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May 2000 Issue

Astronomy Digest
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Front Desk

News Throughout
the Net

Updated Weekly

Chandra Looks at Black Hole - Studies matter as it is drawn in. - BBC, May 26, 2000.

Mars Rock Found - This rock is only the 15th Mars rock ever found. - BBC, May 22, 2000.

Galileo Does a Flyby Passed Ganymede - Collects data for research. - CNN, May 22, 2000.

Lakes, Snow, and Geysers found on IO - Images taken by NASA's Galileo spacecraft. - CNN, May 19, 2000.

Virtual Universe - Computer model based on actual data collected by a sky survey. - BBC, May 19, 2000.

Great Ganymede! - NASA's Galileo spacecraft is about to fly 808 km above the surface of our solar system's largest moon. - SSN, May 19, 2000.

Comet Found - Comet passed by unseen. Found in some photographs taken 3 years ago.- ABC, May 18, 2000.

Lost Minor Planet Found. - Last seen in 1911. - CNN, May 12, 2000.

Image of darkness within galaxies. - Hubble looks at dark galactic material. - CNN, May 11, 2000.

Eight Planets discovered Orbiting Distant Star. - The star is similar to our own sun. - BBC, May 9, 2000.

Giant Dog Bone Shaped Asteroid - Arecibo telescope is used to study asteroids in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. - BBC, May 4, 2000.

Missing Hydrogen Found - Supports Big Bang Theory. - Fox, May 4, 2000.

Space Junk Hits South Africa - US rocket falls from orbit. - CNN, May 3, 2000.

Travel to the Planets on a Budget - NASA presents their plans to travel to Mars, Mercury, and Jupiter's moon Europa. - ABC, May 2, 2000.

Earth is Lighter than Once Thought - Earth weights about 5,972,000,000,000,000,000,000 metric tons. - MSNBC, May 1, 2000.

SETI@HOME - Over 2 Million Users are now searching for ET. - MSNBC, April 28, 2000.

Pictures of the Early Universe - New images from an Antarctic balloon flight in 1998 bring the cosmic microwave background into sharp focus. - SSN, April 27, 2000.

Brace Yourself - Our Milky Way galaxy is about to collide with Andromeda galaxy. In about 2 billion years. - ABC, April 26, 2000.

1HT - New Telescope to Search for ET. - BBC, April 20, 2000.

IO Lava Flow - New close-up photographs. - CNN, April 20, 2000.

Bigger is Better - Universities are competing to have the biggest telescopes. - ABC, April 18, 2000.

Most Distant Object Ever Observed - 26 Billion Light-Years Away. - ABC, April 14, 2000.

NASA Starts New field in Astrobiology - 600 scientists show up for Astrobiology Science Conference. - CNN, April 13, 2000.

Pulsing Light in the Big Dipper - May be a new black hole. - MSNBC, April 10, 2000.

40 Years of Looking for ET - The search continues. - BBC, April 8, 2000.

Super Aurora Display - Did you see it?- CNN, April 7, 2000.

Is This the End of the World? - Some look to the planets. - ABC, April 6, 2000.

May Skies

May 04 - New Moon
May 10 - First Quarter
May 18 - Full Moon
May 26 - Last Quarter

May's Meteor Showers

Eta Aquarids
April 21-May 12
Maximum May 5

Skywatching Center - Current Month's Skies.

Astronomy Magazine - The Sky Show in May 2000.

Sky & Telescope - May 2000 Skies.

What's Up
by Steve Coe


The center of our galaxy is within its borders. The nucleus of a galaxy is a very active place in the Universe and could be the source of quasars. Research in this area is very fascinating and could answer many questions about the fate of all matter. This constellation contains many deep-sky marvels, including 15 Messier objects, more than any other constellation. I can only BEGIN to explore the wonders of Sagittarius in this column.

M8 - The Lagoon Nebula gets it's name from a dark rift that nearly bisects this gaseous nebula. It is visible to the naked eye from a sight with a dark Southern sky; my 10x50 binoculars show the glowing gas and star cluster (NGC-6530). The 17.5" scope just barely takes in the entire scene at 60x. The bright nebulosity that can be seen in any telescope is surrounded by a dimmer nebulosity that I can just pick out in my scope. M8 is about 5,000 light years away and 50 light years across.

M20 - The Trifid Nebula, named for the forked shape of a dark lane that divides it into three parts. John Herschel probably gave that name to this combination reflection and emission nebula. A multiple star, HN20, is near the intersection of the rifts. This is one of my favorite objects in the sky. The dark rifts can be seen in an 8" telescope. The 17.5" shows both the red and the blue sections (not in color, unfortunately). Modern research shows that the Lagoon and Trifid Nebulae may be part of the same gaseous cloud.

