[caption id="attachment_856" align="aligncenter" width="1000" caption="January 2011 Sky Map"][/caption]

JAN 2:  A Waning Crescent Moon within 5 degrees of Antares at the time of dawn

JAN 3-4: Quadrantid Meteor Shower will peak

JAN 4: Partial Solar Eclipse

JAN 4: New Moon

JAN 7: Saturn Western Quadrature

JAN 10: Venus Greatest Western Elongation

[caption id="attachment_855" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="venus and mercury will be on greatest elongation on 10th Jan "][/caption]

JAN 10: Mercury Greatest Western Elongation

JAN 12: First Quarter Moon

JAN 15: A Waxing Gibbous Moon (10.32 days old) within 2 degrees of Pleiades (M45).

JAN 20: Full Moon

JAN 21: A Waning gibbous Moon (16.86 days old) within 5.5 degrees of Regulus.

JAN 25: A Waning Gibbous (20.45 days old) Moon will be around 8.5 degrees from Saturn

JAN 26: Last Quarter Moon

JAN 26: The Moon within 6 degrees of Spica. Also the Moon, Spica and Saturn are aligned in a straight line.

JAN 29: A Waning Crescent Moon (24% illuminated) is just around 2 degrees N-NE of Antares.

JAN 30: A Waning Crescent Moon (16% illuminated) is just around 4 degrees NE of Venus.


2010: A Year of Historic Milestones in Spaceflights

[caption id="attachment_852" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="2010 was a big year for spaceflight"][/caption]

This year was a big one for spaceflight, with governmental agencies and the private sector alike marking many key milestones.

During this watershed year, for example, NASA changed course to pursue new goals, the first private space capsule was launched into orbit and the International Space Station reached the 10-year mark of continuous human habitation.

A decade of Continuous Occupation in International Space Station

The first live-in crew arrived at the International Space Station on Nov. 2, 2000. Since then, individuals have come and gone, but NASA and its international partners have been occupying the station uninterrupted. This year, they reached the 10-year anniversary of continous human presence on the orbital laboratory.

The fact that humanity has an established,decade-long presence on a space outpost 220 miles (354 kilometers) above Earth's surface is a big deal, NASA officials have said. It highlights the progress we've made in becoming a true spacefaring civilization, and it hints at bigger achievements to come.

Assembly of the station began in 1998 and is almost complete. The station, now nearly as long as a football field, has hosted more than 600 science and technology experiments over its lifetime, NASA officials have said. That number should rise substantially as the station transitions fully from its assembly phase to a fully-functioning research laboratory.

NASA plans to operate the space station until at least 2020.

First Successful Solar Sail Mission

For years, engineers have dreamed about powering a craft through space using nothing but the constant stream of photons from the sun. That dream finally became a reality this year with the launch of Japan's Ikaros spacecraft.

Ikaros lifted off on May 20 along with Japan's troubled Akatsuki Venus probe. In June,Ikaros successfully deployed its solar sail, which catches photons the way a ship's sail catches wind. The probe is now riding that photon wind, speeding toward the far side of the sun.

Ikaros is demonstrating the viability of solar sail technology, showing that probes can travel through space without relying on costly (and heavy) chemical propellant. Its success could lead to the development and launch of many more solar sail craft.

Japan's space agency, for example, is planning to launch a solar sail mission to Jupiter around 2019 or 2020, officials have said.

Space Shuttle Program Winds Down

Three of the last-ever space shuttle missions lifted off this year, as NASA prepares to shut down the shuttle program in 2011.

All of the 2010 shuttle missions delivered key parts and supplies to the International Space Station, helping put the finishing touches on the orbiting outpost. On Feb. 8, the shuttle Endeavour blasted off on mission STS-130, ferrying a cupola with seven windows and a robotic control station.

The STS-131 mission of the shuttle Discovery launched April 5, bringing up racks for scientific experiments, as well as new sleeping quarters for the station's crew. Then Atlantis launched May 14 on the STS-132 mission to deliver the Russian-built module known as Rassvet. Rassvet provides additional storage space and serves as a new docking port for Russia's Soyuz and Progress spacecraft.

Discovery was supposed to make another trip to the station this year. Its STS-133 mission — which will deliver a storage room and a humanoid robot called Robonaut 2  — was slated to launch in November, but the discovery of cracks in the shuttle's external fuel tank pushed the mission back to February 2011.

SpaceShipTwo's First Flights

Space tourism made some big strides in 2010, as Virgin Galactic's suborbital space plane SpaceShipTwo took to the skies for the first time.

SpaceShipTwo will eventually ferry customers on joyrides to suborbital space, at $200,000 a pop. The space plane is designed to ride a mothership known as WhiteKnightTwo up to about 50,000 feet (15,240 meters); at that altitude, it will drop off, fire its own rocket engines and cruise up to the edge of space.

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson publicly unveiled SpaceShipTwo in December 2009. In March 2010, it made its first flight, staying firmly anchored to WhiteKnightTwo the entire time. Then, on October 10, the space plane flew free for the first time, detaching from WhiteKnightTwo and gliding back down to Earth.

Next up is a powered test flight, giving SpaceShipTwo the chance to fire its rocket motors. That could take place in early 2011. If all goes well, tourists could be flying to the edge of space by late 2011 or 2012, Virgin Galactic officials have said.

SpaceX Launches, Returns Dragon Capsule

NASA will need help getting cargo to the space station after the space shuttle fleet retires in 2011, and late this year a private company served notice that it's just about ready to step up.

On Dec. 8, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) became the first commercial outfit to launch and re-enter a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit — something only six nations or governmental agencies had ever done before.

The California-based company lifted its Dragon capsule into space aboard its Falcon 9 rocket. Dragon orbited Earth twice, then splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Mexico, where SpaceX crews retrieved it.

The mission was the first test flight under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, which is designed to foster the development of private vehicles capable of carrying cargo and crew to the International Space Station.SpaceX holds a $1.6 billion NASA contract to make 12 supply flights to the station with Dragon through 2016.

Dragon's next test flight could take it directly to the space station, SpaceX officials have said. The capsule could begin making bona fide supply runs as early as next year.

NASA's New Space Plan

President Barack Obama's new plan for NASA, announced as part of his administration's 2011 budget request, calls for the space agency to shift gears, goals and priorities.

Gone, for example, is the Constellation program, which aimed to take astronauts back to the moon using Ares I and Ares V rockets, along with a spacecraft called Orion. Instead of Constellation, President Obama proposed that NASA work to gethumans to an asteroid by 2025 and then to Mars by the mid-2030s.

NASA's new direction isn't responsible for mothballing the shuttle fleet in 2011; that plan has been in place since 2004. But the new plan looks outside of the space agency to fill the looming hole in low-Earth orbit transportation capability that the shuttle retirement will create.

In the short term, Russian Soyuz spacecraft will ferry cargo and crew to and from the International Space Station. But NASA's new plan aims to spur the development of American commercial space capabilities, with private companies — such as SpaceX and the Virginia-based outfit Orbital Sciences — soon shouldering much of the load.

NASA would then be free to concentrate on more ambitious projects to explore deeper space — the asteroid and Mars missions, for example.


Create your own star map

Many people ask where can we get a star map to observe and locate various objects in the sky. Some newspapers and magazines publish star maps which are supposed to be used on a particular day at a particular point of time. As the celestial objects change their positions with time, we have to assume (or predict) it at other points of time. Beginners often find it difficult to imagine this position change. Here is the link to a website which creates starmap of any time of any day observ


Dec 1: The Moon is about 10.5 degrees W-SW of Saturn in the East before dawn

Dec 1: Mercury Greatest Elongation

Dec 2: The Moon is just 3.5 degrees West of Spica in the East before dawn

Dec 3: The Moon is 8 degrees SE of Venus in the East before dawn

Dec 5: New Moon

Dec 7: A very thin Waxing Crescent Moon is just 2 degrees NE of Mercury very low in the West-Southwest just after sunset

Dec 13: First Quarter Moon

Dec 13: The Moon is 7 degrees NW of Jupiter

Dec 13-14: A peak time for the Geminids. Geminid meteor maximums commonly reach 50 or more meteors per hour.

Dec 17: Jupiter Eastern Quadrature

Dec 18: A Waxing Gibbous Moon is within 6.5 degrees from M45

Dec 19: Uranus Eastern Quadrature

Dec 20: Mercury Inferior Conjunction

Dec 21: Full Moon

Dec 26: The Moon is 6.5 degrees SE of Regulus

Dec 27: Pluto Conjunction

Dec 28: Last Quarter Moon

Dec 29: The Moon forms a triangle with Spica and Saturn in the East before dawn. Saturn is nearly 8 degrees and Spica is nearly 7 degrees away from the Moon.

Public lecture and General Body

This month's AASTRO Public lecture will be held at Science and Technology Museum, PMG on December 2, 2010, Thursday at 5.30pm. The presentation on "Apple, Newton and Astronomy" will be given by Vaisakhan Thampi, NIIST, Thiruvananthapuram. Students, teachers and all interested public are welcome to this program. For more details please do contact Mr. Pradeep Attukal to 9447525367

The presentation will be followed by the yearly General Body meeting of AASTRO-Kerala and all members are requested to be present at the meeting.

