Monday, January 14, 2008

ASTRONOMY NEWS AND EVENTS

Vatican Staff Changed Before Observatory Relocation

Last week, we reported the relocation of the Vatican Observatory to an unused convent. At that time we mentioned there had been other recent events that suggested there was a controversy. One such event occurred shortly before the relocation announcement.

Pope Benedict XVI removed Father George Coyne S. J. 86 from his 28-year position as director of the Vatican Observatory after the American Jesuit priest repeatedly contradicted the Holy See's endorsement of "intelligent design" theory.

Coyne was replaced by Argentine Jesuit Father Jose Funes, 43, an expert on disk galaxies. Although the Vatican did not give reasons for the change, sources close to the Holy See say that Benedict would have been unhappy with Father Coyne's public opposition to intelligent design theory.

Father Coyne's most notable intervention came after Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, a former student of the Pope, put the case for intelligent design in an article in the New York Times in July last year.

To learn more about the Vatican Observatory, visit their Website, hosted by Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona, Tucson: http://clavius.as.arizona.edu/vo/R1024/VO.html


Shedding Light on Dark Energy

A telescope at Earth's South Pole is looks into mysterious force known as dark energy. First described nine years ago, dark energy is a mysterious and powerful force. It overrules the laws of gravity and pushes galaxies away from one another, causing the universe to expand at a faster rate.

Dark energy is thought to account for 70% of the mass of the universe. It is invisible and virtually undetectable. Nobody knows what it is, where it is or how it behaves.

As tall as a 7-story building, the 10-meter South Pole Telescope (SPT)saw first light on February 16, 2007. A few months ago it began searching for evidence of dark energy. Controlled remotely from the University of Chicago, the $19.2-million telescope has succeeded in its first mission: finding unknown galaxy clusters, which are clues to the emergence of dark energy.

For thousands of years, astronomers have been puzzling out the size, shape and chemistry of the universe, first by naked eye and then -- for the last 400 years -- with increasingly powerful and sophisticated telescopes. Mostly they study the motion of large objects and apply the known laws of physics to analyze them.

The telescope does not see dark energy directly. Instead, it gathers information for researchers to gain a better understanding of the mysterious force, by tracing how it emerged and changed over billions of years.

To do that, scientists will use the SPT to search for enormous clusters of galaxies -- the last structures in the universe to be formed by gravity after the Big Bang.

The mission of the SPT is to trace how many galaxy clusters formed at different periods in the history of the universe, and then determine when dark energy slowed or stopped their formation.

Galaxy clusters are rare, containing maybe just 1% of all the stars in the universe. Most are so far away and faint that most optical and radio telescopes cannot detect them.

Instead, scientists look for tiny variations in temperature of the remnants of the first light in the universe, emerging about 400,000 years after the Big Bang. Slightly warmer spots in the background indicate the presence of the dim, hard-to-locate galaxy clusters.

And the South Pole is the best place on Earth to do that. Humidity in the atmosphere would distort signals the telescope receives and the picture it makes. But there is little water vapor at the South Pole. Even though the pole sits on a massive, million-year buildup of ice 10,000 feet deep, the area is a natural desert -- the air is dry, and it rarely snows.

In addition, because of the tilt of the Earth's axis, the pole is in darkness for nearly half the year. That allows researchers to focus the telescope on one part of the sky for long periods of time.

To learn more, check out the home page of the University of Chicago's South Pole Telescope (SPT)
http://pole.uchicago.edu/


LSST Receives Funding From Charles Simonyi and Bill Gates

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) project has announced two major gifts: $20 million from the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences and $10 million from Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Under development since 2000, the LSST is a public-private partnership. This gift enables the construction of LSST's three large mirrors, which take more than five years to manufacture. The first stages of production for the two largest mirrors are now beginning at the Mirror Laboratory at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Other key elements of the LSST system will also be aided by this commitment.

Proposed for "first light" in 2014, the 8.4-meter LSST will survey the entire visible sky deeply in multiple colors every week with its three-billion pixel digital camera, probing the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy, and opening a movie-like window on objects that change or move.

