Saturday, February 02, 2008

ASTRONOMY NEWS AND EVENTS

AAS Meeting Lectures Online

Now available online are audio and video recordings of many of lectures from the January meet of the American Astronomical Society.

Topics include extrasolar planets, galaxy formation, and star birth, and others. Be aware, however, that the videos are in MP4 format (commonly called iPod format), so you may have to convert the files to your format of choice before enjoying them.

For example, one Internet user downloaded some MP4 files and then converted them to a preferred format using Quicktime Pro. Also, since I have a Creative Zen Micro Photo, I happen to know that Creative brand products include on CD some conversion software tools, but I can say no more beyond that. If you don't normally work with the provided formats or you don't have software to convert the formats, you may run into problems. Oh. I should also mention that I have not had time to download from this site, so I don't have copies of these files, converted or otherwise.

I understand that efforts are under way to make other file formats available for download, but we will have to wait and see how that develops.

To check out the audio and video files, go to this link: http://aas211.showmaestro.com/


LIGO Detected No Gravity Waves from GRB

During the week of January 14, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) attempted, but was unable to detect gravitational radiation associated with a gamma ray burst (GRB). The result was a valuable contribution, as it helped to distinguish between competing models for what powers GRBs. The LIGO detector is due to be upgraded this year so that it may provide more accurate measurements.

LIGO is a facility dedicated to the detection of cosmic gravitational waves and the harnessing of these waves for scientific research. It consists of two widely separated installations within the United States — one in Hanford Washington and the other in Livingston, Louisiana — operated in unison as a single observatory.

LIGO is being built by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and funded by the National Science Foundation. To learn more about the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), visit the observatory home page: http://www.ligo.caltech.edu/


Annular Solar Eclipse

This Wednesday/Thursday, February 6/7, marks the first solar eclipse of 2008. The event is an annular eclipse that will be visible from a shadow that will traverses Antarctica and southern regions of the Pacific Ocean. The interesting aspect of annular eclipses is that, because the moon is farther from Earth than during total eclipses, the moon's silhouette is smaller than the apparent diameter of the sun, and so the sun's light appears as a bright ring around the moon during totality. Most eclipse paths that travel from west to east, but this eclipse path begins by running east to west and slowly turns north before curving west to east near its terminus. Partial phases of the eclipse are visible primarily from eastern Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.

The last solar eclipse, on September 11, was a partial eclipse that was visible from South America and Antarctica. The next solar eclipse, a total eclipse, will be on August 1 and will be visible from northeastern North America, Europe and Asia, and totality will be seen from northern Canada, Greenland, Siberia, Mongolia, and China.

For more information on this and other solar eclipses, visit NASA's Eclipse Home Page: http://sunearth.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse/solar.html


Cincinnati Observatory Restoration in Progress

The historic Cincinnati Observatory in Mt. Lookout is currently undergoing a $3 million restoration that is scheduled for completion in May. The goal of the project is to bring the facility back to its original appearance. The facility is the nation's oldest and longest continuously operating observatory, established in 1843 and operating in its current location since 1873. The observatory averages upwards of 20,000 visitors each year, putting it in great need of repairs and maintenance.

The building went into serious disrepair during the 1990's and there were discussions by the University of Cincinnati (the current operators of the observatory) to abandon the site so that developers could build condominiums. Historians, local citizens, astronomers and other groups protested and the university reconsidered. Restoration of the building began in 1999, but since that time there have also arisen needs to refinish the pine floors, replace the bookcases and reline and relay the resurface walls.

The restoration is under the supervision of the non-profit Cincinnati Observatory Center. Most of the funding comes from various local foundations, citizen donations, memberships, entrance fees and support from the University of Cincinnati. To learn more about the observatory and the restoration process, visit the home page of the Cincinnati Observatory Center: http://www.cincinnatiobservatory.org


Stardust Comet Dust Resembles Asteroid Material

Scientists were surprised by the results of studying the comet dust samples returned by NASA's Stardust mission. The results indicate that the comet material formed very close to the young sun. In 2006 the spacecraft returned samples from Comet Wild 2 (pronounced "Vilt-2"). New research reveals that, while the sample included material that formed very close to the young sun, it was missing ingredients that would be expected in comet dust. Rather than resembling an ancient, unaltered comet, the material more closely matches what they would expect from a meteorite or an asteroid.

The research team specifically searched for two silicate materials that are thought to be unique to cometary interplanetary dust particles: amorphous silicates known as Gems (glass with embedded metal and sulfides); and sliver-like whiskers of the crystalline silicate enstatite (a rock-forming mineral). Stardust is a part of NASA's series of Discovery missions and is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Stardust launched in February 1999 and began collecting interstellar dust in 2000. It encountered Wild 2 in January 2004. Stardust was the first spacecraft to safely return to Earth with samples of comet dust.

The follow-on mission for the Stardust spacecraft, Stardust-NExT, is a low-cost mission that will expand the investigation of comet Tempel 1 begun by NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft. To learn more about the Stardust mission and the follow-on Stardust-NEXT mission, visit the mission homepage: http://www.nasa.gov/stardust


Happy Chinese New Year

February 7 marks the Chinese New Year, which is the Year of the Rat. The Chinese zodiac has twelve animals, one for each year, and the cycle completely rotates every twelve years. This year begins the cycle again with the rat, or mouse (2007 was the year of the pig, or boar).

