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57 articles from SUNDAY 15.7.2012
- SUNDAY 15. JULY, 2012
23:30 Starwatch: Lyra
At the risk of perpetuating what one reader has characterised as a cruel joke given Britain's appalling weather, our focus this month is on one of the smaller but most interesting constellations in our summer night sky. Assuming, that is, that the clouds do part eventually.
Lyra and its bright star Vega stand some 15° S of the zenith at midnight BST tonight and are charted in detail above. Vega, in fact, is the fifth brightest star in the entire sky and the third brightest ever visible from Britain, behind Sirius and Arcturus. The latter is the most conspicuous star in the W at nightfall where it serves as a guide to our two evening planets. Look 30° below Arcturus to find Saturn 5° above Spica in Virgo, and about 15° to their right for Mars.
On the wider scale, Vega marks the NW (top-right) corner of the Summer Triangle that it forms with Deneb in Cygnus, well to Vega's left, and Altair in Aquila below them both. The Triangle features throughout our summer and still looms high in the S at nightfall during October.
Vega has twice the mass of our Sun but is 37 times more luminous, shining with a white light at mag 0.0 from a range of 25 light years. It does, though, send us a surplus of infrared or heat radiation which originates in a surrounding disc of dusty material. The latter is larger than our solar system and has irregularities that hint at the formation of planets.
Lyra represents a lyre, a predecessor of the zither, and, surprisingly, is the only one of the 88 constellations to be named for a musical instrument. Its other main stars form a squashed box-shaped pattern and spill downwards from Vega towards Gamma which, despite its designation, is Lyra's second star at mag 3.2. The true Beta lies 5 Moon-breadths to the right of Gamma and varies between mag 3.4 and 4.6 every 12.9 days as a pair of hot tidally-distorted stars circle each other while material tumbles from one to the other.
One third the way from Beta to Gamma lies Messier 57, the famous Ring Nebula. At mag 8.8, binoculars just show it on a dark night but we need a telescope to appreciate its dusky doughnut of glowing ionised gas which measures about 1 x 1.5 arcminutes across. Visible through large telescopes is a dim white dwarf star at its heart, the remains of the red giant that shed the outer layers of its atmosphere a few thousand years ago.
Another marvel lies only 1.7° NW of Vega in the form of Epsilon, the celebrated Double Double. Binoculars show two 5th mag stars 3.5 arcminutes apart but a telescope under high power reveals each of these to be itself binary with separations of a little more than 2 arcseconds. The tight pairs take centuries to orbit each other, while the binocular double takes many times longer. Zeta, too, is a binocular double while the wider contrasting stars of Delta are aligned in our sky only by chance.guardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
23:30 Weatherwatch: Meteosat-10 launched to track weather systems
Europe's latest weather satellite blasted off into space on 5 July on board its Ariane rocket. Meteosat-10 is now being manoeuvred into a geostationary position, 36,000km above the Earth, over the Gulf of Guinea on the equator.
By 6 August the satellite will produce detailed images of Europe and Africa every 15 minutes; it will be ideal for tracking dangerous thunderstorms and watching weather systems develop. Its arrival will lighten the load on other Meteosat satellites, possibly freeing up a satellite for observing duties over the Indian Ocean. In September, European meteorologists can look forward to a new polar orbiting satellite, Metop-B.
Since 1960, when the first successful weather satellite was launched, satellite data has transformed weather forecasting, providing meteorologists with a "bird's eye" view of the entire Earth, night and day. Before then it was much tougher to see what was going on in the upper atmosphere. During the 19th century weather kites were flown. Invented in 1749 by two Glasgow University students who wanted to see how temperature changed with altitude, these box-shaped kites (about the size of a small truck) were tethered with piano wire. Instruments were strung at regular intervals along the wire, up to an altitude of 7km or so. By the late 1920s weather balloons started to take over and kites became obsolete by 1933. Today a combination of balloons, radar and satellite paint us a detailed picture.guardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
21:45 Biomimicry: unintended consequences | Editorial
21:30 Meet 'Dr Love', the scientist exploring what makes people good or evil
21:27 Not a Dwarf: Is Pluto a Binary Planet?Pluto really has only four moons if the largest moon in the system, Charon, is considered a "binary planet" companion to Pluto.
21:23 Alzheimer's experts gather in Vancouver
Scientists and researchers are gathered in Vancouver to share information on dementia, which costs North Americans hundreds of billions of dollars each year in health care costs.
20:53 Free access to British scientific research to be available within two years
20:47 How Universal One-Click Payments Will Change Everything
Stripe presages the end of cash -- or at least, never entering credit card information again.
20:24 13-year-old New Mexico boy using metal detector finds 2-pound meteoriteAs the director of the University of New Mexico's Institute of Meteoritics, Carl Agee gets tons of calls, packages and emails from people claiming to have had the rare experience of actually finding a meteorite.
20:24 Scientists stake out bat colonies to track a killer: White nose syndromeAs green cricket frogs screeched and the sun set, researcher Kate Langwig and a small band of fellow scientists set a trap of black nets to nab bats and inspect them as part of a scientific quest to understand a spreading disease that's killed these small mammals by the millions.
