SJAA Ephemeris March 2013 | SJAA Home | Contents | Previous | Next

The Last Month in Astronomy


FEB-09-2013 • First Martian Drill • The NASA Mars rover called Curiosity has finally used its drill. It cut a hole 2.5 inches deep. The rover will analyze the new sample looking for signs of past water. The chief engineer of the rover’s sample system is Louise Jandura (JPL). She said “To get to the point of making this hole in a rock on Mars, we made eight drills and bored more than 1,200 holes in 20 types of rock on Earth.”

FEB-06-2013 • Earth analog nearby • A solid Earth candidate has not been found but it may be relatively close. That’s the conclusion from a study of 95 planet candidates from the Kepler catalog. These 95 candidates were chosen from those that orbit red dwarf stars. Why red dwarfs? Most nearby stars are red dwarfs. The habitable zone around such stars is closer and it is easier to detect planets closer to their sun. According to Natalie Batalha, Kepler mission scientist at NASA Ames “We don’t know if life could exist on a planet orbiting a red dwarf [but it leaves] me wondering if the cosmic cradles of life are more diverse than we humans have imagined.” The planet candidates highlighted in a recent study have sizes ranging from 90 to 170% the size of Earth with orbits ranging from 20-56 days.

JAN-25-2013 • NGC 411 • NGC is supposed to stand for New General Catalog but it might mean Not a Globular Cluster. The 411 on NGC 411 is that it is an open cluster localed in the Small Magellanic Cloud. It is not as old as most globulars with most of its stars much younger than the sun. See the image on the left. Photo credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA.

JAN-22-2013 • Betelgeuse Crash • Alpha Orionis, Betelgeuse, is destined to run into a bar of material in about 5K to 12.5K years. The Herschel Space Observatory can find this material that was previously thought to be the result of one of the red giant’s burps. But this material now appears to be completely distinct from the star and it is heading for a collision. The star is traveling at a speed of 67,000 mph.


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