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The Cosmic Mirror
By Daniel Fischer, Germany
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The Sky in April 2008
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Mirror for VISTA delivered to Paranal; big IR sky survey from 2009
The 4-m telescope will guide the VLT - right next to it - to new targets: ESO and QMUL Releases, E-A. Live from the VLTI: KL Teile 1, 2, 3. VIRUS @ HET: AIP PR. Spincasting of the LSST mirrors 1+3 successful: NwS. The largest synthesized telescope in Europe doubles its surface: MPIfR PR. LOFAR becoming a Europe-wide radio interferometer, with another station to be added in the U.K. (after NL and D): G. APERTIF @ Westerbork: ASTRON PR.
Update # 313 of Saturday, April 19, 2008
Bizarre Apophis scare event triggered by mishap at German science fair

Apophis scare makes fleeting comeback under most bizarre circumstances ...

Erroneous student paper wins science fair awards, makes German media / AFP screws up big time, triggers worldwide frenzy / NASA forced to issue clarifiction

Thus spoke NASA Headquarters in a "Statement on Student Asteroid Calculations" on April 16: "The Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., has not changed its current estimates for the very low probability (1 in 45,000) of an Earth impact by the asteroid Apophis in 2036. Contrary to recent press reports, NASA offices involved in near-Earth object research were not contacted and have had no correspondence with a young German student, who claims the Apophis impact probability is far higher than the current estimate." Actually that 13-year old student was several science fair prizes recently for his "discovery" and claimed that NASA had conceded to him that his 1 in 450 figure was right. Many newspapers and one international news agency fell for this claim and didn't bother to check it out - which would have been very easy because NASA's NEO Program has pretty transparent websites.

The NASA statement continues: "This student's conclusion reportedly is based on the possibility of a collision with an artificial satellite during the asteroid's close approach in April 2029. However, the asteroid will not pass near the main belt of geosynchronous satellites in 2029, and the chance of a collision with a satellite is exceedingly remote." This straight fact had been mentioned for several months on a special NASA website on Apophis' orbit! NASA: "Therefore, consideration of this satellite collision scenario does not affect the current impact probability estimate for Apophis, which remains at 1 in 45,000." The really scary thing here is that is was the critical thinking of the "old media" which broke down here on a wide front - with most "new media" following suit. With some exceptions; see sidebar ...
The full story until noon of April 16 is told by Cosmos4U which was quoted as the main source (or one of them) by KSJ, S&T, UT, BA, LS + SV, NW, APr, BCS, Deltoid, TAB, PD, MLD, BMGM, Elsm., DU, ST, Astrodictium, SB, SeeSat, MPML and a.de.
Independently the nonsensical nature of the AFP story - which ran all the way to China and Australia (where an observatory director was taken on the ride as well) - was discovered by The Register, Guardian Blog and ABC Blog (so some journalists still do fact checking ... :-). Comments could be placed in this, this, this and this blog.
And then came the NASA Release, followed by one from JPL [SD] and one on the NASA NEO site. Stories published since: DW, NwS, AFP, ABC, VN, ScAmB, NaB, SCB, SkM, DDP, Sp., PNN, SZ, RE, AN, ZDF, KL.

Does NASA need an "Office of Potentially Hazardous Near-Earth Object Preparedness"? A bill has been introduced: SCB. Related: AS. Osmium in ocean sediments correlates with impacts: NSF PR, NwS, SC, AT, SB. 170+ craters on Earth: SC.

