Sunday, February 10, 2008


Another Extrasolar Planet Discovered

Astronomers at the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela (USC) in Spain recently announced their discovery of a huge planet in the star system Gliese 22 (pronounced “Gleez 22”). The findings were recently reported in Astronomy and Astrophysics magazine.

The discovery marks the first successful us of astrometry to find extra solar planets. Astrometry is the discipline which studies the position and movement of celestial bodies.

Prior to this discovery, extra solar planets were found by measuring their stars' radial velocities or by observing the slight reduction in the stars' light that occurs when an orbiting planet passes directly between it and us.

The Gliese 22 star system is composed of three low-mass stars. Two of them form a binary system, in which both orbit around a common center of mass, while the third star - the most distant of the three - orbits the other two.

The new planet, calculated to have a mass 16 times that of Jupiter, was found orbiting the third star.

The discovering team noticed that the third star moved from side to side a little as it orbited the binary system. Investigators said the oscillating motion could only be explained by the presence of another body - the large planet - circling it and pulling it slightly back and forth.

To learn more about the university, the observatory and Extrasolar Planets, please visit the following sites:

Universidad de Santiago de Compostela (English version):

Astronomical Observatory "Ramón Mª Aller" (English version):

The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia

Mercury Excitement

As most of you already know, NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft flew by Mercury on January 14, 2008, and it has beamed back some surprises.

The spacecraft collected more than 1,200 images and made the first up-close measurements of Mercury since Mariner 10’s three flyby’s in the mid-1970s.

Researchers once thought Mercury was a lot like Earth's moon, but MESSENGER has found many differences. For example, unlike the moon, Mercury has huge cliffs with structures snaking hundreds of miles across the planet's face. The spacecraft also found impact craters that appear very different from lunar craters. One particularly curious crater is called "The Spider."

This type of formation has not been seen before on Mercury and nothing like it has been seen on Earth’s moon. It lies in the middle of a huge impact crater called the Caloris basin and consists of more than 100 narrow, flat-floored troughs radiating from a complex central region. The Spider has a crater near its center, but it's uncertain whether that crater is related to the original formation or came later.

Researchers already knew that Mercury’s Caloris Basin was one of the largest impact craters in the solar system, but MESSENGER has shown it is even bigger than they thought. When Mariner 10 flew by Mercury in the 1970s, it saw only a portion of Caloris basin. Now that MESSENGER has shown scientists the basin's full extent, its diameter has been revised upward from the Mariner 10 estimate of 800 miles to perhaps as large as 960 miles from rim to rim.

In addition, Mercury's magnetic field was found to be different from the measurements of the Mariner 10 observations 30 years ago. While the magnetic field was generally quiet (no magnetic storms) on January 14th, it showed several signs of significant internal pressure. Additional flybys of MESSENGER in late 2008 and 2009 plus a yearlong orbital phase beginning in 2011 will shed more light on the stability and dynamics of Mercury's magnetic cocoon.

MESSENGER also detected ultraviolet emissions from sodium, calcium and hydrogen in Mercury's exosphere. The exosphere is Mercury's super-low-density atmosphere, which astronomers think probably formed from atoms knocked off Mercury's surface. The “knocking” may be caused by contact with hot plasma trapped in Mercury's magnetic field. In addition, MESSENGER encountered Mercury's sodium-rich exospheric "tail" which extends more than 25,000 miles from the planet, and also discovered a hydrogen tail of similar dimensions.

While the latest discoveries are very exciting, astronomers caution that everything should be kept in perspective. Since the future still holds two more flybys followed by a year-long study in orbit, this may only be the beginning.

To learn more, visit the mission home page of MESSENGER, the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging mission

Visit Saturn on Your Computer

A new interactive 3-D viewer that uses a game engine will allow users to view the Saturn system as Cassini spacecraft sees it. The Cassini at Saturn Interactive Explorer makes the real Cassini mission data fully available in three colorful, easy-to-use features, or “expeditions.”

The "Where is Cassini Now?" expedition shows exactly where the Cassini spacecraft is and what it is doing each moment over the current 24-hour period. Viewers can see the spacecraft move in its orbit and maneuver according to instructions from mission scientists and navigators at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

With the "Mission Overview" expedition, look back in time as Cassini orbited the Saturn system over the past 3.5 years, and fast-forward into the future to see where it is headed. Users can control two virtual cameras to see Cassini fly by Saturn and its moons.

The "Saturn's Moons" expedition gives an in-depth peek at seven of Saturn's moons, providing useful facts and interactive surface views of each one.

To try for yourself the “Saturn Interactive Explorer,” visit this link at the home page of NASA’s Cassini mission:

For more information on NASA’s Cassini mission, visit the home page: and

U-M Library Celebrates Addition of One Millionth Book

Earlier this month, the University of Michigan's library celebrated a milestone: It has digitized its one-millionth book, and recently put it online.

