Friday, 26 December 2014

Flapping UFO's

In SkyNews (January 2015)
On August 5, 2010, I was out with my telescope observing the night sky from my drive- way in southern Hamilton, Ontario, when I looked up toward the zenith and saw a triangular formation of three bright “orbs” of light moving incredibly fast toward the northern sky. By this time, I had already been observing the night sky for two years and quickly realized the lights were moving too fast and were larger in size and appearance than a satellite. They were also switching positions smoothly and swiftly. My next thought was a meteorite breakup, but there was no trail and no change in luminosity, and these objects persisted at a constant brightness for about 20 seconds before disappearing behind a tree. I could not come up with a plausible explanation.

About eight months later, while walking into The Hamilton Spectator building to attend a meeting of the Hamilton amateur astronomers, I briefly witnessed a similar event in the low eastern sky and still had no explanation. My answer finally came in June 2011. While outside on my driveway observing, I noticed five strange objects moving down the eastern sky. Luckily, I had binoculars with me this time. To my amazement—and embarrassment— I discovered that the strange “ufos” I had told numerous friends and fellow astronomers about were, in fact, Canada geese illuminated just enough by city lights from below to give the geese a strange, almost otherworldly glow, which made it very difficult to see any detail with the unaided eye. I could not hear them flying, and because they were moving about one another in formation, flapping their wings and flying at a fair speed, they gave an eerie appearance that had haunted me for almost a year.

Since then, I have seen Canada geese at night on numerous occasions. however, once I look through my binoculars, I laugh at myself and return to observing. if you witness what at first appears to be a strange triangular formation of alien craft, grab your binoculars, because I would wager that it’s some Canada geese happily on their way. and you can blame light pollution for the interruption.

Kevin Salwach
Hamilton, Ontario

(Het self al saans oor Bloemfontein hierdie wit voëls - soos bosluisvoëls gelyk - met my verkyker gesien.  Wonder of hulle die stadsligte vir navigasie gebruik? - Hannes Pieterse)

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Rosetta Images Show Philae Lander Bouncing Across Comet

Click to enlarge image

When the European Space Agency's Philae lander descended to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko last week, the Rosetta spacecraft's OSIRIS camera was watching from almost 10 miles above. Now a poignant series of images tracks Philae's double rebound — with a parting shot that shows the lander in mid-bounce.
After bouncing twice, Philae settled onto the comet's shadowed surface and operated for almost 57 hours before its batteries ran out. The lander's current location doesn't show up on the OSIRIS imagery released Monday, but the Rosetta mission's managers are confident that it will eventually be spotted. 

Source: NBC News

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Our lander’s asleep

With its batteries depleted and not enough sunlight available to recharge, Philae has fallen into 'idle mode' -- a possibly long silence. In this mode, all instruments and most systems on board are shut down.
"Prior to falling silent, the lander was able to transmit all science data gathered during the First Science Sequence," says DLR's Stephan Ulamec, Lander manager, who was in the main control room at ESOC tonight.

Read more

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

"Discover!" and "ConCards"

Click on image to enlarge!

Updates for our popular introductory star charts are now available for free download from the ASSA website.
The short "Discover!" workbook is perfect for getting to know the southern constellations. (Tip: Use the workbook in conjuction with the "Southern Star Wheel" for a complete solution.)
To delve deeper into the constellations, and to explore their deep-sky treasures, get your copy of the updated "ConCards".

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Rosetta mission - Philae’s descent and science on the surface

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission will deploy its lander, Philae, to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on 12 November.

Philae’s landing site, currently known as Site J, is located on the smaller of the comet’s two ‘lobes’, with a backup site on the larger lobe. The sites were selected just six weeks after Rosetta arrived at the comet on 6 August, following its 10-year journey through the Solar System

In that time, the Rosetta mission has been conducting an unprecedented scientific analysis of the comet, a remnant of the Solar System’s 4.6 billion-year history. The latest results from Rosetta will be presented on the occasion of the landing, during dedicated press briefings.

The main focus to date has been to survey 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko in order to prepare for the first ever attempt to soft-land on a comet.


