30 November 2010

Picture of the Month - November 2010

The above two images were taken on an early morning on 5th of November. This picture shows the thinnest Moon you can ever see. The thin crescent Moon was accompanied by a crescent Venus, shining bright, right before the sun rise. The crescent shape of the Venus is quite clearly seen in the above picture.

The phases of Venus was first identified by Galileo Galilei when he looked through his telescope for the first time on 1610, which confirmed the theory of heliocentric (Sun is in the center of the Solar System) which was proposed by Copernicus.

15 October 2010

Picture of the Month - October 2010

You must be wondering what those two bright objects at the bottom left of the picture is. It can't be Venus, since Venus doesn't have any satellite. It can't be Jupiter since none of the Jupiter's satellite are big enough as in the picture. It can't be Mars since Mars appears red. What else could it be? A binary star?

Well, that's it how Earth and Moon looks like from Mercury. This picture was captured by MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging), a spacecraft sent to Mercury by NASA, which was launched in 2004.

27 September 2010

Picture of the Month - September 2010

This beautiful image was captured at Spain last week. The Venus is found glowing bright to the right of the crescent Moon. The sky was almost entirely covered clouds letting only the Moon and the Venus to shine. The thick storm clouds surrounded by the thin anvil clouds which are greatly illuminated by the setting Sun. And the flock of birds that appear as a dark shadow over the clouds. What a sight!

20 September 2010

Jupiter At Its Brightest!

Anytime you look into the night sky you can see that the brightest object is the Moon, followed up by Venus and Jupiter. For the last few weeks I had been enjoying the beauty of Venus in the west and just as Venus sets, Jupiter rises in the east. I am waiting for the Venus to shift its position so that can I see Venus in the east and Jupiter in the west at the same time. I haven't seen them together since the 'Great Smile Incident', Dec 2008.

Venus on the top-left, Jupiter on the top-right, Moon in the bottom-middle. The Great Smile.

Also to add an interesting fact, Jupiter is found to be the closest to Earth tonight since 1963. It will be just 368 million miles away from Earth. So Jupiter is going to very bright today (though not as bright as Venus). So keep an eye on Jupiter tonight!

15 August 2010

Picture of the Month - August 2010

The above picture is taken during a Total Solar Eclipse. A strange shadow of darkness can be seen around the sun. This is called as Shadow Cones and they are visible due to the scattering of sunlight in the atmosphere. Shadow Cones are particularly dramatic when the eclipse is near the horizon. The above picture of Shadow Cone was taken last month from Patagonia, Argentina along with the background of Andes Mountains.

15 July 2010

Picture of the Month - July 2010

This is one of the most beautiful pictures taken by International Space Station (ISS). While orbiting around the Earth in July 2006, the astronauts captured the Moon floating near the horizon and the Earth covered by a thick blanket of clouds. You can notice that a part of the moon appears blue. This is created by the atmosphere around the Earth. The Air Molecules in the atmosphere scatter the blue light which makes the sky look blue from Earth and the horizon look blue from space. Also the atmosphere deflect the Moon's light which makes the lower end of the Moon appear to fade.

15 June 2010

Picture of the Month - June 2010

The above image is a stunning false-colour picture of 'Cat's Eye Nebula' with a halo around it. The center white portion of the image is the Cat's Eye Nebula surrounded by a faint halo of gaseous material. Cat's Eye is one of the most famous Planetary Nebula which is believed to be around 1000 yrs old. The halo is said to be 3 light years across. Only recently the halos around many planetary nebulae have been discovered including this one.

4 June 2010

Cryogenic Technology

Well, throughout April you would have heard a lot of news about the cryogenic technology that ISRO used in the recent rocket that was launched and that it failed. Before explaining what the cryogenic technology is, let me explain about orbits.

There are several types of orbit for a satellite around Earth but let us consider two commonly used orbits. They are Elliptical Orbit and Geo-Stationary Orbit. Satellites in an elliptical orbit moves around the Earth in a ellipse with the height ranging from 800 - 2000 km from the Earth's surface.

Geo-stationary Orbits form a perfect circle and the satellites in Geo-stationary orbits moves along with the Earth's rotation, i.e. the satellite seems to be in a fixed position as seen from Earth. The height of these orbits are approx 30,000 km from the Earth's surface.

It is impossible to reach 30,000 km using normal propellant. This is where a cryogenic technology is used. Without cryogenic technology ISRO cannot move further in their space ambition.

About 22 yrs ago, ISRO requested NASA for the cryogenic technology which was refused. The reason was NASA feared that India may use this technology for creating missiles. ISRO then asked Russia to provide but due to the pressure from NASA, Russia refused to give it as well. In the last 18 yrs, ISRO researched on this matter and they created their own technology without any external help hence being called as the ingenious technology.

Unfortunately, their first mission on cryogenic technology failed. GSLV-D3 which was launched on 15th April, met with a malfunction in its third stage. This does not mean that the technology was the failure. ISRO will continue to test this technology and I hope it will succeed the next time. 