Most of the one million volumes were digitized as part of the ongoing project with Google Inc., which will take several more years to digitize all 7.5 million bound volumes.

The one millionth book was "Maria Mitchell, Life, Letters and Journals," which documents the life of the 19th century American astronomer.

The scanned works can be searched using the online U-M library catalog. Works in the public domain can be read cover-to-cover. Works covered by copyright cannot be read fully, but Web users will be able to assess their contents before deciding whether to borrow or purchase them. You may visit the online library at the following link:

Phoenix Mars Lander Team Completes Test Session

The Phoenix Mars Lander team recently finished their Operational Readiness Test, their final opportunity to be together as a team and practice for the actual mission when the Lander reaches the Red Planet in May.

During the three month mission, the team of scientists must spend each day in a conference room at the University of Arizona (U of A) figuring out what commands to send to the spacecraft. They will then wait a full day before learning whether Phoenix understood and performed its tasks.

Because of the value of every day of the mission, the team leaders recognize that the testing is crucial to the mission success, and they report that they have learned a lot during their “mock mission” test.

The team is running their mission tests using a duplicate model of the Phoenix lander that is positioned in another part of the facility which is off limits to the team during the test. In one of their recent tests, the mission team was given a scenario in which one of the lander legs set down on a rock, causing the lander to shift out of the expected landing position. The team soon figured out how to work around that development in order to take the planned Martian soil samples.

To learn more about the Phoenix Mars Lander mission, visit the mission home page:



Feb 13, 10:33 P.M. (Feb 14, 03:33 UTC) - First Quarter Moon

Feb 13 - Moon at perigee, the point in the Moon's orbit when it is nearest to Earth.

Feb 10 - Asteroid 2006 DU62 Near-Earth Flyby (0.055 AU)

Feb 12 - Asteroid 2007 DA Near-Earth Flyby (0.025 AU)



Feb 10, 1974 - Mars 4 (Soviet probe), Mars flyby

Feb 11, 1970 - Launch of Ohsumi, Japan's first satellite

Feb 11, 1996 - Cassini spacecraft, Saturn ring plane crossing (3 of 3)

Feb 12, 1947 - Sikhote Alin meteorite fall in Russia

Feb 12, 1974 - Mars 5 (Soviet probe), Mars orbit insertion

Feb 12, 2001 - NEAR-Shoemaker, landing on asteroid Eros

Feb 13, 1852 - Birthday of British astronomer and publisher of star catalogs, including “The Second Armagh Catalogue of Stars” and “The New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars” (NGC), John Louis Emil Dreyer (1852-1926)

Feb 14, 1898 - Birthday of American-based Swiss astronomer, Fritz Zwicky (1898-1974)

Feb 14, 1963 - Launch of Syncom 1 (U.S.), the first geosynchronous satellite

Feb 14, 1972 - Launch of Luna 20, Soviet moon sample return mission

Feb 14, 1985 - Launch of the Solar Maximum Mission (Solar Max)

Feb 14, 1990 - Voyager 1 spacecraft, taking of the solar system "family portrait" images

Feb 14, 2000 - NEAR-Shoemaker, asteroid Eros orbit insertion

Feb 15, 1564 - Birthday of Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

Feb 15, 1992 – Moon flyby of Hiten, the ISAS (Japanese Space Agency) Earth orbiting satellite which was primarily designed to test and verify technologies for future lunar missions.

Feb 16, 1906 - Discovery of asteroid 585 Bilkis by German astronomer, and discoverer of several comets and asteroids, August Kopff (1882-1960)

Feb 16, 1906 - Discovery of asteroids 602 Marianna, 603 Timandra and 604 Tekmessa by American astronomer, discover and co-discoverer of several comets, and discoverer of several asteroids, Joel Hastings Metcalf.

Feb 16, 1948 - Discovery of Uranus moon Miranda by Dutch American astronomer, Gerard Kuiper (1905-1973)



Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
(by Robert Frost. Written in 1922, first published in 1923 in his volume, "New Hampshire.")

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.



Sometimes the truth of God’s Word is easier to understand when we see the simplicity of the story.

God Helped Isaac
(Based Genesis 26:12-33)

Isaac was a farmer and he lived with this family in the land of Gerar. Isaac and his family grew crops and tended flocks and herds. God loved Isaac and blessed him with many animals and very good crops.

But the people living near Isaac grumbled. They were not happy that Isaac had so much and that they did not. They told Isaac "You have more animals and more crops than us. We are afraid of you because you have so much. We do not want you here. Go away."

So Isaac packed up his home, his animals, and all that he had. He moved to another place and dug a well to get water to drink.

But people in the new place fussed, too. “This is our water," they said.