Blood Moon Photos: Total Lunar Eclipse Pictures from April 15, 2014

    After the Blood Moon comes the Pumpkin Sun

    Click to enlarge!
    On October 7, 2014 [Manila time], active regions on the sun gave it the appearance of a jack-o'-lantern. This image is a blend of 171 and 193 angstrom light as captured by the NASA-Solar Dynamics Observatory. NASA/GSFC/SDO

     Source: GMANews

    It looks like the Moon isn't the only heavenly body giving the skies a creepy feel this month.

    After last Wednesday's "Blood Moon" comes the "Pumpkin Sun" as captured by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration last Wednesday, October 8.

    Last Wednesday, the moon took on a blood-colored appearance during a total lunar eclipse.

    "Active regions on the sun combined to look something like a jack-o-lantern’s face on Oct. 8, 2014. The active regions appear brighter because those are areas that emit more light and energy – markers of an intense and complex set of magnetic fields hovering in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona," NASA's Goodard Space Flight Center said.

    The Bermuda Triangle of Space: The High-Energy South Atlantic Anomaly Threatens Satellites

    Click to enlarge!
    Source: DefenceNews

    Much fanfare accompanied the Sept. 25, 2010, launch of the Air Force’s Space Based Space Surveillance satellite. The $833 million craft was finally going up to do its job: monitor orbiting items from space itself, free of the time constraints and atmospheric interference that hamper its earthbound counterpart, the Space Fence. Its 30-centimeter telescope, mounted on a two-axis gimbal, would help keep tabs on satellites as far away as geosynchronous orbit as well as thousands of bits of space junk closer in. The builders said SBSS would be on the job within 60 days, and forecast a working life of at least 5½ years.

    Shortly after launch, the satellite passed over the South Atlantic, and things went awry. The satellite was hit by radiation that sent the sensors reeling and knocked out an electronics board payload. Suddenly, the expensive, specially-designed satellite could no longer do what it was built for.


    Saturday, 27 September 2014

    Rosetta: Date fixed for historic comet landing attempt

    Philae is about the size of a washing machine.
    It will use harpoons and screws to try to hold itself down

    The date has been fixed for Europe's daring attempt to land on a comet: Wednesday 12 November.
    It will see the Rosetta satellite, which is currently orbiting the huge "ice mountain" known as 67P, drop a small robot from a height of 20km.

    If all goes well, the lander will free-fall towards the comet, making contact with the surface somewhere in a 1km-wide zone at roughly 15:35 GMT.

    The European Space Agency (Esa) says the challenges ahead are immense.

    Imagine pushing a washing machine out the back of an airliner at twice cruising altitude and expecting it to hit Regent's Park in London - all while the ground is moving underneath.

    Although not really analogous for many reasons, this scenario does give a sense of the difficulties involved.

    The chances of failure are high.

    Friday, 19 September 2014

    Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2014 - in pictures

    Click to enlarge

    The Royal Observatory Greenwich has announced the winners of this year’s international astronomy photography competition. The observatory’s annual free exhibition, which opened on Thursday, showcases these dazzling images of the sky, ranging from within our solar system to far into deep space. British photographer James Woodend beat over a thousand amateur and professional photographers to win the top prize.

    Inkspot - The only Dark Nebula with it's own wine?

    Is it Barnard 86 with it's own wine label or Inkspot 2010 Vin Noir with it's own dark nebula?

    - Give that man an Inkspot! From Herschel with love!

    Monday, 15 September 2014

    Space in Images - 2014 - 09 - Philae’s primary landing site

    Philae’s primary landing site will target Site J, the centre of which
    is indicated by the cross in this OSIRIS narrow-angle image.

    J is located on the head of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and is
    close to the candidate site B, the large depression to the right of the

    Site J offers the minimum risk to the lander in comparison
    to the other candidate sites, and is also scientifically interesting,
    with signs of activity nearby. At Site J, the majority of slopes are
    less than 30º relative to the local vertical, reducing the chances of
    Philae toppling over during touchdown. Site J also appears to have
    relatively few boulders and receives sufficient daily illumination to
    recharge Philae and continue science operations on the surface beyond
    the initial battery-powered phase.

    Full story: 'J' marks the spot for Rosetta's lander

    Wednesday, 10 September 2014

    Rosetta spacecraft selfie with comet

    Here is a Rosetta ‘selfie’ with comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko in
    background. It was taken by the CIVA camera – short for Comet Infrared
    and Visible Analyser – onboard the Philae Lander. This is the same
    camera that will be acquiring images from the surface of the comet
    itself, when the Philae lander sets down on the comet in November.

    Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko was 50 kilometers / 31 miles away at the time of this image.

    Two frames were taken and merged due to the high contrast.

    Rosetta isn’t the first otherworldly object to get in on the earthly trend of selfies. NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover caught one, too, earlier this year.

    Rosetta spacecraft selfie with comet | Science Wire | EarthSky

    Friday, 29 August 2014

    Naval Hill Planetarium

    The first digital planetarium in sub-Saharan Africa – situated on Naval Hill, right here in Bloemfontein – opened on 1 November 2013! The University of the Free State (UFS) is managing this facility.

    Adults: R50
    Learners: R30
    Students (with valid student card): R30
    Pensioners: R30
    Tariffs and dates for group reservations are available on request.

    Buy tickets at:
    • The Planetarium before shows (but keep in mind that the Planetarium is regularly full);
    • Computicket at all Checkers, Shoprite, House and Home and Checkers Hyper shops;
    • Computicket’s enquiry centre (08619158000); or
    • Online at (look for ‘planetarium’); 
    • Online mobi with mobile devices (look for ‘planetarium’).
    Please direct enquiries via email to Yolandie Loots at  or contact her on 051 401 9751.

    Monday, 18 August 2014

    C/2013 V5 (Oukaimeden) visible in South Africa

     Click to enlarge

     Skytools 3 information (18 August 2014)

    Telescope: SkyQuest XT10 Dob. It is magnitude 9 with a diameter of 2.7'.

    In the following 30 days this object is obvious visually from August 20 on, with the best view coming on September 15. During this period it will brighten rapidly and will reach peak altitude of 34° on September 2.

    C/2013 V5 (Oukaimeden) will reach perihelion in late September. Also in late September this comet will pass within 0.6 AU of the earth. It is predicted to reach maximum brightness of magnitude 5 in mid September. The best visibility from Bloemfontein, Boyden, ZA near maximum brightness is predicted to be in mid September when it will be approximately magnitude 5. On September 16 this comet will be moving quickly across the sky at a peak rate of 13.8 "/min. Note that the magnitude and visibility of a comet can be very unpredictable.

    Current Status

    Earth Distance: 1.3 AU
    Sun Distance: 1.0 AU
    Elongation:  51°
    Tail Position Angle: 259°
    Tail Forshortening: 24%
    Actual Coma Diameter: 160000 km
    DC:  5
    Total motion: 1.68 "/min
       RA:  1.30 "/min
       Dec: -1.09 "/min

    Monday, 11 August 2014

    Rosetta arrives at comet destination

    6 August 2014
    After a decade-long journey chasing its target, ESA’s Rosetta has today become the first spacecraft to rendezvous with a comet, opening a new chapter in Solar System exploration.
    Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and Rosetta now lie 405 million kilometres from Earth, about half way between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars, rushing towards the inner Solar System at nearly 55 000 kilometres per hour.
    The comet is in an elliptical 6.5-year orbit that takes it from beyond Jupiter at its furthest point, to between the orbits of Mars and Earth at its closest to the Sun. Rosetta will accompany it for over a year as they swing around the Sun and back out towards Jupiter again.
    Comets are considered to be primitive building blocks of the Solar System and may have helped to ‘seed’ Earth with water, perhaps even the ingredients for life. But many fundamental questions about these enigmatic objects remain, and through a comprehensive,in situstudy of the comet, Rosetta aims to unlock the secrets within.

    Read more

    More images

    Saturday, 9 August 2014

    10 August 2014 - The largest Full Moon for the Year

    Image of the Moon taken over Table Mountain, credit: Dr Steve Potter, SAAO.

    Source: SAAO

    Did you know that the Moon travels around the Earth in an oval shaped or elliptical orbit rather than a circular one? The average distance between the Earth and Moon is 384,400 km. However, because of its elliptical path, the distance to the Moon varies depending on where it is in its orbit around Earth. At its closest point or perigee, the Moon is about 50,000 km closer to Earth than at its most distant point (called apogee).