Mars Update

MGS data indicate meteor shower: RAS PR, SC. MER briefly in danger (of cut funding), but no more - coverage of Apr. 14: PSB. Apr. 8: PSB. Apr. 1: Colbert Rpt. Mar. 31: PSB. Mar. 27: SFG. Mar. 26: WP. Mar. 25: NwS, KSJ, CNNB, ABCB, NW, TAB, ST. Mar. 24: CNN (B; earlier), SC (B), MaC, PSB, SpP UT. Mar. 23: MailTrib. Mars Express ESA Releases of Apr. 17 and Mar. 28, pictures #103... 76 and 75 and coverage of Apr. 16: PSB. Apr. 7: APOD. March 29: W. Odyssey Central Michigan Univ. PR and coverage of Apr. 1: KL. Mar. 25: CNNB. Mar. 22: *Bull, ST. MRO' striking Phobos color images [JPL] #103... 71, 70, 69, 68, 67 and 66 and coverage of Apr. 17: BAB. Apr. 10: KSJ. Apr. 9: S&T, NwS, PSB, BAB (other topic). Apr. 4: APOD. Apr. 3: UT. Phoenix changes trajectory prior to May landing: Apr. 10 NASA Release and coverage of Apr. 17: SC. Apr. 12: TP. Apr. 11: PS, NwS, SC (B). Apr. 10: PSB. MSL troubles coverage of Apr. 1: SCB.

Saturn Update

Finally a 2-year mission extension for Cassini is official. Plus a surprising organic brew erupting in geyser-like fashion from Saturn's moon Enceladus was 'tasted' by Cassini on Mar. 12. JPL/NASA Releases of Apr. 15, Mar. 27 and Mar. 26 [alt.] (more [alt.]), ESA Release of Mar. 25, pictures # 103... 62, 61, 60, 57, 56, 55, 54, 53, 52, 51, 50, 98... 83, 82 81, 80, 79, 78, 77, 76, 75, 74, 73, 72, 71, 70, 69, 68, 67, 66, 65 and 64 and coverage of Apr. 17: Xp, BdW. Apr. 16: BBC (earlier), NwS, ST. Apr. 15: SC, PSB, SkM, AI. Apr. 10: PSB. Apr. 7: PSB, CL. Apr. 3: PSB. Apr. 2: S&T, PSB. Apr. 1: AB. Mar. 29: ST. Mar. 28: AW&ST, CD, ABCB, DPA, Sp, W, BdW. Mar. 27: KSJ, PW, NwS, CSM, SC, NaB, ABCB, IO9, W. Mar. 26: PS (B), NwS, SC, BAB. Mar. 25: PSB. Mar. 24: CD. Mar. 23: TP. Mar. 22: ST.

ISS etc. Update

Endeavour has returned after "a textbook mission", STS-123, the next one is set for May 31, Stern is science admin no more, the ATV is now docked to the ISS and a Soyuz brought Exp. 17 up while another one took #16 down, in a rough landing. ATV News, the vehicle seen from the ISS, an amateur image of the ISS with the ATV docked, a video clip of the departure and lots of screenshots from the Jan. 31 dress rehearsal, a DSLR pic of the Jan. 29 approach, a moving map with the ISS & ATV over the Earth, ESA Releases of Apr. 3, Apr. 2, Mar. 31, Mar. 30, Mar. 29 and Mar. 28, NASA Releases of Apr. 3, Apr. 1, Mar. 31, Mar. 26 (other topic), Mar. 25 and Mar. 24, GSI Release of Apr. 16, DLR Release of Apr. 3, Science@NASA of Apr. 17 and Apr. 10, a farewell message from A. Stern, a GAO Report on the Ares I, yet another Mikulski call for and extra $1b for NASA, a special page on the reentry of the ATV as a subject of scientific study and coverage of Apr. 19: SN, BBC, SC, ST, W. Apr. 17: NwS, SC (other story), BBC. Apr. 16: SC (other story), BBC, W. Apr. 14: BBC (other story), SpR, NwSB. Apr. 13: AW&ST. Apr. 11: NYTB, DoC. Apr. 10: SN, SC, ST. Apr. 9: FG, IO9. Apr. 8: SN, CS, BBC, SC, CNNB, ST. Apr. 7: SpP, ST. Apr. 5: SpP. Apr. 4: NYT, BBC, NwS (other story), SCB, NW, ST, WV Blog. Apr. 3: BBC, SN, SC (other story), SkM, UT, ST, JenaKompakt, AI. Apr. 2: SC, SpP, IO9, ST. Apr. 1: ST (other story). Mar. 31: SN, BBC, SN, ABC, SC, APr. Mar. 30: AW&ST, NYT, ST. Mar. 29: SN, BBC, SC, SpP. Mar. 28: NPR, CS, BBC, CNNB, SCB. Mar. 27: NYT, Wired, SC, FYI, NaB, CNNB, ScAm, SpP, PrA, ST (other story), W, PP. Mar. 26: AW&ST, SN, SC (other story), ABC, BBC, NW, SpN, KSJ, NwSB, PSB, BAB, WisLog, W. Mar. 25: SN, BBC, SC, PSB, SWr, UT, ST. Mar. 24: SN (earlier), SC (earlier), UT (other story), SpP. Mar. 23: SN, BBC, SC, ST. Mar. 22: SN (earlier), SC (earlier), GLB, BAB.

