Jika anda ternampak muka saya tengah TT (Teh Tarik) ni, bermakna anda telah selamat mengharungi 3 hari bumi tak jadi bergelap, dan tarikh 21hb Dis yang penuh tragis dan huru-hara (kononlah).
Nak ceritanya, Falak Online telah pun berpindah rumah. Bermula sekarang silalah kemaskini link ke WWW.FALAKONLINE.NET , tak perlulah letak apa-apa selepas tu, kerana ia akan redirect ke muka hadapan BARU yang sepatutnya.
Laman lama (yang anda lihat sekarang ni), InsyaAllah akan kekal untuk beberapa bulan mendatang. Ia akan menyenaraikan KESEMUA artikel lama saya di FO, bagi rujukan anda semua. Maka, kalau anda nak masih nak marah-marah kat saya berkenaan artikel "3 hari bergelap tu" , masih boleh berbuat demikian, saya terima dengan hati terbuka! :-)
Apa pun, InsyaAllah 2013 mendatang akan terdapat beberapa pembaharuan yang saya dan rakan-rakan Personaliti Astronomi lain usahakan, demi kemajuan bidang Astronomi di Malaysia.
Jom dan Selamat Datang Ke Tahun Baru 2013.
Jemput masuk ---> WWW.FALAKONLINE.NET
NASA’s NuSTAR mission has detected an unexpected haze of high-energy X-rays in our galaxy’s center, perhaps the signal of a mass stellar graveyard.
Our galaxy’s center is a crowded place. Neighboring stars are, on average, separated by only 1,000 times the Earth-Sun distance — compare that with the distance between the Sun and its nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri, which is more like 266,000 times the Earth-Sun distance. In the Milky Way’s center, alien night skies might have a million stars brighter than Sirius. To that sardine-packed mix, add supernova remnants, pulsar winds, and hot filaments of gas.
But there’s more than meets the eye in this crowded locale. Kerstin Perez (Columbia University and Haverford College) and colleagues report in the April 30th Nature a new set of observations from NASA’s NuSTAR X-ray telescope that brings that point home. The astronomers found unexpected, high-energy X-rays within the central 10 light-years or so of the center, and they don’t know what’s producing them.
The team had NuSTAR zero in on the central 40 light-years of our galaxy for three days’ worth of exposure time over a period of four months. The image the telescope beamed back shows a blotch of high-energy emission (between 20,000 and 40,000 electron volts) concentrated on the galaxy’s center and extended along the galactic plane.
In and of themselves, X-rays from the galactic center aren’t unusual. But the X-rays NuSTAR detects don’t seem to be associated with structures already known to exist. For example, a supernova remnant named Sgr A East emits low-energy X-rays but not high-energy X-rays. The high-energy blotch doesn’t correlate with structures seen in radio images either, such as the dust and gas clouds of Sgr A West that are falling toward the supermassive black hole.
Instead, Perez and her colleagues propose that thousands of stellar corpses could be responsible for the high-energy X-rays: massive (and still-growing) white dwarfs, spun-up pulsars, or black holes or neutrons stars feeding on low-mass companion stars.
“I think the authors are right to emphasize a compact object origin,” says Geoffrey Bower (Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Taiwan). “But it appears difficult to identify the exact nature of the compact objects.”White Dwarfs, Black Holes, and Pulsars, Oh My . . .
But each of the proposed explanations has its own set of challenges. Take white dwarfs: between 1,000 and 10,000 of these dead stars, whose gravity has crushed them to the size of Earth, could produce high-energy X-rays if they’re gobbling down gas from companion stars. But to produce the X-ray signal NuSTAR detects, these white dwarfs would have to have nearly the mass of the Sun, almost twice the heft of a typical white dwarf in the galactic center.
Not only that, but astronomers predict there should be hardly any of these white dwarf systems in the galactic center. Then again, they base that idea on extrapolations using the Sun’s neighborhood, and the galaxy’s center is a vastly different environment, with stellar populations and evolution that might be quite different.
Another possibility is neutron stars, whose higher mass and stronger gravity has crushed them further to the size of a city, or even stellar-mass black holes. If these objects siphon enough material off companion stars, they can grow accretion disks flashing with high-energy X-rays.
