Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Gravitational Wave Discovery Looks Doubtful In New Analysis

Update on the blog post of Wednesday, March 19, 2014 (

In March gravitational waves were discovered from the early universe (moments after the big bang). This discovery is now in doubt. New analysis suggests that dust within our own galaxy is responsible for much if not all of the signal. While it doesn't completely rule out the presence of gravitational waves, it is a significant setback.

For more information see:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rosetta spacecraft expected to land on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

This Wednesday Morning (November 12) at 10:30AM Eastern Standard Time the Rosetta spacecraft is expected to land on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. If successful, this will be the first time any spacecraft has landed on a comet.

See these links for more information...

To watch the landing on streaming video, go to either of these sites (note there is a 30 minute delay, if the landing occurs at 10:30AM, we will see the landing at 11:00AM).,2817,2471982,00.asp

Sunday, November 9, 2014

November Meteor Showers

On the night of November 17-18, you can observe the annual Leonid Meteor Shower.

While in previous years, the Leonids have produced outbursts of thousands of meteors per hour, that is highly unlikely this year. We expect a modest meteor shower. However the Leonids do have a tendency to produce more bright meteors (fireballs) than some other showers.

Usually the best advice for observing meteor showers is to look after midnight. If you live in North America, that isn't the best approach for this year's Leonids. Instead it is best to start looking after it gets dark Monday night (on the 17th).

The number of meteors you will see is difficult to predict. It partly depends on the Leonids themselves, but also on the amount of light pollution and the latitude/longitude of your observing location. Also if it is cloudy that will reduce what you see. As an educated guess, an observer located at a dark site in Europe might see about 15 an hour. An observer at a dark site in North America, might see 10 an hour.

Note that the Leonid Meteor Shower overlaps two weak meteor showers, the Southern Taurids and the Northern Taurids. While both are weak, they are each active over a period of about 15 days.

Most the activity of the Leonids occurs on a single day (but weaker activity will occur for a period of about 3 weeks). Basically the entire month is covered by one or more of these showers and all three frequently produce fireballs. Unfortunately predicting when the fireballs will occur is impossible.

To observe a meteor shower, you only need your eyes. No binoculars or telescopes are needed. Make sure you have comfortable clothing, a comfortable chair and be patient. As explained above, the best bet is to observe on the evening of November 17-18, but other nights in November can be expected to produce perhaps 5 an hour and if you are lucky the occasional fireball.

For more information see:

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Water in Your Bottle Might Be Older Than the Sun

"Up to half of the water on Earth is likely older than the solar system itself, University of Michigan astronomers theorize."

The age of the water is counted from the time that oxygen and hydrogen atoms combined to form a water molecule. You might naively think that this combination occurred after formation of our solar system. But Ilse Cleeves (doctoral student in astronomy) and Ted Bergin (professor of astronomy) estimate that between 30 and 50% of the water formed a million years before the solar system formed, when there was only a molecular cloud of gas, but no sun or planets.

This estimate was obtained by looking at the ratio of hydrogen isotopes within water. The hydrogen atoms in water come in three forms, hydrogen-1, hydrogen-2 (known as deuterium) and hydrogen-3 (known as tritium). Tritium is radioactive and decays into helium-3; it is virtually non-existent in the solar system except on the surface of the earth. But hydrogen-1 and hydrogen-2 are common. Comparing the ratio of hydrogen-1 and hydrogen-2 within samples of water, hydrogen gas or other compounds tells scientists about how these materials were formed. For example we find the ratio within comets and water in the Earth's ocean is higher than the ratio found in hydrogen atoms in the sun.

For more details see....

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