Kennedy Space Center Sunrises – A Photo Book by Jen Scheer

August 17, 2010 16:47 by scibuff

If you follow @flyingjenny, the incredible Space Shuttle Technician who’s started the Space Tweep Society, or if you’ve seen her daily entries in the Astrophoto gallery, then you know she’s been taking amazing photos of sunrise not far from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). What you might not have known (I only found out myself a few days ago) that she is going share this amazing photo collection with all of us:

I have amassed a nice collection of sunrise photos, some of which have elements that are unique to this location, such as plumes from pre-dawn launches that resemble fire-breathing dragons. I am going to combine the best of these photos into a book, and then pepper it with little bits of historical information about the structures that appear in some of the photos.

The book funding project is hosted on The Kickstarter and at the time of writing the project had 72 backers who had pledged almost $5,000 (see the details below).

Kennedy Space Center Sunrises - A Photo Book

Kennedy Space Center Sunrises - A Photo Book

The best part is that you’ll get your money back in the form of an e-book. Those who donate ($50 or) more will receive a hard-copy signed by the same hand that signs shuttle banners. And, of course, the higher your pledge the better the goodies that come with the book.

To make a pledge, simply visit the project website. As a freebie you can have a look at Jen’s amazing sunrise photo collection on flickr

Spot of light - Credit: Jen Scheer

Spot of light - Credit: Jen Scheer

Meteorwatch 2010

July 29, 2010 21:50 by scibuff

The first big meteor shower of the year is almost here. The 12th August is the annual maximum of the Perseids but the shower can be seen for some time either side of that date and it is worth looking out for them from the evening of 11th through to the morning of 13th August. This year, the Moon will set at early evening, leaving a dark sky for theshow. The Perseids tend to strengthen in number as late night deepens into midnight, and typically produce the most meteors in the wee hours before dawn. These meteors are often bright and frequently leave persistent trains. This year, the maximum background activity is expected to reach ZHR = 110-120. Besides that, the Earth is expected to encounter a quite dense 441 trail fragment, which could increase the ZHR by 10-20.

After a tremendous success in 2009, the Twitter Meteorwatch will continue in 2010 with a few extra ways to participate. Apart from including #meteorwatch hash tag in your tweets, this year you will be able to add photos to the meteorwatch gallery* and see the meteor activity observed by other around the world using the meteorwatch map* (still under construction). Below is the long awaited Meteorwatch 2010 Trailer created by Adrian West / @VirtualAstro.

Meteorwatch 2010 Trailer

* … both of which are the reason I have not written a blog post in three weeks

APOD celebrates 15 years

June 16, 2010 09:23 by scibuff

On June 16, 1995 NASA and Michigan Technological University (MTU) launched a new website called The Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD). APOD was presented at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in 1996. It received a Scientific American Sci/Tech Web Award in 2001.

APOD is 15 years old

Whimsical Vermeer composite that ran on APOD's fifth anniversary now digitally re-pixelated using many of the over 5,000 APOD images that have appeared over APOD's tenure

As during each of the 15 years of selecting images, writing text, and editing the APOD web pages, the occasionally industrious Robert Nemiroff (left) and frequently persistent Jerry Bonnell (right) are pictured above plotting to highlight yet another unsuspecting image of our cosmos. Although the above image may appear similar to the whimsical Vermeer composite that ran on APOD’s fifth anniversary, a perceptive eye might catch that this year it has been digitally re-pixelated using many of the over 5,000 APOD images that have appeared over APOD’s tenure.