20:24 Space workers struggle a year after last shuttle(AP) A year after NASA ended the three-decade-long U.S. space shuttle program, thousands of formerly well-paid engineers and other workers around the Kennedy Space Center are still struggling to find jobs to replace the careers that flourished when shuttles blasted off from the Florida "Space Coast."
20:24 Ultralow-power optical information processing and frequency generation in graphene-silicon photonic circuitsNew research by Columbia Engineering demonstrates remarkable optical nonlinear behavior of graphene that may lead to broad applications in optical interconnects and low-power photonic integrated circuits. With the placement of a sheet of graphene just one-carbon-atom-thick, the researchers transformed the originally passive device into an active one that generated microwave photonic signals and performed parametric wavelength conversion at telecommunication wavelengths.
20:14 Disruption of cytoskeleton pathways contribute to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis pathogenesisA new genetic mutation that causes familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal neurological disorder also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, has been identified. Mutations to the profilin gene, which is essential to the growth and development of nerve cell axons, points to defects in a neuron's cytoskeleton structure as a potential common feature among diverse ALS genes.
20:14 Elegant delivery: Sophisticated technique for delivering multiple cancer treatments may solve frustrating hurdle for combinatorial drug therapiesResearchers have developed a novel system to simultaneously deliver a sustained dose of both an immune-system booster and a chemical to counter cancer's defensive secretions, resulting in a powerful therapy that, in mice, delayed tumor growth, sent tumors into remission and dramatically increased survival rates.
20:14 Unique properties of graphene lead to a new paradigm for low-power telecommunicationsEngineers have demonstrated remarkable optical nonlinear behavior of graphene that may lead to broad applications in optical interconnects and low-power photonic integrated circuits. The researchers used graphene to transform the originally passive device into an active one that generated microwave photonic signals and performed parametric wavelength conversion at telecommunication wavelengths. Showing the power-efficiency of the device, they say, is an important advance in building all-optical processing elements essential to faster, more efficient, modern telecommunications.
20:13 Critical cell in fighting E. coli infection identifiedDespite ongoing public health efforts, E. coli outbreaks continue to infiltrate the food supply, annually causing significant sickness and death throughout the world. But the research community is gaining ground. In a major new finding researchers have discovered a molecule’s previously unknown role in fighting off E. coli and other bacterial infections, a discovery that could lead to new ways to protect people from these dangerous microorganisms.
19:30 GSK in weekend talks to buy Human Genome-sources
LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - GlaxoSmithKline is holding talks this weekend with Human Genome Sciences to agree a deal to acquire it for some $2.6 billion (1.6 billion pounds), after pursuing the U.S. biotech company for three months, sources familiar with the situation said on Sunday. The British pharmaceutical giant could sweeten its previous $13 per share offer for Human Genome with a small bump and a deal may come as soon as Monday, one of the sources said. An agreement has yet to be reached and the talks could still fall apart, the sources cautioned. ...
18:19 Brain activity changes may reduce risk of Alzheimer'sActivity lingers longer in certain areas of the brain in those with Alzheimer’s than it does in healthy people, researchers who created a map of the brain found. The results suggest varying brain activity may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
18:19 Hip reconstruction technique provides good outcomes for athletes, study suggestsA common, painful hip condition in elite athletes may be able to be repaired with an improved surgical technique, according to new research.
17:12 Scientists see AIDS vaccine within reach after decades
CHICAGO (Reuters) - At an ill-fated press conference in 1984, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler boldly predicted an effective AIDS vaccine would be available within just two years. But a string of failed attempts - punctuated by a 2007 trial in which a Merck vaccine appeared to make people more vulnerable to infection, not less - cast a shadow over AIDS vaccine research that has taken years to dispel. A 2009 clinical trial in Thailand was the first to show it was possible to prevent HIV infection in humans. ...
17:04 In Case of Alligator Attack...Recent gator attacks in Florida raise the question of what to do if one goes for you.
16:06 GSK in weekend talks to buy Human Genome: sources
LONDON (Reuters) - GlaxoSmithKline is holding talks this weekend with Human Genome Sciences to agree a deal to acquire it for some $2.6 billion, after pursuing the U.S. biotech firm for three months, sources familiar with the situation said on Sunday. Human Genome, which rejected a $13-a-share offer in April from GlaxoSmithKline, its long-time partner, has come under pressure from investors to try and strike a deal with the British drugmaker in the absence of any alternative bids. The U.S. ...
15:24 Omron sensor can do security and hot-soup checks (w/ Video)(Phys.org) -- Japan-based Omron is promoting its small-sized thermal area sensor with a flexible future of use as a security system check, energy-saver or smartphone companion, to warn you that your turkey broth is still too hot to drink. Omron demonstrated its D6T thermal sensor earlier this week at the Micromachine/MEMS ROBOTECH 2012 exhibition in Tokyo. The device is described as an infrared thermal area sensor using MEMS technology that can check for situations such as human presence and hot food.
15:24 Imagining Tomorrow's Computers TodayIntel futurist Brian David Johnson tries to forecast how we'll interact with technology in 2020
15:01 Original 1972 Space Shuttle Mockup Moved for Display