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Category Archives: Astronomy

The Sky This Week from May 29 to June 5 – Astronomy Magazine

Posted: June 1, 2020 at 3:46 am

Wednesday, June 3Venus is in inferior conjunction at 2 P.M. EDT. When this occurs, Venus and Earth are on the same side of the Sun. Such geometry is only possible with the inferior planets Mercury and Venus, as well as any small solar system bodies, such as asteroids or comets, whose orbits take them inside the orbit of Earth.

Today also marks the 50th anniversary of the first American spacewalk, completed by Ed White during the Gemini 4 mission. Shortly after sunset tonight, you can spot the constellation with the same name Gemini the Twins in the west-northwest. Its two brightest stars, Castor and Pollux, appear side by side above the horizon, roughly 20 high an hour after sunset. These stars represent the heads of the twins, with their stick figure-like bodies beneath them, standing upright in the sky. Castor, the slightly fainter white star to the right of brighter and orange-hued Pollux, is a multiple-star system whose brightest components A and B are easy to split. Theyre about 5" apart in even a small telescope.

Beneath Gemini is Mercury, still visible after sunset. Well return here tomorrow, when the speedy planet reaches greatest eastern elongation.

Thursday, June 4Mercury is at greatest eastern elongation (24) at 9 A.M. EDT, but the best time to view it is this evening. The planet wont set until two hours after sunset, but it may be challenging to catch at only 7 above the horizon (for observers near 40 north) one hour after the Sun sets. Its magnitude is 0.4. Youll find the planet about 15 below Castor and Pollux, again sinking in the west-northwest as twilight darkens the sky. Through a telescope, youll see Mercurys 8"-wide disk is 36 percent lit.

The small planet will continue to both wane and set earlier each day, fading in brightness even as its disk grows in apparent size over the next two weeks.

Friday, June 5Full Moon occurs at 3:12 P.M. EDT. A penumbral lunar eclipse will also occur today, although it isnt visible for observers in the U.S. or Canada, nor much of South America. The eastern portion of South America, as well as Africa, Australia, Europe, and much of Russia, will be able to view all or part of the event. A penumbral eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through the lighter portion of Earths shadow, called the penumbra, causing a shading effect, although none of the Moon will go completely dark.

North American observers can still get in on the Moon action, however, by swinging binoculars or scopes to the Full Moon to enjoy the sprawling lunar landscape on display. Be aware that the Full Moon can be exceptionally bright through optical aid, however, and will put a serious damper on your night vision. If you have one, use a Moon filter in your scope; alternatively, crank up the power, which will spread out the light and make viewing more comfortable.

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The Sky This Week from May 29 to June 5 - Astronomy Magazine

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New SpaceX satellites launched, all part of this week’s astronomy highlights – WDBJ7

Posted: at 3:46 am

It was an amazing week for astronomy fans. The SpaceX Dragon was sent out of this world in the first manned launch to space in over a decade, and the first commercial manned launch to space.

SpaceX makes headlines again this week as they launch another round of StarLink satellites. Here's a list of other sky happenings during the week of June 1, from Tony Rice, NASA JPL solar system ambassador.

- Mercury reaches the highest point in the evening sky. 20 degrees above the horizon. Look for it about 10 degrees below Gemini's stars Pollux and Castor

- Venus is leaving the evening sky as her orbit takes her to close to the Sun to safely observe, she'll emerge in the pre-dawn sky late next week.

- Take note of the Big Dipper, last week it was horizontal, this week, diagonal, in another ten days it will appear to be hanging from its handle.

MONDAY Jun 1: look for the bright star Spica near the waxing gibbous Moon in the southern sky after sunset.Wed: SpaceX launch of another batch of Starlink satellites. The L-3 Launch Weather Forecast looks pretty good with just 80% probability of violating launch weather criteria.

WEDNESDAY, Jun 3 08:55 PM EDT (00:55 UTC) SpaceX plans the launch of Starlink-8 from the Cape Canaveral AFS in Florida

THURSDAY Jun 4: look for the bright orangey star Antares near the waxing gibbous Moon in the southern sky after sunset.

FRIDAY Jun 6 Full Strawberry Moon The penumbral lunar eclipse (17:45Z - 21:04Z) will NOT be visible from North America.

SATELLITE LAUNCHES

June 3, 1965: Gemini IV launch, Ed White takes first American space walkJune 4, 1974: construction of Space Shuttle Enterprise begins

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New SpaceX satellites launched, all part of this week's astronomy highlights - WDBJ7

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Discovery of Massive Galaxy Just 1.5 Billion Years After the Big Bang Has Astronomers Questioning Formation Models – SciTechDaily

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The dusty spiral galaxy NGC 4414. Neeleman et al. report the observation of another galaxy disk that existed just 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang, considerably earlier than previously reported disks. Credit: The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI/NASA)

Published recently in Nature, an international team of researchers has observed a massive, rotating disk galaxy just 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang1.5 billion years earlier in cosmic history than astronomers had expected to find such a galaxy based on previous studies. The research has fueled debate about how galaxies in the early Universe assembled.

The observations were made using one of the most powerful radio telescopes in the world, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile.

This is an exciting discovery for astronomers because it provides clues as to how large-scale structure began to form in the Universe, said Dr. Alfred Tiley from the UWA node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR).

According to our current understanding of cosmology, galaxy formation follows a hierarchical order. First, dark matter haloes are thought to develop, which then draw in surrounding gas that cools to form stars and eventually galaxies.