The LSST will be constructed on Cerro Pachón, a mountain in northern Chile. Its design of three large mirrors and three refractive lenses in a camera leads to a 10 square degree field-of-view with excellent image quality. The telescope's camera will be the largest digital camera ever constructed. During 10 years of operations, about 2,000 deep exposures will be acquired for every part of the sky over 20,000 square degrees. This color "movie" of the universe will open an entirely new window: the time domain. LSST will produce 30 terabytes of data -- equivalent to more than 6,000 DVDs -- per night, yielding a total database of 150 petabytes. Dedicated data facilities will process the data in real time.

To learn more, visit the home page of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) project:
http://www.lsst.org/


HST Mission Will Fix and Add Equipment

On Tuesday, January 8, NASA officials announced said Tuesday that the planned 11-day, seven-astronaut shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) would include the installation of a pair of new scientific instruments, as well as an attempt to fix two older modules that produced important work before failing. The mission will feature five spacewalks. Along with the new instruments, an assortment of gyroscopes, thermal blankets and batteries will be installed, aiming to extend the telescope's operating life until 2013.

The two devices being repaired include the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) and the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). According to NASA, the ACS was the most-used device on the telescope, before failing last January. The STIS, which helped detect black holes and extra-solar planets, failed several years ago.

The Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) will be used to examine the "cosmic web," or the large-scale structure of the universe created by the gravity of dark matter, and traced in the formations of galaxies and interstellar gas.

A second device, called the Wide Field Camera 3, or WFC3, will provide a new wide-field and "panchromatic," or many-colored imagine capability to supplement the telescope's other cameras.

The combination of the new instruments and repaired instruments are expected to give astronomers a full set of tools with which to attack some really profound problems, ranging from the nature of dark matter and dark energy, to the chemical composition of the atmospheres of planets around other stars.

At the time of the announcement the mission as scheduled for August 2008. Following the announcement, delays were reported in the next shuttle Atlantis launch because of a faulty fuel gauge. The planned August date will likely be pushed back, but officials will proceed with the HST mission as soon as possible.

To learn more about the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and the upcoming mission, visit this Web site: http://hubble.nasa.gov/


Mars-Asteroid Impact Effectively Ruled Out

Since our last update, astronomers have received numerous tracking measurements of asteroid 2007 WD5 from four different observatories. These new data have led to a significant reduction in the position uncertainties during the asteroid's close approach to Mars on January 30, 2008. As a result, the impact probability has dropped dramatically, to approximately 0.01% or 1 in 10,000 odds, effectively ruling out the possible collision with Mars.

To learn more about the tracking of asteroids and comets, visit the home page of the NASA/JPL Near-Earth Object Program: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov


Two Older Stars Birthing Planets

Hundreds of millions — or even billions — of years after planets would have initially formed around two unusual stars, but a second wave of planetesimal and planet formation appears to be taking place, according to UCLA astronomers and colleagues.

The stars are known as BP Piscium, in the constellation Pisces, and TYCHO 4144 329 2, in the constellation Ursa Major. The stars have many characteristics of very young stars, including rapid accretion of gas, extended orbiting disks of dust and gas, a large infrared excess emission and, in the case of BP Piscium, jets of gas that are being shot into space. Planetesimals, like comets and asteroids, along with planets, form from the gas and dust particles that orbit young stars; planetesimals are small masses of rock or ice that merge to form larger bodies.

As seen from Earth, some 75 percent of BP Piscium's radiant energy is being converted by the dust particles into infrared light, and about 12 percent of TYCHO 4144 329 2's. These are unusually high amounts, which Melis described as "spectacular" in comparison to other stars that are known to be not-young.

TYCHO 4144 329 2 orbits a companion star that has a mass similar to that of our sun; a second generation of planets is not forming around this companion, which appears to be an ordinary old star in all respects. By studying this companion star, the astronomers have deduced that TYCHO 4144 329 2 is just 200 light-years from Earth — very close by astronomical standards. They do not know precise age of TYCHO 4144 329 2, or BP Piscium's age or distance from Earth.

The astronomers are continuing to study these stars with a variety of ground-based telescopes and with space-based observatories, including NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory, and they are searching for additional similar stars.

To learn more, visit the Web site of the UCLA Division of Astronomy and Astrophysics: http://www.astro.ucla.edu/


Ancestors of Milky Way-type Galaxies Discovered

Astronomers at Rutgers and Penn State universities have discovered galaxies in the distant universe that are ancestors of spiral galaxies like our Milky Way.

