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March 2010: Explosion

March 2010

We have an interview with Professor Mike Barlow from UCL. As ever we have the latest astronomical news, and what you can see in the March night sky.

The News

In the news this month:

Interview

In January 2010, Jen got Professor Mike Barlow (UCL) into the Jodcast studio to tell us about evolved stars, supernovae and what they tell us about dust in the universe. Dust is everywhere in the universe but we still don't know how it is formed. For a long time, it was thought that the dominant source of dust was low mass stars at the end point of their lives. However young, far away galaxies have been observed to be producing large amounts of dust. As we are observing these galaxies in the early stages of the Universe, low mass stars will not have had time to evolve (and therefore produce dust) so it is now thought that the dust is created when high mass stars end their lives as Type II supernovae. Mike and his colleagues are studying supernovae in nearby galaxies to see if they are producing enough dust to explain the amounts seen in the distant galaxies. As it stands, the nearby supernovae don't produce quite enough dust to account for the quantities seen.

Mike Barlow also tells us about the different types of supernovae, why we don't see as many supernovae in our own galaxy as we would expect and his work with the Spitzer and Herschel Space Telescopes.

The Night Sky

Ian Morison tells us what we can see in the night sky during March 2010.

Northern Hemisphere

As the Sun sets there is a lovely skyscape to the south, with Orion just a little to the west of south. Below to its left is the very bright star Sirius in Canis Major and up to its left are the heavenly twins Gemini. High overhead is Auriga with the bright star Capella. As the night moves on, Leo rises at about 9pm and getting high overhead is Ursa Major.

The Planets

Highlights

Southern Hemisphere

After sunset, the Milky Way is running up from just to the left of due south towards the zenith. Not far from the horizon is Alpha Centauri at magnitude 0.01. With Beta Centauri, they are the pointers to the Southern Cross just above and to the left. Higher in the sky and a little bit to the right of due south is the constellation Carina, and the bright star at top is Canopus. This is one of the brightest stars in the nearby part of our galaxy and is used as a navigation beacon for spacecraft.

Odds and Ends

As we have mentioned before, the Spirit rover is staying put on Mars but is now being used in a rather innovative way to help determine whether the core of Mars is solid or liquid.

Soichi Noguchi (@Astro_Soichi) has been making use of the new internet connection to the ISS to put images from orbit directly online via twitpic. Our favourites include photos of the Moon rise, the Patagonia glacier and the space shuttle Endeavour undocking.

Create your own Solar System! with the flash-based Solar System simulator

GLOBE at Night is happening again this month, 3rd-16th March. Do your part to monitor light pollution around the world simply by going out and looking at Orion.

The West of London Astronomical Society is holding its annual Planet Watch on the 19th-21st March 2010.

Show Credits

News:Megan Argo
Noticias en Español - Marzo 2010:Lizette Ramirez
Interview:Professor Mike Barlow and Jen Gupta
Night sky this month:Ian Morison
Presenters:Stuart Lowe and Jen Gupta
Editors:Adam Avison, Mark Purver and Chris Tibbs.
Intro concept:David Ault
Intro/Outro voices:Steve Anderson, David Ault, Tom Beal, Eric Busby, Cheryl Cunningham, Kateryna Fury, M Sieiro Garcia, Amanda Glover, Nathan Glover, Jared J Griego, Michael Liebmann, Keith Lyons, Dave Maciver and Waleed Ovase
Intro/Outro Music:Kevin MacLeod (royalty free from incompetech.com)
Segment voice:Mike Peel
Website:Stuart Lowe
Cover art:Spitzer Space Telescope image of Cassiopeia A supernova remnant Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/L. Rudnick (Univ. of Minn.)

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