Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Naming The Stars

About 4000 stars are visible on a really dark, clear night. If you know that stars, you can mention them by name. "There's Sirius, the brightest star in our night sky." Or, "Over there is Polaris, it's only the fiftieth brightest star, but it always shows which way is north." (If you want to drive your friends mad, suggest they count out the first 49 bright stars to find Polaris.)

Sirius as a name come from ancient Greek, and means bright in that language. The star is located in the constellation of Canis Major, the Big Dog. There are two other dog constellations, Canis Minor, the small dog, which has a very bright star named Procyon in it. Procyon means the leading dog. Finally we have Canes Venatici, the hunting dogs, which lacks bright stars, although it has three visible stars with names, Cor Caroli, Chara, and La Superba. There are also four named galaxies, the Whirlpool, Sunflower, Croc's Eye, and Silver Needle. Note the galaxies all have names in English. That is because other galaxies were only recognized after 1923. The names do not come down from centuries ago.

Ursa Major, the Big Bear, has the most named stars, 22, also with four named galaxies. Most of the star names, as is true throughout the sky, derive from Arabic. Dubhe, for example, simply is the Arabic word for bear (perhaps not the most useful Arabic word to know if you find yourself in Cairo). Megrez means base of the tail. This is typical of most star names, which either describe the star, or its location in its constellation.

Of course, there are some oddities, such as a star whose name means hyena in Draco the dragon, or monkey in Columba the dove. These names are remnants of ancient constellations that have been lost, eliminated or ignored.

Some names present challenges in various ways. Libra has five named stars: Zubeneschamali, Zubenelgenubi, Zubenelgubi, Zubenhakrabi, and Mulizi. Zuben means claw in Arabic, and the rest of the names mean north, south, or just "of the crab." Mulizi snuck in from the Akkadian language of 3000 years ago, and means "man of fire." (I used to rattle those names off to my classes, and then say they would be on their next test, "spelling counts." Strictly to see who was awake.)

About a dozen stars are named for astronomers who either discovered them or did major studies of them. The eminent Dutch astronomer Jacobus Kapteyn (1851-1922) has a star in the southern constellation of Pictor, a crater on the Moon, and an asteroid named for him, an impressive celestial trifecta.

There are 88 constellations recognized by the astronomical community today, based on recommendations made about 130 years ago by Benjamin S. Gould, the first American to earn a PhD in astronomy (he got it from Heidelberg University in Germany, where they have been giving such degrees for centuries). Gould selected the 48 ancient constellations and 40 that had been invented mostly between 1500 and 1800 to fill gaps left by the ancients. 81 of these constellations have one or more stars with a name more interesting than a Greek letter or catalog number. Most of the seven with no named stars are modern, dim, southern constellations, such as Antlia and Circinus.

Around 1600 a German mapmaker, Johannes Bayer, created a map of the sky, and for no known reason attached Greek letters to many of the stars. His idea was popular, and thus we have such names as Alpha Centauri. The first Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed had a different idea, and around 1690 started the practice of numbering stars within each constellation, going from west to east. Thus Sirius is also Alpha Canis Majoris and 8 Canis Majoris (neither of these is a particularly popular alternative). Later catalogs have introduced additional ways to designate a star, the result being that the average star has as many pseudonyms as the average hard working bank robber.

Notice that there is no mention of purchased names. These are totally ignored by the astronomy profession, and it is a source of annoyance to have people walk into a planetarium and ask to be shown a star they think they purchased. (If they bought the Brookyn Bridge it would be as meaningful.) In my many years of training students to work in the planetarium field, one of the things I have had to advise is how to handle people with negative reactions to learning they wasted their money, particularly bereaved parents who had hoped to create a lasting memorial to a deceased child.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Neighbor Stars

There is an old trick question in astronomy, what is the nearest star? The correct answer is the Sun, unless one specifies "nearest to the Sun" or "nearest to the Solar System."

The closest star after the Sun is best known as Proxima Centauri, but masquerades under a variety of names, such as Alpha Centauri C, HIP 70890, GJ 551, and V645 Centauri. Just as we recently passed the centennial of the Titanic disaster, we are soon coming to the centennial of the discovery of Proxima Centauri. It was discovered in 1915 by the Scottish astronomer Robert T. A. Innes (1861-1933), working at the Union Observatory in South Africa, in 1915. But it was not recognized as the nearest star until 1928, when the American astronomer Harold Alden (1890-1964) made the first measurement.

