Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Interesting Lectures - Part 4

Part 4 is a further continuation of Gravity and Satellites from the previous post, which is why it has come up so quickly after the last.

Click here for the video, more Physics goodness to be found within!

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Ye olde rock in the sky

Otherwise known as The Moon:

Needs no introduction I think!

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Interesting Lectures - Part 3

So this amazingly long running two part series finally continues with a third piece!

Continuing from the last part is part 10/27 from Richard A. Muller's Physics for future Presidents course at UC Berkely, and this particular one is on Gravity and Satellites. Almost all the physics here is pretty basic, but is laid out in such a way as to make it easy to understand the concepts involved. Richard Muller does it particularly well, and even if you're already aware of everything contained therein, it's still an enjoyable watch.

Friday, 27 February 2009

The Classic DSO - M42

The Orion Nebula, Messier object designation M42 is one of the brightest nebulae in the sky, and under good conditions is visible even to the naked eye. It's the closest region of star formation to us at roughly 1500 lightyears distance and is an object of regular study due to playing host to stars in varying stages of stellar evolution, as well as what appear to be infant solar systems (or proplyds).

It's also a popular target for astrophotographers as it is very easy to locate, and because of the aforementioned inherent brightnes, which means that even short exposures will reveal colourful nebulosity. Thus it was one of the first things I took an image of after equipping for astrophotography, and after some experimentation out in the cold under dark skies the end result was the following:

Click on the above image to view a bigger version.

The picture was taken with an unguided William Optics Flt-98 refractor at prime focus using a Nikon D70 DSLR and is a stack of 40 minutes worth of 30s exposures taken at ISO1600. The frames were captured under a moonlit sky, so not ideal conditions admittedly, but it's always worth a try!

Unseen here in the overexposed core of the nebula is a very young open cluster known as the Trapezium because of the configuration of its four brightest stars. Above the main nebula can also be faintly seen NGC1973/5/7, The Running Man, which is a blue reflection nebula that is part of the same massive molecular cloud complex as M42.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Getting the blog breathing again

After almost nine months of neglect I'm hoping to get back to regular updates on Protostronomy once again. For a multitude of reasons I ended up letting the blog fall silent back in June of last year, the least impressive perhaps being a simple case of the lazies. However, fuelled by ample amounts of coffee, and new machinery with which to provide a steady supply thereof, new articles will be appearing.

After all this time I've certainly not come across a shortage of material, so here is a brief rundown of a couple of things i'd like to get going regularly on the blog on top of the usual in the near future; Firsly I intend to continue with the Intersting Lectures series, of which only two parts were previously posted. There is so much information floating around on the inside of flash videos nowdays that I don't anticipate any huge issues in keeping this a regular thing. Secondly I'll be writing up infrequent articles on astronomical objects from the perspective of an amateur astrophotographer, and the revelations that have frequently been realised in the process of attempting to actually find and capture the blighters.

A new breath then, hopefully the first in a long line of many!

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Twinkle twinkle little Star

Back when people used to look up at the sky and wonder what all those lights in the sky were, back when so little was known about the processes by which the cosmos is lit, and by which almost everything we are was created... back then eh!

Nowadays we know that those lights in the sky are in fact massive balls of gas, converting hydrogen into helium at their cores though a process of nuclear fusion. Of course this is just a simplistic description of your standard main sequence star, there are many many other stages of stellar evolution, and indeed types of star.

The point is that we now know this. Through a multitude of methods we can determine the composition, size and distance of those stars that we see. They are no longer unfathomable objects in the sky.

That said, nothing beats a close up look. Most of the time stars other than our Sun are mere points of light. However, one of the better known beasties, Betelgeuse, is both large enough (absolutely freakin' huge) and close enough for surface features to be resolved.

So having read through all that, i'd like to direct you to this short article from the Cavendish Astrophysics website where you can read up on the imaging methods used to obtain the pictures of the stellar disk in question. The images don't show much detail - but you have to remember that this object is 430 lightyears away. Thats 27 million times the distance from the Earth to the Sun, so you can forgive it for not looking quite as impressive!

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

HiRISE is awesome.

So by now I imagine everyone has seen the absolutely incredible picture of the Phoenix lander parachuting to the surface of Mars as caught by the HiRISE orbiter. Up until now I had only seen the close up, but while investigating the HiRISE site I was immediately greeted by the much larger picture.

On the left is the closeup, click on the image or the link above to see the wide view. It is thoroughly breathtaking.

Now in the blown up picture the lander looks like it's falling into the big crater named Heimdall that dominates the view, when in truth it's actually around 20 kilometers in front of it, landing on the nice flat ground!

I highly reccomend a browse of the HiRISE site if you've not been there already, it's full of the most amazing things you'll see for a while.

I can't exactly let this post go without also showing the image of the Phoenix lander on the surface too, so here you go!

Click the image for the bigger picture, also featuring the parachute, heatshield and other associated bits.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Pheonix Lander touches down on Mars

Unfortunately that's about as much info as the Phoenix mission page gives at the moment, but it's certainly great to know that another probe has successfully made the trip to Mars.

Hopefully we'll see some images from the surface fairly soon!

Edit: Short article on the landing up at the Nasa site.

Double edit: Pictures are up, and the probe looks in good shape. The flat plains around it might seem slightly featureless at first, but remember that this is the surface of another planet - and thus, is awesome. Enthusiasm aside however, there is most certainly a lot to be learned here!