Let The Battle Begin!

In this corner, the newcomer, SPHERE!

The Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch telescope trained and managed exclusively by the European Space Agency.

And in this corner, another newcomer, the Gemini Planet Imager! Born and trained in North America.

Both these bruisers are set to battle it out for the title of King of Exoplanet imaging!

File:Beta Pictoris.jpg

While most of their contemporaries find planets the old fashioned way, these two imager’s are going to take actual pictures of exoplanets!

Fighting it out down in Chile.  This battle is not to be missed!  And who will win this battle?  Why, we will!  Good luck to both teams and may the data flow begin.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Looking Up For A Change.

High-altitude scientific balloons have been used for years by scientists for a variety of studies including hauling telescopes to near space for observations.  However, planetary scientists haven’t been able to use them. That’s because they needed a highly stable system to accurately point their instruments and track planetary targets as they move.

Now NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., has designed a new pointing system — the Wallops Arc Second Pointer (WASP) — that can point balloon-borne scientific instruments at targets with sub arc-second accuracy and stability. A full scale test is scheduled later this year.


“Arc-second pointing is unbelievably precise,” said David Stuchlik, the WASP project manager. “Some compare it to the ability to find and track an object that is the diameter of a dime from two miles away.”


WASP is designed to be a highly flexible, standardized system capable of supporting many science payloads and frees scientists from having to develop their own pointing systems. Now, they can focus on creating the instruments.
– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Herschel Finds Water On Ceres.

Scientists using the Herschel space telescope have made the first definitive detection of water vapor on Ceres.

Ceres is the largest and roundest object in the asteroid belt and is classified as a dwarf planet, a solar system body bigger than an asteroid and smaller than a planet.

Photo : CNRS

Scientists think that plumes of water vapor shoot up from Ceres when parts of its surface are warmed by the Sun.

 

In 2015 the Dawn spacecraft will be able to provide more information, hopefully confirming and expanding the data, when it arrives at Ceres next year.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Wake Up!

The ESA’s Rosetta comet probe has woken up to make its rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Rosetta’s mission will take 10 years to complete.

During its trip Rosetta passed by two asteroids, Lutetia and Steins.  The image above shows landslide that happened on Lutetia.

When Rosetta reaches the comet, it will deploy a 220-pound (100 kilogram) lander called Philae.

Once on the comet’s surface the pair of craft will accompany the comet on its journey through the inner solar system, observing at close range how the comet changes as the Sun’s heat transforms the cold surface to a boiling gaseous mass.

Rosetta is about 500 million miles (about 800 million km) from Earth near Jupiter’s orbit.  At that distance radio transmissions take 45 minutes to reach Earth and vice versa.  What is fascinating is that, due to gravity, the radio signals don’t travel in a straight line back and forth.

Once Rosetta’s on-board alarm clock went off it took seven hours to warm up its star trackers,  fire thrusters to slow its spin, turn on its transmitter and send a message back to Earth.  And with all the advances in science the drumming monkey clock was the best we could do (just kidding, atomic clocks were used, although the monkey clock would be fabulously hilarious).

There are a lot of firsts for Rosetta, but the images from the comet as it starts out-gassing should be spectacular.  I just hope Philae doesn’t land on one of the explosive vents that many comets have.  We will know later this year as the comet passes by the Sun.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

School Starts Today!

Today is the first day of school.  As a side activity I teach a class at one of the local law schools to help young attorneys (hopefully) get employed.  So I thought that I should take this opportunity to try and teach a little basic astronomy at the same time.

The first thing you need is a desire to learn.  With that you can do anything.  The main instrument used by most amateur astronomers is a telescope.

There are two basic kinds of telescopes: a reflector and a refractor.

A refractor is the “spyglass” type of telescope with a large lens at one end (the objective lens) and an eyepiece at the other end.  The objective lens gathers all the light and focuses it at a point.  The eyepiece provides the magnification so you can see the object you are looking at in the night sky.

A reflector, as the name implies, uses mirrors to gather and focus the light to a point and an eyepiece to magnify the image.

Reflectors can be much larger than refractors.  Due to the physical properties of glass, the largest a refractor can be is 40 inches in diameter.  After that the glass will start to deform under its own weight and distort the image.  A reflector can be much, much larger.  Current plans for a 30 meter telescope (and larger) are in the planning and constructions phases right now.

One of the questions that gets asked most by beginning astronomers is which type of telescope should I buy?  My answer is always – binoculars.  A good pair of binoculars will allow you to look at the night sky very inexpensively will you visit your local astronomy group and figure out the kind of telescope that you would like to purchase.  Each type has advantages and disadvantages, so it all depends upon what you want to do as to which telescope you should get.  The best way is to try them out and ask questions at a star party.  Besides being loads of fun, everyone at the star party with a telescope will have lots of good information for you.  So shop around before you settle on your first scope.

P.S. the book at the beginning of the post is also available for purchase at the usual places if you are in a hurry to learn about astronomy.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

The Colorful Universe

Let’s try this again.

