AAVSO Writer’s Bureau Digest For 20 December 2013

2013dec20_aavso_logoThe AAVSO Writer’s Bureau, hosted by the American Association of Variable Star Observers (www.aavso.org), is a selective aggregator of high-quality science content for the amateur astronomer. Several astronomy bloggers, science writers, and official astronomy publishers and organizations provide articles free-of-charge for redistribution through the AAVSO-WB. The five most recent Writer’s Bureau posts are presented below with direct links to the full articles on the author’s own website. CNYO thanks the authors and the AAVSO for making these articles available for free to all astronomy groups!

Will This New Technology Transform Astronomy?

By Monica Young, Sky & Telescope

2013dec20_Arp147_341pxBack in my former life, I was an X-ray astronomer. While optical astronomy charged ahead with camera technology that benefitted from commercial investment (hello, smartphones), the X-ray detectors I worked with were of a more “homebrew” variety (really good homebrew). 

If I point an X-ray telescope at, say, a distant quasar for a few hours, I might get a few hundred photons if I’m lucky. Compare that with an optical image, where the same quasar might emit millions of photons. As a professor of mine once joked, X-rays are so few and far between, they should have names: “Look, there go Peter, Jill, and Harry.”

Read the full article at: skyandtelescope.com/news/Will-This-Cutting-Edge-Technology…

This Neutron Star Behaves Just Like The Hulk

By Elizabeth Howell, Universe Today

2013dec20_transformWhen Bruce Banner gets angry, he gets big and green and strong and well, vengeful. The Hulk is the stuff of comic book legend and as Mark Ruffalo recently showed us in The Avengers, Banner’s/Hulk’s personality can transform on a dime.

Turns out rapid transformations are the case in astronomy, too! Scientists found a peculiar neutron star that can change from radio pulsar, to X-ray pulsar, back and forth. In the Hulk’s case, a big dose of gamma rays likely fuelled his ability to transform. This star’s superpowers, however, likely come from a companion star.

Read the full article at: www.universetoday.com/105039/this-neutron-star-behaves…

Fomalhaut Star System Actually A Triple

Monica Young, Sky & Telescope

2013dec20_Fomalhaut_planet_341pxFomalhaut itself is a regular A-class star, twice the size of the Sun, accompanied by a smaller, K-class companion. The system made headlines in 2008 when astronomers discovered the controversial exoplanet candidate Fomalhaut b. Even after the dust mostly settled, the planet’s highly elliptical orbit remained unexplained.

It’s unclear whether the planet’s orbit is aligned with the far-out debris disk that rings the young star. And stranger still, the debris disk itself is off-kilter, its center offset from Fomalhaut A by 15 times the Earth-Sun distance.

Read the full article at: www.skyandtelescope.com/community/skyblog/newsblog/…

Power Of Multiple Amateur Telescopes, UNITE!

Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy

2013dec20_uniteTaking pictures of astronomical objects is a lot like collecting rainwater in buckets. Photons from your target are the rain, and your telescope is the bucket. The bigger the bucket, the more rain you collect. You get more water if you leave the bucket out longer, too.

So astronomers like to use big telescopes and long exposure times to get faint detail in their cosmic portraits. However, there’s a third option: Use more than one bucket.

Read the full article at: www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2013/09/15/astrophoto_planetary_nebula_image_combining…

Old, Fat Stars Flicker

Mark Zastrow, Sky & Telescope

2013dec20_solar_granulation_341pxWhen you look through a telescope at a star glowing red, you might ponder: is it skinny or fat?

Although so-called red dwarfs and red giants have the same temperature, the distinction between them is profound. Red dwarfs are half the mass of the Sun or smaller. A red giant can be many times the mass of the Sun. It’s also about to die — low on energy, it’s bloated to as much as 1,500 times the radius of the Sun.

Read the full article at: skyandtelescope.com/community/skyblog/…

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