Lianne vs. Time: September 30, 2013

Show notes for the 30th of September 2013
Hosts: Ryan, Jesse, Paul, Lianne
Title: Lianne vs. Time

Lianne returns! She also fights time to fit in all she can about Galaxy Zoo 2.0.

This week in space/astronomy history:
1. September 30, 1880 – Henry Draper takes the first photograph of the Orion Nebula. Draper was also the first to photograph the Moon in 1839-1840. The Orion Nebula shot was a 50 min exposure on an 11 inch refractor. He also delivered a lecture on 1866 entitled ‘Are There Other Inhabited Worlds.’
2. October 1, 1958 – NASA founded. Check out NASA’s post.
3. October 5, 1923 – Edwin Hubble observes Cepheids in M31 (aka the Andromeda Galaxy) and, using Henrietta Leavitt’s Period-Luminosity relationship, started calculating distances to Andromeda.
4. September 29, 1901 – Enrico Fermi (died November 28, 1954) Italian physicist, notable for his contributions to nuclear physics BUT famous in astronomical circles for his ET quote “Where are they?” referring to the notable absence of evidence for extraterrestrial life (assuming that life is “common” in the galaxy).

1. Toronto Science Festival a success. Over the weekend September 27-29, the University of Toronto held the inaugural Toronto Science Festival. It featured talks by Julie Payette, Sean Carroll, Contemporary Dance, Panel discussions, and more, all centring on the topic ‘Life in the Universe. (Suggested Reading: TSF website, @tosciencefest, TheStarSpot)

2. CASSIOPE launched today! A new satellite funded by the Canadian Space Agency launched today and will be observing space weather. It was launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg air force base in California. CASSIOPE carries two separate payloads: e-POP and Casscade. e-POP is to study the affects of solar storms on the upper atmosphere (PI’d by University of Calgary). Casscade is a commercial instrument doing a proof of concept for data storage technology. (Suggested Reading: ASC-CSA mission page)

3. Comet ISON flies by Mars. October 1st passes within 0.17 A.U. Comet ISON is expected to be brightest on November 28th. (Suggested Reading: Universe Today article, Science@NASA)

5. Space Week at UofT. The Space and Tourism Society in partnership with the Astronomy and Space Exploration Society at the University of Toronto is holding an event for World Space Week. It is occurring on Saturday October 5, 2013 from 7pm-9pm in the Earth and Space Science Auditorium. Host of YorkUniverse, Ryan Marciniak, is a guest speaker at the event (also Dr. Ben Quine from York University). (Suggested Reading: Word Space Week homepage, STS website)

6. Cygnus docks with ISS.  Second commercial carrier to rendezvous with the Outpost carrying about 1300 kg of supplies.  A week delay in docking due to a “data mismatch” between Cygnus and ISS was resolved and docking via the CanadArm-2 proceed smoothly today.

7. The Sun sets off a massive blast. It erupted 2145 UT on September 29, 2013. (Suggested Reading:

8. United States Government will be shutting down in a few hours. NASA will be shut down during this. (Suggested Reading: Wiki Article)

Major Topics Discussed:

1. Measuring an atmosphere on Quaoar
The Kuiper belt is a group of icy/rocky objects extending from approximately 30 A.U. to 50 A.U. Pluto and it’s moons are considered part of it, along with 3 of 5 other dwarf planets in our solar system (Eris, Haumea, and Makemake). In the Kuiper belt there are many other large bodies, such as 50000 Quaoar, which may possibly be another dwarf planet. Recent work using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, with follow up by Gemini, has measured an upper limit to the size of Quaoar’s (possible) atmosphere.

The way in which you measure a potential atmosphere is using occultations. This is when a foreground object (such as Quaoar) passes in front of a background star. By imaging the star’s light several times a second, astronomers can get a sense of whether the star’s light is passing through an atmosphere or not. If an atmosphere is present, the time resolved imaging of the occultation will reveal it.

Quaoar is currently passing through the galaxies plane, which means there are many background stars for it to occult with. Recently, Quaoar passed very close to a star (though didn’t occult). In observing the star’s light, the astronomers perceived no measurable drop in the brightness, and therefore did not measure any atmosphere. The astronomers can then confidently surmise that an atmosphere (if present) could not possibly be larger than the separation of Quaoar and the star on the sky. In this case, the separation was 0.019” or 580 km at the location of Quaoar. Therefore, if Quaoar has an atmosphere, it is smaller than that.
(Suggested Reading: Gemini Press Release, Astrophysical Journal Article, arXiv preprint)

2. Galaxy Zoo 2 Released! (Suggested Reading: MNRAS Paper, Science 2.0 New Article)

Thanks for listening!
-YorkUniverse Team
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