Monday, May 24, 2010

The Sound of Outer Space Comes from Saturn

Saturn, a beautiful ringed orb hanging in the darkness of space. That's how you see it in a telescope. It speaks to you of mysteries in space. Have you ever wondered what Saturn would sound like if you can hear it? The Cassini spacecraft, which was sent to this wonderful ringed planet, has captured its radio emissions from energetic auroras which has been compressed and translated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) into sounds that we can hear and appreciate.

If you've ever wondered what space sounds like, then you can listen to the voice of Saturn. There are many other "voices" out there coming in from different levels of the electromagnetic spectrum, but Saturn's is one for the books because its sounds really does remind us of the vastness immensity of space. Note that 73 seconds of playback of the sounds of Saturn is really equivalent to 27 minutes in real time. The frequency had also been lowered to a range audible to the human ear.

Click here to listen to the eerie voice of Saturn.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

SkyXplore Begins SpaceDome Mobile Digital Planetarium Project in the Philippines

The Diliman Preparatory School in Quezon City in the Philippines has launched its SkyXplore project with the SpaceDome Mobile Digital Planetarium as the main attraction. The astronomy education program is headed by former Philippine Senator Nikki Coseteng and aims to bring astronomy closer to the Filipino student through the inflatable planetarium, creating new windows for education and opening doors to new careers in science and technology. As of this writing, only the Rizal Technological University offers degree courses in astronomy.

The planetarium will be taken to schools nationwide to promote astronomy and to educate students in the science. She will be aided by astronomy consultants like Frederick Gabriana and wife Rochelle (2nd picture from the top). Lecturers include Ramon Acevedo, resident astronomer of the Seven Suites Observatory Hotel in Antipolo City. The planetarium currently shows the sky as seen by different cultures (like the Inuit and Lakota) with the Western view taking precedence.

Astronomer Gabriana will soon by integrating Philippine constellations in the open source program used with the planetarium computer and projector. He will be using the research of Historian Dr. Dante Ambrosio of the University of the Philippines. It will be the first time that the sky as seen by indigenous peoples of the Philippines will be featured in a planetarium program. Aside from stars, planets, and constellations, the planetarium is also capable of taking the viewer on a travel through time and space. It's also for showing movies. Shown at left is Coseteng presenting the meteorite collection of the Gabrianas which was originally part of the Allen Yu space rock collection.

Nikki Coseteng launches SkyXplore -Scienceray

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Venus Disappears behind the Moon (Metro Manila, Philippines, May 16, 2010, 7:36 PM.)

The sky was clear and the air still. Just after sunset on the 16th of May in the Philippines and elsewhere, people saw something beautiful in the sky. It was the setting crescent Moon with Venus just above the darkened part of the lunar disk. Not everyone knew it was coming, but it was really a spectacle that was hard to miss. "Beautiful!" People said, and they took photographs with their cell phones. The next day, the event was the main story featured on Yahoo!.

Yes, Venus and the Moon together was a beautiful sight. Venus is actually on the opposite side of the Sun and it's position relative to the moon the that day made for an astronomy spectacle for everyone. But after looking at the two together for a while and taking photographs, most people went on their way. Little did they know that if they had waited a bit longer, they would have witnessed Venus move closer to the Moon and wink out as it is finally fully obscured by the lunar disk in what is called, by the way, a lunar occultation.

For those who didn't realize that the Moon would cover Venus, well, it happened at 7:36 pm. If they had waited, they would have seen Venus move closer to the lunar disk's edge and slowly weaken in brightness until it gets "snuffed out" like a candle - but we all know that it's just behind the Moon!

Superstitious people have asked the significance of such an alignment of the Moon and Venus. But really, there's nothing to it from the scientific point of view. It's just one object blocking the view of another in space. But historically, the "crescent Moon and star" is a recurring symbol in the Islamic world since ancient times and the motif appears in several Islamic country flags (left).

As early as the 14th century B.C., the crescent and star symbol was already associated with the Moabites of the book of Genesis in the Bible. It was also a part of Sumerian iconography with the crescent representing the Moon god Sin, and the star representing the goddess of fertility, Ishtar.

It really pays to look at the sky sometimes even when you're not expecting anything to see or happen. You might get lucky like the hundreds of people who saw Venus and the Moon together. Luckier were the ones who waited to see Venus get covered up by the Moon and then appear again later at the other side. It would have taken a lot of patience, though!

The pictures here were taken by this writer with a cellphone camera, thus, there is slight image elongation. The photo on top shows Venus as it nears the lunar disk. The smaller one at the left shows Venus just before it hid behind the Moon.The orange blur at the top left corner is a plane that has just left the airport.

See more spectacular photos and videos of the May 16, 2010 lunar occultation of Venus over the Philippines in Erica Valdueza's The Sky Above.

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