The Galactic Times Newsletter #20 - March 17 - 20, 2022
This Just In: Webb's Second Photo, Solar Spicules Feed Corona, Martian Road Report, Milky Way Blows Bubbles; A Lunar and Planetary Dawn Festival; Does Webb Cause an Increased Interest in Astronomy?
Cover Photo - Webb’s Number 2 Photo
In This Issue:
Cover Photo — Webb’s Number 2 Photo
Welcome to Issue 20
This Just In —
* Sending Energy From Solar Surface to Corona
* Webb’s Number 2 Photo, and Photo OF Webb…
* Martian Road Report
* The Milky Way is Blowing Bubbles!
Sky Planning Calendar —
* Moon-Gazing - A Lunar and Planetary Festival in the Dawn
* Observing—Plan-et — Venus, Saturn, Mars Gather for a Show, Mercury Says Hi to Jupiter as They Trade Places.
* For the Future — A Pair of Pairs in April
* Border Crossings — A Whale of a Correction; Ramming the Truth
Astronomy in Everyday Life - Does the Webb Cause an Increase in Astronomy Interest?
The Classroom Astronomer Inbox Magazine Issue 21 Highlights
Welcome to The Galactic Times Inbox Magazine, #20 !
Spring arrives in a few days, astronomically speaking. Weatherwise, it almost seems like it. It isn’t…here…quite springlike. It does get warm in the day, but then we dropped to 21-degrees F one night recently. We have some T-storms, but the severe stuff hasn’t shown up here…yet. Star gazing nights? Few and far between; the only clouds in the sky aren’t nebulae….
But like the crocuses and daffodils trying to peek their heads up from the soil, astronomy interest is trying to peak up a bit, with the James Webb Telescope driving some increased interest in the sky. Hard to do considering we’ve had two years of contention and isolation, not entirely ended (please stay safe—your rights don’t mean a thing if you are dead), and a war in Europe nobody but an autocrat needed. For the record, I’ve had no contact with a writer at the Dnipro Planetarium that once wrote for the original Classroom Astronomer magazine, and no news whether the dome and building have survived bombardment, which has happened in that city though not to the extremes seen elsewhere. And a personal friend has disappeared, too. Stargazing has taken somewhat of a back seat….
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This Just In—
In this edition, we’ll start from the Sun and move outwards towards the edge of the Galaxy….
* Sending Energy From Solar Surface to Corona
We have known for a long time that the energy we receive from the Sun comes from the Sun’s surface, its photosphere, and that in turn is derived from the nuclear fusion in its core. There are several steps before and after, and not all are well understood. One of those is how does some of the energy get into the solar corona, that white, pearly thin but extremely hot atmosphere of the Sun that is seen during total solar eclipses? We may now have a clue.
Close-up views of the photosphere have shown needle-like projections called spicules rising up from the surface. Their origin and purpose are little understood but an international team of Indian, United Kingdom and Hungarian astronomers may have figured out their usage.
Spicules are tiny, on a solar scale, max about 12,000 km long, ~1000 km wide. The scientists estimate there are about 3 million at a time on the surface, like a forest of pine needles, only yellow. They clearly follow some magnetic field lines, but how or why? The astronomers’ answer is that the spicules are in some kind of forced oscillation, like a fluid in vertical oscillation, that transfers energy from the convection below the photosphere to the corona. (Nature Physics, March 3, 2022, S. Dey et al.)
* Webb’s Number 2 Photo, and Photo OF Webb…. (Cover Story)
The alignment of the James Webb Telescope’s 18 mirrors is virtually complete, as is evident by this past week’s release of a photo of the much dimmer star 2MASS J17554042+6551277. Yes, you won’t be aiming your backyard scope on this one. But you can see a lot of background galaxies instead of 18 images of the same star this time. And it is viewed in the infrared, where the Webb will be doing much of its observing. Not a photo of scientific value but a milestone nevertheless.
All that seems to be known about the star is that it is much farther than the first star Webb looked at, about 2000 light years. 2MASS was a ground-based infrared sky survey from about 20 years ago, cataloging about 300 million objects.
Overlooked by most but intriguing is another image…OF Webb itself at the L2 position taken by another mission at L2, the Gaia survey mission. One wonders if probes get lonely or glad to see a fellow probe nearby….
* Martian Road Report
The Chinese Zhurong Rover has gone 60 sols (Martian days) in a southerly direction, not quite a half-kilometer, and it has ‘filed’ this report on its travels:
The surface is slightly sloping, rising as it goes along, so though far a mere 4 meters. Its wheels sink 5-10 mm into the soil with just a little slippage. There appears to be a steady, natural northeast wind that forms erosional features in the rocks and soils. Soil friction and cohesion appears similar to that near the Curiousity rover and Viking 1 lander but less than at other probe sites, such as at InSight. There are numerous, shallow, small craters, averaging around 10 meters in size, mostly degraded or sediment filled. Larger ones show some dark ejecta around them. (Nature Geoscience, March 7, 2022, 15, pages 171–176, L. Ding et al.)
* The Milky Way is Blowing Bubbles!
