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Guide to Space, Planets and the Rest of the Universe

What is the Belt of Orion?

The Belt of Orion refers to three stars in a diagonal line that are roughly in the middle of the constellation. They represent the belt that Orion, the Hunter wore when he was a person before becoming a constellation.

The constellation in thanks partly to the three stars is probably the easiest constellation to spot when you look up into the skies. It can be seen best in the winter months but is not limited to then. The stars are Alnitak (Zeta Orionis), Alnilam (Epsilon Orionis) and Mintaka (Delta Orionis).

Once you have located the three stars, you can then locate other stars. To the diagonal down right of Mintaka is Rigel which is the second brightest star in the constellation. To the right of that star is Witch-Head nebula which is officially located in the constellation of Eridanus is lit up due to the radiation emit ted from Rigel.

At the other end of the belt, Alnitak is just above the Great Orion Nebula complete the with the Horseshead. The Great Orion Nebula is probably the most famous Nebula known. To the upper left of Alnitak is Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis), it is a giant star that is nearing it death. It is the most likely star to go supernova in the next million or so years. Betelgeuse is believed to be a Cannibal Star, one that has eaten its neighbouring star.

All the three stars are multiple star systems and none are as yet believed to have any exoplanets in orbit round. You can't say never as we could still find a planet round them. At the time of writing, it was only recent that a star was located in orbit round Barnard's Star which is the closest solo star to have an exoplanet discovered in orbit round it. Any planet in orbit round these stars and was habitable would probably be similar to Tatooine in the Star Wars galaxy. Its not unknown for a multiple star system to have a planet, the star Algieba in the constellation of Leo is a double star with a planet, albeit a gas giant. The Algieba planet is more Bespin, a gas giant than a habitable planet.

Belt of Orion

Comments12/15/2018 3:37:30 AM

What is the Boötes Supervoid and where is it?

The Boötes Supervoid or Great Boötes Void is an area of space in the Northern Hemisphere that doesn't have as many stars or galaxies as comparable areas of space. Its not the only void, there are others such as the Eridanus Supervoid which is much larger at about 500 million light years across but Boötes Void is more well known.

The name comes from the fact that the Void is located in the constellation of Boötes, the Bear Driver. The void is about 250 to 330 million light years across. To put that into context, the Milky Way Galaxy is roughly 100,000 light years across. The Milky Way could easily fit inside the void along with the Andromeda Galaxy to keep us company. The Andromeda Galaxy wouldn't have to be any closer than it is now to fit within the void.

Since its discovery in 1981, we've only discovered about 60 galaxies in the space that is empty. We should be seeing something like 2,000 galaxies in that space based on the 1 galaxy every 10 million light year generalisation rule. It is not the only void in space but it is the most well know.

It is not the nearest void to us, the nearest void is brilliantly named, Local Void located around Sagittarius constellation is about 150 million light years across. The centre of which is located at least 75 million light years from us. One galaxy ESO 461-36 has been located within the local void.

What causes these voids to appear is unknown but it is suggested that voids can merge as objects move out. The universe is not equally spaced out. If after the Big Bang, the universe was spread out equally and perfectly, the universe that we know would not have formed as gravity would have kept everything equally space out and therefore objects couldn't have merged into larger objects, If you ever get a chance to see Sir Stephen Hawkings Discovery Channel programme, you'll see a clip of what I'm talking about. Stephen Hawkings Universe (18:00)

Surrounding the Boötes Supervoid are a number of Galaxy Superclusters so maybe we can find the missing galaxies in amongst the Superclusters such as the Hercules Supercluster.

Just to clear things up in case anyone ever thought it. The Supervoid is not far from the radiant point of the Quadrantids meteor shower in terms of location in the sky but there is no connection. The two may be in the same area of space but millions of miles apart. If you was ever to look up to the night sky, you would not be able to see the Supervoid, its too far away to see from down here. For more information on Voids, check out the N.A.S.A. Blog Article on them.

Location of the Bootes Supervoid

Comments12/15/2018 2:24:51 AM

Voyager 2 has left the Solar System

The deep space probe, Voyager 2 has been confirmed as leaving the Solar System. The exact date as revealed by N.A.S.A. is the 5th November 2018. Scientists discovered it had left the Solar System where the radiation it was detecting had changed. The radiation being monitored was different to how it had been recording.

The change in radiation marked the end of the Heliosphere, the area round the star that the Suns effects can be felt. Outside the Heliosphere is intergalactic space. The Heliopause is the point at which the Sun's radiation meets intergalactic radiation.

It should be noted that Interstellar space is not just on one side of the Heliosphere but is on all sides. Voyager 2 has joined Voyager 1 which is already in Intergalactic space. The next stop is any asteroids or debris out there including the hypothesized Oort Cloud but that is a long long way off.

