stronomy Wise Newsletter

May Edition

Transit of Venus


Titan - A moon with a difference

Dr Karen Masters

Jason Ives – Saturn

In The News

Young Astronomer

The Night Sky by Derek Shirlaw

GIF . The entire transit (all four contacts) is visible from northwestern North America. eastern China.Astronomy Wise Transit of Venus 2012 June 5th-6thTransit of Venus A rare opportunity will occur starting on Tuesday June 5th where Venus will appear as a dark disc as it moves between the Earth and the sun. Fred Espenak writes: 2012 June 5th-6th Transit of Venus The global visibility of the 2012 transit is illustrated with the world map. Similarly. The transit begins at 23:03 on the 5th and ends at 05:53 on the 6th. the Caribbean. Hawaii. Philippines. the Middle East. eastern Australia. for safe viewing check out your local Astronomy Club for advice. and eastern Africa. and the southeastern 2/3 of South America.nasa. Europe. the western Pacific. the transit is already in progress at sunrise for observers in central Asia. Image Credit: The Sun sets while the transit is still in progress from most of North America. Korea. Japan. and northwest South America. northern Asia. western Africa. This final stage can be viewed from the UK in the early hours of Wednesday 6th June.gsfc.. In the UK it can be viewed as the sun rises on the eastern horizon. No portion of the transit will be visible from Portugal or southern Spain. Oxford Safety: Do not look at the sun directly please use suitable equipment. and New Zealand. Ref: Green Templeton College.

sciencedaily.derekshirlaw. He as worked as a Science 2012) — A new study analyzing data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft suggests that the lake. and then Senior Science Communicator at the internationally renowned Glasgow Science Centre since the spring of 2006 .uk .Astronomy Wise Page 2 Cassini Finds Titan Lake ScienceDaily (Apr. found evidence for long-standing channels etched into the lake bed within the southern boundary of the depression. a Cassini associate. I would like to thank Derek for allowing the use of his material. Above Image A recent study finds that the lake known as Ontario Lacus on Saturn's moon Titan bears striking similarity to a salt pan on Earth known as the Etosha Pan . known as Ontario Lacus. previously thought to be completely filled with liquid hydrocarbons. For further information on Derek Shirlaw– science and other stuff of wonder please visit www. More at Science Daily www. This suggests that Ontario Lacus. A group led by Thomas Cornet of the Université de Nantes. behaves most similarly to what we call a salt pan on Earth. (Credit: NASA/ JPL-Caltech and NASA/ USGS) The Night Sky by Derek Shirlaw This month we have sky notes from Derek Shirlaw. France. exposing liquid areas ringed by materials like saturated sand or mudflats. could actually be a depression that drains and refills from below. As well as astronomy Derek has a strong passion for science and nature. Derek got a BSc Science Studies from University of Strathclyde .

and that is Titan. although the southern has heavier rain storms. There is one moon of interest which I want to talk about this month. however the water ice is has hard as the rock itself. Atmosphere make up Stratosphere Nitrogen 98. its atmosphere is said to be 98. There is a circulation system which on Earth it is liquid water on Titan it is liquid methane and ethane. if it had been closer to the sun. It is thought Mars lost its atmosphere because of its mass. and was unable to hold onto its atmosphere. The moon itself is composed of rocky material and water ice. This alien world which is the second largest moon in our solar system has rivers. Saturn with its array of rings and 60 plus moons is a true wonder to behold. The northern hemisphere as found to be wetter then the southern. The Atmosphere Titans atmosphere shows similar signs to that of Earth.Astronomy Wise Titan: A moon with a difference By D Bood With Saturn now in the evening night sky.2% An artist impression of Titan’s surface . The Cassini spacecraft has chronicled changes in season and cloud formation. It is possible Titan holds onto its atmosphere because of its location in the solar system. Titan and Earth have weather systems with rainfall.4% Methane 1. It’s in the cold region where the Gas giants orbit.4% Other 0. lakes and rainfall. due to it’s gravity and the solar winds. it is a delightful object to view with your telescope. however the rain on Titan is that of Methane and not Water. What makes it interesting? Well the fact it has an atmosphere. the chances are the solar winds may have stripped the moon of its atmosphere.4% nitrogen where on Earth its is 80%.

