пятница, 28 декабря 2018 г.

Viewing the 2019 Quadrantid Meteor Shower

The Quadrantids can be one of the strongest displays of the year, yet they are difficult to observe. The main factor is that the display of strong activity only has a duration of about 6 hours. The reason the peak is so short is due to the shower’s thin stream of particles and the fact that the Earth crosses the stream at a perpendicular angle. Unlike most meteor showers which originate from comets, the Quadrantids originate from an asteroid: asteroid 2003 EH1. Asteroid 2003 EH1 takes 5.52 years to orbit the sun once. It is possible that 2003 EH is a “dead comet” or a new kind of object being discussed by astronomers sometimes called a “rock comet.”



The name “Quadrantids” comes from Quadrans Muralis, a former constellation created in 1795 by the French astronomer Jérôme Lalande that is now part of Boötes.


In order to see the Quadrantids at their best they need to reach maximum near 04:00 local standard time so that the radiant lies high in your sky. The early January weather is also a major factor as cloudiness is usually prevalent this time of year. If it is clear then it can also be bitterly cold, making observations uncomfortable at best. In my many years of observing, I have only managed to catch the Quadrantids at maximum once. Despite the strong wind that morning, it was a sight I will never forget as the last two hours before dawn produced in excess of 100 Quadrantids each.


The Earth encounters Quadrantid meteors from December 22 through January 17. Rates are extremely low away from the January 4 maximum. For 2019, the maximum is expected to occur near 02:30 Universal Time (UT) on January 4. This timing favors Europe, Northern Africa, and extreme western Asia. Observers situated in other parts of the world can expect around 25 Quadrantids per hour at best. The moon will not be a factor on January 4th as it is lost in dawn’s glare, too close to the sun to be seen.


The Quadrantid radiant is located in northern Bootes and is best placed highest in a dark sky just before dawn. From mid-northern latitudes the radiant is located low in the northwestern sky at dusk. It’s too low in the sky to bother watching unless you are watching from latitudes 60N or further north. As the night progresses the radiant skims the northern horizon and then begins to rise higher into the northeastern sky. It is best placed during the last hour before dawn when it is located high in the northeastern sky.


These are medium fast meteor comparable to the Lyrids of April. They are slower than the Perseids but faster than the Geminids. While not known to be a fireball source, I have seen Quadrantids as bright as magnitude -10, so the possibility exists that some extremely bright meteors may be seen.



This chart above depicts the Quadrantid radiant as seen at 05:00 local standard time on the morning of January 4, 2019, looking north from mid-northern latitudes. All Quadrantid meteors will trace back to the radiant area located in northern Bootes. From the southern hemisphere the radiant is located much lower in the northern sky therefore rates will be greatly reduced. There are several other minor showers active during this time plus random meteors that will appear in different paths than the Quadrantids with different velocities.


This is your last chance to witness a major meteor display under optimum conditions until early May. If your sky is clear don’t miss this opportunity!


 


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2018 December 28 NGC 1365: Majestic Island Universe Image…


2018 December 28


NGC 1365: Majestic Island Universe
Image Credit & Copyright: Martin Pugh


Explanation: Barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365 is truly a majestic island universe some 200,000 light-years across. Located a mere 60 million light-years away toward the chemical constellation Fornax, NGC 1365 is a dominant member of the well-studied Fornax galaxy cluster. This impressively sharp color image shows intense star forming regions at the ends of the bar and along the spiral arms, and details of dust lanes cutting across the galaxy’s bright core. At the core lies a supermassive black hole. Astronomers think NGC 1365’s prominent bar plays a crucial role in the galaxy’s evolution, drawing gas and dust into a star-forming maelstrom and ultimately feeding material into the central black hole.


∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap181228.html


Three guesses where I’m going for the next few days. Love it there; very excited!

Three guesses where I’m going for the next few days. Love it there; very excited!



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R-V1636: Eneolithic steppe > Kura-Araxes?

Ancient samples from the Wang et al. preprint on the genetic prehistory of the Greater Caucasus are now available as BAM files at the European Nucleotide Archive (see here). I’ve requested the genotype data from the authors and I’m eagerly awaiting their response.


