02 - Full Moon
at 19:14 UT
05 - Taurid
(south) meteor shower peaks. Active
between 25 Sept and 25 Nov.
Associated with Comet 2P/Encke.
09 - Moon near
Mars (morning sky) at 14h UT. Mag. +0.3.
12 -Taurid (north) meteor
shower peaks. May produce the occasional
17 -Leonid meteor shower
peaks at 9h UT. Arises from debris ejected
Comet Tempel-Tuttle in 1533. Expect about 25
to 30 meteors per hour under
dark skies. Predictions of enhanced activity
between 21-22h UT on 17 Nov
(favours sky watchers in Asia).
21 -Alpha Monocerotid meteor
shower peaks at 15:25 UT. A usually minor
shower active 15-25 Nov. Radiant is near Procyon.
Predictions of enhanced
activity this year. Timing favours Far East
Asia, Australia and across the
Pacific to Alaska.
00 0 0
0 0 0//
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Friday, May 19, 2006
Three Neptune-sized Planets Around a Nearby Star Discovered
A new planetary system was discovered by Eropean astronomers by using the ultra-precise HARPS spectrograph on ESO's 3.6-m telescope at La Silla (Chile). Three Neptune-size planets were detected orbiting its parent star, HD 69830. The discovery also reveals the planetary system enriched with asteroid belt. The parent star is located just 41 light-years away towards the constellation of Puppis (the Stern), it is, with a visual magnitude of 5.95, just visible with the unaided eye.
The newly found planets have minimum masses between 10 and 18 times the mass of the Earth. Extensive theoretical simulations favour an essentially rocky composition for the inner planet, and a rocky/gas structure for the middle one. The outer planet has probably accreted some ice during its formation, and is likely to be made of a rocky/ icy core surrounded by a quite massive envelope. Further calculations have also shown that the system is in a dynamically stable configuration.
The outer planet also appears to be located near the inner edge of the habitable zone, where liquid water can exist at the surface of rocky/icy bodies. Although this planet is probably not Earth-like due to its heavy mass, its discovery opens the way to exciting perspectives.
NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has snapped a picture of the bits and pieces making up Comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann 3, which is continuing to break apart on its periodic journey around the sun. The new infrared view shows several chunks of the comet riding along its own dusty trail of crumbs.
Comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann 3 consists of a collection of fragments that file along like ducks in a row around the sun every 5.4 years. This year, the bunch will pass by Earth beginning on May 12 before swinging by the sun on June 6. The fragments won't get too close to Earth, about 7.3 million miles, or 30 times the distance between Earth and the moon, but they should be visible through binoculars in the countryside night skies.
During the past six weeks, amateur and professional astronomers have been watching the comet fall apart before their telescopes' eyes. Spitzer viewed the broken comet from its quiet perch up in space May 4 to May 6, covering a portion of the sky that allowed it to spot 45 of the 58 known fragments.
Comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann 3 should be dimly visible through binoculars on a clear night between the Cygnus and Pegasus constellations from May 12 to May 28.
We all know Earth rotates every 24 hours, but scientists have long had difficulty pinpointing how long the day is on Saturn. The magnetometer onboard the Cassini spacecraft has, for the first time ever, measured a periodic signal in Saturn's magnetic field, key information to finally understanding the length of a Saturn day and the evolution of this gaseous planet.
The latest research suggests a Saturn day is 10 hours, 47 minutes, 6 seconds (plus or minus 40 seconds). That is 8 minutes slower than NASA Voyager results from the early 1980s, and slower than previous estimates from another Cassini instrument. The magnetometer results provide the best estimate of the Saturn day to date, because it can see deep inside Saturn. These Cassini results are in the May 4 issue of the journal Nature.
Oort cloud, is a postulated spherical cloud
of comets situated about 50,000 to 100,000 AU from
the Sun. This is approximately 1000 times the distance
from the Sun to Pluto or roughly one light year, almost
a quarter of the distance from the Sun to Proxima
Centauri, the star nearest the Sun. The Oort cloud
would have its inner disk at the ecliptic from the
Kuiper belt. Although no direct observations have
been made of such a cloud, it is believed to be the
source of most or all comets entering the inner solar
system (some short-period comets may come from the
Kuiper belt), based on observations of the orbits
of comets. Source: Wikipedia