I enjoy trying to figure out how they formed. It’s perhaps not widely known that postgraduate students working towards PhDs can almost always expect some financial support. and my father did some training in Engineering and works as an accountant. but it’s enough for most people to live off. so I was able to be financially independent from that point. I wrote to NASA for a brochure on how to be an astronaut. and they were very proud when I was offered a place to study Physics at Oxford University.Astronomy Wise Page 2 This month we have an interview with Dr Karen Masters. or by teaching/research assistantships. either via student fellowships. Next Page . They make absolutely stunning images. so I think there was some concern about that – particularly over how I would support myself through it – and especially when I announced I was going to do it in the USA. Images Credit: University of Portsmouth Dr. So I think it wasn’t a surprise to them that I would want to do something scientific. I was also keen on the space program. They may not be paid well. Dr Karen Masters a small bio. AW: What projects are you currently working on? Cont. and I first got interested in astronomy as a young teenager. I have a clear memory of the Hubble Deep Field being published (1996). which reassured them. Every member of my immediate family has an Alevel qualification in Physics. and when you think about what they actually are – immense collections of billions of stars like our Sun – I find them even more amazing. University of Portsmouth. I think they’re quite proud of my achievements in astronomy (especially they like it when my research appears in the news). However. AW: What do you find most interesting in your field of work? KM: I’ve always been most fascinated by galaxies. and that I'm funded by The Leverhulme Trust (via an Early Career Fellowship) and the South East Physics Network (SEPNet). and I find it fascinating that they can also be used to help us understand the properties of the Universe as a whole. AW: family think of your career choice? KM: My mother is a biology teacher. Ref: AW = Astronomy Wise KM = DR K Masters AW: When did you first become interested in Astronomy and Science? KM: Maths and science were almost from the start my favourite subjects at school. and now with two small children (and a husband) in tow. noone in my family before me had done a PhD. Dr Masters is a Research Fellow working at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation. but I used to collect newspaper clippings of astronomy stories in a scrapbook. and my scepticism over news about the accelerated expansion of the Universe (results from 1998 which recently won the Nobel Prize). I can’t date the exact start of it. and I insisted we include Cape Canaveral in a family trip to Florida when I was about 15. Masters kindly agreed to answer some questions about herself and about some of the work she carries out. However they do still worry (quite reasonably probably!) about the fact I’m still on temporary contracts now 12 years after starting my PhD.

Because the radio array is so vast. and I run the online presence of LOFAR-UK. So while data is already being taken . AW: What is the LOFAR project? KM: KM: LOFAR stands for the LOw Frequency Array. And I’m a co-author on a lot of other studies using Galaxy Zoo data. and spawned an entire “Zooniverse” of projects in all areas of science which invite participated of “citizen scientists”. Scientifically I’m interested in the allsky imaging surveys that LOFAR will do. and he’s been using morphologies from Galaxy Zoo: Hubble (where the galaxies are much. and due to our proximity to Chilbolton. and the South East Physics Network. LOFAR-UK is a collaboration of 22 universities in the UK. It requires complex algorithms running on a supercomputer to process the data from the thousands of antennas and turn them into images. and the western most antennas in the array are located not far from where I’m sitting right now at the Chilbolton Observatory in Hampshire. which build and runs the collection of LOFAR antennas (called a the LOFAR UK608 station) in Chilbolton. I’ll read and offer advice on the papers. In Galaxy Zoo we’ve now published more than 30 peer reviewed papers. to look at how bars in disc galaxies change over cosmic time. along with the Science and Technologies Research Council. The Zooniverse’s philosophy is that projects only work where real science comes out. AW:What is Galaxy Zoo all about? Galaxy Zoo was initiated out of a desire to have reliable visual classification of 1 million galaxies in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. which happened in the summer of 2010. LOFAR is predominantly a software/computing telescope. It turned out much more popular than they ever imagined.Astronomy Wise Dr Karen Master Interview Cont…. It’s run by ASTRON in The Netherlands. That was just too many for astronomers to look at themselves. even with metre size radio waves! I’m excited about what a Galaxy Zoo: LOFAR might tell us about the shapes of nearby galaxies seen in radio waves (which reveals the sites of star formation among other things). we volunteered to help with the installation of the antennas (along with Southampton. KM: I spend most of my time working on various research projects in which we use the morphologies from the Galaxy Zoo project as clues to how galaxies form. At around the same time I volunteered to be the LOFAR-UK Spokesperson. It’s a software driven radio telescope array made up of thousands of simple antennas spread right across Europe. so researchers Kevin Schawinski. Most of my own research time lately has been looking at the impact of bars on disc galaxies from the Galaxy Zoo 2 data. LOFAR images will have resolution almost as good as the Hubble Space Telescope. and help with understanding the data etc. and help with media enquiries and co-ordinating public outreach for LOFAR-UK. I’m also using information on the atomic hydrogen gas content (fuel for future star formation) of the galaxies from a radio survey called ALFALFA. Chris Lintott and Kate Land at Oxford had this idea to make an internet tool and ask members of the public to help. something I’m immensely proud to have helped with. I also have a PhD student of my own to supervise now. and Oxford University). much further away). So each project has a science team focussed on using the data from the citizen scientists. which is a member of that collaboration. While most of the antennas are now in place. I work at Portsmouth University.