The Pioneer 10 and 11 probes are probably already out there past the Heliopause but contact with those probes was turned off a few years ago.

The Voyager probes took off in September 1977, a few days apart from one another. They were sent on different trajectories and are not expected to meet with one another. The next Solar System it will come into contact with won't be for another 40,000 years and even then it'll pass it by.

The picture below is from N.A.S.A. showing out solar system and where Voyager is and also the Intergalactic Space.

Lets just hope it doesn't come back looking for its creator like a similar probe did in the first Star Trek film.

N.A.S.A. artists impression of Voyager leaving the the Heliosphere

Comments12/14/2018 5:35:33 AM

Avengers Endgame Trailer Premieres

Its finally been released after so many false starts, the final concluding part to this year's (2018) Avengers movie. If you have not seen it already, go and watch and then come back as there's spoilers ahead.

The ultimate enemy of the Marvel universe, Thanos has gained possession of all the Infinity Stones and has used them, wiping out fifty percent of life in the Universe. The Avengers need to regroup and work out what to do next. A lot of the characters will be returning to confront Thanos but some might not as they were wiped out.

Thanos was driven to protect the Universe from what he saw was the downfall of his planet Titan. He saw the downfall caused by overpopulation and he wanted to stop it from happening elsewhere by wiping out half the population.

Although the film doesn't give away too much, it does show familiar faces who have survived, for example, Tony Stark, alone in space. Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America is now shaven. Missing from the previous one, Ant-man and Hawkeye now make appearances.

You will need to wait until just after Easter to find out how they do it. In addition to Endgame, we also have Captain Marvel and Spiderman, Far from Home coming out next year. Captain Marvel will be the first comic from Marvel to have a female character lead and see her gain her powers to fight the Skrulls, a lizard like alien race with the ability to shapeshift.

For those who prefer D.C. Comics, we have Aquaman coming in the next few weeks. Although Aquaman is set firmly on Terra Firma, he joined the Justice League to fight Steppenwolf last year. Justice League films don't seem to be having quite the success that Marvel seem to be having at the moment, especially where you have an over-active Lex Luthor and shouting "Martha" can stop a fight. D.C. have decided to just concentrate now on individual characters rather than teaming them up.

Marvel's Avenger's Endgame

Comments12/7/2018 9:23:31 AM

Planet found in orbit round Barnard`s Star

Scientists have found an exoplanet in orbit round Barnard's star. Barnard's Star is the fourth nearest star to Earth. It is the nearest solo star, the nearer stars are ones that make up Alpha Centauri multi-star system. Amongst that group of star is Proxima Centauri which is the nearest star to our solar system and also has an exoplanet in orbit

Barnard's Star is a solo star, it does not orbit or interact with any other stars. Barnard's Star is a small red dwarf star, much like Proxima and you won't be able to see it unaided. It is very much like Proxima. Proxima is believed to flame its planet which therefore means that life couldn't exists on its surface so until proven otherwise, Barnards Star could possibly be the closest planet to support life albeit microbial lifeforms.

The planet in orbit is a Super-Earth meaning it is bigger than our own Earth. It is about 2.3 times the size of Earth and orbits its star in 233 days.

The discovery increases the likelihood that we could one day discovering life elsewhere. The closer the exoplanet is, the more we can learn about the planet and ultimately discover if life exists on the planet by discovering its atmospheric composition.

The discovery was made by a team of researchers from Queen Mary University in London, England and the Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya, and the Institute of Space Sciences in Spain, The planet was discovered using a technique referred to as the Radial Velocity method. That method detects slight wobbles in the star caused by the planet orbiting. Even though a planet can be very small compared to its star, it can still pull on the star slightly.

Comments11/28/2018 9:54:21 AM

R.I.P. Stan Lee

Stan Lee, the face of Marvel Comics has died at the age of 95, a brillant feat for anyone to make. Had he been British, it would go without saying he would have been knighted for services to entertainment. He has been credited with creating a large number of Marvel characters such as Peter Parker (Spiderman) and Dr. Strange. Steve Rogers (Captain America) was not one of his creation.

Stan was born on 28th December 1922 in Manhattan, New York as Stanley Lieber but is more widely known as just Stan Lee. He got his first taste of comic when he was hired at Timely comics at the age of 17. His work at the comic was briefly interrupted by the Second World War when the United States entered in 1941 after the events of Pearl Harbor. He join the Signals Corps being responsible for communication equipment.

He would marry the love of his life, Joan Clayton Boocock on December 5th, 1947 and they would stay together for 69 years before she died last year. They had two daughters, Joan Celia and Jan. Sadly, Jan would die aged three days.

He would become synonymous with the company. Whilst the other Marvel legend, Jack Kirby would briefly work for rival D.C. Comics, Stan would stay totally loyal. D.C. never had an equivalent personality.

