Posts Tagged ‘astronomy’

Sir Patrick Moore Dies Aged 89

December 9th, 2012 12:15 admin View Comments


First time accepted submitter Tastecicles writes “Patrick Moore the monocled surveyor of the sky who awakened in millions of people an interest in galactic goings on has died at 89. His love of astronomy began at the age of six and that childhood curiosity developed into a lifelong passion. It was a passion he shared through his program, The Sky at Night, which he presented for more than 50 years, only ever missing one episode due to illness. Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore was born at Pinner, Middlesex on 4 Mar 1923. Heart problems meant he spent much of his childhood being educated at home and he became an avid reader. His mother gave him a copy of GF Chambers’ book, The Story of the Solar System, and this sparked his lifelong passion for astronomy. He was soon publishing papers about the moon’s surface, based on observations made with his first three-inch telescope. His 1908 vintage typewriter enabled him to publish more than a thousand books on subjects ranging from astronomy, his first love, to cricket, golf, and music.”

Source: Sir Patrick Moore Dies Aged 89

Mercury’s North Pole May Have Icy Craters

December 3rd, 2012 12:16 admin View Comments

Mercury’s North Pole May Have Icy Craters

By Ashley P. Taylor | December 3, 2012 10:16 am

spacing is important
The yellow spots represent icy areas.


Ice? On the planet closest to the Sun? You heard right: Mercury’s northern pole may have craters containing frozen water.

The evidence, presented in three papers published last week in Science, comes from several sources. The Mercury Laser Altimeter, an instrument on the Mercury space probe, MESSENGER, helps scientists map the topography of the planet by firing lasers at its surface and recording the time it takes for the light to return. The instrument also records the intensity of the return beams, and the bright spots reflecting off Mercury’s surface suggest the presence of ice.

These bright spots corresponded to regions that, according to astronomers’ maps of Mercury, would be permanently in shadow, supporting the idea that they could be frozen despite Mercury’s scorching temperatures elsewhere. MESSENGER’s neutron spectrometer has also detected the presence of large amounts of hydrogen, a large component of water, at the north pole.

This is not a brand-new idea. Ice has been found in craters on the Moon, and several planets have ice in some form. In 1992 researchers reported evidence of ice on Mercury when they saw bright spots on radar images that could be caused by ice. And in March, at the 2012 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, scientists had presented some of these newly published results. The new Science papers report altimeter data that reach farther north, though, than they had in the past, as Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society reported. The altimeter data from March were consistent with a layer of ice buried under what could be carbon-containing compounds, the new data provide evidence for patches of exposed ice.

The detection of water near what might be organic matter is exciting because those are the two main ingredients for life. So far, though, even at the north pole, no evidence of a Mercurial Santa Claus has been found.

Image courtesy of NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington/National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, Arecibo Observatory

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