but there are lots of people working in other areas of astronomy (such as science http://www. There’s no need to rush into it – some of the best PhD students are those who’ve spent a couple of years working in “the real world” or as physics teachers. There’s a lot of people working on alternative models for gravity in Portsmouth which I find fascinating. Then think seriously about doing a ~mastersk/ Get a degree in a basic science (or Maths) from the best university you can get into. Do internships in your summer breaks to get experience working in various types of science/astronomy (e. industrial firm. all over the USA (and soon China for the 2012 International Astronomical Union Meeting) as part of my job. Australia. telescope operation) who do not have http://icg. Whatever the future brings that was all amazing! Astronomy wise would like to thank Dr Karen Masters for her I am sure people will be inspired by Karen’s words and for any young budding astronomer it is possible to follow your dreams.). with no guarantee of a permanent job at the end of it.port. If you do decide to go for it. and I’ve got to visit all sorts of fascinating telescopes (and even helped build one). There’s been a lot of tantalizing results suggesting a detection of dark matter might be just around the corner. But think about the fun you’ll have along the way! I’ve travelled to Chile. and astronomy has a long history in leading the way dealing with large volumes of data. And if it turns out not to be there. A PhD is a requirement now for doing professional research in astronomy.g. .galaxyzoo.Astronomy Wise Page 2 Question From Neil Samples– Scarborough for the all-sky survey it may be some time before we see the full results of what LOFAR can do. an academic/research science career will take a long time to develop. research experience in a university etc. >>> >>We live in a data driven world now. that will be huge too. Temporary contracts are now the norm for young scientists up to 10 years or more after starting their PhDs. We wish Karen all the success in the future on her current and new projects. I can’t wait! NS: We've had Hubble with the amazing telescope pictures and we've had the large hadron collider with the neutrino's now NOT going faster than the speed of light. what is the next BIG thing that will hit the astronomy world? KM: Well I think it might be a detection of what dark matter actually is (or isn’t). Images Credit: University of Portsmouth Useful Links http://www. because it might just mean that our model for gravity is broken on the scales of galaxies. And Finally…… AW: Finally what advice would you give to someone leaving school this year and looking to start a career in Science/ Astronomy? KM: Go for it! A sciencebased degree will give you a fantastic training in sceptical thinking and quantitative skills.