Proxima Centauri is 4.243 light years from us, where a light year is 5,878,625,373,183.6 miles, a fine example of how astronomers avoided writers cramp by inventing the light year. Proxima is 270,000 times further away than the Sun is from Earth. Proxima Centauri is a very dim star, called a red dwarf. Unless one uses a telescope, it will never be visible. The dimness results from its small size (thus the dwarf part of its type), 126,000 mile diameter (14.5% of the Sun's 864,000 mile diameter) and cool temperature (red stars are the coolest). Where the normal, undisturbed temperature of the Sun's surface is around 9950 F (and possibly as low as 8100 F inside sunspots), Proxima's surface temperature is little more than 3000 F. However, in 1951 Harvard astronomer Harlow Shapley discovered Proxima has periodic flares that can increase temperatures in a limited region by a few thousand degrees. No planets have been found around this star (the first extensive search for planets is being planned by the Planetary Society), but they would have to be between 2.14 million and 5 million miles from the star for temperatures to allow water to be liquid. Of course, the flares would fry anything living that close.

With the Sun and Proxima both moving through space, we will be closest in 27,400 years, when Proxima will be only 2.90 light years away, and still too faint to see without a telescope, unless human eyesight has improved a lot by then.

Proxima Centauri is in an enormous orbit around Alpha Centauri, probably taking close to half a million years to go around once. Alpha is itself two stars. one very similar to the Sun, and one a bit smaller and cooler. The pair are among the brightest stars in the sky, but only visible from fairly far south. These two stars orbit each other in 80 years, ranging from one billion to over three billion miles apart. All three stars are believed to be around 4.85 billion years old (about 500 million years older than the Sun). Proxima, however, is expected to last for another 400 billion years, long after its companions or the Sun have burned out.

The next three closest stars are loners, like the Sun, and red dwarfs like Proxima Centauri. The first is called Barnard's Star in memory of the American astronomer Edward Emerson Barnard (1857-1923) who discovered it in 1916 while working at Lick Observatory in California. It is twice the age of the Sun, and 5.9 light years from us. There have been unsubstantiated claims of a planet going around Barnard's Star, but most astronomers think the claims are a mistake. The second is Wolf 359, so called because it is the 359th star in a list of red dwarfs drawn up by the German astronomer Maximilian Franz Josef Wolf (1863-1932). Barnard's is located in the constellation of Ophiuchus while Wolf 359 is in Leo. Third is Lalande 21185, from a catalog prepared by the French astronomer Jerome Lalande (1732-1807), located in Ursa Major. None of these stars can be seen without a telescope, and no planets are known for any of them although Lalande 21185 had an apparently erroneous claim made in1951. Wolf 359 is so small that it is only a third larger than Jupiter.

We finally come to a bright star, Sirius, 8.6 light years from us, and the brightest star in the night sky (although, strangely, some people think Polaris is the brightest, when it only ranks number 50). Sirius weighs twice what the Sun does, and is much hotter, with a surface temperature approaching 20,000 F. Hot stars have shorter life spans, and Sirius is not expected to last more than a billion years, with a couple hundred million yet to go. Sirius has a small very hot star going around it in a fifty year orbit. This companion star was the first white dwarf to be discovered, by the American telescope manufacturer Alvan Graham Clark (1832-1897), testing a new telescope in 1862. It is slightly larger than Earth, but weighs nearly as much as the Sun, 324,000 times the mass of the Earth. It is a star nearing the end of its life, having evolved faster than its companion.

The last three stars within ten light years of us are a pair of red dwarfs, Luyten 726-8, discovered in the constellation Cetus by a Dutch astronomer in 1948, and Ross 154, also a red dwarf. It is in the constellation of Sagittarius. No one has suggested any planets for these stars.

But in 2011 the WISE spacecraft found a brown dwarf in the constellation Lyra, just 9.6 light years away. With a surface temperature of 80 F, it could not warm any planet enough to support life, but no planets have been found around any brown dwarfs.

Thus within ten light years of Earth we have 12 stars (including the Sun) and one brown dwarf, with no confirmed planets except around the Sun. Most of the stars are small, cool and dim red dwarfs, leaving the Sun as one of just three larger stars. This seems to match what is found throughout our galaxy, that about three quarters of all stars are red dwarfs, six percent are white dwarfs, and only about five percent are similar in size and temperature to the Sun. But with over 200 billion stars in our galaxy, that leaves a lot that match the star we are in orbit around.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Where Is the Space Race Today?

In the 1950s and 60s the Soviet Union rolled up an impressive series of first in space, including the first satellite, the first animal in space, the first man in space, the first woman in space, the first spacewalk, the first spacecraft to orbit the Moon, the first spacecraft to land on the Moon, and the first spacecraft to land on Venus (after eight tries). Until the Gemini program, the USA was definitely lagging. The Apollo landings on the Moon seemed to end much of the competition. Both countries settled down to creating systems of communications, weather and spy satellites.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia tried to continue its space efforts, but on a reduced scale. President Reagan's dream of a space station was to be transformed into the International Space Station, largely built with the use of America's Space Shuttle.

But the Space Shuttles were supposed to be good for 100 launches each, and there were supposed to be two launches per month. Neither happened. In fact, the Shuttles rolled into retirement after only 136 total launches, and most years saw no more than four launches.

