AstroBlog Follow Friday & Weekly Stumbles For 2012-05-11

This week I recommend to follow @sky_watching for news from an amateur blog featuring Astronomy and Astrophotography articles and images. For more Twitter follow suggestions see our astronomy list @TheAstroBlog/astronomy

Weekly Stumbles:

Giant Alien Planet May Have Split into 2 Earth-Size WorldsGiant Alien Planet May Have Split into 2 Earth-Size Worlds
A massive alien planet that may have been ripped into Earth-size chunks by its dying parent star is offering a unique glimpse into the evolution of other worlds and their stars, scientists say. The planet’s two remaining pieces, which researchers tentatively identified as planet-size objects just slightly smaller than Earth, were possibly created when their parent body spiraled inward too close to the bloated red giant star KIC 05807616.

Old Star, New Trick: Astronomers Have Detected Arsenic and Selenium in Ancient Star for First TimeOld Star, New Trick: Astronomers Have Detected Arsenic and Selenium in Ancient Star for First Time
The Big Bang produced lots of hydrogen and helium and a smidgen of lithium. All heavier elements found on the periodic table have been produced by stars over the last 13.7 billion years. Astronomers analyze starlight to determine the chemical makeup of stars, the origin of the elements, the ages of stars, and the evolution of galaxies and the universe.

Record-Breaking Radio Waves Discovered from Ultra-Cool StarRecord-Breaking Radio Waves Discovered from Ultra-Cool Star
Penn State University astronomers using the world’s largest radio telescope, at Arecibo, Puerto Rico, have discovered flaring radio emissions from an ultra-cool star, not much warmer than the planet Jupiter, shattering the previous record for the lowest stellar temperature at which radio waves were detected. The team from Penn State, led by Alex Wolszczan has been using the giant 305-m telescope to look for radio signals from a class of objects known as brown dwarfs.

Remarkable Outburst Seen from Old Black HoleRemarkable Outburst Seen from Old Black Hole
An extraordinary outburst produced by a black hole in a nearby galaxy has provided direct evidence for a population of old, volatile stellar black holes. The discovery, made by astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, provides new insight into the nature of a mysterious class of black holes that can produce as much energy in X-rays as a million suns radiate at all wavelengths. Researchers used Chandra to discover a new ultraluminous X-ray source, or ULX.

Rogue Stars Ejected from the Galaxy Are Found in Intergalactic SpaceRogue Stars Ejected from the Galaxy Are Found in Intergalactic Space
It’s very difficult to kick a star out of the galaxy. In fact, the primary mechanism that astronomers have come up with that can give a star the two-million-plus mile-per-hour kick it takes requires a close encounter with the supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s core. So far astronomers have found 16 of these “hypervelocity” stars. Although they are traveling fast enough to eventually escape the galaxy’s gravitational grasp, they have been discovered while they are still inside the galaxy.

Mars Rover Roadtrip: Death Valley Stands In for Red Planet This WeekMars Rover Roadtrip: Death Valley Stands In for Red Planet This Week
The chief scientist for NASA’s newest Mars rover mission is heading to Death Valley today (April 30), and is going along for the ride. Caltech’s John Grotzinger, project scientist for NASA’s huge Curiosity rover, is leading a handful of journalists on a two-day trip to the famous patch of California desert, whose geology and vistas are remarkably Mars-like in some places.

Under 'Dark Halo' Old Galaxies Have Many More StarsUnder ‘Dark Halo’ Old Galaxies Have Many More Stars
Some of the oldest galaxies in the Universe have three times more stellar mass, and so many more stars, than all current models of galaxy evolution predict. The finding comes from the Atlas3D international team, led by an Oxford University scientist, who found a way to remove the ‘halo’ of dark matter that has clouded previous calculations.The team’s analysis means that all current models, which assumed for decades that the light we observe from a galaxy can be used to infer its stellar mass, will have to be revised.

Venus to Appear in Once-In-A-Lifetime EventVenus to Appear in Once-In-A-Lifetime Event
On 5 and 6 June this year, millions of people around the world will be able to see Venus pass across the face of the Sun in what will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It will take Venus about six hours to complete its transit, appearing as a small black dot on the Sun’s surface, in an event that will not happen again until 2117. In this month’s Physics World, Jay M Pasachoff, an astronomer at Williams College, Massachusetts, explores the science behind Venus’s transit and gives an account of its fascinating history.

Faster-Ticking Clock Indicates Early Solar System May Have Evolved Faster Than We ThoughtFaster-Ticking Clock Indicates Early Solar System May Have Evolved Faster Than We Thought
Our solar system is four and a half billion years old, but its formation may have occurred over a shorter period of time than we previously thought, says an international team of researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and universities and laboratories in the US and Japan. Establishing chronologies of past events or determining ages of objects require having clocks that tick at different paces, according to how far back one looks.

