AASTRO General Body Meet and Monthly Public Lecture on March 28th

On the backdrop of Global Astronomy Month in April and other upcoming activities,AASTRO will have it general body meet on 28th March 2010,Sunday 3.30 PM at Thiruvananthapuram Planetarium.AASTRO Members ,office bearers,Science popularisation activists,Academicians,students and astronomy enthusiasts are supposed to take part in the general body .AASTRO President Prof.K.Pappootty,Planetarium Director Shri.Arun Jerald Prakash,ISRO-VSSC-IIST  personalities will make their presence.The meet will discuss and give shape to the upcoming activities and programmes of AASTRO

[caption id="attachment_480" align="alignleft" width="249" caption="The Moon Impact Probe (MIP) "][/caption]

Before,as a part of monthly lecture series,Dr.C.Sanjeev from VSSC will deliver a presentation on Moon Impact probe and chandrayaan Mission.Everyone is invited for this talk.An interactive session will be there after the presentation.Please do contact Shri.Vaishakahan Thampi Ph : 9846608238/ Shri.Pradeep Attukal Ph :9447525367 for details

Astronomy camp at Wayanad

AASTRO Wayanad District Chapter will have an astronomy camp and observation session on 28th of March at Karappuzha Dam site,Wayanad.Around 50 astronomy enthusiasts are expected to take part.The camp will have observation sessions,classes,interactions and discussions on future activities for AASTRO Wayanad.Leading astronomy educators,academicians and science popularisation activists in the district will make their presence.Please do contact Shri.M.M.Tomy,District co ordinator for details.Ph :+91-9446176826

Saturn Takes Center Stage

The planet Saturn reached opposition this past weekend, rising as the sun sets and making its closest approach to Earth this year.  The planet saunters across Virgo over the next few weeks: it’s the brightest object between the stars Porrima in Virgo and Denebola in Leo.  Saturn is truly one of the prettiest sights you can see with a telescope.

[caption id="attachment_473" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="planet saturn_closest encounter"][/caption]

As a gas giant and the second largest planet in the solar system, Saturn is much like Jupiter.  It has no solid surface.  It’s made of cold hydrogen and helium gas in its outer layers, with no solid surface.  Like Jupiter, it likely has a solid rocky core that’s 10x Earth’s mass.  And it has a strong magnetic field and a huge collection of 60 moons, almost as many as Jupiter.But Saturn differs from Jupiter and the other gas giants is ways that make it especially fascinating.

Its rings, for example.  While Jupiter and Uranus have faint rings, Saturn has the brightest and most complex ring system in the solar system.  No one knows for sure how or when the rings were formed.  They might have assembled with the planet 4.5 billion years ago.  Or they may have formed just 100 million years ago when a small moon or comet came too close to the planet and was ripped to pieces by tidal forces.  In any case, Saturn’s rings are made mostly from tiny ice particles that extend from 6,600 km to 120,000 km directly above the equator of the planet.  The whole set of rings, despite their extent, are just 10-20 meters thick.

[caption id="attachment_474" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Saturn Rings"][/caption]

The gravity of the planet and several embedded “shepherd moons” segment the rings into amazingly complex filamentary structures.The rings are organized into four main sections labelled from A, the outermost ring, to D which is closest to the planet.  On a clear night with a small scope, you can see the A and B rings.  And you can see the narrow gap between these rings.  This gap is the Cassini division.

While it’s a mighty big planet, Saturn is just 30% as massive as Jupiter.  But it spans 84% of Jupiter’s diameter.  That means it’s far less dense than Jupiter, or any other planet in the solar system.  It has just 68% the density of water, which means it would float in the bathtub (if you had a big enough bathtub).

Saturn also rotates quickly… just once every 10 hours… so it’s flattened at the poles more than any other planet.  Although since the surface isn’t solid, it’s a little tricky to get a good estimate of the rotational period; astronomers figured out the true rotation period of the planet by measuring the magnetic field.