17 May 2010

Picture of the Month - May 2010

This most amazing picture is a combination of 8 images taken at Portsmouth, UK at 7:50 pm between April 4th to April 15th, 2010. This composite image shows the trail of Venus and Mercury with a beautiful backdrop. Venus (extreme left) was continuing to move away from the Sun during the time while Mercury (in the center) was rising until April 11th and then began to fall. The movement of both the planets are due to the revolution around the Sun with Mercury reaching the furthest distance from the Sun on April 11th. The thin crescent Moon joined this beautiful party on April 15th. Click on the picture for the enlarged version.

15 April 2010

Picture of the Month - April 2010

Another Startrail image taken along with the view of Annapurna ranges, Himalayas. This trail was taken during the entire day showing the complete Earth's rotation. Using this trail, the celestic North Pole can be identified, the center of the concentric trails. Also Polaris, the north star can be identified which is the bright one very near the center.

15 March 2010

Picture of the Month - March 2010

This is one breath taking photo taken from the ISS. The picture taken from the window shows the solar panel of the ISS along with the crescent Earth and the beautiful and bright Sun. One of the most beautiful images I have seen.

23 February 2010

Happy B'day Pluto

Pluto celebrated its 80th birthday on 18th of this month. Yes, 80 yrs since Clyde Tombaugh discovered the then farthest object of our solar system.

Using Newtonian Mechanics, Neptune's position was predicted before its discovery after analyzing the perturbation in the orbit of Uranus. After Neptune's discovery it was found that the Uranus' orbit was disturbed by another object other than Neptune. The start for the search of a new planet started in 1905 and it took nearly 25 yrs to discover it. Pluto was discovered just like any other planet - by relative movement.

Pluto was so far that it was impossible to identify its diameter or mass. At first it was believed that Pluto was larger than Mercury. Pluto was considered to be the ninth planet of our Solar System until August 2006 when International Astronomical Union (IAU) brought out a definition for the term 'Planet' for the first time and thus Pluto was added in to the list of 'Dwarf Planets' along with the others discovered beyond the orbit of Neptune.

Pluto is now a distinct member of the Kuiper Belt (Similar to Asteroid Belt but this one is found beyond Neptune's Orbit). Three satellites were discovered orbiting Pluto namely Charon, Nix and Hydra.

Dog or Planet:

There is a very famous question which had been asked very often. Which came first? The Dog or the Planet? Pluto, the famous Disney Dog, as well as the planet Pluto were created/discovered in 1930. Some say that the dog was named after the planet and some say that the planet was named after the dog. The question which started in 1930 was answered only in 2006. Venetia Burney (who was 11 yrs old in 1930) was the one who suggested the name Pluto for the planet. It was believed that she was fascinated by the cartoon character  Pluto and suggested the same name for the planet. But in 2006, the 88 yr old Venetia said, "The name had nothing to do with the Disney Cartoon. Mickey Mouse's dog was named after the planet, not the other way around."

15 February 2010

Picture Of The Month - February 2010

The brilliant fireball meteor, as bright as the full moon was captured in this snapshot over the city of Groningen, Netherlands on October 13th, 2009. The sightings of the meteor were widely reported throughout the Netherlands and Germany at approximately 17:00 UT. Accompanied by sonic booms and rumbling sounds, the meteor was seen to break up into bright fragments, eventually leaving a persistent smoke-like trail. Even though there are bright fireball meteors in planet Earth's atmosphere every day, sightings of them are relatively rare because they more often occur over oceans and uninhabited areas.

9 February 2010

Annular Eclipse

If you had read my post on Solar Eclipse, you would have known that Annular Eclipse is a type of Solar Eclipse where the moon does not block the entire Sun. If you had read my last post about the eclipses, I had mentioned that on Jan 15th, 2010, India would witness an Annular Eclipse. It was the first in India after 108 years.

An Annular Eclipse is when the Solar Eclipse occurs when the moon is smaller than its average size. Due to this, the moon does not block the entire sun and forms a ring.

For the first time of my life, I felt the effect of an eclipse. The day was bright as it always is in Chennai when the brightness began reducing. One can still feel the heat of the sun yet the brightness alone had reduced as if a very very thick cloud had blocked the sun.

Below is the formation of the annular eclipse as taken from Chennai on 15th January, 2010.

The next solar eclipse in India would be on 26th December 2019 which would again be an annular eclipse. It will be experienced through out the South India and Sri Lanka.

15 January 2010

Picture Of The Month - January 2010

The above image shows the different types of rockets used by the Indian Space Administration (ISRO). SLV and ASLV are no longer used. We now usually use PSLV and GSLV. India is yet to test GSLV MK-3 which could carry twice the weight of the normal GSLV. Our GSLV had already made a record by carrying 10 satellites succesfully in one go. India is also trying to get a hand on the Re-usable launch vehicles which would drastically cut-down the expenses and revolutionize the future missions.