But various online genetic genealogy communities are already studying in detail the Y-chromosome data from the BAM files. One interesting outcome is that both of the Eneolithic steppe males, PG2001 and PG2004, apparently belong to Y-haplogroup R-V1636 (refer to the YFull entry here). This extremely rare subclade of R1b has apparently also been found in an ancient individual from what is now Armenia associated with the Kura-Araxes culture: Armenia_EBA I1635.


Importantly, the Eneolithic steppe males are dated to 4336-4047 calBCE, and don’t show any recent genome-wide ancestry from south of the Caucasus, while the Kura-Araxes individual is dated to just 2619-2465 calBCE.


It’ll be interesting to see whether Armenia_EBA I163 shows any genome-wide admixture from north of the Caucasus when I can test this with these new Wang et al. Eneolithic samples from the southernmost steppes. But in any case, if the R-V1636 link between the Eneolithic steppe and Kura-Araxes is real, then this is more evidence of migrations from the steppe across the Greater Caucasus into the Near East during the Eneolithic and/or Bronze Age.


Such population movements could potentially explain the appearance of Hittite and other closely related Indo-European languages in Anatolia during the Bronze Age.


See also…


Steppe ancestry in Chalcolithic Transcaucasia (aka Armenia_ChL explained)


Likely Yamnaya incursion(s) into Northwestern Iran


A potentially violent end to the Kura-Araxes Culture (Alizadeh et al. 2018)


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The Most-Distant Solar System Object ever observerd


Artist concept of 2018 VG18, nicknamed “Farout,” with a scale of other Solar System objects.
Illustration by Roberto Molar Candanosa is courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science.


Solar System distances to scale showing the newly discovered 2018 VG18, nicknamed “Farout,” compared to other known Solar System objects. Illustration by Roberto Molar Candanosa and Scott S. Sheppard is courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science.


Washington, DC— A team of astronomers has discovered the most-distant body ever observed in our Solar System. It is the first known Solar System object that has been detected at a distance that is more than 100 times farther than Earth is from the Sun.


The new object was announced on Monday, December 17, 2018, by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center and has been given the provisional designation 2018 VG18. The discovery was made by Carnegie’s Scott S. Sheppard, the University of Hawaii’s David Tholen, and Northern Arizona University’s Chad Trujillo.


2018 VG18, nicknamed “Farout” by the discovery team for its extremely distant location, is at about 120 astronomical units (AU), where 1 AU is defined as the distance between the Earth and the Sun. The second-most-distant observed Solar System object is Eris, at about 96 AU. Pluto is currently at about 34 AU, making 2018 VG18 more than three-and-a-half times more distant than the Solar System’s most-famous dwarf planet.



Solar System distances to scale showing the newly discovered 2018 VG18, nicknamed “Farout,” compared to other known Solar System objects. Illustration by Roberto Molar Candanosa and Scott S. Sheppard is courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science.


2018 VG18 was discovered as part of the team’s continuing search for extremely distant Solar System objects, including the suspected Planet X, which is sometimes also called Planet 9. In October, the same group of researchers announced the discovery of another distant Solar System object, called 2015 TG387 and nicknamed “The Goblin,” because it was first seen near Halloween. The Goblin was discovered at about 80 AU and has an orbit that is consistent with it being influenced by an unseen Super-Earth-sized Planet X on the Solar System’s very distant fringes.


The existence of a ninth major planet at the fringes of the Solar System was first proposed by this same research team in 2014 when they discovered 2012 VP113, nicknamed Biden, which is currently near 84 AU.


2015 TG387 and 2012 VP113 never get close enough to the Solar System’s giant planets, like Neptune and Jupiter, to have significant gravitational interactions with them. This means that these extremely distant objects can be probes of what is happening in the Solar System’s outer reaches. The team doesn’t know 2018 VG18’s orbit very well yet, so they have not been able to determine if it shows signs of being shaped by Planet X.


“2018 VG18 is much more distant and slower moving than any other observed Solar System object, so it will take a few years to fully determine its orbit,” said Sheppard. “But it was found in a similar location on the sky to the other known extreme Solar System objects, suggesting it might have the same type of orbit that most of them do. The orbital similarities shown by many of the known small, distant Solar System bodies was the catalyst for our original assertion that there is a distant, massive planet at several hundred AU shepherding these smaller objects.”


