Babe Among the Stars

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Galaxy Babe's column banner, showing a full moon and some little folk looking up at the sky

Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth - Ptolemy

Babe Among the Stars 3-16 July 2008

Around this time in 1054, people on Earth witnessed a supernova in the constellation  Taurus 'the Bull'. They didn't know it was a massive star exploding as it died, they thought it was a new star, and Chinese astronomers called it 'the guest'. It was so bright it was viewable during the day. The remains of the explosion can be seen today, but you would need an optical aid and a clear, dark sky (away from street lights) to view it. The Crab Nebula holds the honour of being number one in the famous Messier catalogue. There is a pulsar in the Crab Nebula which spins extremely fast, emitting gamma and radio waves.

NASA: 50th Anniversary

This year NASA is 50. To celebrate, they are organising special events which the public can take part in, including a photography competition. Details are on this webpage: NASA 50th Anniversary. Also, check out the Featured Video link which comes highly recommended. Thanks to Deke for the NASA info.

Breaking News: Three Super Earths

On 16 June, 2008, it was announced that three extrasolar planets had been discovered in orbit around the star HD 40307, which resides in the southern constellation Pictor at co-ordinates Right Asc: 05 54 04; Dec: −60 01 24. What is exciting about this discovery is that the planets are rocky worlds (by far the most common detected so far have been gas giants like Jupiter) although they're all far too close to their sun to be candidates for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

Diary Dates

  • 03 July: New Moon
  • 06 July: Mars and Saturn team up in a three-way alignment with the tiny crescent Moon
  • 11 July: Mars and Saturn form a close partnership, there will be less than a degree between them tonight.
  • 14 July: Antares (alpha Scorpii) is one of the four 'Royal' stars of ancient Persia. It looks like Mars, a beigy-sand colour, except Antares twinkles. Tonight look for it a third of a degree north of the (almost full) Moon. This alignment is so close that when it occurs in the southern hemisphere (on the 15th), in certain places very far south, Antares will be completely covered by the Moon. This is known in astronomy-speak as an occultation, and it only happens with stars close to the ecliptic (the apparent path of the Sun across the sky).
  • 14-15 July: Alpha Lyrids meteor shower maxim (only minor activity expected)

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