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Dark Flow Discovered Outside Observable Universe

Deep Sky
Hot gas in moving galaxy clusters (white spots) shifts the temperature of cosmic microwaves. Hundreds of distant clusters seem to be moving toward one patch of sky (purple ellipse). Credit: NASA/WMAP/A. Kashlinsky et al.
Scientists have discovered that giant clusters of galaxies are being pulled in a uniform direction apparently by gravitational forces that can't be explained by known phenomena in the observable universe.

Researchers have concluded that based on recent studies, these forces are ostensibly from outside the observable universe, not within it. Remember, the observable universe is only that part we can see. We see out to only the part within a sphere that extends to the distance coinciding with the estimated age of the universe — or approximately 13.7 billion light years. Based on the fact that the universe is expanding at an ever-faster rate, it's highly probable that there are regions beyond our ability to see. In other words, regions of space more than 13.7 billion light years distant. So distant that the earliest light that left these regions has not yet reached our corner of the universe.

Cosmologists are calling the phenomena Dark Flow. This is separate and distinct from the forces causing the acceleration of expansion in the universe, which is known as dark energy. This dark flow is causing large-scale galaxy clusters to move rapidly toward a reqion of space in between Centaurus and Vela. The speed is estimated to be on the order of 2 million mph (3.2 million kph,) and doesn't decrease with distance as far as researchers can measure.

See the original article on space.com for more information.
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Einstein's Personal Telescope Goes On Display

General News
AP Photo - An unidentified man adjusts a telescope that once belonged to Albert Einstein, at the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
The 8", 6-foot long telescope that once belonged to of Albert Einstein goes on display this week after a lengthy and expensive restoration project. In fact, a brand new telescope of the same size and focal length would cost only about 1/3 as much as the restoration.

The telescope was reportedly given to Einstein by a friend back in 1954, and has been locked in a storage shed at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem until the early 1990's when it was discovered by a computer specialist at the university. Unfortunately, the computer specialist didn't know what importance it had, and left it in the shed until 2004, when a biologist named Eshel Ophir recognized it for what it was. But only after Ophir mistook another telescope for the famous one. The connection was made after Ophir did some additional research through old archives and photos.

The entire instrument is still original, except for the eyepiece. Apparently, the telescope was not used by Einstein for his work, but was only used for pleasure.

Read the rest of the story on Yahoo News.
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Science and Children-- Online Resources for Astronomy Education for Kids

Education Outreach
The September 2008 issue of Science Class--an online companion to Science and Children, The National Science Teacher Association's (NSTA's) journal for elementary teachers--is full of resources to help teachers explore the joys of Astronomy both for themselves and then later with their students. Included in this issue is a nice collection of online resources that they have compiled that relate to Astronomy:

In the News: Astronomy
Too busy to sift through the news in search of interesting stories? Click on the link to read current news stories, collected for you by NSTA staff members, that are related to this theme.

On the Web: Astronomy
With so much on the web, it's hard to know what's really useful. In this section, you'll find web-related opportunities related to this theme.

From the S&C Archives: Astronomy
Readers tell us again and again how timeless our journal articles are. So in this section, we've compiled theme-related articles from the Science and Children archives.

Books, Books, Books: Astronomy
Tired of your textbook? Click on this link for a list of some of the elementary-level books we've found related to this theme.
We hope these are helpful you with your units on Astronomy during the coming year !

Thanks again to the NSTA for their great resources. See their web site at: http://www.nsta.org for more information.
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A Google for Satellites: Sensor Web 2.0

NASA Space Place “Google for satellites” type of web portal will allow users to request real-time data from Earth observing satellites.
“Google for satellites” type of web portal will allow users to request real-time data from Earth observing satellites.
If you could see every satellite passing overhead each day, it would look like a chaotic meteor shower in slow motion.

Hundreds of satellites now swarm over the Earth in a spherical shell of high technology. Many of these satellites gaze at the planet's surface, gathering torrents of scientific data using a dizzying array of advanced sensors — an extraordinary record of our dynamic planet.

To help people tap into this resource, NASA researchers such as Daniel Mandl are developing a “Google for satellites,” a web portal that would make requesting data from Earth-observing satellites almost as easy as typing a search into Google.

“You just click on it and it takes care of all the details for you across many sensors,” Mandl explains.

Currently, most satellites are each controlled separately from the others, each one dauntingly complex to use. But starting with NASA's Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite, part of the agency's New Millennium Program, Mandl and his team are building a prototype that stitches these satellites together into a seamless, easy-to-use network called “Sensor Web 2.0.”

