September 2016: Picture of the Month


Nicknamed as Tianyan, or the Eye of Heaven, the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) is built within a natural basin in the Guizhou province of China. FAST, constructed with 4450 individual triangular-shaped panels, is the largest single dish radio telescope on Earth (its diameter is of course 500 meters). Designed to explore the Universe at radio frequencies, its operations will range from detecting hydrogen gas in the Milky Way and other galaxies, detecting distant pulsar, or even searching for radio signals from extraterrestrials.

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Star Talk: Planets Around Expired Stars

star_talk_sep “Planets Around Expired Stars”, presented by Professor Yanqin Wu

Abstract: Professor Yanqin Wu investigates the formation and evolution of planets, both inside and outside our own Solar System. Her current attention is devoted to a recently discovered puzzle, the presence of planetary systems around white dwarf stars, stars that have lived through their lives and are cooling off quietly in their cemeteries. The observational evidences are difficult to square with our current knowledge about the extra-solar planetary systems, and perhaps a new picture is required.

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August 2016: Picture of the Month


Our Sun is most likely formed some five billion years ago in a similar stellar nursery such as NGC7129, located some 3000 light-years away toward the constellation Cepheus. Noticeable in the image are the lovely bluish clouds that reflect the youthful starlight. The compact, deep red crescent shapes mark energetic, young stellar objects. Known as the Herbig-Haro objects, the shape and color of these objects are the characteristic of glowing hydrogen gas streaming away from newborn stars. The paler, reddish filaments are caused by the process of photoluminescence, where dust grains convert invisible ultraviolet starlight to visible red light.

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June 2016: Picture of the Month


This view of the night side of Pluto was captured by New Horizons last July when the spacecraft was 21000 kilometres from the planet (or 19 minutes after its closest approach). The photo also reveals the complex layers of the Plutonian’s hazy atmosphere. The landscape seen in the crescent view includes the southern areas of the nitrogen ice plains known as Sputnik Planum and the Norgay Montes.

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