So today the USA has no access to the space station it was largely responsible for building except to ride aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Even supplies are mostly taken on Russian Progres unmanned vehicles, although American firms such as SpaceX hope to get much of that business in the near future.

Meanwhile, other countries are moving into space. China, Japan, India, Israel, and the European Union have all successfully launched satellites using their own rockets. China has launched their own astronauts as well, and have tested a space station of their own design in orbit. China, India and the Europeans have placed satellites in orbit around the Moon, and Japan has visited an asteroid. China has made public plans for manned landings on the Moon, probably followed by construction of a permanent base there.

The USA claims to be designing new rockets capable of taking crews to the Moon or a nearby asteroid, but with no well-defined plans for either, and with Congress viewing the NASA budget as a prime place to take away funds. The only candidate in this year's Presidential primaries to raise the issue of space was widely ridiculed for it.

So while NASA has held a conference recently on a one hundred year plan for design and launch early in the next century of a probe to nearby stars such as Alpha Centauri and Barnard's Star, America may well find itself incapable of any activities in space, either through neglect or by unfriendly countries.

The most hopeful thought is that American space efforts have always fluctuated from neglect to emergency crash efforts, and may continue to do so. After all, in 1957 the American Secretary of Defense expressed the opinion that he was glad the Soviet Union was the first to launch a satellite, and America would in fact have been first by over a year had not some Pentagon official made sure the top stage of a test rocket in September 1956 had sand instead of rocket fuel.

So in the words of an old sci fi movie, "keep watching the skies", because there is no assurance what will happen next.

Friday, 9 March 2012

The Spiritual Significance of Astronomical Events in 2012

As I write just hours after the blessing of the new moon here in the UK on 21st May 2012, somewhere else in the world our moon is being born anew.

The eclipse which accompanied the birth has been called a lunar ring of fire because that is how it appeared, and many who witnessed it, largely in Japan and parts of the US, were awed by its beauty and mystery as the moon, far, far from Earth, was overshadowed by the sun and the two celestial beings which are so influential on Earth walked together.

Annular eclipses occur regularly but this one was special, coming as it did exactly between the two great spiritual festivals of Wesak two weeks ago and that of the Christ, at the full moon to come. You can see how perfectly the moon's cycle correlates with events in the story of man as you look at the ring of fire around you - indeed, "firewalls" are being attempted everywhere to stop the unravelling of life as we have known it, but they will not stop the powerful combination of sun and moon together moving us forward to where we have chosen to go.

Rather than fighting the ring of fire, accept and embrace it as a gift from Spirit. For me, today, I take the fiery ring of sun and moon and place myself within it, choosing to be a part of it and not excluded from it. What better firewall can there be than the fire itself?

The implications of the transit of Venus on 6th June 2012 across the face of the Sun are much more significant for Planet Earth than is generally understood, and very important, for they are all about the acceleration of your spiritual journey and the completion of the Plan of God.

Venus, like Sirius, is a staging post for certain enlightened souls which return to Earth for a new human incarnation: just as some individuals are put through an intensive pre-training process before undertaking a new job, so too you may have spent time on the Rose Planet, learning about what love means before entering the heavy and self-centred world of matter. So, there is a connection with Earth already, but this Venus transit, more than any other so far, is taking the link to another level as its breath upon Earth enables the releasing of new spiritual energy and signals a change in the role of all the planets in our solar system, particularly ours, the Blue Planet.

Just as millions of us watched the Queen, the personification of the gift of constant giving, light the national beacon 24 hours earlier, so God, through Venus, has set fire to the touch-paper which leads to a new phase, a new future for us all, everywhere. You are being released to claim your human and planetary birthright, written in the stars in every sense, whereby our planet and your soul become the cosmic centre of communication and training based on the deepest aspects of love, in time replacing Venus in a startling reversal and enhancement of role.

Remember this as you see pictures of this transit of Venus, the dark circle highlighted upon the solar sea of fire which is, in truth, God's fingerprint. We have been blessed.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Useful Accessories for An Amateur Astronomer

You've got a telescope and a choice of eyepieces, so what extras can make your watching hours more pleasant as well as effective? Listed here is a number of several very helpful add-ons in order to take your star gazing to the next step

You've devoted around 30 minutes getting your eyesight modified to the dark, you believe you can view a weak star cluster and consequently take advice from your star chart to ascertain if you're right. You start up your torch in order to look over the guide and within a moment you lose your night vision. You may have to wait patiently to acclimatize your eyes again. The simple answer is to acquire a red-colored light flashlight. An effective way to accomplish this is usually to place reddish colored finger nail polish upon an aged flashlight you don't want to have or you can acquire these easily.

