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4 new stories for 2011/06/14

Measuring Fundamental Constants with Methanol

Diagram of the methanol molecule

Diagram of the methanol molecule

 

Key to the astronomical modeling process by which scientists attempt to understand our universe, is a comprehensive knowledge of the values making up these models. These are generally measured to exceptionally high confidence levels in laboratories. Astronomers then assume these constants are just that – constant. This generally seems to be a good assumption since models often produce mostly accurate pictures of our universe. But just to be sure, astronomers like to make sure these constants haven’t varied across space or time. Making sure, however, is a difficult challenge. Fortunately, a recent paper has suggested that we may be able to explore the fundamental masses of protons and electrons (or at least their ratio) by looking at the relatively common molecule of methanol.

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© jvois for Universe Today, 2011. | Permalink | One comment | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: electron, fundamental particles, proton

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Carbon Monoxide Reveals Distant Milky Way Arm

The Milky Way's basic structure is believed to involve two main spiral arms emanating from opposite ends of an elongated central bar. But only parts of the arms can be seen - gray segments indicate portions not yet detected. Other known spiral arm segments--including the Sun's own spur--are omitted for clarity. Credit: T. Dame

Our Milky Way Galaxy’s elemental form is hypothesized to be a barred structure – made up of two major spiral arms originating at both poles of the central bar. But from our vantage point, we can only see portions of those arms. Because of huge amounts of dust literally blocking our view, we can’t be as confident of our structure as other galaxies we can study as a whole. However, by “sniffing our galaxy’s tailpipe”, we’re able to judge our structure just a little bit better. (...)
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© tammy for Universe Today, 2011. | Permalink | 11 comments | Add to del.icio.us
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Carnival of Space #201

Moving on into the second centum of space Carnivals, a brand new CoS is hosted by John Williams over at StarryCritters.

Click here to read the Carnival of Space #201.

And if you’re interested in looking back, here’s an archive to all the past Carnivals of Space. If you’ve got a space-related blog, you should really join the carnival. Just email an entry to carnivalofspace@gmail.com, and the next host will link to it. It will help get awareness out there about your writing, help you meet others in the space community – and community is what blogging is all about. And if you really want to help out, sign up to be a host. Send an email to the above address.


© nancy for Universe Today, 2011. | Permalink | 3 comments | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: Carnival of Space

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Video: Dawn Captures Vesta Coming into View

Vesta is coming into view of the Dawn spacecraft and this video shows surface details just beginning to resolve as Dawn gets closer to its first destination. The images were obtained on June 1st and show, for the first time, a dark feature with a diameter of approximately 100 kilometers near the asteroid’s equator. “We won’t know what this dark spot is for a few weeks, when we have come a bit closer to the asteroid” said Dr. Vishnu Reddy and Dr. Lucille Le Corre from Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany. Both scientists analyzed the data received from the Dawn framing camera.

Older images taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope had revealed a similar structure. Visible are Vesta’s jagged shape (created by repeated impacts) and variations in surface brightness. Vesta’s south pole is to the lower right at about the 5 o’clock position.

The video shows 20 frames, looped five times, that span a 30-minute period. During that time, Vesta rotates about 30 degrees. The images included here are used by navigators to fine-tune Dawn’s trajectory during its approach to Vesta, with arrival expected on July 16, 2011.

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© nancy for Universe Today, 2011. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: Asteroids, Dawn mission, Missions, vesta

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