The face of Saturn shows a few faint bands, but few other features.  Though there is the matter of the strange white storm that appears on the surface every 30 years or so…

The “Great White Spot”, as it’s called was observed from Earth in 1876, 1903, 1933, and 1960, and 1990.  The spot is presumably a storm that assembles in the atmosphere or bubbles up to the outer layers.  It starts small, then spreads out for several weeks before disappearing.  It seems to correspond to summer solstice in Saturn’s northern hemisphere, and occurs one per revolution of the planet around the sun. The next appearance of this mysterious spot is due around 2020.

As for moons, well, Saturn has a gaggle of them, each as distinct as snowflakes.  Titan is the largest.  It’s bigger than our moon, and is large enough to have an atmosphere and lakes of liquid hydrocarbons.

But Enceladus, Saturn’s sixth largest moon, is perhaps the most intriguing.  Though its surface is cold, Enceladus has liquid water under its surface.  The water is warmed by tidal forces, and sometimes shoots out in plumeswhich were recently imaged by the Cassini space probe.  Warm liquid water suggests the interior of Enceladus is a good place to search for life in the solar system.


Encyclopedia on Astronomy in Malayalam;a voyage through the wonders of Universe

[caption id="attachment_466" align="alignleft" width="213" caption="The Encyclopedia of astronomy in Malayalam is an indispensable reference book to guide us in the understanding of this universe in depth."][/caption]

The State institute of Encyclopedic Publications,Kerala, an Institute established for publishing general encyclopedias in Malayalam decided to welcome the International year of Astronomy- with a bold step by publishing an Encyclopedia on Astronomy in Malayalam ;the first of its kind in any regional Indian language. Publishing an encyclopedia within a year was not  an easy job. But preparations were started since the dawn of January 2009 by conducting a workshop at Thiruvananthapuram. Experts in the fields of astronomy and astrophysics from various parts of Kerala assembled in the capital city to discuss about  the making of Encyclopedia on astronomy. more than 700 entries were approved after detailed discussions. There after writing and editing of articles were begun  in a systematic way.  At the fag end of December 2009, Encyclopedia on astronomy became a reality. on 4 January 2010 world- famous astrophysicist and Nobel laureate of 2006 Dr. John.C. Mather released this unique volume at a grand function in Trivandrum. After releasing the Encyclopedia,  Dr. John. C. Mather stated that, he realised its relevance and this Encyclopedia could provide an experience of voyage through the wonders and  mysteries of the universe.

As John.C. Mather stated the Encyclopedia of astronomy is really a voyage through the amazing wonders and mysteries of our universe. This exclusive reference book showcases all the developments such as historical, theoretical, observational ones and explorations in the field of astronomy and related areas since the beginning of man’s astronomical observations. The articles in it are drafted with an outlook to link the public with the magnificent world of astronomy in a realistic way. In short, the Encyclopedia of  Astronomy tries to explore the origin and development of astronomical observations since the dawn of human civilization to the latest event of lunar exploration by Chandrayan-1 and its  later phases in alphabetical order. This Encyclopedia tries to narrate the story of the universe and its phenomena through more than 700 authoritative entries. There are   innumerable constellation charts, star atlases and narrative tables, thousands of  spectacular images (most of them were provided by NASA) which give perfection and comprehensiveness to the articles in it. If anyone who goes only through the attractive and descriptive images, he will definitely get a glimpse of the magnificent world of astronomy.

Illustrated entries included on the development of astronomical instrumentations, range from the very ancient astrolabe to their most modern space based detectors. Astrolabe was an instrument used by ancient people to measure directions while traveling. The  article on the telescope narrate the history of the development of various types of  telescopes and their mechanism from Galilean to James web telescope. Now space based telescopes such as the Hubble space telescope, Chandra X- ray telescope, Compton gamma ray observatory  were continuously provide billions megabits of data through out day and night. Path breaking  experiments like large Hadron Collider, focusing on the origin and development of the universe, also included here. Topics on extra terrestrial  intelligence and extra solar planets enable the reader to think beyond our galaxy.