These ancient objects, some of the first galaxies ever to form, are being observed as they looked when the universe was just two billion years old. Today, scientists peg the universe’s age at 13.7 billion years, so light from these galaxies traveled almost 12 billion years to reach Earth.

The newly discovered galaxies are quite small – one-tenth the size and one-twentieth the mass of our Milky Way. They also have fewer stars – only one-fortieth as many as are in the Milky Way. From ground-based telescopes, they look like individual stars in size. Recent images made by the Hubble Space Telescope, however, reveal them as regions of active star formation.

The researchers determined that these galaxies were fertile breeding grounds for new stars, which burned hot and bright. These stars ionized the hydrogen atoms around them, stripping them of their electrons and causing them to emit a tell-tale sharp band of ultraviolet light known as Lyman alpha.

The researchers also noted that several of these galaxies, sometimes 10 or more, pulled together over the ensuing few billion years to form a single spiral galaxy.

The astronomers undertook four types of observations to find and characterize the objects they were seeking. They performed the first step – actually finding the Lyman alpha-emitting galaxies amid all the visible objects of deep space – using the Blanco four-meter telescope at the NSF Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. To measure their distance, they used the Magellan Telescope at Las Campanas Observatory, also in Chile, to measure redshift – an effect that shows how fast an object is receding from view due to a rapidly expanding universe. (The redshift at which they studied these galaxies is 3.1.) To determine how many stars are in the galaxies, they used the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope’s Infrared Array Camera. And to determine how big the galaxies are, they used the NASA Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys.

“Astronomy has long used a model where big surveys are followed by detailed studies of the interesting objects they find,” said Nigel Sharp, program officer in NSF’s Division of Astronomical Sciences. “This work nicely couples the large area, wide-field view of our ground-based telescope with the sharp focus of the Hubble, to probe to the faintest light levels. This team has come the closest yet to finding young galaxies that resemble our own Milky Way in its infancy.”

Eric Gawiser presented findings from teams led by him and Caryl Gronwall, senior research associate in Penn State’s Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) annual meeting January 7-11, 2008 in Austin, Texas.

To learn more, visit the Web site of the Rutgers Department of Physics and Astronomy: http://www.physics.rutgers.edu/ast/group-ast.html


Warnings of Rogue Black Holes

Our Milky Way galaxy may contain hundreds of black holes lurking and waiting waiting to gobble unsuspecting planets and stars that cross their paths. These "rogue" black holes would each weigh several thousand times the mass of the sun.

The warning comes from astronomer Kelly Holley-Bockelmann of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and her colleagues at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Michigan.

But while most black holes remain at the center of galaxies or inside globular clusters - collections of up to a million stars orbiting a galaxy - rogue black holes are "kicked" into space at velocities as high as 4,000 kilometers per second when more sedate black holes merge. Unless it is consuming a lot of matter and emitting X-rays and Gamma rays, astronomers say the only way to observe the approach of a rogue black hole would be to watch for gravitational lensing caused by the massive gravity well.

The team expects to publish their work in an upcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal.

The US team acknowledges the existence of a third class of black holes is based on "observational hints" only. Also, the good news is that if rogue black holes really are lurking in the Milky Way galaxy, the team does not think they pose an immediate threat to planet Earth. In fact, the team thinks it extremely unlikely they would do any damage to Earth in the lifetime of the universe.

To learn more, visit the Web site of the Vanderbilt University Department of Physics and Astronomy: http://www.vanderbilt.edu/physics/


First Detailed Map of Dark Matter in a Supercluster

For the first time astronomers are able to see indirect evidence of dark matter and how this invisible force impacts on the crowded and violent lives of galaxies. University of British Columbia researcher Catherine Heymans has produced the highest resolution map of dark matter ever captured before.

Scientists believe that dark matter is the invisible web that houses galaxies. And as the universe evolves, the gravitational pull of this unseen matter causes galaxies to collide and swirl into superclusters.

Heymans and the University of Nottingham’s Meghan Gray led an international team to test this theory that dark matter determines the location of galaxies.

Using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, Heymans and her team viewed an area of sky approximately the size of the full moon. They mapped the invisible dark matter scaffolding of the massive supercluster Abell 901/902 and the detailed structure of the individual galaxies embedded in it.