“All that we currently know about 2018 VG18 is its extreme distance from the Sun, its approximate diameter, and its color,” added Tholen “Because 2018 VG18 is so distant, it orbits very slowly, likely taking more than 1,000 years to take one trip around the Sun.”


The discovery images of 2018 VG18 were taken at the Japanese Subaru 8-meter telescope located atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii on November 10, 2018.



Discovery images of 2018 VG18, nicknamed “Farout,” from the Subaru Telescope on November 10, 2018. Farout moves between the two discovery images while the background stars and galaxies do not move over the one hour between images. Image is courtesy of Scott S. Sheppard and David Tholen.


Once 2018 VG18 was found, it needed to be re-observed to confirm its very distant nature. (It takes multiple nights of observing to accurately determine an object’s distance.) 2018 VG18 was seen for the second time in early December at the Magellan telescope at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. These recovery observations were performed by the team with the addition of graduate student Will Oldroyd of Northern Arizona University. Over the next week, they monitored 2018 VG18 with the Magellan telescope to secure its path across the sky and obtain its basic physical properties such as brightness and color.


The Magellan observations confirmed that 2018 VG18 is around 120 AU, making it the first Solar System object observed beyond 100 AU. Its brightness suggests that it is about 500 km in diameter, likely making it spherical in shape and a dwarf planet. It has a pinkish hue, a color generally associated with ice-rich objects.


“This discovery is truly an international achievement in research using telescopes located in Hawaii and Chile, operated by Japan, as well as by a consortium of research institutions and universities in the United States,” concluded Trujillo. “With new wide-field digital cameras on some of the world’s largest telescopes, we are finally exploring our Solar System’s fringes, far beyond Pluto.”


The Subaru telescope is owned and operated by Japan and the valuable telescope access that the team obtained was thanks to a combination of time allocated to the University of Hawaii, as well as to the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) through telescope time exchanges between the US National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) and National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ).

High Resolution images are available here.

This research was funded by NASA Planetary Astronomy grants NNX17AK35G and 80NSSC18K1006.


Based, in part on data collected at Subaru Telescope, which is operated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. This work includes data gathered with the 6.5-meter Magellan Telescopes located at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.


Scientific Area:  Earth & Planetary Science

Reference to Person:  Scott Sheppard

Reference to Department:  Terrestrial Magnetism

News Topic:  Earth/Planetary Science





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Brimham Rocks Photoset 1, Yorkshire, 24.12.18.Ice Age water and wind shaped rock...










Brimham Rocks Photoset 1, Yorkshire, 24.12.18.


Ice Age water and wind shaped rock formations on a frozen but sunny winter’s day.


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Mammalian diversification after extinction of the dinosaurs…


Mammalian diversification after extinction of the dinosaurs http://www.geologypage.com/2018/12/mammalian-diversification-after-extinction-of-the-dinosaurs.html


Newborn insects trapped in amber show first evidence of how to…


Newborn insects trapped in amber show first evidence of how to crack an egg http://www.geologypage.com/2018/12/newborn-insects-trapped-in-amber-show-first-evidence-of-how-to-crack-an-egg.html


Seeing Potential Metastasis, the ability of cancerous cells to…


Seeing Potential


Metastasis, the ability of cancerous cells to spread to other organs, is the reason why cancer is so deadly, and an enduring puzzle for cancer research. Yet not all tumours metastasise, and not all cells in aggressive cancers develop this most dangerous property, so being able to identify and monitor high-risk cells would be a significant breakthrough. To that aim, researchers have recently developed a new imaging technique, to spot cells with a high metastatic potential. By comparing healthy and cancerous tissues, they identified a key marker of metastasis, the modification of a signalling protein known as GIV/Girdin, then developed biosensors to detect it. In the breast cancer cell here, green, orange and red fluorescence indicates the presence of modified Girdin, and a high metastatic potential. Though still far from clinical applications, this type of sensor could eventually measure the risk of metastasis for patients, helping to personalise their treatment.


Written by Emmnauelle Briolat



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Outer Solar System Object has Astronomers Seeing Double



Gemini South DSSI image of star pair occulted by Orcus’ satellite Vanth. Image reveals bright primary star in the center of the image and a companion at upper right (approximately 2:00 position). The other “star” at lower left (8:00 position) is an artifact of processing. This image consists of 1000 seconds of data subtracted to remove atmospheric distortions to reveal the close binary pair responsible for the Vanth double occultation.