Another attraction of this subject oriented encyclopedia is its in-depth survey of  individuals who have devoted their life to the cause of astronomy. Special attention has been given to the forerunners of Indian school of astronomy such as Aryabhattan, Neelakanda Somayaji, Vadasseri parameswaran, Vainubappu, Jayanth Narlikar, Thanupadmanabhan and others. The makers of modern astronomy like Galileo Galilee, Johannes Kepler, Copernicus, Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Edwin powell, William Hershel, Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking have appeared as special features. Essays on individuals not only trace their distinctive career but also try to enumerate their memorable contributions in astronomy and related areas.

Essays on theoretical astronomy need special mention. Hypothesis, theories and  observations pertaining to the beginning of the universe and its probable end, the formation of the stars and galaxies are also included. Varied concepts such as dark  matter, dark energy missing matter and black holes are also descriptively treated in the essays. Articles on trend setting space explorations, like COBE, SOHO, Chandrayan etc. add to the immense worth of this encyclopedia.

Special feature articles are add to the charm of his encyclopedia. Essays on solar system, sun, planets, moons, stars, stellar evolution, galaxies, nebulae, extraterrestrial life, Big-bang, ISRO, Indian Astronomy, Kerala school of astronomy and so on are very useful to widen our knowledge of the universe. In addition to these, ultra modern branches of astronomy such as Neutrino astronomy, Radar astronomy, Radio  astronomy, Ultra violet astronomy etc, are discussed in detail.

Obliviously, the Encyclopedia of astronomy is an indispensable reference book to guide us in the understanding of  this universe in depth.The cost for single copy is 900 Rs.Copies can be had from State Institute of Encyclopedia Publications,DPI Junction,Jagathy,Thiruvananthapuram.Ph : 04712-325303.One can contact AASTRO co-ordinators too.

R. Anirudhan/SIEP/AASTRO

Ice deposits on moon – Chandrayan Strikes again.

[caption id="attachment_460" align="alignleft" width="298" caption="Craters (circled green) on the north pole of the Moon. Photo credit: Nasa"][/caption]

The Miracles by Chandrayan – 1 , the first moon mission of India launched on 2008 October 22 continues. Months ago American space agency NASA’s ( National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3), one of the instruments on board of Chandrayaan-1, had recognised that water was getting formed even in the sun-lit regions of moon. Now Mini-SAR another instrument on Chandrayan-1 's board had discovered ice deposits in moon days ago.

ASA's Mini-SAR instrument, lightweight, synthetic aperture radar, found more than 40 small craters with water ice. The craters range in size from 2 to 15 km in diameter. The finding would give future missions a new target to further explore and exploit, a NASA statement said, adding it is estimated that there could be at least 600 million metric tons of water ice in the craters.

"The emerging picture from the multiple measurements and resulting data of the instruments on lunar missions indicates that water creation, migration, deposition and retention are occurring on the moon," Paul Spudis, principal investigator of the Mini-SAR experiment at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, said yesterday.The new discoveries show that the moon is an even more interesting and attractive scientific, exploration and operational destination than previously thought, he said.Aboard Chandrayaan-I, the Mini-SAR mapped the moon's permanently-shadowed polar craters that are not visible from the earth. The radar uses the polarisation properties of reflected radio waves to characterise surface properties.According to the findings which are being published in the latest issue of the Geophysical Research Letters journal, results from the mapping showed deposits having radar characteristics similar to ice.

"After analysing the data, our science team determined a strong indication of water ice, a finding which will give future missions a new target to further explore and exploit," Jason Crusan, program executive for the Mini-RF Program for NASA's Space Operations Mission Directorate, said.The space agency said these results are consistent with recent findings of other NASA instruments and adds to growing scientific understanding of the multiple forms of water found on the moon.The agency's Moon  Mineralogy Mapper discovered water molecules in the moon's polar regions, while water vapour was detected by NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite.Mini-SAR and Moon Mineralogy Mapper are two of 11 instruments on India's first unmanned mission to the moon -- Chandrayaan-I.