Abell 901/902 resides 2.6 billion light-years from Earth and measures more than 16 million light-years across.

According to the team, dark matter leaves a signature in distant galaxies. For example, a circular galaxy will become more distorted to resemble the shape of a banana if its light passes near a dense region of dark matter. By observing this effect, astronomers can then infer the presence of dark matter. Heymans constructed a dark matter map by measuring the distorted shapes of more than 60,000 faraway galaxies located behind the Abell 901/902 supercluster. To reach Earth, these galaxies’ light traveled through the dark matter that surrounds the Abell 901/902 supercluster of galaxies and was bent by its massive gravitational field.

The Hubble study pinpointed four main areas in the supercluster where dark matter has pooled into dense clumps, totaling 10 trillion times the Sun’s mass. These areas match the known location of hundreds of old galaxies that have experienced a violent history in their passage from the outskirts of the supercluster into these dense regions.

To learn more, visit the Web site of the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of British Columbia: http://www.physics.ubc.ca/


Opening up the Infrared Sky

The infrared sky is expanding significantly for the world astronomical community with the first world release of data (DR1) from the UKIRT Infrared Deep Sky Survey (UKIDSS).

UKIDSS DR1 has mapped a larger volume of the sky than any previous infrared survey. As the UKIDSS project progresses, it will gradually become the dominant source of information about the infrared sky, expanding its volume by a factor of 15 beyond DR1.

For the past two years, the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) in Hawaii has been systematically scanning the heavens for five different "colors" of faint infrared light. This allows astronomers to penetrate dark clouds where stars are currently forming, and to locate stars much less massive and much cooler than the Sun. Furthermore, our own Galaxy (the Milky Way) is transparent to the infrared, making it possible to see all the way to its centre and beyond. And finally, the expansion of the Universe stretches visible light from the most distant (and youngest) galaxies and quasars into the infrared part of the spectrum, and by observing this infrared light we can trace the evolution of galaxies from their youngest members. The first world release of these data makes all this information available to researchers everywhere.

Andy Lawrence from the University of Edinburgh, the UKIDSS Principal Investigator, said "We are moving into new territory. This survey probes huge volumes of space, so that we can locate rare but important objects like the very coolest and least luminous stars and the most distant galaxies. Astronomers in Europe have started getting the science out, but this world release should really unleash the scientific potential of the dataset."

According to astronomers, the present release is just the beginning. WFCAM has recently taken its one millionth observation, and the UKIDSS survey is progressing strongly. UKIDSS will have surveyed a volume 15 times larger than the current release, DR1, by the time it is completed in 2012.

Results from this world-leading effort are released in two stages - first to the member nations of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), and 18 months later to the world astronomical community. The data now being released worldwide were obtained in the first, intensive and exciting, WFCAM observing periods on the UKIRT telescope, up to January 2006. There will be new data releases approximately every six months over the coming five years.

Astronomers from the ESO nations have been busily following up on the early UKIDSS data for the past year. The survey has proved itself a rich source of exotic objects, exactly as expected. Steve Warren, the UKIDSS Survey Scientist, highlights the discovery of the coolest known brown dwarf in the Galaxy - ULAS J0034 for short - which, at an absolute temperature only just over twice that of the Earth, is fully 100 degrees cooler than any other known brown dwarf. This is likely one of the closest astronomical objects outside the Solar System, and was discovered in the shallow UKIDSS Large Area Survey (LAS). UKIDSS is also expected to discover some of the most distant objects known, and it appears to be well on the way to this goal. DR1 includes early data from the Ultra-Deep Survey (UDS), which aims to study the evolution of galaxies when the Universe was a fraction of its current age. This project is extraordinarily ambitious, requiring the telescope to revisit the same square-degree area of sky on hundreds of nights. "A hundred thousand very distant galaxies are detected even in the earliest UDS data, and there is also a 'needle in a haystack' object - a quasar at a redshift just in excess of 6, meaning 12.7 billion light years from Earth," says co-discoverer Ross McLure. "The light we now see from this object is very, very old, having set off on its journey to the telescope only a billion years after the big bang."

