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International Dark Sky Week 14 – 20 April, 2012 April 16, 2012

Posted by astronewsus in Celestial Events, Current Events, Miscellaneous, News Stories, Projects & Fun Things.
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Celebrate the stars! Created in 2003 by high-school student Jennifer Barlow, IDSW has grown to become a worldwide event and a key component of Global Astronomy Month. The goals of IDSW are to appreciate the beauty of the night sky and to raise awareness of how poor-quality lighting creates light pollution.

Light pollution is a growing problem. Not only does it have detrimental effects on our views of the night sky, but it also disrupts the natural environment, wastes energy, and has the potential to cause health problems.

Full Story: http://www.darksky.org/idsw

Astronomy Lectures for FREE April 10, 2012

Posted by astronewsus in Reblogged, Recommendations, Websites.
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astronewsus:

Thanks to Heavens With Lamps for a great resource :)

Originally posted on Heavens With Lamps:

Astronomy has been lately like a drug on me. So I have decided that I should study it (though at my own pace) but study it seriously. So I was looking up for astronomy lectures and I stumbled upon this MichiganTech University lectures on astronomy for first year freshers completely free of charge. Astronomy is considered as an expensive hobby per se…..but much to my astonishment much of astronomy stuff  could be acquired on the web for completely FREE.

So I am enrolling myself for this study and perhaps sit for an exam too later….I can’t say about that. But I think giving some of my time to learning something fascinating is worthwhile.

And though there are calculations and stuff requiring mental exercise and quite of reading yet I am jumping on this. By the way anyone interested to join the bandwagon, just hop on.

So, just to give a…

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Eyes on the Sky: Apr 9 thru Apr 15 April 9, 2012

Posted by astronewsus in Celestial Events, Current Events, Reblogged.
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astronewsus:

Thanks to Heavens With Lamps for the weekly reminder of what to look out for in the skies above :)

Originally posted on Heavens With Lamps:

Eyes on the Sky: Apr 9 thru Apr 15

Seeing double in Taurus with the Goddess galloping by

Venus continues moving away from the Pleiades star cluster this week, nearby the Hyades instead, setting up both color contrasts with the 1st magnitude Aldebaran and helpfully pointing the way to some binocular double stars in the vicinity.  Saturn reaches opposition at the end of the week on April 15th, and offers up an even more steeply-tilted ring system this year compared to last.  With a handful of bright moons revolving around it – plus the planet splitting some 8th and 10th magnitude stars – there’s plenty to see in the sky naked eye, with binoculars and/or with a small telescope this week.  Wishing you clear and dark skies as you find and see what’s up this week!

Download Saturn chart here (file size is 2.9MB).

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Big Bigger Biggest Small Smaller Smallest April 6, 2012

Posted by astronewsus in Miscellaneous, Reblogged.
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astronewsus:

Big Bigger Biggest Small Smaller Smallest – Another cool post by Heavens With Lamps :)

Originally posted on Heavens With Lamps:

Credits: IMAX movie Cosmic Voyage

Credits : POWERS OF TEN © 1977 EAMES OFFICE LLC

Which is better? I am not saying about the  age-old visual quality or the Morgan Freeman’s low sound quality, but about the clarity of  explanation. I prefer the latter.

If you want the mind blowing experience of How BIG is Big and How SMALL is small,  then just visit this one, it’s the updated version.

P.S: Sometimes I ask myself : What are you doing here?

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Souvenir – Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark April 3, 2012

Posted by thelastsongiheard in Binoculars, Deep Sky Objects, Equipment, Myths & Legends, Open Clusters, Personal Recollections, Reblogged.
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Souvenir (Single)
Souvenir (Single)

The last song I heard this lunchtime was Souvenir by Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark. This song was released in late August 1981 and reached #3 about a month later.

I love this song. I love OMD. Three groups sum up my love of synthpop in the 80′s – OMD, the Human League and the Pet Shop Boys. I love this song because it reminds me of the Pleiades star cluster and a time when my passion for astronomy was really beginning to blossom.

