Posts Tagged ‘astronomy’

Balloon Picking up Mysterious Radio Signals

Friday, January 16th, 2009 by Bellatrix

NASA’s most recent balloon trip has found something new and unexplained, don’t you just love when that happens. The ARCADE balloon mission has uncovered a new radio signal with unknown origin, which may be more of an interesting find than the balloons real mission.

The findings come from NASA’s balloon borne instrument known as Absolute Radiometer for Cosmology, Astrophysics, and Diffuse Emission, or ARCADE. ARCADE was launched in July of 2006 in Palestine Texas. It flew to an altitude of 37km, 120,000 ft, where the atmosphere thins and begins to give way to space. It took data for about 4 hours before parachuting back to Earth. Balloons like this one are used for this reason, they can get above the interference caused by our atmosphere but are much cheaper to launch and build then a full blown satellite.

ARCADE’s mission was to observe and collect radio data from some of the first stars born in our universe. Since these stars are so distance their light is only observable at radio wavelengths. For the instrument to be sensitive enough to pick up this information it had to be cooled, really cooled. It was sent up with 500 gallons of liquid helium to keep it at a frosty 2.5 degrees Celsius above absolute zero. So it was all poised and ready but the data it was sent to collect was lost in a powerful radio signal of unknown origin.

This background radio signal was about 6 times larger than what they had expected to find. It was too strong, or loud, to be coming from the distant stars, and even too loud to be coming from known radio sources like gas from the halo of our galaxy. All galaxies give off some radio noise, usually just a hiss, except for those which are radio loud, usually quasars. But even with all these radio loud galaxies there isn’t enough of them to account for this noise, for the noise to be coming from just galaxies there’d have to be so many radio galaxies they’d be packed in like sardines, one right next to another, which just isn’t the case.

So obviously there’s something that we are missing, something loud making this racket that we don’t even know about; and that’s exciting. This is a great example of why astronomy is so exciting. This routine type mission that was supposed to just give a few details on a particular type of star and then BAM! There’s a mystery with possible far reaching implications. Is this a new object all together? Is it an evolutionary stage of galaxies that we didn’t know about? NASA hasn’t yet mentioned any planned follow up to try and dig deeper into this mystery but I’m sure that it is coming, I mean everyone loves a good mystery.

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International Year of Astronomy

Monday, January 5th, 2009 by Bellatrix

Now that 2009 has begun its important for all to know that 2009 has been declared the international year of astronomy. It is the 400th anniversary of when Galileo Galilee first turned his telescopes to the heavens, opening a whole new world of scientific discovery. It is an important time to remind and education the public about the world of astronomy, with astronomy budgets tightening getting the public involved is crucial to keeping support alive and well.

The history surrounding Galileo is quite fascinating and worth looking into for any science or history enthusiast. He was truly one of the first real scientists, pioneering what we know as the modern scientific method. Galileo lived an interesting life teaching mainly in Pisa Italy (where he did the famous experiment of dropping objects of different weights off the leaning tower) and then spending the majority of his life in Florence. In Florence he spent his time educating the ruling family of the time, the Medici. He did not invent the telescope as many think, as it was first invented for use as a naval navigation tool. He was the first to use it for astronomical purposes. With his telescope he discovered the moons of Jupiter and documented sunspots, the phases of Venus, and made detailed drawings of the surface of the moon. For anyone interested a terrific read on the subject is the book ‘Galileo’s Daughter’ by Dava Sobel. It is a good biography not just of his professional but also personal life and includes real transcripts of letters between him and his daughter; it gives a good view of life in Italy at the time.

Back in 2009, many events will be happening throughout the year to commiserate this occasion. For a full list check out the official website at The kick off will officially be in Paris on January 15 and 16 featuring keynote speeches from Nobel laureates and video feeds from scientists all over the world. The solar physics group will be having a yearlong campaign in over 30 countries at 150 different venues. ‘The Cosmic Diary’ is a website being launched in January focusing on the daily lives of astronomers with over 50 astronomers from 35 countries participating with blogs, articles, video, and more. Another event is the ‘100 Hours of Astronomy’ taking place on April 2-5. It will feature live web casts, public viewings, and other outreach events. One interesting feature going on the month of January is the project ‘Dark Skies Awareness’, where the International Year of Astronomy organization is trying to rise awareness about light pollution and they’ve called on the public to count the number of stars that are visible in areas with differing light pollution and you can then compare with there data on the number of stars when there is no light pollution and the results are quite surprising.

