Friday, August 31, 2012

White dwarfs and blue moons

No, that headline does not announce new marshmallows for Lucky Charms.

Instead, it's time for one of my favorite subjects: news in astronomy.

Astronomers have confirmed witnessing ripples in the space-time continuum.  This new data corroborates part of Einstein's Theory of Relativity.  The discovery came about observing changes in the orbits of a pair of dead stars or "white dwarfs" as they are called.  From the link:

"The star duo is known as J0651, and they orbit each other in less than 13 minutes. The orbit time changes as the stars eclipse each other as seen by the scientists here on Earth. "There have been 30 years of using radio telescopes and timing pulsars, but this is the first time we've been able to detect the influence of gravitational wave radiation using an optical telescope," lead investigator J.J. Hermes from the University of Texas at Austin said."

I have often times heard people bashing the notion of "theory."  "It's just the Big Bang theory, Darwin's theory of Evolution."  What many do not appear to understand is that for a notion to become an actual scientific theory, you need to have a fair amount of evidence for your argument already.  Astronomy is of course no exception to this rule of thumb.  Discoveries such as these only help to further vet accepted "theories" and I for one am ok with it.

"Once in a blue moon..."
You hear that phrase often enough.  Well tonight, you actually get your last chance to see one until 2015.  No, the Moon will not turn blue tonight.  A "blue moon" is the name given to a second full moon occurring within the span of a month.  How the adjective "blue" got attached is unknown as the Moon itself will not be turning blue tonight.  But damn, wouldn't it be cool if it did?  Oh to find the hoodlum who gulled so many...

Better than blue in color, tonight's lunar rarity could not be more fitting.  Today is the day when space hero Neil Armstrong is being laid to rest.  In tribute, The Slooh Space Camera will not only be observing the blue moon, but will also be exploring the Sea of Tranquility.  Guests connected with the 1969 Moon landing will be on hand at the observatory.

If I could get to the Canary Islands, I'd so be showing up tonight.  A Friday night spent hobnobbing with space geeks on an island beneath a blue moon?  What could be better?  :)

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