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Submission + - Jack Horkheimer, "Star Hustler," Dead at 72 (

jamie writes: "You may know him as the "Star Gazer." Either way, we've lost a proud and passionate advocate for naked-eye astronomy, someone who loved the mysteries of the ever-changing night sky and wanted to share them with as many people as possible. Keep looking up..."

New Map From Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope 34

I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "NASA has received interesting results from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, originally known as GLAST, which has allowed them to create new map of the gamma-ray sky. The secret to its ability to resolve gamma-rays is that they use layers of tungsten interleaved with silicon detectors. When a gamma-ray strikes tungsten, it produces an electron/positron pair due to the photoelectric effect, which cascades as it goes through further layers of tungsten. Meanwhile, they record which silicon detectors had electrons or positrons pass through them to determine the direction of the source and they also record the total energy of the electron/positron pairs to calculate the wavelength of the gamma-ray using Planck's Law. The data gathered in just its first few hours of operation is reportedly comparable to the data from the Energetic Gamma-Ray Experiment Telescope, which gathered data for nine years back in the 1990's and there are hopes that it could detect dark matter in the form of weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs)."

Astronomers Locate Solar System Very Similar To Our Own 101

Smivs writes "Astronomers from St Andrews University in the UK have discovered a planetary system which looks much like our own. Dr Martin Dominik told BBC news: 'We found a system with two planets that take the roles of Jupiter and Saturn in our Solar System. These two planets have a similar mass ratio and similar orbital radius and a similar orbital period. The newfound planetary system, which orbits the star OGLE-2006-BLG-109L, is more compact than our own and is about five thousand light-years away. The OGLE planets were found using a technique called gravitational micro-lensing, in which light from the faraway planets is bent and magnified by the gravity of a foreground object, in this case a another star.'" Update: 04/08 12:26 GMT by Z : This story is talking about a subject we have already discussed.

Sneak Peek at Microsoft's WorldWide Telescope 120 has a great sneak peek at Microsoft's new WorldWide Telescope project. In this video, presented by Roy Gould and Curtis Wong, you are able to see a combined view of satellites and telescopes from all over the planet and nearby space. The compiled image is rendered using Microsoft's new high-performance "Visual Experience Engine" that allows users to pan and zoom across the night sky seamlessly.

Largest Black Hole Measured 170

porkpickle tips us to a BBC article on the quasar OJ287, a binary object containing largest black hole yet discovered, weighing in at 18 billion times the mass of Sol. Researchers were able to estimate its mass due to the presence of a smaller black hole in orbit around it. When the smaller companion's orbit intersects OJ287's accretion disk, once every 12 years, it triggers a burst of radiation that was detected by the Spitzer Space Telescope. More detail and a diagram are available on the Turku University site.

Upgraded Hubble To Be 90 Times As Powerful 194

The feed brings us a New Scientist review of the repairs and new instruments that astronauts will bring to the Hubble Space Telescope next August (unless the launch is delayed). The resulting instrument will be 90 times as powerful as Hubble was designed to be when launched, and 60% more capable than it was after its flawed optics were repaired in 1993. If the astronauts pull it off — and the mission is no slam-dunk — the space telescope should be able to image galaxies back to 400 million years after the Big Bang.

NASA Spacecraft Set to Shine Spotlight on Mercury 71

coondoggie writes to tell us Network World is reporting that NASA will this month see the realization of a mission launched in 2004, sent to explore the planet Mercury. "MESSENGER, launched in 2004, is the first NASA mission sent to orbit Mercury, the planet closest to the sun. But on Jan. 14 it will pass close by the planet and use Mercury's gravity for a critical assist needed to keep the spacecraft on track for its ultimate orbit around the planet three years from now. Still, the spacecraft is also expected to throw back some never-before -seen images, NASA said. The flyby also will gather essential data for planning the overall mission. After flybys of Earth, Venus, and Mercury, it will start a year-long orbital study of Mercury in March 2011, NASA said. "

Computer Model Points To the Missing Matter 97

eldavojohn writes "There exists a little-known problem of missing regular matter that has perhaps been overshadowed by the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy. Computer models show that there should be about 40% more regular matter than we see... so where is it? From the article: 'The study indicated a significant portion of the gas is in the filaments — which connect galaxy clusters — hidden from direct observation in enormous gas clouds in intergalactic space known as the Warm-Hot Intergalactic Medium, or WHIM, said CU-Boulder Professor Jack Burns... The team performed one of the largest cosmological supercomputer simulations ever, cramming 2.5 percent of the visible universe inside a computer to model a region more than 1.5 billion light-years across.' This hypothesis will be investigated and hopefully proved/disproved when telescopes are completed in Chile and the Antarctic. The paper will be up for review in this week's edition of the the Astrophysical Journal."

Adaptive Thirty Meter Telescope Sees Progress 61

Hugh Pickens writes "Caltech and the University of California have been making progress toward the development and construction of the Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT) with the recent $200 million commitment from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The core of the TMT Observatory will be a wide-field, alt-az Ritchey-Chretien telescope with a 492 segment, 30 meter diameter primary mirror, a fully active secondary mirror and an articulated tertiary mirror. TMT will be the first ground-based astronomy telescope designed with adaptive optics as an integral system element that will sense atmospheric turbulence in real-time, correct the optical beam of the telescope to remove its effect, and enable true diffraction-limited imaging on the ground. TMT will have 144 times the collecting area of the Hubble Space Telescope and a spatial resolution at near-infrared and longer wavelengths more than ten times better, equivalent to observing above the Earth's atmosphere for many observations at a fraction of the cost of a space-based observatory. TMT will reach further and see more clearly than previous telescopes by a factor of 10 to 100 depending on the observation and will be a fundamental tool for the investigation of large-scale structure in the young universe including the era in which most of the stars and heavy elements were formed."

Arecibo Observatory Loses Funding 185

An anonymous reader noted that "The Arecibo Observatory funding was slashed. Cut to $8 million from $10.5 million, which will decrease the amount of time that the telescope is operational. "A quarter of its staff was laid off last year," and Arecibo, which is located in Puerto Rico, could possibly be completely closed in four years, according to the "National Science Foundation (NSF), which pays for the operation of the telescope." This comes after "a review panel for the foundation's astronomy division two years ago" suggested cutting Arecibo's financing by 25 percent as a way to pay for new facilities. There has been "[a]n outcry" in response to the "decision, particularly from planetary scientists" who argued that the panel "overlooked Arecibo's role in cataloging potential dangers from asteroids." The Times notes that in Arecibo's favor is the fact that it "may be much cheaper to" than dismantle, which "could cost hundreds of millions of dollars."" I've been considering a vacation to PR for a few years, and seeing this thing is on my list of awesome things to try to see. Guess I should hurry ;)

Comet Unexpectedly Brightens a Millionfold 276

swordgeek writes "Comet 17P/Holmes, a relatively obscure and (until a few days ago) dim object, has suddenly flared to be literally a million times brighter, going from magnitude 18 to 2.8. It is just outside of the constellation Perseus, which puts it high in the sky and ideal for viewing at this time of year. The comet still appears starlike even in binoculars but should grow to several arcminutes across over the next few nights. The comet is now readily visible to the naked eye. This is a completely unexpected once-in-a-lifetime event, so get out your finest optics (even if it's just your eyes) and go comet watching!"

Machines take me by surprise with great frequency. - Alan Turing