26 October 2012

Exoplanets: New Space-Satellite will study Super Earths

New Satellite to explore Exoplanets
PR 35 2012 - Studying planets around other stars will be the focus of the new small Science Programme mission, Cheops, ESA announced today. Its launch is expected in 2017.
 Cheops – for CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite – will target nearby, bright stars already known to have planets orbiting around them.

Cheops is the first of a possible new class of small missions to be developed as part of ESA’s Science Programme.

Through high-precision monitoring of the star’s brightness, scientists will search for the telltale signs of a ‘transit’ as a planet passes briefly across its face.
In turn, this will allow an accurate measurement of the radius of the planet. For those planets with a known mass, the density will be revealed, providing an indication of the internal structure.
These key parameters will help scientists to understand the formation of planets from a few times the mass of the Earth – ‘super-Earths’ – up to Neptune-sized worlds.
It will also identify planets with significant atmospheres and constrain the migration of planets during the formation and evolution of their parent systems.  
“By concentrating on specific known exoplanet host stars, Cheops will enable scientists to conduct comparative studies of planets down to the mass of Earth with a precision that simply cannot be achieved from the ground,” said Professor Alvaro Giménez-Cañete, ESA Director of Science and Robotic Exploration.
“The mission was selected from 26 proposals submitted in response to the Call for Small Missions in March, highlighting the strong interest of the scientific community in dedicated, quick-turnaround missions focusing on key open issues in space science.”
Possible future small missions in the Science Programme should be low cost and rapidly developed, in order to offer greater flexibility in response to new ideas from the scientific community.
With a dedicated science focus, they would provide a natural complement to the broader Medium- and Large-class missions of ESA’s Science Programme.
Cheops will be implemented as a partnership between ESA and Switzerland, with a number of other ESA Member States delivering substantial contributions.
Planet orbiting host Star

“This continues the 40-year success story of Swiss scientists and industry at the forefront of space science,” said Professor Willy Benz, Center for Space and Habitability at the University of Bern.
The mission will also provide unique targets for more detailed studies of exoplanet atmospheres by the next generation of telescopes now being built, such as the ground-based European Extremely Large Telescope and the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope.
Cheops will operate in a Sun-synchronous low-Earth orbit at an altitude of 800 km. It has a planned mission lifetime of 3.5 years and part of the observing time will be open to the wider scientific community.

For further information, please contact:
ESA Media Relations Office

Communication Department

Tel: + 33 1 53 69 72 99

Fax: + 33 1 53 69 76 90


Source: ESA news
Pictures: Artist impression of cheops Credit: Uni. of Berne / Exoplanet orbiting Star Credit: CNES

It's snowing in Finland, White Turku!

First snow in Turku, Finland
(Click to enlarge photo)
I took a picture from the back balcony yesterday just for fun and today it started to snow, so I took a picture of the snowy backyard. Nice to see the difference. In about 1 hour it passed from left to right!

Enjoy the seasons, every one of them are precious and unique.

Clear winter skies for now.

23 October 2012

Astronomy club stories: Annual Astronomy Reunion 2012

Annual Astronomy Reunion cover picture
Credit: Stefan Lamoureux/KTY Toutatis
Ahlainen, Finland
The Annual Astronomy Reunion was held in Ahlainen, Finland a little village on the Baltic sea. These 2 days of retreat permitted us to reflect on the year that had past in our astronomy club and decide which way we will continue for the year to come. The mayhem of the arrival, food, provisions, equipment, and car unraveling proved to be more "relax" than the other years, which was a good sign.

The sky was full of stars and everybody just wanted to set their gear to what was happening in the night sky. Not long after, the sauna was hot and ready. Our friend who took care of the sauna had all ready set his camera to full mode startrail 1-2 hours and had no hurry to get to his camera.

This year we had one of the members "wife" with us, she is a friend and we know her well, but she is not into "astronomy" to much, so we left her in the upper cottage to watch some good old TV as we enjoyed the sauna.
As we were discussing astronomy and space with good refreshments in the sauna, we remembered that Felix Boomhauer as we called him (Felix Baumgartner/redbull Stratos) was attempting his jump from the edge of space. So in a heart beat, we had the computer outside on the window of the sauna and streaming the jump as it went. We saw when he jumped but we had to have a window-whipper every 2 seconds, in another word, Me! As I whipped the window from the humidity, Felix was falling to Earth. Great achievement!

As the night came to morning, the disco began and the festivities continued. My camera was clicking it's life away as i set it to timelapse mode with 35 seconds interval with an exposure of 30 seconds. I probably took a 1000 shots. My goal was to take a few nice timelapses of the night sky and within the shots a nice picture to remember the event. Of course half of the shots where blur as the lens took humidity over time. Never the less, i manage to take a couple of nice shots and little shorter timelapse than I anticipated.

The next day, we set our gears for more night action, but we soon realized that it would be cloudy and no chance of shooting the night sky. We sat in the warm cottage and talked the night through with good food and company. We attempted to go shoot  in another location 30 km from the cottage, but the clouds and strong winds where there as well. So we called it a day.

The Annual Astronomy Reunion was very nice even if the second day I went to sleep early. I enjoyed every moment of it and hope to go to next's year reunion. I invite you to look at our pictures on our gallery HERE
Thank you guys! it was precious!

Watch new astrophotos Annual Astronomy Reunion 2012 HERE

22 October 2012

Watch pictures of Meteor Showers around the World

Orionids Meteor Shower 2012
Credit: Tommy Eliassen
Photographer Tommy Eliassen captured this spectacular view of an Orionid meteor streaking through the dazzling northern lights and Milky Way from his camp in Korgfjellet, Hemnes, Norway, on Oct. 20, 2012, during the peak of the 2012 Orionid meteor shower.