In the early stages, some models predict that the gas heats up as it falls into the dark matter halo, Tiley said.

Over a long period the gas cools and allows the galaxys disk to form.

But the discovery of a massive disk galaxy just 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang tells us its formation may have followed a different pathpossibly a cold-accretion model in which the infalling gas remained cold, allowing for the rapid condensation of the disk.

At this stage, this is just one galaxy, so we need to find more like it to further test our models and help us better understand what exactly was going on in the early Universe.

For more on this discovery, read Massive Rotating Disk in Early Universe Discovered by Largest Radio Telescope in the World.

Reference: A Cold, Massive, Rotating Disk 1.5 Billion Years after the Big Bang by Marcel Neeleman, J. Xavier Prochaska, Nissim Kanekar and Marc Rafelski, 20, May 2020, Nature.DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2276-y

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Discovery of Massive Galaxy Just 1.5 Billion Years After the Big Bang Has Astronomers Questioning Formation Models - SciTechDaily

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Space out: Learn about rockets, astronomy, cosmic events and astronauts with this guide to the galaxy – Seattle Times

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After almost nine years of astronauts hitching rides off the planet, Americans are getting ready to travel on their own rockets again with theNASA-SpaceX launch of crew to the International Space Station rescheduled for May 30. And with Perseverance, another NASA rover vehicle, headed to Mars this summer, 2020 is shaping up to be a busy year on the final frontier.

If you find yourself with a new (or renewed) interest in Americas space program or general astronomy, youre in luck: The web is full of free and inexpensive learning resources to feed your mind. You can even find a few science projects to keep the family busy. Heres a guide.

Tour NASA.gov

The main NASA website is a great place to discover the past, present and future of the countrys role in cosmic exploration. Along with history articles and multimedia, the live NASA TV video stream is on the site, as are links to the agencys expansive presence across social-media channels (including Giphy, SoundCloud and Twitch).

Visit the downloads section of the site for links to NASAs mobile apps or free e-books including the NASA Systems Engineering Handbook. Theres also an audio library with clips you can use as ringtones or computer alerts, like the foreboding Houston, weve had a problem warning from the nationally nerve-racking Apollo 13 mission in 1970.

NASA maintains many other websites, as does its Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, which hosts sites for the Mars projects, for solar-system exploration and even the old 1970s Voyager interstellar probes.

Mark your calendar

Want to know when to look up for a meteor shower or the next photo-worthy supermoon? Bookmark or subscribe to an astronomy calendar. For example, TimesandDate.com hosts a Calendar of Cosmic Events that notes eclipses, equinoxes, solstices and more.

To get major astronomical events to appear automatically on your online calendar, search for a subscription option, like the Moon Phase & Astronomy Calendar. And the Science desk of The New York Times maintains its own astronomy and space calendar that works with Google Calendar and the iOS Calendar app.

See the stars

When youre ready to explore the cosmos on your own, use your smartphone; just search for astronomy in your app store. Many popular apps combine augmented reality, 3-D models and your location information to provide a customized guided tour of the sky.

The $3 Star Walk 2 for Android and iOS is beautifully designed, and the apps news section alerts you to upcoming astronomical events. The $2 Star Rover for Android and iOS also provides a pocket planetarium experience, as does the free SkyView Lite for Android and iOS.

SkySafari has apps for Android and iOS on several enthusiast levels (paid versions range from about $3 to $40), and the more expensive editions include mobile control for compatible home telescopes. And if you dont have your own telescope, peek at the images by the Hubble Space Telescope on its official website.

Virtually visit a museum

Although many institutions have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, their online exhibits are up. For example, the Smithsonians National Air and Space Museum website has several displays to browse as well as other content in the free Google Arts & Culture app for Android and iOS.

Googles app also lets you take a tour of Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, and the complexs own site hosts virtual learning events. And if your apartment is feeling cramped, the site for the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History has a free educational version of its Digital Universe 3-D atlas as a hefty download for desktop systems.

Find family learning activities

Colorful planets and rolling rovers have a certain appeal for children and can help foster an early interest in science, technology engineering and mathematics. Chicagos Museum of Science and Industry offers a Science at Home collection of hands-on projects for children, like designing a parachute or building a stomp rocket.

The California Science Center has several projects as part of its Stuck at Home Science activity series that teaches material using household supplies.

NASAs website has a huge area devoted to STEM education projects and resources for students of all ages to use or download like free bookmarks with biographies of Katherine Johnson and the math wizards of Hidden Figures fame. Lessons start at the kindergarten level to teach fundamental concepts in physics and engineering, like a pasta project that has students use uncooked spaghetti to build the tallest free-standing structure that will support a marshmallow for at least 15 seconds. And if that project leads to culinary questions, search the NASA site for its Eating in Space videos.

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Space out: Learn about rockets, astronomy, cosmic events and astronauts with this guide to the galaxy - Seattle Times

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View On Astronomy: A quiet month astronomically means it’s time to get creative – The Independent

Posted: at 3:46 am

My columns are written at least a month or so in advance of a specific month due to a variety of publication deadlines. At the time of this writing in mid-April, New York City may have flattened the curve in the corona virus pandemic. Unfortunately other regions of our country could still experience a rise in cases and deaths. The Rhode Island stay-at-home order remains in effect, and I believe it will be quite some time before any of the local observatories will be open for public observing. Its simply impossible to adhere to social distancing guidelines in a dome.

