Category Archives: Education

“The Magic of Inspiration” – A documentary film

Alvin Remmers, whom I met while he was making a video series focused on the NewSpace industry and community, tells me about a new documentary film he is producing and directing. The Magic of Inspiration aims to

… unleash the potential of young women and cultivate their aspirations for careers in STEM-related fields. Firm in the belief that “If you can see it, you can be it”, the film is bursting at the seams with role models who have the ability to launch dreams into careers. 

We are profiling women who will provide a look behind the curtain at their remarkable careers, the paths they took to get there and the challenges and joys they derive from their vocations. Our  goal is to develop a more diverse and capable workforce. 

We also will profile organizations and institutions dedicated to developing the curiosity in young people necessary to begin to imagine themselves solving today’s puzzles and influencing tomorrow’s outcomes.

The Magic of Inspiration – a documentary intended to inspire girls and young women to pursue STEM careers.

Alvin says the website, themagic.film, “contains brief info about the film, the reasons for making it, the film’s intended audiences and profiles of the filmmakers“.

Sign up here for updates on the making of the movie.

Night sky highlights for May 2022

** What’s Up: May 2022 Skywatching Tips from NASA – NASA JPL

What are some skywatching highlights in May 2022? May provides some great planet spotting, including a close conjunction of Jupiter and Mars. At mid-month, a total eclipse of the Moon should delight skywatchers across the Americas, Europe, and Africa. And all month long, the Coma star cluster (aka, the Coma Berenices star cluster, or Melotte 111) is a great target for binoculars in the evening. YouTube Full Description (i.e., “Show More”)

0:00 Intro
0:11 Planet-spotting opportunities

1:02 Lunar eclipse
2:27 The Coma star cluster
3:33 May Moon phases

Additional information about topics covered in this episode of What’s Up, along with still images from the video, and the video transcript, are available at https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/skywatch….

** Tonight’s Sky: May Space Telescope Science InstituteTonight’s Sky

In May, we are looking away from the crowded, dusty plane of our own galaxy toward a region where the sky is brimming with distant galaxies. Locate Virgo to find a concentration of roughly 2,000 galaxies and search for Coma Berenices to identify many more. Keep watching for space-based views of galaxies like the Sombrero Galaxy, M87, and M64. About this Series “Tonight’s Sky” is a monthly video of constellations you can observe in the night sky. The series is produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute, home of science operations for the Hubble Space Telescope, in partnership with NASA’s Universe of Learning. This is a recurring show, and you can find more episodes—and other astronomy videos—at https://hubblesite.org/resource-galle….

** What to see in the night sky: May 2022BBC Sky at Night Magazine

What can you see in the night sky tonight? Pete Lawrence and Paul Abel reveal their pick of May’s night-sky highlights.

** Night Sky Notebook May 2022Peter Detterline

What’s happening in the skies above for May 2022.

** See also:

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Stellaris: People of the Stars

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Envisioning Exoplanets:
Searching for Life in the Galaxy

Night sky highlights for April 2022

** What’s Up: April 2022 Skywatching Tips from NASA – NASA JPL

What are some skywatching highlights in April 2022?

The gathering of planets in the morning sky increases from three to four, as Jupiter joins the party. Two close conjunctions – between Mars and Saturn, and Venus and Jupiter – provide highlights at the beginning and end of the month. And the Big Dipper hosts a surprise: a double star you just might be able to “split” with your own eyes.

0:00 Intro
0:09 Morning planets & TWO conjunctions!
1:28 The Big Dipper’s hidden “double star”
3:09 April moon phases

Additional information about topics covered in this episode of What’s Up, along with still images from the video, and the video transcript, are available at https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/skywatch….

** Tonight’s Sky: AprilSpace Telescope Science InstituteTonight’s Sky

Clear April nights are filled with starry creatures. Near the Big Dipper, you will find several interesting binary stars. You can also spot galaxies like the Pinwheel Galaxy, M82, and M96—the last of which is an asymmetric galaxy that may have been gravitationally disrupted by encounters with its neighbors. Keep watching for space-based views of these celestial objects. About this Series “Tonight’s Sky” is a monthly video of constellations you can observe in the night sky. The series is produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute, home of science operations for the Hubble Space Telescope, in partnership with NASA’s Universe of Learning. This is a recurring show, and you can find more episodes—and other astronomy videos—at https://hubblesite.org/resource-galle….