But again, the authors are forced to hedge this explanation with caveats. Long-term X-ray monitoring has already found all (or almost all) the sources that have emitted low-energy X-ray bursts over the past decade in the galaxy’s center. So any additional neutron stars or black holes must be rare objects that are very faint in low-energy X-rays.
Perhaps the best and most enticing explanation is millisecond pulsars, neutron stars that flash energetic beams in our direction as they spin like blindingly quick lighthouses. Many of these "recycled pulsars" probably spun up after eating a particularly generous meal from a companion star.
“I am most compelled by the possibility that this NuSTAR result points to a population of millisecond pulsars or quiescent black hole low-mass X-ray binaries,” says Daryl Haggard (Amherst College).
Astronomers expect to see lots of millisecond pulsars in the galactic center, but so far none has been spotted — that’s right, zero. Still, so many massive (and often binary) stars die there that the existence of millisecond pulsar descendants seems inevitable. The presence of a big, heretofore-unseen population of millisecond pulsars might even help explain a mysterious excess of gamma rays seen from the galactic center.
Millisecond pulsars have so far avoided detection because the gas and dust between the galactic center and us smears out their pulsing radio signal. Future radio arrays, such as the Square Kilometer Array or a further-upgraded version of the Very Large Array, stand a chance at spotting the signal. If the X-rays really are from these whirling dead stars, NuSTAR has beaten radio telescopes to the punch.
As appealing as it is, this explanation has its challenges, too. Millisecond pulsars also emit low-energy X-rays, thermal emission from the neutron star's hot surface, so if there were a large number of them, other X-ray telescopes such as NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory should have spotted them. If the population does indeed exist, astronomers will have to completely rethink previous analyses.
Debate continues on the nature of the high-energy X-rays in the galaxy’s center, but for now, astronomers are right where they want to be: with fascinating new data and tantalizing possibilities.
For in-depth coverage of the hottest astronomy topics, subscribe to Sky & Telescope magazine.
Asociacion Eta CarinaeADDRESS
The three brightest planets — Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn — grace our evening skies this month. Mercury makes an appearance too!
This month features a veritable planet parade in the evening sky. Venus, Mercury, and Saturn all put in what are in some ways their best appearances of the year. And Jupiter, far to Venus’s upper left, closes the gap between them dramatically over the course of the month.
It's a special month for Saturn, because it reaches opposition on May 22nd. This means it's opposite the Sun in the sky, rising at sunset and cruising overhead all night until setting near sunrise. Look for it climbing low in the southeast as darkness deepens, poking at one of the eyes of Scorpius.
Meanwhile, the Big Dipper looms overhead as darkness falls. Its curved handle is bent upward, and its four-sided bowl is apparently overturned — as if dumping soup into some imaginary pot.
There's lots more to see by eye in the May evening sky. To get a personally guided your, download our 7½-minute-long stargazing podcast below.
There's no better guide to what's going on in nighttime sky than the May issue of Sky & Telescope magazine.
After four years at Mercury, NASA's Messenger orbiter has finished its remarkable mission and crashed into the planet.
We've known for months that NASA's Messenger spacecraft was operating on borrowed time. Its fuel tanks nearly empty after a decade of interplanetary maneuvering, the spacecraft could only fire its engine so many times before the pull of Mercury's gravity — coupled with the Sun's perturbing pull — forced it to crash into the planet. The end came yesterday at 19:26 Universal Time (3:26 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time).
Actually, missions engineers can only assume that the spacecraft crashed as predicted because the impact occurred on the planet's unseen side. Presumably it skimmed over the large crater Shakespeare before striking an unnamed ridge located at 54.5° north, 210.1° east.
A few minutes later, when the spacecraft would have emerged from behind the planet and been in view from Earth, no radio signal was received. The mood in the mission control center at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory was "both celebratory and somber" as team members watched the final transmissions arrive after 4,105 orbits around Mercury.
Launched in August 2004, Messenger first became acquainted with Mercury during three close flybys in 2008–09. (The spacecraft's name, by the way, is a contraction for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging.) When Messenger finally settled around the planet for keeps, on March 18, 2011 (Universal Time), it assumed an elliptical orbit that ranged in altitude from 15,000 km (9,300 miles) to as close as 200 km (120 miles) every 12 hours.
The nominal mission was to be only a year, but with the spacecraft still healthy NASA managers opted to continue the mission and, in March 2014, to lower the periapse (close point) of each orbit to less than 50 km. These mission extensions, particularly moving the spacecraft closer in, paid big dividends in terms of surface photography and geochemical assays.
But it also meant more frequent thruster firings to keep the spacecraft from swooping too low and striking Mercury prematurely. Engineers milked every last drop propellant — and then even expelled the fuel tanks' helium pressurant — to maneuver the craft in the mission's final weeks.
During a news briefing on April 16th, project scientist Sean Solomon ran through his "top 10" list of scientific results. Rather than detail those here, I invite you to view that list (along with helpful animations) on the mission's website. There you'll also find the mission's top 10 technological innovations, as presented by Daniel O’Shaughnessy (the mission's systems engineer) and Helene Winters (project manager).Why is Mercury So Dark?
One of the mission's most unexpected results is that the rocks and dust on Mercury's surface contain very little iron. It's baffling, actually, because this planet has a huge, iron-dominated core that takes up three-fourths of the planet's diameter and half its volume. So geochemists expected that the planet's surface would contain an abundance of iron-rich minerals.
This finding, curious in itself, has a bearing on another Mercurian mystery. The planet's surface is very dark, reflecting only about 7% of the sunlight striking it. That's even darker than the Moon. Researchers have long known that the lunar surface becomes less reflective over time because tiny meteorites pepper the lunar dust, momentarily flash-melting its iron-bearing silicate minerals and creating submicroscopic bits of metallic iron. These iron particles are what make the Moon appear dark. But given Mercury's iron-poor surface, some other process must be involved.
In the March 31st issue of Nature Geoscience, a trio of researchers led by Megan Bruck Syal (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) offer a reasonable alternative. "One thing that hadn’t been considered was that Mercury gets dumped on by a lot of material derived from comets, Syal notes in a press release from Brown University.
She and her colleagues first estimated that the infall of comets and cometary dust over the past 200 million years could have infused the top layer of Mercurian dirt with 3% to 6% carbon. Then they conducted impact simulations at the NASA Ames Vertical Gun Range to confirm that the comet-borne carbon would actually stick around, in the form of tiny particle clusters called agglutinates.
Moreover, the resulting surface would have a very bland spectrum, exactly what Messenger found. "We show that carbon acts like a stealth darkening agent," explains team member Peter Schultz (Brown University). "From the standpoint of spectral analysis, it’s like an invisible paint" that has been building up on Mercury's surface for billions of years.Messenger's Name Game
As the Messenger mission wound down, its team joined with the Carnegie Institution for Science and the International Astronomical Union to hold a crater-naming contest. The submission rules were strict — for example, the nominees must have been recognized as an A-lister for at least 50 years and must have died in 2011 or earlier. Special emphasis was accorded nations and cultural groups who've been under-represented on other planetary bodies.
The contest drew more than 3,600 entries. The five winners, announced on April 29th, are:
Messenger's mission is over, but the next step in our exploration of the innermost planet is taking shape at the European Space Research and Technology Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. That's where European Space Agency engineers are assembling a spacecraft called BepiColombo. You've likely never heard of this mission, but it's a big deal for the European Space Agency. Plans call for a launch in 2017 and arrival at Mercury in 2024.
BepiColombo will actually consist of two orbiters: one to study Mercury itself and the other to probe the planet's unusual magnetosphere. (Messenger discovered that Mercury's magnetic field, while only about 1% the strength of Earth's, is offset from the core by about 500 km, or 20% of the planet's radius, in direction of its north pole.)
ESA is building one half, the Mercury Planetary Orbiter, and Japan is supplying the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter. The latter arrived at ESTEC just this week, where it was unboxed and checked out. In time they'll both be mated to a service vehicle called the Mercury Transfer Module, now finished, that will handle the navigation and propulsion duties en route to Mercury.
In case you're wondering, BepiColombo honors Italian researcher Giuseppe "Bepi" Colombo (1920–84). He first deduced that Mercury has a spin-orbit resonance, showing that the planet rotates three times for every two orbits it completes around the Sun. Colombo also realized that NASA's Mariner 10 spacecraft could be placed in a heliocentric orbit that synched with Mercury's — a discovery that allowed Mariner 10 to make three flybys of the innermost planet in 1974–75.
