Shadows of Jupiter and Missing Matter No More PDF Print E-mail
Written by Nathaniel Whitehead   
This newsletter we have some very exciting news for all you space enthusiasts out there. Astronomers have discovered some secrets of the shadowy rings of Jupiter, some of the universe’s mysterious missing matter has been found, researchers are saying it is snowing in Mercury’s core, astronomers at the McDonald Observatory have observed a new type of pulsating carbon white dwarf, NASA and JPL have announced that we all get a chance to send our name to the Moon and beyond, and we have a link to a wonderful talk given by Brain Cox on the CERN super collider. So without further ado…

In the Shadow and the Light

Researchers from the Max-Plank Institute for solar system research and the University of Maryland are claiming to have solved the mysteries of Jupiter’s shadowy rings. Yes Jupiter does have rings, gossamer rings, which are not nearly as evident as the rings like those around Saturn.

The image above is a composite showing the structure of Jupiter's Gossamer rings
Image Credits: Cornell University

The gossamer rings of Jupiter are made up of small dark dust particles and until the voyager missions we didn’t even know they existed, but since we discovered them astronomers and scientists have noticed small curious details about the rings, like extended outer boundaries and differences in inclination. Now this new research is shedding light on how light and darkness shape the rings and produce the curious features. Apparently the dust grains alternate in charge as they pass in and out of the light and darkness, these variations interact with Jupiter’s massive and powerful magnetic field and this causes the observed difference in inclination and decides the outer boundaries of the ring system. The research is very interesting and is giving us clues into not only ring formation around planets but also into planet formation itself.

To read more on this story visit the following link;

Part of the Missing Matter has be Found

Most of us, the non cosmologists anyway, didn’t even know that there was missing matter in the universe, after all there seems like there is a lot out there for something to be missing. But modern physical cosmological theories tell us that the matter we know and are made of (called baryonic) is only a small portion of the entire universe, about 5%. It is that five percent that makes up all the stars and galaxies, everything we are used to seeing, touching and feeling is only a tiny portion of what the universe is made of and until recently half of that was missing. But a team of astronomers and researchers using the XMM-Newton spacecraft have found some of that missing 2.5% of baryonic matter. While observing a pair of galaxy clusters dubbed Abell 222 and Abell 223 they observed a massive bridge of hot, low density gas. This high temperature but low density gas has long been thought to hold the key to the missing matter but until now it had not been observed.

The image agove is a composite of several multi-wavelength images. It shows the pair of galaxy clusters with the gas in yellow-red.
Image Credit: ESA/ XMM-Newton/ EPIC/ ESO (J. Dietrich)/ SRON (N. Werner)/ MPE (A. Finoguenov))

This research is key to understanding the universe in its largest perspective and helps to cement models that can explain why the universe is the way it is. For more information on this story visit the following link;

It's Snowing in Mercury

So it has been known for a while that the little planet Mercury has a global magnetic field, its weak compared to Earth’s but it is there and it is the only other terrestrial planet besides Earth to have one.

The image above is Mercury seen by the new en route Mercury Messenger Mission
Image Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Up to know there have been know models that could account for suck a weak global field, at less than 100th the strength of Earth’s astronomers have been searching for answers and some researchers might just have found it, it’s snowing in Mercury. Okay so not the snow that you are used to thinking of, this is iron snow that is forming inside Mercury in the outer core. Mercury’s mainly iron inside with sulfur mixed in and the sulfur lowers the melting point of iron and it is this that could be helping the process of convection along. The iron-sulfur mixture in the outer core slowly cools and as this happens little “cubic” iron snow flakes form and sink down towards the center while the cooler sulfur rises, and it is this process that researchers are claiming drives what is left of the global magnetic field. It is incredible interesting research and deserves a look.

To view more on this story visit the following link;

New Type of Pulsating White Dwarf:

Astronomers Michael Montgomery, Kurtis Williams and graduate student Steven Degennaro using the 2.1 meter Otto Struve telescope at the McDonald Observatory have confirmed the existence of a “pulsating carbon white dwarf”. White dwarfs are stellar remnants of stars not massive enough to end their lives in a supernova and they are the most common fate for stars in the universe. Called SDSS J142625.71+575218.3 the white dwarf is located about 800 light years away in the constellation Ursa Major. It is about as massive as our own sun but with a diameter that is less than that of Earth’s and is not nearly as bright as the Sun. The discovery of such an object will contribute to our understanding of asteroseismology which is the study of the interior processes of stars and will help in our understanding of stellar evolution. This particular white dwarf is a “hot carbon white dwarf” called so because of its outer envelope of carbon and is believed to pulsate because of changes in this outer carbon envelope as it cools down from the processes that formed it. To find out more about this and other discoveries from the McDonald Observatory visit the following link;

Send Your Name to the Moon and Beyond:

NASA is giving the public a chance to participate in one of the up and coming missions to the Moon by sending your name aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The craft is going to orbit the moon and collect data for the upcoming gear up of unmanned and manned missions. You will find a link at the bottom of this article that will take you to the website where you submit your name; it will then be put onto a microchip and integrated into the LRO spacecraft for the journey to the Moon. Another opportunity shouldn’t be missed either, you can send you name on board the upcoming Kepler mission. This mission will not be around the moon but will be in an Earth trailing orbit that takes it around the Sun. The Kepler mission has been designed to look for exo-planets, planets around stars other than our Sun and could very well be the first craft to discover an Earth like planet out there in the great yonder, so this is an amazing opportunity. For the Kepler mission you must submit an essay stating why you think the Kepler mission is important with your name and hometown. To find out more about these opportunities and to find the links for submission see below: Lunar Orbiter Mission:

Kepler Mission:

Talk on CERN and the Importance of the Scientific Story:
A fantastic talk was given for TED by Brian Cox on the Large Hadron Collider that is going to go online fairly soon, it is about 15 minutes but well worth the time;

Video Link:

HCC Star Squad Star Parties:

Star Party Schedule - Spring 2008
Wednesday, January 30th - Scarcella Science and Technology Center
Monday, February 4th - Alief Campus at 2811 Hayes Road
Tuesday, February 19th - Scarcella Science and Technology Center
Monday, March 3rd - Alief Campus at 2811 Hayes Road
Monday, March 17th - Scarcella Science and Technology Center
Monday, April 7th - Alief Campus at 2811 Hayes Road
Monday, April 21st - Scarcella Science and Technology Center
Monday, May 5th - Alief Campus at 2811 Hayes Road

Here is the link to more information.

Meetings of the North Houston Astronomy Club
Meetings are held on the 4th Friday of every month. They are held in the Teaching Theatre located in the CLA building of Kingwood College @ 7:30 p.m. (Novice session @ 6:30-7:15 pm)

Meetings of the Houston Astronomical Society
Meetings are held on the 1st Friday of every month. They are held in room #117 of the Science and Research Building I of the University of Houston, central campus @ 8:00 p.m. (Novice sessions across the hall @ 7:00 p.m.)

Meetings of the Fort Bend Astronomy Club:
The Fort Bend Astronomy Club meetings are held at the HCC southwest campus in Stafford, TX. Meetings begin at 7:00 p.m. in the #7 lecture hall and in rooms 102/104 and usually feature both novice and advanced programs

Johnson Space Center Astronomical Society:
JSCAS meets on the second Friday of every month at 7:30 PM. the meetings are held in the auditorium at the Center for Advanced Space Studies (formerly LPI) located at 3600 Bay Area Blvd. (at Middlebrook Drive).