I new that there were many colors seen throughout the universe, but this is a first for me.

This image taken on Dec. 28, 2013 from New Zealand shows Nova Centauri 2013, a bright naked eye nova in the Southern constellation of Centaurus. The nova appears pink because of emissions from ionised hydrogen. Credit and copyright: Rolf Wahl Olsen.

This image (Credit and copyright: Rolf Wahl Olsen.) of a pink supernova is pretty amazing.  Its color is due to the ionizing gas from the explosion, and very rare.

File:Orion Nebula - Hubble 2006 mosaic 18000.jpg

The Orion nebula shows all sorts of colors in the visible light spectrum in this image.

Even green objects like Hanny’s Voorwerp exist.

So why can you see them?

Illustration

The structure of the eye compared to the camera: taken from Wald, George (1953) ‘Eye and Camera’ in Scientific American Reader, New York, Simon and Schuster.

It turns out that our eyes aren’t really that good at imaging.  When visual astronomers look at objects, like the Orion nebula, it is mostly gray and sometimes, if your eyes are young enough, green.  This is due to the fact that the human eye is more like a motion picture camera, processing frame after frame and moving on.  Cameras, on the other hand, can collect those few and distant photons over a period of time and can capture all the colors that we miss.  This is why I do astrophotography.  Although it is a difficult process, the images are far more interesting to me.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Mother Earth Rising.

The European Space Agency launched the Gaia satellite last week.

Gaia is the personification of Earth in Greek mythology.

But this Gaia, is designed to map the Milky Way in 3D.  Which should look really good on my 3D TV when the movie comes out.

From it vantage point at the L2 Lagrange point, Gaia will measure the motions of the stars in the galaxy orbiting  around the super-massive black hole at the center .

Like the original Star Trek television series, Gaia’s five year mission is to measure light curves and position information over time for all the stars in the galaxy.  This highly accurate information over time will determine distances for each star that will be used to make a more accurate 3D model of the galaxy.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Exomoons?

If you have seen the movie Avatar (if you are reading this blog I will assume that you have), then you know the mythical planet of Pandora seems to be orbiting a large gas giant planet.

Although the orbit doesn’t make a whole lot of scientific sense, the model is sound.  Exomoons, by definition, orbit an exoplanet.  However, just like the movie and perhaps our own Solar system, some of these moons may be capable of sustaining life where their parent planet cannot.

Saturn’s moon Titan is believed to be able to sustain life since we have found oceans of water underneath the frozen surface.

So the prospect of an exomoon harboring life is also plausible.

But how do you find an exomoon orbiting around an exoplanet parsecs away?  Teams of scientists are currently working one methods to detect exomoons using the science developed hunting for exoplanets and data already gathered from Kepler.

So perhaps Pandora does exist, but I wouldn’t hold by breath of finding unobtainium anywhere in the Universe.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

There are those who believe…that life out there began here.

Conversely to the famous Battlestar Galactica television series statement, scientists now believe that any life found in the Solar system may have started here.  But how could that happen?

Most people know that the KPg impact caused by a 6 mile wide asteroid hitting Earth killed up to 90% of all life on the planet and ended the era of the dinosaurs and began the rise of mammals.

http://cdn0.cosmosmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/20110324_meteor_hr.jpg

This impressive event also had additional side affects.  Ejecta from the impact actually left the planet.  If you knew where to look, you would find material on the Moon that came from that event.

However, a new study posits that life spread from Earth to other planets and moons during and earlier era of asteroid impacts, about 4 billion years ago.  These multiple impacts could have carried life here back to the heavens.

But is this likely?   Given the fact that of the 53,000 meteorites found on Earth, 105 have been identified as coming from Mars it is extremely possible that reverse has happened as well.

The technical term for this is lithopanspermia: the idea that basic life forms can be distributed throughout the solar system via rock fragments cast forth by meteoroid impacts.  So it may have happened that comets brought life to Earth and then asteroid and comet impacts took it from here to the rest of the planets and moons.

Patrick Macnee in Lobster man from Mars.jpg

So with extra-planetary life possible in our own neighborhood the words spoken by Patrick Macnee at the start of a classic TV show:

“There are those who believe…that life here began out there, far across the Universe…with tribes of humans…who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians…or the Toltecs…or the Mayans…that they may have been the architects of the Great Pyramids…or the lost civilizations of Lemuria…or Atlantis.

Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man…who even now fight to survive—somewhere beyond the heavens!

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Oh, The Places We’ve Been (https://plus.google.com/+KevinGill/posts/bGA7kwn48f5)

I found this amazing graphic (below) that shows where humans have ventured from the planet.

Kevin Gill used his very own creation, the Orbit Viewer WebGL, and data from the NASA/JPL Horizons ephemeris.

First, the program is very impressive itself (props to Kevin) and the graphics are incredible.

If you would like to play with Kevin’s program you can check it out here.  It is really amazing.

You can find the original article here.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman