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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

1I/2017 U1 `Oumuamua

ESO:

For the first time ever astronomers have studied an asteroid that has entered the Solar System from interstellar space.

!!!!!!

This created a unique problem for the naming of this object.

The IAU also created a new class of objects for interstellar asteroids, with this object being the first to receive this designation.

When these types of things break I like to allow a little bit of time for more research, observations, and perspectives to be published. I’ve been soaking in everything I can about this object over the last few days. The entire thing is so so cool.

What a year it has been in astronomical observations!

August’s kilonova in NGC 4993

Robert Naeye for Astronomy magazine, on the instrumentation that detected a 130M year-old kilonova:

The LIGO and Virgo instruments detected a crescendo of waves for a whopping 100 seconds — much longer than previous detections. The duration, amplitude, and frequency of the waves had all the characteristics that theorists have expected for a binary system consisting of two neutron stars on a death spiral ending with coalescence.

I haven’t written too much about this event yet. Mostly because I’ve been devouring as much information about it as I’ve been able to find time for.

The series of events that led to the construction of LIGO and Virgo are incredible enough on their own. The subsequent series of events leading to the direct observation of a kilonova are downright unbelievable.

Naeye’s piece is great and goes into detail. But it merely scratches the surface. I urge you to pour over this event on your own to see how astounding this observation really was.

ESO observes kilonovae

European Southern Observatory:

ESO’s fleet of telescopes in Chile have detected the first visible counterpart to a gravitational wave source. These historic observations suggest that this unique object is the result of the merger of two neutron stars. The cataclysmic aftermaths of this kind of merger — long-predicted events called kilonovae — disperse heavy elements such as gold and platinum throughout the Universe. This discovery, published in several papers in the journal Nature and elsewhere, also provides the strongest evidence yet that short-duration gamma-ray bursts are caused by mergers of neutron stars.

Just two neutron stars makin’ it rain.

What an incredible observation. Well done ESO.

Update: Here is the timelapse.

Clark Telescope, Keystone Observatory – September 2017

Published: October 3, 2017

Kip Thorne wins the Nobel

Nobel Media AB:

On 14 September 2015, the universe’s gravitational waves were observed for the very first time. The waves, which were predicted by Albert Einstein a hundred years ago, came from a collision between two black holes. It took 1.3 billion years for the waves to arrive at the LIGO detector in the USA.

A prize 1.3 billion (the gravitational waves), and over 100 years (Einstein’s theory), and 40 years (LIGO) in the making.

Rainer Weiss is the primary prize winner while Kip and Barry C. Barish jointly share the other half. Congratulations to all.

Cassini dies tomorrow

Lee Billings for Scientific American:

All good things must come to an end.

For NASA’s Cassini orbiter—its fuel dwindling after 13 years exploring Saturn, along with the planet’s sprawling rings and dozens of icy moons—the end will come Friday at 7:55 A.M. Eastern time. That’s when mission planners project radio communications will be lost with the two-ton, bus-size spacecraft as it plunges into the giant planet’s turbulent atmosphere at more than 122,000 kilometers per hour.

What a legacy.

Repost: Emily Lakdawalla on Voyager’s 40th Anniversary

👉 Emily Lakdawalla on The Planetary Society blog:

The fact that both Voyager spacecraft are still functioning and doing science, 40 years after their launches, is reason for optimism. We can build robust, adaptable machines capable of surviving unpredicted storms and responding to new discoveries. We can build them, launch them, and stably operate them for four decades, and more. Can we now turn those skills homeward, to building an adaptable and sustainable society? Who knew that rocket science would be the easy part?

 

Florence’s two moons

Center for NEO Studies PR on Astronomy Now:

Radar images of asteroid 3122 Florence obtained at the 70-metre antenna at NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex between August 29 and September 1 have revealed that the asteroid has two small moons, and also confirmed that main asteroid Florence is about 4.5 km (2.8 miles) in size. Florence is only the third triple asteroid known in the near-Earth population out of more than 16,400 that have been discovered to date. All three near-Earth asteroid triples have been discovered with radar observations and Florence is the first seen since two moons were discovered around asteroid 1994 CC in June 2009.

Imagine being able to spot two gnats zipping around a common housefly at 100 yards. We can do this routinely now in inner-space.

While I’m not anxious to see many large NEOs like Florence coming within only a few AUs of Earth, I do love the observations we get to see. Some of the images are pretty crisp.

Capturing the ISS’s transit of the Sun during the eclipse

This is quite a feat.

Photographer Trevor Mahlmann figured out where you’d need to be within the path of totality in order to capture the International Space Station transiting the sun during the eclipse. That alone is pretty awesome. But there was a hitch.

The land area that you’d need to be on in order to capture it is private land. By happenstance Destin from Smarter Everyday has a friend whose child was midwifed by a woman who knows (or is married to?) the landowner? Incredible.

So the three of them teamed up to get what I would say is easily the best photography done during the eclipse so far.

You can watch Destin’s video on Smarter Everyday and then also head on over to Trevor’s Patreon to help support his work.

TRAPPIST-1

The following two sentences encapsulate an incredible feat in the advancement of human discovery:

TRAPPIST-1 is a planetary system, located 12 parsecs away from the Solar system (39 light years), near the ecliptic, within the constellation of Aquarius. Around a star which is 12 times less massive than the Sun and only slightly larger than Jupiter, there are at least seven planets in orbit.

This system has its own domain name; trappist.one — see also, the New York Times, and the paper in Nature.

We live in amazing times.

The crescent of Venus

Harold Jenkins:

From February through March 2017 Venus will put on quite a show in the west after sunset. Unmistakably bright, its crescent will be getting thinner while the disc of the planet itself is increasing in size – meaning the planet will maintain its brightness, even though its appearance through binoculars, telescopes, and high-zoom cameras changes dramatically.

I’ve been smitten with Venus these last few weeks.

Information water torture

Emily Lakdawalla, on taking a writing sabbatical:

I feel less and less satisfied doing rushed news-update-style reporting, and am more interested in spending more time to explain science or engineering in depth, in articles that will be useful over time, not just this week. (I am really enjoying writing the book, when I can find time to do it!) I also want to do more work to develop resources to help people get into the art and science of space image processing, building resources that will have value for people for years to come.

Social media is beginning to feel like information water torture. I find it both useful and draining. And it has certainly gotten worse in the last few months with every thing I see being thin, fluff, possibly fake, or hate. I’m wearing out.

It is an important time in this information age. Tools need to become better. But, more importantly, we need to become better curators of our own information intake.

I applaud Emily for stepping back, focusing on her book, and also taking that time to reflect on how she can bring even greater value when she returns. (By the way, she has already brought immense value to the community. I am really looking forward to her book and return.)