I hope you have been able to at least get outside and scan the heavens when the weather has been clear. Other than the June Solstice, which occurs on June 22 at 5:44 p.m. EDT, June is a relatively quiet month for exciting astronomical events. (You may have noticed I did not say Summer Solstice. Why? The naming of the seasons has always been northern hemisphere biased. When it is summer for us in the northern hemisphere, it is winter in the southern hemisphere. And vice-versa. However, in the last decade or so when mentioning a solstice or equinox, the protocol is to say which hemisphere one is referring to.)

I wanted to do something different for this June column. While relaxing one afternoon the idea hit me like Newtons proverbial apple. Conduct a Create a Constellation contest.

When we look at the night sky we all see the same stars. However, unless you are well-versed in sky lore no one perceives the same star pattern. Though each star is just an apparently random diamond set in the blackness of space, the human mind tends to connect the dots into familiar patterns that can be recognized again and again. Our ancient ancestors played connect the dots with the stars, and the constellations were born.

However, what if you know absolutely nothing about what a star pattern is supposed to represent? How would you connect the dots to form a stellar pictogram? A star pattern will then merely depend upon the knowledge and experience of the viewer.

Therefore, that is the challenge I am proposing. Think of this project as your interpretation of a stellar Rorschach ink-blot test. This contest is open to children ages 6 to 16. While todays youth are usually more tech savvy that many adults, I ask parents to help facilitate your childs participation.

Accompanying this column is an actual constellation whose identifying lines have been removed. The brighter of the star patterns stars have been included. (You may download the constellation template from the Skyscrapers website: http://www.theskyscrapers.org/constellation-creation-template). Some of you may recognize the constellation, but I dont want you to be influenced by that knowledge. Kids, I want you to create a new representation for these stars. In addition, I would also encourage you to invent some mythology that would explain why your constellation was placed in the sky for all to see. You can even provide names for some of the brighter stars.

Be creative. You may orient this constellation template any way you desire. Use any art form you wish to create your constellation. When you have completed your work, please have it scanned and sent to this email address: astronomygolocal@gmail.com. Deadline for submissions is July 15, 2020. Parents, please provide contestants name and age. Include name of constellation, bright star names, and a brief mythology. (By submitting you consent to having your childs constellation project published at a later date.) All entries will be judged. The contest winner will receive a family membership donated by yours truly in Skyscrapers, Inc., the Amateur Astronomical Society of Rhode Island, owners and operators of Seagrave Memorial Observatory in North Scituate.

I look forward to receiving your new constellation creations and learning about their unique sky lore.

Keep your eyes to the skies!

The author has been involved in the field of observational astronomy in Rhode Island for more than 35 years. He serves as historian of Skyscrapers Inc., the second oldest continuously operating amateur astronomical society in the United States.

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View On Astronomy: A quiet month astronomically means it's time to get creative - The Independent

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Bombardment by Asteroids and Comets in Another Planetary System Predicted by Astronomers – SciTechDaily

Posted: at 3:46 am

The planetary system around star HR8799 is remarkably similar to our Solar System. A research team led by astronomers from the University of Groningen and SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research has used this similarity to model the delivery of materials by asteroids, comets and other minor bodies within the system. Their simulation shows that the four gas planets receive material delivered by minor bodies, just like in our Solar System. The results were published by the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics on May 29, 2020.

Counting outwards from the Sun, our Solar System consists of four rocky planets, an asteroid belt, four gas giants, and another asteroid belt. The inner planets are rich in refractory materials such as metals and silicates, the outer planets are rich in volatiles such as water and methane. While forming, the inner planets had a hard time collecting a volatile atmosphere because the strong solar wind kept blowing the gas away. At the same time, the heat from the Sun evaporated any ice clumps, so it was harder to retain water. In the outer regions, there was less solar heat and wind, so the eventual gas giants could collect water ice and also gather large atmospheres filled with volatiles.

Astronomers predict bombardment from asteroids and comets in another planetary system. Credit: Anastasia Kruchevska

Minor bodies, including asteroids, comets and dust, fine-tuned this outcome later on by delivering refractories from the inner belt and both volatiles and refractories from the outer belt. A research team led by astronomers from the University of Groningen and SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research wondered if the same delivery system applies to planetary systems around other stars. They created a simulation for the system around HR8799, which is similar to our Solar System with four gas giants plus an inner and outer belt, and possibly rocky planets inside the inner belt. Therefore the team could take some unknowns about HR8799 from our own Solar System.

The simulation shows that just like in our Solar System, the four gas planets receive material delivered by minor bodies. The team predicts a total delivery of both material types of around half a millionth of the planets masses. Future observations, for example by NASAs James Webb Space Telescope, will be able to measure the amount of refractories in the volatile-rich gas giants. If telescopes detect the predicted amount of refractories, it means that these can be explained by delivery from the belts as shown in the model, explains Kateryna Frantseva, first author of the paper. However, if they detect more refractories than predicted, the delivery process is more active than was assumed in the model, for example, because HR8799 is much younger than the Solar System. The HR8799 system may contain terrestrial planets, for which volatile delivery from the asteroid belts may be of astrobiological relevance.

Reference: Enrichment of the HR 8799 planets by minor bodies and dust by K. Frantseva, M. Mueller, P. Pokorn, F. F.S. van der Tak and I. L. ten Kate, 29 May 2020, Astronomy & Astrophysics.DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201936783

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Bombardment by Asteroids and Comets in Another Planetary System Predicted by Astronomers - SciTechDaily

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Astronomers spot blue ‘beast’ of an explosion in the universe – CNN

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Fast radio bursts, which make a splash by leaving their host galaxy in a bright burst of radio waves, helped detect "missing matter" in the universe.