A good Barlow lens often comes in twice as well as three times zoom. You place the Barlow lens in the standard position for your main eyepieces on your own telescope and then insert your own eyepiece directly into the Barlow lens. The main reason they can indeed be so handy is that you automatically multiply by two the number of eyepiece zoom you own, as every eyepiece is now able to provide you 2 distinct magnifications. On top of that, reduced strength eyepieces usually are a lot easier to gaze through because the lens is bigger and therefore the space your eyeball should be from the lens is far more pleasant (termed eye relief) thus a Barlow lens permits you to see increased zoom a lot more pleasantly also.

Just like a Barlow lens aids in zoom a very good wide-field eyepiece lets you discover more of the night time sky through the eyepiece. This allows you to identify objects quicker and revel in quite a few constellations.

There are a number of star chart software out there pertaining to smartphones on the market. The Distant Suns software on the Apple iPhone comes strongly recommended. It'll show you specifically what is up in the night time sky for you at the current time, focus in to just about any star, constellation or even deep space target. It's also possible to direct it at the night sky and it'll clarify what you are staring at.

Filters go with your eyepiece and alter the light entering your view. Quite possibly the most valuable one is without a doubt a lunar filter which will take the glare away from observing the moon and additionally offers contrast to your observation. Color filters can easily enhance the observation of the planets and a light pollution filter is built to minimize the orange colored illumination as a result of suburban lighting. These can boost the contrast between a faint deep space target and the night sky. Having said that the improvement doesn't seem to be fantastic.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Types of Astronomy Observatory Domes

When making an astronomy observatory, it is essential to consider many factors like the location, size, forecasts, budget and equipment. One very important point to note is that the equipment needs to be protected from the elements and also from animals or trespassing people. Yet at the same time the protection should not be rigid to prevent the telescope from moving or changing angles. The best solution for this is the Astronomy Observatory domes. They help in preventing light diffusion along with protection.

The modern astronomy observatory domes are lightweight, easy to install, easy to clean and of various sizes and colors. The observatory dome does not need to be a hemisphere, its function is to protect the equipment and that can be done even if it is not a semi-circle. There are many classes of domes based on their shape. Pyramidal class of domes consists of all faceted structures and is the most simple and easy to construct, they consist of conical or drum shaped domes too. The conical or drum shaped domes have the problem of providing the slit at the peak which is required to enable the astronomer to see right above the head. There is another problem of providing shutters to such slits.

There are many cases of astronomy observatory domes where the shutters are made with over-lapping joints. In many cases a single shutter might not be enough and multiple shutters are used. Flexible shutters are also used to cover the slit in some cases, but then it might be strong enough to withstand strong winds, hail storms, ice, and heavy rain.

The next class of astronomy observatory domes is the pseudo-hemisphere domes, these use flat planes and also single plane curved panels. The main and most commonly used is the hemisphere class of domes. These are the most aesthetically appealing type of dome. A point to note is that more the number of edges and corners, more the chance of constructional problems like leakage and breakage. One important aspect of all astronomy observatory domes is the ability of the dome to move freely and ideally 360 degrees. They should also have an opening which can comfortably accommodate the telescope at any angle allowing the astronomer to view the skies in any direction or in any angle. At the same time the opening should have the capacity to shut with a shutter to prevent direct exposure of the equipment to the wind, rain and sun.

The most critical and difficult part to design is the shutter. Fabricating a shutter is not an easy task. The pseudo-hemisphere style will have to be fabricated from trapezoidal plates while the hemisphere style has just two panels which curve in two directions thus forming a uniform curve. Making such uniform curvature is more difficult than making a straight faceted panel. In case of pseudo-hemisphere many trapezoidal plates are joined together to give faceted kind of look to the dome. Astronomy Observatory domes are the main stay of any observatories, might it be a backyard observatory or a school or institutional observatory. The observatory domes are usually hemispherical in case of the ready-made astronomy observatories available in the market. Whatever is the color or the shape of the astronomy observatory dome, its main job is to give protection to the equipments from the elements.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Backyard Observatories - Location Is an Important Point to Be Considered

Every night when the stars are out, one always wonders how they look from close and what stories they have to tell. The beautiful night sky with bright stars and the planets in different shapes and colors are an intriguing picture for many especially children. The dreams of astronomy starts young and many take steps towards their dream by building backyard observatories.

Backyard observatories are not very difficult to construct if proper instructions and precautions are followed. There are lots of options in making backyard observatories. It is possible to buy ready-made kit of the complete infrastructure required or it can be done by the person itself. There are lots of documents and books available providing guidelines for construction of the observatories. The minimum area required, the location, the types of roofs, the construction material required, the type of telescopes, the precautions are all dealt with in "Make it yourself" books or documents. The first main step to make a backyard observatory is the location. It is the most vital decision that needs to be taken.

