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February 2010: ING direct

February 2010

We have interviews with Dr. Rodríguez-Gil and Dr. Miguel Santander-García from the Isaac Newton Group of telescopes. As ever we have the latest astronomical news, and what you can see in the February night sky.

The News

In the news this month:

Isaac Newton Group

In January 2010, while observing with the Isaac Newton Group's William Herschel Telescope on the island of La Palma, Dave Jones took some time out to interview a few members of ING staff working at the observatory. The ING operates three optical telescopes at the Spanish Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, on behalf of the astronomical communities of the UK, Spain and the Netherlands. Dave spoke to Dr Pablo Rodríguez-Gil about his work on compact binaries, systems of two stars held together by gravity where one star is of a much higher density than the Sun. Dr. Rodríguez-Gil tells us about the interesting processes that can be seen in these systems, including accretion where the denser star rips material away from its companion. We also hear about the application process by which astronomers get to use the ING's telescopes, and specifically how their 2.5m Isaac Newton Telescope is run.

While in La Palma, Dave also spoke to Dr Miguel Santander-García about his ground-breaking work on planetary nebulae. Planetary nebulae, a misnomer as they bear no relation to planets, are the final stage in the lives of stars similar to our own Sun when the star blows off its outer layers. These planetary nebulae are some of the most poorly understood and strikingly beautiful objects to be found in the night sky.

The Night Sky

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

Northern Hemisphere

As night falls the constellations of Pegasus and Andromeda are setting towards the west. High in the south is Orion. The three stars of its belt point down to Sirius in Canis Major. Up to the right they point to Taurus the Bull with the Hyades and Pleiades. High above Orion is Auriga with the bright star Capella. Up to the left of Orion are the Twins - Gemini. Over towards the eastern sky is Procyon in Canis Minor and then a very faint area - the constellation of Cancer - which currently contains the planet Mars.

The Planets


Southern Hemisphere

The main stars of Sagittarius make up a teapot. Just above the teapot is a lovely region of luminosity called the Lagoon Nebula which is easily seen with binoculars. Centaurus has two bright stars - Alpha and Beta Centauri. Alpha Centaurus is actually three stars - two orbiting quite close. Curving around from Beta Centauri you find a fuzzy object named Omega Centauri.

Odds and Ends

EADS Astrium are developing the technology to get solar power from space.

Universe Today have put together a guide to the objects in the Messier catalogue. Dave also mentioned Stellarium.

The International Space Station has live internet access and have sent the first live tweet from space! Astronauts on board the ISS now can directly access the web which means that they can update their Twitter accounts themselves instead of sending the messages down to Earth for someone else to update the account on their behalf.

NASA have finally given up trying to "free Spirit" and have decided to keep the Mars Rover operating as a stationary science platform. Providing that it survives the Martian winter, it could continue to do science for a few more years.

Megan has been busy recently with an episode of 365 Days of Astronomy (January 21st), a Doctor Who supernova story and a paper in Nature (January 28th)! We'll let you decide the relative importance of each of those.

Jodcast listener OG has an episode of 365 Days of Astronomy on 15th February.

Show Credits

News:Megan Argo
Noticias en Español - Febrero 2010:Lizette Ramirez
Interview:Dr Pablo Rodríguez-Gil and Dave Jones
Interview:Dr Miguel Santander-García and Dave Jones
Night sky this month:Ian Morison
Presenters:David Ault and Jen Gupta
Editors:Stuart Lowe, Adam Avison, Jen Gupta, Dave Jones, Sarah Bryan, Iain McDonald, and Chris Tibbs.
Intro script:David Ault
Intro Editing:Fiona Thraille
Phil:Christopher Stadther
Rita:Cheryl Cunningham
Hawley:Lyn Cullen
Segment voice:Mike Peel
Website:Stuart Lowe
Cover art:The Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes Credit: Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes

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