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Our Backyard and Beyond, A Month of Astronomicaly Rich Discoveries

Posted: October 18th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Astronomy, Cankler Science News, Favorite New Thought, From The Web | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Our Backyard and Beyond, A Month of Astronomicaly Rich Discoveries

The Southern Milky Way Above ALMAWOW, isn’t really a word, it’s more like a thoughtfilled sound, in this case it’s the one I made looking back over this past month of astronomical discoveries. From a diamond encrusted jewel to a new earth sized planet a stones throw from our own blue planet.

News from skywatchers has boomed out through September and October this year, with clever astronomers and planetary scientists pushing the boundaries of computer climate modelling, forecasting weather, climatic change and glacial movements on Mars that just might have valid predictors for climate change on Earth.

A new planet, the closest yet outside our solar system and just an astronomical stone’s throw away at four light years,and according to scientists, seriously raising the chances of finding a habitable planet in Earth’s neighbourhood. Researchers say the new planet is too close to its sun to support any known forms of life, with a surface temperature estimated at 1,200 degrees Celsius.

Previous studies suggest that when one planet is discovered orbiting a sun, there are usually others in the same system. The new Earth-sized planet, announced in science journal Nature by Stephane Udry and Xavier Dumusque at the Geneva Observatory, orbits one of the suns in Alpha Centauri, only 40 trillion kilometres away, visible to the naked eye – though we’d suggest you wear clothes while backyard stargazing – The planet was discovered using the HARPS instrument on a telescope at the ESO’s – European Southern Observatory –  La Silla site in Chile. :: Read the full article »»»»

Solar Slumber, Solar Flare Cycle MIA

Posted: June 23rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Astronomy, Cankler | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Solar Slumber, Solar Flare Cycle MIA

Ever since the first caveman was forced to get out of bed early the Sun’s cycles have been of studied with interest. From the timings of our daily lives to the coming of Santa each year the Sun’s timing permeates every part of our lives. Scientists recently met to discuss the 11 year solar flare cycle. Meeting in New Mexico for the American Astronomical SocietyAAS – Solar Physics Conference, 320 scientists gathered to compare notes, share information and generally smooze about the Sun. Tuesday – 14.06.2011 – the scientist announced their findings and predictions for the next solar cycle. It looks like jumpers and scarfs are in and speedos are out, solar flare activity between 2013 and 2024 may be almost completely absent. The impact of this sustained level of low solar flare activity is still being debated with effects ranging from another mini ice-age, slight mitigation of global warming to some that expect zero impact on the Earths weather.

After fine tuning the computer models with the solar events of the last couple of years some interesting discoveries were made. There are now a number indicators the scientists can use to base their predictions. Helioseismology studies the Sun’s jetstreams or bands of plasma, the jetstreams last through-out a cycle, slowly moving from the pole to the equator. Looking like bands of colour on Jupiter the jetstreams have a direct effect on the location and strength of solar flares. Normally towards the end of a cycle new jetstreams should be forming near the poles of the sun, this process hasn’t been observed so far. Solar magnetism is another important indicator, it has been showing a steady decline in the field strength. All of these indicators have led to the prediction that Cycle 25 will have the lowest level of solar flare activity since the Maunder Minimum, a 70 year period with extremely low numbers of solar flare activity.

Solar Minimum as the name suggests is the lowest point of the part of the solar flare cycle with much reduced or no solar flares at all. The Maunder Minimum was an exceptional solar minimum known for its extremely low flare frequency over an extended time, occurring in 1645 to 1715. Sunspots became so rare during the Maunder Minimum that  years would pass with no flares. Even the maximum part of the cycle showed very little activity, 150 solar flares happen in an average maximum year. During this period maximum years were averaging 20 solar flares. For 7 cycles the maximum’s went missing.

The Carrigton Event sometimes called Solar Superstorm was a recent example of what an extreme solar flare can do, the most powerful solar storm in recorded history. When the flare reached the Earth telegraph line sparked, pipelines shot bolts of lightning and the Aurora were seen as far south as Rome and the Caribbean. Luckily in 1859 the world wasn’t reliant on electricity so the effects of this storm were more of amazement rather tha disaster. Ice cores are used to measure historic solar flare activity, they store the high-energy proton radiation produced by flares.Aaccording to studies of these records events of this magnitude occur every 500 years.

The mini ice-age occurred during the Maunder Minimum, this was an extended winter that saw temperatures drop around the world. In 1607 the Themes river froze through allowing people to ice-skate across town. Glacier growth accelerated during this period and for a time it was possible to ice skate on the New York harbour allowing skaters and  walkers to cross from Manhattan to Staten Island. There is much discussion amongst the scientific community regarding the connection between the two, did the Maunder Minimum cause the mini ice-age ? Common sense may say they are indeed connected but there is still much to learn about the Earth and Suns relationship and processes before a clear connection can be made.

The scientist have packed up their pencil holders and calculators, the conference has come to a close. With all of the announcements made its time to watch and wait. The solar flare cycle ebbs and flows through its minimum and maximum, with predictions always bring part gamble its time to roll the dice.

For more information at Sky and Telescope, press release, NASA, SolarHam

Buddha’s Brother out…

Funkinwagnill: Fact # 000149

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Astronomy, Cankler, Diana Detox, Funkinwagnill | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Funkinwagnill: Fact # 000149

Only one satellite has been ever been destroyed by a meteor, the European Space Agency’s Olympus in 1993. If two satellites collide who’s insurance pays, and do you have to overtake on the right in space. Whatever road rules they’re using in space it’s working. With well over 8,000 satellites whirling around the planet – all launched since 1957 – there has ever only been one hit by a meteor and only one collision between two satellites. With the added complication that some satellites travel at very high speed –26,00km/h– while others don’t travel at all – they are in geo-stationary orbits –  it is amazing that more satellites haven’t met an early demise. The satellite Olympus was hit by debris from the Perseid shower, a meteor shower caused by the annual visit of comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle passing close to the earth. The satellite would normally have been moved out of danger but had already been partially disabled. The fact that there aren’t more satellite incidents is completely down to the satellites being moved to avoid any known dangers, such as meteor showers. Ground control of satellites by NORAD and other montioring stations is the only defence for satellites, until the get theyre own lasers anyway.