Thanks to Messenger's extensive reconnaissance, you can now explore this mysterious planet yourself with Sky & Telescope's exclusive Mercury globe.
Here's your chance to name an exoplanet, in a process recognized and officiated by the International Astronomical Union. Register your astronomy club or organization by June 1st!
Astronomers have discovered thousands of exoplanets, but their names, such as HD104985 b, are often in an unfriendly telephone number format. Others, such as 51 Pegasi b, are slightly better, but still not appealing to the general public, nor enticing to the imagination.
For millennia, every civilization across the globe has given names to stars. In ancient days, only those stars that could be seen by the naked eye were named, but after the invention of telescope, the number of known stars increased exponentially. Astronomers developed schemes to catalog them and provide a scientific destination. Take 55 Cancri, the 55th star in the constellation Cancer (the Crab), ordered from west to east using the Flamsteed designation. Using the simpler Bayer designation gives another star the name Epsilon Eridani, because it’s the 5th brightest star (and epsilon is the 5th letter in the Greek alphabet) in the constellation Eridanus (the River).
The International Astronomical Union (IAU) was founded in 1919, and since then has served as the internationally recognized authority for assigning names to celestial bodies such as planets, comets, asteroids. For a long time, those decisions rested on the objects’ discoverers and on the IAU nomenclature committees.
Historically, IAU has not dealt with common names, only with official designations. But now, in response to the public’s increased interest in being part of astronomical discoveries, the IAU is organizing a worldwide contest: “NameExoWorlds” will give popular names to 20 exoplanet systems, including 32 exoplanets along with their host stars.
Here are the 20 systems up for naming:Host Star (catalog name) Planet designation Planet Mass (Jupiter masses) Planet Mass (Earth masses) Period (days) Semi-major Axis (a.u.) Discovery (year) Constellation (Greek) Host star visible mag. 1 exoplanet (5 systems) Ain (epsilon Tauri) epsilon Tauri b 7.6 2415.5 594.9 1.93 2007 Taurus 3.5 Edasich (iota Draconis) iota Draconis b 8.82 2803.3 510.7 1.275 2002 Draco 3.3 Errai (gamma Cephei) gamma Cephei b 1.85 588 903.3 2.05 2003 Cepheus 3.2 Fomalhaut (alpha Piscis Austrini) Fomalhaut b 3 953.5 320000 115 2008 Piscis Austrinus 1.2 Pollux (beta Geminorum) beta Geminorum b 2.9 921.7 589.64 1.69 2006 Gemini 1.2 1 star + 1 exoplanet (10 systems) 14 Andromedae 14 Andromedae b 5.33 1694 185.84 0.83 2008 Andromeda 5.2 18 Delphinis 18 Delphinis b 10.3 3273.6 993.3 2.6 2008 Delphinus 5.5 42 Draconis 42 Draconis b 3.88 1233.2 479.1 1.19 2008 Draco 4.8 51 Pegasi 51 Pegasi b 0.47 148.7 4.23 0.052 1995 Pegasus 5.5 epsilon Eridani epsilon Eridani b 1.55 492.6 2502 3.39 2000 Eridanus 3.7 HD 104985 HD 104985 b 6.3 2002.3 198.2 0.78 2003 Camelopardalis 5.8 HD 149026 HD 149026 b 0.36 113.1 2.88 0.04288 2005 Hercules 8.2 HD 81688 HD 81688 b 2.7 858.1 184.02 0.81 2008 Ursa Major 5.4 tau Bootis tau Bootis b 5.9 1875.2 3.31 0.046 1996 Boötes 4.5 xi Aquilae xi Aquilae b 2.8 889.9 136.75 0.68 2008 Aquila 4.7 1 star + 2 exoplanets (1 system) 47 Ursae Majoris 47 Ursae Majoris b 2.53 804.1 1078 2.1 1996 Ursa Major 5.1 47 Ursae Majoris c 0.54 171.6 2391 3.6 2001 Ursa Major 5.1 1 star + 3 exoplanets (2 systems) PSR 1257+12 PSR 1257+12 b 7.00E-05 0.022 25.26 0.19 1992 Virgo - PSR 1257+12 c 0.01 4.1 66.54 0.36 1992 Virgo - PSR 1257+12 d 0.01 3.8 98.21 0.46 1992 Virgo - upsilon Andromedae upsilon Andromedae b 0.62 197.1 4.62 0.059 1996 Andromeda 4.1 upsilon Andromedae c 1.8 572.1 237.7 0.861 1999 Andromeda 4.1 upsilon Andromedae d 10.19 3238.7 1302.61 2.55 1999 Andromeda 4.1 1 star + 4 exoplanets (1 system) mu Arae mu Arae b 1.68 532.7 643.25 1.5 2000 Ara 5.2 mu Arae c 0.03 10.6 9.64 0.09094 2004 Ara 5.2 mu Arae d 0.52 165.9 310.55 0.921 2004 Ara 5.2 mu Arae e 1.81 576.5 4205.8 5.235 2006 Ara 5.2 1 star + 5 exoplanets (1 system) 55 Cancri 55 Cancri b 0.8 254.3 14.65 0.1134 1996 Cancer 6 55 Cancri c 0.17 53.7 44.34 0.2403 2002 Cancer 6 55 Cancri d 3.84 1218.9 5218 5.76 2002 Cancer 6 55 Cancri e 0.03 8.3 0.74 0.0170 2004 Cancer 6 55 Cancri f 0.14 45.8 260.7 0.781 2007 Cancer 6