A new type of explosion was found in a tiny galaxy 500 million light-years away from Earth. This type of explosion is referred to as a fast blue optical transient.

Astronomers have discovered a rare type of galaxy described as a "cosmic ring of fire." This artist's illustration shows the galaxy as it existed 11 billion years ago.

This is an artist's impression of the Wolfe Disk, a massive rotating disk galaxy in the early universe.

A bright yellow "twist" near the center of this image shows where a planet may be forming around the AB Aurigae star. The image was captured by the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope.

This artist's illustration shows the orbits of two stars and an invisible black hole 1,000 light-years from Earth. This system includes one star (small orbit seen in blue) orbiting a newly discovered black hole (orbit in red), as well as a third star in a wider orbit (also in blue).

This illustration shows a star's core, known as a white dwarf, pulled into orbit around a black hole. During each orbit, the black hole rips off more material from the star and pulls it into a glowing disk of material around the black hole. Before its encounter with the black hole, the star was a red giant in the last stages of stellar evolution.

This artist's illustration shows the collision of two 125-mile-wide icy, dusty bodies orbiting the bright star Fomalhaut, located 25 light-years away. The observation of the aftermath of this collision was once thought to be an exoplanet.

This is an artist's impression of the interstellar comet 2I/Borisov as it travels through our solar system. New observations detected carbon monixide in the cometary tail as the sun heated the comet.

This rosette pattern is the orbit of a star, called S2, around the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy.

This is an artist's illustration of SN2016aps, which astronomers believe is the brightest supernova ever observed.

This is an artist's illustration of a brown dwarf, or a "failed star" object, and its magnetic field. The brown dwarf's atmosphere and magnetic field rotate at different speeds, which allowed astronomers to determine wind speed on the object.

This artist's illustration shows an intermediate-mass black hole tearing into a star.

This is an artist's impression of a large star known as HD74423 and its much smaller red dwarf companion in a binary star system. The large star appears to pulsate on one side only, and it's being distorted by the gravitational pull of its companion star into a teardrop shape.

This is an artist's impression of two white dwarfs in the process of merging. While astronomers expected that this might cause a supernova, they have found an instance of two white dwarf stars that survived merging.

A combination of space and ground-based telescopes have found evidence for the biggest explosion seen in the universe. The explosion was created by a black hole located in the Ophiuchus cluster's central galaxy, which has blasted out jets and carved a large cavity in the surrounding hot gas.

The red supergiant star Betelgeuse, in the constellation of Orion, has been undergoing unprecedented dimming. This image was taken in January using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope.

This new ALMA image shows the outcome of a stellar fight: a complex and stunning gas environment surrounding the binary star system HD101584.

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope captured the Tarantula Nebula in two wavelengths of infrared light. The red represents hot gas, while the blue regions are interstellar dust.

A white dwarf, left, is pulling material off of a brown dwarf, right, about 3,000 light-years from Earth.

This image shows the orbits of the six G objects at the center of our galaxy, with the supermassive black hole indicated with a white cross. Stars, gas and dust are in the background.

After stars die, they expel their particles out into space, which form new stars in turn. In one case, stardust became embedded in a meteorite that fell to Earth. This illustration shows that stardust could flow from sources like the Egg Nebula to create the grains recovered from the meteorite, which landed in Australia.

The former North Star, Alpha Draconis or Thuban, is circled here in an image of the northern sky.

Galaxy UGC 2885, nicknamed the "Godzilla galaxy," may be the largest one in the local universe.

The host galaxy of a newly traced repeating fast radio burst acquired with the 8-meter Gemini-North telescope.

The Milky Way's central region was imaged using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope.

This is an artist's illustration of what MAMBO-9 would look like in visible light. The galaxy is very dusty and it has yet to build most of its stars. The two components show that the galaxy is in the process of merging.

Astronomers have found a white dwarf star surrounded by a gas disk created from an ice giant planet being torn apart by its gravity.

New measurements of the black hole at the center of the Holm 15A galaxy reveal it's 40 billion times more massive than our sun, making it the heaviest known black hole to be directly measured.

A close-up view of an interstellar comet passing through our solar system can be seen on the left. On the right, astronomers used an image of Earth for comparison.

The galaxy NGC 6240 hosts three supermassive black holes at its core.

Gamma-ray bursts are shown in this artist's illustration. They can be triggered by the collision or neutron stars or the explosion of a super massive star, collapsing into a black hole.

Two gaseous clouds resembling peacocks have been found in neighboring dwarf galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud. In these images by the ALMA telescopes, red and green highlight molecular gas while blue shows ionized hydrogen gas.

An artist's impression of the Milky Way's big black hole flinging a star from the galaxy's center.

The Jack-o'-lantern Nebula is on the edge of the Milky Way. Radiation from the massive star at its center created spooky-looking gaps in the nebula that make it look like a carved pumpkin.

This new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope captures two galaxies of equal size in a collision that appears to resemble a ghostly face. This observation was made on 19 June 2019 in visible light by the telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys.