Actually, there are three songs that make me think of this time and really, although Souvenir was still in the Top 20, it was dropping out of the charts when I was staring at the stars. The two other songs are Open Your Heart by the Human League  (#6, mid October) and Under Your Thumb by Godley & Creme (#3 when Open Your Heart was #6).

The reason why I love and associate Souvenir specifically with the Pleiades is simply because it has a very ethereal quality to it, much like the star cluster itself. I really love this song.

Colin had started going to Putteridge High School in September of 1980 and he and Mum had signed up for “art classes: in the evening. I didn’t go that year – the class finished at about 9pm and being 9 years old, they thought I was too young.

So I stayed home and played in my room until it was time to go with Dad to pick them up in the car.  We’d get home at around 9:30pm and it was usually around that time that I would stare at the stars through my window. Art class was two nights a week – probably Tuesdays and Thursdays – but I would stare at the stars on a Sunday too, usually when the Top 40 was on. Hence, my association with music.

The first time I saw the Pleiades was in October of 1980 – another OMD song, Enola Gay was in the charts and that also reminded me of that star cluster. (I still associate Souvenir with the Pleiades far more though.)

I was learning the constellations at the time and I had the Usbourne spotter’s guide to the Night Sky. It was yellow. It was easy to use and it had a checklist at the back where you could tick things off once you’d seen them. Better yet, as an added incentive, you could score points for each object – the harder the object, the more points you scored.

The points didn’t really mean anything, they just gave you bragging rights with your imaginary astronomy friends. None of my friends really understood it – except for maybe Ian, but he had yet to stick his head over the garden fence at this time.

(Incidentally, the book was re-released in 2006 and is available on Amazon. I might buy it for you James :) On the other hand, I might just buy a used copy for myself, just for old times sake LOL)

So I would look for constellations and planets and star clusters and nebulae… I was racking up quite a few points, and like my nights in Oklahoma years later, I was getting quite a kick from seeing all these celestial sights.

A typical starry, starry night would involve me opening up my bedroom window and leaning out, as far as I could, with a pair of old World War I binoculars Uncle Gerald had given me. I would get my bearings and then scan the sky.

The air would be cold – it was autumn – the heating would be on, and somehow Dad would know I had the window open. He would yell at me to “close the bloody window, you’re letting all the heat out” but I never quite fathomed how he knew.

The (simulated) view from my bedroom. Can you spot the Pleiades? (Click to enlarge - created with Stellarium)
The (simulated) view from my bedroom. Can you spot the Pleiades? (Click to enlarge – created with Stellarium)

So there I am, leaning out the window in mid October, at about nine thirty at night, and I see this tiny grouping of little stars rising in the east over the tree tops. I grabbed my spotter’s guide. Hmmm… that looks like Delphinus, methinks, not knowing that I was completely wrong. That’s a really small constellation was my second thought.

The Pleiades (Taken with Slooh on Christmas Day, 2011 - Click to enlarge)
The Pleiades (Taken with Slooh on Christmas Day, 2011 – Click to enlarge)

I grabbed my binoculars and I squinted at the stars. They looked stunning, even in a pair of seventy year old binoculars. Sometimes I “borrowed” Dad’s much newer pair and I know I used those on more than a few occasions. The image that I took with Slooh years later resembles the view a little.

I don’t know when I realised this wasn’t Delphinus but rather the Pleaides. It might have even been that first night, but I do know I was pretty thrilled to see it. For one thing, nothing truly beats the excitement of seeing something like that for the first time. And besides, the Pleiades scored more points.

I was particularly excited because the Pleaides is one of those star clusters you see all the time in books, on TV and in the movies. It’s famous. Now I was looking at it with my own eyes. It was like seeing your favourite celebrity walking across the street. (I did once see Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in London but – you’ve guessed it – that’s a story for another time. Spoilers!)

Despite my love for the stars, I really wanted to go to art class too, so I begged and I pleaded and eventually, much to Colin’s disgust, Mum gave in and I was allowed to go too. I believe my first year was 1981.

