Monday, 19 November 2012

Orion vanaf Boyden-sterrewag

ASSA Bloemfontein het `n mini werkswinkel oor "Wyeveldastrofotografie met `n DSLR-kamera op `n driepoot gehou. Barbara Cunow se lesing by die Kaapse simposium het as grondslag gedien.

Daar is so bietjie afgewyk van die lesing, maar die basiese beginsel was dieselfde.

Verloop van die lesing:

Kyk eers na die YouTube-video en bespreek dit.
  •  Doing astrophotography with a DSLR on a tripod, presented by Barbara Cunow

    - YouTube
Basiese stappe.
1. DSLR-kamera (Weet hoe werk die Self Timer om die kamera eers te stabiliseer; (of `n elektroniese sluiterontspanner). Gebruik die kamera op Manual; Fokus ees op helder ster of planeet en skakel dan outofokus af.
2. Stewige driepoot
3. Hoë ISO  1600 en 3200
4. Kort beligtings 4 sekondes tot so 10 sekondes  werk goed in ligbesoedelde omgewing
5. Lens: 18 - 55mm en 100mm
6. Beligtings: 10 - 480

1. Barbara eveel Regim aan om fot's op mekaar te pak (stack).   (Laai af)  Jy het die jongste Java Script-sagteware nodig en laai Regim af met 64 bit Internet Explorer). Unzip en dubbelkliek op regim.cmd.

2. Ons het Deepskystacker gebruik (DSS) (Laai af)

   - YouTube-video om Deepskystacker te gebruik
   -  Nog een wat by vorige aansluit (met aanpassings)

Die les wat ons uit die lesing geleer het is om dinge eenvoudig te hou.
Hierdie is die begin van jou eerste treetjies om astrofotografie te doen.

Bietjie afdwaal. 
Johan Smit van Pretoria het vroeër vanjaar by die Karoo-sterrefees `n eenvoudige formule gegee om met jou ISO en die fokale lengte van jou lens die regte sluiterspoed uit te werk sonder om sterstrepe (startrails) te kry.

Hierdie formule kan veral in `n donker  omgewing werk en `n goeie riglyn wees. Eksperimenteer gerus daarmee.  Hier is `n webtuiste waar dit bespreek word.  ( Tips > Stars & Star Trails ).  Barbarahet haar foto's in `n ligbesoedelde omgewing geneem.

Di. ISO ÷ Focal Length = Maximum Shutter Speed

- Onthou die goedkoper DSLR-kameras het `n X1.6  faktor.

- Vir hierdie kameras is die formule:  ISO ÷ (Focal Length X 1.6) = Maximum Shutter Speed
 Voorbeeld:  3200 ISO ÷  (24mm X 1.6) = 83 sekondes.

  Vir `n plek met baie ligbesoedeling sou jy hierdie formule kon aanpas. Stel op 400 ISO en `n 10 sekonde beligting is die gevolg.  Dit gaan jou so `n bietjie eksperimentering kos.

Hannes Pieterse

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The Washington Double Star Catalog

Astrometry Department, U.S. Naval Observatory
3450 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20392

The Washington Double Star Catalog (WDS) maintained by the United States Naval Observatory is the world's principal database of astrometric double and multiple star information. The WDS Catalog contains positions (J2000), discoverer designations, epochs, position angles, separations, magnitudes, spectral types, proper motions, and, when available, Durchmusterung numbers and notes for the components of 103,861 systems based on 750,563 means.

Global Warming Cause Felt by Satellites and Space Junk

An artist's illustration of the Canadian Space Agency's SCISAT-1 satellite in orbit, which is carrying the Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment to track carbon dioxide levels in Earth's atmosphere.
CREDIT: Canadian Space Agency

Rising carbon dioxide levels at the edge of space are apparently reducing the pull that Earth's atmosphere has on satellites and space junk, researchers say.
The findings suggest that manmade increases in carbon dioxide might be having effects on the Earth that are larger than expected, scientists added.

In the layers of atmosphere closest to Earth, carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, trapping heat from the sun. Rising levels of carbon dioxide due to human activity are leading to global warming of Earth's surface.


Source: www,

Total Solar Eclipse of 2012 November 13/14

On 2012 November 13/14, a total eclipse of the Sun is visible from within a narrow corridor that traverses Earth's southern Hemisphere. The path of the Moon's umbral shadow begins in northern Australia and crosses the South Pacific Ocean with on other no landfall. The Moon's penumbral shadow produces a partial eclipse visible from a much larger region covering Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific.

For those traveling to Australia for the eclipse, please note that the eclipse occurs on the morning of Nov. 14 local time.

Read more....

Source: Nasa

The Van Allen Probes: Honoring the Origins of Magnetospheric Science

A broad suite of instruments on the Van Allen Probes will help scientists understand more about the myriad types of particles and waves in the radiation belts that encircle Earth, providing a flood of new data for scientists who study the magnetosphere. Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.

