Astronomers think the universe is a sphere. Here’s why that claim is so controversial – Salon

For a long time, people argued over whether the Earth was flat. While a few people still do, a more consequential version of this debate has moved on to the universe. With the publication of a new astrophysics study, there are now camps of "flat universe-ers" and "circle universe-ers" within the realm of physics; though notably, in this context, a "flat" universe isn't quite analogous to a flat Earth.

According to a new study published in the journal Nature Astronomy, data from the cosmic microwave backgroundradiation (CMB) left over from the Big Bangand observed by thePlanck space observatory, suggests the universe might be "curved," akin to an expanding balloon, rather than flat. Another consequence of this study is that it suggests the universe is closed, contradicting years of conventional wisdom and previous studies.

In a flat universe, one might leave Earth at a high speed and never return to where one started; but in a closed, curved universe, a particle leaving Earth and moving in a straight line would, eventually, return to where it started.

We show that since the Planck power spectra prefer a closed Universe, discordances higher than generally estimated arise for most of the local cosmological observables, including baryon acoustic oscillations, the authors state in the study. The assumption of a flat Universe could therefore mask a cosmological crisis where disparate observed properties of the Universe appear to be mutually inconsistent.

If this is correct, the so-called curve is likely a gentle one, according to the study. Yet, as mentioned above, this means that if you were to travel beyond our galaxy, in a straight line, youd eventually end up right back where you started.

According to the theory of General Relativity, mass curves spacetime. As a result, the overall mass of the universe determines its shape. Indeed, scientists have been known to calculate the critical density of the universe, which is proportional to the square of the Hubble constant, a variable used in estimating the size, age and expansion rate of the universe. If the actual density of the universe is less than the critical density, it is predicted that the universe will forever expand, as there isnt enough matter to stop it. This creates a flat, and open, universe.

Yet if the density of the universe is more than the critical density, then that means it has enough mass to stop expanding, which is what the latest study using Planck data is suggesting.

A closed universe could end consequentially with a scenario known as the Big Crunch the opposite of a Big Bang, in a sense, and a state in which the universe contracts until it is compressed again to a single energetic point.

Researchers came to the conclusion because they noticed a discrepancy between the concentration of dark matter, dark energy and outward expansion of the universe when looking at data from the Planck observatory. A surfeit of gravitational lensing events caused by massive objects bending light exceeded what was expected, and was affecting the cosmic microwave background radiation, according to the study.

"A closed Universe can provide a physical explanation for this effect, with the Planck cosmic microwave background spectra now preferring a positive curvature at more than the 99% confidence level," the study states.

Researchers noted that future measurements are needed to clarify whether the observed discordances are due to undetected systematics, or to new physics or simply are a statistical fluctuation.

There is also another new paper that suggests the discrepancy is a statistical fluke, but it hasn't been peer-reviewed yet.

Since it is an anomaly in the data of the CMB the leftover electromagnetic radiation from the early universe experts in the field are taking note.

The result is intriguing, but only of borderline statistical significance to be believed. There are several independent lines of evidence that suggest the Universe is flat, and that this claim is a statistical fluke or a misinterpretation of the data, Avi Loeb, chair of Harvard's astronomy department, told Salon via email.

Loeb added if future data agrees with this conclusion, it would be of extraordinary importance for our understanding of how [the universe] started.

The standard inflation scenario predicts a nearly zero curvature, thousands of times lower than the inferred value, Loeb said. We will have to understand why our universe looks so different."

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Astronomers think the universe is a sphere. Here's why that claim is so controversial - Salon

The first stars may have formed even earlier than first thought – Astronomy Now Online

Light from a quasar shining through a cloud of gas that formed less than a billion years after the Big Bang is made up of elements that likely came from first-generation stars that began shining earlier than previously believed. Image: The Max Planck Society

Analysis of a 13-billion-year-old cloud of gas illuminated from behind by an ancient quasar shows a surprising abundance of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium, elements that were cooked up in massive first-generation stars that were born, lived out their short lives and died in supernova blasts even earlier than previously thought.

Using the Magellan telescopes at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, researchers studying the clouds chemical makeup found it was not as primitive as would be expected if it was made up of the same raw materials that were present when the first stars began shining in the wake of the Big Bang.

Even though it formed just 850 million years after the birth of the universe, the clouds makeup is similar to that of clouds that formed several billion years later.

Apparently, the first generation of stars had already expired by the time the cloud formed, said Carnegies Michael Rauch, co-author of a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal. This shows that the universe was rapidly swamped by the chemical products of later generations of stars, even before most of the present-day galaxies were in place.

The first generation stars presumably were much more massive than the Sun and lived much shorter lives before dying in supernova explosions that seeded the surrounding space with heavy elements that, in turn, became part of the raw material available for successive generations.

The gas cloud in question dates back to 850 million years after the Big Bang birth of the cosmos. Astronomers were able to study its composition by spectroscopically examining the light of an even-more-distant quasar as it passed through the cloud on its way to Earth.

Looking back in time far enough, one may expect cosmic gas clouds to show the tell-tale signature of the peculiar element ratios made by the first stars, said Rauch. Peering even further back, we may ultimately witness the disappearance of most elements and the emergence of pristine gas.

The researchers are optimistic the discovery of even-more-ancient clouds will shed more light, so to speak, on the first generation of stars to turn on in the early universe.

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The first stars may have formed even earlier than first thought - Astronomy Now Online

Astronomers may have discovered a new class of tiny black holes – CNET

Have astronomers found a new class of tiny black hole?

Black holes are the cosmic champions of hide-and-seek. In 1916, Einstein predicted they existed, but it took over 100 years before a telescopeas wide as the worldsnapped the first picture of a black hole. They're elusive beasts, avoiding detection because they swallow up light. Even so, astronomers can see the tell-tale signs of black holes in the universe by studying different forms of radiation, like X-rays. So far, that's worked -- and a huge number of black holes have been discovered by looking for these signs.

Now an entirely new detection method, pioneered by researchers at Ohio State University, suggests there may be a whole population of black holes we've been missing.

The findings, published in the journal Science on Friday, detail the discovery of a black hole orbiting the giant star 2MASS J05215658+4359220 (J05215658, for short) using data from Earth-based telescopes and Gaia satellite observations. The team shows that J05215658 is being orbited by a massive unseen companion -- and they suspect it might be an entirely new class of black holes.

"We're showing this hint that there is another population out there that we have yet to really probe in the search for black holes," said Todd Thompson, an astronomer at Ohio State and lead author on the study, in a statement.

Now playing: Watch this: How black holes swallow light, warp space-time and blow...


Generally, a binary system like this -- where a black hole orbits a star -- is easy to detect, because the black hole's enormous gravity pulls material from the star in, lighting up the black hole with radiation. Astronomers can detect that from Earth. But if the black hole is too small, it might not be interacting with the star in this way and remains invisible. That's the case with J05215658.

The team suggested that the new black hole is likely 3.3 times more massive than the sun, which would make it the lowest-mass black hole yet discovered. However, there's potential the black hole could be up to six times as massive as the sun because there's a little bit of wiggle room built into the calculations. That would bring it in line with previous black hole discoveries.

Another possibility is that the mysterious object might be a very large neutron star. When stars die, they have two options for the cosmic afterlife, based on their mass: Big stars collapse into a black hole and little stars become a dead, neutron star. Neutron stars are small and incredibly dense and are believed to reach around 2.5 times as massive as the sun before collapsing into a black hole themselves.