A new SPHERE/VLT image of Hygiea, which could be the Solar System's smallest dwarf planet yet. As an object in the main asteroid belt, Hygiea satisfies right away three of the four requirements to be classified as a dwarf planet: it orbits around the Sun, it is not a moon and, unlike a planet, it has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit. The final requirement is that it have enough mass that its own gravity pulls it into a roughly spherical shape. This is what VLT observations have now revealed about Hygiea.

This is an artist's rendering of what a massive galaxy from the early universe might look like. The rendering shows that star formation in the galaxy is lighting up the surrounding gas. Image by James Josephides/Swinburne Astronomy Productions, Christina Williams/University of Arizona and Ivo Labbe/Swinburne.

This is an artist's illustration of gas and dust disk around the star HD 163296. Gaps in the disk are likely the location of baby planets that are forming.

This is a two-color composite image of comet 2I/Borisov captured by the Gemini North telescope on September 10.

This illustration shows a young, forming planet in a "baby-proof" star system.

Using a simulation, astronomers shed light on the faint gaseous filaments that comprise the cosmic web in a massive galaxy cluster.

The Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera observed Saturn in June as the planet made its closest approach to Earth this year, at approximately 1.36 billion kilometers away.

An artist's impression of the massive bursts of ionizing radiation exploding from the center of the Milky Way and impacting the Magellanic Stream.

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array captured this unprecedented image of two circumstellar disks, in which baby stars are growing, feeding off material from their surrounding birth disk.

This is an artist's illustration of what a Neptune-size moon would look like orbiting the gas giant exoplanet Kepler-1625b in a star system 8,000 light-years from Earth. It could be the first exomoon ever discovered.

This infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows a cloud of gas and dust full of bubbles, which are inflated by wind and radiation from massive young stars. Each bubble is filled with hundreds to thousands of stars, which form from dense clouds of gas and dust.

This is an artist's impression of the path of the fast radio burst FRB 181112 traveling from a distant host galaxy to reach the Earth. It passed through the halo of a galaxy on the way.

After passing too close to a supermassive black hole, the star in this artist's conception is torn into a thin stream of gas, which is then pulled back around the black hole and slams into itself, creating a bright shock and ejecting more hot material.

Comparison of GJ 3512 to the Solar System and other nearby red-dwarf planetary systems. Planets around a solar-mass stars can grow until they start accreting gas and become giant planets such as Jupiter, in a few millions of years. But we thought that small stars such asProxima, TRAPPIST-1, Teegarderns star and GJ 3512, could not form Jupiter mass planets.

A collision of three galaxies has set three supermassive black holes on a crash course with each other in a system one billion light-years from Earth.

2I/Borisov is the first interstellar comet observed in our solar system and only the second observed interstellar visitor to our solar system.

KIC 8462852, also known as Boyajian's Star or Tabby's Star, is 1,000 light-years from us. It's 50% bigger than our sun and 1,000 degrees hotter. And it doesn't behave like any other star, dimming and brightening sporadically. Dust around the star, depicted here in an artist's illustration, may be the most likely cause of its strange behavior.

This is an artist's impression of a massive neutron star's pulse being delayed by the passage of a white dwarf star between the neutron star and Earth. Astronomers have detected the most massive neutron star to date due to this delay.

The European Southern Observatory's VISTA telescope captured a stunning image of the Large Magellanic Cloud, one of our nearest galactic neighbors. The near-infrared capability of the telescope showcases millions of individual stars.

Astronomers believe Comet C/2019 Q4 could be the second known interstellar visitor to our solar system. It was first spotted on August 30 and imaged by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Hawaii's Big Island on September 10, 2019.

A star known as S0-2, represented as the blue and green object in this artist's illustration, made its closest approach to the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way in 2018. This provided a test for Einstein's theory of general relativity.

This is a radio image of the Milky Way's galactic center. The radio bubbles discovered by MeerKAT extend vertically above and below the plane of the galaxy.

A kilanova was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2016, seen here next to the red arrow. Kilanovae are massive explosions that create heavy elements like gold and platinum.

This is an artist's depiction of a black hole about to swallow a neutron star. Detectors signaled this possible event on August 14.

This artist's illustration shows LHS 3844b, a rocky nearby exoplanet. It's 1.3 times the mass of Earth and orbits a cool M-dwarf star. The planet's surface is probably dark and covered in cooled volcanic material, and there is no detectable atmosphere.

An artist's concept of the explosion of a massive star within a dense stellar environment.

Galaxy NGC 5866 is 44 million light-years from Earth. It appears flat because we can only see its edge in this image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

The Hubble Space Telescope took a dazzling new portrait of Jupiter, showcasing its vivid colors and swirling cloud features in the atmosphere.

This is an artist's impression of the ancient massive and distant galaxies observed with ALMA.

Glowing gas clouds and newborn stars make up the Seagull Nebula in one of the Milky Way galaxy's spiral arms.

An artist's concept of what the first stars looked like soon after the Big Bang.

Spiral galaxy NGC 2985 lies roughly over 70 million light years from our solar system in the constellation of Ursa Major.

Early in the history of the universe, the Milky Way galaxy collided with a dwarf galaxy, left, which helped form our galaxy's ring and structure as it's known today.

An artist's illustration of a thin disc embedded in a supermassive black hole at the center of spiral galaxy NGC 3147, 130 million light-years away.

Hubble captured this view of a spiral galaxy named NGC 972 that appears to be blooming with new star formation. The orange glow is created as hydrogen gas reacts to the intense light streaming outwards from nearby newborn stars.