The vision is to simply enter a location anywhere on Earth into the website's search field along with the desired information types — wildfire maps, vegetation types, floodwater salinity, oil spill extent — and software written by the team goes to work.

“Not only will it find the best sensor, but with proper access rights, you could actually trigger a satellite to take an image in the area of interest,” Mandl says. Within hours, the software will send messages to satellites instructing them to gather the needed data, and then download and crunch that raw data to produce easy-to-read maps.

For example, during the recent crisis in Myanmar (Burma) caused by Cyclone Nargis, an experimental gathering of data was triggered through Sensor Web 2.0 using a variety of NASA satellites including EO-1. “One thing we might wish to map is the salinity of flood waters in order to help rescue workers plan their relief efforts,” Mandl says. If the floodwater in an area was salty, aid workers would need to bring in bottled water, but if flood water was fresh, water purifiers would suffice. An early and correct decision could save lives.

Thus far, Mandl and his team have expanded Sensor Web 2.0 beyond EO-1 to include three other satellites and an unmanned aircraft. He hopes to double the number of satellites in the network every 18 months, eventually weaving the jumble of satellites circling overhead into a web of sensors with unprecedented power to observe and understand our ever-changing planet.

To learn more about the EO-1 sensor web initiatives, go to http://eo1.gsfc.nasa.gov/new/extended/sensorWeb/sensorWeb.html. Kids (and grown-ups) can get an idea of the resolution of EO-1's Hyperion Imager and how it can distinguish among species of trees—from space at http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/en/kids/eo1_1.shtml .

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
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NASA Confirms Liquid Lake on Saturn Moon

Lunar & PlanetaryJuly 30, 2008

(Source: NASA/JPL)

Titan's Ethane Lake

This artist concept shows a mirror-smooth lake on the surface of the smoggy moon Titan.
PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA scientists have concluded that at least one of the large lakes observed on Saturn's moon Titan contains liquid hydrocarbons, and have positively identified the presence of ethane. This makes Titan the only body in our solar system beyond Earth known to have liquid on its surface.

Scientists made the discovery using data from an instrument aboard the Cassini spacecraft. The instrument identified chemically different materials based on the way they absorb and reflect infrared light. Before Cassini, scientists thought Titan would have global oceans of methane, ethane and other light hydrocarbons. More than 40 close flybys of Titan by Cassini show no such global oceans exist, but hundreds of dark, lake-like features are present. Until now, it was not known whether these features were liquid or simply dark, solid material.

"This is the first observation that really pins down that Titan has a surface lake filled with liquid," said Bob Brown of the University of Arizona, Tucson. Brown is the team leader of Cassini's visual and mapping instrument. The results will be published in the July 31 issue of the journal Nature.

Ethane and several other simple hydrocarbons have been identified in Titan's atmosphere, which consists of 95 percent nitrogen, with methane making up the other fiver percent. Ethane and other hydrocarbons are products from atmospheric chemistry caused by the breakdown of methane by sunlight.

Some of the hydrocarbons react further and form fine aerosol particles. All of these things in Titan's atmosphere make detecting and identifying materials on the surface difficult, because these particles form a ubiquitous hydrocarbon haze that hinders the view. Liquid ethane was identified using a technique that removed the interference from the atmospheric hydrocarbons.

The visual and mapping instrument observed a lake, Ontario Lacus, in Titan's south polar region during a close Cassini flyby in December 2007. The lake is roughly 20,000 square kilometers (7,800 square miles) in area, slightly larger than North America's Lake Ontario.

"Detection of liquid ethane confirms a long-held idea that lakes and seas filled with methane and ethane exist on Titan," said Larry Soderblom, a Cassini interdisciplinary scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Ariz. "The fact we could detect the ethane spectral signatures of the lake even when it was so dimly illuminated, and at a slanted viewing path through Titan's atmosphere, raises expectations for exciting future lake discoveries by our instrument."

The ethane is in a liquid solution with methane, other hydrocarbons and nitrogen. At Titan's surface temperatures, approximately 300 degrees Fahrenheit below zero, these substances can exist as both liquid and gas. Titan shows overwhelming evidence of evaporation, rain, and fluid-carved channels draining into what, in this case, is a liquid hydrocarbon lake.