I wrote “art class” in parenthesis because it wasn’t really a class, just an excuse to sit around and paint and draw whatever you liked. Occasionally someone would stop by, nod appreciatively, make some vague remark about your unique use of charcoal and then wander on.

Most of my art consisted of stars, planets and a humungous rendition of the Battlestar Galactica whenever I had difficulty filling that space with something else. But again, like most things, that’s a story for another time.

Actually, that year was also the year that Mum decided my room needed a new lick of paint, so while we were at art class, Dad would dutifully be doing his own painting. Unfortunately, it made my room stink but more positively, the smell of paint can still bring me back to those nights.

Again, Dad would complain when I opened up my window and let all the warm air out, but this time, my argument was that I had to open up the window. The room stank of paint.

Best Of OMD (Album)
Best Of OMD (Album)

I didn’t know the title of Souvenir  - or who sang it – at the time. I didn’t know the title of Enola Gay from the year before or even had the slightest idea it was by the same group. It wasn’t until much later, in 1988, when I bought OMD’s Best Of album on vinyl that I came to those tracks and realised what they were. As stupid as it sounds, it was like meeting familiar old friends again.

In fact, that whole A side brought back a LOT of memories – besides Souvenir and  Enola Gay, Joan of Arc and Maid of Orleans also made me think of those star gazing nights. But nothing quite beat Souvenir.

Years later, when I was writing for Astronomy magazine, they asked me to write a piece about the myths and legends associated with the stars. Me being all artsy decided to write a fictional piece. It promptly got rejected, with a “it was nice, but not our kind of thing” email but I kept it anyway.

One of the myths I wrote about involved the Pleiades. I haven’t read it since. Knowing me, I’d probably read it and think it was crap, but if you’re interested, you can read it here. Enjoy. (But don’t judge me too harshly :P)

Lyrics: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/o/omd/souvenir_20103392.html

Sounds of Mars & Venus Revealed for 1st Time April 3, 2012

Posted by astronewsus in Mars, Projects & Fun Things, Saturn, Solar System, Venus.
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In a world first, the sounds of Mars and Venus are revealed as part of a planetarium show in Hampshire this Easter.

Despite many years of space exploration, we have no evidence of the sound of other planets. While most planetary probes have focused on imaging with cameras and radar and a couple have carried microphones, none of them successfully listened to the sound of another world.

Now, a team from the University of Southampton, led by Professor Tim Leighton, has the answer. Using the tools and techniques of physics and mathematics, they created the natural sounds of other worlds, from lightning on Venus to whirlwinds on Mars and ice volcanoes on Saturn’s moon, Titan. In addition to these natural sounds, they have modelled the effects of different atmospheres, pressures and temperatures on the human voice on Mars, Venus and Titan (Saturn’s largest moon). They have developed unique software to transform the sound of a voice on earth to one that’s literally ‘out of this world’.

Full Story: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/mediacentre/news/2012/apr/12_59.shtml

Live Feed of Venus-Pleiades Conjunction, Apr. 3 April 2, 2012

Posted by astronewsus in Celestial Events, Conjunctions, Deep Sky Objects, Open Clusters, Solar System, Venus.
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Slooh Space Camera will broadcast a free, real-time feed of the most famous star cluster in the heavens, the Pleiades, meeting up with our nearest and brightest planetary neighbor, Venus. Slooh’s coverage will begin on Tuesday, April 3rd starting at 1:30 PM PDT / 4:30 PM EDT / 20:30 UT. Slooh will provide an observatory feed from our world class observatory site in Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. The broadcast can be accessed at Slooh’s homepage or by visiting Slooh’s G+ page, where you will be able to see the panel interact live via G+ Hangouts On Air.