Legend says that in ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each one. He announced that the people born in each animal's year would have some of that animal's personality. According to the zodiac, those born in rat years tend to be leaders, pioneers, and conquerors. They are charming, passionate, charismatic, practical and hardworking.

The Chinese calendar is based on the lunar cycle and predates the Gregorian calendar by thousands of years. Depending on the authority, February 7 either marks the beginning of the year 4705 or 4706.

To learn more about the Chinese zodiac and Chinese culture, visit "China Today: The Chinese Zodiac": http://www.chinatoday.com/culture/zodiac/zodiac.htm


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THE SKY THIS WEEK

Feb 6, 10:44 P.M. (Feb 7, 03:44 UTC) - New Moon and Annular Solar Eclipse

Feb 6 - The planet Mercury is in inferior conjunction, when Mercury passes between the sun and Earth.

Feb 7 - Annular solar eclipse, visible in Antarctica

Feb 7 - Chinese New Year, the Year of the Rat.

Feb 8 - Cassini spacecraft, distant flyby of Saturn moons Epimetheus, Pandora and Atlas


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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY

Feb 3, 1966 - First landing on the moon, performed by Soviet Union robotic probe Luna 9

Feb 4, 1906 - Birthday of Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh (1906-1997)

Feb 4, 1967 - Launch of U.S. probe Lunar Orbiter 3

Feb 5, 1974 - Mariner 10 flyby of Venus

Feb 6, 1991 - Re-entry and burn-up of Soviet Union space station Salyut-7, launched April 19, 1982 and host to twelve expedition crews.

Feb 7, 1889 - Birthday of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific

Feb 7, 1824 - Birthday of British amateur astronomer and astronomy revolutionary, Sir William Huggins (1824-1910)

Feb 8, 1828 - 180th birthday of science fiction author Jules Verne (1828-1905)

Feb 8, 1992 - Ulysses, Jupiter Flyby

Feb 8, 2000 - Discovery of the GRV 99027 meteorite (a Mars meteorite)

Feb 8, 2001 - Discovery of the SAU 094 meteorite (a Mars meteorite)

Feb 9, 1905 - Discovery of Asteroid 558 Carmen by German astronomer and astrophotography pioneer Max Wolf (1863 - 1932).

Feb 9, 1990 - Galileo spacecraft flyby of Venus

Feb 9, 1999 - Launch of STARDUST spacecraft. Collected particles from Comet Wild 2 (pronounced "Vilt-2") and collected interplanetary particles


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MUSICAL DIVERSION

The northern tip of India borders the great Himalayan Mountain range. Today, this region is part of the Indian state of Meghalaya, but until 1970 this was the old Indian state of Assam.

About one hundred and fifty years ago, in the Garo Hills of this region, the members of the Garo tribe converted to Christianity. Today, North East India has a tremendous and growing Christan population.

As you would expect, the faith of the Garos spread into all aspects of there lives, including their music. One result of this is a beautiful hymn that is sung throughout the region. In fact it is a favorite Gospel song of all the North East India tribes--perhaps their most favorite.

The song is a Garo text that is combined with a native Hindustani melody--a melody of North India. The tune reflects their love of musical contrasts, with deep lows and soaring highs. The text is the Garo's affirming response to the statement of Jesus in the Gospels: "If any anyone comes after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me." (based on Matthew 16:24 and Luke 9:23).


I Have Decided to Follow Jesus

I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.

Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back, no turning back.

Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.

Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
No turning back, no turning back.


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The hymn of commitment gradually worked its way around the world. It seems that it first appeared in the United States in 1950, with the publication of "Choice Light and Life," compiled by LeRoy M. Lowell and published by the Free Methodist Church (Winona Lake, Indiana). Other publications quickly followed. One was a hymn arrangement in four parts by composer, arranger and editor, William Jensen Reynolds (b. 1920). The arrangement was published in 1959 by Broadman Press. The tune was given the name "Assam," the name at that time for the home region of the Garo tribe. The hymn text included two verses of the original Garo text ("I have decided..." and "Though none go with me...") combined with a third verse written by John Clark.


My cross I'll carry till I see Jesus,
My cross I'll carry till I see Jesus,
My cross I'll carry till I see Jesus,
No turning back, I'll follow him.


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Bibliography

"I Have Decided to Follow Jesus"
Timeless Truths, Free Online Library
Retrieved January 29, 2008
http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/I_Have_Decided_to_Follow_Jesus/

"I Have Decided to Follow Jesus"
Published February 2, 2002, Lewis G. Scharpf, Jr.
Retrieved January 29, 2008
http://www.ajoyfulnoise.net/followJesus.htm

"I Have Decided to Follow Jesus"
Copyright (c) 2002 to present, PreciousLordTakeMyHand.com
Retrieved January 29, 2008
http://www.preciouslordtakemyhand.com/christianhymns/ihavedecidedtofollowjesus.html

“No Turning Back” (sermon text)
Joe Glaze, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Hamilton NY
Presented March 5, 2007
Retrieved January 29, 2008
http://www.firstbaptistchurchhamilton.org/images/3-5-07.pdf

"A Day with Dr. Thom," posted September 17, 2007 by Jason Pratt
"Where in the World is Jay?" a Web log maintained by Jason Pratt
Retrieved January 29, 2008
http://charlesjasonpratt.blogspot.com/

Composers: Reynolds, William J.
Hope Publishing Company
Retrieved January 29, 2008
http://www.hopepublishing.com/html/main.isx?sub=27&search=78


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