    Full Moons that occur when the Moon is close to or at perigee are called Supermoons and they appear slightly larger and brighter than usual. There is nothing magical about a Supermoon, it is simply a coincidence that full moon has occured when the Moon is near to its closest point to Earth. Just like an aeroplane looks larger the closer it is, so does the Moon.


    Thursday, 7 August 2014

    Meteorites: A Southern African Perspective

    Meteorites are the remnants of meteors from outer space that have survived the corridor of fire through Earth's atmosphere and landed on our planet. Rare, and bearing secrets about the formation of our Universe, these 'treasures from space' have fascinated people ever since they were first identified in the late 18th century as extraterrestrial arrivals.

    This jam-packed book by enthusiast and collector Ronnie McKenzie introduces the topic in straightforward language and is richly illustrated with some 200 photographs and diagrams. It discusses how to identify meteorites, where they come from and where they have landed on Earth, the many different types, and how to set about collecting them. It also dispels some of the myths about these stones, and presents some infamous meteorite scams.

    A handy basic guide for those new to the topic, and for anyone interested in entering the field of meteorite collecting.

    Sunday, 3 August 2014

    Deep-Sky Hunter Star Atlas

    "Deep Sky hunter" is a printable deep sky atlas, designed for serious deep sky observers. It features stars down to 10.2m and DSO down to 14.0m.

    This is my second release of a deep sky atlas. It is much more detailed, and covers entire sky with 101 portrait oriented pages. Manual post-editing was performed in order to ensure readable and non-cluttered charts. In addition, the atlas features 8 pages with 21 supplement "zoom" charts of galaxy clusters and densly populated areas, and indications of over 500 best objects (Messier, Caldwell, Herschel 400, SAC's best).
    I designed this atlas with A3 page size in mind, however you may find it usable on A4 as well. In terms of scale and amount of detail - "DeepSky Hunter" falls between Sky Atlas 2000 and Uranometria 2000.
    - Michael Vlasov

    Here you can see a comparison with other atlases.

    - Print back to back on light 200gram carton (A3).
    - It is searchable in Adobe Pdf Reader on your computer.  (Search the constellation or the NGC, etc.)
    (Hannes Pieterse)

    Thursday, 31 July 2014

    Rosetta's comet rendezvous

    On 6 August, after a decade-long journey through space, ESA’s Rosetta will become the first spacecraft in history to rendezvous with a comet. Members of the media are invited to join ESA at its European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, to mark this momentous occasion.

    Since its launch from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on 2 March 2004, Rosetta has travelled more than six billion kilometres, passing by Earth three times and Mars once, and flying past two asteroids.

    For the most distant part of the journey, when it travelled out to the orbit of Jupiter, Rosetta was put into deep-space hibernation for 31 months, waking up on 20 January 2014 for the final leg of its epic journey to Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.
    Now, with less than 10 000 km to go, Rosetta is preparing to arrive at its destination.

    Saturday, 26 July 2014

    Monday, 9 June 2014

    Iridium 3 with a spectacular double flair

    Click to enlarge

    Iridium 3 started out as a -8.2 Magnitude flair but no-one expected the second flair. The first was on time (top) and the second one a bonus. Notice the second satellite in a northern direction in the middle of the image.Still trying to identify it!  Then two bright lines are the pointer stars next to the Crux constellation.

    Image info:  192 images were stacked with Starstax; Camera on tripod; Remote control;  ISO 800; 10 sec exposures; f4.5; Moon a big hinderance.

    Friday, 6 June 2014

    Vrystaat Sterrefees / Free State Star Party

    Vrystaat Sterre Partytjie                         
    ( English version below)

    ASSA Bloemfontein nooi u na twee nagte van waarneming en verwondering van die Winterkonstellasies in die unieke Vrystaatse naghemel.  Daarmee saam gedurende Saterdag 28 Junie, is daar praatjies en besprekings oor onder meer teleskoopkollimasie deur Brett du Preez.