This is jellyfish galaxy JO201.

The Eta Carinae star system, located 7,500 light-years from Earth, experienced a great explosion in 1838 and the Hubble Space Telescope is still capturing the aftermath. This new ultraviolet image reveals the warm glowing gas clouds that resemble fireworks.

'Oumuamua, the first observed interstellar visitor to our solar system, is shown in an artist's illustration.

This is an artist's rendering of ancient supernovae that bombarded Earth with cosmic energy millions of years ago.

An artist's impression of CSIRO's Australian SKA Pathfinder radio telescope finding a fast radio burst and determining its precise location.

The Whirlpool galaxy has been captured in different light wavelengths. On the left is a visible light image. The next image combines visible and infrared light, while the two on the right show different wavelengths of infrared light.

Electrically charged C60 molecules, in which 60 carbon atoms are arranged in a hollow sphere that resembles a soccer ball, was found by the Hubble Space Telescope in the interstellar medium between star systems.

These are magnified galaxies behind large galaxy clusters. The pink halos reveal the gas surrounding the distant galaxies and its structure. The gravitational lensing effect of the clusters multiplies the images of the galaxies.

This artist's illustration shows a blue quasar at the center of a galaxy.

The NICER detector on the International Space Station recorded 22 months of nighttime X-ray data to create this map of the entire sky.

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope captured this mosaic of the star-forming Cepheus C and Cepheus B regions.

Galaxy NGC 4485 collided with its larger galactic neighbor NGC 4490 millions of years ago, leading to the creation of new stars seen in the right side of the image.

Astronomers developed a mosaic of the distant universe, called the Hubble Legacy Field, that documents 16 years of observations from the Hubble Space Telescope. The image contains 200,000 galaxies that stretch back through 13.3 billion years of time to just 500 million years after the Big Bang.

A ground-based telescope's view of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a neighboring galaxy of our Milky Way. The inset was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and shows one of the star clusters in the galaxy.

One of the brightest planetary nebulae on the sky and first discovered in 1878, nebula NGC 7027 can be seen toward the constellation of the Swan.

The asteroid 6478 Gault is seen with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, showing two narrow, comet-like tails of debris that tell us that the asteroid is slowly undergoing self-destruction. The bright streaks surrounding the asteroid are background stars. The Gault asteroid is located 214 million miles from the Sun, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

The ghostly shell in this image is a supernova, and the glowing trail leading away from it is a pulsar.

Hidden in one of the darkest corners of the Orion constellation, this Cosmic Bat is spreading its hazy wings through interstellar space two thousand light-years away. It is illuminated by the young stars nestled in its coredespite being shrouded by opaque clouds of dust, their bright rays still illuminate the nebula.

In this illustration, several dust rings circle the sun. These rings form when planets' gravities tug dust grains into orbit around the sun. Recently, scientists have detected a dust ring at Mercury's orbit. Others hypothesize the source of Venus' dust ring is a group of never-before-detected co-orbital asteroids.

This is an artist's impression of globular star clusters surrounding the Milky Way.

An artist's impression of life on a planet in orbit around a binary star system, visible as two suns in the sky.

An artist's illustration of one of the most distant solar system objects yet observed, 2018 VG18 -- also known as "Farout." The pink hue suggests the presence of ice. We don't yet have an idea of what "FarFarOut" looks like.

This is an artist's concept of the tiny moon Hippocamp that was discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope. Only 20 miles across, it may actually be a broken-off fragment from a much larger neighboring moon, Proteus, seen as a crescent in the background.

In this illustration, an asteroid (bottom left) breaks apart under the powerful gravity of LSPM J0207+3331, the oldest, coldest white dwarf known to be surrounded by a ring of dusty debris. Scientists think the system's infrared signal is best explained by two distinct rings composed of dust supplied by crumbling asteroids.

An artist's impression of the warped and twisted Milky Way disk. This happens when the rotational forces of the massive center of the galaxy tug on the outer disk.

This 1.3-kilometer (0.8-mile)-radius Kuiper Belt Object discovered by researchers on the edge of the solar system is believed to be the step between balls of dust and ice and fully formed planets.

A selfie taken by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover on Vera Rubin Ridge before it moves to a new location.

The Hubble Space Telescope found a dwarf galaxy hiding behind a big star cluster that's in our cosmic neighborhood. It's so old and pristine that researchers have dubbed it a "living fossil" from the early universe.

How did massive black holes form in the early universe? The rotating gaseous disk of this dark matter halo breaks apart into three clumps that collapse under their own gravity to form supermassive stars. Those stars will quickly collapse and form massive black holes.

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Astronomers spot blue 'beast' of an explosion in the universe - CNN

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Space Out and Explore the Universe Without Leaving Home – The New York Times

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After almost nine years of astronauts hitching rides off the planet, Americans are finally traveling on their own rockets again with this weeks NASA-SpaceX launch of crew to the International Space Station. And with Perseverance, another NASA rover vehicle, headed to Mars this summer, 2020 is shaping up to be a busy year on the final frontier.

If you find yourself with a new (or renewed) interest in Americas space program or general astronomy, youre in luck the web is full of free and inexpensive learning resources to feed your mind. You can even find a few science projects to keep the family busy. Heres a guide.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration main website is a great place to discover the past, present and future of the countrys role in cosmic exploration. Along with history articles and multimedia, the live NASA TV video stream is on the site, as are links to the agencys expansive presence across social-media channels (including Giphy, SoundCloud and Twitch).