Earth's magnetism has captured human attention since the first innovator noticed that a freely moving piece of magnetized iron would always align itself with Earth's poles. Throughout most of history, the origins and physics of this magnetism remained mysterious, though by the 20th century certain things had been learned by measuring the magnetic field at Earth's surface. These measurements suggested that Earth's magnetic field was consistent with that of a giant bar magnet embedded deep inside Earth. However, the magnetic field observed at the surface of our planet is constantly fluctuating. During the 1930s scientists pioneered explanations that such fluctuations were due to streams of particles from the sun striking and becoming entrapped within Earth’s magnetic field.

Truly understanding Earth's magnetic environment, however, required traveling to space. In 1958, the first US rocket -- known as Explorer 1 and led by James Van Allen at the University of Iowa -- was launched. By providing observations of a giant swath of magnetized radiation trapped around Earth, now known as the Van Allen Belts, Explorer 1 confirmed that Earth's magnetic environment, the magnetosphere, was not a simple place. We now know that it has a complex shape – compressed on the side facing the sun, but stretched out into a long tail trailing off away from the sun -- affected as much by incoming material from the sun as Earth's own intrinsic magnetism. This magnetic field constantly fluctuates in response to both internal instabilities and events on the sun. It also provides a home for a host of electrified particles spiraling through this complex system.


Sunday, 4 November 2012

Smile! The Curiosity Rover’s Ultimate Self-Portrait

Click to Enlarge

The Curiosity rover self portrait. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

Source: Universe Today
OK, we thought the low-resolution self-portrait from yesterday was great… but here’s the real goods: a monster, high-resolution awesome mosaic of 55 images taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), showing the rover at its spot in Gale Crater — called Rocknest — with the base of Gale Crater’s 5-kilometer- (3-mile-) high mountain, Aeolis Mons or Mount Sharp, rising in the background. The images were taken on Sol 84 (Oct. 31, 2012), and sent to Earth today. In the foreground, four scoop scars can be seen in the regolith in front of the rover. As we mentioned about the previous MAHLI mosaic, the arm was moved for each of the 55 images, so the arm and the camera doesn’t show up, just like any photographer behind the camera (or their arms) isn’t visible in a photograph.

You can get access to the full resolution version at this link. It’s amazing.
But that’s not all…

Read more:

Scientists Monitor Comet Breakup

Comet 168P-Hergenrother was imaged by the NOAO/Gemini telescope on Nov. 2, 2011 at about 6 a.m. UTC. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/NOAO/Gemini › Full view

The Hergenrother comet is currently traversing the inner-solar system. Amateur and professional astronomers alike have been following the icy-dirt ball over the past several weeks as it has been generating a series of impressive outbursts of cometary-dust material. Now comes word that the comet's nucleus has taken the next step in its relationship with Mother Nature.
"Comet Hergenrother is splitting apart," said Rachel Stevenson, a post-doctoral fellow working at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Using the National Optical Astronomy Observatory's Gemini North Telescope on top of Mauna Kea, Hawaii, we have resolved that the nucleus of the comet has separated into at least four distinct pieces resulting in a large increase in dust material in its coma."
With more material to reflect the sun's rays, the comet's coma has brightened considerably.
"The comet fragments are considerably fainter than the nucleus," said James Bauer, the deputy principal investigator for NASA's NEOWISE mission, from the California Institute of Technology. "This is suggestive of chunks of material being ejected from the surface."
The comet's fragmentation event was initially detected on Oct. 26 by a team of astronomers from the Remanzacco Observatory, using the Faulkes Telescope North in Haleakala, Hawaii. The initial fragment was also imaged by the WIYN telescope group at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona.
For those interested in viewing Hergenrother, with a larger-sized telescope and a dark sky, the comet can be seen in between the constellations of Andromeda and Lacerta.
The orbit of comet 168P/Hergenrother comet is well understood. The comet, nor any of its fragments, are a threat to Earth.
 Source:  Visit NASA
DC Agle 818-393-9011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Popular on the blog: How to find the South Celestial Pole (SCP) almost accurately.

The Most Pobular Post on the Blog!

Sky Guide Africa South 2013

Prepared by the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa for use by novice, amateur and professional astronomers, Sky Guide Africa South 2013 is a practical resource, offering information for the whole year on the movement of the planets, upcoming eclipses, the dates of meteor showers, as well as star charts to aid in identifying stars and constellations in the southern African night skies.

The book also presents a wealth of information in a clear and accessible way about the Sun, Moon, planets, comets, meteors and bright stars, with many supporting diagrams, charts, illustrations and images.

An annual publication, Sky Guide Africa South is an invaluable resource for anyone with an interest in the night skies of southern Africa; ‘… an absolute must for first-time star-gazers and professional astronomers alike’.

Monday, 29 October 2012

ASSA Symposium 2012 - Videos on YouTube

Several talks given recently at the ASSA Symposium in Cape Town can now be watched on YouTube, and more are being added.

