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

The Last Month in Astronomy

FEB-10-2009 • M101 oh my • The Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Spitzer Space Telescope have combined to create an awesome picture of the spiral galaxy M101. The collaboration resulted in a picture 9 square foot image that is being displayed around the country to help celebrate the International Year of Astronomy, 2009. Among the places displaying this work of art and science is the San Jose Tech. The unveiling coincides with Galileo’s birthday which was February 15. ”The amazing scientific discoveries Galileo made four centuries ago are continued today by scientists using NASA’s space observatories,” said Denise Smith. She is the unveiling’s project manager at the Space Telescope Science Institute. “NASA’s Great Observatories are distributing huge prints of spectacular images so the public can share in the exploration and wonder of the universe.” This image as shown here is 100,000 light years across. The HST contribution came from 5 different images taken between 1994 and 2003. The Spitzer data comes from 2 images made in 2004. Chandra’s data comes from multiple images between 2000 and 2005.


FEB-11-2009 • Moon flip/flop • So you think the same side of the moon has always faced the Earth? Maybe not. Recent research suggests that the current Earth-facing side may have been the far side long ago. The flip/flop occurred due to a collision with another object. This would have occurred 3.8 billion years ago when the moon was much closer.

FEB-11-2009 • Discovery NET 2/22 • The shuttle Discovery is currently scheduled to launch no earlier than Feb. 22.

FEB-07-2009 • Methane on Mars? Really? • A lot has been made of the discovery of methane on Mars. Now, there is a lot about Mars that we don’t understand but we do know that methane is volatile. Also, there’s no reason to believe that it doesn’t get mixed up in the Martian atmosphere so a concentration of it is big news. But Christopher McKay of NASA was giving a talk at the February SJAA meeting and he is at least skeptical about the measurements. If you buy the measurements, that doesn’t mean you should buy into every inference you hear in the media. See what Phil Plait, the “bad” astronomer, has to say at . And for information on ancient Martian hot springs see

FEB-05-2009 • Local boys make good • Steve Mandel from nearby Soquel has received the Chambliss Award for Amateur Achievement. He was honored for his work on the Mandel-Wilson Unexplored Nebulae Project, a survey of dim interstellar clouds in the Milky Way. And the SJAA’s own Gordon Reade has an article in the March issue of Sky & Telescope.

FEB-03-2009 • Smallest exoplanet • The smallest exoplanet found so far is about 1.7 Earth diameters. It was discovered by the COROT spacecraft. This may just be the teaser story for a raft of discoveries that arrive after the Kepler spacecraft is launched in March.

JAN-29-2009 • No drought on Titan • Apparently a significant amount of “rain” has fallen on Titan recently and we can see the increase in one of the hydrocarbon-filled lakes.

JAN-12-2009 • New visualizationof Cas A • Astronomers at the University of Minnesota have developed a new method for visualizing the supernova that resulted in Cassiopeia A.


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