Earth has a hydrological cycle based on water and Titan has a cycle based on methane. Scientists ruled out the presence of water ice, ammonia, ammonia hydrate and carbon dioxide in Ontario Lacus. The observations also suggest the lake is evaporating. It is ringed by a dark beach, where the black lake merges with the bright shoreline. Cassini also observed a shelf and beach being exposed as the lake evaporates. "During the next few years, the vast array of lakes and seas on Titan's north pole mapped with Cassini's radar instrument will emerge from polar darkness into sunlight, giving the infrared instrument rich opportunities to watch for seasonal changes of Titan's lakes," Soderblom said.

More information is available at: http://www.nasa.gov/cassini, http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and http://wwwvims.lpl.arizona.edu

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer team is based at the University of Arizona.


Carolina Martinez 818-354-9382 Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. carolina.martinez@jpl.nasa.gov

Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726 NASA Headquarters, Washington dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov

Lori Stiles 520-360-0574 University of Arizona, Tucson lstiles@u.arizona.edu

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Death of a Supergiant

NASA Space Place Sequence of images shows supernova start to finish. The top left image shows the galaxy before the supernova. At top right, the bright UV flash called the shock breakout indicates a red supergiant has collapsed. At bottom left, moments later, the flash is mostly gone. As the debris expands, it heats up again and becomes brighter (bottom right). The supernova became 10 times the size of the original over the following few days, thus becoming visible to supernova hunters.
Sequence of images shows supernova start to finish. The top left image shows the galaxy before the supernova. At top right, the bright UV flash called the shock breakout indicates a red supergiant has collapsed. At bottom left, moments later, the flash is mostly gone. As the debris expands, it heats up again and becomes brighter (bottom right). The supernova became 10 times the size of the original over the following few days, thus becoming visible to supernova hunters.
By all outward appearances, the red supergiant appeared normal. But below the surface, hidden from probing eyes, its core had already collapsed into an ultra-dense neutron star, sending a shock wave racing outward from the star's center at around 50 million kilometers per hour.

The shock wave superheated the plasma in its path to almost a million degrees Kelvin, causing the star to emit high-energy ultraviolet (UV) radiation. About six hours later, the shock wave reached the star's surface, causing it to explode in a Type IIP supernova named SNLS-04D2dc.

Long before the explosion's visible light was detected by telescopes on Earth, NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) space telescope captured the earlier pulse of UV light — scientists' first glimpse of a star entering its death throes.

“This UV light has traveled through the star at the moment of its death but before it was blown apart,” explains Kevin Schawinski, the University of Oxford astrophysicist who led the observation. “So this light encodes some information about the state of the star the moment it died.”

And that's exactly why astronomers are so excited. Observing the beautiful nebula left behind by a supernova doesn't reveal much about what the star was like before it exploded; most of the evidence has been obliterated. Information encoded in these UV "pre-flashes” could offer scientists an unprecedented window into the innards of stars on the verge of exploding.

In this case, Schawinski and his colleagues calculated that just before its death, the star was 500 to 1000 times larger in diameter than our sun, confirming that the star was in fact a red supergiant. “We've been able to tell you the size of a star that died in a galaxy several billion light-years away,” Schawinski marvels.

“GALEX has played a very important role in actually seeing this for a few reasons,” Schawinski says. First, GALEX is a space telescope, so it can see far-UV light that's blocked by Earth's atmosphere.

Also, GALEX is designed to take a broad view of the sky. Its relatively small 20-inch primary mirror gives it a wide, 1.2-degree field of view, making it more likely to catch the UV flash preceding a supernova.

With these advantages, GALEX is uniquely equipped to catch a supernova before it explodes. “Just when we like to see it,” Schawinski says.

For more information, visit www.galex.caltech.edu, “Ultraviolet Gives View Inside Real 'Death Star'.” Kids can check out how to make a mobile of glittering galaxies at spaceplace.nasa.gov/en/kids/galex_make1.shtml .

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
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The Canary's Eyes

Astro Imaging
This incredibly detailed image of the Trifid Nebula helped me learn about an observatory on a mountaintop on the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands of Spain. All images in this story used by permission from Daniel Lopez.
On a recent Astronomy Picture of the Day submission, I saw an incredibly detailed image of the familiar Trifid Nebula, M-20, in Sagittarius. Details in the image were better than almost any other image I'd ever seen of this object, and I did what I frequently do....I started clicking on the links associated with this particular image. These are the words and phrases of text which we see in blue, each connected to certain types of information about the image. Some dealt with the facility which took the image, its astronomer, the imaging equipment, all sorts of varied information linked to the APOD of the day.