To solve the mystery, astronomers will need to discover similar-sized objects lurking in the cosmos and identify what exactly they are. As astronomers get better at cosmic hide-and-seek, finding more black holes of differing sizes, the mysteries of black hole formation and evolution will begin to be unraveled.

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Astronomers may have discovered a new class of tiny black holes - CNET

A non-profit plans to reopen the historic Yerkes Observatory – Astronomy Magazine

In 2004, the University of Chicago considered selling the observatory to an out-of-state developer. I feared that Yerkes would become far less than what it was or could be and might eventually close," says astronomer Kyle Cudworth of the University of Chicago, who was director of the Yerkes Observatory at the time.

The university ultimately decided not to sell the observatory, which is located about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northwest of Chicago in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. But from that point on, the university and community struggled over the fate of the facility, which carries with it significant history but diminishing financial prospects.

The historys incredible, and a bit overwhelming, says Dianna Colman, chair of the Yerkes Future Foundation. Drop a name, theyve all been there. The history of the Yerkes Observatory includes entrepreneurial astronomer George Ellery Hale, Nobel laureate Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Albert Einstein, and Mother of Hubble Nancy Roman, not to mention generations of astronomers, NASA scientists and astronauts.

The Yerkes Observatory was Hales brainchild. In the late 1800s, the University of Southern California sought to build the worlds largest telescope, but ran out of funds. So Hale set out to bring the project to his home institution, the University of Chicago. He was able to convince the slick Chicago businessman Charles T. Yerkes to provide funding.

Henry Ives Cobb designed the buildings at Yerkes Observatory, adorning them with mythological themes, signs of the Zodiac, phases of the Moon and caricatures of the universitys first president, William Rainey Harper.

The observatory has amassed a collection of more than 100,000 observations, showing changes in astronomical objects over decades. Professor Rick Rees of Westfield State University calls himself one of the youngest astronomers, at 54, to work with photographic plates. He says Yerkes' collection includes treasures such as Yerkes' earliest plate capturing anything other than the Sun specifically, the globular cluster M5.

Rees recalls seeing famous names on the cards of Yerkes library books they had checked out. Holding [Edward Emerson] Barnards plates on which he discovered the star named for him is thrilling, he recalls.

After more than a decade of uncertainty, the University of Chicago closed the observatory in October 2018, saying in a press release that the facility and its instrumentation no longer contribute directly to the research mission of the University of Chicago. The announcement went on highlight the university's need to redirect resources to major investments in the Magellan and Giant Magellan telescopes in Chile.

The university's efforts to find a new owner for the observatory were stymied, however, by the resurfacing of Yerkes gift letter, which stipulated that the University of Chicago continue to use the observatory for astronomical investigation. Otherwise, the building would revert to Yerkes' heirs.

In order to save the observatory, a group of approximately 45 concerned individuals formed the Yerkes Future Foundation. Since then, the organization has been working with the university and Yerkes heirs to come to an agreement. [The University of Chicago] needed clarity. We needed a plan," Colman says. "They had to be confident we would preserve the observatory. In addition to working out many other details, the foundation has employed the help of experts to determine the proper steps that need to be taken to preserve the observatorys scientific instruments.

But Cudworth is hopeful about the observatorys fate. Now we have a local group whose priorities fit well with what Yerkes has been doing, he says. For example, he cites Yerkes' educational and public outreach projects, such as opportunities for local high school students to use Yerkes data to carry out longitudinal studies tracking the changing brightness of stars.

With the announcement this week of the Yerkes Future Foundation agreement," he adds, "I am hoping it wont be too many more months before students can be back in Yerkes doing such research.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected from an earlier version. Yerkes' collection includes the earliest photographic plate capturing anything other than the Sun that the observatory itself collected.

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A non-profit plans to reopen the historic Yerkes Observatory - Astronomy Magazine

A Mercury Transit for the Ages: November 1973 – Space.com

On Monday (Nov. 11), Mercury will pass between the sun and Earth and will appear as a tiny silhouette moving across the disk of the sun. This event, called a transit, is a relatively rare occurrence and will be the last of its kind to be visible from North America until 2049.

In my long career as an assiduous amateur astronomer, I've seen other transits of Mercury, but one from November 1973 stands out, for two reasons: the viewing location, and the intrigue of trying to accurately time when Mercury would ultimately slide off the disk of the sun.

Related: Mercury Transit 2019: Where and How to See It on Nov. 11

This story actually began in 1967, when the founder and president of a local astronomy club, Ron Abileah, approached the management of New York's Empire State Building with an unusual request. At the time, the local astronomy club, the Amateur Observers' Society of New York (AOS), was composed primarily of budding amateur astronomers, who were also in their teens. Abileah's request was for the AOS to observe a total lunar eclipse from the famous skyscraper's 86th-floor observation deck. The problem was that the eclipse was to occur during the predawn hours, when the Empire State Building was normally closed to the general public. The building's management told Abileah that they would allow the AOS to watch the eclipse from the observation deck but only if the AOS paid to have a security guard on duty.

The full moon is seen next to the Empire State Building during a total lunar eclipse on Sept. 27, 2015.

(Image credit: Joel Kowsky/NASA)

The club agreed to these terms, and in the early morning of Oct. 18, 1967, 10 boys and two girls, ages 13 to 17, trooped up to the Empire State Building's observation deck, carrying two 6-inch telescopes, binoculars, tripods, monoculars (handheld telescopes), a radio for shortwave time signals and a guitar. Meanwhile, New York's Hayden Planetarium had planned to hold an eclipse watch at the Sheep Meadow in Central Park, with astronomers explaining the various stages of the eclipse to the general public. But those plans were scrapped when fog and low clouds rolled in just before the eclipse began. The planetarium also had planned to photograph the eclipse from the top of the United Nations Secretariat Tower, but that plan was also clouded out; in Washington, D.C., the United States Naval Observatory also drew a blank.

But the AOS successfully viewed the eclipse, albeit in conditions that had some of the adventure and most of the discomfort of a fogbound ship at sea. Because the 86th-floor observation deck rises to over 1,000 feet (300 meters) above the city streets, there were periods when the eclipsed moon broke through the low cloud deck. As one of the young astronomers later commented, "The fog kept rising and lifting and dipping." The publicity that followed was extremely favorable for the teens. The New York Times headline on Oct. 19, 1967 (page 49) trumpeted:

"The Young See Moon in Eclipse as Their Elders Fail to Show Up."

Daniel J. Howe, from the Empire State Building's management, was so happy with the outcome that he refunded the AOS the cost for having the security guard and invited the club to come back anytime there was another major astronomical event.

Fast-forward to Nov. 10, 1973.

On that second Saturday of November in 1973, Mercury was to cross in front of the sun. But from New York, much of the event would occur below the eastern horizon. Mercury would begin encroaching onto the sun's disk at 2:47 a.m., well before sunup. Sunrise would not come until 6:35 a.m., and Mercury would move off the sun's disk at 8:17 a.m., with the sun still quite low in the sky.

But from the Empire State Building's observation deck, getting a clear shot at the sun would not be a problem. So, the AOS requested that they conduct observations of the transit from there, and that request was granted.

There would be one problem, however, in trying to record the various phases of the transit from that very famous edifice. Rising over 200 feet (60 m) above its 102nd floor is a tower that transmits both television and FM radio signals. But as AOS members quickly found out, when shortwave radios were used to receive accurate time signals, the interference produced by the broadcasts emanating from the transmission tower drowned out the shortwave signals.