It was a great honor to have a link to my blog post appear in the APOD website on October 15, 2009; you may remember:

Extremely bright fireball seen over the Netherlands

The brilliant fireball meteor captured in this snapshot was a startling visitor to Tuesday (October 13, 2009) evening's twilight skies over the city of Groningen - Credit: Robert Mikaelyan

Waxing Crescent Moon Tonight

February 16, 2010 19:15 by scibuff

Here’s a photo of waxing crescent Moon taken tonight at 19:00 GMT from Amsterdam. Only 2 days and 17 hours old, not many features are visible on the surface. The two prominent craters visible at the bottom just at the terminator are Langrenus (right) and Petavius (left).

waxing crescent Moon tonight

Photo of waxing crescent Moon taken tonight through a refractor ATC Monar (D=70mm f/4.6) with Canon 450D, exp. 1/50s

A new model attempts to explain long Gamma-Ray Bursts

September 18, 2009 14:16 by scibuff

Gamma-ray Bursts (GRBs) are the most powerful explosions in the universe. In a few seconds they release a tremendous amount of energy outshining billions of stars. They were first discovered (accidentally) in 1967 by satellites designed to detect tests of nuclear weapons. Although we detect new GRBs on daily basis, no one knows the exactly the process behind their origin.

The most-widely accepted model proposes that GRBs are created in a gravitational collapse of extremely massive stars into black holes when matter in the accretion disk is heated by neutrinos and driven into narrowly focused jets along the rotational axis.

As the core of a massive star in a distant galaxy collapses, deep inside, twin beams of matter and energy begin to blast their way outward. Within seconds, the beams have eaten their way out of the star, and observers at Earth see it as a gamma-ray burst, GRB 060729A - Credit for caption: Phil Plait SSU NASA E/PO; Images: Aurore Simonnet SSU NASA E/PO

As the core of a massive star in a distant galaxy collapses, deep inside, twin beams of matter and energy begin to blast their way outward. Within seconds, the beams have eaten their way out of the star, and observers at Earth see it as a gamma-ray burst, GRB 060729A - Credit for caption: Phil Plait SSU NASA E/PO; Images: Aurore Simonnet SSU NASA E/PO

Nevertheless, this model makes it difficult to explain long GRBs with the duration of more than 100 seconds and cannot account for afterglows lasting up to 10,000 observed by the Swift spacecraft.

Professor Komissarov and his colleagues at the University of Leeds accredit the creation of the matter jets to a magnetic mechanism and examine the close binary scenario involving a merger or a WR star (evolved, massive star of over 20 solar masses) with a neutron star or a black hole, in their article Close Binary Progenitors of Long Gamma Ray Bursts.

“The neutrino model cannot explain very long gamma ray bursts and the Swift observations, as the rate at which the black hole swallows the star becomes rather low quite quickly, rendering the neutrino mechanism inefficient, but the magnetic mechanism can.”

More impressive than the Hubble Ultra Deep Field

August 15, 2009 14:51 by scibuff

You may have seen the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF) photo before – it is a photo of a clear patch of sky that shows over 10,000 galaxies. It is often called the most important image ever taken because it allowed scientists to estimate that there are over a 100 billion to 1 trillion galaxies in the universe.

This view of nearly 10,000 galaxies is the deepest visible-light image of the cosmos. Called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, this galaxy-studded view represents a "deep" core sample of the universe, cutting across billions of light-years - Photo Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF Team

This view of nearly 10,000 galaxies is the deepest visible-light image of the cosmos. Called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, this galaxy-studded view represents a "deep" core sample of the universe, cutting across billions of light-years - Photo Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF Team

Earlier this month a 3D animation rendered using the measured redshift of all 10,000 galaxies in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field image hit YouTube:

Quite an impressive view, isn’t it? Well … here is another one (a tiny part of the huge image below). It is a rarely seen before image that is perhaps a hundred times larger (here’s a link to the BitTorrent of the image [180 MB]) than the HUDF and thus not widely circulated.

A tiny portion of the huge image

In a way, this view is more special because rather than a static photo, it actually is an interactive composite made using the OpenZoom technology, similar to Google Maps. You can pan the “map” using the arrows on your keyboard (or by dragging its parts with your mouse). +/- (or the wheel button) can be used to zoom in and out. Also, you can press ‘F’ to enter the full-screen mode and ‘H’ to return to the original view.

The author of this composite also made available a similar view of the Orion Nebula.