** What to see in the night sky: April 2022BBC Sky at Night Magazine

What can you see in the night sky tonight? Astronomers Pete Lawrence and Paul Abel reveal their night-sky highlights for April 2022.

See a beautiful planetary parade in the sky throughout April 2022 – BBC Sky at Night Magazine

** What’s in the Night Sky April 2022 #WITNS | Lyrid Meteor Shower | Partial Solar Eclipse Alyn Wallace

** Night Sky Notebook April 2022Peter Detterline

** April: Dancing Planets at Dawn – Sky & Telescope Podcast

With the arrival of April, you’re likely to spend more time outdoors under the stars. So why not bring along our monthly Sky Tour astronomy podcast? It provides an informative and entertaining 12-minute guided tour of the nighttime sky. Download the April episode to explore the fascinating movement of four planets in the sky before dawn.

** See also:

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Stellaris: People of the Stars

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Envisioning Exoplanets:
Searching for Life in the Galaxy

Night sky highlights for March 2022

** What’s Up: March 2022 Skywatching Tips from NASA – NASA JPL

What are some skywatching highlights in March 2022? Look for Saturn to join Venus and Mars in the morning sky around mid-month. In the evenings, find the Y-shaped constellation Taurus, the bull, high in the southwest. The Hyades star cluster forms the bull’s face. Then take a tour of four easy-to-find stars that have known planets of their own orbiting them.

0:00 Intro
0:11 Morning planets
0:37 Hyades star cluster
2:11 Easy to find exoplanets
3:30 Moon phases

Additional information about topics covered in this episode of What’s Up, along with still images from the video, and the video transcript, are available at https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/skywatch….

** Tonight’s Sky: MarchSpace Telescope Science InstituteTonight’s Sky

In March, the stars of spring lie eastward: Look for the constellations Gemini and Cancer to spot interesting celestial features like star clusters M35 and the Beehive Cluster, and NGC 3923, an oblong elliptical galaxy with an interesting ripple pattern. Keep watching for space-based views of the galaxies.

** What to see in the night sky: March 2022BBC Sky at Night Magazine

What can you see in the night sky tonight? Astronomers Pete Lawrence and Paul Abel reveal their night-sky highlights for March 2022.

** What’s in the Night Sky March 2022 #WITNS | Zodiacal Light | Equinox Alyn Wallace

00:00 Intro
00:50 Squarespace
01:39 Northern Hemisphere Night Sky
04:38 Southern Hemisphere Night Sky
07:23 Star Tracker Target
08:09 Moon
08:28 Equinox
09:17 Zodiacal Light
13:45 #WITNS Winners

** Night Sky Notebook March 2022Peter Detterline

What’s happening in the skies above for March 2022.

 

** See also:

** March: Sirius in the Spotlight – Sky Tour Podcast – Sky & Telescope

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Envisioning Exoplanets:
Searching for Life in the Galaxy

ESO: No black hole found in “closest black hole” system

A new report from the European Southern Observatory (ESO):

“Closest black hole” system found to contain no black hole

New research using data from ESO’s Very Large Telescope and Very Large Telescope Interferometer has revealed that HR 6819, previously believed to be a triple system with a black hole, is in fact a system of two stars with no black hole. The scientists, a KU Leuven-ESO team, believe they have observed this binary system in a brief moment after one of the stars sucked the atmosphere off its companion, a phenomenon often referred to as “stellar vampirism”. This artist’s impression shows what the system might look like; it’s composed of an oblate star with a disc around it (a Be “vampire” star; foreground) and B-type star that has been stripped of its atmosphere (background).

