Brian Cogdell of Celestron stopped by the broadcast table at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to show off some of the company’s latest products.
If you are not familiar with the name then perhaps you can gleen a bit of information from it none-the-less. Celestron manufactures telescopes and, for the amateur astronomer — and we are all space fans here at GNC, the company makes some of the better ones on the market.
The latest lineup contains robotic devices that make finding that illusive object a whole lot easier. The new lineup contains cameras for photographing that amazing image and even a remote control for pointing the telescope to whatever area of the night sky you wish to examine. The camera also works to align the device by calculating where it is pointed and moving to where you want to go.
There is a lot more to learn, but you will need to watch the video below. Given the technology involved in all of this the prices are fairly reasonable.
Most of us have spent the past couple of months being completely fascinated with Curiosity, the latest and largest lander to roam the surface of Mars. NASA has been regularly posting images snapped by the multiple cameras on board the rover, but the one it snapped on October 31st may be the best so far.
Astronomer Phil Plait, who pointed this image out, dubbed it “the single greatest vacation picture ever taken” and I can’t argue one bit. After all, how would you like to send this image home to friends and family? The incredible self-portrait took some work. It’s actually a composite made up of 55 different high-resolution images taken by a camera mounted at the end of a two meter long arm (the arm was edited out to improve the image).
You can get much more detailed information by visiting Phil’s Bad Astronomy blog over at Discover Magazine. The image looks much like any desert on earth, but it’s a much starker and colder location than the images belie. You can view the full resolution at the link below the image.
If you haven’t heard, a new comet was recently spotted. Even better, it’s expected to pass ridiculously close to earth in 2013 and, if those predictions prove true, it will put on quite a show in our night sky. The new object goes by the catchy name of of C/2012 S1, but is generally being called ISON.
The projected orbit should take ISON directly towards the sun in November 2013, causing melting which will result in a very defined tail. By January 2014 it should pass 60 million kilometers from Earth, and that combination of large tail and proximity to earth could result in a night sky object approximately as bright as the moon. That would make ISON the brightest comet ever seen.
According to a NASA report, “comet researcher John Bortle has pointed out a curious similarity between the orbit of Comet ISON and that of the Great Comet of 1680. ‘Purely as speculation,’ he says, ‘perhaps the two bodies could have been one a few revolutions ago.’”
All of this is still somewhat unknown because, for one thing, the brightness will depend on the composition of materials making up the comet and how much melting actually occurs. However, the best estimates at this point are leaning towards a best-case scenario for anyone interested in the night sky.
Nearly 700 pictures were submitted to Flickr for 2012 and you can see them all in the Flickr Group Pool for the Astronomy Photographer of the Year. There’s an endless supply of background images when you include the previous year’s entrants.
Photograph by Rick Whiteacre. Licensed under Creative Commons.
The BBC is showing off some of the photographs from the competition in a narrated presentation that’s well worth a watch as well.
The photographs are on show at the Royal Observatory through to 17 February 2013.
More than a decade ago the Hubble Space Telescope snapped an image that has since been referred to as “the most important picture ever taken”. It’s real name is the Hubble Deep Field (you may want to watch this video before reading on). While the image may seem old in this fast moving world of technology, it’s not even an eye-blink when compared to it’s subject matter – the farthest astronomers have seen in the universe, and into the past.
The folks at the Max Planck Institute have been studying the image almost since it was taken in 1995. Mostly they have been focusing on the brightest galaxy in the picture, known by the catchy name of HDF850.1. That galaxy represents the furthest object, and consequently the oldest, ever seen. The fact is, HDF850.1 is 12.6 billion light years away, meaning that in the Hubble image we see the galaxy as it was 12.6 billion years ago, which is a mere 1.1 billion years after the universe began.
The galaxy, known as a starburst galaxy, is (or was) producing stars at the staggering rate of about a thousand suns per year. The Register points out that the Planck institute, “had to use IRAM interferometer, and the Jansky Very Large Array, a giant compound radio telescope in New Mexico, USA” to verify their findings. The official announcement of the discovery will be published in the next issues of Nature.
While news reports have been scant, there was a major cosmic event over California and Nevada this past Sunday. A meteor weighing approximately 70 tons rocketed across the sky at a stunning 33,500 mph and exploded in the atmosphere. The meteor sighting was reported by residents of both states and those in California also reported the explosion, which rattled house windows across a large area of the state and also set off building and car alarms.
The meteor, which was roughly the size of a minivan, although much heavier due to the density, and traveling at such a high velocity, was estimated by the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office to have exploded with the force of roughly3.8 kilotons of TNT.
While NASA is busy mapping earth-threatening asteroids, one of this size is difficult to spot in advance. Thankfully most asteroids in this range are likely to burn up upon entry into earth’s atmosphere, as this one did. Some experts think that it could have possibly scattered tiny pieces of debris across the Sierra Nevada mountains, but no fragments were likely large enough to do any damage. You can check out the video below.
Eyewitness reports have been pouring in about sightings of a meteor in the skies above New Zealand. The fireball passed over large population areas like Wellington and Christchurch giving the opportunity for anyone with a camera handy to grab shots. The pictures have been piling up at the WeatherWatch site for the kiwi nation. One eyewitness reported seeing an “object the size of a helicopter on fire.” Others across the island nation have submitted reports about seeing the object, which seems to have been visible across a large portion of the country.
The meteor was likely a lone incident as the earth is not currently passing through any showers right now, although the Lyrids is coming up in about three weeks. The meteor probably burned up in earth’s atmosphere as there are no reports of an impact. If more information comes in I will add an update to this post. I have also sent a message to the “Bad Astronomer” Phil Plait to see if he has additional insight.
Earlier this month our favorite astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, went before Congress to plead his case for NASA. In recent years the budget for NASA has been slashed mercilessly by the folks down in Washington DC, all many of whom have little to no clue about science and technology.
Tyson makes his case by pointing out the obvious ties between NASA and everyday technology, much of which has stemmed from NASA and military technology. He eloquently talks of the lack of science education and new engineers and scientists in today’s United States and points out that many of today’s aging generation of scientists got their start and motivation during the 50′s and 60′s space race.
The full eight minute video has been posted to YouTube and can also be seen below. If you aren’t familiar with Tyson, he is the head of the Hayden Planetarium at New York’s Museum of Natural History and is also the host of NOVA on PBS. If you agree with his arguments then contact your local representative and make your voice heard now before it’s too late.
For the second time in a few weeks the moon, Venus, and Jupiter will come together in our night sky for a great viewing opportunity. The alignment will be at it’s peak both tonight and tomorrow night (March 25 and 26). If you are lucky enough to be in area that isn’t overcast then you will be treated to the crescent moon appearing between Jupiter (below the moon) and the brighter Venus (above).
If you are looking for the conjunction then plan to look west just after sunset. Jupiter will appear about 15 degrees above the horizon with the moon just above it and Venus about 10 degrees higher than the moon. To give you an idea of exactly how bright the two planets will be you may actually be able to see them during daylight hours. They can be hard to spot during daylight most of the time, but thanks to their proximity to the moon, which is easily found during the day, they become much easier to locate.
For more in-depth information you can check out Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog over at Discover Magazine. You can also check out the skymap below, which is also courtesy of Phil.
In a very quick bit of non-CES news, check out this picture taken during Tuesday’s solar eclipse by photographer Thierry Legault. It shows the International Space Station in front of the Sun as the Sun itself is partially occluded by the Moon. Amazing.
What’s even more amazing is that Thierry had less than one second in which to take the photo – that’s how quickly the ISS passes across the Sun. You can read all about how the photograph was taken over at Bad Astronomy.