By clicking on these links, I learned about an observatory in a little-known corner of the world, where other images with similar fine detail are regularly produced by one of the resident astronomers, Daniel Lopez. I clicked on Mr. Lopez's name and promptly sent him an email to ask permission to use his images for this story. Within only a couple of hours, Daniel had replied to my query and had given me permission to use not only his pictures, but also other images from the Observatorio del Teide.
The IAC 80 telescope of the Observatorio del Teide. Its a 32" f / 11.3 Classical Cassegrain. Click here for a zoomable image of the IAC 80. Images used by permission.
I had discovered the Observatorio del Teide on the island of Tenerife in the Atlantic Ocean, located off the coast of northern Africa in the Spanish Canary Islands.

What incredible detail this image had. The dusty innards of the distinctive trisecting lanes show more fine resolution than most of us have ever seen. Surely, the telescope and camera that took this image must have been one of the world's larger instruments, using a mega-sized CCD camera, I thought, but I was SOOO, wrong!

I had until that time never heard of the IAC telescope (IAC being the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias). What amazed me was that this was a telescope of LESS than 1 meter in diameter! Its actually a .8m mirror, of a Cassegrain design with a focal ratio of 11.3. Translation, its a 32" f/11.3 Classical Cassegrain truss-tube OTA on a German Equatorial Mount. Simply amazing!

Click "Read More" for more technical details and more images
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Space Buoys

NASA Space PlaceBy Dr. Tony Phillips

The Space Technology 5 micro-satellites proved the feasibility of using a constellation of small spacecraft with miniature magnetometers to study Earth's magnetosphere.
Click image for larger view.
Congratulations! You're an oceanographer and you've just received a big grant to investigate the Pacific Ocean. Your task: Map the mighty Pacific's wind and waves, monitor its deep currents, and keep track of continent-sized temperature oscillations that shape weather around the world. Funds are available and you may start immediately.

Oh, there's just one problem: You've got to do this work using no more than one ocean buoy.

“That would be impossible,” says Dr. Guan Le of the Goddard Space Flight Center. “The Pacific's too big to understand by studying just one location.”

Yet, for Le and her space scientist colleagues, this was exactly what they have been expected to accomplish in their own studies of Earth's magnetosphere. The magnetosphere is an “ocean” of magnetism and plasma surrounding our planet. Its shores are defined by the outer bounds of Earth's magnetic field and it contains a bewildering mix of matter-energy waves, electrical currents and plasma oscillations spread across a volume billions of times greater than the Pacific Ocean itself.

“For many years we've struggled to understand the magnetosphere using mostly single spacecraft,” says Le. “To really make progress, we need many spacecraft spread through the magnetosphere, working together to understand the whole.”

Enter Space Technology 5.

In March 2006 NASA launched a trio of experimental satellites to see what three “buoys” could accomplish. Because they weighed only 55 lbs. apiece and measured not much larger than a birthday cake, the three ST5 “micro-satellites” fit onboard a single Pegasus rocket. Above Earth's atmosphere, the three were flung like Frisbees from the rocket's body into the magnetosphere by a revolutionary micro-satellite launcher.

Space Technology 5 is a mission of NASA's New Millennium Program, which tests innovative technologies for use on future space missions. The 90-day flight of ST5 validated several devices crucial to space buoys: miniature magnetometers, high-efficiency solar arrays, and some strange-looking but effective micro-antennas designed from principles of Darwinian evolution. Also, ST5 showed that three satellites could maneuver together as a “constellation,” spreading out to measure complex fields and currents.

“ST5 was able to measure the motion and thickness of current sheets in the magnetosphere,” says Le, the mission's project scientist at Goddard. “This could not have been done with a single spacecraft, no matter how capable.”

The ST5 mission is finished but the technology it tested will key future studies of the magnetosphere. Thanks to ST5, hopes Le, lonely buoys will soon be a thing of the past.

Learn more about ST5's miniaturized technologies at nmp.nasa.gov/st5. Kids (and grownups) can get a better understanding of the artificial evolutionary process used to design ST5's antennas at spaceplace.nasa.gov/en/kids/st5/emoticon.