Create your own star map

Many people ask where can they get a starmap to observe and locate objects in the sky. Some  newspapers and magazines publish starmaps which are supposed to be used on a particular day at a particular point of time. As the celestial objects change their position in the sky as time elapses, we have to assume (or predict) their positions at other points of time. Beginners often find it difficult to imagine this shift in position on the celestial sphere. Here we give the link to a website which creates you the starmap of any time of any day observed from any place on earth.

Your Sky is a website which provides you option to create a starmap at the time of your convenience. Just click HERE to go there. You will see a field where you can enter the latitude-longitude of your place. When you click 'make sky map', you will be directed to a page where you will see a skymap and and options to change your preferences. You can specify your time and date of convenience, the objects you want to be displayed in your sky map, the size and colour mode of the map and you will also get the corresponding ephemeris. Just take a print-out and enjoy the sky


Nov 1: The Moon is 5 degrees S of Regulus in the East before dawn

Nov 4A Waning Crescent Moon is about 7.5 degrees SE of Saturn in the East just before dawn

Nov 6 : New moon

Nov 13: First Quarter Moon

Nov 16: A Gibbous Moon is nearly 6.5 degrees away from Jupiter

Nov 17/18: The Leonids Meteor Shower will peak. This shower has produced meteor storms in the past, but no storm is expected this year. Also the Waxing Gibbous Moon will shine till after Mid-Night.

Nov 18: Neptune Eastern Quadrature

Nov 20: Mercury and Mars are just 1 deg 40’ apart in the W-SW, very low after Sunset.

Nov 21: Full Moon.

Nov 22: The Moon is just 1 deg 30’ away from M45-The Pleiades (after mid night) but an observer will have to use a binocular to glimpse M45.

Nov 29:  A Last Quarter Moon is nearly 9 degrees from Regulus


MARS: Very low in Scorpius in the Western evening sky in the beginning of month. On 8th at evening Mars will share company with a very thin Crescent Moon and also they will form a trio with Regulus. On 20th November at evening Mars will be paired with Mercury by just 1.5 degrees apart.

NEPTUNE: The planet shining at magnitude 7.8 in the beginning of the month. FindNeptune just within 12’ 53” NW of the 5th mag Mu Capricorni star. Neptune will be at Eastern Quadrature on November 18.

JUPITER and URANUS will remain around 3 degrees throughout the month. Jupiter shining at mag -2.7 along with Uranus (mag 5.7) is well placed in the sky after sunset for observation

SATURN: The ringed planet will rise around 5am in the month’s beginning. On 4thNovember the planet will be nearly 7 degrees N-NE of Crescent Moon forming a very nice naked-eye view. Saturn will begin this month by staying within 1.5 degrees East from Porrima in Virgo and will keep moving away toward east.

VENUS: The brightest planet will emerge from the Eastern morning sky during the first week of the month. On November 18, the planet will be 3 degrees 18’ East of Spica.

MERCURY: Very low in the evening Western sky will remain in the glare of the Sun. The inner most planet will emerge from the Western horizon during 10th November and will form a trio with Mars and Antares in the evening of 15th November. Mercury will be just 1 deg 40’ from Mars on 20th evening. Mercury will slowly keep getting up the western sky unless it reaches Greatest Eastern Elongation on December 1st.

AASTRO Kottakkal commemorates Bhabha,the renowned Indian scientist

October 30th is the 101st birthday of Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha, a man who throughout his life dominated both the scientific and policy spheres of India's nuclear affairs, first bringing the Indian nuclear program to life and then setting its priorities and direction.

AASTRO Club,Kottakkal is all set to make this occasion memorable by organising a photo exhibition,a quiz programme and releasing a newsletter on him.

Bhabha was born in 1909, of a wealthy well connected Parsi family.In 1927, he sailed to England to study engineering at Cambridge. He soon decided that his true interest was in nuclear physics, a field then flowering with Cambridge as one of its centers. Bhabha received a Ph.D. in physics from Cambridge University in 1935, studying the physics of cosmic rays. While in Europe he met many of the greatest physicists of the day, who would later play major roles in the US-UK wartime atomic weapon programs -- among them Niels Bohr, James Franck, and Enrico Fermi. Bhabha was well respected within the international physics community, and has left his name associated with the phenomenon of Bhabha electron scattering. One of Bhabha's friendships at Cambridge would later play a prominent role in the development of India's nuclear program - his friendship with his rowing teammate W.B. Lewis, later chairman of the Canadian Energy Programme.

Bhabha learned of the discovery of fission while abroad. He returned to India in 1939, taking the post of Reader in Theoretical Physics at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore under Nobel laureate Sir C.V. Raman.Bhabha showed an immediate visionary interest in nuclear technology, apparently independently detecting the existence of the Manhattan Project during the war by noticing the absence of publications from the leading physicists with which he was acquainted. In March 1944, even before the successful achievement of a chain reaction became publicly known, Bhabha wrote a proposal to the Tata Trust that led to the establishment of an institute for nuclear research in India. This institute, the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) named for Bhabha's uncle, was created on 19 December 1945 in Mumbai with Dr. Bhabha as its Director. And so from the very outset, only four months after Hiroshima and years before India became an independent nation, Bhabha was already in command of India's nuclear future. And so he remained until the moment of his death over 20 years later.

Bhabha was acquainted with India's first Prime Minister Jawarhalal Pandit Nehru, having met him on the voyage home in 1939. After Nehru became the new nation's first leader Bhabha was entrusted with complete authority over all nuclear related affairs and programs and answered only to Nehru himself, with whom he developed a close personal relationship. All Indian nuclear policy was set by unwritten personal understandings between Nehru and Bhabha.

From the outset Bhabha's plans for India where extraordinarily ambitious. In April 1948 Nehru agreed to legislate at Bhabha's request the Atomic Energy Act in the Constituent Assembly, creating the Indian Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC).On 3 January 1954 the IAEC decided to set up a new facility - the Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay (AEET), later to become the "Indian Los Alamos". On 3 August 1954 the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) was created with Dr. Bhabha as Secretary. This department answered directly to the Prime Minister and has continued to do so down to the present day.

Bhabha personally recruited and sponsored many of the principal players in the successful efforts to develop and test nuclear weapons such as Homi Sethna, P.K. Iyengar, Vasudev Iya, and Raja Ramanna.Although Nehru founded the non-aligned movement, and generally promoted disarmament efforts, he  actually opposed complete abolition of nuclear weapons, and supported Bhabha's plans for developing an Indian nuclear weapons option.

In 1955 Bhabha's personal relationsip with Lewis was instrumental in the program to build Cirus, the Canadian heavy water reactor - ostensibly for peaceful research but desired by India for its potential as an ideal system for producing weapons grade plutonium, a capability later exploited.The power that Bhabha held is no where more sharply illustrated by the fact that in the wake of China's first nuclear test PM Lal Bahadur Shastri, Nehru's successor, found it necessary to align his policies with the preferences of Dr. Bhabha, and secure his personal endorsement to withstand legislative and public criticism.The earlier pattern of Bhabha and the Prime Minister privately setting Indian nuclear policy, which had been established under Nehru, continued under Shastri.

Dr. Homi Bhabha was killed while on a trip to Europe when the plane in which he was flying collided with Mount Blanc. India's impressively large nuclear establishment was suddenly left without any plan or policy to give it direction.On  January 1967, the Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay -- India's premier nuclear center, and weapon development laboratory --was renamed to be the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC).

More details on his remembrance programmes can be obtained from the organisers


ആസ്ട്രോ തൃശൂരില്‍ ചന്ദ്രശേഖര്‍ അനുസ്മരണം സംഘടിപ്പിച്ചു

ആസ്ട്രോ കേരളയുടെ തൃശൂര്‍ ജില്ലാ ഘടകത്തിന്‍റെ ആഭിമുഖ്യത്തില്‍ പ്രമുഖ ജ്യോതിശാസ്ത്രജ്ഞനായിരുന്ന സുബ്രമഹ്ണ്യം ചന്ദ്രശേഖറുടെ ജന്മശതാബ്ദി ആചരണം നടത്തി.അദ്ദേഹത്തിന്‍റെ ജീവിതത്തെയും സംഭാവനകളെയും കുറിച്ച് ആസ്ട്രോ തൃശൂര്‍ ഘടകം ചെയര്‍മാനായ ശ്രീ.പി ആര്‍ ചന്ദ്രമോഹന്‍ വിദ്യാര്‍ഥികള്‍ക്കായി ക്ലാസ് നയിച്ചു.ഒക്ടോബര്‍ 19 നു തൃശൂര്‍ ഗവ.മോഡല്‍ ഗേള്‍സ്‌ ഹൈസ്കൂളില്‍ വച്ചു  നടന്ന പരിപാടിയില്‍ ആസ്ട്രോ ഭാരവാഹി ശ്രീ അജയകുമാര്‍,സ്കൂള്‍ ഭാരവാഹികള്‍ തുടങ്ങിയവര്‍ സംബന്ധിച്ചു.നിരവധി വിദ്യാര്‍ഥികള്‍ പരിപാടിയില്‍ പങ്കെടുത്തു

NOVEMBER SKYMAP_ഈ മാസത്തെ ആകാശം

AASTRO Quiz competition accomplished to gain student mass

The quiz competition conducted by AASTRO on the centenary birth day of Dr. S. Chandrasekhar was rich in participation and knowledge. Around 80 students from various schools in Thiruvananthapuram participated actively in the contest. The program was formally inaugurated by Shri. Arul Jerald Prakash, Director of Kerala Science and Technology museum.The quiz was lead by Prof. Pappootty. Anand Justin from St. Mary's HSS, Thiruvananthapuram came first in the Higher Secondary level and Sreelakshmy V P from Govt. GHSS Cotton Hill came first in the High School level.

