Topic: Astronomy

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Physics Astronomy

Airglow (also called nightglow) is a faint emission of light by a planetary atmosphere. In the case of Earth's atmosphere, this optical phenomenon causes the night sky never to be completely dark, even after the effects of starlight and diffused sunlight from the far side are removed.

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Abū Rayhān Bīrūnī -- Medieval Islamic Scientist, quite a read...

Biography Religion Iran Philosophy Biography/science and academia Astronomy History of Science Astrology Middle Ages Islam Middle Ages/History Central Asia Philosophy/Philosophers Anthropology Watches Philosophy/Medieval philosophy India

Abu Rayhan al-Biruni (973 – after 1050) was a Persian scholar and polymath. He was from Khwarazm – a region which encompasses modern-day western Uzbekistan, and northern Turkmenistan.

Al-Biruni was well versed in physics, mathematics, astronomy, and natural sciences, and also distinguished himself as a historian, chronologist and linguist. He studied almost all fields of science and was compensated for his research and strenuous work. Royalty and powerful members of society sought out Al-Biruni to conduct research and study to uncover certain findings. He lived during the Islamic Golden Age. In addition to this type of influence, Al-Biruni was also influenced by other nations, such as the Greeks, who he took inspiration from when he turned to studies of philosophy. He was conversant in Khwarezmian, Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit, and also knew Greek, Hebrew and Syriac. He spent much of his life in Ghazni, then capital of the Ghaznavid dynasty, in modern-day central-eastern Afghanistan. In 1017 he travelled to the Indian subcontinent and authored a study of Indian culture Tārīkh al-Hind (History of India) after exploring the Hindu faith practiced in India. He was given the title "founder of Indology". He was an impartial writer on customs and creeds of various nations, and was given the title al-Ustadh ("The Master") for his remarkable description of early 11th-century India.

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Ali Qushji

Biography Biography/science and academia Astronomy Middle Ages Middle Ages/History

Ala al-Dīn Ali ibn Muhammed (1403 – 16 December 1474), known as Ali Qushji (Ottoman Turkish/Persian language: علی قوشچی, kuşçu – falconer in Turkish; Latin: Ali Kushgii) was an astronomer, mathematician and physicist originally from Samarkand, who settled in the Ottoman Empire some time before 1472. As a disciple of Ulugh Beg, he is best known for the development of astronomical physics independent from natural philosophy, and for providing empirical evidence for the Earth's rotation in his treatise, Concerning the Supposed Dependence of Astronomy upon Philosophy. In addition to his contributions to Ulugh Beg's famous work Zij-i-Sultani and to the founding of Sahn-ı Seman Medrese, one of the first centers for the study of various traditional Islamic sciences in the Ottoman caliphate, Ali Kuşçu was also the author of several scientific works and textbooks on astronomy.

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Antikythera Mechanism

Computing Classical Greece and Rome Greece Astronomy History of Science Alternative Views Time

The Antikythera mechanism (, ) is an ancient hand powered Greek analogue computer which has also been described as the first example of such device used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses for calendar and astrological purposes decades in advance. It could also be used to track the four-year cycle of athletic games which was similar to an Olympiad, the cycle of the ancient Olympic Games.

This artefact was retrieved from the sea in 1901, and identified on 17 May 1902 as containing a gear by archaeologist Valerios Stais, among wreckage retrieved from a shipwreck off the coast of the Greek island Antikythera. The instrument is believed to have been designed and constructed by Greek scientists and has been variously dated to about 87 BC, or between 150 and 100 BC, or to 205 BC, or to within a generation before the shipwreck, which has been dated to approximately 70–60 BC.

The device, housed in the remains of a 34 cm × 18 cm × 9 cm (13.4 in × 7.1 in × 3.5 in) wooden box, was found as one lump, later separated into three main fragments which are now divided into 82 separate fragments after conservation efforts. Four of these fragments contain gears, while inscriptions are found on many others. The largest gear is approximately 14 centimetres (5.5 in) in diameter and originally had 223 teeth.

It is a complex clockwork mechanism composed of at least 30 meshing bronze gears. A team led by Mike Edmunds and Tony Freeth at Cardiff University used modern computer x-ray tomography and high resolution surface scanning to image inside fragments of the crust-encased mechanism and read the faintest inscriptions that once covered the outer casing of the machine.

Detailed imaging of the mechanism suggests that it had 37 gear wheels enabling it to follow the movements of the Moon and the Sun through the zodiac, to predict eclipses and even to model the irregular orbit of the Moon, where the Moon's velocity is higher in its perigee than in its apogee. This motion was studied in the 2nd century BC by astronomer Hipparchus of Rhodes, and it is speculated that he may have been consulted in the machine's construction.

The knowledge of this technology was lost at some point in antiquity. Similar technological works later appeared in the medieval Byzantine and Islamic worlds, but works with similar complexity did not appear again until the development of mechanical astronomical clocks in Europe in the fourteenth century. All known fragments of the Antikythera mechanism are now kept at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, along with a number of artistic reconstructions and replicas of the mechanism to demonstrate how it may have looked and worked.

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Space roar


Absolute Radiometer for Cosmology, Astrophysics, and Diffuse Emission (ARCADE) is a program which utilizes high-altitude balloon instrument package intended to measure the heating of the universe by the first stars and galaxies after the big bang and search for the signal of relic decay or annihilation. In July 2006 a strong residual radio source was found using the radiometer, approximately six times what is predicted by theory. This phenomenon is known as "space roar" and remains an unsolved problem in astrophysics.