The Pleiades, otherwise known as the Seven Sisters, is a beautiful bright blue open star cluster 440 light years from Earth. The relative tightness of the cluster is indicative of its young age as the member stars were formed some 100 million years ago and will probably travel together through space as a bound cluster for another 250 million years before the gravity of the Milky Way breaks up the cluster into individual field stars. The central core radius of the cluster is only about 4.5 light years but the remote outer regions of the cluster may extend out as far as 52 light years from the center. The brighter members of the cluster, which make up the Seven Sisters, are blue stars with surface temperatures of about 20,000 degrees which is four times hotter than our own Sun.

Venus is sometimes called the Earth’s sister planet because they are so close in size. However, Venus is very different in many ways, with an atmosphere almost 100 times thicker than Earth’s composed of sulfuric acid and carbon dioxide. Even though it is only slightly closer to the Sun, the surface of Venus averages 900 degrees making it the hottest place in the solar system outside the Sun itself.

While Venus and Pleiades are hundreds of light years apart, they will appear together as neighbors in the same field of view. Venus will pass just below the bright blue star cluster. This incredible event happens only once every eight years.

Full Story: http://www.slooh.com/pr/slooh-live-feed-venus-pleiades-conjunction-april-2012.php

Entends-Tu Les Chiens Aboyer? – Vangelis March 29, 2012

Posted by thelastsongiheard in Personal Recollections, Reblogged.
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Ignacio (Album)
Ignacio (Album)

The last song I heard tonight was Entends-Tu Les Chiens Aboyer?  by Vangelis, from the album Ignacio. This is going to be a short post tonight because I’m pretty beat. I’ve had to get up every day at about 4:30am and then train from 6am to 3pm. On the plus side, I get out of work early – sometimes too early, as some eateries don’t open for dinner until 5pm.

I called you from my hotel but you weren’t home. In fact, you called me back right not long after I listened to this music. You told me about your swimming and your soccer practice and then, at the end of it all, as I was saying goodbye, you asked, “can I push the red button now?” :P

Anyway, this music was used quite substantially in Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, the documentary I wrote about a few weeks ago. I didn’t know what it was called for quite some time and Ignacio wasn’t an easy album to find at the time. Now you can easily order it from the internet.

This makes me think of the clear dark nights I spent under the stars in Lawton, Oklahoma. It was hard to do any real astronomy in England. My hometown, Luton, was too large and the light pollution was too bad. I couldn’t really get far enough from the lights and, consequently, there was always a dismal orange glow in the sky.

To make matters worth, Luton is almost 52 degrees north and I never really got to see anything of the southern constellations, such as Scorpius or Sagittarius. The first time I saw either was when I flew out to see Wendy in New York, in late June of 2000.

There were so many deep sky wonders that I feared I would never get the chance to see – the  Lagoon, Trifid, Eagle and Dumbbell nebulae, the globular clusters of Sagittarius, Ptolemy’s Cluster, the Butterfly Cluster… a myriad of double stars. I had read about these sights and seen the pictures in books and magazines but figured my skies were too bright or too northerly to see such faint fuzzies.

I originally bought the Orion 4.5 XT Dobsonian for your big brother, when I first came over to visit in September 2003. I bought it online, from England, and had it shipped to your Mum’s apartment. We took it to a cabin one weekend, where I assembled it and we looked at the stars. Mars was still close to opposition at that time too and I remember squinting at that from a park in Lawton.

It wasn’t until I’d emigrated and we were living in the house we bought that I truly had a chance to get back under the stars. We moved into that house in late August, 2005 - our first day was actually the day after our first anniversary and the summer stars were still visible. I started to use the telescope almost immediately and within days (or more precisely, nights) I was finding some of the things I had always wished I could see. The Lagoon Nebula was one of the first. I also saw Uranus for the first time too, closely followed by Neptune – the last time I’d seen that distant blue world was twenty years previously with the Luton Astronomical Society.

I was lucky because that house was like a square donut – it had an enclosed courtyard in the middle and the walls were high enough to block the light from the streetlamps on the road. Also, luckily for me, Lawton didn’t use nearly as many streetlamps as my hometown of Luton. In fact, the biggest light polluter was a nearby car dealership.