Most sensitive infrared map of the distant Universe

It combines data over a period of three years to an image containing over 100,000 galaxies over an area four times the size of the full moon: JACH PR [RAS], SpW. Dark matter direct detection claimed, contradicted: paper by Bernabei & al., NYT, LAT, NwS, ScAmB, NwSB. Interview (18:40) with cosmic acceleration co-discoverer Brian Schmidt.

BAL Quasars with polar outflows observed w/XMM: ESA Release [alt.], KSJ. Interaction between super-massive black holes at the heart of Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) and star formation in the surrounding galaxy: RAS PR. Weighing bh's: NwS. GR test with double bh: PP. Black hole merger sim: paper by Campanelli et al., RIT PR, NwS, SC, CL.

"Nature's Brightest Explosion": what we know about the bright GRB

The first - and big - paper on the "naked-eye GRB" was submitted only five days after the event! Also - pretty late! - HST and ESO Releases and more coverage by KJS, NwS, APOD, S&T, BAB (earlier, still (earlier), PrA, GLB, DPA, KL (früher), AI, DPA. Bohdan's Impact on Our Understanding of Gamma-ray Bursts: paper by Piran. GRBs as hints for invisible galaxies: Spitzer Happening, UT. GRBs as distance measurement tools: KL. GRB interview w/N. Tanvir (7:31).

Newly discovered galaxy cluster in early stage of formation is farthest ever identified: UCI PR. Galaxies which look old early in the history of the Universe reside in enormous clouds of dark matter and will eventually evolve into the most massive galaxies that exist in the present day: RAS PR. New models of galaxy formation show the gastro in physics: Science News. Strongest burst of star formation in the history of the Universe about two billion years after the Big Bang: RAS PR.

Milky Way's Giant Black Hole Awoke from Slumber 300 Years Ago

X-ray satellites have discovered that our galaxy's central black hole let loose a powerful flare three centuries ago: GSFC Release, Dsc., ROG, SC.

Whole Earth Telescope at it again - a five-week-long international observing run, focusing on white dwarf IU Vir: Univ. of Delaware PR. Mountains on n*s as g wave sources: NwS. What stars go SN? HST Release, NwS, SC, NaB, BAB.

Yellow supergiant eclipsing binaries

Two such systems of a new kind - two very bright, massive yellow stars that are very closely orbiting each other - have now been found: OSU PR, NwS, SC. Smallest stellar black hole: GSFC PR, KL, BdW, TP.

Iota Hor escaped from the Hyades - asteroseismology shows that its temperature is 6150 K, its mass is 1.25 times that of the Sun, and its age is 625 million years: ESO Release. Stellar rotation: SC. Mixing processes in hot, bright stars much more complicated than thought: RAS PR.

Coldest Brown Dwarf found: 350°C!

The isolated object, about 40 light years away, has about 15-30 times the mass of Jupiter - the finding is a new step toward filling the gap between stars and planets: a paper by Delorme et al., a CFHT PR and coverage by S&T, PrA, AT, CD, BAB, BdW. Jets from young brown dwarfs: RAS PR. X-ray jets from young star: Chandra pic.

New Organic Molecule in Space

Scientists detect amino acetonitrile near the centre of our Milky Way: MPIfR PR [German; alt.], BAB, lots more coverage.

