Friday, September 30, 2011

APOD 1.5

          Violent Sunspot Group AR 1302 Unleashes a Flare
     AR 1302 is one of the most active groups of sunspots that is currently crossing the sun.  It is so large that it can be seen without a telescope.  AR 1302's Coronal Mass Ejections (explosions of the Sun's corona which spew out solar particles-can be dangerous if they hit Earth) have caused geomagnetic storms and aurora activity around Earth's poles (blogged about last week).  AR 1302 emitted x-class flares (which can cause radio blackouts and long radiation storms) Thursday and Saturday, which is the largest type of solar flare that can be emitted.  Solar flares occur when there is a release of energy that was previously stored in a twisted magnetic field.  It is thought that AR 1302 will be visible on the Sun for the next week.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Stargazing Observations 9/28/11

     During the stargaze on Wednesday night, I was able to see a lot more than I had anticipated.  While looking through the telescope I saw the globular cluster M13, which I thought was pretty amazing.  Another thing I enjoyed viewing with binoculars simply because I thought it was beautiful was the galaxy.  I never realized how many stars there actually are once you look with binoculars.  Perhaps most interesting, was the planet Jupiter.  Before taking astronomy I never knew that it was even possible to see planets from Earth, but when I actually paid attention, it was obvious that Jupiter was not just another star, I was surprised I never took the time to realize this before. Another thing I saw that was really cool was a satellite, I have probably seen these before, but just thought they were planes.  Needless to say, I will be trying to get out more often and look for interesting things in the sky because stargazing turned out to be very interesting and a lot of fun.

Friday, September 23, 2011

APOD 1.4

September's Aurora
     Today, the Sun crosses the celestial equator and marks the beginning of autumn in the northern hemisphere.  The equinox arrives at 0905 UT today.  The connection between the seasonal change and the aurora ("coronal mass ejection") is still somewhat a mystery however, astronomers know that autumn (and spring) bring an increase in geomagnetic storms.  Although fall offers good conditions for viewing auroras on Earth, the auroras are also visible from space.  Luckily, in space, Earth is surrounded by a magnetic field when this occurs which protects us from solar winds. 
     This is a truly amazing phenomenon which I think all people should see in person at least once.  If it looks this beautiful in pictures, it must be breath taking in person.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Previous observations

Earlier this week we discussed how Jupiter could be seen if we woke up early enough to actually look for it. Instead, I opted for a later viewing and waited until it got dark enough outside to clearly see the moon and stars. (I don't live around much,so it was fairly easy to see). I am pretty sure I actually saw Jupiter because I double checked with my binoculars, although they did not help that much. I am not sure if this was Jupiter because it was on the side of the moon and in class we discussed how it had been above it.


I have been watching the moon for the past few days now and really noticed a differernce in the phases. I noticed that yesterday, september 20th the moon Was at last quarter. Tonight it seems to be a waning crescent, which makes sense according to what we've been discussing and learning in class.

Friday, September 16, 2011

APOD 1.3

Great Orion Nebulae:

     Great Orion Nebulae include the Great Nebula in Orion (M42) and also a smaller nebula such as NGC 1977 (M43).  At the center of M42 and M43 exists a giant, interstellar gas and dust cloud. The cloud spans several hundered light years across and was formed by a density wave.  From reading about these two nebulae, I learned that astronomers have detected what they believe to be infant planetary systems within the nebulae.  However, astronomers also found that the disks (what would be future planets) are being blasted with UV radiation from the brightest star in the region, which makes planetary formation difficult.  One thing I found amazing is that Orion's Nebula's approximate distance is about 1,500 lightyears.

Friday, September 9, 2011

APOD 1.2

SDSS J102915+172927: A Star That Should Not Exist
     This Milky Way star has fewer metals in it than any other star known to man.  Population I stars have elements heavier than hydrogen and helium and are rich in metals, Population II stars have some elements heavier than hydrogen and helium but are less rich in metal, and Population III stars are composed largely of primordial gas. SDSS J102915+172927 is strange because it is a low mass star and it has fifty times less lithium than came out of the Big Bang. Also, according to ESO this star is composed entirely of hydrogen and helium with only trace amounts of other elements.  According to the study of star formation, SDSS J102915+172927 should not even exist although it is believed to be about 13 billion years old. Astronomers are continually testing different theories of how this could have happened, but there is one leading hypothesis that the fragile lithium was destroyed in the star's core.

Friday, September 2, 2011

APOD 1.1

  The Fairy of Eagle Nebula  

     While reading about this photograph, I first read about dust pillars which are described as interstellar mountains that exist because they are more dense than their surroundings. These dust pillars are part of the Eagle Nebula(M16), which is an open cluster of stars in the constellation Serpens.  It was first discovered by Jean-Philippe de Cheseaux, a Swiss astronomer in 1745-1746.  It is called Eagle Nebula because the shape of the actual nebula itself resembles an eagle.  The evaporating gas and dust in the nebula form a whole nursery of stars.  The Fairy of Eagle Nebula is ten light years tall, and gives off radiation hotter than fire...quite the fairy.