Posted on Friday, October 31, 2014
By Kadri Tinn |

Celestial Sleuth
Using Astronomy to Solve Mysteries in Art, History and Literature
by D. W. Olson

If you have ever wondered looking at a painting or a maybe while watching a film whether or not the astronomical objects are or were in the exact place as the artist depicted them or maybe they just added it to fill in an empty spot, then this book will be a delightful read for you.

In Celestial Sleuth, D.W. Olson takes the reader on a tour to some of the place where some well known and some not so well known paintings or photographs have been made and shows how we can find out the exact moment when an astronomical object would have appeared in the precise spot as seen on a picture for example.

In the book you can find some quite famous paintings that will have their astronomical mysteries solved or about which you’ll find out a lot more. For example you’ll get acquainted with Edvard Munch, who painted „The Scream“. As an art enthusiast you might appreciate the colours and figures, but when you look at the orange-yellow sky, one might start to wonder whether it was the artist’s imagination or was the sky really a fiery colour? How could we possibly find out?

Munch is just one of the artists, whose work will be investigated, but Olson doesn’t only take a look at paintings, but also photography and historic events that might have gone differently had the people involved looked at an astronomical Almanac to see the phase of the moon or when it rose or set.

Although the historic events are from the history of the United States of America, just reading about how a bright rising full moon might have been one of the contributing factors for someone being mistaken for an enemy and being shot at, makes this book quite as thrilling as a detective novel. Also as in the best detective novels, there is quite a bit of science involved and as it brings together art, history and astronomy, it is a wonderful mixture. You’ll certainly find out something new from this book.

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Posted on Friday, October 31, 2014
By Kadri Tinn |
67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

 In the beginning of 20th century, there was a comet which passed by near Earth and to ward off possible effects that the gases in the comet might have on Earth's atmosphere, pills were sold.
Although that comet didn't cause any noticeable changes in the Earth's atmosphere, certainly the people of 100 years ago and also modern people might be curious as to how comets smell.

Rosetta spacecraft that is currently orbiting the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has analysed the comet's "atmosphere" which among others contains ammonia, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen cyanide but also formaldehyde and methanol. Quite a pungent comet.

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Posted on Wednesday, October 29, 2014
By Kadri Tinn |
Orbital Sciences' Antares 130 rocket with a modified upper stage carrying an unmanned Cygnus spacecraft for a ISS resupply mission exploded seconds after liftoff from Wallops flight centre.

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Posted on Tuesday, October 28, 2014
By Kadri Tinn |
Chinese Chang'e 5 TI that was launched on October 23, 2014, has sent captured Earth and Moon together in a nice photograph, where you can see the far side of the Moon.

The test mission is an around-the-moon mission, with the mission's return to Earth planned for October 31st. It's just an engineering test mission for Chang'e 5, for which the launch is set for 2017.

Credit: CNSA

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Posted on Tuesday, October 28, 2014
By Kadri Tinn |
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has snapped a photo of the impact crater left by NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission.

The LADEE mission ended on April 18, 2014, with the spacecraft’s planned impact into the eastern rim of Sundman V crater on the far side of the moon.

Image Credit: 
NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

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Posted on Friday, October 24, 2014
By Kadri Tinn |

Astrophysics of the Interstellar Medium by Walter J. Maciel

The vacuum of space – better than anything scientists can produce in laboratories on Earth – and yet it’s not entirely empty, and has an effect on observations, and that effect can’t be dealt with by just sending telescopes to space.

The idea that there might be something between us and stars isn’t new, but it hasn’t been a long time for us to actually talk about such a field of research as astrophysics of interstellar medium.

In this book one first gets an overview of the history of the field and how we actually know that there is gas and dust in interstellar space – it was one of the reasons why William Herschel’s estimates for the size of our Galaxy were off – as he couldn’t see the dust and it hid the stars behind it.

Although interstellar space is more difficult to observe in some ways than stars or galaxies, modern telescopes can still see a lot of what is going on.

If you have seen some of the images taken by Hubble Space Telescope, you might have happened across colourful images (in fake colours mostly) of nebulae – we might get a glimpse of what there is in addition to stars often thanks to stars illuminating interstellar matter or because of the gas and dust hiding the stars or part of their radiation – certainly many of you would recognize the absorption nebula called the Horsehead nebula in Orion on photo – but how many of us really know what is happening inside and what exactly does the nebula consist of? These are some of the questions you can find answers to in this book, and ofcourse you can get deep into the physical processes that go on in different types of nebulae.

I found this book riveting, as a lot of times in astrophysics we’re dealing with huge objects, and ofcourse interstellar nebulae are huge, but as the book goes down to molecular and atomic scale, we see more of what is happening to individual particles in space. Also after reading this book one can try and imagine all the ways that a photon might interact with interstellar matter. As comparison – when the general public thinks of light coming from the Sun, on would mostly think of it being radiated from it’s visible surface, but we wouldn’t ponder long on how the light and energy get from the Sun’s core out to the chromosphere – same thought pattern would be true for nebulae we might see on pictures. After reading Maciel’s book, you won’t look at nebulae the same way and the vacuum of space will be something extraordinary.

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Posted on Thursday, October 23, 2014
By Kadri Tinn |
If you live in the Western US or Canada, you'll be getting a nice view of today's partial solar eclipse. However if you happen to live somewhere else on Earth, you can enjoy the partial eclipse online via, where there is a special three-hour webcast about the partial solar eclipse with updates from Arizona's Prescott Solar Obsevatory and other telescopes. The webcast starts at 21:00 GMT.

European observers won't have to wait long for a partial solar eclipse, as the next one visible in Europe, Northern Africa, Middle-East and Russia will occur on March 20th, 2015

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