Image of the day
Veil Nebula NGC6992
New to Astromart?Register an account...
Researchers in Switzerland Calculate the Value of Pi to a Record of 62.8 Trillion Digits
By early Saturday morning, August 14th, it was clear -- The world record calculation for the number Pi had fallen to a Swiss team at the University of Applied Sciences in Graubunden. The record is now back in Switzerland after two previous American world records. The high performance computer at the Center for Data Analytics, Visualization, and Simulation (DAViS) exceeded the old world record of 50 trillion digits by adding 12.8 trillion new, previously unknown digits to the back-end of the irrational number known the world over as Pi. The last ten known digits of Pi are now 3.1415926535…7817924264.
Yerkes Observatory Lives On as the Largest Refractor Telescope Ever Built
The Yerkes Observatory in the Village of Williams Bay, Wisconsin, on the shores of Geneva Lake in Walworth County, was completed in 1897. The observatory contains the largest refractor telescope in the world and is often referred to as “the birthplace of modern astrophysics.” The Chicago millionaire Charles Tyson Yerkes Jr. provided funding starting in 1892 to construct the Great Refractor and build the observatory that bears his name. He donated the facility to the University of Chicago in October 1897. The university owned Yerkes Observatory until May 1, 2020 when it, together with fifty acres of surrounding land, was donated to the Yerkes Future Foundation, an independent, charitable, nonprofit organization. The Observatory and grounds are currently undergoing restoration and renovation in order to prepare for public access later this year (or possibly next) and to ready the Yerkes landmark for another 125 years of science and discovery.
Astronomers Spot an Unusual Set of X-ray Light Echoes Around a Black Hole
V404 Cygni is a black hole binary system located about 7800 light years away from Earth. The black hole is actively pulling material away from a companion star (with about half the mass of the Sun) into a disk around the invisible object. This material glows in X-rays, so astronomers refer to these systems as "X-ray Binaries." In 2015, Swift discovered a burst of X-rays from V404 Cygni. The burst created high-energy rings from a phenomenon known as light echoes. Instead of sound waves bouncing off a canyon wall, the light echoes around V404 Cygni were produced when a burst of X-rays from the black hole system bounced off of dust clouds between V404 Cygni and Earth. A team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin recently analyzed Swift and Chandra observations of the system. The rings tell astronomers not only about the black hole's behavior, but also about the landscape between V404 Cygni and Earth. The observed light echoes appear as narrow rings rather than wide rings or haloes because the X-ray burst lasted only a relatively short period of time.
Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of August 2021
Welcome to the night sky report for August 2021 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. In August, a flock of star-studded figures soars overhead. Look for the constellation Lyra, shaped as a small parallelogram, which points to Epsilon Lyrae and the Ring Nebula. You can also spot three bright summer stars: Vega, Deneb, and Altair, which form the Summer Triangle. Find a dark location to enjoy the Perseid meteors on August 11 and then check out Jupiter and Saturn all night long all month. The full moon on August 22nd is what's known as a "seasonal blue moon," as it's the third full moon out of four this season, where normally in each season there are only three. This happens every two-and-a-half to three years or as they say, "once in a blue moon." The night sky is truly a celestial showcase. Get outside and explore its wonders from your own backyard.
It’s Finally Here! -- Assembly of NASA’s First SLS (Saturn V on Steroids) Begins at Kennedy Space Center
It’s finally here! -- NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) is a super-heavy-lift launch vehicle that provides the foundation for human exploration beyond Earth’s orbit. The core stage of the SLS rocket has been delivered to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, placed on the mobile launcher, and attached to the twin solid rocket boosters inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Serving as the backbone of the giant rocket, the core stage supports the weight of the payload, upper stage, and crew vehicle, and is the main structural element that bears the full thrust of its four powerful engines and two five-segment solid rocket boosters. The 188,000-pound core stage, with its four RS-25 engines, will provide more than 2 million pounds of thrust during launch and ascent and, coupled with the boosters, will provide more than 8.8 million pounds of thrust to send the Artemis I mission to space. Artemis I will be an uncrewed test of the Orion spacecraft and SLS rocket as an integrated system ahead of crewed flights to the Moon.
NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Gets a Close Look at Ganymede - Jupiter’s Largest Moon
Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon, is bigger than the planet Mercury and is the only moon in the solar system with its own magnetosphere – a bubble-shaped region of charged particles surrounding the celestial body. On Monday, June 7th, NASA’s Juno spacecraft came within 645 miles (1038 kilometers) of the surface of Ganymede. The flyby was the closest a spacecraft has come to the solar system’s largest natural satellite since NASA’s Galileo spacecraft made its close approach back on May 20, 2000. Along with striking imagery, the solar-powered spacecraft’s flyby yielded insights into the moon’s composition, ionosphere, magnetosphere, and ice shell.
