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16th-century skeleton identified as astronomer Copernicus November 22, 2008

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomers, Astronomy.
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copernicus

The long-lost skeleton of Nicolaus Copernicus – the 16th-century astronomer who transformed our understanding of the solar system – has been found, Polish researchers have confirmed.

Full story at http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2008/nov/21/astronomy-archaeology

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Still More Planets! November 17, 2008

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, planets.
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To give an idea of how fast we are discovering exoplanets let’s show you a graph

Exoplanets as of September 2009

Exoplanets as of September 2009

Over 300 and counting! Earlier last week we saw the release of the first photos of a palnet around another star. Now the good people from the Keck telescope have released the first photo of a solar system. Three planets orbiting a star. The star, HR 8799,  in the image was blocked to avoid the glare so you could see the much dimmer planets.

hr8799_keck

This photo was taken in the infra-red part of the spectrum using adaptive optics. The three planets are estimated to be about 10 times the mass of Jupiter. A simiar photo to this was take by th Gemini Telescope.

First Pictures of an Exo-planet! November 14, 2008

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, planets.
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The Hubble space telescope released the first photograph of a planet around another star. Fomalhaut is a main sequence class A3 star about 25 light-years away . It’s the brightest star in the constellation Piscis Austrinus and one of the brightest stars in the night time sky.

fomalhaut_hst_lab

The planet is named Fomalhaut-b. It follows a path along the edge of a vast dust ring that surrounds the star. At a distance of about 17 billion kilometers from Fomalhaut, it takes an estimated 872 years to complete one orbit. The planet is 100,000,000 times fainter than Fomalhaut, so the Hubble team used the Advanced Camera’s coronagraph to block out the star’s glare so that the planet could be seen. The region around Fomalhaut is black becauseof this process. This composite image was taken between 2004 and 2006. Since the dust ring has not been disrupted by the mass of the planet, this constrains Fomalhaute-b to be no more than 3 times the mass of Jupiter.

Haunted Observatory November 1, 2008

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, Observatory.
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Clear skies and plenty of helpers. I found out the student helpers have a taste for hot cider over hot chocolate.

We only had 52 people last night since the local papers didn’t carry the announcement, that’s OK , just more telescope time and hot cider for the rest of us. Thanks to all the members of the astronomy club who dressed up in costume and carved pumpkins for the observatory. Thanks to John Pratte for bringing his 16″ for the wonderful view of M15, and Tim McCullough for bringing his students and telescope. An to end with a final thought from Albert…

Keep expanding your universe.