The first world release also contains large amounts of data on the Milky Way, with millions of stars, young stars and other objects seen clearly through the thick veils of dust which block the Milky Way to visible light, as illustrated in the accompanying images. Phil Lucas, head of the Galactic Plane Survey (GPS), notes that "in terms of detected objects, the GPS dominates UKIDSS, with hundreds of millions of infrared stars in DR1 and many times that still to come. And with the science archive now hosting a large-scale image of the GPS so far, we're able to visualize the infrared Milky Way better than ever before."

These results are among the motivations for carrying out surveys of the infrared sky. Comprising five separate surveys, some of which are highlighted here, UKIDSS has now scoured a larger volume of the Universe than any previous sky survey, and only slightly less than the largest visible light surveys. When the observations are completed in 2012, UKIDSS will have probed some 70 times deeper on average than the previous largest survey.

"The UKIDSS survey program was expressly designed to capitalize on the unique technical capabilities of the UKIRT Wide-Field Camera" said Gary Davis, Director of the Joint Astronomy Centre in Hawaii, which operates the UKIRT. WFCAM was developed at the UK Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh at a cost of £5M, and it is now the world's leading infrared panoramic camera. "It is rewarding to see the effort and dedication of a large team of scientists and engineers over many years coming to fruition. The release of DR1 presages the huge impact that UKIRT will make on world astronomy over the next several years by probing deeper into the infrared universe than ever before."

Images from the Wide Field Camera undergo processing at the Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit (CASU), Cambridge, UK, and the science products are transferred to the WFCAM Science Archive operated by the Wide Field Astronomy Unit in the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh. Astronomers from around the world will access the UKIDSS data from the Science Archive, which is bracing for the influx of new users.

A small preliminary release, of about 1/4 the size of DR1, has been scrutinized from all over the world since it was opened up in August 2007. Nigel Hambly, the scientist responsible for operation of the Science Archive, says that interest is likely to be intense. "Followup of objects discovered in this data release within the ESO nations has already revealed the power of the UKIDSS survey to turn up unique objects and we expect the world community will want to quickly make the most of the data now becoming available".

To earn more about the UKIRT Infrared Deep Sky Survey (UKIDSS), visit their Web site: http://www.ukidss.org/


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Mercury and MESSENGER, Part 2 of 2

The time has arrived, folks. On Monday, January 14, the planet Mercury will be visited in the first of three fly-bys of the spacecraft called MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging). MESSENGER is the second robotic probe sent to Mercury from Earth, and in 2011 MESSENGER will become the first to orbit Mercury and study the planet closely for one full Earth year. To get the latest on the Mercury encounter, visit the MESSENGER mission home page (http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/). For now, please enjoy the second half of our overview of the swift planet Mercury.


Surface and Interior

Mercury's surface appears to be much like that of the moon. It reflects approximately 6 percent of the sunlight it receives, about the same as the moon's surface reflects. Like the moon, Mercury is covered by a thin layer of minerals called silicates in the form of tiny particles. It also has broad, flat plains; steep cliffs; and many deep craters similar to those on the moon. The craters formed when meteors or small comets crashed into the planet. Mercury does not have enough atmosphere to slow down meteoroids and burn them up by friction. The Caloris Basin, Mercury's largest crater, measures about 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) across.
Mercury's interior appears to resemble that of the Earth. Both planets have a rocky layer called a mantle beneath their crust, and both planets have an iron core. Based on Mercury's size and mass, scientists believe the planet's core makes up about three-fourths of its radius. Earth's core makes up about half of its radius. The discovery of a magnetic field around Mercury led some scientists to think that the planet's outer core, like Earth's, is liquid iron.

Atmosphere

Mercury is dry, extremely hot, and almost airless. The sun's rays are approximately seven times as strong on Mercury as they are on the Earth. The sun also appears about 2 1/2 times as large in Mercury's sky as in the Earth's.

