Sunday, March 31, 2013

Carnival of Space 295

Well its Easter Sunday afternoon, and while many are contemplating substitutional atonement and triumphant returns, a full-on Dr Who Marathon is going on in the next room, eagerly awaiting, tonight's return of The Dr and souffle girl. So while the family review the journeys of the favored tenth Doctor, I get to stand in and take you on a real tour of the universe, bought to you by our regular Astronomy and Space Blog hosts.

Its Carnival Time!

Stars Blowing Up!

A Type II Supernova went off this week in M65, partially obscured by the waxing moon, Ian at Astroblog managed to capture the action.

Chandra X-Ray Observatory Blog discusses the birth and makeup of Neutron Stars. Find out what happens after a supernova!

Image Credit: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

Other Worlds!

Emily from the Planetary Society brings us a round up of the latest science on mineralogy due to water on Mars from the 2013 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Water, water, everywhere - there is stunning imagery and some great papers, perhaps one of the most interesting is a paper on the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

Image Credit: NASA / JPL / UA

The Meridiani Journal asks, does Europa have Penitentes? Paul also looks at suggestions the Curiosity Rover may have found a rock varnish similar to a desert varnish found on arid rocks on Earth.

Again at the LPSC 2013, Van also writing for the Planetary Society, reports on the concepts for future missions to these distant worlds.

While we are on conferences - the Why Home School Blog brings us a preview and call-out for the upcoming Space Access Conference 2013 which will be held this year in Phoenix from April 11 to the 13th. This was the conference from which the idea of the Carnival of Space was born. As we approach the 300th episode, its important to remember the very first episode of Carnival of Space was hosted on the Why Home School Blog way back in 2007.

Near Misses!

Back to Astroblog, Ian has also created a Celestia plugin file which simulates the very close approach of Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) to Mars in Oct 2014. Latest details indicate it will approach at a distance of 4 times the distance to the Martian Moon Demios.

Ian also discusses the most recent internet hoax of a "non-close approach" of a fake asteroid, and what we can learn from such hoaxes.

Spacecraft propulsion!

Next Big Future reports on how nuclear fusion microbomb explosions could propel a spaceship to Mars at 200,000 miles per hour. The design is by Winterberg who developed the theory that would become the global positioning system and the designs that became project Daedelus. Edward Teller said Winterbergs contributions to the nuclear fusion bomb were underrated. Anything that uses multi-mega-amperegigavolt proton beams must be fast - right?

Brian also reports on a joint press conference with NASA and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on March 28,2013, where the company indicated it will try a water landing of its Falcon 9 first stage later this year. The landing will be the start of a series of flight tests that could culminate with an attempted propulsive landing of a first stage back at its launch site in the middle of 2014, Musk said. This could be the beginning of the reusable rocket age which would lower costs to space by 100 times.

Next Big Future also details another form of future propulsion - a 10 kilohertz high power high frequency laser that could enable a cheaper Large Hadron class particle accelerator and accelerate development of 75 megahertz laser fusion space propulsion.

Image Credit: NASA, John Chapman

The Urban Astronomer helps out a computer game designer with the question - do backward facing guns on a spaceship make it go faster?

Science and Education!

The Smaller Questions Blog reports on the latest data from the C-BASS or the "C Band all sky survey" from the Planck Space Telescope.

The Chandra Blog from time to time features profiles of talented astronomers. Paul Green is an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. His scientific research includes the study of quasars and carbon stars.

The Here, There & Everywhere Blog visits the Carmel High School library and planetarium in Indiana.

At the Aesthetics & Astronomy Project Blog, Amanda interviews Professor Smith from University of Otago about the wonder and sublime found in Astronomical images.

Finally, to test that Psychology of Aesthetics on my own AARTScope Blog, I have finally found some time to collect some photos of the Eta Carina Nebula and process a nice narrowband close-up of the pillars in the Keyhole Nebula. It contains scientific proof ..... "the universe is bigger on the inside" [Apologies to non Dr Who fans ;-) ]

Image Credit: Peter Lake, 0.5m Planewave Q62 Siding Spring, NSW.

The Carnival of Space is a community of interest blog carnival, bringing together the best and brightest Astronomy & Space Blogs at a single point in space and time (commonly referred to as a web address) each week. Previous episodes can be found here. If you run an astronomy or space science blog you can contact carnivalofspace @ to be added to the editorial circulation list.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Lock and Keys - Eta Carina

Its a long weekend and I finally got some time to do some image processing and writing.

Eta Carina Nebula is well known in the southern skies as a very large and bright complex nebula, lit up by the star Eta Carina. Even to the naked eye, and certainly even in a wide angle shot from a DLSR on a tripod, the tell-tale reddish blush can be seen even in long exposure star trail images.

Taken from iT30 the 0.5m Planewave at Siding Spring, it includes 5x300 Sec images in each of the Ha, Sii, Oiii and mapped to the "Hubble Pallet" of R=Sii, G=Ha and B=Oiii. As a narrowband image it takes a 3nm "slice" of the light at 672 nm for Sii, 656nm for Ha, and 501nm for Oiii and then we create a false color R-G-B image.