and more than 750 Earths could fit inside of it. Galileo was the first to observe it with a telescope in 1610. It takes Saturn about 29 years to orbit the Sun. the Sun appears 1 percent as bright as it does from Earth. he noted its odd appearance but was confused by it . the “Death Star moon” Mimas. This means it would float. one of the most curious features in the solar system. and the “two-faced moon” Iapetus. Saturn lies about 800 million miles (1. Saturn’s famous rings tilt at an angle of 27.3 billion kilometers) from Earth. They can be as thin as 33 feet (10 meters) thick. if you could find a body of water big enough. Facts Saturn has been known since prehistoric times. Saturn is the only planet less dense than water.3° with respect to its orbit. including the “Earth-like moon” Titan. and it weighs only 95 times as much as Earth. Saturn’s odd weather systems have created an unusually regular hexagon at the north pole. Saturn is host to a variety of famous moons.Saturn by Jason Iv Fun Fun Facts Saturn is the second-largest planet in the solar system. and are made almost entirely of ice. the “erupting moon” Enceladus. but a little less than 11 hours to rotate completely. Saturn’s quick rotation flattens it slightly. During opposition. From Saturn.

the-rings alone will make you glad you set up your telescope. Whether you want to look at a gas giant. Clear skies to you all. And will continue to be visible until sunrise. Jason Ives . As every opposition occurs when the Earth lies closest to Saturn. giving astronomers great views through telescopes of all sizes. With a 4-inch scope or better. If anyone has any difficulties in locating the planet or the virgo constellation. allowing for a great view of its fine details. Around the middle of the month the rings will span more than double the width of the planet’s disk. Tethys. Please don't hesitate to contact us at astronomy wise we will quick have you out and about observing this fantastic celestial giant and its partners.ves Fun Fun Facts Saturn dazzles all night long. and Rhea will show up near the ringed world. Be sure to check the world for any storm systems — last year observers spotted a distinct white spot that grew more elongated as time passed and Saturn’s unique ring system will tip about 14° to our line of sight. Dione. The best views will occur around 1 in the morning when the planet hits maximum altitude. Although it will share the celestial spotlight with Mars and Venus throughout the night. all within Titan’s orbit. which orbits Saturn once every 16 days. Saturn’s got it covered this month. The planet rises in the east at sunset and is easily noticeable within the constellation of Virgo as the only starlike object not twinkling in the constellation. Saturn peaks this month when it lies opposite the Sun in our sky and shines brightly in central Virgo. make sure you don’t miss it. Observers will require slightly larger scopes to spot another part of the saturnian system: its variety of moons. its rings. And an 8-inch or larger scope will reveal Enceladus.Its disk and rings should show up clearly through even the smallest telescopes. Looking at Saturn through a telescope never disappoints but it’ll be especially stunning this month as The planet’s disk will appear noticeably flattened due to the gas giant’s speedy rotation. spotting Saturn in Virgo should be no trouble. due south and about halfway to the zenith. the planet appears bigger and brighter than at other times. The biggest and brightest is Titan. or its moons in detail. Saturn's rings are now wider than they've been since 2007. which stays near the rings’ outer edges. may skies feature the ringed world and its many moons.

Find out more about Physics: Forces. its composition and properties. Moon 98% May12 Last quarter Moon (21:47) May13 Jupiter at conjunction May 20 Annular eclipse of the Sun visible from Asia. Acids & Alkalis. This Month! May 6 Full Moon (03:35) May 5 + 6 Eta Aquarid meteor shower maximum (10/hr).derekshirlaw. America May 20 New Moon (23:47) May 22 Conjunction of Jupiter and Mercury (0. Nebulae Biology The science of life and living things. Energy. The outermost planets Uranus and Neptune aren’t visible to the naked eye. planets. Astronomy The scientific study of the Universe and the objects it contains including stars. For More details please visit http://www. Planets.Astronomy Wise The Night Sky In May 2012 Mercury can be found in the early morning sky during the first part of May. Find out more about Biology: Life. but not really visible till around 21:30 because of the brightness of the setting Sun. By the end of the month though it’ll have reached superior conjunction (it’ll be on the opposite side of the Sun from us). A foray into explaining some areas of science. The red planet is due South by about 20:00. The following article has been republished with permission from an original post by Derek Shirlaw. Gas & Plasma Physics The science of the interactions between matter and energy. is Mars. There’s some great unprecedented imagary and data coming back from NASA’s MESSENGER project which is in orbit around the closest planet to the Cells. by 16th May that will be changing as the planet appears to come to a stop in the sky before getting increasingly lower in the sky at the same time each night such that come June 5th it’ll be in transit across the Sun. Laws www. Minibeasts Chemistry The science of matter.derekshirlaw. It’s due South around 23:00 and forms a nice line with Arcturus and Spica as shown in the image a little further down the This to-ing and fro-ing in the sky happens as Venus is catching up on Earth and will undertake us on its orbit around the Sun. It’s on it’s way to being a planet that rises in the morning just before the Sun – one for the very early birds! Easily to find in the constellation of Leo this month. Find out more about Chemistry: Atoms.4°) May 27 Mercury in superior conjunction May 28 First quarter Moon (20:16) . Genetics. Find out more about Astronomy: Stars. Saturn remains in the constellation of Virgo. Carbon. Pacific and N. Jupiter reaches conjunction on 13th May and will therefore be on the opposite side to the Sun from us and well out of our view. close to the bright star Spica. Solid. However. If you’ve been watching the evening sky regularly over the past few months. you’ll have noticed Venus getting progressively higher in the sky at the same time each night. nebulae and galaxies. Galaxies.

