The Mystery of the Northern Lights

Next month, in a joint Canadian / American project, five satellites will be launched to help figure out the mystery behind aurora borealis, or the Northern Lights.  This project, called THEMIS, includes recording interaction between charged particles expelled by the sun and the Earth’s magnetic field. 

When these particles interact with the magnetic field, they sometimes release energy near the polar regions, resulting in aurora substorms. The electron release interacts with molecules in the atmosphere and appears as the northern lights.northern_lights.jpg

The scientists involved are from Canada and the United States, including NASA.  In addition to the satellites, twenty observatories will take digital images and monitor magnetic signatures from substorms.  Most of the observatories will be located in northern Canada, including Whitehorse, Inuvik, and Gillam, Man.

Look at the Cosmos in 2007

What’s Up 2007 – 365 Days of Skywatching is a free e-book that can guide you to the stars this year. The e-book is desgined to help experienced and inexperienced people find the stars for fun viewing. If you like, you can also order a printed copy.

Each day is specifically geared to give you the best of what can be seen with the unaided eye, binoculars, and small telescopes and even has challenge objects for seasoned observers. It’s beautifully illustrated and contains many special features, such as anotated lunar maps.”

Via /.

Ancient Computer Hacked

A bizarre looking device that was used to chart and predict moon cycles. Researchers had to use the most modern of today’s technology to understand this 2,000 year old device.

“Using 21st-century technology to peer beneath the surface of the encrusted gearwheels, stunned scientists say the so-called Antikythera Mechanism could predict the ballet of the Sun and Moon over decades and calculate a lunar anomaly that would bedevil Isaac Newton himself.

Built in Greece around 150 to 100 BC and possibly linked to the astronomer and mathematician Hipparchos, its complexity was probably unrivalled for at least a thousand years, they say.”

TV 45 Light Years Away

Slashdot reported that a television company is broadcasting for an audience of alien species.

“The two naked hosts will present their own unclothed bodies as examples of our physical embodiments, and will tell about daily human existence. Music, art, and our own personal messages will be transmitted as well as discussions from sociologists, scientists, and space experts. This project is the brainchild of the French-based Centre National D’etudes Spatiales and is rooted in seriousness as a natural extension of the gold-plated ambassador disks of Pioneer 10. “

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