Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Space and astronomy stories for the week ending May 6, 2012

First, news about the Supermoon, an event I first mentioned in The Wolf Moon, the first full moon of 2012, is tonight, which was one of the ten most viewed posts during the first year of this blog, as I detailed in The first year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News: Part 4 of several. It was also one of the headline stories in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Supermoon and Michigan Caucuses edition) on Daily Kos.

MSNBC: How big is that supermoon anyway?
May 5, 2012
Tonight's "supermoon" is the biggest and brightest full moon of the year, due to the fact that the moon is near the closest point in its orbital path around Earth. But just how much bigger and brighter does it look? That's a tricky question.

Most reports say the moon looks 14 percent bigger than usual, which is close to the truth but isn't quite right. They also say it's 30 percent brighter than usual, which isn't right, either. James Garvin, chief scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, ran the numbers to come up with an explanation that seems to make the most sense.
For the sake of the Play theme, here is the NASA ScienceCast video about the event, which I didn't include in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday last week, but should have.

And now, the rest of the stories from last Saturday's OND.

NASA Television on YouTube: SpaceX Rocket Test Fired on This Week @NASA
NASA commercial partner, SpaceX, is a step closer on its planned journey to the International Space Station. After its rollout to Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was lifted into place for a static engine fire test simulating launch. The exercise ended with all nine engines firing at full power for two seconds. The successful test clears the way for Falcon 9's upcoming demonstration flight to the ISS as part of NASA's plan for private companies to take over cargo delivery to the orbiting complex. Also, Expedition 31 Soyuz Commander Gennady Padalka, NASA Flight Engineer Joe Acaba and Flight Engineer Sergei Revin participated in traditional ceremonies at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia before departing for the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to complete training for their launch to the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft later this month and more!

NASA Television on YouTube: ScienceCasts: A Star Turns Inside Out
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has mapped the debris of a supernova and discovered that the explosion may have turned the original star inside out. Peering into the heart of the inverted star, astronomers have found the atoms of life itself.
And now, the final story for this entry, which I'm posting in honor of tonight's Indiana Republican primary, which has already resulted in Richard Lugar becoming a lame duck. Yes, there is a method to my madness.

Indiana University: STAR TRAK
May 2, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- On May 20, people in the western two-thirds of North America will be able to watch the moon pass in front of the sun, creating a partial solar eclipse low in the western sky just before sunset. Those within a 200-mile-wide path across the southwestern United States will see a rare annular eclipse, in which the moon appears entirely within the sun's disk...

Venus will be at its maximum brilliance at the beginning of May, blazing high in the western sky in evening twilight and setting more than three hours after the sun. But the fall of Venus from this perch during the rest of the month will be dramatic. By month's end, the planet will be just a few degrees above the western horizon after sunset, disappearing a half hour later. It will make a historic transit across the face of the sun on June 5-6.

As evening twilight fades during May, bright yellow Saturn will come into view in the southeastern sky. It will be highest in the south around midnight at the beginning of the month and two hours earlier by month's end. The white star Spica will be about 5 degrees to Saturn's right (west) and about the same brightness. Saturn's rings will be tilted 13 degrees to our line of sight. Its largest moon, Titan, will be due south of the planet on May 4 and 20 and due north on May 12 and 28.
ETA:  Missed the following the first time around.

Higgs Boson in the CERN Cafeteria by jim in IA

15 Minute Science -- It's Only A Supermoon by palantir

Indiana University: With NOvA building complete, IU physicists, astronomer ready to construct particle detector
 IU responsible for major component of $283 million experiment
April 30, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The laboratory is now built, and Indiana University physicists are ready to help assemble within it the world's largest PVC structure. It's all part of NOvA, an advanced neutrino experiment designed to help explain why the universe was created with more matter than antimatter.

With the opening May 27 of NOvA -- the NuMI Off-Axis Electron Neutrino Appearance far detector building -- in northern Minnesota, scientists are ready to begin piecing together the 15,000-ton particle detector that will study neutrinos produced at Fermilab in Chicago, which are then sent 500 miles in under three milliseconds to the new far detector building. Among those ready to assist are 14 IU scientists responsible for the detector's most critical element, a liquid scintillator that comprises 70 percent of the total detector mass and that will be used to collect light from particle interactions in the detector.

"With the laboratory now complete, we've begun installing the major detector components," said Mark Messier, a professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Physics who also serves as spokesperson for NOvA. "This includes the delivery system for the liquid scintillator, which is a major IU responsibility overseen by IU astronomy professor Stuart Mufson and physics professor James Musser."
I'll have more news from colleges on the campaign trail later tonight and tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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