Registered organizations voted for these 20 systems during an earlier stage of the IAU contest. They are a diverse set of systems, many of them significant in the history of exoplanet research. The list includes the first exoplanet ever discovered, orbiting the pulsar PSR 1257+12, the first exoplanet discovered around a normal star, 51 Pegasi b, and the five-exoplanet system 55 Cancri.
Other systems tell fascinating stories: the planets of Upsilon Andromedae orbit on different planes, suggesting a possible past encounter with a rogue planet later ejected from the system. Another planet, Fomalhaut b, was imaged at visible wavelengths (a difficult feat) orbiting at the edge of the star’s dusty debris disk.
To submit names, you’ll have to go through an organization registered on the IAU Directory of World Astronomy website. Each registered organization can submit one naming proposal. To qualify, organizations must be non-profit and have organized one astronomy-related activity, a broad definition that enables schools to register too.
If your local astronomy club or other organization is interested in registering, the deadline isn’t over yet. Organizations can register with the IAU until June 1st. This is a golden opportunity to educate the general public on the science of exoplanets as well as the history and culture behind these astronomical discoveries.
Name submissions should follow IAU guidelines — for example, you can’t name a planet after your pet or any living person. As part of your submission, you’ll include a description to justify your proposal.
All of the submitted names will be open for a massive public voting to decide on the final names. The key to success rests on proposing names for the planets that can garner worldwide support.
The deadline for organizations to register with IAU for name submissions is 8 p.m. (EDT) on June 1st. Names themselves can be submitted until 8 p.m. (EDT) on June 15th. Check out the Name Exoworlds website for more details.
Sze-leung Cheung is the IAU International Outreach Coordiantor and heads the IAU Office for Astronomy Outreach, a global office for coordinating worldwide astronomy outreach activities. He was one of the key people behind the NameExoWorlds campaign.
Six weeks after it erupted, the nova in the Sagittarius Teapot continues to vary between about magnitude 4.5 and 6. On May 1st it hit a new low of about 6.4. If it's a "slow nova," it may yet reach a new peak in coming months. It's well up in the south now just before the beginning of dawn. See article with charts and a link to an up-to-date light curve.
Friday, May 1
For May Day, Venus in the west shines directly between the horn-tips of Taurus: Zeta and Beta Tauri. It's closest to the brighter one, Beta (Elnath).
Far to the lower right of Venus shines Mercury. As twilight fades down, can you make out the departing Pleiades 2° or 3° to Mercury's right? Bring binoculars!
The nearly-full Moon shines a few degrees above Spica this evening. Far off to their left or upper left is brighter Arcturus.
Saturday, May 2
May has come, but wintry Sirius still twinkles low in the southwest as twilight fades — off the left edge of the scene above. How much later into the spring can you keep Sirius in view?
Spica shines to the Moon's upper right this evening.
Sunday, May 3
Full Moon (exact at 11:42 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time). The full Moon of May shines in Libra.
The Big Dipper has turned to lie upside down after dark; face north-northeast and look very high. Its handle arcs around toward Arcturus, a little more than a Dipper-length to the Dipper's lower right.