In 2020 a team led by European Southern Observatory (ESO) astronomers reported the closest black hole to Earth, located just 1000 light-years away in the HR 6819 system. But the results of their study were contested by other researchers, including by an international team based at KU Leuven, Belgium. In a paper published today, these two teams have united to report that there is in fact no black hole in HR 6819, which is instead a “vampire” two-star system in a rare and short-lived stage of its evolution.

The original study on HR 6819 received significant attention from both the press and scientists. Thomas Rivinius, a Chile-based ESO astronomer and lead author on that paper, was not surprised by the astronomy community’s reception to their discovery of the black hole.

Not only is it normal, but it should be that results are scrutinised,” he says, “and a result that makes the headlines even more so.

Rivinius and his colleagues were convinced that the best explanation for the data they had, obtained with the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope, was that HR 6819 was a triple system, with one star orbiting a black hole every 40 days and a second star in a much wider orbit. But a study led by Julia Bodensteiner, then a PhD student at KU Leuven, Belgium, proposed a different explanation for the same data: HR 6819 could also be a system with only two stars on a 40-day orbit and no black hole at all. This alternative scenario would require one of the stars to be “stripped”, meaning that, at an earlier time, it had lost a large fraction of its mass to the other star.

We had reached the limit of the existing data, so we had to turn to a different observational strategy to decide between the two scenarios proposed by the two teams,”

says KU Leuven researcher Abigail Frost, who led the new study published today in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

To solve the mystery, the two teams worked together to obtain new, sharper data of HR 6819 using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) and Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI).

The VLTI was the only facility that would give us the decisive data we needed to distinguish between the two explanations,

says Dietrich Baade, author on both the original HR 6819 study and the new Astronomy & Astrophysics paper. Since it made no sense to ask for the same observation twice, the two teams joined forces, which allowed them to pool their resources and knowledge to find the true nature of this system.

The scenarios we were looking for were rather clear, very different and easily distinguishable with the right instrument,” says Rivinius. “We agreed that there were two sources of light in the system, so the question was whether they orbit each other closely, as in the stripped-star scenario, or are far apart from each other, as in the black hole scenario.”

To distinguish between the two proposals, the astronomers used both the VLTI’s GRAVITY instrument and the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument on ESO’s VLT.

MUSE confirmed that there was no bright companion in a wider orbit, while GRAVITY’s high spatial resolution was able to resolve two bright sources separated by only one-third of the distance between the Earth and the Sun,” says Frost. “These data proved to be the final piece of the puzzle, and allowed us to conclude that HR 6819 is a binary system with no black hole.”

Our best interpretation so far is that we caught this binary system in a moment shortly after one of the stars had sucked the atmosphere off its companion star. This is a common phenomenon in close binary systems, sometimes referred to as “stellar vampirism” in the press,” explains Bodensteiner, now a fellow at ESO in Germany and an author on the new study. “While the donor star was stripped of some of its material, the recipient star began to spin more rapidly.”

Catching such a post-interaction phase is extremely difficult as it is so short,” adds Frost. “This makes our findings for HR 6819 very exciting, as it presents a perfect candidate to study how this vampirism affects the evolution of massive stars, and in turn the formation of their associated phenomena including gravitational waves and violent supernova explosions.

The newly formed Leuven-ESO joint team now plans to monitor HR 6819 more closely using the VLTI’s GRAVITY instrument. The researchers will conduct a joint study of the system over time, to better understand its evolution, constrain its properties, and use that knowledge to learn more about other binary systems.

As for the search for black holes, the team remains optimistic.

Stellar-mass black holes remain very elusive owing to their nature,

says Rivinius.

But order-of-magnitude estimates suggest there are tens to hundreds of millions of black holes in the Milky Way alone,

Baade adds.

It is just a matter of time until astronomers discover them.

This wide-field view shows the region of the sky, in the constellation of Telescopium, where HR 6819 can be found. This view was created from images forming part of the Digitized Sky Survey 2. The two stars in HR 6819 can be viewed from the southern hemisphere on a dark, clear night without binoculars or a telescope.

Links

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More Things in the Heavens:
How Infrared Astronomy Is Expanding
Our View of the Universe

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Becoming Off-Worldly:
Learning from Astronauts to Prepare for Your Spaceflight Journey