Mercury does not have enough gases in its atmosphere to reduce the amount of heat and light it receives from the sun. The temperature on the planet may reach 840 degrees F (450 degrees C) during the day. But at night, the temperature may drop as low as -275 degrees F (-170 degrees C). Because of the lack of atmosphere, Mercury's sky is black. Stars probably would be visible from the surface during the day.
Scans of Mercury made by Earth-based radar indicate that craters at Mercury's poles contain water ice. The floors of the craters are permanently shielded from sunlight, so the temperature never gets high enough to melt the ice.
Mercury is surrounded by an extremely small amount of helium, hydrogen, oxygen, and sodium. This envelope of gases is so thin that the greatest possible atmospheric pressure (force exerted by the weight of gases) on Mercury would be about 0.00000000003 pound per square inch (0.000000000002 kilogram per square centimeter). The atmospheric pressure on the Earth is about 14.7 pounds per square inch (1.03 kilograms per square centimeter).
Earth plant and animal life could not survive on Mercury because of the lack of oxygen and the intense heat. Scientists doubt that the planet has any form of life.

Density and Mass

Mercury's density is slightly less than the Earth's. That is, if weighed on the same planet, a portion of Mercury would weigh slightly less than an equal portion of the Earth. Mercury is smaller than the Earth and therefore has much less mass. Mercury's smaller mass makes its force of gravity only about a third as strong as that of the Earth. An object that weighs 100 pounds on the Earth would weigh only about 38 pounds on Mercury.

Space Exploration

Until this year, the United States spacecraft Mariner 10 was the first and only spacecraft to reach Mercury. The remotely controlled spacecraft flew to within 460 miles (740 kilometers) of Mercury on March 29, 1974. It swept past the planet again on September 24, 1974, and on March 16, 1975. During those flights, the spacecraft photographed portions of the surface of Mercury. It also detected Mercury's magnetic field.

Mariner 10 became the first spacecraft to study two planets. The probe photographed and made scientific measurements of Venus while traveling to Mercury. As the probe flew near Venus, the planet's gravity pulled on the spacecraft, causing it to move faster. Thus, Mariner 10 reached Mercury in less time and by using less fuel than if it had flown directly from the Earth.

In 2004, the United States launched the MESSENGER probe to Mercury. Messenger is scheduled to fly by Mercury twice in 2008 and once in 2009 before going into orbit around the planet in 2011. The probe will then orbit Mercury for one Earth year while mapping Mercury's surface and studying its composition, interior structure, and magnetic field.


Bibliography

MESSENGER, the official site for the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging mission. Retrieved January 2, 2008.
http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/

Zuber, Maria T. "Mercury." World Book Online Reference Center. 2004. World Book, Inc. Retrieved January 2, 2008.
http://www.worldbookonline.com/wb/Article?id=ar356240

Planets: Mercury. In NASA Solar System Exploration, Last updated November 5, 2007. Retrieved January 2, 2008, from the NASA Solar System Exploration website, maintained by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory:
http://solarsystem.jpl.nasa.gov/planets/profile.cfm?Object=Mercury


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THE SKY THIS WEEK

Jan 14 - MESSENGER spacecraft, 1st Mercury Flyby

Jan 14 - Ulysses spacecraft, maximum north solar latitude (79.8 Degrees)

Jan 15 - Cassini spaceraft, distant flyby of Saturn moons Methone and Pandora

Jan 15, 2:46 P.M. EST (07:46 UTC) - First Quarter Moon

Jan 19, 3:40 A.M. EST (8:40 UTC) - The moon is at perigee, the point in the moon's orbit when it is closest to Earth 366,435 km

Jan 19 - The planet Mars is 1.1° south of the moon, occultation. An occultation occurs when one object passes in front of a smaller one, temporarily obscuring all or part of the background object from view.


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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY

Jan 13, 1980 - Discovery of EETA 79001 (Mars Meteorite)

Jan 13, 1986 - Discovery of Uranus moons Desdemona and Rosalind by Voyager mission scientist Stephen P. Synnott

Jan 14, 1905 - Discovery of Asteroid 555 Norma by German astronomer and astrophotography pioneer Max Wolf (1863 - 1932).

Jan 14, 2005 - Landing of Huygens Probe on Saturn's moon Titan

Jan 15, 1906 - Discovery of Asteroid 584 Semiramis by German astronomer, and discoverer of several comets and asteroids, August Kopff (1882 - 1960)

Jan 15, 1976 - Launch of Helios 2 (Solar Orbiter)

Jan 15, 2001 - Stardust spacecraft, Earth flyby

Jan 15, 2004 - Spirit Rover first drove onto the Martian Surface

Jan 17, 1887 - Birthday of U.S. meteorite collector, self-taught meteoriticist and educator, and founder of the American Meteorite Museum (1942 - 1960), Dr. Harvey Harlow Nininger (1887 - 1986). A portion of the collection was sold to the British Museum in 1958. The bulk of the collection is now part of Arizona State University as a branch of the ASU Museums.