Supernova 'factory' in the bar of the Milky Way - two rare clusters of Red Supergiant (RSG) stars: RAS PR. Black hole in globular cluster Omega Cen? ESA PR, Dsc., SC, SpW, TAB. Also a Spitzer image of Omega Cen (BAB).

10 planets found in 6 months - by transit

SuperWASP is now a planet-finding production line and will revolutionise the detection of large planets: UCSB and RAS Releases, S&T, BBC, ROG, SC. "Laser comb" approach to exo-Earth hunting: CfA Release. Earths hard to find: ScAmB. RISE camera for better exoEarth transit hunting: RAS PR, NAM Blog. Terrestrial-style exoplanet with small mass - and indirect evidence: a paper by Ribas et al. (which had caused some excitement already back in February), a UCL Release and coverage by NwS, SC, AFP, BCS, BAB, Sp., DPA.

What's going on around AB Aur? We "don't have a conclusive picture of what is happening": the paper, NSF PR, NYT, SC, AT, WO, Planeten.ch. Also something clumpy at HL Tau: RAS and St. Andrews Releases, BBC, NwS, NAM Blog, CD, ABCB, KSJ, BdW.

'No Sun link' to climate change

Scientists have produced further compelling evidence showing that modern-day climate change is not caused by changes in the Sun's activity: BBC (earlier), PW, ABCB, Stoat, UT, AN. 'Ringing' Sun after flares: ESA Release (more), S&T. STEREO progress: BBC. Corona tomography: RAS PR. "Focused" flares get hotter: GSFC and RAS Releases. Source of the solar wind: ESA and RAS Releases, PW, SC, TP. Solar "tsunami" images in 2007: RAS PR, SC, NAM Blog. Magnetic "fountains": RAS PR.

China approves second-phase lunar probe program

The director-in-chief of the China Moon-orbiting Program said that investment in the second phase would exceed that for the first lunar probe but didn't give specific figures: Xinhua. An orbiter it'll be: AW&ST. China, Japan extend lunar missions: SpN. Kaguya Earthrise movies, some in better def: JAXA Release, PSB (earlier), W, SC. Kaguya Moon map: JAXA PR, AD. LRO progress: NASA Release. Lunar Science Community Needs Rebuilding: SC. Institue opens: NwSB. Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) details: NASA Release.

Venus Express intensifies active volcano hunt with new technique: ESA [alt.] and RAS Releases and coverage of Apr. 8: BdW. Apr. 4: PSB. Apr. 2: UT. Hayabusa's odyssey far from over: NwS.

MESSENGER coverage of Mar. 25: SC. Dawn Journal of Mar. 30. Controllers working to keep Ulysses sun orbiter alive: SN. Planning a NASA-ESA outer planets mission: SC.

  • GALEX image of Messier 83 shows stars spawning in the otherwise barren outskirts of the galaxy: Caltech and NASA Releases, picture, BBC.
  • GLAST delay expected after accident - an adapter beam was fractured during preparations last week to hoist the second stage atop the first stage of its Delta 2: FTB.
  • Kosmos launches German military radar satellite, the 4th SAR-Lupe: OHB PR, SN, ST.
  • AstroGrid called "world's most powerful astronomical virtual observatory" - it provides the UK astronomy community unparalleled access to the wide range of multi-wavelength observations of our sky: RAS PR. More on VO: NAM Blog.
  • Advanced LIGO will come, detection of cosmic gravtational waves then almost guaranteed: Caltech PR, BBC, SC. GW sources debated: Case News.
  • Soap bubbles recreate Jupiter's turbulent storms - turbulent motion in a flat soap film can develop into pairs of vortices, like twin hurricanes rotating in opposite directions: NwS.
  • Holmes outburst followed by chance by planet-hunting telescope: Hsieh and RAS Releases (note: here it initially read "23 October" instead of "24 October"; the CM saw to it that the mistake was corrected); the original abstract. But other observations were even earlier: Comets ML.


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