May 28, 2020

02.04.10- Cassiopeia A: A Quark Star?

The supernova remnant Cassiopeia A holds a compelling astrophysical mystery. Located about 10,000 light years away, this strong radio source was identified in 1947 and remains the most recent galactic supernova known. One slightly odd fact revolves around Cas A; despite its having burst about 325 years ago as seen from Earth, no reliable records exist of the event. Evidence of the event may have been obscured by intervening galactic dust.  Some intriguing indications show that John Flamsteed may have misidentified the supernova as a sixth magnitude star in Cassiopeia during one of his surveys, but now Cas A may be the home of a even more bizarre denizen; a quark star. This theory stems from the fact that the remnant host appears to be only 10 km across, smaller than your average neutron star. At that density, neutrons loose all individual identity and merge into a huge ball of quark strange matter, a “strange” object indeed. First spotted by the Chandra X-Ray observatory in 1999, this “quark star” would be the first of its kind. Of course, an alternative hypothesis, put forth by Wynn Ho and Craig Heinke of Southampton University, states that we’re merely seeing a normal neutron star of about 25 km in diameter shining through a carbon atom haze. Does astrophysics need to get any weirder?

08.10.09:Enhance Your Online Schooling Experience with Polldaddy.

Looking for the next big thing online? Tired of tweeting and mindless quizzes on Facebook? Let me introduce you to hidden tool to do your bidding. Trust me, today’s news post does tie in with astronomy! After all, its my soap box, right? A couple years ago, I started my quest for an online Bachelor of Science teaching degree with Western Governors’ University. One of the very first papers I wrote had me conduct a survey. Like so many before me, I disseminated the survey the “old-media” way. I built a word doc, e-mailed it to everyone in my address book, and tediously collected the data into a spread sheet. The response was very under whelming, and the process was time consuming. Most people tend to get buried in their e-mail, and if your in-box is like mine, its simply a clearing house where things get sorted, maybe occasionally read. No, I’m not going to plug the latest Iphone email app or recommend you outsource your email wading-through to Bangladesh. The new online secret I have to reveal to you is Polldaddy. Set up is simple, and within minutes you to can have a custom built, professional looking survey. Polldaddy is one of those things that I use more than I ever thought I would, both in school and in blogging. In fact, we have a running survey on our site, and its a great way to engage your audience. Recently, I had to conduct a genetics survey for school. In the olden days, this would’ve meant constructing a survey, then calling folks, a proposition that would’ve taken all day. With Polldaddy, I had a survey built and on its way to hundreds of eyeballs via Twitter, Facebook, and ye ole Email within the hour. I just had to sit back and watch the responses roll in. All answers were anonymous, so we couldn’t reveal any potentially sensitive information even if we had wanted to. (Scenario: I’m blood type O, and my Mom answers she’s blood type AB…. hey, it happened to Moses too…) In 24 hours, I had 50 responses. The report it arranged was neat, tidy, and ready for school use. In fact, a Twitter linked Polldaddy app would be a powerful tool. Just build your Poll, and it is automatically spread to your Twitter contacts, which spreads to Facebook, which spreads to…well, you get the picture. In short, Polldaddy is a cool school hack I’ve found that any starving student can appreciate. And the baseline sign up is our favorite price; free! Bloggers will also enjoy it as a way to jazz up their home page and engage their audience. Hey, its more productive than taking “Which washed up 80′s hair band singer are you” quizzes on Facebook!

Searching for Robert Burnham.

Sometimes, the quietest minds among us also have the most to share with the world.

Last month, on a warm summer’s day in August, the East Valley Astronomy Club, in connection with the Robert Burnham Jr. Memorial Fund, honored a man with the dedication of a small plaque placed on the Pluto walk at the Lowell Observatory. That man is probably the most unknown, but influential amateur astronomer of the 20th century; Robert Burnham Jr. a man that but for a singular colossal work, might have passed on into total obscurity. The book is Burnham’s Celestial Handbook, a three volume guide to the wonders of the night sky. [Read more...]