A Comet Strike 13,000 Years Ago May Have Sparked a Civilization Shift
The Younger Dryas period is one of the best known examples of an abrupt environmental change. About 14,500 years ago, Earth's climate began to slowly shift from a cold glacial world to a warmer interglacial state. Partway through this transition, temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere suddenly returned to near-glacial conditions. But at the end of the Younger Dryas period, about 11,500 years ago, things changed abruptly. For example, in Greenland, temperatures rose 10°C (18°F) in a decade. A new study at the University of Edinburgh suggests that around 13,000 years ago, a comet hit Earth and triggered the climate change. Now, 13,000 years is not long ago in the greater scheme of things and humans were clearly around at the time. What effect did this rapid climate change have on them? One thing that jumps out to the researchers – our ancestors in the in the Fertile Crescent of southwest Asia during this time switched from hunter-gatherer lifestyles to ones centered on agriculture and the creation of permanent settlements. Also, this major cosmic catastrophe appears to have been memorialized on the giant stone pillars of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey about 11,000 years ago. The researchers believe that this cosmic event (known as the Younger Dryas impact or the Clovis Comet impact) may have set in motion the changes in social lifestyles that eventually led to human civilization as we know it today.
Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of July 2021
Welcome to the night sky report for July 2021 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. In July, find the constellation Scorpius to identify the reddish supergiant star Antares, which will lead you to the globular star cluster M4 (NGC 6121). M22 (NGC 6656), in the constellation Sagitarius, another globular cluster, is one of the brightest clusters in the sky and is visible with the naked eye. Keep observing around the group of stars commonly known as the Teapot and you’ll see the Lagoon Nebula (M8, NGC 6523), the Omega Nebula (M17, NGC 6618), and the Trifid Nebula (M20, NGC 6514). The night sky is truly a celestial showcase. Get outside and explore its wonders from your own backyard.
Researchers Discover a Third Major Type of Supernova – the “Goldilocks Supernova”
Historically, supernovae have fallen into two main types: thermonuclear and iron-core collapse. A thermonuclear supernova is the explosion of a white dwarf star after it gains matter in a binary star system. An iron core-collapse supernova occurs when a massive star runs out of nuclear fuel and its iron core collapses, creating a black hole or neutron star. A worldwide team led by University of California - Santa Barbara (UCSB) researchers at Las Cumbres Observatory has discovered the first convincing evidence for a new type of stellar explosion — an Electron-Capture Supernova, or a “Goldilocks Supernova,” which falls between the two major types. While this new type of supernova has been theorized for 40 years, real-world examples have been elusive until now. The discovery also sheds new light on the thousand-year mystery of the supernova from A.D. 1054 that was visible all over the world in the daytime. This supernova in 1054 eventually became what we observe today as the Crab Nebula (NGC 1952 or M1).
A Giant Star Just Blinked at Us… Astronomers Don’t Know Why
An international team of astronomers have observed a giant star in our galaxy that has decreased in brightness by a factor of 30, so that it nearly disappeared from the sky. While many stars change in brightness because they pulsate or are eclipsed by another star in a binary system, it’s exceptionally rare for a star to become fainter over a period of several months and then brighten up again. Is this a new class of ‘blinking giant’ binary star system? Astronomers are not sure.
So, What’s Next on Our List of Space Achievements? To Launch a Wooden Satellite, of Course
The world’s first wooden satellite is on the way, in the shape of the Finnish WISA Woodsat. European Space Agency (ESA) materials experts are contributing a suite of experimental sensors to the mission as well as helping with pre-flight testing. WISA Woodsat is a 10x10x10 cm ‘CubeSat’ – a type of nano-satellite built up from standardized boxes – but with surface panels made from plywood. Woodsat’s only non-wooden external parts are corner aluminum rails used for its deployment into space plus a metal selfie stick. Woodsat has secured a berth on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket to be launched from New Zealand before the end of this year.
Analysis of Lunar Rock Sample Tells an Ancient Story of the Solar System’s Earliest Days
A research collaboration involving scientists from the UK, Canada, Sweden, and Australia has analyzed an ancient rock sample brought from the Moon to Earth by the Apollo 17 astronauts more than 50 years ago. By using modern techniques, which were simply not available at the time the samples were originally collected, the team was able to determine the rock sample’s age, from which crater it came, and its geological trajectory. It turns out that this rock is very, very old -- around 4.2 billion years old. That’s only about 350 million years younger than the entire Solar System.
Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of June 2021
Welcome to the night sky report for June 2021 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. Though the nights are shorter in June, they are filled with fine sights. Look for the Hercules constellation, which will lead you to a globular star cluster with hundreds of thousands of densely packed stars. You can also spot Draco the dragon, which will point you to the Cat’s Eye Nebula. Catch Saturn and Jupiter in the morning and the constellation Scorpius after dark. Plus skywatchers in the Northeast US, Eastern Canada, and Northern Europe can see a partial solar eclipse on June 10th.
Cornell Researchers Achieve Record Imaging Resolution of Individual Atoms
In 2018, Cornell researchers built a high-powered detector that set a world record by tripling the resolution of a state-of-the-art electron microscope. As successful as it was, that approach had a weakness -- It only worked with ultrathin samples that were a few atoms thick. Anything thicker would cause the electrons to scatter in ways that could not be disentangled. Now a Cornell team has bested its own record by a factor of two with an electron microscope pixel array detector that incorporates even more sophisticated 3D reconstruction algorithms, resulting in an ultra-precise image with picometer (one-trillionth of a meter) precision. The resolution is so fine-tuned that the only blurring that remains is the thermal jiggling of the atoms themselves.
- Rod Mollise
- CarbonScopeTubes LLC
- GetLeadsFast, LLC
- AstroMart LLC
- Desert Sky Astro Products
- Matsumoto Company
- Waite Research
- SkyShed Observatories
- Teeter's Telescopes
- TeleVue Optics
- Markarian Fine Optics
- Astromart Customer Service
View all sponsors