Tag Archives: Astronomy

Long Range Sensors Detect…

  1. Why is the Earth magnetized and Venus Not?
  2. Infant Stars Huddle near Black Hole
  3.  Most Distant Black Hole Yet
  4. The Geminid meteor shower peaks Wed, 13th of Dec
  5. This Week’s Sky at a Glance, December 8 – 16
  6. A “rock” comet is approaching Earth

Sky & TelescopeWhy is Earth Magnetized and Venus Not?
A new analysis reveals that the gigantic impact that led to the Moon’s formation might have also switched on Earth’s magnetic field. Read more…

Infant Stars Huddle near Black Hole

A team of astronomers has found signs of small stars forming within aSky & Telescope few light-years of the Milky Way’s central black hole. Read more…




3. Astronomers have  discovered a supermassive black hole scarfing down gas just 690 million years after the Big Bang.

Astronomers are like historians on steroids. They doggedly push back the curtain of cosmic time, peering back to ever-earlier eras in the universe. The latest discovery in this quest, announced today in the journal Nature, is the quasar J1342+0928. This black-hole-powered beacon blazes at us from a redshift of 7.54, or a mere 690 million years after the Big Bang.  Read more…

And in the chance we ever see a clear sky again:

4. Wednesday, December 13  The Geminid meteor shower should be at its peak late tonight, and there’s no Moon to interfere. Bundle up warmly. Bring a reclining lawn chair to a dark spot with no glary lights and an open view of the sky. Lie back, gaze into the stars, and be patient. Under a dark sky you might see a meteor at least once a minute on average. Light pollution cuts down on the numbers. See our article Fantastic Year for Geminid Meteor Shower.

You’ll see the most meteors from about 10 p.m. until dawn local time, when your side of Earth turns to face most directly into the oncoming meteoroid stream. But any that you may see early in the evening, when the shower’s radiant in Gemini is still low, will be long, dramatic “Earth-grazers” skimming into the upper atmosphere at a shallow angle.

5. This Week’s Sky at a Glance, December 8 – 16
See what’s in the Sky & Telescopesky this week. The asteroid 3200 Phaethon, source of the Geminid meteoroid stream, should reach about 11th magnitude from December 12th through 17th as it passes several million miles from Earth. Read more…

6. A “ROCK COMET” IS APPROACHING EARTH: You’ve heard of comets. But have you ever heard of a rock comet? They exist, and a big one is approaching Earth this week. 3200 Phaethon will fly past our planet on Dec. 16th only 10 million km away. Measuring some 5 km in diameter, it is large enough for amateur astronomers to photograph through backyard telescopes. Moreover, this strange object is the parent of the annual Geminid meteor shower, which is also coming this week. Sky watchers can see dozens of Geminids per hour on Dec. 13th and 14th as gravelly bits of the rock comet disintegrate in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Visit today’s edition of Spaceweather.com to find out how to observe the Geminids and their progenitor in the nights ahead.

Watch for Aurora on the night of the 20th

HERE COMES THE SOLAR WIND: The Arctic Circle is about to turn green. Forecasters say there is a good chance of bright auroras around the poles on Sept. 20th when a solar wind stream engulfs Earth’s magnetic field. Researchers have long known that auroras favour equinoxes. The timing of the stream could scarcely be better as it is expected to arrive only two days before the beginning of northern autumn. Visit http://spaceweather.com for more information and updates.

Our Sensors have detected…

A few items collected over the past week or so while I was away from the keyboard.
  • Highlights from Astronomy and Sky & Telescope magazines
  • Burt Kwouk (1930-2016)
  • Trailers for Star Trek series & new MacGyver series
  • Hugo Awards, how to foil the Puppy slates
  • Cybercrime

2007 OR10: Largest unnamed world in the solar system (Astronomy Magazine)

Astronomers combined data from two space observatories to reveal something surprising: This dwarf planet is significantly larger than previously thought.
Dwarf planets
New K2 results peg 2007 OR10 as the largest unnamed body in our solar system and the third largest of the current roster of about half a dozen dwarf planets. The dwarf planet Haumea has an oblong shape that is wider on its long axis than 2007 OR10, but its overall volume is smaller.  Read more.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, May 27 – June 4

May through June:   Have you been watching the Mars-Antares-Saturn triangle change shape? It’s stretching as Mars moves westward away from the head of Scorpius. This will continue until the end of June. Then Mars will start to slingshot back to fly right between Antares and Saturn in late August. Plan to watch this slow summer drama!

