4/1/16: He Drew the Sun for 40 Years, but now his Telescope is Dying

Wired_Scoles_2016Most mornings, Steve Padilla rides in an open-air elevator to the top of the 150-Foot Solar Tower at Mount Wilson Observatory, in the mountains just east of Los Angeles. When he opens the dome, sunlight beams in. Padilla aligns two mirrors in the century-old telescope, sending a reflection of the Sun toward a lens. Downstairs, a 17-inch image of the star appears on a piece of paper

Padilla catches a ride back down in the elevator and stands before the paper. It’s time to draw.

All day, Padilla will sketch sunspots, adding his drawings to an archive that stretches back to 1917—the longest consistent record of solar activity. This has been his routine for 40 years. “In a way,” he says, “you could say these drawings are a little daily work of art.”

And so, on top of this mountain, he sits like wise man of old, a knower of stars, a person apart. And also a volunteer. In recent years, Mount Wilson Observatory’s funding—and particularly the money for the 150-Foot Solar Tower—has waned. Padilla stayed after the money left, in April 2014, because this telescope, and this mountain, are his life. “I had so many years here, I didn’t know what to do if this is all over now,” he says.

Published by Wired.  See more at: http://www.wired.com/2016/04/man-whos-drawn-sun-almost-every-day-40-years/

03/31/2016: Researchers discover incredibly rare triple star system

Red_Orbit_2016_Triple_SystemAccording to a newly-published study, a rare triple-star system containing a planet in a stable orbit was recently discovered by researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Published in the Astronomical Journal, the study detailed the discovery of distant world, known as KELT-4Ab.

While the planet orbits one star in the system, that star is circled by a pair of stars. Standing on the surface of the KELT-4Ab, the two orbiting stars would appear as bright as the full moon does in our sky.In addition to describing an exotic solar system, the study also provides new details on the evolution of a “hot Jupiter,” or a gas giant that orbits close to its host star.

KELT-4Ab, which is approximately the same size as Jupiter, orbits KELT-A once every three days. The nearby stars KELT-B and KELT-C orbit each other once every three decades, and jointly they travel around KELT-A and its planet about every 4,000 years.

Published by Red Orbit.  See more at: http://www.redorbit.com/news/space/1113413408/rare-three-star-system-033116/#DWllBAx5tDU7c3cA.99

03/30/2016: The extremely hot heart of quasar 3C273

RadioAstron_Quasar_xrayScientists combined telescopes on Earth and in space to learn that this famous quasar has a core temperature hotter than 10 trillion degrees! That’s much hotter than formerly thought possible.

By combining signals recorded from radio antennas on Earth and in space – effectively creating a telescope of almost 8-Earth-diameters in size – scientists have, for the first time, gotten a look at fine structure in the radio-emitting regions of quasar 3C273, which was the first quasar known and is still one of the brightest quasars known. The result has been startling, violating a theoretical upper temperature limit. Yuri Kovalev of the Lebedev Physical Institute in Moscow, Russia, commented:

We measure the effective temperature of the quasar core to be hotter than 10 trillion degrees!

This result is very challenging to explain with our current understanding of how relativistic jets of quasars radiate.

Aired on Earth & Sky.  See more at: http://earthsky.org/space/the-extremely-hot-heart-of-quasar-3c273

3/29/16: Earth-space telescope system produces hot surprise

RadioAstron - v2The astronomers’ achievement produced a pair of scientific surprises that promise to advance the understanding of quasars, supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies.

Astronomers using an orbiting radio telescope in conjunction with four ground-based radio telescopes have achieved the highest resolution, or ability to discern fine detail, of any astronomical observation ever made. Their achievement produced a pair of scientific surprises that promise to advance the understanding of quasars, supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies.

The scientists combined the Russian RadioAstron satellite with the ground-based telescopes to produce a virtual radio telescope more than 100,000 miles across. They pointed this system at a quasar called 3C 273, more than 2 billion light-years from Earth. Quasars like 3C 273 propel huge jets of material outward at speeds nearly that of light. These powerful jets emit radio waves.

Published by Astronomy Magazine.  See more at: http://www.astronomy.com/news/2016/03/earth-space-telescope-system-produces-hot-surprise

03/26/2016: Reflections: Looking for peace and quiet? Go to West Virginia

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I was sitting at my favorite corner table, enjoying a cup of coffee and a plate of bacon and eggs. While scanning the front page of the Record-Eagle, I noticed a man sitting alone at a table facing me. He was looking my way and talking but I couldn’t make out what he was saying. I wondered why he would be talking to me, since I had never seen him before.

As it turned out, he had a hands-free cellphone and was carrying on a conversation with someone else. The dialog continued throughout his meal. After paying the bill he took his conversation into the parking lot and probably on down the highway. I wonder if he remembered what he had eaten for breakfast. Have we become obsessed with always being electronically in touch?

Published by The Traverse City Record Eagle.  See more at: http://www.record-eagle.com/news/local_news/reflections-looking-for-peace-and-quiet-go-to-west-virginia/article_59d04495-e71f-5d8c-b2d5-2337a1aa6454.html