  • The MeerKAT radio telescope - the path to the SKA mid-frequency array, presented by Justin Jonas
  •  Radio astronomy: SKA-era interferometry and other challenges, presented by Jasper Horrell
  •  Galaxy Clusters, presented by Maciej Soltynski
  •  Astrophotography from a backyard observatory, presented by Dale Liebenberg
  •  Some open clusters I didn’t discover, presented by Auke Slotegraaf
  •  A pictorial history of SAAO Sutherland, presented by Willie Koorts
  •  Doing astrophotography with a DSLR on a tripod, presented by Barbara Cunow
  •  The shaping and testing of two 20-inch optical telescope mirrors, presented by Johann Swanepoel

More to come

SpaceX capsule completes successful first mission

The unmanned SpaceX capsule made a safe splashdown in the Pacific Sunday after successfully delivering its first commercial payload to the International Space Station.
The capsule parachuted into the water at 1922 GMT after an 18-day mission to resupply the station and was now being recovered by a team of divers, US-based SpaceX said in a brief statement on its website.


Sunday, 21 October 2012

Milky Way Galaxy is Embedded Immersed Swimming in a 1 to 2.5 Million Degree PLASMA Gas Cloud Coronal Bubble

 Click to enlarge Image.

Source: Holographic Fractal Filamentary Universe of Electricity, Magnetism, Superfluids and Dusty Galaxies

A humongous gaseous plasma coronal cloud bubble surrounding and engulfing the milky way galaxy, far better describes the new discovery, that is being purportedly called just a "superheated gas cloud or gas pool."  CORONAL GALAXY CLOUD :

The galactic corona was first predicted and theorized by nobel prize winning astrophysicist Haanes Alfven. Conventionally accepted dogmatic big-bang gravity theorists are still purporting phony cosmology theories, and trying to explain all the missing gravity for galaxies as dark matter. They are just calling this a "hot intergalactic cloud of gas." 

Gaseous filaments at these extreme high temperatures are scientifically proven to be in the realm for plasma astrophysicists, not gravity cosmologists.  Small amounts of moving charges are intrinsic to plasmas, and far more responsible for shaping and ruling the universe by the fundamental force of electromagnetism. New findings by the trio of Chandra X-ray satellites shows that the enormous sized superheated gas cloud is between 1 to 2.5 million degrees kelvin, and entirely surrounding our milky way galaxy.

Charged oxygen atoms were detected absorbing X-ray light at this temperature range around the galaxy in the outer galaxy halo. All galaxies, especially those similar to our milky way, can be presumed to also be embedded and swimming inside gigantic hot plasma gas pools. The outer galaxy halo is several hundred times hotter than our sun's surface, and between 10 to 60 billion solar masses. Astronomer Smita Mathur of Ohio State University says "the outer, hotter gas halo may extend for a few thousand light years around our milky way galaxy, or it may extend farther out into the surrounding local group of galaxies."

The new findings show the newly discovered "outer, hotter gas halo" is much larger than the previously discovered warm hot intergalactic medium or WHIM filaments. The WHIM is between 100,000 - 1 million degrees kelvin, and far smaller in size. Stars have been shown to form inside the spiral arms of galaxies by condensation of the cooler gaseous intergalactic filaments.

The estimated density of this gas halo is so low that similar halos around other galaxies evade current detection methods. All the talk about finding and solving the mystery of the missing baryons of the universe by this new discovery, are foolish theory conjectures. 

Unmeasurable by detection methods, plasmas are known to have moving charges by electromagnetic forces far stronger in strength over vast distances than the gravitational mass of the gas. This produces cosmic-scale electric and magnetic fields requiring further complex plasma mathematics, but correctly mimics and replaces the phony devised relativity  interpretation having numerous problems.

This is what should really matter in any cosmology of the universe. The new findings strongly support plasma cosmology.

Famed British soprano Sarah Brightman is planning a concert in space.

Source: The Huffington Post

Famed British soprano Sarah Brightman is planning a concert in space.

The "Phantom of the Opera" star announced her unusual booking in a press conference in Moscow this week, stating that she will be part of a three-person crew destined for the International Space Station (ISS) sometime in the next two to three years, reports Playbill.

Brightman plans to hitch a ride to the ISS aboard a Soyuz rocket powered by the Russian Federal Space Agency and orbit the earth for an estimated 10 days. The trip will be coordinated by Space Adventures, Ltd., a commercial space travel company created to satisfy the needs of daring (and moneyed) private citizens.

But orbiting isn't all the former disco queen intends to do. The 52-year-old singer also plans to become the first professional musician to sing from space...that is, if those ambitious Muse boys don't beat her to it.

According to a statement in an NBC News report, the UNESCO Artist for Peace Ambassador hopes to use her trip to "promote peace and sustainable development on Earth and from space."

"I am determined that this journey can reach out to be a force for good, a catalyst for some of the dreams and aims of others that resonate with me," she added.

The singer will have to wait until the release of her new album, "Dreamchase," until she can begin the training necessary to become a cosmonaut though. That gives us plenty of time to contemplate which single she will perform in space first. We vote she bring Andrea Boccelli beyond the exosphere and do "Time to Say Goodbye."

