Month: September 2011

We’re made of star stuff

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Neutron Star Collision
Neutron Star Collision

Every single thing you can sense around you is made of matter. Every single atom in your body, was once forged inside the nucleus of a star for a very long time ago, even before our solar system existed.

We are products of star fusion, supernovas. But recently astronomers discovered in simulations, we might also be parts of even more rare events of collision of stars, which explains the rarity of heavy elements such as gold, platinum, uranium and so on.

This rarity is what makes gold so precious to humans and used throughout history as currency. Something that not everyone possess or is able to acquire in large quantities. The reason to that?

Neutron stars.

First you need a binary system… Not like our own solar system, but a system with 2 stars orbiting around each other. That’s is not extremely common either. But also in this recipe we need these stars end up as neutron stars at the end of their lives and finally a dramatic end…. A collision between them.

Now that is more of a rare event.

Although this might sound almost like impossible, the vast amount of space and the tremendous amount of star systems created over time in a galaxy, results mathematically having these events not to be as rare as we thought. To a human being,  100 years is experienced as a very long time. In astronomy on the other hand, you’ve got ridiculous huge numbers of distances, time span and forces. Something that the human mind cannot comprehend pure mathematically… It is not as far as the neighbor house around the corner, or your monthly salary, or the age of your children, or the number of pages of your favorite book. We talk about billions of years, or distance of the speed of light covered over thousands of years away, and so on.

And like Carl Sagan said… The amount of stars in our galaxy are much more than the amount of sand grains from all beaches on earth put together.

The fore the human body need some of these rare elements in order to function. Remember that stars can fuse only as heavy elements as iron (Fe), heavier than that and you’ll need even stronger and violent forces. Ones that would be expected by the death of stars or by colissions. And some of these elements are made by supernovas and now even believed by neutron star collisions.

So, if you consider proposing to the one you love and give her a ring, then explain to her. “My love, this ring is rare and unique. So unique, that two neutron stars had to collide for it to exist and now finally be placed on your finger”. I’m sure you will make her feel special, as much as that neutron star collision.

The theoretical predictions got now to be put in practice and observed by astronomers.

Read more:

Kepler discovered a remarkable exoplanet

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Kepler 19c
Kepler 19c – An artist’s impression

NASA’s Kepler telescope discovered a double earth-sized planet (Note: not earth-like) and was given the name “Kepler 19c”.

The remarkable with this discovery is not only that this exoplanet in particular is tiny in comparison to previous discoveries of super sized Jupiter-like planets, but also due to the indirect discovery while studying another nearby exoplanet at the same planet system, transiting their star 5 minutes later than anticipated.

That brings our solar system in mind with our family member Neptunus, which was discovered indirectly and mathematically by studying the motion of the neighboor planet Uranus due to the unusual orbit around our sun. A conclusion was therefore made, that another object should exist nearby disturbing gravitationally its path around sun.

When the orbit of the theoretical planet was predicted, astronomers rushed to their telescopes trying to find it. And so a Thursday night the 23 of September 1846 the little blue dot was first seen visually by the astronomers Urbain Le Verrier, John Couch Adams and Johann Galle.

Discovering new worlds has always been part of the human history. From the myths and hopes of the existence of the lost isle of Atlantis, the discovery of new continents by the famous voyagers such as Marco Polo, Cpt. James Cook, Americo Vespucio, and so on, to the discovery of new planets within our solar system and finally today to entirely new worlds far beyond in space within our galaxy!

Kepler’s mission is to study constantly the same narrow field of around 145 000 main sequence stars and by their change in brightness reveal if these stars are inhabited by planets orbiting around. The technique is quite “simple” by using the transit method (a star’s magnitude changes when an object passes in front of it, lowering the brightness a tiny fraction). However, using this technique got its limitations as the passing object got to be on the same plane as our solar system. Objects passing in different paths will be never discovered by using this method!

Other methods are: Radial Velocity, Microlensing, Astrometry, Pulsar Timing and Direct Imaging.

The current number of exoplanet discoveries has today been altered to 520!

For more information please visit the links bellow:

Star Trail

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Ben Canales webpage

Astrophotography itself can be divided into subsessions and there fore astrophotographers invest both in time and money in different sets of cameras and other equipment. For example a deep-sky astrophotographer would prefer an IR modified DSLR camera or a CCD camera, while a planetary astrophotographer would prefer video cameras or high quality webcameras. But regardless type of equipment or the money you spend into that, an astrophotographer must have a sense of an artist’s eye, big luck and enormous amount of patience. Surely good and expensive equipment makes life easier, but you are not a true amateur astronomer if you dont love nature and got people around you that support your interest wholeheartedly.

I personally admire Ben Canales work in landscape astrophotography. Ben gave me inspiration through his photos in investing my thoughts into landscape astrophotography and this season I’m going to try out and see if I can find motives. For a couple of months ago, I passed by Lund’s cathedral and watched the moon raising between the two clock towers. It was so beautiful but unfortunately I didn’t carry around my camera at that point. However, I’m planning in doing so by timing it at a later point. Another try I did, was with the dome at the observatory of Jävan and the constellation of Cassiopeia in background, but I was never pleased with the end results.

Regardless, please visit Ben Canales webpage located at: http://www.thestartrail.com/

The sun today

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Sunspots – Visible Light Filter

As we finally enter September month followed by darker and still warm nights, I decided to assemble my telescope during a semi-cloudy day and take a few shots of the sun. To my surprise the surface was covered with several sunspots, more than it has been in a long time.

The image to the left was taken with my Canon EOS 50D at ISO600, shutter speed 1/8000 and a temperature balance 7000K. The sunspots visible here are 1281, 1282, 1283, 1277 and 1279.

The 17th of September we will have our annual celebration of “Kulturnatten” (culture night), which means many institutions at Lund’s university will have open house from morning to night. The physics and astronomy department will offer laser shows, barbecue,  exhibitions of light and other experiments, star gazing through telescopes and much more. Everyone is welcome to visit us, regardless of age and of course both food and drink and everything else is for free!

 

More information about the cultural night in Lund, can be found here: