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

The Last Month in Astronomy


SEP-05-2012 • Sweet Astronomy • Glycolaldehyde is a sugar molecule. It may not be used to sweeten your corn flakes but it is used in the formation of RNA. That makes it a building block of life. The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has found this molecule around the binary star IRAS 16293-2422. This binary has a total mass that is similar to the sun’s. These molecules have not been seen before around another star. Jes Jorgensen of the Neils Bohr Institute in Denmark said “If we can show that the same molecules exist around additional Sun-like stars, that would be an indication that they also have been present around the Sun 4.5 billion years ago”.

SEP-05-2012 • DAWN leaves Vesta • NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has left the its orbit around the asteroid Vesta and is on its way to Ceres. It will not arrive at Ceres until 2015. Dawn was launched in 2007 and entered orbit around Vesta on July 15, 2011.

AUG-30-2012 • WISE Hotdogs • NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has found millions of black hole candidates across the universe. These are in objects that are dark in visible light but bright in the infrared. These are called Dust-Obscured Galaxies (“DOGs”) and since they are undoubtedly hot and because it makes a cute name they are called “hot DOGs”.

AUG-29-2012 • Double star, double planet • About a year ago, Kepler detected the first circumbinary planet, an exoplanet that is in orbit around two stars (not the same as a planet in orbit around one star where a companion star is also orbiting the primary star). Now Kepler has found a system where at least two planets are in orbit around a binary. The stars eclipse each other once every 7.5 days. The inner planet, Kepler-47b orbits once every 50 days and the outer, Kepler-47c orbits once every 303 days. The outer orbit would be in the habitable zone but the planet appears be larger than Neptune and is probably a gas giant.


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