Astronomers discover 'diamond planet' twice the size of Earth

Source: Metro

A planet made largely of diamond and twice the size of Earth has been discovered by astronomers who have decided to call it '55 Cancri E'.

By Chris Wickham

LONDON (Reuters) - Forget the diamond as big as the Ritz. This one's bigger than planet Earth.

Orbiting a star that is visible to the naked eye, astronomers have discovered a planet twice the size of our own made largely out of diamond.

The rocky planet, called '55 Cancri e', orbits a sun-like star in the constellation of Cancer and is moving so fast that a year there lasts a mere 18 hours.

Discovered by a U.S.-Franco research team, its radius is twice that of Earth's with a mass eight times greater. That would give it the same density as Earth, although previously observed diamond planets are reckoned to be a lot more dense. It is also incredibly hot, with temperatures on its surface reaching 3,900 degrees Fahrenheit (1,648 Celsius).

"The surface of this planet is likely covered in graphite and diamond rather than water and granite," said Nikku Madhusudhan, the Yale researcher whose findings are due to be published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The study - with Olivier Mousis at the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planetologie in Toulouse, France - estimates that at least a third of the planet's mass, the equivalent of about three Earth masses, could be diamond.

Diamond planets have been spotted before but this is the first time one has been seen orbiting a sun-like star and studied in such detail.

"This is our first glimpse of a rocky world with a fundamentally different chemistry from Earth," Madhusudhan said, adding that the discovery of the carbon-rich planet meant distant rocky planets could no longer be assumed to have chemical constituents, interiors, atmospheres, or biologies similar to Earth.

David Spergel, an astronomer at Princeton University, said it was relatively simple to work out the basic structure and history of a star once you know its mass and age.

"Planets are much more complex. This 'diamond-rich super-Earth' is likely just one example of the rich sets of discoveries that await us as we begin to explore planets around nearby stars."

"Nearby" is a relative concept in astronomy. Any fortune-hunter not dissuaded by "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz", F.Scott Fitzgerald's jazz age morality tale of thwarted greed, will find Cancri e about 40 light years, or 230 trillion miles, from Park Avenue.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Hubble Goes to the eXtreme to Assemble Farthest Ever View of the Universe

Source: HubbleSite

September 25, 2012: Like photographers assembling a portfolio of best shots, astronomers have assembled a new, improved portrait of mankind's deepest-ever view of the universe. Called the eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF, the photo was assembled by combining 10 years of NASA Hubble Space Telescope photographs taken of a patch of sky at the center of the original Hubble Ultra Deep Field. The XDF is a small fraction of the angular diameter of the full Moon.

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field is an image of a small area of space in the constellation Fornax, created using Hubble Space Telescope data from 2003 and 2004. By collecting faint light over many hours of observation, it revealed thousands of galaxies, both nearby and very distant, making it the deepest image of the universe ever taken at that time. The new full-color XDF image reaches much fainter galaxies and includes very deep exposures in red light from Hubble's new infrared camera, enabling new studies of the earliest galaxies in the universe. The XDF contains about 5,500 galaxies even within its smaller field of view. The faintest galaxies are one ten-billionth the brightness of what the human eye can see.

Astronomers continue studying this area of sky with Hubble. Extensive ongoing observing programs, led by Harry Teplitz and Richard Ellis at the California Institute of Technology, will allow astronomers to study the deep-field galaxies with Hubble to even greater depths in ultraviolet and infrared light prior to the launch of JWST. These new results will provide even more extraordinary views of this region of the sky and will be shared with the public in the coming months.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

A Problem with Pluto's Moons

This artist’s concept shows NASA's New Horizons spacecraft during its 2015 encounter with Pluto and its moon, Charon. CREDIT: Southwest Research Institute

Article sourced from Sky and Telescope magazine

The discovery of two tiny moons circling the most famous "dwarf planet" has raised concerns that the New Horizons spacecraft might be endangered when it flies by in July 2015.Ordinarily the discovery of a new addition to the Sun's ever-growing family is cause for celebration. That was the case when astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope to spot a tiny, fourth moon around Pluto in 2011 — and then a fifth one earlier this year.

But Alan Stern (Southwest Research Institute) has a love-hate relationship with "P4" and "P5," as they're known colloquially. Stern is the principal investigator of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, which will fly past Pluto on July 14, 2015 — 999 days from now.

On one hand, the extra moonlets provide a richer assortment of objects to image and study when the spacecraft arrives. Stern likes to point out that when New Horizons was being assembled, Charon was the only satellite known to orbit Pluto. Now there are five (including Nix and Hydra, found in 2005). "We're getting six objects for the price of two," he notes.

P4 and P5 are known officially as S/2011 (134340) 1 and S/2012 (134340) 1 — following the International Astronomical Union's convoluted designation scheme, in which "134340" is the minor-planet number assigned to Pluto. According to a recent analysis by Marc Buie (also at SWRI) and others, P4 is no more than 25 miles (40 km) across and P5 a little more than half that — so small that New Horizons might overlook them completely unless it's targeted right at them.