To get major astronomical events to appear automatically on your online calendar, search for a subscription option, like the Moon Phase & Astronomy Calendar. And the Science desk of The New York Times maintains its own astronomy and space calendar that works with Google Calendar and the iOS Calendar app.

When youre ready to explore the cosmos on your own, use your smartphone; just search for astronomy in your app store. Many popular apps combine augmented reality, 3-D models and your location information to provide a customized guided tour of the sky.

The $3 Star Walk 2 for Android and iOS is beautifully designed, and the apps news section alerts you to upcoming astronomical events. The $2 Star Rover for Android and iOS also provides a pocket planetarium experience, as does the free SkyView Lite for Android and iOS.

SkySafari has apps for Android and iOS on several enthusiast levels (paid versions range from about $3 to $40), and the more expensive editions include mobile control for compatible home telescopes. And if you dont have your own telescope, peek at the images by the Hubble Space Telescope on its official website.

Although many institutions have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, their online exhibits are up. For example, the Smithsonians National Air and Space Museum website has several displays to browse as well as other content in the free Google Arts & Culture app for Android and iOS.

Googles app also lets you take a tour of Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, and the complexs own site hosts virtual learning events. And if your apartment is feeling cramped, the site for the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History has a free educational version of its Digital Universe 3-D atlas as a hefty download for desktop systems.

Colorful planets and rolling rovers have a certain appeal for children and can help foster an early interest in science, technology engineering and mathematics. Chicagos Museum of Science and Industry offers a Science at Home collection of hands-on projects for children, like designing a parachute or building a stomp rocket.

The California Science Center has several projects as part of its Stuck at Home Science activity series that teaches material using household supplies.

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Why these astronomers now doubt theres a Planet Nine – EarthSky

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An artists concept of a hypothetical planet with a distant sun. Image via Shutterstock/ The Conversation.

by Samantha Lawler, University of Regina

Planet Nine is a theoretical, undiscovered giant planet in the mysterious far reaches of our solar system.

The presence of Planet Nine has been hypothesized to explain everything from the tilt of the suns spin axis to the apparent clustering in the orbits of small, icy asteroids beyond Neptune.

But does Planet Nine actually exist?

Discoveries at the edge of our solar system

The Kuiper Belt is a collection of small, icy bodies that orbit the sun beyond Neptune, at distances larger than 30 AU (one astronomical unit or AU is the distance between the Earth and the sun). These Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) range in size from large boulders to 1,200 miles (2,000 km) across. KBOs are leftover small bits of planetary material that were never incorporated into planets, similar to the asteroid belt.

After Pluto, the second Kuiper Belt Object 1992 QB1 was discovered in 1992 by American astronomers David Jewitt and Jane Luu using the 2.2-m telescope at Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Image via NASA.

The discoveries from the most successful Kuiper Belt survey to date, the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS), suggest a sneakier explanation for the orbits we see. Many of these KBOs have been discovered to have very elliptical and tilted orbits, like Pluto.

Mathematical calculations and detailed computer simulations have shown that the orbits we see in the Kuiper Belt can only have been created if Neptune originally formed a few AU closer to the sun, and migrated outward to its present orbit. Neptunes migration explains the pervasiveness of highly elliptical orbits in the Kuiper Belt, and can explain all the KBO orbits weve observed, except for a handful of KBOs on extreme orbits that always stay at least 10 AU beyond Neptune.

Proof of Planet Nine?

These extreme orbits have provided the strongest evidence for Planet Nine. The first few that were discovered were all confined to one quadrant of the solar system. Astronomers expect to observe orbits at all different orientations, unless there is an outside force confining them. Finding several extreme KBOs on orbits pointed in the same direction was a hint that something was going on. Two separate groups of researchers calculated that only a large, very distant planet could keep all the orbits confined to part of the solar system, and the theory of Planet Nine was born.

Planet Nine is theorized to be five to 10 times as massive as Earth, with an orbit ranging between 300-700 AU. There have been several published predictions for its location in the solar system, but none of the search teams have yet discovered it. After more than four years of searching, there is still only indirect evidence in favor of Planet Nine.

The search for KBOs

Searching for KBOs requires careful planning, precise calculations and meticulous followup. I am part of the OSSOS, a collaboration of 40 astronomers from eight countries. We used the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope over five years to discover and track more than 800 new KBOs, nearly doubling the number of known KBOs with well-measured orbits. The KBOs discovered by OSSOS range in size from a few kilometers to over 100 km (60 miles), and range in discovery distance from a few AU to over 100 AU, with the majority at 40-42 AU in the main Kuiper Belt.

KBOs do not emit their own light: these small, icy bodies only reflect light from the sun. Thus, the biases against detection at larger distances are extreme: if you move a KBO 10 times farther away, it will become 10,000 times fainter. And because of the laws of physics, KBOs on elliptical orbits will spend most of their time at the most distant parts of their orbits. So, while it is easy to find KBOs on elliptical orbits when they are close to the sun and bright, these KBOs spend most time being much fainter and harder to detect.

This means that the KBOs on elliptical orbits are particularly hard to discover, especially the extreme ones that always stay relatively far from the sun. Only a few of these have been found to date and, with current telescopes, we can only discover them when they are near pericenter the closest point to the sun in their orbit.

