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Happy Halloween from the Observatory October 31, 2010

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Another successful open house on Friday with about 100 people showing up!

Thanks to Maggie and Hannah

As we showed,  fairies and Vulcans can get along….although according to some girl scouts, Commander Tanquery may be one of Santa’s elves. The DNA tests are not conclusive, but Vulcans smiling are mighty suspicious .

Haunted Observatory Tonight! October 29, 2010

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Come to the haunted observatory at 8:00PM tonight, get to see some REAL mad scientist, not just the ones in films. Just travel down the gravel road, guaranteed to be zombie free. Look for the first dome ringed with Jack-O Lanterns. My minions will be all around to help you out. And don’t worry, unlike many of the zombies these are Physics majors…they already have enough brains.

EIU Observatory

Astronomy Club Tonight: Carving Pumpkins October 28, 2010

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Special time 7:00 PM in room 2409, Physical science building. We are carving pumpkins for tomorrow’s observatory open house.

Extreme Universe: The Most Massive Neutron Star October 27, 2010

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Using the National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Telescope , astronomers have discovered the most massive neutron star ever, this discovery will offer profound insight  on the limits of neutron stars and the nature of matter under such extreme conditions.

“This neutron star is twice as massive as our Sun. This is surprising, and that much mass means that several theoretical models for the internal composition of neutron stars now are ruled out,” said Paul Demorest, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). “This mass measurement also has implications for our understanding of all matter at extremely high densities and many details of nuclear physics,” he added.

The neutron star, called PSR J1614-2230 contains twice the mass of the Sun but compressed down into pulsar that is smaller than 20 kilometer   It is estimated cubic inch of material from the star could weigh more than 10 billion  tons. I have two videos below with more details for you.

The first is about the Discovery

The second is about the Instruments

A Nobel Prize music video: “Graphene” October 22, 2010

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In honor of this years Nobel Prize in Physics …the music video “Graphene”….with apologies to Eric Clapton

Prof. Paul Neitzel, Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Tech — Vocals, bass line & electronic percussion
Mike Duffee — Guitars
Prof. Andy Zangwill, Physics, Georgia Tech — Lyrics

Conceived & recorded for Inside the Black Box
Profs. Bill Hunt & Pete Ludovice, Georgia Tech

Extreme Universe: The Most Distant Object Measured in the Universe October 21, 2010

Posted by jcconwell in Cosmology, Extreme Universe, Galaxy.
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Coming in as the most distant object with a confirmed redshift, UDFy-38135539 is the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (UDF) classification for a galaxy which, as of October 2010, is the most distant object from Earth known to exist in the universe. Its discovery is formally detailed in the 21 October 2010 article “Spectroscopic Confirmation of a Galaxy at Redshift z=8.6” in the journal Nature.

Hubble Ultra Deep Field

Other than putting a trophy on the wall for a new record distance, what makes this object so important? To understand this, it might be better to translate this from the most distant object  to the oldest measured object. With a measured cosmological redshift of z=8.6, the object emitted the light we are seeing  about 13.1 billion years ago, or more useful here, when the universe was only 600 million years old.

Cropped Image of UDFy-38135539

What was it like in the universe at that age? Conditions were quite different back then. This epoch of time  is when the Universe went from largely neutral gas to basically ionized plasma, called reionization.

The reionization period is about the farthest back in time that astronomers can observe. The Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago, created a hot, plasma filled universe. Some 400,000 years after the Big Bang, temperatures cooled, from the expanding universe,  so  electrons and protons joined to form neutral hydrogen, and the murk cleared. By about 1 billion years after the Big Bang, this neutral hydrogen began to form stars in the first galaxies, which radiated energy and reionzied the hydrogen. Radiation from the hot new stars started to clear the opaque hydrogen plasma surrounding the newly formed galaxies that filled the cosmos at this early time.

Much of any ultraviolet light from these new stars was absorbed in the gas surrounding the stars, the remainder has been redshifted down to the infrared by the expansion of the universe over 13.1 billion years.

To obtain such dim spectra, scientists turned the the VLA (Very Large Telescope).

Very Large Telescope Array

Very Large Telescope Array

The Very Large Telescope (VLT) is made up of four separate optical telescopes (the Antu telescope, the Kueyen telescope, the Melipal telescope, and the Yepun telescope) organized in an array formation, built and operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) at the Paranal Observatory on Cerro Paranal, a 2,635 m high mountain in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. Each telescope has an 8.2 m aperture. The array is complemented by four movable Auxiliary Telescopes (ATs) of 1.8 m aperture. Working together in interferometric mode, the telescopes can achieve an angular resolution of around 1 milliarcsecond, meaning it could distinguish the gap between the headlights of a car located on the Moon.

To get a spectra of such a dim object, about 4 billion times dimmer than the dimmest star you can see with the naked eye, the VLA took an exposure of about 16 hours.

Astronomy Club Tonight: Telescope Training October 20, 2010

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Tonight at the astronomy club we will be doing Telescope training, so come on over at 8:00PM, room 2153 Physical Science Building . We will look at the small telescopes, then move on over to the observatory to use the 16″ scope. P.S.  …..Dress warm

Video of 2010 TD54 Near Miss Today. October 12, 2010

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Amateur astronomer Patrick Wiggins captured images this morning of the newly found asteroid 2010 TD54 that passed byEarth about 27,000 miles away.  The  asteroid was only detected this past Saturday. The film, which was made form a composite of 16 still pictures with a  5 second exposure., show the asteroid passing  through the background sky, although moving along at 10.7 miles/s. Estimates are the asteroid is about 7.3 m wide, and contained the energy of about 22 kilotons of TNT, if it would have come crashing through Earth’s atmosphere. For this animation, the mount was set to allow the target to pass through the field of view, and includes 16 five-second exposures shot between 08:51:51 and 08:54:04 UTC. The streak is the asteroid and the length of the streak shows how far it travels relative to the background in 5 seconds.

New Podcast Up: ASTRONOMY IN THE NEWS October 12, 2010

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With me ducking all the asteroids that were whizzing around this weekend; I forgot to post about the new podcast at 365 days of astronomy.  http://365daysofastronomy.org/2010/10/10/october-10th-astronomy-in-the-news/ .

Bio: Carolyn Collins Petersen is a science writer and show producer, as well as vice-president of Loch Ness Productions, (http://www.lochnessproductions.com/index2.html) a company that creates astronomy documentaries and other materials. She works with planetariums, science centers, and observatories on products that explain astronomy and space science to the public. Her most recent projects range from documentary scripts, exhibits for NASA/JPL, the Griffith Observatory and the California Academy of Sciences, to video podcasts for MIT’s Haystack Observatory and podcasts for the Astronomical society of the Pacific’s “Astronomy Behind the Headlines” project.

So now we will have something to listen to, as we all cower in our fall-out shelters. Dang! I forgot the birthday cake in the oven!

UPDATE: October 12th Asteroid October 11, 2010

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UPDATE (FROM UNIVERSE TODAY): Don Yeomans, Manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office replied to an inquiry about the object and said the newly discovered NEO 2010 TD54 is approximately 5-10 meters in size, and is now predicted to pass about 46,000 km from Earth’s surface at about 07:25 EDT (11:25 UT) on Tuesday, Oct 12, 2010. It was discovered by Catalina Sky Survey on Saturday morning.

“Only 1 in a million chance of an impact,” Yeomans said, “and even if it does impact, it is not large enough to make it through the Earth’s atmosphere to cause ground damage.”

Sources: IAU Minor Planet Center, Unmanned Spaceflight,Yahoo News Groups