Orbits of Pluto's moons  
The orbits of Pluto's five known moons. As now planned, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will pass just 6,200 miles (10,000 km) in July 2015.
Source: NASA / ESA / A. Feild (STScI)
But what concerns Stern is not P4 and P5 themselves, or even other as-yet-unseen moonlets in Pluto's family, but rather what might be happening to them. As he explained during this week's meeting of the the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences, interlopers from the Kuiper Belt should be chipping away at these little bodies, which have too little gravity to clean up their own impact-generated mess. There's a real possibility that extended doughnuts of debris could be cluttering the space inside Charon's orbit — a dangerous gauntlet for the approaching spacecraft.

"I'm a little bit worried," Stern admits. "Even being struck by a BB would be bad at 14 km per second."

The mission team won't know if it's safe to use New Horizon's planned target point, just 6,200 miles (10,000 km) from Pluto, until just a few weeks before the encounter. "We won't have 7 minutes of terror," he says, referring to what the Curiosity flight team endured in August. "We'll have 7 weeks of suspense."

If there's danger ahead, ground controllers will have to redirect the spacecraft onto a new flyby path that's farther away. That go/no-go decision can be made as late as 10 days prior to the encounter. But by then there'll be too little time to develop a revised sequence of imaging and other observations for the craft's seven experiments. So Stern has already started planning one or more alternative pathways that he's dubbed "safe haven bailout trajectories." Nine of these are under consideration, but only the one or two best candidates are likely to be fleshed out over the next two years.

Meanwhile, the teams of astronomers who discovered P4 and P5, which include Stern, will be thinking up names for their little finds. Nothing's been decided yet, but word is that both will be christened well before the flyby. 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Planet Found in Nearest Star System to Earth

 Source: European Southern Observatory (ESO)

ESO’s HARPS instrument finds Earth-mass exoplanet orbiting Alpha Centauri B
16 October 2012

European astronomers have discovered a planet with about the mass of the Earth orbiting a star in the Alpha Centauri system — the nearest to Earth. It is also the lightest exoplanet ever discovered around a star like the Sun. The planet was detected using the HARPS instrument on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. The results will appear online in the journal Nature on 17 October 2012.

Alpha Centauri is one of the brightest stars in the southern skies and is the nearest stellar system to our Solar System — only 4.3 light-years away. It is actually a triple star — a system consisting of two stars similar to the Sun orbiting close to each other, designated Alpha Centauri A and B, and a more distant and faint red component known as Proxima Centauri [1]. Since the nineteenth century astronomers have speculated about planets orbiting these bodies, the closest possible abodes for life beyond the Solar System, but searches of increasing precision had revealed nothing. Until now.

“Our observations extended over more than four years using the HARPS instrument and have revealed a tiny, but real, signal from a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri B every 3.2 days,” says Xavier Dumusque (Geneva Observatory, Switzerland and Centro de Astrofisica da Universidade do Porto, Portugal), lead author of the paper. “It’s an extraordinary discovery and it has pushed our technique to the limit!”

The European team detected the planet by picking up the tiny wobbles in the motion of the star Alpha Centauri B created by the gravitational pull of the orbiting planet [2]. The effect is minute — it causes the star to move back and forth by no more than 51 centimetres per second (1.8 km/hour), about the speed of a baby crawling. This is the highest precision ever achieved using this method.

Alpha Centauri B is very similar to the Sun but slightly smaller and less bright. The newly discovered planet, with a mass of a little more than that of the Earth [3], is orbiting about six million kilometres away from the star, much closer than Mercury is to the Sun in the Solar System. The orbit of the other bright component of the double star, Alpha Centauri A, keeps it hundreds of times further away, but it would still be a very brilliant object in the planet’s skies.

Complete article...

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Space Jump Success: Baumgartner Leaps From 24-Mile Altitude

Source: Mashable

Felix Baumgartner jumped from a capsule dangling from a balloon at 127,900 feet today, breaking the record for the highest altitude skydive in history.

Even though he detected a problem with a heater that was designed to keep his visor clear, he leapt from the capsule anyway, parachuting safely to earth.

The daredevil space jump was an Internet sensation, with the live stream video on YouTube of the space jump breaking all records by orders of magnitude. At this writing, YouTube had more than 8 million people watching its livestream.

The launch had been delayed several times because of wins, which must be nearly calm for the balloon to begin its ascent. For the balloon to get from the ground near Roswell New Mexico to its maximum altitude of 127,800 feet took nearly 2 1/2 hours, but once Felix Baumgartner leapt from the capsule, he quickly plummeted to earth. It’s not clear yet if he broke the sound barrier.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Signs point to interstellar space for Voyager 1 probe

Source: Spaceflight Now

More than 35 years after launching from Earth and now at the frontier of the solar system, NASA's Voyager 1 probe may be tasting interstellar space for the first time, according to scientists analyzing fresh data from the distant explorer.

