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Sep 23 14

Almost there, ISRO makes it to Mars

by vidur

ISRO scientists recently reawakened the frozen orbiter Mangalyaan or short MoM, from its deep slumber, test firing its main rocket motor for 4 seconds. The risky phase went smoothly and according to ISRO

almost there

Graphic: ISRO

the craft will reach Mars tomorrow. The sensors aboard the craft are already detecting acceleration in the craft as it is being pulled into Mars’s gravitational well ( or fancily called Mars sphere of influence ) indicating that it is already in the neighborhood of the red planet… as expected :P

Tomorrow, the probe will autonomously fire its liquid apogee motor (LAM), when the craft is eclipsed by the red planet from our view on earth.

Mangalyaan insertion into Martian orbitMangalyaan first perform a back flip to point its main engine against its current velocity vector, i.e. the direction its flying in. It’s speed will drop significantly and get caught in a highly elliptical orbit around Mars ( see ISRO graphic )

If the LAM fails to fire, ISRO is banking on eight smaller engines which may be used alternatively. Commands related to all of these scenarios have been already uploaded into the craft a few days ago. If nothing works, short of a spacecraft exploding in deep space ( just kidding ), the orbiter would just shoot past Mars and the get hurled into a trajectory that would send it out of the solar system.

For now scientists

Stay tuned….as more exciting times are ahead!




Sep 13 14

Meteor Fireball

by vidur

IMG_8439_EXPORTSo, me and some of my astronomy enthusiast friends went out to look for Aurora borealis here up in Northern Minnesota. As luck would have it we had a hard time dealing with cloud cover and the moon rising at around 9 pm local time . However as i was playing with may camera, trying to detect any signs of an auroral glow, this nice visitor showed up in front of my camera.

The bright meteor left a nice smoky trail as it blazed by. The fireball’s flash  was so bright that it could cast shadows on the ground.

Sep 11 14

Sunspot 2158 Erupts. X-Class Solar flare will reach Earth Fri, 12/09/14

by vidur
Sunspot 2158 eurupted on Wednesday 10/9 at 1746UTC, hurling an X-Class solar flare right towards us. The flare is scheduled to reach on Friday, A radiation flash from the explosion ionized the upper layers of Earth’s atmosphere, disturbing HF radio communications for more than an hour. More importantly, the explosion hurled a CME directly toward Earth. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory photographed the expanding cloud

SOHO image of sunspot clusters on the solar surface as on 11/9/14

SOHO image of sunspot clusters on the solar surface as on 11/9/14

What to Expect?


Radio Storms

HF Communication issues

Pandemonium and chaos… nope kidding about this one :P

Aug 29 14

The Big Bang’s Lithium Problem

by vidur

Whoever said that with the discovery of the Higgs boson, the field of cosmology suddenly became dull and everything of significance is known known.
Enter Lithium, a particle physicist’s worst nemesis. The reason why this simple element is such a big problem is that we know how stellar hydrogen fuses to become Lithium
in Big bang like conditions. We’ve verified this experimentally. However the amount of Lithium found in stars and the observable universe is much much lesser.

Scientists at Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) studied how much lithium forms under Big Bang conditions for the first time and determined that the theoretical calculations were indeed correct. The phenomena under which Lithium is created has a rather fancy name called “primordial nucleosynthesis”. The things scientists do for getting grant money :P

The experiment was performed in an underground lab called the Laboratory for Underground Nuclear Astrophysics (LUNA), shielded by cosmic particles using a lead barrier.
These are the extreme setup conditions needed to get correct results.

The question is, if the theory works what’s happening out there. Why do stars contain much lesser quantity that what we should have seen.

For the advanced reader See

M. Anders et al. (2014), First Direct Measurement of the 2H(a,?)6Li Cross Section at Big Bang Energies and the Primordial Lithium Problem. Physical Review Letters 113, 042501. DOI 10.1103/PhysRevLett.113.042501

Apr 21 14

Lyrid Meteor Showers Peak Apr 22nd

by vidur

Earth is passing through a debris field of meteors left behind by Comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1). These meteors manifest themselves to us as a Lyrids. Expected activity at peak is 10-20 meteors per hour. But since the weather is nice and warm outside AT NIGHT, its officially time to go out and enjoy these space rocks with friends and family.

Lyrids seem to radiate from the bright star Vega in Lyra ( hence the name Lyrids ). For those who are not that interesting in meteors should know that what they lack in activity they make up in brightness. Lyrid meteors are usually bright and chances of seeing fireballs are good.

Apr 18 14

Earth Like Planet Discovered

by vidur

Using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered the first Earth-size planet orbiting in the “habitable zone” of another star. The planet, named “Kepler-186f” orbits an M dwarf, or red dwarf, a class of stars that makes up 70 percent of the stars in the Milky Way galaxy. The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms the long held theory that planets the size of Earth exist in the habitable zone of stars other than our sun. This means that with similar climate profiles like earth, life similar to earth may exist elsewhere in the universe.

The “habitable zone” is defined as the range of distances from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet. While planets have previously been found in the habitable zone, the previous finds are all at least 40 percent larger in size than Earth and understanding their makeup is challenging.

Jan 17 14

AAAD General Body Meet

by vidur

Greetings AAAD Members,

I congratulate all of you as AAAD today celebrates its 2nd anniversary as a registered body.

This is to bring to notice all annual members (2013-2014) and all life members that in the governing body meeting held at the Nehru Planetarium on January 11, 2014 it was decided that AAAD will hold its Annual General Body Meeting on Sunday, February 16th 2014 at 12 noon.

We request all members to send the agendas they wish to be addressed at the GBM on and cc

The account details and transaction details for 2012-2013(previous financial year) will be available with the treasurer of AAAD Mr. Vishnu Rethinam during the GBM if any present members are interested in knowing the details they may approach him.

All members are requested to be there for the meeting. The GBM can last long as some important decisions are to be made. All members are requested to keep their afternoons free on the 16th february.

All members who wish to make donations to AAAD are also welcome to do so during the GBM.

Please carry your id cards for this meeting

Raghu Kalra
General Secretary AAAD

Jan 4 14

Physicists Look for Evidence of time travellers on the internet

by vidur

Physicists R. Nemiroff (of APOD fame) and his student Teresa Wilson, recently published their results of a grand internet search to look for evidence of time travelers. In a nutshell they were looking for ‘time traveler activity’ over the internet, say a timer traveler used his time machine to move back in time and say…send an email, or put information online about world events that just happened way before it actually did. Time travel to the future is allowed by special relativity, however there is much debate if we can actually go back in time.

The search as you may have expected didn’t turn out much …. but made for a pretty good story.

To read more you can download their preprint paper here

Nov 3 13

Watch today’s Hybrid Solar Eclipse Live Courtesy Slooh

by Anindya Roy

Sep 22 13

Happy Equinox

by vidur

The Autumn equinox happens today Sept 22nd at 2044 UTC. This moment marks the official end of summer in the Northern hemisphere and hopefully New Delhi too! Hopefully the weather gods will get the memo too. The autumn equinox marks the time of equal length days and nights. From now on nights will become longer than days in the northern hemisphere. Hopefully that would mean that mortals can sleep a bit more.

Clear Skies