Posted on Friday, January 23, 2015
By Kadri Tinn |

Solar System Astrophysics: Background Science and the Inner Solar System 
by Eugene F. Milone and William J. F. Wilson

Astrophysics is a fascinating science that seeks to explain how planets and stars form, evolve, interact and move and as such uses observations to find out more about the Universe we live in. In general astrophysics textbooks the reader would encounter almost all of the topics that are covered in “Solar System Astrophysics”, with the difference that our familiar Solar system and in this volume, the inner solar system in particular is looked at more closely and in more detail.

This volume deals with our closest neighbourhood in space – the other rocky planets – Mars, Venus and Mercury, and not forgetting our own planet Earth and also with our Sun and other objects that are quite near the Sun. In addition to the detailed look at the different objects, one also leaves the book with an understanding of the physical laws governing our Solar system and of-course other star systems as well.

In the beginning of the book, the reader can renew their acquaintance with spherical astronomy and celestial mechanics – the necessary basics for any textbook on astrophysics. It then goes on with the Sun, terrestrial planets and their characteristics with a look on the Earth and Moon system and continuing with Mercury, Venus and Mars.

In a way the book is surprising in its depth and richness of detail – of-course you would expect to find the data on the size of the Sun – it’s mass and circumference and what not, but in this book, instead of giving it in a table form, you can read about how these numbers are arrived at, and what and whose research they have been based on – it’s something really useful and very interesting.

As a textbook I found it excellent. Although I’ve taken master’s level courses on astronomy at the university there was a lot of interesting content, and what I loved the most, were the “Challenges” at the end of each chapter – mostly problems where you need to calculate something or derive an equation. However the Challenges are set so that you actually want to do them, and for example figure out how fast the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor was going when it exploded. Also just the detail of calling them “Challenges” instead of “Problems” makes them a lot more appealing.

If you want a detailed account of the inner solar system, I think this is the book to dive into.  

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Posted on Friday, January 16, 2015
By Kadri Tinn |
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has found UK's Beagle 2, a mission, that was announced lost 11 years ago.

Beagle 2 was launched in June 2003 as part of the Mars Express mission, that deployed Mars Express Orbiter in Mars orbit and was supposed to send Beagle 2 lander on Mars to find evidence for past or present life.

The spacecraft was announced lost as at the predicted time, when Beagle 2 was supposed to send a landing signal home, it didn't, and later tries to reach it failed.

Several Mars orbiters have been used to try and find Beagle to find out what happened to it, but none have been really successful before, until NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which captured Beagle, it's rear cover and possibly it's parachute on images.

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Posted on Thursday, January 08, 2015
By Kadri Tinn |
Another image where you can see comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy - It's just above the tall tree near the centre and towards one o'clock.

This image was taken from a darker location than the previous ones, in Kabina, Estonia.

 Canon EOS 500D, Sigma 30mm, f/1.4, exposure 5 seconds, ISO 1600: Credit: Kadri Tinn

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Posted on Tuesday, January 06, 2015
By Kadri Tinn |
Moon rising on January 6th, 2015

Moon rising on Jan 6, 2015. Canon EOS 500D, Sigma 70-300mm zoom lens at 300mm, f/5.6, ISO  400, exp 1/125s.  Credit: Kadri Tinn

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Posted on Tuesday, January 06, 2015
By Kadri Tinn |
Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy has brightened to about 5th magnitude and should be visible with the naked eye in dark locations free of light pollution.

Here are some images taken of the comet on 6th of January, 2015 in Tartu, Estonia :
Canon EOS 500D, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, ISO 400, exp 8s Credit: Kadri Tinn

Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy.  Canon EOS 500D, Sigma 70-300mm zoom lens at 70mm, f/4, ISO 3200, exp 6s  Credit: Kadri Tinn

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Posted on Wednesday, December 31, 2014
By Kadri Tinn |
Galactic Encounters: Our Majestic and Evolving Star-System From the Big Bang to Time’s End
by William Sheehan and Christopher J. Conselice

With a score of books published on the history of cosmology and research on galaxies, another one in the same general lines seems unnecessary. However with the thoroughness and interesting writing “Galactic Encounters” is sure to earn a place in your bookshelf whether you’re interested in history of science or in cosmology.

Galactic Encounters does what few similar books do – it introduces the important observers and theoreticians throughout the past few hundred years of astronomical research together with the contemporary ideas about nebulae at the ime..

Similarly to others, the book covers William Herschel’s and Edwin Hubble’s work, but not only – instead of only focusing on their research about nebulae, the authors give an idea of the astronomers lives and characters, and it does that in the case of tens of astronomers, several of whom would only briefly be mentioned in other popular accounts of the history of cosmology.

As an example one can read about Percival Lowell and his obsession with the rotation period of Venus or how and who discovered the spiral arms of our galaxy or how cosmologists came up with such ideas as dark matter and dark energy.

The book is written starting from the earliest observations and scientists and continues all the way to twenty first century. If you’ve taken a basic astronomy course at college or university level, the cosmology part will be familiar to you however one of the great benefits of reading this book is that you get an idea of how the discoveries were made – something that usually isn’t included in basic astronomy classes, but would be in specific courses on cosmology.

The book is also suitable for general readers with maybe less background in physics or astronomy, as you don’t need any mathematics to fly through the book and observations described within.

Another fascinating thing about the book is, that a chapter might start with something where you might not see a straight connection to all that came before and might wonder why there are such detours to other topics in astronomy, but they all lead back to the general story.

In short: “Galactic Encounters” is very interesting, thorough and well-illustrated.

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Posted on Monday, December 29, 2014
By Kadri Tinn |

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