ARCADE has been funded by the NASA's Science Mission Directorate under the Astronomy and Physics Research and Analysis Suborbital Investigation program. The program is composed of a team led by Alan Kogut of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. ARCADE was launched from NASA's Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas, conducted under the auspices of the Balloon Program Office at Wallops Flight Facility. The balloon flew to an altitude of 120,000 feet (37 km), viewing about 7% of the sky during its observations.

The instrument is designed to detect radiation at centimeter wavelengths. The craft contained seven radiometers which were cooled to 2.7 K (−270.45 °C; −454.81 °F) using liquid helium, with the intent to measure temperature differences as small as 1/1000 of a degree against a background which is only 3 K (−270.15 °C; −454.27 °F). The optics in the instrument package were placed near the top of the dewar flask which cooled them in order to prevent the instruments from seeing the walls of the container, thereby simplifying the processing of the observational data. This design choice necessitated the use of superfluid pumps in order to drench the radiometers in liquid helium. The design also utilized heaters in order to create a cloud of helium gas, in place of using a (relatively warm) window, which also simplified processing of the observational data.

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Arecibo message

History Telecommunications Radio Astronomy

The Arecibo message is a 1974 interstellar radio message carrying basic information about humanity and Earth sent to globular star cluster M13. It was meant as a demonstration of human technological achievement, rather than a real attempt to enter into a conversation with extraterrestrials.

The message was broadcast into space a single time via frequency modulated radio waves at a ceremony to mark the remodeling of the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico on 16 November 1974. The message was aimed at the current location of M13 some 25,000 light years away because M13 was a large and close collection of stars that was available in the sky at the time and place of the ceremony. The message forms the image shown here when translated into graphics, characters, and spaces.

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Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin

Biography Women scientists Biography/science and academia Women's History Astronomy Smithsonian Institution Archives

Cecilia Helena Payne-Gaposchkin (née Payne; (1900-05-10)May 10, 1900 – (1979-12-07)December 7, 1979) was a British-born American astronomer and astrophysicist who proposed in her 1925 doctoral thesis that stars were composed primarily of hydrogen and helium. Her groundbreaking conclusion was initially rejected because it contradicted the scientific wisdom of the time, which held that there were no significant elemental differences between the Sun and Earth. Independent observations eventually proved she was actually correct

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Chandrasekhar Limit

Physics Astronomy

The Chandrasekhar limit () is the maximum mass of a stable white dwarf star. The currently accepted value of the Chandrasekhar limit is about 1.4 M (2.765×1030 kg).

White dwarfs resist gravitational collapse primarily through electron degeneracy pressure (compare main sequence stars, which resist collapse through thermal pressure). The Chandrasekhar limit is the mass above which electron degeneracy pressure in the star's core is insufficient to balance the star's own gravitational self-attraction. Consequently, a white dwarf with a mass greater than the limit is subject to further gravitational collapse, evolving into a different type of stellar remnant, such as a neutron star or black hole. Those with masses up to the limit remain stable as white dwarfs.

The limit was named after Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, an Indian astrophysicist who improved upon the accuracy of the calculation in 1930, at the age of 20, in India by calculating the limit for a polytrope model of a star in hydrostatic equilibrium, and comparing his limit to the earlier limit found by E. C. Stoner for a uniform density star. Importantly, the existence of a limit, based on the conceptual breakthrough of combining relativity with Fermi degeneracy, was indeed first established in separate papers published by Wilhelm Anderson and E. C. Stoner in 1929. The limit was initially ignored by the community of scientists because such a limit would logically require the existence of black holes, which were considered a scientific impossibility at the time. The fact that the roles of Stoner and Anderson are often forgotten in the astronomy community has been noted.

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Dyson sphere

Spaceflight Astronomy Engineering Astronomy/Astronomical objects

A Dyson sphere is a hypothetical megastructure that completely encompasses a star and captures a large percentage of its power output. The concept is a thought experiment that attempts to explain how a spacefaring civilization would meet its energy requirements once those requirements exceed what can be generated from the home planet's resources alone. Only a tiny fraction of a star's energy emissions reach the surface of any orbiting planet. Building structures encircling a star would enable a civilization to harvest far more energy.

The first contemporary description of the structure was by Olaf Stapledon in his science fiction novel Star Maker (1937), in which he described "every solar system... surrounded by a gauze of light traps, which focused the escaping solar energy for intelligent use." The concept was later popularized by Freeman Dyson in his 1960 paper "Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infrared Radiation." Dyson speculated that such structures would be the logical consequence of the escalating energy needs of a technological civilization and would be a necessity for its long-term survival. He proposed that searching for such structures could lead to the detection of advanced, intelligent extraterrestrial life. Different types of Dyson spheres and their energy-harvesting ability would correspond to levels of technological advancement on the Kardashev scale.

Since then, other variant designs involving building an artificial structure or series of structures to encompass a star have been proposed in exploratory engineering or described in science fiction under the name "Dyson sphere". These later proposals have not been limited to solar-power stations, with many involving habitation or industrial elements. Most fictional depictions describe a solid shell of matter enclosing a star, which was considered by Dyson himself the least plausible variant of the idea. In May 2013, at the Starship Century Symposium in San Diego, Dyson repeated his comments that he wished the concept had not been named after him.

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Eltanin impact

Astronomy Geology

The Eltanin impact is thought to be an asteroid impact in the eastern part of the South Pacific Ocean during the Pliocene-Pleistocene boundary around 2.51 ± 0.07  million years ago. The location was at the edge of the Bellingshausen Sea 1,500 km (950 mi) southwest of Chile. The asteroid was estimated to be about one to four km (0.6 to 2.5 mi) in diameter and the impact would have left a crater approximately 35 km (22 mi) across.

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