First spotted as Fermi’s Gamma Ray bubbles above and below the Galactic Center, microwave radiation was found similarly located soon after. Now the new X-ray satellite eRosita has found similar bubbles that go practically to the North and South Galactic Poles! How so? The source Sagittarius A* is proposed to have had jet-making activity about 2.5 million years ago, before going into its current quiescent phase of life. The activity created all three features. (Nature Astronomy, March 7, 2022, H.K Yang et al.)
Sky Planning Calendar
Moon passages by a star, planet or deep sky object are a good way to find a planet or other object if you’ve never located it before.
March 18 Full Moon, just after midnight CDT, so calling the 17th the night of the Full Moon almost counts :)
March 23 Perigee. It’s a Super Waning Gibbous Moon!
March 25 Last Quarter. Again, just after midnight CDT.
March 28 A Moon and Planets Get-Together! Hour by hour the Moon creeps past the planets in the dawn sky. First Mars is 4-degrees north of Luna, followed shortly thereafter by Venus 7-degrees north of the waning crescent. Then Saturn shakes hands (well, not really, at 4-degrees north of the crescent) as it passes by. All the planets will fit in a low-power 7-degree binocular field of view.
March 30 Late to the party, Jupiter, which had been in solar conjunction just 25 days ago, is passed 4-degrees away by the two-days-from-New moon, a difficult view. Ttry with binoculars, good luck.
Everybody, get up before dawn! At least that’s the planetary theme of the second half of March. The biggest and smallest pass each other early in the period, and then, by month’s end, Jupiter tries to horn in on Venus’ show with Saturn and Mars.
Mercury: By the 10th, Mercury effectively said ‘Bye!’, rising less than 40 minutes before the Sun, but it gets one final shot at getting glimpsed on the 20th, when it passes just 1.3-degrees from brilliant, even if ‘lost’ in bright twilight Jupiter. We’re talking the two rising less than 30 minutes before local sunrise, so don’t be surprised if you don’t find them, and definitely don’t let the Sun get into your (binocular-aided) eyes!
Venus maxes out its distance from the Sun — 47-degrees — on the 20th, too, a brilliant, pre-start-of morning twilight “star” in the East. But before it gets too high over the horizon, the dawn will break, not the greatest apparition Venus could make. Use Venus to find Mars and Saturn, and if you still aren’t sure, wait until the 28th and let the Moon guide you to all three (see above). Venus passes 2-degrees north of Saturn on the 29th, just so you can be sure.
Earth reaches astronomical equinox at 10:33 AM CDT, spring in the North, autumn in the South.
Mars, as noted above, is tagging along bright sister Venus, doing nothing special. Well, not quite. Though Venus is at max elongation, it will then slowly begin to edge gingerly back towards the Sun while Mars now gets the hint and slowly, slowly, slowly starts to edge away. In fact, on the 26th, they rise over the horizon at the same time, NOT Venus first as it has been doing, and from then on, Mars leads Venus.
Jupiter was in solar conjunction on the 5th. See it push Mercury aside in the dawn (see above, in other words) late in the month. It’ll be better in about a month. A lot better.
Saturn, the third member of the Morning Show with Mars and Venus, it rises before morning twilight begins from the 21st onwards. It do-si-do’s with the Moon and Venus near month’s end.
For the Future
Next month, a pair of planetary pairs….Saturn will rise earlier than Mars, after passing by very closely , and Jupiter passes really close to Venus, making a brilliant double star in the dawn. Mercury gives us an evening planet, its best time this year for Northern Hemisphere observers, even appearing briefly in dark skies.
Border Crossings - Ramming the Truth
A correction: The Sun nibbled at the head of Cetus the Whale, not its tail, and the date was mis-typed as the 14th. It is actually, this year, about the 27th—it varies because of leap year and precession, but not by ten days….my bad.
The Sun leaves Pisces and enters Aries the Ram on the 21st, saith the newspapers. Dang! Almost right! It actually entered the Ram on the 19th and stays there a whole month, well, almost….
Astronomy in Everyday Life
Does the Webb Telescope Bring More Interest to Astronomy?
Now that the James Webb Telescope has finally, after years, nay, decades of delays, been launched, it seems a slew of astronomically themed products have come onto the market, even before any photo other than a first non-calibrated or aligned photo of a single boring star has appeared. Models are hot sellers. And often at hotter than hot prices. This one, fashioned to be a clock, was spotted on Etsy, for $200.
Not everything is Webb. Some are just astronomical. Soft drink maker Coca Cola has a special new temporary flavor called Starlight.
Not having any idea what photons would taste like, a correspondent sampled it. She described it as like red and blue cotton-candy flavored. Well, we do know that there aren’t many sugars in free space so that’s strange….
The Classroom Astronomer Newsletter Issue 21 Highlights
This premium Inbox Magazine is a subscribers-only publication, though a free Lite version is available. Issue 22 will be out next week, and the TCA Digest, became a monthly, and is published on or before the last day of each month. Meanwhile here is the Table of Contents for Issue 21:·
Cover Photo - A Sample Tour from the WorldWide Telescope
Welcome to Issue 21
Sky Lessons - Ecliptic Motions of Moon and Sun
Connections to the Sky - (Cover Story) A Deep Dive Into The World Wide Telescope
The RAP Sheet – Research Abstracts for Practitioners
- An Outdoor Project‑Based Learning Program: Strategic Support and the Roles of Students with Visual Impairments Interested in STEM
A Message to International Astronomy Teachers and Researchers
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