I hope would be successful as a career. After college I am planning on going to Northumbria University to study Architectural Technology.” His talents do not end there. With such people as Professor Brian Cox. This is so we could sustain life on other planets when the technology is available if . In march I got a skywatcher explorer 130 for my birthday and I have been very impressed with it. who as well as getting out there with his telescope. Jupiter.blogspot. so far I have been able to see the Moon. alisastronomy. Since being more involved in astronomy. runs a blog and as taken a shine to astrophotography. Edd likes to relax and like many others. I became a lot more interested in astronomy. a 60mm Argos refractor but when I saw the sky at night TV programme in November that was when “I’m best when I do things that I enjoy so doing that. recently I have started astrophotography by using a simple Sony Cybershot camera. In the future I hope to be able to see Saturn and some of the messier objects.Astronomy Wise Page 2 Edward Dutton– Logo Designers and newsletter format “I’m an 18 year old student studying Graphic Products. Stargazing live (BBC) as opened up astronomy to more and more people. This month we have a Young astronomer. they travel to a LEDC (less economic developed country) and help set up sustainable communities. I have joined various forums and started an astronomy blog.” Final Thought I would like to thank Edd for his efforts and interest in Astronomy Wise May’s Featured Astronomer As with any interest or hobby attracting young people is key to developing our astronomical hobby. Edd is also keenly into illustration and from that he produced the new logo. My life dreams are to create and architectural and engineering team to design the first buildings for other planets. Venus and a star cluster and I was amazed what a difference the extra aperture on my new scope have made astronomy more popular over the last few years. who perhaps appeal to the younger generations. Alex Wetton I was vaguely interested in astronomy about a year ago when I got my first telescope. Edd is a big Halo fan. The more I learn the more I want to learn so getting involved and reading something like Astronomy Wise’s articles really ‘floats my boat’ if you get me. play console games. Finally. I have an increasing interest in Astronomy. Geography and Physics at college in North Yorkshire (Northallerton College).

uk/ @AstronomyWise http://astronomy-wise. The newsletter may be downloaded and printed for free. Words and images belong to the respective owners.Astronomy-Wise. A special thanks to all that have helped with the May edition of the Astronomy Wise newsletter. Where research has been carried out references are made to the sources used.And Finally. Astronomy Wise is a non profitable Get in touch: www. Please contact me if you feel your work has been infringed.. Credits: Dave Bood: Editor Edward Dutton: Logo and Layout Design Derek Shirlaw: The night sky notes Jason Ives: Saturn Dr Karen Masters: Taking the time to produce answers to our questions Alex Wetton: Young Astronomer interview Disclaimer: As far as reasonably practicable all information is used with the owners . © Astronomy Wise If you would like to be featured in our newsletter please email us at dbood@astronomy-wise. Content in the newsletter may not be reproduced without written consent .com Astronomy For Everyone Be sure to visit us at: Astronomy-Wise.blogspot.

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