Astronomers forecast are an important aspect for viewing the skies, it is important to know if the skies are cloudy or clear. There are weather forecasts, especially developed models of numerical weather forecasts which are accurate. The forecasts cover, cloud cover, transparency, seeing ability meaning the ability to magnify finer details at a particular time. The darkness level of the night sky varying from black to dark blue to diffused lights is also important. The wind speed at the tree-top level is also considered. Humidity levels are also important. The general temperature is also kept in mind, to help the person wear suitable clothing while star-gazing.

One important thing to note while building backyard observatories is the location. It definitely needs to be an area where the clear night sky will be seen. The sky conditions vary from slightly polluted suburban localities to clear small rural areas. The area should not be wooded which would obstruct the view of the telescope. The skies should be clearly visible, without being polluted by city lights or even building lights; the clarity of observation will not be good, if there are diffused lights while viewing through the telescope.

The reasoning behind this is that to see any object through the telescope there should be a difference in the background and the object being observed. If the background has diffused light and the object is also faint, then the chance of seeing minute details are less. The contrast between the background and the object is the most important. If the object itself is very bright on its own, like the moon, then there is no problem even if the background is light diffused.

The other factors are also important while choosing a location for building a backyard observatory. The Humidity of the area, the turbulence of cloud cover usually seen in the area, the transparency seen in the area are all important while deciding on a location. The tree cover and the height of the surrounding buildings are important because this can obstruct view of some parts of the sky. Thus the first step of choice of location for building a backyard observatory is an important one to be considered carefully and wisely.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Home Observatory - Points Need To Be Noted

Every man's dream is to go to space and most cannot afford to do so, one easy way is to get immersed in the world of stars and infinite space by being a star-gazer. Hours and hours can be spent just to watch the bright and not so bright objects in the night sky. The best way to start if one is not studying the subject is to have a personal home observatory at the backyard itself or at least somewhere reachable. Building a home observatory is not a difficult task especially now when it is possible to buy ready-made domes. On the other hand there are lots of people out there who prefer to make the home observatory from scratch. There are lots of mistakes that can take place while building a home observatory and it is essential to be aware of these points before going ahead with the project.


It is essential to sit and write all the details for building the home observatory. There are major parts and lots of minor details that need to be considered.

Choice of Location

One essential starting point while planning to build a home observatory is the location. It would be preferable if the location is suburban or rural as this would reduce the amount of diffuse light. The black sky is required to ensure the capturing of even faint details of the objects in the sky, diffuse light reduces the contrast. One can also use specific protection against diffuse light if the location cannot be changed.

Choice of Material

Home Observatories should be made of materials that absorb less heat. If the material absorbs heat during the day then the chances are that the heat will be radiated in the night reducing the chance of viewing planets and double stars. Material like concrete blocks, bricks, close by walkways and parking lots need to be avoided. The best are wooden structures.


It is preferable to have a complete extensive research of the material and equipment cost and in some cases labor cost also if one cannot do all the manual work. The budget should be managed to the tightest extent, though there are chances of surprise costs like building permits, fencing, electrical supplies and many more. Always keep a higher range in the budget this will help in preventing overshooting than planned.

Unwanted Visitation

Imagine a wooden structure in a field; be sure that there would not be enough number of insects and animal visiting it during the day and night. The home observatory is an ideal place for the birds, wasps, rats and even snakes to thrive. Be careful and make sure pest control is done frequently.

Zone Regulations

There are places where these observatories cannot be built, as per the law. Make sure to check with the local authorities and get the required permissions. It is best done at the earliest to prevent the dismantling of the observatory later.

Future Planning

If astronomy is a serious hobby then plan and build with enough space to buy more equipment and more complex telescopes.

Power Points

Ensure to have more number of power points in the home observatory, one never knows what needs to be plugged in the future. All these points can be considered and the mistakes have to be prevented while building a home observatory for now and the future.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Nearest Exoplanet to Earth

We are living in an unprecedented time in human history because only in the last couple of decades has it become possible to study planets outside of our solar system. Considering that only a millennium or so ago even the concept of a world beyond our solar system did not exist in the human consciousness, the ability to peer into these other worlds is truly remarkable. Of the currently known exoplanets, fast approaching 1000 in number, what is the closest one to Earth? What is it like? How long would it take for a spacecraft to get there? How long would it take for a radio signal sent by a hypothetical life-form from that planet to reach us?

As it happens, the exoplanet that is the nearest to Earth and our solar system has held the record since the year 2000. Unfortunately it has a rather clinical name, eps Eridani b. The planet has a mass of approximately 1.5 times that of Jupiter (or nearly 500 times the mass of Earth), although there is a large margin of error on this. Even though there is no information on the size of the planet, it is not likely to be Earthlike because the lower bound on its mass is still more than 300 times that of Earth. Such a massive planet that is more like the size of Earth has not been found so far.

