November 23, 2014

16.02.11: The Tyche Files.

The realm of the outer solar system; here be hypothetical worlds? (Credit: NASA).

Something kept floating around our astro-radar yesterday as we busily wrote about comet flybys, launches, and wacky space weather. Titles like “New Solar System Planet!” and “Solar Companion Found!” kept making a spurious appearance from unverified sources. [Read more...]

31.03.10- S.E.T.I. Turns 10!

The Uber-Cool SETI@Home screen-saver!

The Uber-Cool SETI@Home screen-saver!

 

   Tired of waiting for E.T. to call? Late last year, the distributed computing program that started it all, http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/, turned ten. One of the most scientifically ambitious programs run before bedtime, SETI@Home showed us that computers could do more than display flying toasters in their spare time.  In fact, word of the first SETI@Home way back in ’99 initially convinced us here at Astroguyz that we probably should get a home computer, and we’ve been hooked ever since. Sure, the Vulcan home world has yet to present itself, but this is one of those experiments that even one confirmed positive hit would have some amazing implications!

In 2001, SETI@Home essentially became the world’s largest collective super-computer. But what you may not realize are the changes that have been made, and the ones that are in store. In 2006, a multi-beam sky survey was introduced. Then in 2007, the Astropulse Survey was launched. Further upgrades to come are a Near-Time Persistency Checker, searches beyond the current 2.5MHz Band, and new methods of limiting terrestrial radio interference, as well as a means for users to share new data. What we’d also like to see is a dedicated SETI@Home platform, perhaps via the Allen Telescope Array. SETI currently piggybacks off of Arecibo data, which itself spends most of its time staring at extra-galactic sources, not prime alien country. Anyway, if you haven’t, now’s the time to donate that idle CPU time for what could be the discovery of this or any other century!

Astro-Challenge:Spy a White Dwarf!

Can you see Vulcan? (Photo by Author).

Can you see Vulcan? (Photo by Author).

This week, I’m going to introduce you to a unique but fascinating multiple star system, and one that’s definitely worth seeking out as it’s a good study in comparative stellar evolution; Omicron Eridani. This one will require a telescope of about 4′ aperture or greater, a go-to scope or a good finder chart, and patience. But the quarry is worth it; for Omicron Eridanus B is a white dwarf, the most easily observable in the sky, paired with C, a red dwarf star! Omicron Eridani is a triple star system, about 16.5 light years distant. The primary star, a K type main sequence star, is visible to the naked eye at a magnitude of about +4.5. Known to the Arabs as Al Keid (“the Egg”), [Read more...]

A Voyage to the Inner-Most Planet

Mercury.

Mercury Revealed. (Credit: NASA/JPL).

The Solar System has just become a little more known. This year our view of Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, has changed as the Messenger spacecraft completes its first flyby of the little known world. Late in the afternoon last week, I braved the January cold to peer west. There, in the dusk twilight, was a single shining point below the crescent Moon. [Read more...]