This image needs some more work as I haven't removed the pixel bleed caused by over exposing the star. Diffraction spikes look nice on an ABG (Antiblooming) Camera, but this was taken on a non-antiblooming camera and needs to be tidied up using some of the tools in the processing package. Given that the Nebula is so large it really requires a two frame mosaic to cover it all, I'll crop it down to the pillars at the bottom.

Still it gives you an idea of the great imaging that can be achieved by amateurs using the quality tools available at

Then comes the clean up of the stars, and everything looks great!

Step four is always: Get a good nights sleep and come back and have a fresh look at it in the morning, then subtly tweek some of the parameters. You can stare at an image so long you think that's no better or its not as good as it could be, when in actual fact its absolutely amazing and no-one has ever capture the subject quite that way before. The finished product is just spectacular!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Youtube Channel Makeover

Just a quick update today.

Youtube has done a makeover of their Youtube Channel pages, called "One Channel" with new features and functionality that improves the social media integration and gives more of a "Channel" feel to the site.

One of the great new features is the short Introductory trailer video that can be configured to play to all first time unsubscribed visitors to the users Channel Page. You can find the AARTScope Blog's One Channel page here.


So now you can now more directly engage with social media and merchandising, and Google plus and other social media platforms straight from the top level of the One Channel Page.

Also, I am hosting the carnival of space this weekend - so stay tuned for more great posts.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Comet Siding Spring? - So where the hell is Siding Spring anyway?

Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) is a comet that is currently about to create some headlines! Perhaps not due to where the name came from.....but where its going!! Close - Very, very, very close to Mars in October 2014.

Many questions......where to start!

Image Credit: 4m AAT at Siding Spring. (c)P.Lake

Like - why is this such an A1 comet? Perhaps we won't go the humor angle, but as it is the first comet of the new year, discovered by Rob McNaught that's just what it is A1. Rob McNaught is a well known asteroid and comet hunter (Observatory Code E12) who is the front line of southern asteroid hunting with over 450 asteroid discoveries to his credit. Some people think its A1 because there is a very slim chance, it just might, do something that no one has ever seen before - hit Mars.

Comet discoveries are announced by the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams at the International Astronomy Union often after passing through the Minor Planet Center, and carry both the numerical designation and the name of the discoverer of the comet. Rob has so many discoveries he can pretty much name them what he likes.

C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) is an apt name as it is where Rob does most of his work. The Siding Spring Observatory is a premier astronomy site managed by the Australian National University, and home of the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO). See my article on CosmoQuest about the recent fires that recently ripped through the area. It is also known as Mount Woorat in the Warrumbungle Ranges - Warrumbungle means "Crooked Mountains" in the local Aboriginal dialect.

Image Credit: The "crooked mountains" from the viewing platform behind the 4m Australian Astronomical Telescope. (c) P.Lake

There is a most interesting way to find your way to Siding Spring. In a master stroke of tourism marketing the local shire has constructed the world's longest Solar System Drive where no matter which direction you come from, you drive through a 1:38 million scale Solar System with great signage of each planet at strategic little stops along the highway. AND YES FOLKS.......Pluto is still a planet in this solar system, or at least deserving of a sign still at the little town of Bellata on the Newell Highway.

Talking of long distance travel..... NASA has a mission on its way to Mars, and of course, three rovers already there not to mention the other satellites in orbit. The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) Mission is going to Mars to study the possible reason's for the loss of Mars atmosphere. It takes off on November 18 2013 and will arrive at Mars on September 16th 2014, just weeks before Comet 2013 A1 (Siding Spring) has its incredibly close encounter with Mars. The latest astrometry being processed suggests the Coma could actually dust the surface of Mars if its current MOID (minimum distance) is proven to be correct and doesn't increase with the collection of more data. Its still early days in the data gathering!

The MAVEN Mission folks need to go an buy a lotto ticket - seriously! Whilst the NASA folks get the calculators out and evaluate the pros and cons of losing three rovers Vs Parking a satellite sent to study the volatile evolution of atmospheres inside the coma of a comet. Time will tell what they are going to be thinking about that!

Image Credit: Dr Ian Musgrave's [Astroblog] simulation in the Celestia Software package

On top of that, the chatter on the Minor Planet mailing lists is that if a (still very unlikely) impact were to occur, the energy release would be about 3 times as much as the impact of Shoemaker-Levy 9 fragment G that hit Jupiter on my birthday in 1994. Well placed in Australia, with the first impact just after dusk, I was one of the first in the world to see it live on my little 4.5 inch reflector with a maxed out barlow. This literally had a big impact on me and was one of two events that re-engaged me with my childhood love of astronomy. The cloud kicked up by SL-9 fragment G was bigger than Earth!

So one of my favourite spots on planet earth - Siding Spring is in the news again, hopefully we can all share some more excitement about the home of telescopes in the "Crooked Mountains".

PS: I'll grab some photos of C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) from's Observatory as soon as the weather clears.


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