The nearest exoplanet to Earth, eps Eridani b, is at a distance of 10.44 light years, which is more than 60,000 billion miles (nearly 100,000 billion kilometers). It would take light 10.44 years to travel between the exoplanet and Earth. At speeds that are currently achievable, say 20,000 miles per hour (about 32,000 km per hour), the travel time is 350,000 years. This may seem depressing, but considering that the nearest star to Earth (Proxima Centauri) is at a distance of 4.2 light years from Earth, we are lucky to have found an exoplanet so close (no planets have been found around Proxima Centauri). Clearly we are not likely to witness human space travel to our nearest neighbor exoplanet in our lifetimes. Will it be possible in the near-term future, within hundreds of human generations, say? Although it is impossible to predict, contemplate the achievements of the human intellect and spirit: it has hardly been more than a century since humans first made powered flying machines, and in just half a century humans have walked on the moon, and sent probes beyond the solar system, with another one on its way to Pluto right now.

So, does our nearest exoplanet neighbor support life, or even perhaps the seeds of life? So far it has not been possible to detect molecular signatures from the planet and it is not possible to directly image the planet (the latter is true for the majority of exoplanets). SETI-type activities naturally pay special attention to worlds that are closest to us, but nothing definitive has turned up from radio-signal searches of extraterrestrial intelligence in any system. On the other hand, the possibility of eps Eridani b supporting seeds of life has not been ruled out.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that a second planet in the eps Eridani system has been suspected for years but definitive proof remains elusive because the signals that have provided tentative evidence are complex, carrying many ambiguities that have to be disentangled. Such disentanglement often does not lead to a unique and definitive interpretation of the data but future improvements in instrumentation might give less ambiguous results.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

What an Amateur Astronomer Needs

Astronomers have to rely on their eyes and brain to do their work. These are basically the only tools that ancient astronomers used in identifying constellations and other heavenly bodies. With the availability of advanced technology used in making telescopes and onboard computers, you still cannot make do without your eyes and mind. Tools are just meant to enhance and aid the workings of your eyes and brain such as the telescope is for your eyes and the computer is for your brain's aid. Nothing beats yourself as the human using these tools.

Watching and Analyzing

Astronomy work is only half watching with the use of your telescope. Kids may devote more time just stargazing but if you are past that stage, you need to let your brain do its work. Once you have seen something, it still needs some analysis. This part is necessary when it comes to comparing the heavenly body that you have seen with what other astronomers might have seen now or in the past. With the use of improved technology, telescopes with an onboard computer that can determine discovered coordinates. Just remember that you have an entire universe offering you unlimited opportunities for discoveries.

But as a young kid aspiring to be a real astronomer someday, you have to rely on your parents' choice of telescope, which is usually the cheapest kind in the market. It would take sometime before you would likely need a more powerful astronomy telescope and the capacity to check and recheck before you can finally say that you have a new discovery. But the easy availability of powerful tools, amateur astronomers have done their share of new finds. They have also used their best asset - their minds - in analyzing these finds.

Cost of Telescopes

Children are into stargazing without taking notice of the price of the telescope that their parents would give them. The only important thing for you then was that you have a tool that would allow you to see the stars. Even if you know about having the lowest prices tool, they would easily throw reasons such as how you, as a kid, would easily get over things that you are fascinated about. They would even bring up how your bike or skateboard is already getting dust in the attic. Another common reason is that they want to help you a cheap telescope that requires you to do more so you can learn more.

However, buying a cheap telescope is just about saving money for your parents. As you grow up still loving astronomy, you would need more advanced telescopes, such as a handheld type that often costs around $200. You can read astronomy telescope reviews to find more telescopes that you can afford. With more features, expect an increase in their price too.

A Telescope's Computer

While the computer is often compared to the human mind, the latter is always more powerful. NASA's call for help to amateur astronomers in identifying asteroids coming towards Earth's way is a strong proof of this. Even if they have a powerful visual recognition application in their Osiris program, they are still lacking in confidence for the software. The human eyes are still the best tools that can identify a small asteroid as a threat or not to the planet.

The Value of Your Human Facilities

Telescopes and computers are just tools though efficient ones. But in the end, you still need to work yourself and use your eyes, brain and tools together to be a good astronomer.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Natal Birth Chart Vs The Ultimate Birthchart System

Whatever your reason for using headlights on a dark road is the same exact reason to always use your Personal Time-Map. Your Personal Time-Map gives you the power where you'll never need a psychic or astrologer ever again.

The main reason is it's a total 'do it yourself' system. This means you can have a personal reading 24 hours a day, 7 days a week without needing anyone else. There's an exclusive feature in the Time-Map system that lets you locate and identify the people who surround you right now by simply their entering their birthday. Then your computer does all of the work for you. This same exclusive feature also provides you with the ability to SEE YOURSELF from anybody else's point of view. This is why there's nothing or no one else that can match or surpass the illuminating power, truthfulness and supreme accuracy you will get from this breakthrough system.