For the 1973 transit of Mercury, a few AOS members wanted to try making accurate observations of when the disk of Mercury appeared to move off the sun. But how could this be done when shortwave frequencies were not clearly audible?

That's when one AOS member came up with a novel solution: Why not get one of the local NY FM radio stations to retransmit the shortwave time signals over their airwaves? Because that station's FM signal would emanate from the transmission tower at the Empire State Building, there would be no problem in hearing the shortwave transmission.

The time signals would be from radio station WWV out of Fort Collins, Colorado. The FM station that was selected to broadcast the WWV signal was WBAI-FM, anoncommercial, listener-supported radio station licensed to New York City.

As it turned out, the AOS member who made the suggestion also happened to work at WBAI. After getting permission from the Federal Communications Commission to retransmit the WWV time signals, a 5-minute block was set up between 8:15 and 8:20 a.m. EST for WWV to be freely heard throughout the New York Tri-State area over WBAI's FM frequency of 99.5 MHz.

In the years since this episode took place, I've often wondered about those who might have been casually flipping through the FM dial and what they must have thought when they accidentally stumbled across the distinctive time ticks and tones of WWV that morning! Of course, prior to and just after the "5minute time serenade" came an explanation about the transit of Mercury and the importance of securing an accurate timing of Mercury exiting off the sun's disk.

There is an amusing postscript to this story. When all of the arrangements were made, there was only one thing left to do: bring an FM radio receiver to the Empire State Building on the morning of the transit. One AOS member, named Steve, said he would bring his brother's multiband "boom box" radio to receive WBAI. On the morning of the transit which was clear, windy and cold about a dozen AOS members were set up on the 86th-floor observation deck. But Steve didn't arrive until minutes before the end of the transit.

Glenn Schneider, who was the president of AOS at the time and who many years later would attain his goal of earning a doctorate in astronomy, breathlessly ran up to Steve, asking, "Do you have the radio? That's essential, and we're running out of time!" Steve sheepishly replied, "No, my brother wouldn't let me borrow it; that's why I'm so late."

Glenn screamed so loud that I'd bet it could have been heard from Brooklyn. "For God's sake!" he exclaimed. "Does anybody up here have an FM radio?"

That's when I said, "Yes, I do," and out of my pocket, I pulled out a small transistor radio no bigger than a deck of cards. Glenn quickly pulled off the back of the radio and, using alligator clips, attached it to a reel-to-reel tape deck, which began recording WBAI just as our associate at the station switched over to the WWV signal. And ultimately, we were successful in accurately recording those precious moments when the leading edge of the black disk of Mercury first touched the edge of the sun and a couple of minutes later, when its trailing edge moved off the sun.

It's been 46 years since that event. And just a few days ago, I received an email from Glenn regarding next Monday's transit. He finished by asking, "P.S. Are you bringing a boom-box radio for this one?"

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York'sHayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy forNatural History magazine, theFarmers' Almanacand other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist forVerizon FiOS1 Newsin New York's lower Hudson Valley. Follow uson Twitter@Spacedotcomand onFacebook.

Need more space? Subscribe to our sister title "All About Space" Magazine for the latest amazing news from the final frontier!

(Image credit: All About Space)

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A Mercury Transit for the Ages: November 1973 - Space.com

Mercury transit 2019: Where, when and how to see a rare astronomical event Monday (even if its cloudy) – lehighvalleylive.com

Dont look now, but something special is going to happen in the sky on Monday, Nov. 11.

The transit of Mercury is a rare astronomical event where, from Earths point of view, the solar systems innermost planet crosses the face of the sun. This solar sprint will take about 5.5 hours and wont happen again for decades.

The 2019 Mercury transit will be visible in its entirety to the entire East Coast weather permitting, of course starting at 7:25 a.m. and will end just after 1 p.m. Eastern time. Areas farther west will see the transit already in progress as the sun rises.

The last Mercury transit was in 2016. It wont happen again until 2032. The next one visible in the U.S. will be in 2049.

Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images

A woman looks through a specially filtered telescope during the 2006 Mercury transit.

The transit of Mercury isnt like a solar eclipse. There wont be a noticeable dimming of the sun which, by the way, you should never, ever look directly at without protection.

As Mercury transits the sun, the planet will appear as a very tiny dot against the huge disk of our star, so watching it will require a telescope or binoculars and special solar filters.

Thats not something most people have in their garage, so you might consider checking out local astronomy groups in your area. For example, the Lehigh Valley Amateur Astronomical Society is planning a watch event at Da Vinci Science Center in Allentown, and the United Astronomy Clubs of New Jersey will have a program at its facility in Jenny Jump State Forest.


The Mercury transit 2019 forecast by AccuWeather shows poor viewing conditions for much of the eastern U.S.

But the viewing obviously depends on clouds. Unfortunately, Lehigh Valley weather forecasts are calling for overcast skies. The outlook can change, of course, and maybe it will be possible to see the Mercury transit through some breaks in the clouds.

Just in case, a Mercury transit live stream will be available on Space.com and on the livestream.com channel of the Griffith Observatory in southern California.

Steve Novak may be reached at snovak@lehighvalleylive.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveNovakLVL and Facebook. Find lehighvalleylive.com on Facebook.

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Mercury transit 2019: Where, when and how to see a rare astronomical event Monday (even if its cloudy) - lehighvalleylive.com

SpaceX and Boeing complete crucial tests for their crew capsules – Astronomy Magazine

However, as the capsule started to come back down to Earth, only two of the three parachutes on Starliner deployed. Even with the undeployed parachute, Starliner passed according to NASAs testing standards.

SpaceX also just completed a round of tests. The company ran 13 consecutive successful tests of their upgraded parachutes on their Crew Dragon capsule on November 3, surpassing the 10 tests needed to pass.

Throughout the spring, SpaceX was set to be the first private aerospace company to send a crewed mission to space. Then in April, a Crew Dragon exploded on the launch pad during a standard static fire test a tethered-down run meant to measure the engines. The explosion was later linked to a leaky valve. The same capsule had docked at the ISS just a month prior to the explosion, completing the first orbit test. Later in May, SpaceX failed to successfully deploy their parachutes during a test run, setting them back again.

SpaceX currently doesnt have any dates confirmed with NASA as to when it will send another uncrewed mission to ISS with their Crew Dragon. But experts and SpaceX watchers have speculated a date may be coming soon.

As a part of their Commercial Crew Program, NASA contracted Boeing and SpaceX to develop rockets, launch systems, and capsules to get astronauts back to the ISS on rockets launched from American soil. Currently, NASA could pay up to $85 million to Russia per seat on one of their Soyuz rockets.

Both capsules can hold up to seven astronauts, and each aerospace company has selected and trained three astronauts to travel into space on their maiden crewed voyages. These flights could happen in early 2020 if testing continues as planned.

The next scheduled test of Starliner will be on December 17, when the uncrewed capsule will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket to the ISS. This will be the first of two uncrewed flights to the ISS before Boeing is able to send a crewed mission into space.

