Astro round up

Contributed by
Feb 13, 2008

Lots of stuff going on this week, and I'm having a hard time keeping up. So briefly...

1) Damaris reports that the blanket issue on Atlantis is OK, and it can return to Earth safely as-is. Phew!

2) The UK government recently -- and stupidly -- decided to yank funding for a breathtaking number of scientific projects, including the magnificent Gemini Telescope. They may be rethinking that now.

3) The star Tau Boo A

B (heh heh heh) just underwent a magnetic reversal, just like the Sun does ever 11 years. The reversal was pretty rapid, occurring in less than a year. Pamela and Fraser both wrote about it, and you can read the journal paper itself if you care to. Tau Boo B has a giant planet orbiting it very close in, and it appears that the gravitational interaction of the planet with the star has sped up the star's rotation, and that might be linked with the rapid magnetic reversal. Cool. It's unknown how long the cycle lasts, so more observations are planned.

4) Speaking of Pamela and Fraser, they have a new AstronomCast podcast up, about stellar populations and the creation of heavy elements.

5) The Very Large Array, a complex of 28 radio astronomy dishes made famous in the movie "Contact", is halfway done with an ambitious project to bring them up-to-date with cutting edge tech. I visited VLA a few years ago, and was very impressed with just the coolness of it, nevermind the incredible science it has produced over the decades. The new technology will make the array 10 times more sensitive than it was before and cover more of the radio spectrum.

6) My buddy Michelle Thaller from the Spitzer Space Telescope stars in a very cute videocast for kids about black holes, warring spaceships, and yes, a cute robot sidekick. The production quality of this video is very good, and I think kids will like it! Click the "Spaceship Spitzer" link to see it. The "Skinfrared" videos are very cool too. The music is great!

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