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… and you can watch the ISS! June 27, 2009

Posted by Sarah in astro 2.0.
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twisst

Don’t freak out that the ISS is watching you – just wave back! A new service called Twisst has just been launched on Twitter to send users alerts of ISS passes at their location, based on the location information they have listed on their profile*. ISS twitter feeds already existed of course, from the OverTwitter project, which has twitter feeds for satellite passes over many world cities. An aside to OverTwitter is OverRSS, which allows users to sign up to an RSS feed of satellite passes for any location of your choice. Twisst combines the two by converting the location registered to the Twitter profile to co-ordinates, and automatically sends the alert at the right time for the right place. All you need to do is follow @twisst. (more…)

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The ISS is watching you June 27, 2009

Posted by Sarah in pics, science.
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iss_sarychev

This week the Big Picture ran a series of pictures taken from the ISS looking down at Earth. It’s a great reminder that the Earth is in fact a very beautiful place and we should be honoured to be able to live here and experience it. Seeing the variety of colours and landscapes from the sky is a solitary consolation prize for spending so much time in airplanes. Being a total volcano nut, of course the pictures of the recent eruption of the Sarychev Peak volcano in the Russian Kuril Islands are my favourites. (more…)

Stellar Citizen Science June 23, 2009

Posted by Sarah in astro 2.0, new astronomy.
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Historical eclipse measurements of epsilon Aurigae

Historical eclipse measurements of epsilon Aurigae

Over at Professor Astronomy, Kurtis recently talked about an excellent citizen science project to light on the nature of mysterious variable star epsilon Aurigae. For almost 200 years, this run-of-the-mill star has been seen to dim periodically. This is not particularly remarkable in se – many stars dim at regular intervals, typically every few days, due to a companion star or planet passing in front of it. But in the case of epsilon Aurigae, the dip in its lightcurve occurs every 27 years and lasts several hundred days – around 2 years! The eclipse lightcurve (above) also shows that the dip contains quite a few bumps. So whatever movement is causing the eclipse is very very slow, and some interaction between the two bodies appears to be going on.  (more…)

First light for Herschel June 21, 2009

Posted by Sarah in new astronomy, science, space.
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M51_final_color

Doesn’t it seem like yesterday, that exciting day when two new astronomy satellites were blasted into space? There was Herschel, at 3.5-m the largest telescope ever launched into space, and Planck, the new cosmic miscrowave background explorer. We cheered, drank some champagne and settled into the wait until the data started coming in. Well, that day has arrived. This week ESA and the participating institutes released an early first light image from PACS, the Photodetector and Array Camera and Spectrometer, on board Herschel, taken during the telescope’s commissioning phase.

A big congrats to the Herschel telescope and instrument teams!

Update 11/07/09: Watch a video of the Herschel/PACS team as they receive the beautiful picture of M51 from the telescope, here. Great stuff!

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Astronomers lead the pack on Arxiv June 18, 2009

Posted by Sarah in astro 2.0, science.
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The growing success of Arxiv, 1991-2009 (Ingoldsby, 2009)

The growing success of Arxiv, 1991-2009 (arxiv.org)

How much of the research record in physics can actually be found on Arxiv? How accurately does Arxiv reflect what is happening in physics today? On the whole, not so well, says the American Institute of Physics. Over at the Scholarly Kitchen, Philip Davis reports on a presentation given at a science editors’ conference by Tim Ingoldsby of the AIP that shows a highly inconsistent coverage of the literature on Arxiv between the different fields of physics research. (more…)