As darkness arrives these evenings, look south about halfway between Jupiter and Mars. One star there stands out: Spica, in Virgo. High above it shines brighter Arcturus in Bootes. Half as far to Spica’s lower right is the constellation Corvus, the Crow, eyeing Spica to steal it from Virgo’s hand as she looks the other way.  (complicated way to find Spica, IMO, esp since Jupiter and Mars move around. Better to use this tried and true method: Find the Big Dipper. Use the handle to “Arc to Acturus, then spike down to Spica. You can’t miss Arcturus, it’s bright orange.  –CPL)

 Is your sky dark enough for you to see the Coma Berenices star cluster naked-eye? As soon as twilight is completely over, look above Jupiter by about 25°, about two and a half fists at arm’s length. The cluster is dim but big, at least 5° wide, the size of a golf ball at arm’s length. Its brightest stars, near its middle, form a sort of inverted Y shape. Binoculars bring its stars right out.

Thursday, June 2:   Now it’s Saturn’s turn at opposition. It’s the second-brightest point in the area of Mars, 16° to Mars’s lower left.Finding Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars







Friday, June 3

• For much of the spring at mid-northern latitudes, the Milky Way lies right down out of sight all around the horizon. But watch the east now. The rich Cepheus-Cygnus-Aquila stretch of the Milky Way starts rising up all across the east late these nights, earlier and higher every week.

Cassiopeia at its lowest

Cassiopeia inches along sideways low in the north at dusk.

Saturday, June 4

• New Moon (exact at 11:00 p.m. EDT). A new lunar month begins. Unlike a calendar month, which averages 30.437 days long, a lunar month (from one new Moon to the next) averages 29.531 days. So, on average, you’ll see the Moon in the same phase about 1 day earlier every month bu the calendar.


Burt Kwouk (1930-2016)


Best know for his role as Cato in Pink Panther Films, but also had genre roles in the Curse of the Fly and various TV series.  Hop over to IMDB for a full listing.

Trailers for Star Trek series & new MacGyver series

At the CBS Upfront presentation at Carnegie Hall in New York on May 18, CBS unveiled the logo for the new STAR TREK television series within the first-ever promotional video for the highly-anticipated program. (Only the premiere will be available on CBS, after that it goes to streaming.)

IMBD http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1399045/?ref_=ttpl_pl_tt

A reimagining of the television series of the same name, following a 20-something MacGyver as he creates a clandestine organization where he uses his knack for solving problems in unconventional ways to help prevent disasters from happening. Written by CBS

Happy PuppyHugo Awards, how to foil the Puppy slates (or any other kind of slate)

The whole messy Puppies/Hugo situation– this is a thread on File 770 in which various ideas on how to stop slates from screwing up the Hugo awards are discussed and dissected.  Last year, there were 5 no awards because those 5 categories were owned by Puppies.


Since Steven’s presentation on cybercrime and the series, CSI Cyber, I’ve been paying a lot more attention to the subject. It’s worth checking into blogs such as this one from the Norton Community Forum

Cybercrime in Canada is growing. http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/pubs/cc-strategy-strategie-cc-eng.htm

Cybercrime: an overview of incidents and issues in Canada is the RCMP’s first report on cybercrime, and focuses on aspects of the cybercrime environment that affect Canada’s public organizations, businesses and citizens in real and harmful ways.




startrek_1True Science behind the Starship Voyages By Andrew Fazekas, with a foreword by William Shatner.

Some of you may remember when the Klingons took over the planetarium to learn the proper names and locations of the stars in the Star Trek Universe.  It was so successful, there was a repeat performance the following year, in conjunction with Con*Cept.  That was many years ago, and very early in TNG series.