    Plek: Gansvlei-gasteplaas tussen Brandfort, Bloemfontein en Winburg. (G.P.S.: Suid 28°47'49.9" en Oos 26°28'23.1"; Elevasie: 1395m).
    Tyd: Vanaf 17:00 op 27 Junie tot omtrent 09:00 op 29 Junie 2014, dus twee nagte.
    Koste: R80 per persoon per nag, wat insluit 'n bed met paslaken, ablusiegeriewe, volledig toegerusde kombuis en eetgerei, hout en braai geriewe soos roosters en selfs potte.
    Benodigdehede: U eie waarnemingstoerusting soos teleskope, vêrkykers, kameras, sterkaarte, stoel/tafel, beligting (beperk tot die flouste rooi liggie wat jy het...!) ens.  U eie kos en drinkgoed - genoeg vir die tydperk wat u daar bly - naaste winkel is omtrent 40km vanaf die plaas.  Warm klere en warm slaapgoed: onthou dis in die middel van die winter en dis in die middel van die Vrystaat...!!!
    Bespreking: Indien u belangstel, antwoord asseblief per e-pos na, en doen dit asseblief nie later as 20 Junie 2014 nie.  Geen voorafbetaling is nodig nie.  Daar is huisvesting vir 40 mense so laat weet asseblief vroegtydig. 

    Finale informasie sal per e-pos gekommunikeer word op Maandag 23 Junie aan diegene wat bespreek het teen daardie tyd.

    Free State Star Party

    ASSA Bloemfontein invites you to two nights of wonderful observation of the Winter Constellation in the unique Free State night skies.  Including, during Saturday 28 June, there will be talks and discussion on telescope collimation by Brett du Preez.
    Venue: Gansvlei guest farm situated between Bloemfontein, Brandfort and Winburg (G.P.S.: South 28°47'49.9" and East 26°28'23.1"; Elevation: 1395m).
    Time and duration: Two nights, from 17:00 on 27 June to about 09:00 on 29 June 2014.
    Cost: R80 per person per night, which includes a bed with a fitted sheet, ablution facilities, fully equipped kitchen with cutlery, wood and braai facilities such as braai grids and even pots.
    Requirements: Your own observation equipment such as telescopes, binoculars, cameras, star charts, chair and table, lighting (confined to the weakest and reddest light you own...!) etc.  Your own food and drinks for the duration of your stay - the nearest shops are about 40km from the farm.  Warm clothes and bedding: remembers it is mid-winter in the middle of the Free State...!!!
    Booking: Please answer by e-mail to not later than 20 June 2014 if you are interested.  No pre-payment is necessary.  There is accommodation for 40 people so please respond soon.

    Final information will be communicated by e-mail on 23 June 2014 to those who have booked by then.

