• Random Sample: Periodic

    We begin this week with what might seem to be a collection of random videos and stories that lead us from earthly elements to stellar spectacles. Individually, they are all interesting but there is also a common thread… Can you identify the “periodic” feature in all the stories?

    The NEW Periodic Table Song (In Order)
    You have probably heard the Elements song by Tom Lehrer or heard a rendition of that song by Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter). There have been a number of other interesting takes on it but this new attempt by ASAP SCIENCE to sing the Period Table in order of the elements for the 21st century audience is awesome!

    Overlay the Moon onto the Sun and check the 3D models:
    Two or three times a year, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) observes the Moon travelling across the Sun, blocking its view. Recently, two NASA visualizers tried to overlay a 3-dimensional model of the moon based on data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, into the shadow of the SDO image. The two images were put together and the overlay was exact. The mountains and valleys on the horizon of the LRO picture fit right into the shadows seen by SDO. (Click here for full story with enlarged images)

    In its own way, this served as a calibration. The result means that the SDO data on its position and time is highly accurate and that the LRO models, too, are able to accurately provide images of what’s happening at any given moment in time.

    Of course, the whole exercise also provides for a beautiful picture.

    The Moon and Sun: Two NASA Missions Join Images
    The image on the left is a view of the sun captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on Oct. 7, 2010, while partially obscured by the moon. Looking closely at the crisp horizon of the moon against the sun shows the outline of lunar mountains. A model of the moon from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has been inserted into a picture on the right, showing how perfectly the moon’s true topography fits into the shadow observed by SDO. Credit: NASA/SDO/LRO/GSFC

    Updating the “Moon Shadow”
    I love to see wild-life dioramas at museums. Little did I realize the level of the attention to detail that goes into making them realistic. Here, a museum artist adds pigments to the “snow” to re-create the illusion of shadows that would result from the Moon casting its eerie blue light on the wolves and surrounding trees.

    Rare Stellar Alignment Helps in Hunt for Planets
    You can see in the video below that stars move. Because Proxima Centauri is the closest star to our Sun (distance, 4.2 light-years), its angular motion across the sky is relatively fast compared to much more distant background stars.

    In 2014 and 2016, Proxima Centauri is heading for a rare conjunction with two background stars. Observations of the event from Earth and Space based telescope could determine if Earth-sized worlds orbit our nearest stellar neighbour. (Click here for full story)

    Proper Motion Path of Proxima Centauri.
    Proper Motion Path of Proxima Centauri. Click on the image for an enlarged version and notice the distance it has travelled since 1976. Credit: NASA/ESA/STScI/PSU/DSS

    Recall James Cameron’s Avatar? Avatar was set on the hypothetical moon Pandora, around a hypothetical planet Polyphemus which orbited the star Alpha Centauri A. Proxima Centauri is the third star (C) in the Alpha Centauri star system. Will we find a habitable planet or moon around Proxima Centauri? Will it be inhabited by “blue” people and untold riches of Unobtaininum? I doubt we will know the answer to the latter question any time soon but we should have a better idea about the former in the next few years!

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