So Isaac moved again. Every time Isaac moved, he did not grumble. He was kind, even though others were not kind to him.

God loved Isaac. He said: "I am God. Don't be afraid. I am with you. I will take care of you."



His name was John Hatton. He lived and died in Lancashire, England in the eighteenth century. We are not certain when he was born, but church records tell us he was christened as an infant on September 25, 1710. We are not sure when he died, but we know that his funeral sermon was preached 83 years later, at the Presbyterian Chapel in St. Helens, Windle, Lancaster on December 13, 1793. We are not even sure how he died, but tradition says it was violent, being thrown from a stagecoach.

Beyond these facts, we also know that he was a musician of sorts. He may have written a great deal of music during his life, but the only melody of his which survives to our time was published with a hymn in 1793, the year of his death. The melody was named for the road in Windle, Lancaster on which Hatton lived--Duke Street.

Hatton's melody was paired with a much older text by Isaac Watts (1674-1748), from his 1719 publication, "The Psalms of David: Imitated in the Language of the New Testament and Applied to the Christian State and Worship." The text is from Watts' poetic paraphrase of the second half of King David's Psalm 72, "Christ's kingdom among the Gentiles."

Jesus Shall Reign

Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

Behold the islands with their kings,
And Europe her best tribute brings;
From north to south the princes meet,
To pay their homage at His feet.

There Persia, glorious to behold,
There India shines in eastern gold;
And barb’rous nations at His word
Submit, and bow, and own their Lord.

To Him shall endless prayer be made,
And praises throng to crown His head;
His Name like sweet perfume shall rise
With every morning sacrifice.

People and realms of every tongue
Dwell on His love with sweetest song;
And infant voices shall proclaim
Their early blessings on His Name.

Blessings abound wherever He reigns;
The prisoner leaps to lose his chains;
The weary find eternal rest,
And all the sons of want are blessed.

Where He displays His healing power,
Death and the curse are known no more:
In Him the tribes of Adam boast
More blessings than their father lost.

Let every creature rise and bring
Peculiar honors to our King;
Angels descend with songs again,
And earth repeat the loud amen!

Great God, whose universal sway
The known and unknown worlds obey,
Now give the kingdom to Thy Son,
Extend His power, exalt His throne.

The scepter well becomes His hands;
All Heav’n submits to His commands;
His justice shall avenge the poor,
And pride and rage prevail no more.

With power He vindicates the just,
And treads th’oppressor in the dust:
His worship and His fear shall last
Till hours, and years, and time be past.

As rain on meadows newly mown,
So shall He send his influence down:
His grace on fainting souls distills,
Like heav’nly dew on thirsty hills.

The heathen lands, that lie beneath
The shades of overspreading death,
Revive at His first dawning light;
And deserts blossom at the sight.

The saints shall flourish in His days,
Dressed in the robes of joy and praise;
Peace, like a river, from His throne
Shall flow to nations yet unknown.


Later, the melody was paired with other texts, such as "I Know That My Redeemer Lives," which was originally published in 1775 by Samuel Medley (1738-1799). Medley's text, and similar texts by others, is based on the affirmation of Job: "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me." (Job 19:25-27 KJV).

I Know That My Redeemer Lives

I know that my Redeemer lives;
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, He lives, who once was dead;
He lives, my ever living Head.

He lives to bless me with His love,
He lives to plead for me above.
He lives my hungry soul to feed,
He lives to help in time of need.

He lives triumphant from the grave,
He lives eternally to save,
He lives all glorious in the sky,
He lives exalted there on high.

He lives to grant me rich supply,
He lives to guide me with His eye,
He lives to comfort me when faint,
He lives to hear my soul’s complaint.

He lives to silence all my fears,
He lives to wipe away my tears
He lives to calm my troubled heart,
He lives all blessings to impart.

He lives, my kind, wise, heavenly Friend,
He lives and loves me to the end;
He lives, and while He lives, I’ll sing;
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.

He lives and grants me daily breath;
He lives, and I shall conquer death:
He lives my mansion to prepare;
He lives to bring me safely there.

He lives, all glory to His Name!
He lives, my Jesus, still the same.
Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives,
I know that my Redeemer lives!


It is ironic to note that while so little is known about the man who provided this beautiful melody, the texts that it accompanies remind us of things so important and eternal--the constant presence and the lordship of Jesus Christ.



Jesus Shall Reign
The Cyber Hymnal
Last updated January 23, 2008
Retrieved February 7, 2008

I Know That My Redeemer Lives (Medley)
The Cyber Hymnal
Last updated December 5, 2007
Retrieved February 8, 2008

Biography and music of John Hatton (1710-1793)
Retrieved February 7, 2008

The Psalms of David, by Isaac Watts
Project Gutenberg
Release August 12, 2004
Retrieved February 8, 2008


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