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SpaceX and Boeing complete crucial tests for their crew capsules - Astronomy Magazine

Magical Negro Rehab Attempts to Fix One of Hollywoods Biggest Tropes – Vulture

Last year, sketch team Astronomy Club debuted a digital series on Comedy Central that we called the networks best yet, and at least one person agreed, because now the ensemble is heading to Netflix with the launch of their very own sketch-comedy show. Ordered back in July, Astronomy Club features Keisha Zollar, James III, Monique Moses, Jerah Milligan, Caroline Martin, Ray Cordova, Jon Braylock, and Shawtane Bowen in a series of sketches covering an array of topics ranging from pop culture and social issues to the black experience, and both Black-ish creator Kenya Barris and I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson EP Daniel Powell are behind the show as executive producers.

Netflix released a very promising sneak peek from the series today titled Magical Negro Rehab, in which the cast plays characters from a bunch of films like Ghosts Oda Mae Brown, Bagger Vance, Driving Miss Daisys Hoke Colburn, and The Green Miles John Coffey who head to a rehab session at Dignity and Ambition for Magical Negroes, a.k.a. DAMN: We help Magical Negroes from classic films go from supporting to lead! Of course, breaking old habits is tough, and the characters tend to relapse as quickly as they seem to reach breakthroughs, but congratulations to John Coffey on managing to run across the room without hugging the sickness out of a single white person. Recovery isnt easy, and youve got to celebrate the small wins as they come.

Astronomy Club debuts on Netflix on Friday, December 6.

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Magical Negro Rehab Attempts to Fix One of Hollywoods Biggest Tropes - Vulture

Astronomy in two hemispheres, by Andrew B. White – The Red Hook Star-Revue

Now a resident of rural Pennsylvania, Miriam Clancy hails all the way from New Zealand, home of musical luminaries Lorde, Neil Finn, and Flight of the Conchords (and who could forget OMCs How Bizarre?). Clancy has recently released her new album Astronomy after a long creative and geographical journey.

While developing a musical career, being the recipient of a major music development award and releasing two critically lauded albums in her home country, Clancy set her sights further afield to reach both a wider audience and work with a heavyweight producer. Like many aspiring artists outside North America, this meant looking toward the US and the musical opportunities on offer here. With that in mind, Clancy and her husband/manager JP Winger reached out to several producers she admired, hoping to find an opportunity to work with one of them. This included Mike Ellis (aka Flood) who had worked with New Order, U2, Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode. He was keen, but due to a busy schedule he wouldnt be available for another 12 months. The search continued. Another producer who had caught Clancys ear was NYC based Chris Coady, who had worked with TV On the Radio, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Beach House. Coady too, like Flood, was in high demand. After jumping through a few hoops to work out logistics and timing, Clancy, with her album demos in hand, boarded a plane to NYC, and as it turned out, it would not be for the last time on this project.

With Coady producing and a tight schedule, sessions for a third of the album were completed at James Ihas (Smashing Pumpkins) Stratosphere Studios on the Upper West Side before Clancy needed to go back to New Zealand. It would be almost a year before she was able to return to NYC and complete the recordings, this time relocating to Downtown Studios in the East Village with David Tolomei (Dirty Projectors, Future Islands) engineering. Clancy describes the studio as small but well-loved, the walls still bearing graffiti by the Strokes from when they had recorded Is This It there. Sadly, like many other Manhattan studios, both of these studios have now closed.

After completing the recording, Clancy once again returned to New Zealand while Coady started on mixing the album. Shortly after her return, Clancy and her family received the green light to officially relocate to the US, initially landing on the west coast and making their way to New York City. The move seemed to be in tandem with the album being completed, although there was much work to be done before it could be released via her own label, Desert Road Record.

Astronomy, as the title suggests, is an expansive, ten-song album of effected guitars, angular drum machines and textured synths, married to Clancys mesmerizing vocals. Think Kate Bush fronting Joy Division and you start to get the picture. Aside from vocals, Clancy plays all of the instruments on the album along with a little help from Peter Hale (Here We Go Magic) and Guy Licata (Hercules and Love Affair) on drums, New Zealander Jol Mulholland on bass, and Chris Coady also contributing.

For the production process, Clancy says she wanted to create exactly what I was hearing in my head, and carefully constructed demos of the songs before going into the studio. Some of these demos made their way into the final recordings, notably the vintage drum machines, integral to the albums overall sound. I felt like I needed to be very strong with what I wanted,

as many a time in recording I would often get railroaded by the guy in the studio. It had happened before to me so much that I rallied, got fierce and over-prepared. I knew, though, after speaking with Chris and brainstorming with him, that he would shape the sonics in a way that I could trust. And he also gave direction and added some instrumentation that was amazing. No railroading there. He just encouraged me to do what I was doing times 100.

The finished results coming through the speakers confirm this. From the album opener The Sound with its meld of 80s synth and 90s shoegaze, Astronomy swirls and flows with cinematic pop songs equally absorbing for wide, open-sky treks or claustrophobic subway commutes. Its a stunning album that deserves your attention.

Notwithstanding the travel and time involved in Astronomys creation, Clancy and her family also endured a once in 100 years flood that swamped her studio and musical equipment at their home on New Zealands remote Great Barrier Island. Several of the albums songs were written on the island and that landscapes dreamy isolation seeps into Clancys music. Luckily, with the help of hardy friends and neighbors, some of the equipment was salvaged, dried out and returned to working use. To this day Clancy is still finding silt from the flood in her guitar pedal Board a constant reminder of Astronomys journey.

Astronomy is available on all streaming services and on CD from miriamclancy.com

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Astronomy in two hemispheres, by Andrew B. White - The Red Hook Star-Revue

Map to the Stars Astronomers Trace Most Common Molecule in the Universe – SciTechDaily

Orion Bar. Credit: Weilbacher et al.

Molecular hydrogen (H2) makes up 99% of the cold dense gas in galaxies. So mapping where stars are born basically means measuring H2, which lacks a strong characteristic signature at low temperatures. Astronomers from SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research and the University of Groningen have now mapped an emission signal from the trace molecule hydrogen fluoride (HF), in a place where the standard trace molecule carbon monoxide is absent. They are the first to produce a map of HF for a region in space, creating a new tool to indirectly map H2. Publication in Astronomy & Astrophysics on November 6th.

All across galaxies in our Universe, stars are dying and forming. And while our life on Earth is based on a rich jumble of various elements and molecules, the cold dense gas out of which stars form is pretty monotonous with 99% molecular hydrogen (H2). So if you want to map where stars are born, youd better have a good grasp on how to detect H2. Unfortunately, this material is hard to observe due to a lack of a strong characteristic signal at low temperaturesunlike its atomic cousin (H) which emits radio waves at an easily distinguishable wavelength of 21 cm. Astronomers from SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research and the University of Groningen have now discovered a new tool to indirectly measure H2, by mapping hydrogen fluoride (HF) and linking its abundance to that of H2.

The new tool comes in handy when other tools fail, for example in the Orion Bar, in between regions around the Orion Trapezium stars and the Orion Molecular Cloud. In these areas carbon is ionized, meaning that carbon monoxide (CO)usually a reliable trace molecule to find H2cant work as a tracer in this case. Floris van der Tak (SRON/RuG) and his team were surprised to find a characteristic HF signal in data from the Herschel telescope coming from the Orion Bar, as astronomers have previously only detected hydrogen fluoride as a silhouette: HF absorbing other radiation. HF and H2 abundance can be linked because HF is produced in a chemical reaction where H2 reacts with atomic fluorine (F) to form HF and atomic hydrogen (H). Without H2 there is no HF.