Launched in September 1977 to fly past Jupiter and Saturn, Voyager 1 is now cruising 11.3 billion miles away and opening its distance by 300 million miles each year.

It takes 17 hours for a radio signal to travel between Earth and Voyager 1. Its twin explorer - Voyager 2 - is lagging slightly behind at a distance of 9.2 billion miles from Earth.

The nuclear-powered probe's computers have about 68 kilobytes of memory. An 8-gigabyte iPod Nano holds more than 100,000 times as much data.


Monday, 8 October 2012

Mission to the Edge of Space

Mission dress rehearsal successfully completed. Weather looks favorable for a launch Tuesday Oct. 9.

UPDATE: Mission Update: Cold front pushes the launch to Tuesday Oct 9th. We'll send another update as soon as we get the green light for launch.

Falcon 9 Rocket Poised for Launch

07 October 2012, 03:25 PM EDT
SpaceX has hoisted the Falcon 9 rocket to launch today's Dragon flight to the space station into liftoff position ahead of tonight's planned blastoff at 8:35 p.m. EDT (0035 Monday GMT).

Curiosity Rover to Scoop Up 1st Mars Samples This Weekend

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity will scoop up its first batch of Martian soil samples this weekend, scientists announced today (Oct. 4).
The 1-ton Curiosity rover arrived at a sandy patch called "Rocknest" on Wednesday (Oct. 3). Mission scientists have deemed it a good spot for the robot's maiden scooping activities, which should begin Saturday (Oct. 6), if all goes according to plan.

Read further...

Monday, 1 October 2012

Hubble Goes to the eXtreme to Assemble Farthest Ever View of the Universe

Like photographers assembling a portfolio of best shots, astronomers have assembled a new, improved portrait of mankind's deepest-ever view of the universe. Called the eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF, the photo was assembled by combining 10 years of NASA Hubble Space Telescope photographs taken of a patch of sky at the center of the original Hubble Ultra Deep Field.

The XDF is a small fraction of the angular diameter of the full Moon. The Hubble Ultra Deep Field is an image of a small area of space in the constellation Fornax, created using Hubble Space Telescope data from 2003 and 2004.

By collecting faint light over many hours of observation, it revealed thousands of galaxies, both nearby and very distant, making it the deepest image of the universe ever taken at that time.

The new full-color XDF image reaches much fainter galaxies and includes very deep exposures in red light from Hubble's new infrared camera, enabling new studies of the earliest galaxies in the universe. The XDF contains about 5,500 galaxies even within its smaller field of view.

The faintest galaxies are one ten-billionth the brightness of what the human eye can see.

More:  HubbleSite

All systems go for Felix Baumgartner's 23-mile-high freefall toward sound barrier

His blood could boil. His lungs could overinflate. The vessels in his brain could burst. His eyes could hemorrhage.

And, yes, he could break his neck while jumping from a mind-boggling altitude of 23 miles (37 kilometers).

But the risk of a gruesome death has never stopped "Fearless Felix" Baumgartner in all his years of skydiving and skyscraper leaping, and it's not about to now.

Next Monday over New Mexico, he will attempt the highest, fastest free fall in history and try to become the first skydiver to break the sound barrier.

"So many unknowns," Baumgartner says, "but we have solutions to survive."

The 43-year-old former military parachutist from Austria is hoping to reach 690 mph (1,110 kph), or Mach 1, after leaping from his balloon-hoisted capsule over the desert near Roswell.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

The astronomical unit (AU) gets fixed

Earth–Sun distance changes from slippery equation to single number.

149,597,870,700 metres

Without fanfare, astronomers have redefined one of the most important distances in the Solar System. The astronomical unit (au) — the rough distance from the Earth to the Sun — has been transformed from a confusing calculation into a single number. The new standard, adopted in August by unanimous vote at the International Astronomical Union's meeting in Beijing, China, is now 149,597,870,700 metres — no more, no less.

More information: Nature 

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Bright New Comet on the Way

Bright New Comet on the Way
There’s another comet on the way. And this might be a great one. Called Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON), this comet is about as far away as Jupiter, but it’s expected to buzz the Sun late next year and, if it stays intact, may become as bright as the full Moon.

The comet was discovered by a Russian team of astronomers at the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON). At magnitude +18, the comet is currently beyond the reach of amateur telescopes. But the orbital elements have been calculated, and they show the comet will come amazingly close to the Sun– just 2 million km— on November 28, 2013. In mid-November through December 2013 and into January 2014, the comet may reach negative magnitudes, possible as bright as -11 to -16, which means it will be visible during the day!

Because their composition is not exactly known, each comet is unpredictable. So no one can knows for sure how bright this comet will become, or if it will survive its close encounter with the Sun.  Still, this is promising news. And this comet, unlike many recent bright comets, will be visible at mid-northern latitudes.

Southern stargazers will get their own bright comet next year. Comet Pan-STARRS is expected to become visible without optical aid next March, and come within 45 million km of the Sun on March 9, 2013.