The quiz was followed by a lecture by Shri. D Krishna Warrier on Chandrasekhar's contribution to astrophysics and other related facts. Students, teachers, AASTRO members and many interested public participated in the program.

Astronomy Quiz for students in connection with Chandrasekhar Centenary Programs

On the centenary birthday of Indian legend in the field of astrophysics,Dr.S. Chandrasekhar, AASTRO conducts an astronomy quiz competition for High School-Higher Secondary students. The competition will start at 1.30 pm at the seminar hall of Kerala State Science and Technology Museum, PMG.  From an institution, ten students can participate in the competition (5 from HS and 5 from HSS).

Dr.C.P. Aravindakshan will moderate the competition, which will commence at 1.30 p.m. Not more than 10 students can participate from a school. Each participant will have to pay Rs.25 as registration fee at the venue. The quiz is to commemorate the birth centenary of Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, eminent Indian-born physicist and Nobel Laureate.Dr. Chandrasekhar is particularly remembered for his contributions to the study of evolution of stars in astrophysics.The quiz is  designed to give the students some new knowledge , rather than just testing their knowledge. The programme will be followed by an astronomy lecture by Prof. K. Pappootty,Director,State Institute of Encyclopedia Publications.  Students other than the participants, teachers and interested public from any field are also invited to this event.. They will get opportunity to interact with eminent people in the field.

For details, please contact Mr. Vaisakhan Thampi (9846608238) or Mr. Pradeep Attukal (9447525367)

Its the birth Centenary of a legend - Dr.Subramanyam Chandrasekhar

ChandrasekharComing October 19th is celebrated as the 100th birthday of Dr. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (October 19, 1910 – August 21, 1995), the Nobel laureate Indian American astrophysicist.  Chandrasekhar was tutored at home initially through middle school. Later he attended the Hindu High School, Madras  and then he studied at Presidency College, Chennai. In 1930,  Chandrasekhar went to pursue his graduate studies at the University of Cambridge with a  Government of India scholarship and became a research student of Professor R. H. Fowler. In 1933, Chandrasekhar was awarded his Ph.D. degree at Cambridge.

After studies, he was recruited as Assistant Professor in University of Chicago.He studied stellar structure, including the theory of white dwarfs and subsequently focused on stellar dynamics. Next, he concentrated on the theory of radiative transfer and the quantum theory of the negative ion of hydrogen. Then he studied the equilibrium and the stability of ellipsoidal figures of equilibrium, and also general relativity. He also studied the mathematical theory of black holes, and, finally, during the late 80s, he worked on the theory of colliding gravitational waves.

During his last years  Chandrasekhar worked on a project devoted to explaining the detailed geometric arguments in Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica using the language and methods of ordinary calculus and published the book Newton's Principia for the Common Reader, in 1995.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983 for his studies on the physical processes important to the structure and evolution of stars. The first Indian scientist to win a Nobel Prize, Sir C. V. Raman was his paternal uncle.

Chandrasekhar was an honorary member of the International Academy of Science. He also served as the editor of the Astrophysical Journal.

He died of heart failure in Chicago in 1995.

AASTRO will be organising various events commemorating Dr.Chandrashekhar through out the state.detailed info can be accessed from District Chapter co-ordinators

AASTRO Lecture@University College

On the backdrop of World Space Week, AASTRO conducted an Astronomy lecture on 8th October at department of Physics, University College, Thiruvananthapuram. The lecture was given by Shri.S. Rajashekar, who is a scientist from ISRO on the topic "Mysteries of the cosmos" which is the theme of present year's space week. It was a colourful presentation about the various wonders and mysteries in the universe that fire human imagination and inspire thrill. The function, presided over by AASTRO office bearer Shri. Vaisakhan Thampi,and was formally inaugurated by Dr. K. Madhosoodanan Pillai, Head of the Department of Physics, University College. Around 50 people including  teachers, undergraduate and post-graduate students in the department were present for the talk.

AASTRO Observed World Space week

As part of its World Space Week celebrations, AASTRO -Thiruvananthapuram chapter conducted a lecture series on 7th October for students and public. The program started at 3 pm at the seminar hall of Kerala State Science and Technology Museum, PMG, Thiruvananthapuram. The first lecture was presented by Dr. Thirtha Pratim Das, Scientist, VSSC about 'Discovery of H2O on Moon'. Dr. T. P. Das, with the aid of beautiful slides, lucidly presented the chronological development of the explorations that finally confirmed the presence of water on moon. The second lecture was presented by Prof. K. Pappootty, Director, State Institute of Encyclopedic Publications and President of AASTRO, about 'Astronomy and Astrology'. He briefly explained the difference between the purely scientific concepts of of Astronomy and the superstitious interpretations given to them. The lectures were followed by interactive sessions where the audience could clear their queries.


World Space Week is observed annually from October 4 to October 10 as announced by the United Nations General Assembly and has been considered as an International Celebration of Science and Technology. This day is observed for its contribution to the improvisation of the human condition. World Space Week is supported by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs with the assistance of World Space Week Association, an NGO.

Each year World Space Week commemorates this week with a mission to encourage, educate and commemorate space exploration across the world through various programs and events centered at a specific theme. For 2008 that theme was "Exploring the Universe", and for 2009 it was "Space for Education.".

The theme for World Space Week 2010 is "Mysteries of the Cosmos."

Throughout history, humans have looked to the heavens and wondered about the universe and our place within it.   Today, we are learning much about our universe but, with each answer comes more questions.   Not only do the questions deal with the nature of the galaxies and stars, but the nature of life itself.   This year World Space Week is a time to probe what we know, what it means, and what we have yet to learn about the mysteries of the cosmos.

World Space Week is a transnational observance of space science and the mileages enjoyed by the human race in terms of space-related technology. Objectives were encouraging public in space exploration, educating children, and promoting international coordination in space-related endeavors.The first World Space Week, held in 2000, was commemorated in 31 countries. The event has grown gradually with 54 countries participating in the year 2009. Participants come from every continent excluding Antarctica.

We have come a long way since the inception of human race, but we are still oblivious of the immense secrets and facts the space and astronomy holds in store for us, which will take years for us to explore.

Let’s celebrate and move a pace ahead towards the next level of development and our destination to explore even new aspects and facets of milky space in 2010, the New Year, which has already ushered in our lives with yet more hopes and with new enthusiasm.

v s / AASTRO

Astronomy Events for September 2010

Sept 1: The Moon is nearly 2 degrees SW of Pleiades after midnight

Sept 1: Venus is just 1 degree SW of Spica in the west after sunset

Sept 2: The Moon is within 8 degrees North of Aldebaran

Sept 3: Mercury Inferior Conjunction

Sept 8: New Moon

Sept 11: A Waxing Crescent Moon (only 14% illuminated) is just 1 degree away from bright Venus at 8:00pm in the western sky

Sept 14: The Moon stands within 4.5 degrees from Antares

Sept 15: First Quarter Moon

Sept 19: Mercury Greatest Western Elongation

Sept 21: Both Jupiter (Angular dia. 50 arc sec) and Uranus (Angular dia. 3.7 arc sec) are at opposition. Both the planets will be just 49’35” apart in the constellation Pisces.

Sept 23: Full Moon

Sept 28: The Moon and Pleiades are 5.5 degrees apart


Saturn: Very low in the western evening sky and will be lost in the glare of sun after mid September.

Mars: In the western evening sky in the constellation Virgo. The planet shines at mag. 1.5. The planet will be nearly 2 degrees from Spica on 5th.

Venus: The brightest light in the western evening sky for the whole month. On 1st September the planet will be just 1 degree from Spica. On 11th the planet will be again 1 degree from beautiful Crescent Moon making a lovely scene fits in almost any wide-field instrument.

Neptune: Shines at mag. 7.8 throughout the month in the constellation Capricornus.

Jupiter & Uranus: Both planets will be at opposition on September 21st and will be just 49’35” apart at that time. It will be great opportunity to see both planets together in one field of view when both are at opposition.

Mercury: The planet will emerge from the eastern morning sky around 10th September. Mercury will be at greatest Western Elongation on 19th. At that time the planet will be 18 degrees from sun.

Sky for September 2010

[caption id="attachment_701" align="alignleft" width="1016" caption="Star chart for September 2010 with constellations"][/caption]

P R Chandramohan/AASTRO

Kepler spacecraft Discovers Multiple Planets Transiting a Single Star

NASA's Kepler spacecraft has discovered the first confirmed planetary system with more than one planet crossing in front of, or transiting, the same star.

The transit signatures of two distinct Saturn-sized planets were seen in the data for a sun-like star designated "Kepler-9." The planets were named Kepler-9b and 9c. The discovery incorporates seven months of observations of more than 156,000 stars as part of an ongoing search for Earth-sized planets outside our solar system. The findings will be published in the  issue of  journal Science.

Kepler's ultra-precise camera measures tiny decreases in the stars' brightness that occur when a planet transits them. The size of the planet can be derived from these temporary dips.