Andrew Fazekas with his advance copy

Now, Andrew Fazekas, one of my friends from the RASC, Montreal Centre, has written an official guide to the Trek universe and had it published by National Geographic.  It becomes available June 7th, and can be pre-ordered from Chapters/Indigo online, for 21,95$.  I’m looking forward to reading it!




Our sensors have detected…

  • Changes in Earth’s magnetic field
  • Noctilucent clouds
  • Upcoming movies to watch for


  • Changes in Earth’s magnetic field: Anyone watching a compass needle point steadily north might suppose that Earth’s magnetic field is a constant. It’s not. Researchers have long known that changes are afoot. The north magnetic pole routinely moves, as much as 40 km/yr, causing compass needles to drift over time. Moreover, the global magnetic field has weakened 10% since the 19th century.

    A new study by the European Space Agency’s constellation of Swarm satellites reveals that changes may be happening even faster than previously thought. In this map, blue depicts where Earth’s magnetic field is weak and red shows regions where it is strong… Read more http://spaceweather.com/  Clicking on the graphic will open a sequence showing the changes over the years.

  • Noctilucent clouds: NLCs are Earth’s highest clouds. Seeded by meteoroids, they float at the edge of space more than 80 km above the planet’s surface. The clouds are very cold and filled with tiny ice crystals that glow electric-blue when they catch the rays of the setting sun.   Normally, we don’t see them until late May, early June, but one observer believes he has seen the first ones already. Read more and view the photo from Space Weather. 
  • Upcoming movies to watch for: ( From File 770.)Hampus Eckerman recommends keeping an eye open for a chance to see these three movies.

    A group of online gamers are invited to try a state-of-the-art virtual reality video game but things take a turn for the sinister when these masters of the shoot ’em up discover they will literally be fighting for their lives.

    NEUROO-X, a German-Swiss-Chinese entertainment company group, stands for games that dissolve the boundary between reality and gaming). A new gadget, the myth-enshrouded RED BOOK, offers the ultimate gaming experience. The most secret longings of gamers are scanned by the engine and transformed into fantastic adventures. The conspiracy psychoses of users are the raw material for the storytelling of NEUROO-X. Marcus, Chief Development Manager of NEUROO-X dies shortly before completion of the RED BOOK. His lover Ryuko finds out that something terrible happened during testing of the game in China, and the deeper she submerges into the secret of NEUROO-X, the more she loses touch with reality. She neglects her son Walter, who logs into the game and disappears into the digital parallel world. The more Ryuko fights the corporation in order to rescue her son, the more she updates the narrative desired by NEUROO-X. Ryuko finds herself in a world full of demons, witches, knights and terrorists.


    Three ordinary guys are thrust into a parallel world of an old Sci-Fi movie. Trapped in a low budget universe they must somehow fight their way home before it is too late.


Very Long Range Sensors: Astronomy


Robot looks up

  • Increasing Chance of Solar flares
  • Intensifying Cosmic Rays
  • Edge of Space Thanks
  • The 5 planets in pre-dawn sky
  • Hunting for Exoplanets at Proxima Centauri


From http://spaceweather.com/

INCREASING CHANCE OF FLARES: NOAA forecasters have boosted the odds of an M-class flare today to 25%. The probable source would be sunspot AR2488, which has developed an unstable ‘beta-gamma’ magnetic field with pent-up energy for strong explosions. Any M-flares today could produce minor shortwave radio blackouts.

INTENSIFYING COSMIC RAYS: For the past year, neutron monitors around the Arctic Circle have sensed an increasing intensity of cosmic rays. Polar latitudes are a good place to make such measurements, because Earth’s magnetic field funnels and concentrates cosmic radiation there. Turns out, Earth’s poles aren’t the only place cosmic rays are intensifying. Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have been launching helium balloons to the stratosphere to measure radiation, and they find the same trend over California. Read more: http://spaceweather.com/

HEY, THANKS! The cosmic ray research of Earth to Sky Calculus is 100% crowd-funded. The latest flight on Jan. 24th was sponsored by ABC affiliate KOMO TV of Seattle, Washington. KOMO’s donation of $500 paid for all the supplies necessary to get the high-altitude balloon off the ground. To say “thanks”, we flew their logo to the edge of space.