Monday, May 4
The bright Moon rises in twilight. As evening grows late, look below the Moon for Saturn, and then below Saturn for Antares.
Tuesday, May 5
Look low in the northeast in twilight for the rising of Vega, the "Summer Star." By nightfall Vega shines higher in better view. As it gains altitude it grows to be the equal of Arcturus, the "Spring Star" very high in the east (far to the upper right). They're both magnitude zero.
Late this evening, the waning gibbous Moon forms a triangle with Saturn to its upper right and Antares to its lower right.
Wednesday, May 6
Summer is more than six weeks away, but the Summer Triangle is beginning to make its appearance in the east, one star after another. The first in view is Vega. It's already visible low in the northeast as twilight fades.
Next up is Deneb, lower left of Vega by two or three fists at arm's length. Deneb takes about an hour to appear after Vega does, depending on your latitude.
The third is Altair, which shows up far to their lower right around midnight.
Thursday, May 7
Canes Venatici, the Hunting Dogs, floats near the zenith these evenings, inside the curl of the Big Dipper's handle. Now that the waning Moon doesn't rise until two hours after dark, go galaxy hunting here with Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders article and chart in the May Sky & Telescope, page 56.
Friday, May 8
The two brightest points in sky are Venus and Jupiter. At dusk they're in the west and high in the southwest, respectively. Find the halfway point between them. A little upper right of there is Pollux, with Castor to its right.
Saturday, May 9
Three zero-magnitude stars shine after dark in May: Arcturus very high in the southeast, Vega much lower in the northeast, and Capella in the northwest. They appear so bright because each is at least 60 times as luminous as the Sun, and because they're all relatively nearby: 37, 25, and 42 light-years from us, respectively.
Want to become a better astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.
Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The standards are the little Pocket Sky Atlas, which shows stars to magnitude 7.6; the larger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 8.5); and once you know your way around, the even larger Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And read how to use sky charts with a telescope.
You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook, such as Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders collection (which includes its own charts), Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, the bigger Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the beloved if dated Burnham's Celestial Handbook.
Can a computerized telescope replace charts? Not for beginners, I don't think, and not on mounts and tripods that are less than top-quality mechanically (able to point with better than 0.2° repeatability, which means fairly heavy and expensive). As Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say in their Backyard Astronomer's Guide, "A full appreciation of the universe cannot come without developing the skills to find things in the sky and understanding how the sky works. This knowledge comes only by spending time under the stars with star maps in hand."This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury remains up in good view in evening twilight all week, but it's fading: from magnitude –0.3 on May 1st to +0.5 on the 8th. That's a loss of about half its brightness. Look for it far to the lower right of bright Venus.
Venus (magnitude –4.2, crossing from Taurus into Gemini) glares strikingly bright in the west during and after twilight — the "Evening Star." It doesn't set in the west-northwest until two hours after dark. In a telescope Venus is still gibbous, but it's thinning each week.
Mars is lost in the sunset.
Jupiter (magnitude –2.1, in Cancer) shines high in the south as the stars come out, and less high in the southwest later. It's the second-brightest point of light in the sky after Venus. In a telescope, Jupiter has shrunk to 38 or 37 arcseconds wide.
Saturn (magnitude +0.1, just above the head of Scorpius) rises around nightfall and reaches its highest point in the south around 2 a.m. daylight-saving time. Below Saturn by 9° or 10° is orange Antares, less bright. The next brightest star in the area is Delta Scorpii a little to their right (and about half as far from Saturn). Delta Sco is now in its 15th year of outburst!
If you observe Saturn with a telescope, also check out the fine double stars Beta Scorpii just 1.2° below Saturn, and Nu Scorpii 1.8° to Saturn's lower left.
Uranus is deep in the glow of dawn.
Neptune (magnitude +7.9, in Aquarius) is low in the east-southeast just before the beginning of dawn.
All descriptions that relate to your horizon — including the words up, down, right, and left — are written for the world's mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America.
Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) is Universal Time (UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 4 hours.
“This adventure is made possible by generations of searchers strictly adhering to a simple set of rules. Test ideas by experiments and observations. Build on those ideas that pass the test. Reject the ones that fail. Follow the evidence wherever it leads, and question everything. Accept these terms, and the cosmos is yours.”
— Neil deGrasse Tyson, 2014.