[caption id="attachment_695" align="aligncenter" width="550" caption="An artist's concept of two Saturn-sized planets in the Kepler-9 planetary system."][/caption]

The distance of the planet from the star can be calculated by measuring the time between successive dips as the planet orbits the star. Small variations in the regularity of these dips can be used to determine the masses of planets and detect other non-transiting planets in the system.

In June, mission scientists submitted findings for peer review that identified more than 700 planet candidates in the first 43 days of Kepler data. The data included five additional candidate systems that appear to exhibit more than one transiting planet. The Kepler team recently identified a sixth target exhibiting multiple transits and accumulated enough follow-up data to confirm this multi-planet system.

Scientists refined the estimates of the masses of the planets using observations from the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. The observations show Kepler-9b is the larger of the two planets, and both have masses similar to but less than Saturn. Kepler-9b lies closest to the star with an orbit of about 19 days, while Kepler-9c has an orbit of about 38 days. By observing several transits by each planet over the seven months of data, the time between successive transits could be analyzed.

In addition to the two confirmed giant planets, Kepler scientists also have identified what appears to be a third, much smaller transit signature in the observations of Kepler-9. That signature is consistent with the transits of a super-Earth-sized planet about 1.5 times the radius of Earth in a scorching, near-sun 1.6 day-orbit. Additional observations are required to determine whether this signal is indeed a planet or an astronomical phenomenon that mimics the appearance of a transit.

For more information about the Kepler mission, visit

Credit: Science@NASA/AASTRO Kerala

Commemorating Vainu Bappu,architect of the revival of astronomical studies in India

Today,August 10th  is the birthday of Manali Kallat VAINU BAPPU, who was a great astronomer and president of the International Astronomical Union. Being one of the greatest astronomers of India, Vainu has contributed much to the revival of optical astronomy in Independent India. Vainu was born on August 10, 1927 . He was the only child of Manali Kukuzhi and Sunanna Bappu. Vainu Bappu was not only excelled in studies but took active part in debates, sports and other extra curricular activities. However astronomy to which he was exposed from an early age became his passion. Being a keen amateur astronomer, even as an undergraduate, he had published papers on variable star observations. After getting his Masters degree in physics from Madras University, Vainu Bappu joined the prestigious Harvard University on a scholarship.

Within a few months of his arrival at Harvard University, Bappu discovered a comet and it was named Bappu-Bok-Newkirk after him and his colleagues Bart Bok and Gordon Newkirk. He completed his Ph D in 1952 and joined the fellowship. He and Colin Wilson made an important observation about the luminosity of particular kind of stars. This important observation came to known as the Bappu-Wilson effect and is used to determine the luminosity and distance of these kinds of stars. He came back to India in 1953 and played a major role in building the Uttar Pradesh State Observatory in Nainital. In 1960, he look over a as the director of the kodaikanal observatory and contributed a lot in the modernization of it. In 1986, he established the observatory with a powerful telescope in Kavalur, Tamilnadu.

He was awarded the "Donhoe Comet Medal" by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in 1949. He was elected as the President of the International Astronomical Union in 1979. He was also elected as the Honorary Foreign Fellow of the Belgium Academy of Sciences and was an Honorary Member of the American Astronomical Society. He died on 19 August 1982 but his name will always be remembered in the history of modern indian astronomy. He was the first indian astronomer whose name had tagged to a comet bappu-bok-new kirk.

The Indian Institute of Astrophysics owes its birth to the vision and dynamism of M.K.Vainu Bappu. Vainu Bappu is also responsible for the revival of optical astronomy in independent India. In 1960 at the young age of 33, when Bappu arrived in Kodaikanal as the Director of the Observatory, he had already established himself as India's foremost optical astronomer. The seminal paper on the Wilson-Bappu effect had been published three years earlier and had opened up a new field of study - stellar chromospheres. As primarily a solar observatory, Kodaikanal had made impressive strides in solar work but the facilities at the observatory were inadequate for night time astronomy. While Bappu directed the solar work with dedication, he also started looking for a good astronomical site in peninsular India where a stellar observatory could be built. A decade-long effort led him finally to a spot in the Javadi Hills of Tamilnadu, next to the village of Kavalur, where he established the premier stellar observatory of the country. He undertook the pioneering though arduous task of building indigenuously a large optical telescope for the observatory at Kavalur. In 1986, when the late Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi inaugurated the indigenuously built 234-cm telescope at Kavalur, both the telescope and the observatory were named after Vainu Bappu, who had died rather suddenly in 1982, before the completion of his dream project.

Soon after coming to Kodaikanal, Bappu had also initiated action to create an autonomous research institute, which led to the formation of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics in 1971. Today IIA has three field stations - the solar physics Observatory at Kodaikanal, the Vainu Bappu Observatory at Kavalur and the Indian Astronomical Observatory at Hanle in Ladakh. The Institute has its headquarters in Bangalore and another campus in Hoskote, the remote station to operate its telescopes in Hanle. The Institute also runs in Gauribidanur a low frequency radio observatory for solar observations.


Kerala man in charge of NASA Mars Orbiter Project

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has a new project manager: Phil Varghese,  a native of Kerala, India.He came to the United States on a Fulbright Scholarship in 1971 to study physics, earned his doctorate at the University of Oregon, Eugene, Ore., and then worked with computer and aerospace companies. He began his work at JPL as an engineer on NASA's Mars Observer Project and has managed another veteran NASA Mars mission - the Mars Odyssey orbiter - since 2004. Varghese has worked at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., since 1989.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been examining Mars with six advanced instruments since 2006. It has returned more data than the total from all other NASA missions that have flown farther than the moon.

Mars Odyssey began orbiting Mars in 2001 and is the longest-active spacecraft studying the Red Planet. Varghese previously managed the Deep Space 1 technology demonstration mission, which flew past asteroid Braille and comet Borrelly using solar-powered ion propulsion.

JPL's Jim Erickson managed the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project from December 2006 to February 2010, succeeding the project's original manager, Jim Graf. Erickson now manages JPL's Deep Space Network and Mission Service Planning and Management Program. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission Manager Dan Johnston served as acting Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter project manager for the past four months.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey for NASA.


[caption id="attachment_684" align="aligncenter" width="1000" caption="2010 August sky"][/caption]

August 1: A Waning Gibbous Moon stands 11 degrees N-NE of Jupiter after midnight.Mars and Saturn are nearly 2 degrees apart in West just after sunset.

August 3: Last Quarter Moon.

August 5: The Moon (32% illuminated) stands within 4 degrees from Pleiades (M45) in east before dawn.Venus-Saturn-Mars forms a perfect triangle in West at the time of dusk. The triangle will barely fit within standard 10x50 binoculars.

August 7: Mercury Greatest Eastern Elongation.

August 8: Venus and Saturn within 3 degrees apart after sunset in West.

August 10: New Moon.

August 12-13: The Perseids Meteor Shower will peak in a “moon-free” night!

August 13: Accumulation of a very thin Crescent Moon joining a beautiful trio of Venus, Saturn and Mars in the West after sunset.

[caption id="attachment_683" align="aligncenter" width="981" caption="Don’t miss to watch beautiful accumulation of a very thin Crescent Moon joining a beautiful trio of Venus, Saturn and Mars in the West after sunset."][/caption]

August 14: A Waxing Crescent Moon is within 4 degrees from Spica at dusk in the West.

August 16: First Quarter Moon.

August 17: The Moon is within 5 degrees West of Antares at the time of dusk.

August 18: Venus and Mars are about 2 degrees apart and Venus' Greatest Eastern Elongation.

August 20: Neptune is at opposition, Mag. 7.8 in the constellation Capricornus.

August 24: Full Moon.

August 26: The Moon is around 8.5 degrees from Jupiter.

August 31: Venus is nearly 1 degree W-SW of Spica at 8:00pm in West.


MERCURY: Mercury is very low in the West during this month. The inner-most planet will be at greatest elongation on 7th August.

VENUS: Venus will remain in group with Saturn and Mars through out the month. The brightest planet will provide beautiful show with Mars and Saturn in the Western evening sky after sunset. Venus is at greatest elongation on 18th August. Venus will pass very close from Saturn on 8th August and will pass very close from Mars on 19th. On August 31st, the planet will be just 1 degree from Spica.

SATURN & MARS: Both planets will remain in group with Venus throughout the month. On August 1st, both will be placed within 2 degrees from each other. On August 13th a Crescent Moon will join them.

NEPTUNE: The planet will enter the constellation Capricornus on 14th August. This month is a good time to observe Neptune as it is near opposition on August 20th. The planet will show an angular disc of 2.4” and will shine at magnitude 7.8th.

JUPITER & URANUS: Both planets are in Pisces. Both will be nearly 3 degrees from each other and will get closer and closer during month.

v s / AASTRO

Talk on Astrophotography

As a part of its monthly public lecture series,AASTRO is going to conduct a presentation on 'Basic Techniques on Astrophotography' on August 4th , Wednesday at Kerala State Science and technology Museum, Thiruvananthapuram. The talk will be delivered by Shri.Ramachandran who is a member of Royal Astronomical Society and  an expert in this field. This is the 9th consecutive public talk AASTRO is arranging which participates academia, astronomy and science enthusiasts, students and public together. The talk will start by 5.30 in the evening and will be followed by a discussion and interactive session on the topic. Further details can be obtained from programme cordinator Shri.Vaishakhan Thampi Ph : +91-9846608238

Recruitment of Scientists/Engineers at ISRO

ISRO Centralised Recruitment Board (ICRB) has invited applications from candidates having Post Graduate Degree in   Engineering/Science for the recruitment to Scientists/Engineers 'SC'.

