barren Atacama Desert of Chile it is home to some of
the world’s leading telescopes.
Operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) the Very Large Telescope (VLT) is located on the Paranal mountain,
composed of four 8 m telescopes which can combine their light to make a
giant telescope by interferometry. This film
is made with footage from the November 2011 TWAN imaging expedition to
Paranal assigned by the European Southern Observatory (ESO). Photographed 14 nights in a row from usually 05:30 pm to 08:00 a.m.
If nothing is faster
than the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) then we are crawling
when trying to even break free of our own galaxy. This video puts
the distance of the universe into perspective.
**Click on Arrows icon in lower
right of the frame to view the video in full screen mode. **
JWST: Hubble's Successor
The James Webb Space Telescope (sometimes called
JWST) is a large, infrared-optimized space telescope, scheduled for
launch in 2014. Webb will find the first galaxies that formed in the
early Universe, connecting the Big Bang to our own Milky Way Galaxy.
Webb will peer through dusty clouds to see stars forming planetary
systems, connecting the Milky Way to our own Solar System. Webb's
instruments will be designed to work primarily in the infrared range of
the electromagnetic spectrum, with some capability in the visible range.
Webb will have a large mirror, 6.5
meters (21.3 feet) in diameter and a sunshield the size of a tennis
court. Both the mirror and sunshade won't fit onto the rocket fully
open, so both will fold up and open once Webb is in outer space. Webb
will reside in an orbit about 1.5 million km (1 million miles) from the
**Click on Arrows icon in lower
right of the frame to view the video in full screen mode. **
A lunar phase or phase of the moon
refers to the appearance of the illuminated portion of the Moon as
seen by an observer. The lunar phases vary cyclically as the Moon
orbits the Earth, according to the changing relative positions of
the Earth, Moon and Sun. Click on each button to view the
various phases or click on the 'Run Animation' button to view
the entire lunar cycle.
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or
LRO, has returned its first
imagery of the Apollo moon
landing sites. The pictures show
the Apollo missions' lunar
module descent stages sitting on
the moon's surface, as long
shadows from a low sun angle
make the modules' locations
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
Camera, or LROC, was able to
image all six Apollo sites.
The satellite reached lunar
orbit June 23, 2009 and captured the
Apollo sites between July 11 and
15. Though it had been expected
that LRO would be able to
resolve the remnants of the
Apollo mission, these first
images came before the
spacecraft reached its final
As of 09/06/11, NASA has now
released improved images for
Apollo's 12, 14, and 17. These
images have been added below.
thumbnail image to enlarge
Lunar map of Apollo landing sites
Image width: 282 meters
Right Image width: 50 meters