Clashes over building the premier telescope in the Northern Hemisphere and preserving Mauna Kea as a sacred site have intensified.
Astronomers have been building observatories on mountain summits for more than a century, usually without political complications. But that's not the case for the giant Thirty Meter Telescope, whose construction began last October atop Mauna Kea in Hawai‘i. The $1.5 billion project has become a flash point for the long-running dispute between astronomical interests (led by the University of Hawai'i) and inhabitants of the island who consider Mauna Kea sacred land.
In 2009, the nonprofit TMT Observatory Corporation selected Mauna Kea over four other prospective sites and began the process to gain approval for construction from the state's Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR). The summit is classified as a protected conservation district, and any construction must meet eight strict criteria to preserve its character — for example, development may not "cause substantial adverse impact to existing natural resources within the surrounding area, community, or region" and the "existing physical and environmental aspects of the land must be preserved or improved upon."
The BLNR granted conditional approval to TMT's comprehensive management plan in 2011, but a lawsuit was filed by Mauna Kea Anaina Hou (a loose consortium of residents who are trying to preserve and protect traditional practices involving the mountain and have long advocated for its protection), the Hawaiian Environmental Alliance, and others. A court ruling last July cleared the way for the TMT's construction to begin, but the plaintiffs have appealed. Read Ian Lind's analysis for Honolulu Civil Beat for more background on the ongoing legal challenge.
In the meantime, construction of TMT began last October. Many, and perhaps most, of the Big Island's residents favor the project, because it brings much-needed employment to one of the state's lowest-income regions. Moreover, the project is providing an additional $1 million each year to create enhanced STEM opportunities for the island's students.
But opponents argue that the project should not proceed until the ongoing legal challenges are resolved. Fueled by social media, their protests have grown in intensity and scope. After interrupting the groundbreaking ceremony last year, they halted construction in late March and again in early April by blocking the road to the summit. More than two dozen protesters were arrested on April 2nd, prompting Governor David Ige to intervene by requesting a voluntary moratorium on construction.
Meanwhile, the University of Hawai‘i's Board of Regents held a meeting on April 16th to investigate the situation. Turnout was so great that many attendees were unable to address the panel, so a second meeting was held on April 26th and a third is planned today.Charges and Countercharges
Local resistance to construction of observatories atop Mauna Kea has been ongoing for decades, but the giant new telescope (with a dome 180 feet tall) truly dwarfs the other facilities now in place. Key objections center on whether native concerns for protecting the mountain's summit have been fairly considered, and whether chemical waste created by TMT represents an environmental threat to the island's aquifer.
The telescope's supporters have responded with a detailed defense by the University of Hawai‘i and with updates on the main TMT website and on a second site explaining TMT's benefits to Mauna Kea and its surroundings. On the issue of whether concerns about cultural heritage were given due consideration, TMT proponents point to the hundreds of pages of testimony gathered during the BNLR's hearings. Careful surveys found the observatory's site to be free of shrines, altars, or hidden burial grounds.On the latter point, project officials counter that neither the TMT itself nor the existing telescopes on the summit pose an environmental danger, underscoring that all of the observatory's waste will be securely transported off the summit.
Frustrated astronomers increasingly see their efforts to build a telescope with unprecedented potential being derailed by a highly vocal minority, while local opinion is fixating on the seeming indifference of researchers to indigenous religious beliefs and traditions. Dueling petitions, to rally support for and against TMT, have appeared online.
The already tense situation escalated on April 22nd, when University of California astronomer Sandra Faber circulated an email to rally support for TMT that referred to opponents as a "horde of native Hawaiians who are lying about the impact of the project on the mountain" — comments for which she later apologized.
Then, on April 26th, a group called Operation Green Rights hacked the TMT website and the main web portal for the State of Hawai‘i, a denial-of-service attack that shut down both for a few hours.
Although TMT has become a divisive issue, it's not easy to delineate who's on which side. Plenty of astronomers, suddenly seeing themselves portrayed as the "bad guys," are paying close(r) attention to the islanders' concerns (check out this video from the one of the protests). And conversely many of the Big Island's residents support not only the TMT's construction but also astronomy's scientific and economic benefits.
Read contributing editor Robert Zimmerman's article about the construction mega-telescopes in the March 2014 issue of Sky & Telescope.
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