SJAA Ephemeris May 2009 | SJAA Home | Contents | Previous | Next

The Last Month in Astronomy


MAY-08-2009 • Solar Weather Forecast • NOAA and Solar Weather Prediction Center have made their forecast for the upcoming solar cycle. It is expected to be mild and will peak in May of 2013. At the peak there could be 90 sunspots per day.

MAY-08-2009 • Warp Drive Proposed • The timing with the Star Trek movie is suspicious but physicists at Baylor says they know how to create a warp drive, a method for moving faster than the speed light. The idea is to manipulate (wrap) the space ahead of and behind the spacecraft which doesn’t actually have to move at all. The warp drive requires energy that can’t be generated yet and, oh yes, you need to solve some equations involving 11 dimensions.

MAY-07-2009 • Refined Hubble Constant • The Hubble constant has been refined. The estimates of the Hubble constant, a measure of the universe’s rate of expansion, varied by up to 100% before the Hubble Space Telescope started operations in the early 90’s. The latest calculations have an error of only 5%. The new number is 74.2 km/sec/Mpc.

MAY-06-2009 • Link of two ALMA scopes • For the first time, two radio telescope dishes in the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have been linked together with a synchronized precision error of less than 1 picosecond. This is an important milestone in the development of ALMA which should be in partial operation by 2012 and full operation by 2015.

APR-30-2009 • Smooth Galaxies • Ever wonder why spiral galaxies are so smooth? After all, stars form in clusters from molecular clouds that are pretty lumpy looking. It turns out that the rotational forces in the galaxy tend to smear out the stars after they are formed.

APR-28-2009 • New Distance Record • The Swift spacecraft has detected a gamma-ray burst with a redshift of 8.2. This puts the object at 13 billion light years in lookback time.

APR-21-2009 • Lightest exoplanet • The record for the lightest exoplanet has been found. Designated Gliese 581e, this planet is estimated to be two earth masses. It was discovered using the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) spectrograph attached to the 3.6 meter ESO telescope at La Silla, Chile.

APR-20-2009 • Vista on Rovers? • The Mars rover Spirit has been having a lot of difficulty with its onboard computer. A number of reboots and bouts of “amnesia” have bedeviled the rover but it continues in most ways.

APR-16-2009 • Kepler Takes a Peak • Although the Kepler’s scientific mission has not yet started, the calibration of the cameras and other equipment on board has started. Kepler will look at 100,000 stars over the next 3-4 years looking for transits made by Earth-size planets as they pass in front of their star.

APR-01-2009 • Earthlike Planet Forming? • With the aid of images from the Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers discovered a new earth-like planet 430 light years away forming around a distant giant star. The star is 10-16 million years old and analysis of a dust cloud around the star suggests it may coalesce and become a rocky planet like earth. According to astronomers, 10-16 million years is the perfect age for forming Earth-like planets.


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