THE GREAT NAKED-EYE PLANET SHOW: The mainstream media is buzzing with news about astronomy: From now until Feb. 20th, anyone who wakes up before sunrise can see Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter all at once, no telescope required. These are the five brightest planets, and they are a beautiful sight lined up from east to west in the predawn sky. Click for observing chart.

From Sky and Telescope:

Hunting for Planets Around Proxima Centauri
The Pale Red Dot Initiative has begun its search for exoplanets orbiting the nearest star to Earth besides the Sun. – See more

Looking up! Observing highlights Jan 22-30

From Sky and Telescope, the observing highlights for this coming week. If the sky is clear on Sunday evening, after the club supper, we’ll see if we can pick out the winter hexagon.  Google for Winter Hexagon to see several images, some with all the stars and constellations labelled.

Start with brilliant Sirius at its bottom. Going clockwise from there, march through Procyon, Pollux and Castor, Capella high up, Aldebaran over to Capella’s right, down to Rigel in Orion’s foot, and back to Sirius.
In the meantime, you will find the sky charts and diagrams on this page really useful and interesting. There are 5 planets visible in the pre-dawn sky, a full moon on the 23rd (good time to see the rays from Tycho, binoculars will suffice) and on the 27th, Jupiter is just above the moon.

Remote Sensors

Remote sensors have detected:
  • X-Files: Still want to believe?
  • See 5 planets at once
  • Dr Who Spin-off series
  • Scottish National party wants to establish Europe’s first spaceport in the UK
  • In 2002, the FBI closed the X-Files and our investigations ceased, but my personal obsession did not.” Mulder

Sunday, CTV, Fox, at 10PM.  Watch the timing if you are recording, it’s scheduled to follow the  NFC Championship Game.  Looks like all the main cast characters are back in their roles. http://doyoustillbelieve.com/ has a trailer.

  • A treat for early risersSee 5 planets at once this week.   You need a really clear horizon to the SE to see Mercury, but the other four planets and the stars Spica and Antares should be obvious even from the city.

5 planets

  • Doctor Whospinoff series “Class” will air stateside in 2016 on BBC America, it was announced Friday at Television Critics Association in Pasadena, Calif.

    The eight-part series is from young-adult author Patrick Ness, who is known for writing the “A Monster Calls” books. The series is exec produced by “Doctor Who’s” Steven Moffat and Brian Minchin and is a co-production between BBC America and BBC Cymru Wales. It is filmed in Cardiff in the U.K.

  • The SNP MP Philippa Whitford led a debate in the House of Commons on Thursday on the future of the UK space industry, which she concluded by giving the Vulcan salute. The MP made the case for a spaceport to be established in her constituency of Central Ayrshire. Great mimic of Scotty fretting over the Dilithium crystals.  Watch video.

Looking up!

Robot looks upNew findings from New Horizons shape understanding of Pluto and its moons

Among the highlights of a recent meeting are insights into Pluto’s geology and composition as well as new details about the unexpected haze in Pluto’s atmosphere and its interaction with the solar wind.  Read more, see fabulous montage of images on Astronomy Magazine’s website.

Cassini closes in on Enceladus one last time
NASA’s Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft makes its final close flyby of the ocean-bearing moon Enceladus on December 19.
A thrilling chapter in the exploration of the solar system will soon conclude, as NASA’s Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft makes its final close flyby of the ocean-bearing moon Enceladus. Cassini is scheduled to fly past Enceladus at a distance of 3,106 miles (4,999 kilometers) on Saturday, Dec. 19, at 9:49 a.m. PST (12:49 p.m. EST).

Although the spacecraft will continue to observe Enceladus during the remainder of its mission (through September 2017), it will be from much greater distances — at closest, more than four times farther away than the Dec. 19 encounter.

The upcoming flyby will focus on measuring how much heat is coming through the ice from the moon’s interior — an important consideration for understanding what is driving the plume of gas and icy particles that sprays continuously from an ocean below the surface.  Read more from the Astronomy website.