Oh no it didn't, but it will produce infrared surveys of galaxies.
In the news this month: more clues in the hunt for dark matter, testing the fundamental fuzziness of time, more exoplanets images and Copernicus's body may have been discovered.
- Earlier in 2008 results from PAMELA were announced which showed an excess of high-energy positrons. One possible cause could be the annihilation of dark matter particles. Another instrument - ATIC - searches for charged particles from space using a high-altitude balloon-bourne experiment. The ATIC results show that between energies of 300 and 600 GeV the number of electrons peaked sharply. One theory to explain these results is that it could be the result of heavy dark matter particles annihilating.
- An experiment looking for high-energy cosmic rays also reported interesting results during November. The Milagro observatory in New Mexico found two cosmic ray 'hot-spots'.
- Time is usually thought of as flowing smoothly but quantum mechanics says that it is fuzzy. In a paper published in Physical Review D, a theoretical physicist says that this fuzziness may be the cause of previously unexplained noise in measurements by the GEO600 gravitational wave detector.
- During November we had announcements of the first planets outside our solar system to be directly imaged. One team used the HST to detect a planet orbiting the star Fomalhaut while another used the Gemini and Keck telescopes to find three planets orbiting the star HR8799. Closely following these announcements came news of a candidate planet imaged around the star Beta Pictoris by the VLT.
- Researchers in Poland think they have uncovered the skull of the astronomer Copernicus.
Matt Jarvis talks to us about the VIDEO survey on the VISTA infrared telescope in Chile. VIDEO, the VISTA Deep Extragalactic Observations Survey, is a wide-field infra-red survey to study galaxy evolution as a function of galaxy age and environment to a redshift of ~4. The survey will observe active galactic nuclei, galaxy cluster evolution, and very massive galaxies. Matt tells us about how the VIDEO survey will improve our understanding of these galaxies, how they form and evolve.
The Night Sky
December gives us a chance to see two beautiful areas of the sky. The first is the region around Cygnus, Lyra and Aquila which make up the Summer Triangle. As the night moves on we see the area of the sky centred on the constellation of Orion the Hunter. To the lower left of Orion is the constellation of Canis Major with its bright star Sirius. Up to the right of Orion you come to the constellation Taurus which contains two lovely clusters. First of all is the Hyades cluster with the star Aldebaran apparently at its heart. Aldebaran is actually only about halfway between us and the cluster. Higher in the sky still is the Pleiades cluster or the Seven Sisters. Up to the left of Orion is Gemini, below that is Canis Minor, and above Orion is Auriga with its bright yellow star Capella.
It isn't a brilliant month for planets. Jupiter is fairly low in the south-west as seen from the north of England. It is about 34 arcseconds across and is still pretty bright. During December it will be lost in the Sun's glare. Saturn is now a morning object but rising in the east before midnight. Mercury will become visible again during the last week of December. Mars has gone around the back of the Sun so we will have to wait a few more months to see it. Venus is shining at magnitude -4.2 low in the west after sunset.
On December 29th there is a nice line-up of Venus, Jupiter and Mercury with the Moon. Neptune is only around 2.5 degrees away from Venus on the same night so it will give you a good chance to spot it with binoculars. There is a finder chart for Neptune on the night sky pages for December. In the mid early evenings you can see the Andromeda galaxy. To the left of the tiny constellation Triangulum is the Star Algol in Perseus. It is an eclipsing binary and every 2.87 days its brightness drops by more than a magnitude and then rises again. In December you can watch this happen over a period of hours around 20:17 UT on the 7th and 17:06: UT on the 10th and 18:50 on the 30th. The early morning of December 14th may give us the chance, if clear, of observing the brighter meteors of the Geminid meteor shower. Sadly, this year, the Moon is just one day past full moon and is in Gemini so its glare will obscure most of them.
In the evening, in the southern hemisphere, looking fairly high up in the south at around 9 or 10 pm you can see the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. The Large Magallenic Cloud (LMC) is nearer the star Canopus and towards the horizon is the Small Magallenic Cloud (SMC). These are two irregular galaxies that are currently thought to be by-passing the Milky Way. The LMC contains the open star cluster 30 Doradus. Looking at the SMC with binoculars, you should be able to see 47 Tucanae which is one of the brightest globular clusters.
Odds and Ends
At local noon on 1st January the Centro de Astrofísica da Universidade do Porto (CAUP) and the IYA2009's Solar Physics Group (SPG) would like people to take part in the Dawn of the International Year of Astronomy by calling on all professional and hobby astronomers to participate in what will be the largest Sun observation event in the world.
We reviewed the book Mars 3-D by Jim Bell. You can find it on Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Barnes & Nobel as well as other book shops. The UK release date is 31 January 2009 and in the US it is already out. Check out other reviews at Tom's Astronomy Blog, The Spacewriter's Ramblings and MSNBC's Cosmic Log.
Ian produced a review of a Celestron NexStar 130SLT telescope back in May 2006.
The latest Jodcast video on gravitational waves is now live.
|Interview:||Dr Matt Jarvis and Nick Rattenbury|
|Night sky this month:||Ian Morison|
|Presenters:||Nick Rattenbury and Stuart Lowe|
|Editors:||Stuart Lowe and Nick Rattenbury|
|Intro script:||David Ault|
|Nicky Bucket:||Nick Rattenbury|
|Grandpa Tim:||Tim O'Brien|
|Dave Wonka:||David Ault|
|Stuart PC:||Stuart Lowe|
|Megan Newshound:||Megan Argo|
|M&S lift & Servelan:||Fiona Waller|
|Segment voice:||Danny Wong-McSweeney|
|Cover art:||VISTA and VLT: Aerial view of Paranal, home of the VLT, with VISTA in the foreground. Credit: G. Hüdepohl|