So get your binoculars, telescopes, and cameras ready. Next year should be a good one for bright comets, perhaps the best year since 1996 when Comets Hyakutake and Hale-Bopp graced our skies…

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Braai Facts: The sun loses 4 million tons of mass per second.

Some facts when you hit that silent moment at a boring braai: 

The sun becomes four million tonnes lighter every second (not minute or hour -  every second).  If there is no reaction. Leave the braai immediately and go home!

It is because  of the fussion taking place in its core. Every second  600 million tonnes of hydrogen are turned into 596  million tonnes of helium. That means that 4 million tonnes goes missing every single second.  That mass is converted into energy, giving us some sunlight.

Why is it not running out of "steam"?  It's total mass is two thousand million  million  million  million tonnes.

Chew on that!

Source:  The Sky at Night. Answers to Questions from Across the Universe -  Patrick Moore and Chris North.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Sterre en Planete besoek Boyden-sterrewag

Prof Marian Tredoux (links) van die Departement Geologie van die Universiteit van die Vrystaat het by `n Vriende-aand meer vertel oor meteoriete van Mars wat ons op die aarde kry, en ook hoe belangrik die Curiosity-sending is.

Hennie Maas, prograamaanbieder van Sterre en Planete (regs)  het die program wat op 14 Augustus op RSG uitgesaai is die aand opgeneem.  Prof. Matie Hoffman (middel), `n gereelde deelnemer aan Sterre en Planete luister hier aandagtig na een van Hennie se vrae.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Viewing Alert: Jupiter May Have Been Impacted by a Fireball

Viewing Alert: Jupiter May Have Been Impacted by a Fireball

Sunday, 2 September 2012

2013 Karoo Starparty

Foto: 2010, Britstown Star Party

The ASSA Pretoria Centre wants to hold its fifth National Karoo Starparty during the
weekend of 9 to 11 August 2013 about 20 km north of Britstown in the Karoo, right next
to the N12 at the Kambro Padstal. The reason for this locality, apart from the fabulous
Karoo skies, is that it is almost exactly halfway between Gauteng and the Cape Town
area, so we can all drive the same distance to the site. The first event of this type was held
during April 2009 and proved to be a huge success. The Karoo lived up to its reputation
and provided magnificent views to those lucky enough to be present.

More information from: Pretoria branch of the Astronomical Society of South Africa

To book, please book contact Wilma Strauss, the Manager of Kambro, directly at
0833056668 or at e-mail:

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Neil Armstrong: 1930-2012

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, has died, following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures. He was 82.

Armstrong's words "That is one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind," spoken on July 20, 1969, as he became the first person ever to step onto another planetary body, instantly became a part of history.

Source: NASA


Thursday, 16 August 2012

Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) in Southern Sky

Source: Copyright © 2012 by Leonid Elenin (Russia)
Images of PANSTARRS acquired by Leonid Elenin on 2012 July 14 (left) and August 9 (right).

Skytools 3 Information
On this night (18 August 2012) C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) is best visible between 18:53 and 21:40, with the optimum view at 19:15. Look for it in Libra, high in the sky in complete darkness. It is detectable visually in the Orion SkyQuest XT10 Dob. Use the Ultima 42mm for optimum visual detection. It is magnitude 10 with a diameter of 4.8'.

In the following 30 days this object is detectable visually from August 19-26, and again from September 2 on, with the best view coming on September 17. During this period it will brighten slowly and move lower in the sky.

C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) will reach perihelion in early March 2013. It also is predicted to reach maximum brightness of magnitude -3 in early March. The best visibility from Bloemfontein, Boyden, ZA near maximum brightness is predicted to be in early March when it will be approximately magnitude -3. At that time it will be in Pisces, very low in the western sky during evening twilight and will be obvious in the Orion SkyQuest XT10 Dob. Note that the magnitude and visibility of a comet can be very unpredictable.

Visible in Libra - 18 August 2012

Links fo more information:

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Javascript AstroTools

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

NASA's Curiosity Rover Caught in the Act of Landing

NASA's Curiosity rover and its parachute were spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as Curiosity descended to the surface on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona 

PASADENA, Calif. – An image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance orbiter captured the Curiosity rover still connected to its 51-foot-wide (almost 16 meter) parachute as it descended towards its landing site at Gale Crater.
"If HiRISE took the image one second before or one second after, we probably would be looking at an empty Martian landscape," said Sarah Milkovich, HiRISE investigation scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "When you consider that we have been working on this sequence since March and had to upload commands to the spacecraft about 72 hours prior to the image being taken, you begin to realize how challenging this picture was to obtain."
The image of Curiosity on its parachute can be found at:
The image was taken while MRO was 211 miles (340 kilometers) away from the parachuting rover. Curiosity and its rocket-propelled backpack, contained within the conical-shaped back shell, had yet to be deployed. At the time, Curiosity was about two miles (three kilometers) above the Martian surface.
"Guess you could consider us the closest thing to paparazzi on Mars," said Milkovich. "We definitely caught NASA's newest celebrity in the act."