The team, led by SRON Ph.D. student mit Kavak, used their map of HF to examine a few mechanisms through which it could emit its signal. Collisions of HF molecules with electrons and molecular hydrogen turns out to be the main mechanism. The collisions excite the HF molecules to a higher energy state, after which they drop to their ground state while emitting infrared light at a characteristic wavelength of 1.2 THz.

Origin of hydrogen fluoride emission in the Orion Bar: An excellent tracer for CO-dark H2 gas clouds by . Kavak, F. F. S. van der Tak, A. G. G. M. Tielens and R. F. Shipman, 6 November 2019, Astronomy & Astrophysics.DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201936127


Map to the Stars Astronomers Trace Most Common Molecule in the Universe - SciTechDaily

For The First Time, Astronomers Witness Colossal Winds Blowing Out of a Distant Galaxy – ScienceAlert

For the first time, astronomers have directly observed the massive outflow of gas extending hundreds of thousands of light-years from a galaxy.

It is, they say, the first direct evidence of how galactic winds feed the circumgalactic medium - the vast clouds of gas that wrap around galaxies as they float in intergalactic space. But more than that, the wind also reveals some of the wild dynamics of massive galactic collisions.

That's because the galaxy - called SDSS J211824.06+001729.4 and nicknamed Makani by the researchers after the Hawaiian word for 'wind' - is no ordinary object. It's actually a sort of galactic Frankenstein's monster, two galaxies that have collided and merged to form one compact, but massive galaxy.

Space may be mostly well, space, but there are a lot of galaxies floating through it. Every now and again, two of these galaxies will be gravitationally drawn together. There won't actually be much stuff bumping into other stuff; instead, they merge.

We've seen this in a few different stages of the smoosh process. Makani is what we can see after the smooshing has already taken place, called a late-stage major merger. And this tells us something about why it may be belching out gas.

"Galaxy mergers often lead to starburst events, when a substantial amount of gas present in the merging galaxies is compressed, resulting in a burst of new star births," explained astrophysicist Alison Coil of UC San Diego.

"Those new stars, in the case of Makani, likely caused the huge outflows - either in stellar winds or at the end of their lives when they exploded as supernovae."

And belching out gas Makani most certainly is. Using the Keck Cosmic Web Imager, the team mapped out a region of hot ionised oxygen that spans 4,900 square kiloparsecs, or roughly 52 billion square light-years.

There are two separate outflows depositing metal-enriched gas in an hourglass-shaped bipolar bubble at up to 10,000 Kelvin. These outflows seem to have occurred at different times.

The earlier one, shaped a bit like a TIE fighter, was launched around 400 million years ago, and is pushing into intergalactic space at a velocity of up to 1,400 kilometres per second (870 miles per second). The later one, protruding from the other side, was launched about 7 million years ago, and is blowing at up to 2,100 kilometres per second (1,300 miles per second).

"The earlier outflow has flowed to large distances from the galaxy, while the fast, recent outflow has not had time to do so," said physicist David Rupke of Rhodes College.

Putting together the rest of the puzzle required data from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). Hubble unveiled the stars in the galaxy, which in turn revealed its mass (huge) and size (compact), from which the team could then extrapolate the recent merger.

The ALMA radio data revealed the galaxy contained a mix of old, middle-aged, and very young stars, as well as, probably, an active galactic nucleus.

This is consistent with two papers released last year modelling the winds that drive the circumgalactic medium. One found that galactic winds can account for the observed properties of the circumgalactic medium. The other found that outflows from galactic mergers could increase the circumgalactic medium's metallicity.

As for what's producing the wind, the speed and size of the bubbles are consistent with the winds produced by mass star formation triggered by a galactic merger, as well as theoretical models of the size of these winds.

The hourglass shape of the winds is similar to ones that have been observed in other galaxies - something Rupke knows well, since he conducted a review of them released last year. The difference is the size - never before have galactic winds been seen on the scale produced by Makani.

This is what makes the difference when it comes to linking galactic winds to the circumgalactic medium.

"This means that we can confirm it's actually moving gas from the galaxy into the circumgalactic regions around it, as well as sweeping up more gas from its surroundings as it moves out," Rupke explained.

"And it's moving a lot of it - at least one to 10 percent of the visible mass of the entire galaxy - at very high speeds, thousands of kilometres per second."

It is, the team said, one of the very first direct windows into the evolving circumgalactic medium around a massive galaxy. And it's beautiful, too.

The research has been published in Nature Astronomy.

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For The First Time, Astronomers Witness Colossal Winds Blowing Out of a Distant Galaxy - ScienceAlert

The Thirty Meter Telescope Can Show Us the Universe. But at What Cost? – The New York Times

Kealoha Pisciotta, who was a physics major and then a telescope systems specialist on Mauna Kea for 12 years until 2003, has experienced the devaluation of her culture firsthand. She is the founder and president of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou (People Who Pray for the Mountain), one of the lead groups in the protests against the Thirty Meter Telescope. For the last 15 years, she has advocated indigenous celestial traditions by practicing and teaching them.

Members of the Royal Order of Kamehameha, representing Hawaiis indigenous dynasty, asked Ms. Pisciotta to help build and align a lele, a ceremonial site, on the summit of Mauna Kea. This lele included a platform for equinox and solstice rituals.

In the past, similar structures and ceremonies may have been used to measure an astronomical effect called the precession of the equinoxes. This is the wobble of the earths axis that slowly changes the positions of stars. For example, 1,000 years ago, Polaris was not at true north, but five degrees away, equivalent to 300 miles on the earths surface. Tracking the effect of the precession on star positions is crucial to accurate navigation over long time scales. Native Hawaiians understood this and incorporated observations into their navigational practices.

As Ms. Pisciotta wrote in 2011 in court testimony against continued construction on Mauna Kea, her lele was continually destroyed. Each time this happened, she rebuilt it.

Kep Maly, a Hawaiian historian, speculates that the top of Mauna Kea was at one time a traditional observation platform for celestial objects, intended as an observatory with raised stones to mark the positions of rising and setting stars. There is a temple, Koa Heiau Holomoana, on the Kohala coast of the Big Island, was most likely a site for the study of the stars for navigation.

Native Hawaiian astronomy is both ancient and new, and is deeply tied to Polynesian traditions of navigating long distances over the Pacific Ocean, using the stars as guides. By the time Captain Cook landed in Hawaii in 1778, long-distance navigation from Tahiti to Hawaii had ceased. Over the next 200 years, traditional astronomy and navigation, while preserved in oral histories, slowly faded from memory.

That began to change in the 1970s with the founding of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and the construction of the Hokulea, a voyaging canoe made to replicate long-distance seafaring canoes of the past. With this boat, indigenous astronomy went from an ancient memory to a modern-day practice.

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The Thirty Meter Telescope Can Show Us the Universe. But at What Cost? - The New York Times

How The Vedas Influenced Indian Astronomy Through The Ages – Swarajya

This prayer or offering follows a series of prayers to the first 20 natural numbers, odd numbers, even numbers, multiples of four, five, ten, twenty, forty and fifty. The religious significance is not my scope.

What they counted a trillion of, is an enigma. But these slokas demonstrate the use and understanding of decimal (base 10) numbers and large numbers.

Note the absence of the familiar laksha (lakh) and koti (crore). By the classical era, new names for some larger numbers emerged. Aryabhata, for example, uses koti for arbuda, and vrndam for samudra.

The fractions paada, shapha, kushTha and kalaa respectively 1/4, 1/8, 1/12 and 1/16 are mentioned in the Vedas, too.

These are all names of numbers only, not mathematical operations or algorithms, which are explained in Vedangas.