    Wednesday, 21 May 2014

    Astrofotografie Werkswinkel vir beginners / Basic Astrophotography Workshop

    Foto: Hannes Pieterse
    ASSA Bloemfontein bied aan:
    ‘n Basiese Astrofotografie Werkswinkel.
    (English version below)
    Aanbieder: Brett du Preez, lid van ASSA Bloemfontein en ervare Astrofotograaf.
    Plek: Boyden Sterrewag
    Tyd: Saterdag 24 Mei 2014, vanaf 15h00.
     Toegang: Gratis vir Klublede en R100-00 per persoon vir nie-lede.
    Weens die aard van die Werkswinkel, kan slegs 30 persone geakkomodeer word.
    Bespreek asseblief deur per e-pos te stuur aan
     Program:15h00 vir 15h30 – Ons begin op die Platform: Almal pak hul goed uit en slaan op wat hulle saamgebring het.
    15h30 - 16h30 – Gesels oor wat ons gaan doen en begin die Werkswinkel met die afneem van Son (bring hoedens ens saam….).  Brett sal ‘n beperkte hoeveelheid son-filter saambring vir afneem van die son.  Bring ook ‘n skêr of matmes, karton, dubbelkantige kleefband en gewone kleefband of kits-gom vir die maak van sonfilters.
    16h30 - 18h00 – In die Ouditorium: stapsgewyse demonstrasie van die omskepping van die son se data na 'n foto. Bring asseblief u eie rekenaars en geheue-stokkie (“flashdisc”) saam. Brett sal sagteware verskaf en ook basiese prosesering demonstreer op 'n foto van die naghemel.
    18h30 - 19h30 - 'n Kort praatjie oor astrofotografie. Die plan is om as groep saam te gesels. Brett sal begin met die basiese beginsels asook 'n verduideliking van die konsep oor "noise". Hannes Pieterse verduidelik ook die gebruik van die “barndoor“ montering vir nag-hemel fotografie.
    20h00 - 22h00 – Terug op die Platform wys Brett hoe om polêre oplyning (“polar alignment“) te doen met 'n kamera asook watter tipe fotografie mens kan doen met die minste moeite en met ‘n basiese kamera….
    Onthou asseblief:
    Almal wat fotografiese en ander toerusting saambring, moet weet hoe om dit te gebruik sodat ons nie gedurende die werkswinkel tyd hoef te spandeer om basiese gebruike aan te leer nie.  Toerusting om saam te bring sluit in: kamera, driepoot, genoeg batterye (daar sal kragpunte op die Platform wees), nodige verbindingskabels en afstandsbeheer kabel, tafeltjie om op te werk ens: eerder teveel as te min.  
    Daar sal tussendeur geleentheid wees om ietsie te eet: elkeen bring sy eie verversings.  Daar sal kookwater wees vir diegene wat koffie of ‘n soppie will maak. 
    ASSA Bloemfontein presents:
    A Basic Astrophotography Workshop.
    Presenter: Brett du Preez, member of ASSA Bloemfontein and experienced Astrophotographer.
    Venue: Boyden Observatory
     Time: Saturday 24 May 2014, at 15h:00.
     Admission: Club members free.  Non-members: R100-00 per person.
    Only 30 persons can be accommodated.
    Send  e-mail to to book
    Program: 15h00 for 15h30 – We start on the Platform:  unpacking and setting-up of equipment.
    15h30 - 16h30 – Discuss the program and start the Workshop by taking a photo of the Sun (remember to bring a hat…).  Brett will demonstrate the making of a solar filter: he has a limited stock of solar film which he will provide.  For this, please also bring along scissors or a carpet knife and carton, double sided tape and normal tape or fast-drying glue.
    16h30 - 18h00 – In the auditorium: step-by-step demonstration of the conversion of the Sun data to  a photographic image.  Please bring your own computer and flash disc. Brett will provide the necessary software and also demonstrate the basic processing of a night-sky image.
    18h30 - 19h30 – A short discussion on Astrophotography, also involving the audience.  Brett will also explain the importance of the concept of “noise”.  Hannes Pieterse will demonstrate the use of the “barn door” mounting for night-sky photography.
    20h00 - 22h00 – Back to the Platform: Brett demonstrates polar alignment using a camera and also demonstrates what type of photography can be performed with the least effort and with a basic camera.
    Please remember:
    Make sure that you know how to operate all the equipment you bring along: you do not want to figure out how to use your equipment during the workshop, you actually want to use it.  This equipment can include:  camera, tripod, enough batteries (power outlets are available on the Platform), all necessary connecting cables and remote control cable, a small table to work on: rather bring too much than forget something vital…!  
    There will be time to eat/drink something in between: please bring your own refreshments.  There will be boiling water for coffee and/or soup.

    Wednesday, 19 March 2014

    Sutherland by Night - Milky Way, Melkweg

    Sutherland by Night - Milky Way, Melkweg
    In this beautiful image by SAAO Astronomer Stephen Potter we see the Milky Way setting behind the 20, 30, 40 inch, MONET and SALT telescopes. Jupiter is the bright star at the top and Venus is setting into the MONET dome. The bright glow on the horizon is from distant city lights.

    Monday, 17 March 2014

    Key Signature of the Big Bang's Origin Discovered

      South pole telescope detects echoes of Big Bang

    UPDATE MARCH 17: All the rumors were true. The story below was written yesterday, before today's announcement that "primordial B-waves" have been found in the cosmic background radiation. These must have arisen from inflation-driven gravitational waves rippling through spacetime in the first 10–34 second of the Big Bang. 
    MARCH 16: Rumors have been racing through the physics and cosmology communities for the last few days that long-sought, Nobel Prize-worthy evidence for cosmic inflation driving the Big Bang will be announced on Monday, March 17th. A press conference for a "major discovery" regarding this topic is scheduled for noon EDT (16:00 UT) at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, just up the street from Sky & Telescope. We'll be there.

