SJAA Ephemeris March 2012 | SJAA Home | Contents | Previous | Next

The Last Month in Astronomy

Image credit: Far-infrared: ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/Hill, Motte, HOBYS Key Programme Consortium; X-ray: ESA/XMM-Newton/EPIC/XMM-Newton-SOC/Boulanger

FEB-08-2012 • MW’s black hole eating • The Chandra space telescope has detected X-ray flares coming from the Milky Way’s black hole at the rate of about 1 per day. The estimated mass that black hole is consuming suggests that the “food” is about the size of an asteroid (perhaps around 12 miles wide). The result is that there must be a belt of material around the galaxy’s central, massive black hole consisting of asteroids and comets. If the rate of consumption sounds too high consider that the sun chows down on a comet about once every 3 days.

FEB-07-2012 • Galex retiring • NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer (Galex) has been placed into standby mode. This is the start of decommissioning the spacecraft after 9 years of service. While it was working Galex studied galaxies including young galaxies that yielded clues to how galaxies evolve. It also caught a black hole devouring a star, it confirmed that discovery of so called dark energy, saw a comet-like tail behind one star, and showed a ring of stars around old galaxies.

JAN-27-2012 • Curiosity curious • The Mars Science Laboratory, aka Curiosity, has detected the radiation that came of a recent solar storm. This event on January 22 was the largest solar particle event in more than 6 years. The rover was not affected.

JAN-26-2012 • New Kepler Planets • The NASA Kepler mission has discovered 11 new planetary systems, 26 new planets total. This triples the number of planetary systems that Kepler has discovered and brings the total number of Kepler-discovered planets to 60. More than 2300 planet candidates are still under scrutiny. In the image below, a number of different planetary systems are displayed showing a wide diversity. (Image credit: NASA Ames/UC Santa Cruz)

JAN-18-2012 • Infrared Eagle • The ESA spacecraft Herschel has taken some amazing images of the Eagle Nebula. Hubble took a famous picture of this area in 1995 leading to the name "The Pillars of Creation". Herschel images in the infrared. The red areas correspond to material that has a temperature of 10 Kelvin or a wavelength of 250 microns. The blue areas are at 40 Kelvin - wavelength of 70 microns.

It is always interesting to compare astronomical images taken at multiple wavelengths. A movie showing 5 different apparati and many different bands of the electromagnetic spectrum can be found at

JAN-11-2012 • Exoplanets Galore • A recent statistical study shows that the Milky Way contains at least 100 billion planets. That comes out to 1 planet for every 2 stars in the galaxy. Or, using Drake equation factors, fp - percentage of stars with planets, could be 10% if each such star averages 5 planets each.


Previous | Contents | Next