Other Stars, Planets, Constellations

Five planets are mentioned, but only Brhaspati by name, and Venus as Vena rather than Shukra.

The most famous constellation was Sapta Rishi, (a section of Ursa Minor), stars in the polar regions, which revolved around Dhruva, the Pole star. There is a beautiful poem, comparing stars rising after Vrkam (Sirius), as birds of heaven chasing the wolf.

The brightest star of the southern hemisphere suddenly became visible during this era. This star was called Agastya (Canopus) and linked with the story of the rishi who headed south, requesting the growing Vindhyas to stop until he returned.

Perhaps, the legend captures the period of a tilt in the earths axis, when the night sky at that latitude became on Aryavrata. Another southern star is called Vishvamitra, and three surrounding stars, Trishanku.

Comets, Meteors, Eclipses

A prayer in Atharva Veda mentions comets (ulkaani) and meteors (dhoomaketu). Strangely, except for Varahamihira, no classical astronomer mentioned these objects.

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How The Vedas Influenced Indian Astronomy Through The Ages - Swarajya

Physics and astronomy open house to bring exciting day of learning – The Post

Athens families and Ohio University students can experience the fun of science for free with the OU Physics and Astronomy department bringing back its biannual open house event.

The Physics and Astronomy open house happens every other year and acts as a way to provide tours of the labs, showcase the technology through exciting spectacles and giving people hands-on experience with various activities.

Mark Lucas, a senior lecturer for the physics and astronomy department, is integral in putting the event on.

We turn Clippinger into an interactive science museum for the day, Lucas said. Im trusted to shape it and launch it, and kind of see where the chaos leads.

The open house started in 2005 for the world year of physics. The department as a whole came together and decided to make it a bi-annual event, but tweaked it so it was only for one day.

The event features lectures and tours. This year, one of the lectures is about the cosmic balancing act, and a group from the geography department will give tours of Scalia Laboratory. These are geared more toward older attendees.

The event also features shows and hallway activities. The hallway activities are geared more toward younger people to experience hands-on activities of science, but the shows are for everyone.

This year, the shows will be Fun with Liquid Nitrogen, What NOT to Do with Your Microwave, Sharks with Lasers on Their Heads, Levitation: Beating Back Gravity, Power of Air, Makers Corner and Making the Invisible Escape Room.

Typically the event gets about a thousand people to come through, and have between 120 and 150 volunteers.

Students think the event is going to be a great way for families and other OU students to have a hands-on science experience.

Brandy Gabrielson, a junior studying restaurant, hotel and tourism, believes its an affordable opportunity for people to have some science-themed fun.

Itll be entertaining for people to go to and very hands-on education-wise, Gabrielson said. Its a cool opportunity for families to go to, especially for families who cant afford Cosi or Imagination Station.

Malorie Hurd, an undecided freshman, likes the idea that children can get educated about science through fun activities.

Its important so they can get an idea of what goes on in the college labs, and use stuff hands-on for themselves, Hurd said. Also, if I didnt know where I wanted to go to school or if I wanted to try stuff out, this would be interesting.

Lucas favorite part about the event is the energy he gets from the attendees.

We get kids who come in and are just all over the place and excited about what theyre doing, and then that bleeds over to the undergrads and the graduate students and the faculty who are doing the shows and activities, Lucas said.

Lucas believes with the informal setting and plethora of activities that people of all ages should come and enjoy a day full of science and learning about things they may not normally get the chance to be exposed to.

Theres a wide range of activities and its geared toward all ages, Lucas said. And some of the things the physical world has in store for us are quite fascinating, so its fun to poke and prod around the edges.



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Physics and astronomy open house to bring exciting day of learning - The Post

TESS Captures Breathtaking Panorama of Southern Sky | Astronomy – Sci-News.com

Constructed from 208 images taken by NASAs Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) during its first year of science operations, completed on July 18, 2019, this mosaic (high-resolution version) reveals both the beauty of the cosmic landscape and the reach of the spacecrafts cameras.

This mosaic of the southern sky was assembled from 208 TESS images. Among the many notable celestial objects visible is the glowing band (left) of the Milky Way, our home Galaxy seen edgewise, the Orion Nebula (top), a nursery for newborn stars, and the Large Magellanic Cloud (center), a nearby galaxy located about 163,000 light-years away. The prominent dark lines are gaps between the detectors in TESS camera system. Image credit: NASA / MIT / TESS / Ethan Kruse, USRA.

Within this scene, TESS has discovered 29 exoplanets (including three small planets in orbit around the red dwarf GJ 357, a sub-Neptune and an Earth-sized planet around HD 21749, and three small planets around the red dwarf L 98-59) and more than 1,000 candidate planets astronomers are now investigating.

Analysis of TESS data focuses on individual stars and planets one at a time, said Dr. Ethan Kruse, a postdoctoral researcher at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center.

But I wanted to step back and highlight everything at once, really emphasizing the spectacular view TESS gives us of the entire sky.

TESS is the first space-based, all-sky surveyor to search for alien worlds. It has four wide field-of-view optical cameras which carry a total of 16 charge-coupled devices (CCDs) arranged to view a long strip of the sky called an observation sector.

For the first year of its planned two-year mission, TESS divided the southern sky into 13 sectors and imaged each one of them for nearly a month.

Remarkably, the TESS cameras capture a full sector of the sky every 30 minutes as part of its search for phenomena called exoplanet transits. A transit occurs when a planet passes in front of its star from the observers perspective, causing a periodic and regular dip in the stars brightness.

During the satellites first year of operations, each of its CCDs captured 15,347 30-minute science images.

These images are just a part of more than 20 terabytes of southern sky data TESS has returned, comparable to streaming nearly 6,000 high-definition movies.

After completing its southern survey, TESS turned north to begin a year-long study of the northern sky.

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TESS Captures Breathtaking Panorama of Southern Sky | Astronomy - Sci-News.com

NICER spots thermonuclear flash from pulsar detonation – Astronomy Now Online

An artists impression of a Type 1 X-ray burst, triggered when gas falling into a rapidly spinning neutron star a pulsar builds to the point that a thermonuclear detonation occurs, blowing off the outer layers of the compacted star. Image: NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center/Chris Smith (USRA)

The Neutron styar Interior Composition Explorer NICER telescope array aboard the International Space Station has captured a brilliant burst of X-rays caused by a titanic thermonuclear blast on the surface of a spinning pulsar that released as much energy in 20 seconds as the Sun does in nearly 10 days.

This burst was outstanding, said lead researcher Peter Bult, an astrophysicist at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center and the University of Maryland. We see a two-step change in brightness, which we think is caused by the ejection of separate layers from the pulsar surface, and other features that will help us decode the physics of these powerful events.

The Type 1 X-ray burst was detected on 21 August from an object catalogued as SAX J1808.4-3658, or J1808 for short, located some 11,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Sagittarius. The collapsed remnant of a once massive star, J1808 spins 401 times per second in a binary system that also includes a brown dwarf.

Gas pulled in from the brown dwarf a body larger than a planet but not massive enough to support nuclear fusion spirals into an accretion disc around the pulsar. Every few years, that disc becomes so dense the gas is ionised and eventually spirals inward, falling onto the pulsars surface.

At the base of the hydrogen sea that forms, temperatures and pressures can climb to the point that fusion begins, generating helium nuclei.