M24 - There has been much confusion about what is M-24. The whole thing can be cleared up by looking at Charles Messier's original description, "A large nebulosity in which there are many stars of different magnitudes...diameter is 1 degree 30 minutes". There is a small cluster that has been mistaken for M-24. I enjoy looking around in this star cloud with my telescope. Thanks to Jerry Maurer, I have a new eyepiece for the 17.5". It is a very wide angle, low power eyepiece that does a great job. This new piece of glass is magnificent on the Small Sagittarius Star Cloud (another name for M-24. There are many beautiful chains of stars and dark nebula among a gorgeous background os stars. I LOVE IT!

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To get your Free Email account use the Free Email box located at the top right column on this ezine.

Product Review

A Radical New View of Life's Frequency in the Universe

"While it is widely believed that complex life is common, even widespread, throughout the billions of stars and galaxies of our Universe, astrobiologists Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee argue that advanced life may, in fact, be very rare, perhaps even unique." "Ward and Brownlee question underlying assumptions and take us on a search for life that reaches from the volcanic hot springs deep on our ocean floors to the frosty face of Europa, Jupiter's icy moon. In the process, we learn that, while microbial life may well be more prevalent throughout the Universe than previously believed, the conditions necessary for the evolution and survival of higher life - and here the authors consider everything from DNA to plate tectonics to the role of our Moon - are so complex and precarious that they are unlikely to arise in many other places, if at all."--BOOK JACKET.

If you have an astronomy related article you would like to have published, email it to Astronomy Digest.

Helpful Hint
By Stuart Lolly

Ever try to point out a constellation to a fellow sky enthusiast. It can be a difficult thing to do. Next time try this little trick. Take a three ring binder. The type with a soft flexible plastic blue or black cover. Cut off the front cover. Take a Mag flashlight. The type that uses three D batteries. Take the plastic cover and wrap it into a cone around the front end of the flashlight. The end that is away from the flashlight should taper in a little. Once you get the cylinder the way you want it, take duct tape and wrap the cylinder. Use a lot of duct tape so the plastic cover and duct tape form a structure for the cylinder. When you point the flashlight at a star you should now have a beam of light that points to the star. You should now be able to point out constellations.

Warning. Only do this away from other astronomers. Make sure that know one is doing astrophotography. It takes 20 minutes for you to get your night vision. This light will disrupt your night vision and anyone's night vision who is around you. This flashlight makes an excellent teaching tool. Just be courteous when using it.

Clear Skies

auction Frenzy

A New Cosmology
By John Bradley

In 1929, Edwin Hubble put forth the proposition that every thing in the universe is moving away from every other thing; what is now referred to as the Expanding Universe theory. This theory is based on the observation that light received from distant objects demonstrates a detectable spectral red shift (similar to the change in pitch of a siren that is moving away from a listener). This, and other observations (in particular, a constant background radiation) led to the Big Bang Theory of the origin of the Universe. In a nutshell, this theory has it that at some point in the past all the material/energy in the Universe existed as a single, super dense mass wherein even atomic structure could not exist. How long this mass existed prior to the Big Bang is beyond our keen; as time is an expression of the difference between events, and this was the first event. Then, for some unknown reason this mass exploded. The intense radiation of the explosion rapidly coalesced into a soup of proto-matter (sub-atomic particles; photons, quarks, neutrinos, muons, etc.) and residual radiation as it moved away from the Point of Origin (PO) in an ever expanding sphere. Some of this soup further condensed into matter of the basic level; protons, neutrons, electrons. Some of these particles further combined to form the most basic element- Hydrogen. Within this still expanding sphere the atoms of hydrogen started to clump together as a result of local distortions of Space/Time commonly referred to as gravity. These clouds of hydrogen further condensed until the density was sufficient to ignite the fire of nuclear fusion and give birth to the first stars.

These first stars exhausted their fuel eons ago, but in the process of fusion created the heavier elements. As the stars passed through their life cycles, some were torn asunder in their death throes, scattering the heavier elements through out the soup that is still expanding away from the Point of Origin. Many, many stars have come into being and passed away since the Big Bang and the levels of the heavier elements continued to rise. The levels of heavier elements continue to increase even today and will continue as long as stars produce energy by fusion.

The model commonly posed to help envision this arrangement is of an expanding balloon. As the balloon expands, each point on the surface of the balloon moves away from all other points on the surface of the balloon. As the balloon expands, points close to each other separate, and the greater the separation between two points the faster the separation widens.

Full Story


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The Story of

The Bear Driver

This story comes from ancient Greek Mythology. Callisto (Ursa Major) and Arcturus (Ursa Minor) left earth and were placed into orbit in the northern skies by Jupiter. The gods needed someone to guide the two bears to keep them circling the Pole Star. Bootes was chosen for this duty. His task was to make sure that the mother and son bears did not leave their orbits and wonder off into space. The gods needed the bear stars. Constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor were used by captains at sea to navigate. Bootes grabbed the leashes for to his two hunting dogs in one hand, and a lance to prod the bears in the other hand. He began tracking the two bears. Bootes still herds Callisto and Arcas, keeping them circling the Pole Star in the North.

Photograph was provided by Naoyuki Kurita. You can see more of his astrophotographs at Stellar Scenes web site.

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