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
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New Partnership with KHBS 40/29

Drew Michaels will help draw visitors to our AOAS.ORG website every time he uses one of our "Astronomy from your Backyard" topics in his weather casts. Mutual online links will help both of us, and we say a big THANKS for asking us to assist in this effort, Drew!
We were recently contacted by Drew Michaels, Chief Meteorologist of TV 40/29, about starting a collaboration concerning some way to help folks who watch Drew's nightly weather forecasts and who have then occasionally called him with questions involving astronomy. He knew that AOAS could provide his viewers answers, and so, our idea for "Astronomy from your Backyard" was born. I write up simple instructions for viewers of 40/29, or for visitors to our website to see as well, which gives some simple steps for anyone who wants to try and witness, or experience any number of different objects and/or concepts associated with astronomy. I'll try to keep it simple for those who have never considered any of our topics before. For anyone who wants to know a little more about any given topic, Drew will mention our website every time he uses one of our topics, and then visitors to our site can find a somewhat more detailed description or definition of whatever that evening's topic happens to be in the "Astronomy from your Backyard" forum section. The use of the topics in Drew's weather casts will be non-regular, but should usually be aired up to two-or-three times each month. It should be a win-win situation for us both, by getting AOAS mentioned more frequently than we've ever been mentioned before, and by helping 40/29 viewers with their questions about "those pretty little things in the night sky".

We have now posted a permanent clickable link to a smaller image of this picture on our home page, and likewise, there is now a clickable link to AOAS from the 40/29 Weather page as well, just click on our logo and voila, your on our home page. It'll be a quick and easy way to learn about threatening weather when its in the area, and have you heard about the 40/29 Interactive Radar? It gives you, the viewer, the ability to USE the radar images yourself! You can zoom in to your town, or even down to your block with street level mapping to see just what the radar is seeing in near real time with a fast internet connection. Pretty cool stuff, there!

I hope we have entered into something here that will be a long-term effort and is mutually beneficial to both AOAS as well as to 40/29. I urge everyone to click on the link located on our home page, and then be sure to visit the Interactive Radar to try it out for yourself. We also look forward to everyone who takes the opportunity to come to our site and learn just a little bit about how to find, or how to identify, or just how to sit back and watch the universe as it passes overhead every clear night. ENJOY, EVERYONE!
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Basics of Astronomy Classes start June 10 at Crawford County Adult Education Center

Education OutreachAOAS will once again offer summer Basics of Astronomy classes through the Crawford County Adult Education Center in Van Buren located at 605 Alma Blvd Circle, just south of DHS offices, on Tuesday evenings beginning June 10, 2008. The class will run six (6) weeks in length, beginning at 6pm each Tuesday 'til 8pm, and the cost will be $20 per student. Class size will be limited to 25 students. All students MUST PRE-register and have their fees paid to AOAS by June 8, 2008.

These basic classes will deal with current astronomical theories and research, but will be on a level that is easily understandable for the age group indicated. No prior knowledge of astronomy is assumed, yet the weekly classes will be detailed enough to be very interesting and helpful for anyone who enjoys the current astronomy-related news stories and magazine articles available to the general public. Observing through one or more telescopes will be offered immediately after each 2-hour class concludes outside the Van Buren classroom every night that weather allows. Additional observing will be offered to students each Saturday evening at our AOAS-owned Coleman Observatory for as long as classes are offered on the same weather dependent contingency. Observing sessions on TUESDAY evenings will run from 8:00 pm until 9:00 pm, and observing at the observatory on SATURDAY evenings will run from 8:00 pm until at least 10:00 pm every clear night.

Books are NOT required for this course. However, if you have ANY book on astronomy at home, it's fine for you to bring or use any books of this type. If students want to purchase an astronomy-related book, we recommend a book entitled “Universe”, (the small version) 64 pages, Eyewitness Books #125 for approx. $16.00, by DK Publishing. Other titles are also acceptable from DK Books, including “Astronomy”, for around $16.00, or the larger, more spectacularly detailed “Universe”, 512 pages, for about $50. All these selections are available at Books-A-Million in Ft. Smith.


AOAS members enjoy discounts. Join AOAS for the yearly rate of $40/yr, and save. Basics of Astronomy classes are ½ price to AOAS members, PLUS, AOAS members receive 20% off on all books purchased at Books-A-Million stores whether class related or not, for as long as paid membership continues.

Send your personal check or money order payments made out to:


c/o Coleman Observatory

5533 Wildwood Rd

Van Buren, AR 72956

Payments MUST be received by June 8th to register for the class. Unregistered students will not be accepted into class late. For more information, contact the instructor, Bob Moody, at: bobmoody@aoas.org or simply click on my name in blue above. We look forward to a stimulating series of classes.

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Become a card-carrying member of AOAS. Paying dues gives you several advantages over other registered users, including a subscription to the club newsletter, an AOAS.ORG e-mail address, use of club materials, including books and telescopes, and access to the Coleman Observatory facilities. On top of all that, you also qualify for a 20% discount on all books at any Books-A-Million location.

To get your membership application, click here.