I personally encourage anyone reading to get involved. There are many ways for the public to get involved in astronomy. You can head out to your local planetarium and see what they have going on. Or go to a public viewing night held by your local university or observatory. I know some university’s go out into the community and do things like Universe in the Park viewing nights, or if you have children you can sign up their class or troop to have astronomy students come do a presentation. If you already have a telescope just take it out and make sure it gets some use, and if you know how try hooking up your camera to it and enter an astronomy picture contest. Astronomy is a fascinating subject, but in difficult financial times its important to keep the public enthused involved and educated, hopefully with some of these large scale events going on people will get reminded just how fun and amazing it can be to look up to the heavens as Galileo did so many years ago.

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Exploring Mars

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008 by Evan Finnes

The most historically observed planet in the solar system, Mars, has been the subject of astronomy since at least 400 B.C. when the Babylonians began making sophisticated predictions of the heavens. Since 1960 there have been 38 attempted missions to Mars, with only 19 successes. This 50% success rate has become known has the Mars Curse.

Perhaps the Mars Curse has been lifted because recent missions have been more successful including 6 of 7 Martian Landers. Included in this figure is Spirit and Opportunity which were launched in June 2003 and designed to last 90 Sols. The Rovers have far surpassed this expectation, with Spirit on Sol 1647, and Opportunity on Sol 1626. The rovers have made several important discoveries, including a patch of nearly pure Silica, which could be a promising place to look for signs of past microbial life. On Earth similar patches of Silica are formed from hot-springs and fumaroles which are both full of microbial life. Also currently on the Martian surface is the Phoenix Lander which has made it share of important discoveries, including: water, clay and several different salts. Water has previously been detected on the Martian surface but this is the first time it has been detected using a direct chemical analysis of the soil.

As knowledge is built, more questions arise, and future missions are being designed to answer such questions. Future mission include the international Mars Science Laboratory which is slated to launch this fall. This Rover will be equipped to determine if organic compounds are present in the soil, and to determine what geological processes may have formed samples of rock. Other future missions may include UAV scout missions, Mars Sample Return, an Astrobiology Field Laboratory, and eventually it will be necessary to send manned missions to Mars.

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Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008 by Aridian PR

Physics forum accepting photographs of stars and galaxies for a monthly contest.

Minneapolis, MN (July 23, 2008) – Celebrate Moon Day by submitting astrophotos to

The physics forum is celebrating the anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s historic walk on the moon by calling for submissions of astrophotos. Almost 40 years ago, Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin Aldrin, Jr. became the first Americans to set foot on the moon. After stepping from the Eagle module, Armstrong declared the event to be “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Photographers can submit photos of the moon or other cosmic subject matter associated with the universe to . Each month the forum will pick the best entry and the winner will receive a $500 cash prize. At the end of the first 12-month contest, one winning photo will be selected as the grand prize winner and published as part of an advertisement in the August 2009 issue of Astronomy magazine. All of the winning photographs will be included in a 2010 calendar.

“This contest is an opportunity to show the world your talent and passion for the universe,” said Terence Witt, author of Our Undiscovered Universe. “Photographers can submit photographs through the forum and they will receive national attention in a renowned astronomy publication.”

The official anniversary of the lunar landing was July 20, but NASA is using the anniversary to raise interest in lunar science. NASA Ames is hosting a three-day conference July 21-23 in Houston at the Lunar and Planetary Institute to discuss different issues associated with the moon.

Reevaluate your cosmology at .

About Terence Witt
Terence Witt is the founder and former CEO of Witt Biomedical Corporation. He holds a BSEE from Oregon State University and lives in Florida. Our Undiscovered Universe: Introducing Null Physics is his first book. To read more about Terence Witt and his latest breakthroughs go to .

Victoria Lansdon
Public Relations Director
Aridian Publishing
(321) 773-3426

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