So I’d wait until everyone had gone to bed and then set up the ‘scope in the courtyard. It was fantastic. Sometimes, if your Mum was still awake, I’d persuade to come outside too, but she never stayed out for long. I loved every minute.

It became an adventure – every moonless Friday and Saturday night I would be outside, determined to find something new. And I did. More often than not, I’d find 2 or 3 new wonders. I knew I wasn’t the first to see them, but it was exciting all the same. I’d usually go looking for an object of interest – sometimes I’d see it, sometimes I wouldn’t – but occasionally, I’d stumble onto something unexpected. I’d dash back inside to the office and check my software to identify it. Another stellar treasure bagged.

I saw comets, double stars, nebulae, star clusters, galaxies… everything… but let me tell you about one of my favourite memories. It involves you, James :)

I started taking pictures of the Moon – I found a way to adjust the settings on our digital camera to make it easy. I set the ISO to 100 (because the Moon is bright) and raised the shutter speed so the exposure time was as short as possible. I held the camera up to the eyepiece, held it as steadily as I could, pressed the button and hoped for the best. About one in four was a keeper.

The problem was that my photos were mostly of the Moon when it was waxing - between new moon and full moon. The reason for this is because when the Moon is waxing, it always rises before sunset. Actually, the full moon always rises at sunset. I would sometimes get photos of the slightly post-full moon but I never got photos of the last quarter moon and waning crescent moon because they always rose after midnight. (Waning is when the Moon is between being Full and New.)

That is, until the week before you were born. One Sunday night, August 13th 2006, we thought you were on your way because your Mum started having contractions. My Mum and Dad had come over for your birth so we all rushed off to the hospital. A few hours later, you weren’t with us yet so Mum and Dad went home with your big brother and I stayed with your Mum. It was about one in the morning before the doctors finally agreed you’d changed your mind and sent us home.

“We’ll see you for sure tomorrow,” they said.

James’ Moon. (Click to enlarge)

We got home and your Mum went to bed but I was still somewhat awake. It was a last quarter moon and I realised this was my chance to get that elusive photo. I was determined to get a photo of the moon on the day you were born and if you were coming later that day, this would be the perfect opportunity. Plus it would be my first last quarter moon photo.

I snapped a couple of pics and rushed inside to see what I’d got. One of them was a gem. It was taken at 2:29am on Monday, August 14th, 2006. I figured this would be your birthday moon photo.

But it was not to be. You didn’t arrive that day. You kept us waiting another eight days and, of course, you being you, you picked the day of the new moon and the moon wasn’t visible. This photo was as close as I got.

I was a little disappointed but I’m glad you’re here. I still sang “…give you a night, dipped in moonshine…” to you :)

Join the 2012 Hubble’s Hidden Treasures Competition March 27, 2012

Posted by astronewsus in Competitions, News Stories.
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Over two decades in orbit, the Hubble Space Telescope has made a huge number of observations. Every week, we publish new images on the ESA/Hubble website.

But hidden in Hubble’s huge data archives are still some truly breathtaking images that have never been seen in public. We call them Hubble’s Hidden Treasures — and we’re looking for your help to bring them to light.

We’re inviting the public into Hubble’s vast science archive to dig out the best unseen Hubble images. Find a great dataset in the Hubble Legacy Archive, adjust the contrast and colours using the simple online tools and submit to our Hubble’s Hidden Treasures Contest Flickr group, and you could win an iPod Touch in our Hubble’s Hidden Treasures Competition.

Full Story: http://www.spacetelescope.org/announcements/ann1203/

I need your help :) March 26, 2012

Posted by thelastsongiheard in Site News.
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I’m looking for contributors to this site… I’d like to really get it up and running but I don’t have the time right now to fully devote my attention to it.

If anyone is willing to contribute anything – it can be advice, a news story, photos, reviews – anything that can benefit parents and kids learning astronomy, please feel free to email me at thelastsongiheard@gmail.com

Thanks :)

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