A map of your city or town shows where you are but wherever you are there is always the time you are there. Where you are is a map of your city or town, but when you are is what your Personal Time-Map provides. Neither map (time or space) predicts the direction you will take but both maps show you what to expect as a result of any direction you choose before you choose it.

How does it work?

The Time-Map system works by integrating your date of birth with Universal laws governing our existence. Since it's purely mathematical, there are absolutely no beliefs required because it is universally verifiable, super accurate and mathematically exact. People who use the system say that it will illuminate your life in a way that puts you at a superior advantage in your situation or circumstance.

This revolutionary type of Birth chart shows when and how things will change in your life. It identifies and locates all of the people who surround you right now (past or future). This way, you can see in advance what to expect and decide which way to go or choose your best direction. This same exclusive feature that lets you locate and identify people also means that you can locate yourself on anybody else's Time-Map and see yourself from their point of view. There are no psychics, birth charts, psychic readings, astrological systems or astrologers that can do or match this. This scientific system provides instant illuminating power that removes darkness surrounding your situation or circumstance.

Your life is the result of the choices you make and directions you take.

The Time-Map System is superior to any natal birth chart, astrologer or psychic reading because it covers a full year, has 2 simple instructions and is so easy to use that children as young as 8 years old can show you how to use it.

The time has come for the truth to be revealed to all of the truth seekers of the world. There has never been a better time to be alive than now. Fortunately, we now have within our reach the tools that make it so much easier to manuever and navigate more successfully through the constant changes of our living experience.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Moving to Mars?

Is creating a livable habitat on Mars and eventually terraforming (i.e. creating an Earth like atmosphere) it possible? As progress is made in the field of science and aerospace engineering the answer that emerges is a "maybe yes". But why would we want to inhabit Mars? Is Earth not good enough? With a rising population, there are currently 7 billion of us on this planet; chances are we will eventually run out-of-place to accommodate us all. Added to that is the chance of a planetary disaster which advocates the need to look for an alternate home.

Mars at present is a barren, desolate planet, with no signs of visible water or even a magnetic field to protect from solar activity. Then why is it our best bet for a second home for mankind? Though water is not visible on the planet, chances are it might be trapped in the polar ice caps, both carbon and oxygen is present in the form of carbon dioxide, nitrogen is also present. Thus all the elements needed to sustain life are present on Mars though the composition by percentage of each is much different from on earth. Still, Mars as we see today might resemble Earth as it did billions of years ago, right up until photosynthetic bacteria developed.

The habitation of Mars can be done in two ways. For smaller populations man-made systems can be built so as to sustain life within and protect from the harsh atmosphere of the planet. For this purpose structures, such as domes, can be built on the surface, or habitats created within canyon walls, or even in lava tubes (hollowed out spaces under the surface, which were once passages for lava flow). The last two options have the advantage of using the terrain to provide protection from radiations and other harmful space elements.

Another idea is the terraforming of Mars, which would be huge task and could take thousands of years, even millenniums. Several ideas have been proposed as to how this can be done. These include; the construction of large orbital mirrors to heat the planet, building greenhouse factories or crash ammonia rich asteroids in to the planet to raise greenhouse gas levels. All of these ideas are extreme and still require further research and innovation.

The dream of living on Mars might not be a possibility for this generation or even the next but it is no longer the far-fetched idea it once seemed to be.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Putting a Mind Into An Exoskeleton And Sexual Nerve Ending Connection Issues

The other day, I was discussing with an acquaintance overseas the challenges of uploading a brain into an exoskeleton for long-term spaceflight. This may be necessary because human flesh and bones will not do too well with space radiation omnipresent. The human eyes will not be able to handle it, and there will be bone density loss, and eventually things just won't work out, we should expect their life expectancy, that is for long-term space travelers, to be severely limited if we use the current human form for our space travelers and explorers. Okay so let's talk about this controversial subject for second shall we?

My acquaintance mentioned the challenges of taking a human brain putting it into some sort of an enclosure, and hooking up the nerve endings to various robotic parts. If the brain was kept supplied with nutrients and oxygen, it could perhaps outlive the average human body, as everything would be regulated in exactly the appropriate amounts for longevity. However, he also noted that there is an issue with phantom pains, and we know this from amputees, as when they are missing a limb, they feel pain even though that limb isn't there.

Now then, imagine the challenges with all the nerve endings in the sexual organs of the human body. There are more nerve endings there than anywhere else, and this could torment the brain which is now out of the body, and therefore perhaps there needs to be some sort of connection to those nerve endings to provide a pleasurable response for the brain. The chemicals released from sexual stimulation are significant in the brain, and a human that has lived most of their life within a human body, now transferred into an exoskeleton will have challenges adapting for this reason.