This leads to another observation bias that has historically been ignored by many KBO surveys: KBOs in each part of the solar system can only be discovered at certain times of year. Ground-based telescopes are additionally limited by seasonal weather, with discoveries less likely to happen during when cloudy, rainy or windy conditions are more frequent. Discoveries of KBOs are also much less likely near the plane of the Milky Way galaxy, where countless stars make it difficult to find the faint, icy wanderers in telescopic images.

What makes OSSOS unique is that we are very public about these biases in discoveries. And because we understand our biases so well, we can use computer simulations to reconstruct the true shape of the Kuiper Belt after removing these biases.

Adjusting for biases

OSSOS discovered a handful of new extreme KBOs, half of which are outside the confined region, and are statistically consistent with a uniform distribution. A new study (currently in review) corroborates the non-clustered discoveries of OSSOS. A team of astronomers using data from the Dark Energy Survey (DES) found over 300 new KBOs with no clustering of orbits. So now two independent surveys both of which carefully tracked and reported their observational biases in discovering independent sets of extreme KBOs have found no evidence for clustered orbits.

All known KBOs with orbits larger than 250 AU. The orbits of KBOs discovered by OSSOS and DES are in many directions; previous surveys with unknown biases discovered them in the same direction. This image was produced using public data from the Minor Planet Center Database. Image via Samantha Lawler/ The Conversation.

All of the extreme KBOs that had been discovered prior to OSSOS and DES were from surveys that did not fully report their directional biases. So we do not know if all these KBOs were discovered in the same quadrant of the solar system because they are actually confined, or because no surveys searched deep enough in the other quadrants. We performed additional simulations that showed that if observations are made only in one season from one telescope, extreme KBOs will naturally only be discovered in one quadrant of the solar system.

Further testing the Planet Nine theory, we looked in detail at the orbits of all known extreme KBOs and found that all but the two highest pericenter KBOs can be explained by known physical effects. These two KBOs are outliers, but our previous detailed computer simulations of the Kuiper Belt, which included gravitational effects from Planet Nine, produced a set of extreme KBOs with pericenters smoothly ranging from 40 to over 100 AU.

These simulations predict that there should be many KBOs with pericenters as large as the two outliers, but also many KBOs with smaller pericenters, which should be much easier to detect. Why dont the orbit discoveries match the predictions? The answer may be that the Planet Nine theory does not hold up to detailed observations.

Our observations with a careful survey have discovered KBOs that are not confined by Planet Nine, and our simulations show that the Kuiper Belt should contain different orbits than we observe if Planet Nine exists. Other theories must be invoked to explain the high-pericenter extreme KBOs, but there is no lack of proposed theories in the scientific literature.

Many beautiful and surprising objects remain to be discovered in the mysterious outer solar system, but I dont believe that Planet Nine is one of them.

Samantha Lawler, Assistant professor of astronomy, University of Regina

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Bottom line: Astronomers think there might not be a Planet Nine.

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Assistant Teaching Professor of Physics and Astronomy in Munce, IN for Ball State University – Physics

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Department of Physics & Astronomy

Assistant Teaching Professor of Physics and Astronomy

Ball State University

Ball State Universitys Department of Physics & Astronomy invites applications from individuals who can contribute through their research, teaching, and service to the growth of our department. A one-year contract faculty position is available August 21, 2020, where the successful applicant will teach courses at the undergraduate level, primarily introductory courses for majors and/or non-majors and participate in departmental service-related activities of the university at a level associated with a contract-faculty position.

Minimum qualifications:

Candidates for searches must have current authorization to be employed in the U.S. without employer sponsorship.

Preferred qualifications:

Apply online at: http://bsu.peopleadmin.com/postings/21619. Include the following documents with your application: cover letter, CV, Teaching Statement/Portfolio, and Research Statement/Papers. Note that only one document may be uploaded. Therefore, if you desire to upload multiple documents you will need to combine them into a singlePDFprior to the upload. Although the option to upload copies of transcripts is available in the application, an official, original transcript showing the highest related degree earned is required at time of hire. Additionally, a degree verification will be ordered at time of hire.

Review of applications will begin immediately and will be accepted through June 24, 2020.

Ball State University is located in Muncie, Indiana, approximately 45 miles northeast of Indianapolis. Approximately 21,000 undergraduate and graduate students enroll each year in diverse academic programs on and off campus. Our students come from all Indiana counties, all 50 states and 68 countries to pursue knowledge in seven academic colleges offering 190 undergraduate majors, 130 undergraduate minors, 140 graduate programs and 200 study abroad programs.

The Ball State way is rooted in the Beneficence Pledge a commitment to excellence in teaching and scholarship, honesty and integrity, social responsibility, gratitude and valuing the intrinsic worth of each member of our community. Ball State students, faculty and staff are empowered in a culture that believes in them and demands they believe in themselves. They are partners in an innovative, immersive approach to education. They are supported by living and learning facilities that enable intellectual curiosity. We graduate scholars who are changing the world, and weve dedicated our University to do the same.

The university offers an excellent wellness program and extensive benefits offerings to include a generous paid time off package and paid parental leave. For further information regarding benefits please visit:

https://cms.bsu.edu/About/AdministrativeOffices/HumanResources/Jobs/Benefits-and-Community/Faculty

Ball State University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer that is strongly and actively committed to diversity within its community. Women, minorities, individuals with disabilities and protected veterans are strongly encouraged to apply. All qualified applicants will receive equal consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, protected veteran status or any other legally protected status.

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Assistant Teaching Professor of Physics and Astronomy in Munce, IN for Ball State University - Physics

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