The helium settles out and builds up a layer of its own, said Goddards Zaven Arzoumanian, NICER deputy principal investigator and co-author of a paper in The Astrophysical Journal. Once the helium layer is a few metres deep, the conditions allow helium nuclei to fuse into carbon. Then the helium erupts explosively and unleashes a thermonuclear fireball across the entire pulsar surface.

As the burst detected by NICER proceeded, the X-ray intensity levelled off for nearly a second before climbing again at a slower pace. This stalling may represent the moment when the hydrogen layer was blown away into space. The outburst continued for another two seconds and reached its peak as the more massive helium layer was blown away.

The helium racing away from the pulsar caught up with the hydrogen layer, slowed and then settled back to the surface. The pulsar brightened again by about 20 percent, but its not yet known why.

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NICER spots thermonuclear flash from pulsar detonation - Astronomy Now Online

The ‘Three-Body Problem’ Has Perplexed Astronomers Since Newton Formulated It. A.I. Just Cracked It in Under a Second. – Livescience.com

The mind-bending calculations required to predict how three heavenly bodies orbit each other have baffled physicists since the time of Sir Isaac Newton. Now artificial intelligence (A.I.) has shown that it can solve the problem in a fraction of the time required by previous approaches.

Newton was the first to formulate the problem in the 17th century, but finding a simple way to solve it has proved incredibly difficult. The gravitational interactions between three celestial objects like planets, stars and moons result in a chaotic system one that is complex and highly sensitive to the starting positions of each body.

Current approaches to solving these problems involve using software that can take weeks or even months to complete calculations. So researchers decided to see if a neural network a type of pattern recognizing A.I. that loosely mimics how the brain works could do better.

Related: The 11 Most Beautiful Mathematical Equations

The algorithm they built provided accurate solutions up to 100 million times faster than the most advanced software program, known as Brutus. That could prove invaluable to astronomers trying to understand things like the behavior of star clusters and the broader evolution of the universe, said Chris Foley, a biostatistician at the University of Cambridge and co-author of a paper to the arXiv database, which has yet to be peer-reviewed.

"This neural net, if it does a good job, should be able to provide us with solutions in an unprecedented time frame," he told Live Science. "So we can start to think about making progress with much deeper questions, like how gravitational waves form."

Neural networks must be trained by being fed data before they can make predictions. So the researchers had to generate 9,900 simplified three-body scenarios using Brutus, the current leader when it comes to solving three-body problems.

They then tested how well the neural net could predict the evolution of 5,000 unseen scenarios, and found its results closely matched those of Brutus. However, the A.I.-based program solved the problems in an average of just a fraction of a second, compared with nearly 2 minutes.

The reason programs like Brutus are so slow is that they solve the problem by brute force, said Foley, carrying out calculations for each tiny step of the celestial bodies' trajectories. The neural net, on the other hand, simply looks at the movements those calculations produce and deduces a pattern that can help predict how future scenarios will play out.

That presents a problem for scaling the system up, though, Foley said. The current algorithm is a proof-of-concept and learned from simplified scenarios, but training on more complex ones or even increasing the number of bodies involved to four of five first requires you to generate the data on Brutus, which can be extremely time-consuming and expensive.

"There's an interplay between our ability to train a fantastically performing neural network and our ability to actually derive data with which to train it," he said. "So there's a bottleneck there."

One way around that problem would be for researchers to create a common repository of data produced using programs like Brutus. But first that would require the creation of standard protocols to ensure the data was all of a consistent standard and format, Foley said.

There are still a few issues to work through with the neural net as well, Foley said. It can run for only a set time, but it's not possible to know in advance how long a particular scenario will take to complete, so the algorithm can run out of steam before the problem is solved.

The researchers don't envisage the neural net working in isolation, though, Foley said. They think the best solution would be for a program like Brutus to do most of the legwork with the neural net, taking on only the parts of the simulation that involve more complex calculations that bog down the software.

"You create this hybrid," Foley said. "Every time Brutus gets stuck, you employ the neural network and jig it forward. And then you assess whether or not Brutus has become unstuck."

Originally published on Live Science.

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The 'Three-Body Problem' Has Perplexed Astronomers Since Newton Formulated It. A.I. Just Cracked It in Under a Second. - Livescience.com

The Sky This Week from October 11 to 20 – Astronomy Magazine

Sunday, October 13Full Moon officially arrives at 5:08 p.m. EDT, but it will look completely illuminated all night. You can find it rising in the east shortly after sunset and peaking high in the south around 1 a.m. local daylight time. It dips low in the west by the time morning twilight starts to paint the sky. The Moon lies in southeastern Pisces near that constellations border with Cetus. Octobers Full Moon also goes by the name Hunters Moon. In early autumn, the Full Moon rises about half an hour later each night compared with a normal lag close to 50 minutes. The added early evening illumination supposedly helps hunters track down their prey.

Monday, October 14Although autumn began three weeks ago and the stars of winters Orion now rule the morning sky, the Summer Triangle remains prominent on October evenings. Look high in the west after darkness falls and your eyes will fall on the brilliant star Vega in the constellation Lyra the Harp. At magnitude 0.0, Vega is the brightest member of the triangle. The second-brightest star, magnitude 0.8 Altair in Aquila the Eagle, lies some 35 southeast of Vega. The asterisms dimmest member, magnitude 1.3 Deneb in Cygnus the Swan, stands about 25 east-northeast of Vega. For observers at mid-northern latitudes, Deneb passes through the zenith around 8 p.m. local daylight time, just as the last vestiges of twilight disappear.

Tuesday, October 15After a three-month hiatus lost in the Suns glare, Venus returns to view after sunset in mid-October. Its not easy to see, however it stands just 2 high in the west-southwest a half-hour after sundown. Luckily, the inner planet shines brilliantly at magnitude 3.8 and should show up if you have a haze-free sky and unobstructed horizon. Despite this pedestrian start to its evening apparition, Venus will be a glorious sight this coming winter and spring.

Wednesday, October 16Uranus reaches opposition in just two weeks, and it is already a tempting evening target. The ice giant world rises during twilight and climbs 30 above the eastern horizon by 9:30 p.m. local daylight time. The magnitude 5.7 planet lurks among the background stars of southern Aries. Use binoculars to find the planet 2.7 south of the similarly bright star 19 Arietis. A telescope reveals Uranus blue-green disk, which spans 3.7". To learn more about viewing Uranus and its outer solar system cousin, Neptune, see Observe the ice giants in Octobers Astronomy.

Thursday, October 17The variable star Algol in Perseus reaches minimum brightness at 5:27 a.m. EDT. If you start watching it late yesterday evening, you can see its brightness diminish by 70 percent (its magnitude drops from 2.1 to 3.4) over the course of about five hours. This eclipsing binary star runs through a cycle from minimum to maximum and back every 2.87 days. Algol appears in the northeast during the evening hours and passes nearly overhead around 2 a.m. local daylight time.

Friday, October 18Saturn remains a glorious sight this week. The ringed planet resides among the background stars of Sagittarius the Archer, a region that appears 25 high in the south-southwest as twilight fades to darkness and doesnt set until close to 11 p.m. local daylight time. Saturn shines at magnitude 0.5 and appears significantly brighter than any of its host constellations stars. Although a naked-eye view of the planet is nice, seeing it through a telescope truly inspires. Even a small instrument shows the distant worlds 16"-diameter disk and spectacular ring system, which spans 37" and tilts 25 to our line of sight.