Candidates with Post Graduate Degree in Engineering [ME/M.Tech/MSc (Engg) or equivalent] having First Class with     an aggregate minimum of 60% or CGPA/CPI grading of 6.5 on a 10 scale or equivalent and pre-eligibility qualification   of BE/B Tech/B Sc (Engg) or equivalent having First class with an aggregate of 65% (Average of all semesters) areeligible to apply for the following posts and specialisation:

1.  Scientist/Engineer-SC [Control Systems/Control Dynamics] :
Control Systems/Control Dynamics (ME/ MTech or equivalent in Control Systems/Control Dynamics)
2.  Scientist/Engineer-SC [Structual Engineering] :
Structural Engineering (ME/M Tech in Structural Engg or equivalent with BE/B.Tech in Mech. Engg)
3.  Scientist/Engineer-SC [Industrial Engineering] :
Industrial Engineering (ME/M Tech in Industrial Engg or equivalent with BE/B.Tech in Mech. Engg)
4.  Scientist/Engineer-SC [Industrial Safety] :
Industrial Safety (ME/M Tech or equivalent in Industrial Safety with BE/B Tech in Mechanical /Chemical Engg)
5.  Scientist/Engineer-SC [Micro Electronics/MEMS] :
Micro Electronics/MEMS (ME/M Tech or equivalent in Micro Electronics)
6.  Scientist/Engineer-SC [Digital Electronics/Avionics] :
Digital Electronics/Avionics (ME/M Tech or equivalent in Avionics/Digital Electronics)
7.  Scientist/Engineer-SC [RF and Microwave] :
RF,Microwave and Antenna (ME/M Tech in Electronics with RF/Communication/ Microwave / Radar or equivalent)
8.  Scientist/Engineer-SC [Material Science] :
Material Science ( ME/M Tech or equivalent in Material Science)
9.  Scientist/Engineer-SC [Optics/Applied Optics] :
Optics/Applied Optics ( ME/M Tech or equivalent in Optics/Applied optics)
10.Scientist/Engineer-SC [Mechanical/Machine Design] :
Mechanical/Machine Design (ME/M Tech or equivalent in Machine Design/CAD/CAE with BE/ B Tech in Mechanical Engg)

Candidates with MSc Degree having First Class with an aggregate minimum of 65% (Average of all semesters) or CGPA/CPI grading of 6.5 on a 10 scale or equivalent are eligible to apply for the folowing posts and specialisation:

1. Scientist/Engineer-SC [Physics/Applied Physics] :
Physics/Applied physics (MSc in Physics/Applied Physics)
2. Scientist/Engineer-SC [Mathematics/Applied Mathematics] :
Mathematics/Applied Mathematics (MSc in Mathematics/Applied Maths)

Candidates can register through the website link:

Prior to the application formality, the candidate has to make a DD for Rs.100/- as application fee, from any of the Nationalized Bank in favour of the Sr. Accounts Officer, ISRO HQ, Bangalore, payable at Bangalore for entry of the details online. Women candidates, Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Persons with Disabilities (PWD) candidates are exempted from payment of Application Fee.

After filing the application, on-line, the applicant has to send the DD with his Full Name (as entered in web), Post Number and Registration No. written on the reverse of the DD to Sr. Administrative Officer (ICRB), ISRO Headquarters, Antariksh Bhavan, New BEL Road, Bangalore - 560231 by ordinary post superscribing on the envelope "ISRO RECRUITMENT-SCI/ENGR-SC(ME/M.TECH/MSc)".

Women candidates, SC/ST and PWD candidates will have to send the certificate indicated against each category, as below, to Sr.Administrative Officer (ICRB) , ISRO HQ, Antariksh Bhavan, New BEL Road, Bangalore -560 231 duly indicating the Name, Post No. and Reg.No. on the reverse:

a) Women Candidate - Gender certificate issued by the Principal of the College where last studied OR attested copy of PAN Card / Voter's ID Card/ College ID Card / Passport / Driving License / Ration Card

b) SC/ST candidates - Attested copy of Caste Certificate

c) Persons with disabilities (PWD) - Attested copy of medical certificate issued by Medical Board

Last date for submission of application is 13th August 2010.


Kishore Vaigyanik Protsahan Yojna Fellowships 2010-11

Kishore Vaigyanik Protsahan Yojana (KVPY) under department of Science and Technology has invited applications from School and College students of Academic year 2010-11, as per following streams, interested in research careers, for KVPY Fellowships:

Students enrolled in the XI Standard (Science subjects) and have secured a minimum of 75% (65% for SC/ST) marks in aggregrate in Mathematics and Science subjects in the X Standard Board Examination.

Students enrolled in Class 12(+2) and aspiring to join UG Program in Basic Sciences (B.Sc/B.S/Int. M.Sc) for the session 2011-12 provided they secured a minimum of 75% (65% for SC/ST) marks in aggregrate in Mathematics and Science subjects in the X standard Board Examination.

Students enrolled in 1st year B.Sc/B.S/Int. M.Sc. during the academic year 2010-11 and have secured a minimum of 60% (50% for SC/ST) marks in aggregrate in Science subjects in the XII Standard Board Examination.
Students enrolled in XI/XII standard, I/II year (B.Sc./B.S./Intd. M.Sc.) in Basic Sciences and I/II year B.E./B.Tech./B.Arch. during the academic year 2010-2011 and have secured a minimum of 60% (50% for SC/ST) marks in aggregate in the X & XII Standard Board Examinations/ Students enrolled in the II year B.Sc./B.S./Intd. M.Sc./B.E./B.Tech./B.Arch. program must have secured a minimum of 60% (50% for SC/ST) marks in the I year examination

Students enrolled in I/II professional year of the MBBS program during the academic year 2010-11 and have secured 75%(65% for SC/ST) marks in aggregrate in Science subjects in XII standard Board Examination/ Students enrolled
in the II Professional year of the MBBS program must have secured 60% (50% for SC/ST) marks in the I year examination.

Application forms can be downloaded from/ students can apply through/ website link:
A processing fee of Rs.200/-(Rs.100/- for SC/ST) is applicable which can be remitted at any core banking branches of SBI to the credit of Administrative Executive, KVPY A/c No. 10270577392.

Last date for submission of application forms with DD at KVPY, IISc, Bangalore-12 is 10-09-2010.

For further details logon to

AASTRO Club Kottakkal launched their newsletter on 'Lunar day'

AASTRO Club Kottakkal published a newsletter on "Lunar day" commemorating Moon human lunar landing on July 2oth,         1969. The news letter is first of its kind and entirely composed by AASTRO Club members who are upper primary            students.The news letter can be found here.  AASTRO Club Kottakkal will have special programmes in connection            with Lunar day in coming days. One can contact Abid Omar Ph : 9744791402 for more details .

Some Appollo 11 images can be found here :


AASTRO Monthly Meet @ Planetarium

AASTRO office bearers,members and enthusiasts , as a part of  its monthly meet up,  will gather at Kerala state Science & technology Museum on Wednesday, 5.30 PM. AASTRO will arrange public lectures and discussions regarding  vivid topics in astronomy, astrophysics,physics, space science and allied subjects. For July, we have a presentation on Relativity theory by Shri.K.S.Skaria IPS followed by a discussion on it. Eminent personalities, AASTRO Members, planetarium officials, students and other subject  enthusiasts will take part. the talk is open for public too. For more details, one can contact Shri.D.S.Vaishakahan Thampi , Ph : 9846608238

Planck telescope reveals image of the entire Universe

[caption id="attachment_639" align="aligncenter" width="940" caption="The first full-sky image from Europe's Planck telescope which was sent into space last year to survey the oldest light in the cosmos Photo: ESA"][/caption]

Giant clouds of interstellar gas and dust light up this panoramic view of the sky recorded by the European space agency's Planck telescope

The space telescope was launched in May last year on a mission to survey the "cosmic microwave background" – ancient light left over from the big bang.The bright streak across the middle of the picture is our own galaxy, the Milky Way, viewed edge-on. The intense light comes not from stars but from the radiation released by the dust and gas clouds that stretch between them.The blue and white wisps that reach above and below our own galaxy are streamers of cold dust that trace out the "galactic web" where new stars are born.The speckles at the top and bottom of the image are caused by microwave background radiation, the remnants of the first light that appeared 380,000 years after the big bang flung the universe into being 13.7bn years ago.The Planck telescope observes the sky in nine wavelengths from the microwave to the vary-far-infrared region of the spectrum. This image is a composite of pictures taken at several different wavelengths. Dominating the picture are large parts of our Milky Way Galaxy. The bright horizontal line running across the middle of the image is the galaxy's main disc and where the Sun and Earth are.

The satellite, costing 600m euros, was launched last year by the European Space Agency. It was sent nearly a million miles into space to record the origins of the universe. The Planck observatory's job was to look at the age, contents and evolution of the cosmos by studying the heat left behind by the Big Bang.In September it began to reveal its first images showing strips of ancient light across the sky. Now it has revealed a full picture of the sky.The image shows what is visible beyond the Earth to instruments that are sensitive to light at very long wavelengths.