Extremely high-resolution speckle observations by Gemini South deliver critical details on a star (or stars) lying in the apparent path of remnants from the early formation of our Solar System.


In early March of 2017 the outer Solar System object Orcus, and its one known satellite Vanth, were on an apparent collision course with a star – at least that’s the way it appeared from our perspective on Earth. Original calculations showed that Orcus would pass in front of a relatively bright star and temporarily block the star’s light. However, later refinements to the calculations revealed that the shadow of Vanth would trace a path across the Earth’s surface.


These events, known as occultations, are only visible from a thin swath on Earth’s surface and calculations have small uncertainties due to observations of the orbits and estimates of the objects’ size. But even with these uncertainties, what happened surprised astronomers.


Because of these uncertainties observations were conducted by five telescopes distributed geographically to be sure to catch the event. While neither of the Gemini telescopes were scheduled to observe the occultation, Gemini was called into action when the coordinated observations detected two separate, non-simultaneous occultations by widely separated telescopes. The detections were made by the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility on Maunakea, and the Las Cumbres 1-meter telescope at the McDonald Observatory in Texas.


Based on the observations, and earlier Hubble Space Telescope observations, the team ruled out the possibility of another yet-undiscovered satellite. The separation of the events also precluded Vanth or Orcus from being responsible for both occultations.


Following the recommendation of an external reviewer of the submitted paper on the work, team member Amanda Bosh of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology asked for Fast Turnaround time on the Gemini South telescope in Chile. These observations would scrutinize the star in extremely high resolution and look for a yet unseen companion which could explain the double occultation. A visiting instrument, called the Differential Speckle Survey Instrument (DSSI), would be used due to its powerful ability to resolve stars in exquisite detail.


DSSI uses a technique called “speckle imaging,” which takes thousands of very quick exposures that can capture fine details, including artifacts due to atmospheric blurring. By averaging out the effects of the ever-changing atmospheric turbulence, what remains is an ultra-sharp image of the stars in the field. When this technique was applied to the target star for this occultation, the result was clear: the star was a double and separated by only 250 milliarcseconds from each other (comparable to separating two automobile headlamps from approximately 600 miles, or 1,000 kilometers, away). Furthermore, the alignment of the star pair fit the paths of the occultations, proving that Vanth was observed to occult the two different stars from the two different sites. Mystery solved!


“Without the high-resolution data provided by Gemini, we would not have been able to accurately determine which body occulted which star(s). Speckle imaging is a powerful technique, and it ensured correct interpretation of these stellar occultation data,” said Amanda Sickafoose, lead author on the published results.


Stellar occultations provide an extremely reliable way to determine the sizes of distant Solar System objects so these observations were critical in refining the size of Vanth. Amanda Sickafoose adds, “Occultations are extremely sensitive to atmospheres and our results place a limit of a few microbars for any possible global atmosphere on Vanth.” From other observations astronomers also estimate that Orcus has a diameter of about 900 kilometers and the new occultation measurements from this work show that Vanth’s diameter is about 450 kilometers which is almost double the previously estimated size. The pair are known as trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) which are thought to be remnants from the formation of our Solar System. Orcus and Vanth orbit in the outer Solar System in resonance with Neptune and in an orbit similar to Pluto in distance from the Sun, but in a position about 180 degrees from Pluto relative to the Sun. “This is why the Orcus system is sometimes described as an ‘anti-Pluto’,” said Sickafoose.


DSSI has visited both Gemini telescopes several times, thanks to the instrument’s Principal Investigator (PI) Elliott Horch of Southern Connecticut State University. Based on the instrument’s success, two updated versions of DSSI are slated for Gemini, one on Gemini North (called ‘Alopeke, Hawaiian for fox, which is already in use), and at Gemini South (called Zorro, Spanish for fox, which is slated for installation in early 2019). Steve Howell of NASA’s Ames Research Center serves as PI for both of these new instruments.


The paper describing these observations was led by Amanda A. Sickafoose of the South African Astronomical Observatory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The paper has been published in Icarus and the preprint is available at: https://arxiv.org/abs/1810.08977.





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