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The Sky This Week from October 11 to 20 - Astronomy Magazine

Astronomy ed event turns the telescope on Earth – SF State News

If you could take a tour of our cosmic neighborhood, what would be on your itinerary? The massive geysers of the ice moon Enceladus? A lava channel on Venus longer than the Nile River? What about the 12-mile high Verona Rupes on Uranus moon, Miranda the tallest cliff in the solar system? While these destinations may be out of reach, the astronomers who study them will be near at hand Oct. 18 for the Astronomical Society of the Pacifics Earth to Space event at San Francisco State University.

The days activities are free and open to the public and will feature a talk on the top tourist attractions of the solar system along with other space-focused educational talks and activities. The conference will also highlight the uncertain future of one particular planet: our own.

We want to bring the astronomical perspective to issues of climate change and the Earth, said Professor of Physics and Astronomy Adrienne Cool, an event organizer. Earth is a planet its the only planet were ever going to have, actually.

Cool says astronomers offer unique insight into the urgency of climate change. Astronomers are extremely conscious of the fact that we are a tiny, tiny mote in very empty space, she explains. We deal with that all the time: the extraordinary isolation and vulnerability of this planet that we all live on. Sharing that perspective is one of the ways the Astronomical Society of the Pacific aims to connect people with science at this conference.

Linda Shore, CEO of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and an SF State alumna (B.A., 63; M.S., 86), says she expects the event will help the public see the relevance of astronomy to their everyday lives, encourage scientists to engage with their communities and help science educators expand their own knowledge and improve how they facilitate science learning. Thats always been the mission of the society, Shore explains: bringing together people from all walks of life to celebrate the awe and wonder of the night sky.

To spread that wonder, scientists and environmental policy experts will give talks at the event on topics ranging from the history of lunar exploration to the search for distant planets. Attendees will be able to hunt for sunspots with solar telescopes, experience a planetarium show and visit the Universitys observatory after dark to view planets and galaxies in the sky (weather permitting). Students in SF States Department of Physics and Astronomy will also host Astronomy on Tap, a series of short talks about their own research.

As we face the crisis of climate change in our own little corner of the sky, creating a community of shared wonder may be more important than ever, Cool explains. I think thats my hope for this conference, she said. That it will make us all realize that we have lots in common, lots to talk about and lots we can help each other with.

The conference will be held from 1 to 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18, across SF States main campus. For details, see the Astronomical Society of the Pacifics webpage.

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Astronomy ed event turns the telescope on Earth - SF State News

Astronomer L. Ilsedore Cleeves Joins the Ranks of UVA’s Packard Fellows – University of Virginia

L Ilsedore Cleevess fascination with the origins of the universe began with an elementary school field trip to Sapelo Island, Georgia, where she and her classmates studied the night sky from the beaches of the barrier island. She went on to earn international headlines as a Ph.D. student, when she was the lead author of a 2014 Science journal article that concluded that as much as half of the water present in the solar system is older than the sun itself.

Five years later, the University of Virginia assistant professor of astronomy is considered one of the worlds leading experts in theoretical astrochemistry and its applications to newly forming and formed planets. Her work on the dusty disks around young stars where planet formation takes place has earned her a prestigious Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering.

Announced this morning by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the program for early-career scientists and engineers offers $875,000 over five years for each of this years 22 fellows to pursue their research.

For Cleeves, who came to the University in 2018 from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where she was a NASA Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow, that means advancing our understanding of the molecular and physical origins of planetary systems, including our own. Using clues from interstellar molecular emission, Cleeves and her research group study young planetary systems in formation around low-mass stars. These protoplanetary disks represent the very materials from which planets, comets and other solar system bodies eventually form.

The announcement of Cleevess fellowship comes a week after the announcement of this years Nobel Prize in Physics, which went to James Peebles, an astrophysicist who helped to explain how matter in the young universe swirled into galaxies, and Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz, the first astronomers to discover a planet circling around a distant sun-like star, showing that other stars similar to the sun also possess planets.

Given the recent advances in exoplanet [planets beyond our solar system] and planet formation science, its an awesome time to be doing origins research, said Cleeves, who also holds a joint faculty appointment within the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, in the Department of Chemistry.

The Packard Fellowships in Science and Engineering are among the nations largest nongovernmental fellowships, designed to allow maximum flexibility in how the funding is used. Since 1988, this program has supported opportunities for young investigators to conduct unencumbered research under the belief that their research over time will lead to new discoveries that improve peoples lives and enhance our understanding of the universe.

Cleeves joins two of her department colleagues as a Packard Fellow and is one of seven at UVA, which joins an elite group of universities with an astronomy department featuring three or more Packard Fellows.

Packard Fellows have gone on to receive a range of accolades, including Nobel Prizes in Chemistry and Physics, the Fields Medal, the Alan T. Waterman Award, MacArthur Fellowships, and elections to national academies. Packard Fellows also gather at annual meetings to discuss their research, where conversations have led to unexpected collaborations across disciplines.

Cleeves joins two of her department colleagues as a Packard Fellow and is one of seven at UVA, which joins an elite group of universities with an astronomy department featuring three or more Packard Fellows.

Craig Sarazin, W.H. Vanderbilt Professor of Astronomy and chair of the Department of Astronomy, said Cleeves has already established herself as a brilliant and productive scientist who is making important contributions to our understanding of astrochemistry and the origin of planets.

Ilses work can help to answer the question: How much is the evolution toward life on planets aided by organic materials delivered to planets as they form, or shortly thereafter? Sarazin said. In just one year at UVA, Ilse has built a very strong group of post-docs, grad students and undergraduates,whom she is mentoring.

Cleeves uses both computer models and observations in her study of the dusty disks around young stars where planet formation happens. Her groups research aims to figure out how the properties of these disks lead to robust planet formation, especially with respect to potentially habitable planets.

While she focuses on the theoretical modeling of these systems, her work is guided by observational results from the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array in Chile the largest radio astronomy observatory in the world as well as data from other observatories.

Were really fortunate to be next door to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, which maintains a close partnership with the University of Virginia, Cleeves said. Having this expertise nearby has been an incredibly productive relationship. In terms of the molecules we can detect in space, we use radio telescopes to observe and even map them.

But thats just half of the challenge. Even with ALMA, we cant see everything thats going with the discs that are forming planets. So that requires interpreting what we see with ALMA when we measure a certain molecule, and that depends heavily on chemical modeling. We continually need to improve our models, since they are only as good as the information they are based on.

Cleeves also serves on the management committee for the Virginia Initiative on Cosmic Origins, a UVA research initiative hosted by the departments of Astronomy, Chemistry, Computer Science, Environmental Sciences, and Materials Science & Engineering, and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Established in 2017 with a grant from the UVA Strategic Investment Fund, VICO is exploring fundamental questions about the formation of galaxies, stars, planets and life in the universe.

Cleeves said our knowledge of exoplanets planets that orbit around other stars beyond the solar system has expanded to the point where they may seem ubiquitous. The challenge remains, however, to understand the diversity in their composition and how they formed.

Were seeing exoplanets with a wide variety of compositions, with water, and carbon, and so where I come into this is wanting to understand how all of this material got there, Cleeves said. Where did all of this diversity in the architectures of these exoplanets come from? Where did their water come from? Is water a common ingredient of forming planets? What is the role of organic material? We want to understand what fundamentally drives the chemistry of planet formation, and eventually, planets.

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Astronomer L. Ilsedore Cleeves Joins the Ranks of UVA's Packard Fellows - University of Virginia