Further, a human that has lived their entire life in human body has probably come to enjoy the pleasures of sex, and certainly wouldn't want to give up those activities. Therefore there needs to be a way to stimulate that part of the brain stimulating the chemical release involved in sexual activity via those nerve endings. It is my belief, after interviewing a few people on this issue, that there will be fewer volunteers for long-term spaceflight who'd be willing to surrender their human body until we solve this issue.

Although this is not a typical research topic for long-term spaceflight at NASA, it is something that we will eventually need to consider for obvious reasons. Indeed I hope you will please consider all this and think on it.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Can We Control The Earth's Heat and Pole Ice Melt Using Magnetic Solar Portals?

Carl Sagan had some interesting concepts about intelligent civilizations such as what we deem humans to be doing. He had intelligent civilizations categorized as a class I, class II, and class III and suggested that if we met a more intelligent species, one that had been intelligent for thousands and thousands of years, they would have gotten to the point where they could've controlled energy from their own sun, and therefore the temperature, atmosphere, and everything else on their planet.

In that case they would have abundant and free energy and they could use that energy to travel through the solar system, through their galaxy, and manipulate space-time. This may seem very much into the science fiction realm, but he's making perfectly good sense as he explains this. You can also watch his on YouTube on this topic, if you are wondering what I'm talking.

Is it possible to control our Sun? If we can control our Sun, we wouldn't have to worry about climate change, as we would be in control. Not long ago, there was an interesting feature discussing this. Science at NASA Online Newsletter posted an interesting story on June 28, 2012 and you can view the online video version on YouTube by searching; "ScienceCasts: Hidden Magnetic Portals Around Earth," which stated that;

"A NASA-sponsored researcher at the University of Iowa has developed a way for spacecraft to hunt down hidden magnetic portals in the vicinity of Earth. These portals link the magnetic field of our planet to that of the sun."

Now then, perhaps we can use this someday to control the Sun, or adjust our Earth's atmospheric heat. Sounds like Science Fiction - well, there have been some Science Fiction stories about such things such as;

1. Sunstroke - Arthur C. Clarke
2. The Naked Sun - Isaac Asimov

We ought to use these portals to generate energy, and to adjust our ice melt at the poles and solar radiation to cool the planet as we humans feel necessary. Eventually, we can use these portals to send instructions to control our Sun. If we could send information, energy, and directed beams through these portals, we should be able to control what is coming back, and therefore control the intensity of the Sun's radiation as it hits our atmosphere.

If we could do this, we would go from a class I civilization to a class II as per Carl Sagan theory. Okay so, enough science fiction for today, and futurists projections. Indeed I hope you will please consider all this and think on it.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

How to Buy Amateur Telescopes for Kids and Beginners

If you are buying a telescope for a kid or a beginner, you need to consider some different factors from those who already know scopes. It is especially different in buying telescopes for kids, who you just want to teach how to appreciate the beauty of stargazing.

Buying for Kids

The main goal in buying a scope for children is for them to be more engrossed in stargazing. However, you need to be prepared in looking through several factors first and take note of the following tips:

• If you are buying for very young kids, find a simple scope. It will be used mainly for their education, but make sure that it will not remain as their toy, which is usually the case when parents just buy plastic telescopes that were poorly made. It would even be better if you go to a specialty store selling scopes designed for kids. You would not find a decent tool in a toy store.

• Talk to a sales associate and ask for suggestions about your kids' scope. A basic model would be a good first telescope for a young kid. This would allow him to learn about the basic functions of the tool. But if your child is more than 10 years old, find a scope with higher magnification. If your child grows older, then you can give him a more advanced model with more focus and magnification features.

• Reflector telescopes are the more popular choice of parents for kids. They are simpler as entry level telescopes. They also tend to be more affordable than refractors. However, they are larger and heavier to carry around.

• Buy only from reputable companies. Find a brand that has been known to make kids' telescopes for years. Make sure that they also have good customer service, such as toll-free phone support or live chat.

• Find a good mount to secure the scope. The best mount is one that can be secured to the table top. You cannot trust your kids' small and shaky hands because they would likely produce shaky images.

• Look for a portable telescope. It would be easy for kids to carry around.

Buying Telescope for Beginners

For beginners, you need to consider the following factors:

• Aperture. This determines how much light the scope will collect to offer clarity at the objects. The magnification feature has to match aperture.

• Magnification. If the formula says that the telescope is 100x5, the 100 means that the scope can be magnified 100 times. However, the more magnified an object is, the less light you are going to need.

• Focal length. This measures the length the light needs to travel within the scope to reflect and see the image. The higher its measurement, the higher you magnify the scope, the larger the object's image, and the smaller the field of view.

• Resolution. This determines just how detailed the image will be. But the higher the scope's resolution is, the sharper the image becomes. However, you also need larger aperture for better resolution.