Jan 19, 1747 - Birthday of German astronomer Johann Elert Bode (1747 - 1826), popularizer of the hypothesis known as the Titius-Bode law. The hypothesis was discredited with the discovery of Neptune in 1846.

Jan 19, 1840 - U.S. claimed discovery of Antarctica. On this day Lt. Charles Wilkes, American leader of the United States Exploring Expedition, sighted from sea an area of Antarctica now known as Wilkes Land.

Jan 19, 1965 - Launch of Gemini 2 (Unmanned Suborbital Flight)

Jan 19, 1980 - Discovery of Saturn moon Janus by Voyager 1

Jan 19, 2002 - Discovery of SAU 090 Meteorite (Mars Meteorite)

Jan 19, 2006 - Launch of New Horizons spacecraft (Pluto and Kuiper Belt Mission) aboard an Atlas V

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MUSICAL DIVERSION

The Welsh harpist Edward Jones (1752-1824), also known as Bardd y Brenin (The King's Bard), served as the harpist to British King George III from 1783 to 1787 and produced more than twenty musical publications during his life, including his popular “Musical and Poetical Relics of the Welsh Bards” first published in 1784. One of the tunes in this collection was an ancient Welsh harp melody collected by Edward and his brother William. This was the first written record of the tune, though it was probably much older. The tune was called "Ar Hyd y Nos," which translates to English as “the live­long night,” or more traditionally, "all through the night."

Some suggest that the first English lyrics to use the tune were written by the ‘Romantic’ poet Amelia Opie (1769-1853) and that it was sung to the English setting, "Here beneath a willow weepeth poor Mary Ann."

Welsh lyrics for this Welsh melody were finally written by John Ceiriog Hughes (1832 - 1887). Though Hughes worked in the railway system most of his life (as a clerk and then a station master), he was also a Welsh poet and collector of Welsh folk tunes, sometimes called the "Robert Burns of Wales." Hughes wrote under the penname Ceiriog (the name of the river in his home village). He also adapted old Welsh tunes to his own lyrics, which was the case with "Ar Hyd y Nos."

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Ar Hyd Y Nos

Holl amrantau'r sêr ddywedant
Ar hyd y nos
'Dyma'r ffordd i fro gogoniant
Ar hyd y nos.
Golau arall yw tywyllwch
I arddangos gwir brydferthwch
Teulu'r nefoedd mewn tawelwch
Ar hyd y nos.

O mor siriol gwen a seren
Ar hyd y nos
I oleuo-i chwaer ddae ar en
Ar hyd y nos.
Nos yw henaint pan ddaw cystudd
Ond i harddu dyn a'i hwyr dydd
Rhown ein goleu gwan i'n gilydd
Ar hyd y nos.

-----

(literal English translation)

All the stars' eyelids say,
All through the night,
"This is the way to the valley of glory,"
All through the night.
Any other light is darkness,
To exhibit true beauty,
The Heavenly family in peace,
All through the night.

Oh, how happily shines the star,
All through the night,
To light its earthly sister,
All through the night.
Old age is night when affliction comes,
But to beautify man in his twilight,
We'll put our weak light together
All through the night.

-----

While many found it difficult to translate the Welsh lyrics and maintain their poetry, many around the world have tried. And to be sure, there are several English translations. An English translation was written in January of 1856 by a weaver and poet from Mid Glamorgan named Evan James (1809 - 1878), who wrote under the penname Ieuan ap Iago.

(James version)

Sleep my love, and peace attend thee
All through the night;
Guardian angels God will lend thee,
All through the night,
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and vale in slumber steeping,
I my loving vigil keeping,
All through the night.

Angels watching ever round thee,
All through the night,
In thy slumbers close surround thee,
All through the night,
They should of all fears disarm thee,
No forebodings should alarm thee,
They will let no peril harm thee,
All through the night.

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In 1884, another version was written by business man, philanthropist, song writer, and baronet, Sir Harold Edwin Boulton (1859 - 1935). And it is Boulton's version that most people sing today.

