Recently in Astronomy Category

Teaching with Space and Astronomy in your Classroom"The Teaching with Space and Astronomy in your Classroom course will train and empower you to successfully teach space-related topics. It aims to educate teachers how to introduce and attract more and more young people to careers in space. The method through which you will be able to achieve this objective will be via inquiry-based science education teaching practices, the effective use of ICT tools, managing diversity and obtaining a gender balance in the classroom."


Crowdsouring Planet Hunters X. KIC 8462852 - Where's the Flux?

Over the duration of the Kepler mission, KIC 8462852 was observed to undergo irregularly shaped, aperiodic dips in flux down to below the 20% level. The dipping activity can last for between 5 and 80 days. We characterize the object with high-resolution spectroscopy, spectral energy distribution fitting, and Fourier analyses of the Kepler light curve. We determine thatKIC 8462852 is a main-sequence F3 V/IV star, with a rotation period ~0.88 d, that exhibits no significant IR excess. In this paper, we describe various scenarios to explain the mysterious events in the Kepler light curve, most of which have problems explaining the data in hand. By considering the observational constraints on dust clumps orbiting a normal main-sequence star, we conclude that the scenario most consistent with the data is the passage of a family of exocomet fragments, all of which are associated with a single previous breakup event. We discuss the necessity of future observations to help interpret the system.

How Astronomers View Education and Public Outreach

Over the past few years, there have been a few studies on the development of an interest in science and scientists' views on public outreach. Yet, to date, there has been no global study regarding astronomers' views on these matters. Through the completion of our survey by 155 professional astronomers online and in person during the 28th International Astronomical Union General Assembly in 2012, we explored their development of and an interest for astronomy and their views on time constraints and budget restriction regarding public outreach activities. We find that astronomers develop an interest in astronomy between the ages of 4-6 but that the decision to undertake a career in astronomy often comes during late adolescence. We also discuss the claim that education and public outreach is regarded an optional task rather than a scientist's duty. Our study revealed that many astronomers think there should be a larger percentage of their research that should be invested into outreach activities, calling for a change in grant policies.

We introduce the Lee Sang Gak Telescope (LSGT), a remotely operated, robotic 0.43-meter telescope. The telescope was installed at the Siding Spring Observatory, Australia, in 2014 October, to secure regular and exclusive access to the dark sky and excellent atmospheric conditions in the southern hemisphere from the Seoul National University (SNU) campus. Here, we describe the LSGT system and its performance, present example images from early observations, and discuss a future plan to upgrade the system. The use of the telescope includes (i) long-term monitoring observations of nearby galaxies, active galactic nuclei, and supernovae; (ii) rapid follow-up observations of transients such as gamma-ray bursts and gravitational wave sources; and (iii) observations for educational activities at SNU. Based on observations performed so far, we find that the telescope is capable of providing images to a depth of R=21.5 mag (point source detection) at 5-sigma with 15 min total integration time under good observing conditions.

We report on ongoing work to gain insight into the astronomy knowledge and perspectives of pre-service teachers and middle school students in Norway. We carefully adapted and translated into Norwegian an existing instrument, the Introductory Astronomy Questionnaire (IAQ); we administered this adapted IAQ to (i) pre-service teachers at the largest teacher education institution in Norway, and (ii) students drawn from eight middle schools in Oslo, in both cases before and after astronomy instruction. Amongst our preliminary findings - based on an analysis of both free-response writing and multiple-choice responses - was that when prompted to provide responses to hypothetical students, the pre-service teachers exhibited a marked drop in pedagogical responses pre- to post-instruction, with corresponding shifts towards more authoritative responses. We also identified potentially serious issues relating to middle school students' conceptions of size and distances in the universe, with significant stratification along gender lines.

A Michelson-type Radio Interferometer for University Education

We report development of a simple and affordable radio interferometer suitable as an educational laboratory experiment. With the increasing importance of interferometry in astronomy, the lack of educational interferometers is an obstacle to training the future generation of astronomers. This interferometer provides the hands-on experience needed to fully understand the basic concepts of interferometry. The design of this interferometer is based on the Michelson & Pease stellar optical interferometer, but operates at a radio wavelength (~11 GHz; ~2.7cm); thus the requirement for optical accuracy is much less stringent. We utilize a commercial broadcast satellite dish and feedhorn. Two flat side mirrors slide on a ladder, providing baseline coverage. This interferometer resolves and measures the diameter of the Sun, a nice daytime experiment which can be carried out even in marginal weather (i.e., partial cloud cover). Commercial broadcast satellites provide convenient point sources for comparison to the Sun's extended disk. We describe the mathematical background of the adding interferometer, the design and development of the telescope and receiver system, and measurements of the Sun. We present results from a students' laboratory report."Around 37,000 citizen scientists combed through 430,000 images to help an international team of researchers to discover 29 new gravitational lens candidates through Space Warps, an online classification system which guides citizen scientists to become lens hunters. Gravitational lens systems are massive galaxies that act like special lenses through their gravity, bending the light coming from a distant galaxy in the background and distorting its image. Dark matter around these massive galaxies also contributes to this lensing effect, and so studying these gravitational lenses gives scientists a way to study this exotic matter that emits no light. Since gravitational lenses are rare, only about 500 of them have been discovered to date, and the universe is enormous, it made sense for researchers to call on an extra pair of eyes to help scour through the mountain of images taken from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Legacy Survey (CFHTLS). Details of the discoveries will be published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society."


Volunteer Black Hole Hunters Are As Good As The Experts"Trained volunteers are as good as professional astronomers at finding jets shooting from massive black holes and matching them to their host galaxies, research suggests. Scientists working on citizen science project Radio Galaxy Zoo developed an online tutorial to teach volunteers how to spot black holes and other objects that emit large amounts of energy through radio waves. Through the project, volunteers are given telescope images taken in both the radio and infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum and asked to compare the pictures and match the "radio source" to the galaxy it lives in. The results from the first year of the Radio Galaxy Zoo project, led by Dr Julie Banfield of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics and Dr Ivy Wong at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, were published today in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society."


NameExoWorlds Contest Opens for Public Voting"Although people have been naming celestial objects for millennia, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) is the authority responsible for assigning official names to celestial bodies. The NameExoWorlds contest provides not only the first opportunity for the public to name exoplanets, but also -- for the first time in centuries -- to give names to stars. Twenty stars with known exoplanets in orbit around them are among the objects selected to be named. Astronomy clubs and non-profit organizations from 45 countries submitted 247 proposals for the names of the 20 ExoWorlds."


A Powerful Telescope You Can Build at Home"A team from the London-based Open Space Agency (OSA) has produced the Ultrascope, a downloadable telescope design that can be generated by a 3D printer, be controlled by simple robotics, and captures images using the camera on a smartphone. OSA's James Parr says the group wanted to show that it was possible to create an open source design that people could build cheaply at home and use to do scientifically valuable observations. The phones on the Ultrascope automatically upload images to the cloud and Parr hopes users will build up a library of shared images online."

More"A team of scientists participating in a radio astronomy summer school had the unexpected opportunity to observe a recently discovered near-Earth asteroid as it zipped past our planet on July 7. The observations were made using the combined power of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia and a radar transmitter at NASA's Deep Space Network in Goldstone, California. he observations were taken during a biennial summer school on single-dish radio astronomy sponsored jointly by the NRAO and NSF's Arecibo Observatory. This educational program provides graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, and experts in other fields of astronomy with both knowledge and practical experience of the techniques and applications of single-dish radio astronomy."


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