Hubble And The IYA;
A Magnetar Acts Up
Another lovely, snowy/icy/slushy day is upon us here in central
PA, enough said. It is Wednesday, so that means that a new
Astronomy Video has been posted! The video discusses events for
early February, including the appearance of Comet Lulin! A new
Penn State Astronomy Article has been posted as well, it is all
about 30 Doradus! Meanwhile, NASA has invited the public to vote
on which astronomical object Hubble should study for the
International Year of Astronomy, and an unusual type of pulsar
has become rather active.
Check This Out!
Right now, we are at a solar minimum, and it is still considered
to be the tail end of Solar Cycle 23 and the very start of Solar
Cycle 24. Scientists are still aiming for 2011-2012 to be the
time of the maximum, but more studies are being done to try to
determine if this could still happen. Many of you have noticed
that the sunspot activity has been much less than exciting of
late, and unfortunately this could continue for sometime.
Pinpointing the exact moment when the sun will reach its maximum
during a cycle, or how strong a solar cycle will be is still
very difficult. However, there is a recent article by
NASA's David Hathaway which discusses the methodology of
predicting the current solar cycle. It was previously thought
that '24' would be stronger than '23'; however, it now appears
that the opposite could occur. I found an interesting discussion about
it as well.
Graphic Representation of Recent Sun Cycle
Speaking of the sun, Spaceweather.com has set up the gallery for
the recent annular eclipse that was visible in the southern
hemisphere, so check that out!
I've been getting some questions lately on where and when to see
Comet C/2007 N3 (Lulin). As usual, I turn to heavens-above.com,
and if you have your location registered you can see not only
when the ISS and shuttle and other objects fly over your
location, but there is of course information about comet Lulin
too, such as its coordinates, magnitude, distance from Earth,
etc. Just look under the Astronomy section and where it says
"Comets currently brighter than magnitude 12". The comet rises
around 2:00am EST and sets around noon in the constellation
Libra, so you have to be an early riser to catch this one, but I
would say, just from the pictures I've seen so far, that it is
worth it! If you use the Starry Night program (or any other sky
plotting software that automatically updates its information),
you can see some more information about the comet.
Spaceweather.com of course has a lovely gallery you
can check out.
Hubble fans, its time to cast your vote! NASA and the Hubble
Space Telescope team want to invite the public to vote on which
astronomical object Hubble will study in celebration of the
International Year of Astronomy. Participants can choose their
favorite among six different objects between now and March 1,
2009. The winning object will be revealed between April 2-5,
2009, during the IYA's 100 Hours Of Astronomy event, a global
affair geared towards encouraging everyone to experience the
night sky. The choices are
tough, for sure, but I think I picked my favorite. Teachers! you
can get your students involved in the You Decide event not only
by having them vote, but also by having them create a collage of
their favorite Hubble images, and topping it off with the
winning image. See more at the Amazing Spacewebsite.
The International Gamma Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL)
has been able to perform high-energy observations which have
revealed that the Anomalous X-ray Pulsar (AXP) 1E 1547.0-5408
had entered what is known as outburst mode. This particular
Pulsar is one of only nine that have been confirmed thus far.
These types of Pulsars are young neutron stars that have
abnormally strong magnetic fields. Together with "Soft Gamma
Repeaters"(emits large bursts of both Gamma and X-rays at
different intervals), they make up a class of objects called
Magnetars. 1E was first detected by the Einstein X-ray
observatory, and observations that followed by scopes like
Chandra and Swift revealed it to in fact be an AXP. Over the
past few years a small number of outbursts were reported,
however they were much weaker and fewer in number than the ones
reported more recently (nearly 200 compared to just a few per
day). The more recent burst of activity started last Thursday
when the Swift Burst Alert Telescope and Fermi Gamma-Ray Burst
Monitor both recorded "hard X-ray triggers" originating from 1E.
The bursts were also some of the brightest yet recorded in
INTEGRAL's 6 years; they varied in length from 50 milliseconds
to 8 seconds.
Keep your eyes to the sky and enjoy the view!