(Boulton version)

Sleep my child and peace attend thee,All through the nightGuardian angels God will send thee,All through the nightSoft the drowsy hours are creepingHill and vale in slumber sleeping,I my loving vigil keepingAll through the night.While the moon her watch is keepingAll through the nightWhile the weary world is sleepingAll through the nightO'er they spirit gently stealingVisions of delight revealingBreathes a pure and holy feelingAll through the night.Love, to thee my thoughts are turningAll through the nightAll for thee my heart is yearning,All through the night.Though sad fate our lives may severParting will not last forever,There's a hope that leaves me never,All through the night.

-----

More recently, an English translation written by J. Mark Sugars has been acknowledged by many as a poetic, yet faithful to the Welsh text.

(Sugars version)

Stars look down and tell their story,
All through the night.
"Here's the way to a land of glory,"
All through the night.
Other light seems merely darkness
When true beauty shines upon us,
Heaven's family tranquil o'er us,
All through the night.

See how smiles a star serenely
All through the night.
Beaming at the earth so keenly
All through the night.
"Night is old age, with grief coming,
But, adorning man and evening,
Pale light from us will be streaming
All through the night."

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The beautiful melody has been embraced by many as the base for different hymn texts. Here are just two. The first was written by the British shipwright and Calvinist, John Kent (1766 - 1843).


'Tis the Church Triumphant Singing

'Tis the church triumphant singing
Worthy the Lamb!
Heav'n thro' out with praises ringing,
Worthy the Lamb!
Thrones and pow'rs before Him bending,
Odors sweet with voice ascending
Swell the chorus never ending,
Worthy the Lamb!

Ev'ry kindred, tongue and nation
Worthy the Lamb!
Join to sing the great salvation;
Worthy the Lamb!
Loud as mighty thunders roaring,
Floods of mighty waters pouring,
Prostate at His feet adoring,
Worthy the Lamb!

Harps and songs forever sounding
Worthy the Lamb!
Mighty grace o'er sin abounding;
Worthy the Lamb!
By His blood He dearly bought us;
Wand'ring from the fold He sought us;
And to glory safely brought us:
Worthy the Lamb!

Sing with blest anticipation,
Worthy the Lamb!
Thro' the vale of tribulation,
Worthy the Lamb!

Swetest notes, all notes excelling,
On the theme forever dwelling,
Still untold, tho' ever telling,
Worthy the Lamb!

-----

The following hymn text was written by the British Methodist minister, the Reverend Fred Pratt Green (1903 - 2000).


For the Fruit of All Creation

For the fruit of all creation,
Thanks be to God.
For His gifts to ev'ry nation,
Thanks be to God.
For the plowing, sowing, reaping,
Silent growth while we are sleeping,
Future needs in earth's safekeeping,
Thanks be to God.

In the just reward of labor,
God's will is done.
In the help we give our neighbor,
God's will is done.
In our world-wide task of caring
For the hungry and despairing,
In the harvests we are sharing.
God's will is done.

For the harvest of the Spirit,
Thanks be to God.
For the good we all inherit,
Thanks be to God.
For the wonders that astound us,
For the truths that still confound us,
Most of all, that love has found us,
Thanks be to God.

-----


To learn more about this song, and see and hear other hymn texts that use this melody, please visit these links:

All Through the Night (Ar Hyd Y Nos), Version 1
From the “Folk Songs of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales” section of Contemplations from the Marianas Trench
http://www.contemplator.com/wales/allnight.html

All Through the Night (Ar Hyd Y Nos), Version 2
From the “Folk Songs of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales” section of Contemplations from the Marianas Trench
http://www.contemplator.com/wales/allnight2.html

All Through the Night, Welch lyrics and English translation
Taylor's Traditional Tunebook. Created by Barry Taylor.
Hosted by Contemplations from the Marianas Trench
http://www.contemplator.com/tunebook/wales/allthru.htm

God, That Madest Earth and Heaven
The Cyber Hymnal
http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/g/o/godthatm.htm

Now to Heaven Our Prayer Ascending
The Cyber Hymnal
http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/n/t/ntheaven.htm

One is Kind Above All Others
The Cyber Hymnal
http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/o/n/oneiskin.htm

Through the Love of God Our Savior
The Cyber Hymnal
http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/t/l/g/tlgosavr.htm

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