SETI Telescope to Help US Air Force Track Space JunkSETI Telescope to Help US Air Force Track Space Junk
A privately funded search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) has pulled in its antenna horns a tad to help the U.S. Air Force gauge human-made space junk circling Earth. The United States Air Force Space Command is on the lookout to improve its Space Surveillance Network, a global setup of radar and optical sensors that detect and track orbiting space junk and satellites. According to a deal announced April 13, the non-profit research institute SRI International is the new manager of the Hat Creek Radio Observatory in Northern California.

Black Hole Caught Red-Handed in a Stellar HomicideBlack Hole Caught Red-Handed in a Stellar Homicide
Astronomers have gathered the most direct evidence yet of a supermassive black hole shredding a star that wandered too close. NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer, a space-based observatory, and the Pan-STARRS1 telescope on the summit of Haleakala in Hawaii were among the first to help identify the stellar remains. Supermassive black holes, weighing millions to billions times more than the Sun, lurk in the centers of most galaxies.

Sifting Through Dust Near Orion's BeltSifting Through Dust Near Orion’s Belt
A new image of the region surrounding the reflection nebula Messier 78, just to the north of Orion’s Belt, shows clouds of cosmic dust threaded through the nebula like a string of pearls. The observations, made with the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope, use the heat glow of interstellar dust grains to show astronomers where new stars are being formed. Dust may sound boring and uninteresting — the surface grime that hides the beauty of an object.

Lightning Signature Could Help Reveal the Solar System's OriginsLightning Signature Could Help Reveal the Solar System’s Origins
Every second, lightning flashes some 50 times on Earth. Together these discharges coalesce and get stronger, creating electromagnetic waves circling around Earth, to create a beating pulse between the ground and the lower ionosphere, about 60 miles up in the atmosphere. This electromagnetic signature, known as Schumann Resonance, had only been observed from Earth’s surface until, in 2011, scientists discovered they could also detect it using NASA’s Vector Electric Field Instrument (VEFI) aboard the U.S. Air Force’s Communications/Navigation Outage Forecast System (C/NOFS) satellite.

Space Station Crew Excited for 1st Private Spaceship VisitSpace Station Crew Excited for 1st Private Spaceship Visit
The three astronauts living on the International Space Station are ready to usher in a new era at their orbiting home: the first arrival of a privately built spacecraft. The Hawthorne, Calif.-based commercial spaceflight company Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, is preparing to launch its Dragon capsule toward the station May 7 on an unmanned mission to deliver supplies and demonstrate its own abilities.

Mars: Evidence of Water Flows at Ancient Impact Crater EndeavourMars: Evidence of Water Flows at Ancient Impact Crater Endeavour
Evidence of ancient water at a Martian crater is the latest in a long series of discoveries by a surprisingly long-lived Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, according to a paper published in the May 4 edition of the journal Science entitled, “Ancient Impact and Aqueous Processes at Endeavour Crater, Mars.” The latest discovery was made at the rim of the Endeavour Crater, a large ancient impact crater on Mars measuring 14 miles in diameter.

Four White Dwarf Stars Caught in the Act of Consuming 'Earth-Like' ExoplanetsFour White Dwarf Stars Caught in the Act of Consuming ‘Earth-Like’ Exoplanets
University of Warwick astrophysicists have pinpointed four white dwarfs surrounded by dust from shattered planetary bodies which once bore striking similarities to the composition of Earth. Using the Hubble Space Telescope for the biggest survey to date of the chemical composition of the atmospheres of white dwarf stars, the researchers found that the most frequently occurring elements in the dust around these four white dwarfs were oxygen, magnesium, iron and silicon — the four elements that make up roughly 93 per cent of Earth.

Hubble to Use Moon as Mirror to See Venus TransitHubble to Use Moon as Mirror to See Venus Transit
This mottled landscape showing the impact crater Tycho is among the most violent-looking places on our Moon. Astronomers didn’t aim NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to study Tycho, however. The image was taken in preparation to observe the transit of Venus across the Sun’s face on June 5-6. Hubble cannot look at the Sun directly, so astronomers are planning to point the telescope at Earth’s moon, using it as a mirror to capture reflected sunlight and isolate the small fraction of the light that passes through Venus’s atmosphere.

Mars Volcanic Glass May Be Hotspot for LifeMars Volcanic Glass May Be Hotspot for Life
Glass sand on Mars may point the way to chemically-rich water ideal for hosting life. The newly discovered glass dune fields, spread across almost a third of the planet, likely formed from interactions between magma and ice, or water — interactions that could create the perfect environments for microbial life. The northern lowlands spread across millions of square miles in the Red Planet’s northern hemisphere. But dark sediments in the region have puzzled planetary scientists.

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