Check out these fabulous shots of the Orionid meteor shower around the world on HERE

In Southern Finland we only had drizzle and rain. We hope for the next meteor shower to have clear skies and be able to take pictures of the event.

19 October 2012

Orionid Meteor shower 2012. Catch them if you can!

Orionid Meteor Shower peaks this year on Oct. 21. 2012
ORIONID METEOR SHOWER: Next weekend, Earth will pass through a stream of debris from Halley's Comet, source of the annual Orionid meteor shower. Forecasters expect ~25 meteors per hour when the shower peaks on Oct. 21st.
Meteor Shower can be impressive and a light tripod with a camera DSLR can give you nice pictures of the event. A group of friends and a darker place can give you the joy of your life time.
Be sure to not miss them. 

Read more on the Orionids on Wikipedia 

17 October 2012

Breaking news: Exoplanet found in nearest Star system of Earth. We are getting closer!

Rendering of Exoplanet orbiting it's host Star
Image Credit: G. Bacon

European astronomers have discovered a planet with about the mass of the Earth orbiting a star in the Alpha Centauri system — the nearest to Earth. It is also the lightest exoplanet ever discovered around a star like the Sun. The planet was detected using the HARPS instrument on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. The results will appear online in the journal Nature on 17 October 2012.

16 October 2012

Read the Carnival of Space #271

Welcome to another installment of The Carnival of Space!
Brie Allen @ Tranquility Base's blog is our host this week.

In this week’s carnival we have a number of articles about Astronomy and Space.
Google + hangout this week, Space X recent mission, Martian reptile scales and more
If you have a science/space blog, joining The Carnival of Space is a good way to meet members of the Space/Science blogging community and help your site reach a wider audience.

If you'd like to be a host for The Carnival of Space, please send an email to

05 October 2012

Ganymede shot through camera as an exoplanet

Jupiter and its moon Ganymede (Click to enlarge)
credit: Astronomy Club toutatis
Ganymede is a satellite of Jupiter and the largest moon in the Solar System. It is the seventh moon and the third Galilean moon outward from Jupiter.

The image you can see is of Jupiter and its moon Ganymede that is just beside it.
( right side: Photo / left side: Stellarium Star map).
The lower "dot" is Iota Taurus, a star in the constellation Taurus and an outlying member of the Hyades star cluster.
This photo has been taken with a 40 mm lens on a canon 550D in a city lighting.  Ganymede  is Completing an orbital period of 7,15455296 days, so next Monday the planet should be at the same spot. Therefore I will try to photograph the Planet and moon and see if it is at the same spot. These pictures are crude, but none the less fun and accurate and could be interpreted as an exoplanet orbiting it's host Star. This open debates and helps to imagine ways to see other world around parent Stars, in this case the planet Jupiter.

Ganymede has a diameter of 5,268 km (3,273 mi), 8% larger than that of the planet Mercury, but has only 45% of the latter's mass. Its diameter is 2% larger than that of Titan, the second largest moon. It also has the highest mass of all planetary satellites, with 2.02 times the mass of our Moon.

Many probes flying by or orbiting Jupiter have explored Ganymede more closely, including four flybys in the 1970s, and multiple passes in the 1990s to 2000s. The most recent spacecraft to explore Ganymede up close was New Horizons, wich passed in 2007 on its way to Pluto. New Horizons made topography and composition maps of Ganymede as it sped by.

Next Monday I will attempt to photograph Jupiter and confirm (or not) that in fact Ganymede is orbiting it's host planet in roughly 7 days. Stay tuned!

Images: Jupiter and Ganymede Credit: Astronomy Club Toutatis, animation of the Laplace resonances of Ganymede, Europa and Io.
Source: Wikipedia, Nasa
Links: Ganymede, Iota Taurus, Exoplanets, New Horizons, Laplace resonances

04 October 2012

The Australian Square Kilometer Array ready for action!

The Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder
Credit: Alexander Cherney
The Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) is made up of 36 identical antennas, each 12 meters in diameter spread out over a large distance, but working together as a single radio telescope.
The Square Kilometer Array is built at the Murshison Radio-astronomy Observatory site, located near Boolardy in the Mid West region of Western Australia.
Another Square Kilometer Array project is being built in South Africa joining the ASKAP.

The capabilities of the ASKAP is design to address a wide range of questions in astrophysics, cosmology and particle astrophysics as well as extending the range of the observable universe. One innovative development is the use of a Focal Plane Array using phased-array technology to provide multiple field of views. This greatly increase the survey speed of the ASKAP and enable multiple users to observe different pieces of the sky simultaneously.

Alexander Cherney had the privilege to shoot and capture on camera the arrays and make up a real cool timelapse of the Square Kilometer Array. Here are his impressions, It was an unforgettable experience - I stayed at the telescope during the day, helped scripting and testing the antenna movement for the night with CSIRO scientist Maxim Voronkov and just enjoyed the remote location with no mobile phones.

Watch Alexander's timelapse as he took 19,960 images with 3 cameras in 5 unforgettable nights at the Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder in Australia.

Visit Alexander Cherney website
Source: Wikipedia / Terrastro
Image and timelapse: Alexander Cherney

02 October 2012

Watch Live: A day in the life of the Very Large Telescope (VLT)

Ever wonder what takes place on a daily basis at one of the premier ground-based observatories? The European Southern Observatory (ESO) is celebrating its 50th anniversary and it is opening it's doors to us.
Be part of this excellent opportunity and festivities.

Read Nancy Atkinson's article on Universe today HERE