    Word of what may be announced first broke into wide circulation late Friday night, when The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. published an article online, Gravitational waves: have US scientists heard echoes of the big bang? Here are excerpts:

    Sunday, 9 March 2014

    ESA's Gaia Mission Launches to Map the Milky Way


    “Gaia promises to build on the legacy of ESA’s first star-mapping mission, Hipparcos, launched in 1989, to reveal the history of the galaxy in which we live,” says Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA’s Director General.


    -          Universe Today


    -          ESA


    Cosmos Reborn - J. Kelly Beatty - Sky and Telescope

    Beginning Sunday evening, March 9th, Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey will air on the Fox television network, the rebirth of Carl Sagan's classic Cosmos. In the cover story of our April 2014 issue, contributing editor J. Kelly Beatty reveals a behind-the-scenes look at the new series. 

    Scientists detect extraterrestrial neutrinos (Down South)

    Buried deep in the pristine Antarctic ice lie 5,160 basketball-sized detectors that look for flashes of blue light. 

    This radiation signals that a high-energy particle has interacted with an atom of the ice and given off some energy in the process. Scientists built the underground cubic kilometer IceCube detector to find a specific type of particle called a neutrino. This particle has no electric charge, is nearly massless, and interacts extremely weakly with matter. (In fact, billions of them are zooming through you as you read  this story.)

    Astronomers have detected neutrinos from the Sun and from Supernova 1987A when a massive star exploded. Now, the IceCube team reports in the November 22 issue of Science that it has found 28 high-energy neutrinos during a two-year all-sky search. The newly discovered particles have energies at least a million times that of the SN 1987A neutrinos.

    At most, 11 of the 28 detected signals could result from background events or atmospheric neutrinos — those created as high-energy particles called cosmic rays collide with atoms and molecules in Earth’s atmosphere and create secondary particles. However, the researchers say the neutrinos don’t have the characteristics of atmospheric ones.

    They looked in the data for evidence of multiple neutrinos originating from a specific location on the sky or arriving at a similar time but were unable to trace the 28 neutrinos to specific sources. Most of the detected signals correspond to locations on the Southern Hemisphere sky.

    Scientists can calculate the energies of the incoming neutrinos from the light the detectors register. The 28 particles discussed in the Science study had energies ranging from 30 trillion electron volts (TeV) to 1,141 TeV; visible light has energy between 1.5 and 3 electron volts. The data also include the two highestenergy neutrinos ever observed. — L. K.

    Source:  Astronomy March 2014

    Mark Kelly, twin brother enlisted for NASA study

    This undated photo provided by NASA, astronauts Mark Kelly, right, STS-124 commander, and Scott Kelly are pictured in the check-out facility at Ellington Field near NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. NASA announced Friday, March 7, 2014, that Mark Kelly and astronaut Scott Kelly will participate in 10 different investigations. Craig Kundrot, deputy chief scientist of NASA's Human Research Program, says in a news release that the brothers provide a unique opportunity to study two people with the same genetics who were in different environments. Officials say Scott Kelly spent a year in space while Mark Kelly was on Earth. NASA says it is hoping the studies can be the basis for future research initiatives. (AP Photo/NASA)

    Saturday, 25 January 2014

    Klubbyeenkoms: ASSA Bloemfontein - 1 Februarie 2014

    Die Bloemfonteinse Amateur Sterrekunde Vereniging  (ASSA Bloemfontein) hou op Saterdag 1 Februarie sy eerste byeenkoms van die jaar. Voornemende amateur sterrekundiges is welkom om die geleentheid by te woon.

    Op die program is onder meer:
    • Die gebruik  van 'n teleskoop insluitende die eienskappe van verskillende oogstukke;
    • Wat kan gesien word in die nagruim in verskillende ligomstandighede (Limiting Magnitude);
    • Ons kyk ook na `n nova wat onlangs uitgebars het en met `n verkyker sigbaar is;
    • As die weer saamspeel soek ons die Perdekopneuwel in Orion.

    Koste: Gratis vir lede en R50 per persoon vir besoekers. Die bedrag word terugbetaal as jy by die   vereniging aansluit. Ledegeld is R100 per jaar vir `n gesin.
    Datum: 1 Februarie 2014
    Tyd: 18:30 (Ons braai, so bring jou eie kosmandjie met vleis, eetgoed, eetgerei en koeldrank. Braaivuur en roosters is beskikbaar.)
    Plek: Boyden-sterrewag (Langs Maselspoort)