First, yay, 200 followers, thanks for following guys. I really hope you all have been enjoying what I've been writing of the past month. There are no plans to quit.
So last night, Tuesday night that is, the International Space Station (ISS) and Space Shuttle Discovery raced over head through the night sky for a few brief moments. I wish I had had enough warning about it to post something on the blog to get people to check it out where available. Anyways, I went out and watched them both speed across the sky. They were easily the brightest things in the night sky besides the small sliver of the growing moon. I didn't get pictures, but some one from the Harford County Astronomical Society did, check it out:
It's was a beautiful sight, but a somber moment realizing this was the last time these two would share the skies together again. Discovery landed around noon today, 12 PM EST, and officially Earth-bound. However, the ISS tends to fly over head rather often, and is always identifiable as this steady moving bright light across the sky. I wouldn't be surprised if some people thought it was a UFO. Anyways, you can check out on sighting opportunities where you live using this NASA web page.
Just over a week ago, I had mentioned KOI 326.01 in a post. KOIs are Kepler Objects of Interest, possible exoplanets as yet unconfirmed. There is a wealth of information that the Kepler mission researchers must go through to confirm these things. Initially, as mentioned in my previous post, KOI 326.01 (glorious name isn't it) had high hopes being a relatively close, habitable zone inhabiting, Earth-sized, cream of the crop from Kepler's planetary harvest.
Well it's not. The researchers have made their way to make judgment of poor KOI 326.01, and it turns out it is not the planet it was pretending to be. Discover Magazine has the exclusive on it, so I am mostly just summarizing what their article says. The demotion of KOI 326.01 stems from an error in the cataloging of the planets. From my perspective, that means a grad student was up all night; tired and coding, they must have slipped up somewhere. Anyways, said fault means the properties determined for the planet are false. Even better, there is uncertainty about which star the planet orbits. There seems to be a fair amount of confidence that the planet does actually exist though.
It should be noted that this is NOT a failure. From the beginning these objects have been labeled of interest because the are 'planet candidates.' There was never any guarantee that the initial data would prove 100% correct, and that is why the researchers must sift through the data to find out what is real. It is all in the process of science. This one planet really doesn't effect a whole lot of the statistics that have been determined from the data thus far, such as the suggestion that 10% of stars have Earth-sized planets. I also said we would be hearing more about KOIs in the future, and this is just beginning. This will help future research know even better what to look for in the data.
I figured this was relevant and interesting enough to make an early post about, I'll have another one later today.
Black holes and neutron stars won the poll by a hair. So here is my small info dump on them. Most of these concepts are taken from what learned in my textbooks, lectures, and classroom discussions. I am by no means an expert on the subject, I don't go pushing around equations and numbers about them, but I am probably more familiar with some of the subject matter then most. That said, I will try to avoid the math, and just provide some interesting information about these cosmic oddities. I also provide link to wikipedia in some places, because generally it's the easiest thing to link for information on this stuff.
Also, a new poll should be up, so those who wanted dark matter, you get to try again. Same with anyone else interested in the other areas. I replaced Black Holes/Neutron Stars with a good suggestion from the previous thread, cosmic dust. My undergraduate advisor was an expert on the stuff, so I have some insight on it.
Previously, when talking about telescopes, I had mentioned the value of checking out your local astronomy club for their knowledge and expertise. But astronomy clubs have a lot more to offer then helping you out with picking a telescope. These people can be extremely knowledgeable about the night sky and astronomy concepts. They are also pretty friendly and know how to put on a good show.
I definitely recommend checking out your local club sometime. If you have one. In my experience, it's fun and people enjoy themselves. It's always a great feeling when some one says 'WOW! I've never seen that before!' or something along those lines. Even when I first joined my astronomy club, I saw things I'd never seen with my own eye before. It's an amazing experience.
The best part, their events are usually free! Great free entertainment is hard to come by, and if you are looking for a date, stargazing is pretty romantic. Most astronomy clubs will host some sort of open house event where people can come out and enjoy what they have to offer. Usual these dates will be advertised on their website or in your local newspaper. A good place to see if you have an astronomy club near you, at least in the US, is the Night Sky Network. Internationally, I would say start with AstronomyClubs.com, but some of those clubs appear to be defunct, so you might have to follow up.