Monday, 6 August 2012

NASA's Curiosity rover has landed on Mars!

Firtst Image from Curiosity
Mon, 06 Aug 2012 07:32:54 AM GMT+0200
 NASA's most advanced Mars rover, Curiosity, has landed on the Red Planet. The one-ton rover, hanging by ropes from a rocket backpack, touched down onto Mars early Monday EDT to end a 36-week flight and begin a two-year investigation.

President Obama said the landing "will stand as a point of national pride far into the future."

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Boyden Observatory Open Evening - 4 August 2012

 Dr. Brian van Soelen - Explaining the SKA Telescope…

National Science Week 2012
Boyden Observatory Open Evening

4 August 2012
18h30 for 19:00

18:30: Observing with the 13-inch telescope - Saturn
19:00: Presentation on SKA: Dr. Brian van Soelen - Explaining the SKA Telescope…
19:45 Observing through telescopes weather permitting
Informal outdoor presentation

Refreshments for sale

Proposed donation: R 30 per car
Booking essential: Yolandie Fick: (051) 401 9751
Presented by: Friends of Boyden Observatory and the  en die Amateur Astronomy Society

Nasionale Wetenskapweek 2012
Boyden Sterrewag Ope-aand

04 Augustus 2012,
18h30 vir / for 19:00

18:30: Waarneming deur 13-duim teleskoop - Saturnus
19:00: Presentation on SKA: Dr. Brian van Soelen - Explaining the SKA Telescope…
19:45: Waarnemings deur teleskope indien die weer dit toelaat.
Informele buite-aanbieding

Verversings te koop

Voorgestelde donasie: R 30 per motor
Bespreking noodsaaklik
Yolandie Fick: (051) 401 9751

Aangebied deur: Vriende van Boyden Sterrewag en die Amateur Sterrekunde Vereniging

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Challenges of Getting to Mars: Curiosity's Seven Minutes of Terror

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Astronomy Books at a Bargain Price!

Bargain Books opened in Bloemfontein, Preller Square and these bargain price books are on the shelve.
Alson in Welkom: Goldfields Mall

Astronomica  (R199) 
- A Coffee Table book with a foreword by Sir Patrick Moore, 524 Pages packed with information.
Publication Date: 2007  Reprinted 2010
Written in an engaging and accessible format, Astronomica is an invaluable reference book. There are comprehensive profils of each of the planets in our Solar System, the dwarf planets, the major stars, and other astronomical bodies. The galaxies - including the Milky Way - are examined. The history of cosmology focuses on the advances that have been made through the centuries, up to the latest in cutting-edge technology. The chapter on space exploration discusses early program development, historical milestones, current ventures, the role of space stations, and the long-distance spacecraft sent out to the far reaches of the Solar System and beyond. Successful sky-watching is covered, with detailed charts of each of the 88 recognized constellations, helpful monthly sky charts, and information on equipment. Discover all you need to know about the cosmos and its fascinating features. Stunning photographs (including dual page fold-outs), detailed charts and illustrations, fact files, and timelines enhance the descriptive and informative text, as Astronomica brings the cosmic world within easy reach. (Source: Amazon)

The Practical Astronomer
Publication Date: May 17, 2010
For anyone who's ever looked at the night sky and wanted to know more about the galaxy around them, The Practical Astronomer shows readers how to discover and understand the mysteries of the solar system and beyond. Illustrated throughout with detailed photographs and illustrations, and using clear, easy-to-follow text, The Practical Astronomer takes you on a step-by-step journey from the basics of what can be seen with the naked eye, to how you can view more distant objects such as the planets of the solar system, and even galaxies far, far away-all in your own backyard. Source: Amazon

The Practical Skywatcher's Handbook. by David H. Levy, John O'Byrne
Publication Date: January 1, 2012
This practical, hands-on guide is the sailor's essential atlas of the sky. Assuming no prior knowledge, this comprehensive, practical handbook helps the user at sea or on land read and understand the changing sky. Readers are given hands-on advice on how to read the night sky and star charts, as well as information on whether particular stars can be seen with the naked eye or require binoculars or a telescope. At the core of the book are 150 sky charts, showing what features can be seen in each position and when. Every constellation in the northern and southern hemisphere is mapped out. Simple methods are given for finding the biggest, brightest stars and then identifying other lesser stars by their relative position. For sailors out of the sight of land, celestial navigation really comes into its own - providing a sure means of checking the boat's position even when GPS and other electronics malfunction. This book will provide a complete reference as to what stars and constellations they should be able to use when and where in the world. The Practical Skywatcher's Handbook is ideal for anyone, on land or sea, wanting a complete guide to the night sky. Source: Amazon

Sunday, 22 July 2012

UFS101 Astronomy Fair in Bloemfontein

Click to enlarge

Maklik `n duisend Vrystaters het die Sterrekundefees by die Universiteit van die Vrystaat in Bloemfontein bygewoon. Hier kyk van die toeskouers hoe vuurpyle gelanseer word.