Greetings again for this month’s Science Links Article Thingy. This is February’s issue, but of course, it’s January’s news. This month’s theme: Astronomy Lost.
April might be the cruelest month, but for Astronomers who are also Catholic priests, it was this January. Why? Because Pope Benedict 16 evicted the Papal Observatory from its digs! The Castel Gadolfo, in addition to being the home of the Vatican Observatory for the last 75 years, is also the Pope’s vacation home, where he frequently hosts foreign diplomats and wandering wizards. He decided things were getting too cramped, so, out goes the Roman Catholic Church’s only official scientific endeavor. (Many great Catholic scientist-priests, such as Mendel and Le Maitre, had science as a hobby only.) The observatory will be moved to one of the Catholic Church’s many underused convents.
Since this happened so early in the month, I decided to make Astronomy the theme of this month’s science column. Unfortunately, Astronomy is one of the more serious and well respected branches of the sciences, so there isn’t much nuttiness to be found. But, here goes:
Here’s another article that fits with the theme of Astronomy Lost: Scientists Fail to Observe Gravity Wave. Scientists observing Gamma Ray bursts failed to observe an accompanying gravity wave. This has led them to conclude that these bursts are not due to black holes and neutron stars crashing into each other.
Speaking of Black Holes Not Crashing in to Each Other; here is an article about how scientists observed a system of two black holes, with a small one orbiting a large one, to make an accurate measurement of the large one’s mass. Turns out to be 18 billion times as massive as our own sun.
Complex organic molecules have been found in a planetary accretion disk. These molecules can’t form on earth under current atmospheric conditions, but scientists have long hypothesized that they might have existed here when the earth was young, and that these may have been early precursors to life. This is evidence that these molecules could have been present in the early solar system.
And here is another amazing discovery: a natural particle accelerator. One of the great feats of modern science is the particle accelerator, where subatomic particles are smashed together to the delight of physicists everywhere. Now, astronomers have found that an immense cloud of dust and charged gases are producing a similar effect. Not only is this exciting news for astrophysicists, but also for ordinary people. If there is a place in the universe where the proudest and most technologically advanced thing we have managed to produce is found naturally, we should also hope to find stellar clusters composed of computer monitors, tennis-shoe asteroid fields and BMW moons. Shouldn’t we?
And lastly, for those who are astronomers themselves! Don’t miss today’s (February 1st) conjunction of Jupiter and Venus! The two brightest planets will be just a couple of degrees away from each other in the night sky. Click here for where to look.
I hope you enjoyed this month’s science column, Astronomy Lost, and further hope you don’t freeze to death looking at Jupiter and Venus tonight.
If you have any requests for monthly themes, feel free to send them to me on RantsnRaves.