February 2008 Archives

Carnival of carnivals

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This is a bit embarassing, but I missed posting about a few editions of the Carnival of Space... so, here they go!

Two weeks ago, New Frontiers hosted the record-breaking (in number of articles) Carnival of Space #41, where we learned about cosmic cannibals, uses for the Wii remote, the Columbus module and Columbus's compass, among many others.

Last week, Chris Lintott hosted the Carnival of Space #42 and ordered the entries by distance from the Earth: from what's beyond our horizon, through the possible location of the world's most powerful telescope, all the way to Phoenix, including everything in between.

And this week Starts With a Bang hosts the Oscar-themed Carnival of Space #43, with awards for Stellar Breakthrough Performance, Biggest Burst, Best Broadcast and many others, including (of course) Best Picture.

And, if you want more, head over to the Conspiracy Factory for this week's leap-year themed Skeptics Circle.


Microsoft virtual telescope to be launched, 27 Feb

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Techcrunch is reporting that Microsoft is expected to launch a "virtual planetarium" application later this month, on 27 February (probably 28 February for those of us in Australia), during this year's TED Conference. Under the name WorldWide Telescope, it is reported to be significantly better than Stellarium, the very useful open source application that transforms your PC in a planetarium.

Still according to Techcrunch, MS will display data from the Hubble Space Telescope and ten other Earth-based observatories, and the user will be able to view the sky in a range of different frequencies.

I will definitely be trying this out, and I'll write a bit more once I've seen the product.

Lunar eclipse, 21 February

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Most people must have heard by now that there will be a total lunar eclipse later this week, on Thursday (or Wednesday, depending on your time zone). Unfortunately Australians will miss this one; it will be visible, at least in part, basically everywhere else but here (that's not entirely true: Japan, most of China, southeast Asia, New Zealand and several Pacific nations will also miss it, but it's close enough to the truth...).

The eclipse starts at 00:34 GMT on Thursday (11:34 ADST for those intent on following it online; or, for American readers, 19:34 EST or 16:34 PST on Wednesday — observers in the west coast of the US will see the Moon rise with the eclipse already in progress) and totality will go from 03:00 to 03:51 GMT (Thu 14:00-14:51 ADST, Wed 22:00-22:51 EST, Wed 19:00-19:51 PST). Full details are here.

For the record, Australian observers will see part of a partial (but almost total) eclipse on 16 August — the Moon will set for all of the country before the eclipse is over.

Moon hoax - busted

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This Week at NASA reports that the Mythbusters are recording an episode about the "Moon hoax" — you know, the claim by conspiracy nuts that the Moon landings of the late 60s and early 70s were faked. The show has recorded segments at several NASA centres, but I have no idea about when it's going to air (neither in the US nor in Australia, especially with SBS's wild rearranging of the order of the episodes...).

I wonder if Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, is involved with this. He has an excellent website responding to the claims of the "Moon landing deniers", and apparently he was approached by the Mythbusters years ago with the possibility of doing some astronomy-related segments...

My bookmarks for this week

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Shared bookmarks for del.icio.us user wafonso

Carnival of space #40

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It's Friday (in Australia), so it means a new Carnival of Space is up. This time it's number 40, and it's at the Orbiting Frog, who introduces a brand new way to browse through the articles.

And it does look like there are more and more articles in the carnival each week. That's a very good sign.

Annular solar eclipse, 07 February

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This Thursday we'll have the first solar eclipse of 2008, but very few people will actually see more than a very small partial eclipse. It won't be a total eclipse, but an annular one: this happens when the Moon is not large enough in the sky to cover the whole disk of the Sun (when seen from what would normally be the path of totality, the Sun will form a ring around the disk of the Moon).

The path of "annularity" covers just part of Antarctica and some areas of the southern Pacific; the annular phase starts at 03:20 UTC and ends at 04:30 UTC. A partial eclipse will be visible from eastern Australia, New Zealand and neighbouring island countries. From Melbourne, the eclipse will start at 2:38pm (local time) and end at 4:14pm; the maximum eclipse will happen at 3:28pm, but just a bit more than 8% of the Sun will be obscured, so it will be barely noticeable (and the forecast says it will be raining, anyway); add about 15 minutes to these times if you are in Sydney (and you'll see just over 11% of the Sun being obscured). For more details and for information about other locations, see the excellent website of the Nautical Almanac Office of the UK.

NEVER LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN, neither with your naked eyes nor with binoculars or telescopes unless they are correctly fitted with the proper filters; if in doubt, don't to it.

Venus, Jupiter and the Moon get together

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Venus, Jupiter, Moon conjunctionIf you happen to be up just before dawn tomorrow morning, look to the east for a beautiful show: Venus and Jupiter have been very close to each other for a few days already, but tonight the Moon joins them to make for a nice trio lighting up the sky before dawn.

The planets should be very easy to identify, even if you don't know which side is east. Venus is now by far the brightest object in the sky and it is rising a few hours before the Sun; Jupiter is somewhat fainter but still brighter than almost anything else.

The Moon will be a very thin crescent, which probably will add to the show (a full Moon would "wash out" the brightness of Venus and Jupiter). Venus will be almost a full disk, but on a telescope it should be easy to see that it is not quite full (and Jupiter, of course, will be full, as always).

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This page is an archive of entries from February 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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