From the closest portions of the Milky Way to the furthest reaches of space and time, the new all-sky Planck image is an extraordinary treasure chest of new data for astronomers.The pictures beamed back by Planck will give astronomers insights into the structure of the universe and hopefully shed light on dark energy, which is believed to drive the expansion of the universe, and dark matter, the invisible substance that seems to cling to galaxies. Scientists will spend years analysing the image to better understand how the Universe came to look the way it does.



JULY 1: Moon at apogee  (farthest from Earth) at 10h UT (distance 405,036 km; angular size 29.8')
JULY 3: Moon near Jupiter (morning sky) at 20h UT. Mag. -2.5.
JULY 4: Last Quarter Moon at 14:35 UT.
JULY 6: Earth at Aphelion (farthest from Sun) at 11h UT. The Sun- Earth distance is 1.01670 a.u. or about 152.1 million km.
JULY 8: Moon near Pleiades (morning sky) at 6h UT.
JULY 9: Moon near Aldebaran (morning sky) at 2h UT.
JULY 10: Venus 1.0° NNE of Regulus (evening sky) at 12h UT. Mags. -4.1 and 1.4.
JULY 11: Total Solar Eclipse visible from South Pacific Ocean. Path of totality includes parts of the Cook Islands, Tahiti, Tuamotu Archipelago, Easter Island, and southern Chile and Argentina. Greatest totality (5m 20s) occurs in open ocean at 19:34 UT.
JULY 11: New Moon at 19:40 UT. Start of lunation 1083.

JULY 13: Moon at perigee (closest to Earth) at 11h UT (361,115 km; 32.1').
JULY 14: Moon near Regulus (evening sky) at 13h UT.
JULY 14: Moon near Venus (evening sky) at 22h UT. Mag. -4.1.
JULY 16: Moon near Mars (evening sky) at 0h UT. Mag. +1.4.
JULY 16: Moon near Saturn (evening sky) at 14h UT. Mag. +1.1.

[caption id="attachment_636" align="aligncenter" width="1016" caption="Sky map for July"][/caption]

JULY 18: Moon near Spica (evening sky) at 6h UT.
JULY 18: First Quarter Moon at 10:11 UT.
JULY 21: Moon near Antares (evening sky) at 20h UT.
JULY 26: Full Moon at 1:37 UT.
JULY 27: Mercury 0.3° SSW of Regulus (25° from Sun, evening sky) at 22h UT. Mags. +0.1 and +1.3.
JULY 29: Moon at apogee (farthest from Earth) at 0h UT (distance 405,955 km; angular size 29.3').
JULY 31: Moon near Jupiter (morning sky) at 2h UT. Mag. -2.7.
JULY 31: Mars 1.8° SSW of Saturn (evening sky) at 6h UT. Mags. +1.5 and +1.1.

Hubble Finds Star Eating a Planet

[caption id="attachment_625" align="alignleft" width="400" caption="This is an artist's concept of the exoplanet WASP-12b. It is the hottest known planet in the Milky Way galaxy, and potentially the shortest lived. The planet is only 2 million miles from its sunlike parent star — a fraction of Earth's distance from the Sun. Gravitational tidal forces from the star stretch the planet into an egg shape. The planet is so hot that it has puffed up to the point where its outer atmosphere spills onto the star. An accretion bridge streams toward the star and material is smeared into a swirling disk. The planet may be completely devoured by the star in 10 million years. The planet is too far away for the Hubble Space Telescope to photograph, but this interpretation is based in part on analysis of Hubble spectroscopic and photometric data."][/caption]

The hottest known planet in the Milky Way galaxy may also be its shortest-lived world. The doomed planet is being eaten by its parent star, according to observations made by a new instrument on  Hubble Space Telescope, the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS). The planet may only have another 10 million years left before it is completely devoured.

The planet, called WASP-12b, is so close to its sunlike star that it is superheated to nearly 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit and stretched into a football shape by enormous tidal forces. The atmosphere has ballooned to nearly three times Jupiter's radius and is spilling material onto the star. The planet is 40 percent more massive than Jupiter.

This effect of matter exchange between two stellar objects is commonly seen in close binary star systems, but this is the first time it has been seen so clearly for a planet.

A theoretical paper published in the science journal Nature last February by Shu-lin Li of the Department of Astronomy at the Peking University, Beijing, first predicted that the planet's surface would be distorted by the star's gravity, and that gravitational tidal forces make the interior so hot that it greatly expands the planet's outer atmosphere. Now Hubble has confirmed this prediction.

WASP-12 is a yellow dwarf star located approximately 600 light-years away in the winter constellation Auriga. The exoplanet was discovered by the United Kingdom's Wide Area Search for Planets (WASP) in 2008. The automated survey looks for the periodic dimming of stars from planets passing in front of them, an effect called transiting. The hot planet is so close to the star it completes an orbit in 1.1 days.

The unprecedented ultraviolet (UV) sensitivity of COS enabled measurements of the dimming of the parent star's light as the planet passed in front of the star. These UV spectral observations showed that absorption lines from aluminum, tin, manganese, among other elements, became more pronounced as the planet transited the star, meaning that these elements exist in the planet's atmosphere as well as the star's. The fact the COS could detect these features on a planet offers strong evidence that the planet's atmosphere is greatly extended because it is so hot.

The UV spectroscopy was also used to calculate a light curve to precisely show just how much of the star's light is blocked out during transit. The depth of the light curve allowed the COS team to accurately calculate the planet's radius. They found that the UV-absorbing exosphere is much more extended than that of a normal planet that is 1.4 times Jupiter's mass. It is so extended that the planet's radius exceeds its Roche lobe, the gravitational boundary beyond which material would be lost forever from the planet's atmosphere.

Hubble Site News center/AASTRO

Positions of Project Assistants for Astronomy Olympiad

Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education at Tata institute of fundamental Research  (TIFR), Mumbai hereby invites applicants for Walk-in-interview for two Positions of Project Assistants for Astronomy Olympiad, to work at HBCSE.


Nature of Job :

  • Project Assistant (First Position) : The candidate will be responsible for academic support for the Astronomy Olympiad activities.This includes helping in question paper setting at each level of the Olympiad, managing communication with the international committee, sending regular study material to the students etc.

  • Project Assistant (Second Position) : The candidate will be responsible for research & referencing for creating popular astronomy books , typesetting the same in Marathi & participate in Astronomy Olympiad & “Yes! You can do it” activities.

Desired Qualification :

  • First Position : Strong interest in Astronomy, Astrophysics & night sky observation, some experience in numerical programming, experience in working on GNU/Linux platform, teaching abilities.

  • Second Position : Strong interest in Astronomy, Astrophysics & night sky observation, some experience in Marathi typesetting, teaching abilities.

Qualification & experience:. B. Sc / M. Sc. with Physics or related topic / B. Tech. in a physics related branch with at least 55% marks.

The position is purely temporary, for one year in the first instance and extendable by one or two more years. A consolidated monthly honorarium will be paid as follows.

  • For Project Assistant with Bachelor’s degree (B. Sc.) - Rs. 7,500/- during the first year, Rs. 8,500/- during the second year andRs. 9,500/- during the third year + HRA 30% in lieu of Government accommodation.

  • For Project Assistants with Master’s degree (M. Sc.) Rs. 10,000/- during the first year, Rs. 11,000/- during the second year and Rs. 12,000/- during the third year + HRA 30% in lieu of Government accommodation.

Age: Below 30 years. ( Relaxable in deserving cases)

Applicants must bring with them the following: 1) Application mentioning post applied for, Notice Number and giving full details such as Name, Date of Birth, full address with phone/mobile number and e-mail address, Educational Qualification, experience, caste, names and addresses of two referees (attach reference certificate). 2) True copies of relevant certificates with original certificates for verification and testimonials. 3) One latest photograph. 4) Applicants in Govt. / Semi-Government / Public Sector undertakings /Autonomous body must get No Objection Certificates from their reporting Officer.

Outstation candidates belonging to SC/ST are entitled for ordinary/Mail/Express second class return railway fare by shortest route only on production of railway ticket. This concession is not applicable to those SC/ST candidates who are already in Central/State Govt. service

There will be a walk in interview for the selection.

Date & Times of Interview : Tuesday, June 22 , 2010. Time : 9.00 a. m.

Venue: Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, T.I.F.R., (Next to Anushaktinagar Bus Terminus), V. N. Purav Marg, Mankhurd, Mumbai 400 088. To reach the Centre you may come by train to Mankhurd (Harbour Line) or take BEST Bus routes, 21 Ltd. from Dadar (E), 92 Ltd. or 521 Ltd. from Dadar (W), 360 from Kurla or 352 from Sion.

website :


Astronomy Events for June 2010

June 3 : Moon at apogee (farthest from Earth) at 17h UT (distance 404,266 km; angular size 29.4').

June 4: Last Quarter Moon at 22:13 UT.

June 6: Moon near Jupiter (morning sky) at 4h UT. Mag. -2.3.

June 7: Mars 0.8° NNE from Regulus (74° from Sun, evening sky) at 6h UT. Mags. +1.2 and +1.3.

June 8: Jupiter 0.44° SSE from Uranus (77° from Sun, morning sky) at 8h UT. Mags. -2.3 and +5.9.

June 10: Mercury 5.9° SSE of the Pleiades (19° from Sun, morning sky) at 16h UT. Mag. -0.4.

June 10: Moon near Pleiades (morning sky) at 23h UT.

June 11: Moon near Mercury (morning sky) at 1h UT.

June 12: New Moon at 11:15 UT. Start of lunation 1082.

June 15: Moon near Venus (evening sky) at 4h UT. Mag. -4.0.

June 15: Moon at perigee (closest to Earth) at 15h UT (365,931 km; 32.7').

June 15: Moon near Beehive cluster (M44) (evening sky) at 17h UT.

June 17: Moon near Regulus (evening sky) at 4h UT.

June 17: Moon near Mars (evening sky) at 15h UT. Mag. +1.3.

June 19: First Quarter Moon at 4:29 UT.

June 20: Venus 0.7° from Beehive cluster (M44) (evening sky) at 20h UT. Mag. -4.0.

June 21: Moon near Spica (evening sky) at 1h UT.

June 21: June solstice at 11:29 UT

ie.The time when the Sun reaches the point farthest north of the celestial equator marking the start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and winter in the Southern Hemisphere.

June 24: Moon near Antares (evening sky) at 12h UT.

June 26: Full Moon at 11:30 UT.

June 26: Partial Eclipse of the Moon from 10:17 to 13:00 UT, mid-eclipse at 11:38 UT. Visible from the Americas, the Pacific and eastern Asia.

June 28: Mercury at superior conjunction with the Sun at 12h UT. The planet passes into the evening sky.

All times are in terms of Universal Time (UT).


25 Random Things About…... The Milky Way

1. In Greek Mythology, the Milky Way was created by milk spilled when Hera, the wife (and sister!) of Zeus, was nursing Hercules.

2. Wherever you live in the world, and whatever the season, if you have dark sky you can step outside on a clear night and see the nearby spiral arms of the Milky Way.

3. The center of the Milky Way is in the direction of Sagittarius, which is low on the horizon for observers in the Northern Hemisphere. But near the equator, or in the Southern Hemisphere, the center of the Milky Way is almost directly overhead… a spectacular sight!

4. Most of us learned the Milky Way is a type of spiral galaxy.  But in the past few years, astronomers discovered our galaxy is not just a spiral, but a barred spiral galaxy of type SBbc.

5. The Milky Way has a diameter of 100,000 ly.

6. And it’s about 1000 ly thick.

7. Our solar system lies close to the plane of the Milky Way, which means the Milky Way seems to split the night sky into two equal halves.

8. Aristotle believed the Milky Way was caused by burning stars in the upper atmosphere.  While he was a fine philosopher, many of Aristotle’s scientific conjectures were way off.

9. There are about 300 billion stars in our galaxy.

10. The Sun lies about 26,000 ly from the center of the Milky Way.

11. The Sun rotates once around the Milky Way every 220 million years.  Our solar system (and therefore the Earth) revolves about the galactic center at 220 km/s.  At this speed, our solar system travels in the direction of the star Vega at a rate of one light-year every 1400 years.

12. The oldest stars in the Milky Way lie near the centre of the galaxy and in a halo about the centre, which consists of globular clusters and lone ancient stars.

13. Along the spiral arms, away from the galactic center, interstellar clouds collapse under the force of gravity into tight fists of gas and dust that ignite into fresh new clusters of stars.

14. As you read this, the Milky Way is colliding with an obscure dwarf galaxy named the Virgo stellar stream.

15. At the center of the Milky Way lies a gigantic black hole with a mass of 4 million suns that is violently gobbling stars and matter and sending out highly energetic  X-rays.  But the Earth is in no danger of colliding with this black hole… so don’t worry.

16. Our solar system lies along the inner rim of the Orion Arm of our galaxy.  The next arm closer to the center is the Carina-Sagittarius arm, and the next arm farther away from the solar system is the Perseus arm.

17. The name for the Milky Way in China, Japan, and other East Asian cultures, is “Silver River” (a much more accurate name, don’t you think?).

18. The north and south Galactic poles, which point 90 degrees away from the dusty galactic plane, lie in the constellations Coma Berenices and Sculptor, respectively.  When you look in the sky towards the poles and away from the galactic plane, you can see into deep intergalactic space where lies millions more galaxies of all shapes and sizes.

19. Galileo was the first to discover the Milky Way is made of stars.

20. The Milky Way and Andromeda galaxy are the largest  in what’s known as the Local Group of galaxies.  In the Local Group, there are many tiny dwarf galaxies, the largest of which are the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds.  The Local Group of galaxies is itself part of a much larger cluster of galaxies called the Virgo Supercluster.

21. The Andromeda Galaxy approaches our Milky Way at 100 km/s, and the two giant galaxies will collide in roughly 2 billion years.  The stars in each galaxy won’t collide, but the two galaxies will merge into a featureless elliptical galaxy and lose their beautiful spiral shape and the dust and gas that form new stars.

22. From Thoreau, a beautiful quote to console you when you’re alone with your telescope, wondering if anyone will ever understand why you love the stars so much: “Why should I feel lonely: Is not our planet in the Milky Way?”

23. Most of the mass of the Milky Way is believed to consist of mysterious “dark matter”, the nature of which is still unknown.

24. The oldest star in the Milky Way, called HE 1523-0901 in Libra, is some 13.2 billion years old, almost as old as the universe itself.

25. Because of the effects of light pollution, most children in the world will never see the Milky Way.

The Mule Driver Who Measured the Universe

[caption id="attachment_601" align="alignleft" width="169" caption="Milton Humason"][/caption]

Milton Humason was born in Dodge Center, Minnesota in 1891.  When he was 14 years old, his parents sent him to a summer camp on Mount Wilson, near Los Angeles.  The mountain’s forests and soaring views of southern California stole the heart of the prairie boy.  He convinced his parents to let him take a year off school to stay on the mountain and find work.

He never returned to school.Instead, Humason took up work as a mule driver, hauling lumber up a trail from the Sierra Madre to Mount Wilson to build the new astronomical observatory… an enormous project organized by the astronomy pioneer George Ellery Hale.In 1911, Humason’s heart was stolen once more: he became engaged to Helen Dowd, the daughter of the chief engineer of the observatory on Mount Wilson.  They married shortly after.  He left to work as a foreman on a ranch in nearby LaVerne.  But he missed the mountain.  In 1917, Humason saw his chance to return and to impress his father-in-law:  he took a position as observatory janitor.  This was a big step up from mule driver and ranch hand.Soon after, the new observatory posted a position for “night assistant”, which is essentially a helper for astronomers who need to operate the telescope and observatory dome. Humason took up the role.  His patience and skill and diligence brought him to the attention of Hale himself.  In 1919, in the face of stern protests, Hale appointed Humason… a high-school dropout… to the scientific staff of the observatory.  Humason remained in the role until 1954.

Humason worked with Hubble, and later Hubble’s protege, Allan Sandage, to study the spectral redshift of hundreds of galaxies to determine how fast they were receding… their so-called “radial velocity”.   Hubble (correctly) believed the radial velocity of a galaxy was related to its distance, a relationship now known as “Hubble’s Law”.But these far-away galaxies had low surface brightness, and were notoriously hard to measure.  So Humason developed techniques to optimize the photographic exposures and plate measurements. He determined the radial velocities of 620 galaxies, and helped set the distance scale and age of the universe.   Much of Hubble’s success was attributed to Humason’s painstaking measurements.

For his achievements, Humason was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Lund in Sweden.  He retired in 1957, and died in Mendocino, California, in 1972 at the age of 80.


Is Time Travel Possible?

Time travel is the concept of moving between different points in time  in a manner analogous to moving between different points in space, either sending objects backwards in time to some moment before the present, or sending objects forward from the present to the future without the need to experience the intervening period.This is a common theme in science fiction, of course, but the real science is actually quite complex and intriguing.The question here is : Is Time Travel Possible?  The short answer is "Yes," but it's a heavily qualified "Yes."

Though referenced in H.G. Wells' The Time Machine (1895), the actual science of time travel didn't come into being until well into the twentieth century, as a side-effect of Einstein's theory of General relativity (1915). Relativity describes the physical fabric of the universe in terms of a 4-dimensional space-time, which includes three spatial dimensions (up/down, left/right, and front/back) along with one time dimension. Under this theory, which has been proven by numerous experiments over the last century, gravity is a result of the bending of this spacetime in response to the presence of matter. In other words, given a certain configuration of matter, the actual spacetime fabric of the universe can be altered in significant ways.

One of the amazing consequences of relativity is that movement can result in a difference in the way time passes, a process known as time dilation. This is most dramatically manifested in the classic Twin paradox. In this method of "time travel" you can move into the future faster than normal, but there's not really any way back.

Early Time Travel

In 1937, Scottish physicist W. J. van Stockum first applied general relativity in a way that opened the door for time travel. By applying the equation of general relativity to a situation with an infinitely long, extreme dense rotating cylinder (kind of like an endless barbershop pole). The rotation of such a massive object actually creates a phenomena known as "frame dragging," which is that it actually drags spacetime along with it. Van Stockum found that in this situation, you could create a path in 4-dimensional spacetime which began and ended at the same point - something called a closed time like curve - which is the physical result that allows time travel. You can set off in a space ship and travel a path which brings you back to the exact same moment you started out at.

Though an intriguing result, this was a fairly contrived situation, so there wasn't really much concern about it taking place. A new interpretation was about to come along, however, which was much more controversial.

In 1949, the mathematician Kurt Godel - a friend of Einstein's and a colleague at Princeton University's Institute for Advanced Study - decided to tackle a situation where the whole universe is rotating. In Godel's solutions, time travel was actually allowed by the equations ... if the universe were rotating. A rotating universe could itself function as a time machine.

Now, if the universe were rotating, there would be ways to detect it (light beams would bend, for example, if the whole universe were rotating), and so far the evidence is overwhelmingly strong that there is no sort of universal rotation. So again, time travel is ruled out by this particular set of results. But the fact is that things in the universe do rotate, and that again opens up the possibility.

Time Travel and Black Holes

In 1963, New Zealand mathematician Roy Kerr used the field equations to analyze a rotating black hole, called a Kerr black hole, and found that the results allowed a path through a wormhole in the black hole, missing the singularity at the center, and make it out the other end. This scenario also allows for closed timelike curves, as theoretical physicist Kip Thorne realized years later.

In the early 1980s, while Carl Sagan worked on his 1985 novel Contact, he approached Kip Thorne with a question about the physics of time travel, which inspired Thorne to examine the concept of using a black hole as a means of time travel. Together with the physicist Sung-Won Kim, Thorne realized that you could (in theory) have a black hole with a wormhole connecting it to another point in space could be held open by some from of negative energy.

But just because you have a wormhole doesn't mean that you have a time machine. Now, let's assume that you could move one end of the wormhole (the "movable end). You place the movable end on a spaceship, shooting it off into space at nearly the speed of light. Time dilation (see, I promised it would come back) kicks in, and the time experienced by the movable end is much less than the time experienced by the fixed end. Let's assume that you move the movable end 5,000 years into the future of the Earth, but the movable end only "ages" 5 years. So you leave in 2010 AD, say, and arrive in 7010 AD.

However, if you travel through the movable end, you will actually pop out of the fixed end in 2015 AD. What? How does this work?

Well, the fact is that the two ends of the wormhole are connected. No matter how far apart they are, in spacetime, they're still basically "near" each other. Since the movable end is only five years older than when it left, going through it will send you back to the related point on the fixed wormhole. And if someone from 2015 AD Earth steps through the fixed wormhole, they'd come out in 7010 AD from the movable wormhole. (If someone stepped through the wormhole in 2012 AD, they'd end up on the spaceship somewhere in the middle of the trip ... and so on.)

Though the most physically reasonable description of a time machine, there are still problems. No one knows if wormholes or negative energy exist, nor how to put them together in this way if they do exist. But it is (in theory) possible.

Ref : Andrew Zimmerman Jones' article on time travel

AASTRO Wayanad will have a study session on "The Sun"

[caption id="attachment_591" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="The sun is one of over 100 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. It is about 25,000 light-years from the center of the galaxy, and it revolves around the galactic center once about every 250 million years."] [/caption]

As a part of their Monthly study sessions,AASTRO Wayanad will take up the topic "The sun" on a get together at Kolagappara on May 16th.The discussion will be headed by experts and academicians and AASTRO members,students,astronomy enthusiasts and amateur astronomers from all over the district will take part.The meet will commence by 3 o' clock in the evening.AASTRO Wayanad chapter already had vivid activities in different venues in the district and will have AASTRO Clubs and other ventures in Schools and Colleges when it reopens.For cordinating any kind of activities or programmes ,one can contact AASTRO Wayanad District point of contact  Shri  M M Tomy.Ph :+91-9446176826.

Other point of contacts :

Shri K T Sreevalsan,Kalpetta,Ph : 9388098612

Shri.K P Elias,Kolagappara,Ph : 9447797115, 04936222335

Jupiter loses a stripe

Jupiter has lost one of its prominent stripes, leaving its southern half looking unusually blank. Scientists are not sure what triggered the disappearance of the band.Jupiter's appearance is usually dominated by two dark bands in its atmosphere – one in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern hemisphere.But recent images taken by amateur astronomers show that the southern band – called the south equatorial belt – has disappeared.The band was present at the end of 2009, right before Jupiter moved too close to the sun in the sky to be observed from Earth. When the planet emerged from the sun's glare again in early April, its south equatorial belt was nowhere to be seen.

This is not the first time the south equatorial belt has disappeared. It was absent in 1973 when NASA's Pioneer 10 spacecraft took the first closeup images of the planet and also temporarily vanished in the early 1990s.The bands may normally appear dark simply because pale, high-altitude clouds prevalent in other regions of the planet are missing there, revealing darker clouds below.

The belts are composed of ammonia ice, with a little sulfur and phosphorus thrown in. Scientists aren't quite sure how to account for them - one theory is that they are simply gaps in higher, paler clouds that allow the darker, deeper levels to show through.

It's not the first time the belt has disappeared - indeed, it happens every three to fifteen years. it last went missing in the early 1990s, and before that in 1973.This time, though, the disappearance happened as the planet spent a three-month period behind the sun, so that on its emergence the transformation appears rather more sudden.Over the next few months, we can expect to see a white spot appear which will gradually get stretched out by the planet's 350mph winds to form a new SEB.

check out more of  pictures here.

Black Holes: Gas Blowers of the Universe

[caption id="attachment_583" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="False colour image of the central region of a galaxy group in X-rays. The jet of matter blown out of the central black hole can be clearly identified by its radio luminosity (overlaid, purple-blue). (Credit: Max Planck Institute)"][/caption]

Supermassive black holes with the mass of many millions of stars have been detected at the centre of many large galaxies. A super-massive black hole acts like a lurking "monster" at the centre of the galaxy which swallows the surrounding material through the intensity of its gravitational pull. X-ray observations indicate that a large amount of energy is produced by the in-fall of matter into a black hole, and ejected in powerful jets. Astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics,Germany, have now shown that these jets eject matter not only from their host galaxies but even the gas between the galaxy group members.

Astronomers have long been trying to understand how black holes interact with the environment , but to date the process is poorly understood. Observations and simulations have shown that active galaxies transport huge amounts of material with their jets, which are particularly luminous at radio wavelengths, into the intra-cluster gas. Signatures of this "radio-mode feedback" are observed both in radio and in X-rays.

Recent studies have shown that the amount of gas in galaxy groups, objects consisting of several galaxies bound together such as the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy, does not add up to the amount predicted by cosmology -- unlike in galaxy clusters with up to thousands of individual members. Large amounts of mechanical energy injected into the gas from the central black hole may have removed part of it. However to date this was only a hypothesis. Previous group samples were limited to a handful of nearby objects populated by low luminosity radio black holes.

Using one of the largest samples of X-ray detected groups and clusters of galaxies identified by XMM-Newton together with radio observations, a team of astronomers at The Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics has studied the energetics of radio galaxy feedback in galaxy groups. In the COSMOS field, where almost 300 X-ray galaxy groups have been detected, the team has been able to show that the black hole activity in the centre of galaxy groups must have a dramatic effect on the surroundings: they eject sufficient energy to blow the intergalactic gas out of the gravitational well of the galaxy group. The mystery of the missing gas in galaxy groups is solved -- and the large impact of black holes in galaxy groups demonstrated for the first time.
If you had a chance to name a minor planet, what name would you give it and why?

Don’t talk to aliens, warns Stephen Hawking

British physicist Stephen Hawking says aliens are out there, but it could be too dangerous for humans to interact with extraterrestrial life.

Hawking claims in a new documentary titled "Into the Universe With Stephen Hawking" that intelligent alien life forms almost certainly exist — but warns that communicating with them could be "too risky."

"We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet," Hawking said. "I imagine they might exist in massive ships ... having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach.”

The 68-year-old scientist said a visit by extraterrestrials to Earth might well be like Christopher Columbus arriving in the Americas, "which didn't turn out very well for the Native Americans."

He speculated that most extraterrestrial life would be similar to microbes, or small animals. Microbial life might exist far beneath the Martian surface, where liquid water is thought to trickle through the rock. Marine creatures might also conceivably live in huge oceans of water beneath a miles-thick layer of ice on Europa, a moon of Jupiter.

But if a scientific census could be extended beyond our solar system to the rest of the Milky Way and beyond, the odds in favor of life's existence rise dramatically, Hawking said.

"To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational," he said. “The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like."

Hawking said an attack by interstellar predators is just one of the dismaying possibilities in the search for intelligent life beyond Earth. Another possibility is that intelligence itself might be inimical to life. Hawking pointed out that humanity has put itself on the edge of its own destruction by creating nuclear bombs and other weapons of mass destruction.

"If the same holds for intelligent aliens, then they might not last long," he said. "Perhaps they all blow themselves up soon after they discover that E=mc2. If civilizations take billions of years to evolve, only to vanish virtually overnight, then sadly we've next to no chance of hearing from them."

Hawking has become one of the world's best-known scientists — not just because of his theoretical work on cosmology and black holes, but also because he has achieved so much while coping with a paralyzing neural disease for most of his life. In recent years he has become a prominent advocate for space travel, contending that humans must journey into the heavens and going through zero-gravity training himself.

This report includes information from The Associated Press and