Starting from The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, Stan Lee had cameos in nearly every future Marvel film. A notable film of Stan missing was Deadpool 2. Stan appeared in the trailer where Deadpool tells him to shut up but he didn't appear in the film. The only appearance of Stan in Deadpool 2 was a picture on a billboard. Stan appeared in the first Deadpool film as the D.J. of a strip club which allegedly he didn't like when he found out.

Although Peter Parker wasn't allowed to appear in cameo form for the Venom (2018) movie, that didn't stop Stan Lee from appearing in the film in cameo form. He probably has a few cameos left to be seen particularly in Captain Marvel and in Endgame.

He died November 12th, 2018 from heart and respiratory problems. Wiki He will forever be remembered as the human face of comics and will be missed in real life and in the Marvel cameos.

Comments11/15/2018 4:41:43 AM

When you look up to the Universe and it smiles back at you

N.A.S.A. recently released a picture from the Hubble Space Telescope of what looks like a face in space. The face is of galaxy cluster SDSS J0952h3434 in the constellation of Leo Minor. The smile is caused by gravitational lensing, when the light of the galaxy is distorted.

N.A.S.A. photo of a smiling face in Leo Minor

Its not the first time a smile has been capture by the Hubble Space Telescope, the first was captured in 2015. The first was nicknamed the Cheshire Cat after the famous cat in the Alice in Wonderland story. The first was located in the constellation of Ursa Major. Unless you have use of a very powerful space ship, say the T.A.R.D.I.S., you can forget ever visiting them.

N.A.S.A. photo of a smiling face in Ursa Major

Comments11/6/2018 8:52:37 AM

First Exomoon believed to have been discovered in orbit around Kepler 1625b

Scientists have so far discovered 5311 exoplanets based on the figure at Exoplanets.org on the 7th of October 2018. This figure includes both confirmed and unconfirmed planets. The vast majority of the exoplanets reported can be found in the constellation of Cygnus because the Kepler Space Telescope which discovered most of them only looked at one area of space and that was in Cygnus.

The one thing that eluded scientists was whether there are any Exomoons out there, they could surely not just be something that is only found in our Solar system. Finding an Exoplanet is hard enough because they would be small compared to the star they orbit but an Exomoon would be even harder as they would be smaller than the planet.

On 3rd of October 2018, scientists decided to go public with news that they believe they had discovered the first exomoon. They published their work at ScienceMag describing what they had discovered. The first Exomoon is believed to be in orbit round Kepler 1625-b. The host planet is believed to have several times the mass of Jupiter and be many times larger than the largest planet in the Solar System. The moon in question Kepler-1625 bi with i being the Roman numeral for one in lower case is believed to be as larger if not larger than Neptune, another gas giant planet in our solar system.

It doesn't strengthen or weaken for the existence of alien life in the universe, it just means our Solar System is becoming less unique. There could well be a Moon of Endor out there which has life such as those bears, the Ewoks.

Comments10/7/2018 8:20:51 AM

What is the Kessel Run?

The Kessel Run was first mentioned in the first Star Wars film that came out in 1997. Obi-Wan Kenobi is trying to get himself, Luke Skywalker and the two droids transport to Alderaan when prospective transport pilot Han Solo brags that his craft, the Millennium Falcon can do the Kessel Run in twelve parsecs. For those that are not aware, a parsec is an unit of length and not time which it was implied it was in the film.

Excluding where it might've been mentioned in the books or cartoons, the Kessel Run is mentioned again in The Force Awakens when Rey is surprised that she's on the Millennium Falcon and has to be corrected by Han Solo when Rey incorrectly describes what the Millennium Falcon is famous for.

It is not until Solo that we learn what the Kessel Run actually is. The planet of Kessel is a planet deep within a nebula of gas, dust, monsters and gravity wells. A gravity well is the pull of gravity that a body in space exerts. In the film, the gravity well looks like a mini black hole which the Millennium Falcon uses to escape a monster in the nebula.

Kessel is controlled by a crime syndicate that uses slaves made up of a variety of races including humans and Wookies to mine Coaxium, a much prized fuel in the galaxy. As the last attempt by Han Solo and Tobias Beckett to get their hands on Coaxium ended in failure, the group had to travel to Kessel in order to steal some unrefined coaxium ore

There is only one safe path from Kessel through the nebula and that is heavily guarded. Han Solo proposes a short cut through the nebula to Savareen where the fuel will be stablized and refined. The Kessel Run is the journey through the nebula to or from the planet.

In World of Warcraft, there is a nod to the Kessel Run on Bloodmyst Isle where you are requested to use an Elekk, a type of elephant to run a certain course round the zone. It isn't the only nod to the Kessel Run but one that springs to mind.

Comments10/1/2018 6:44:59 AM

What is Oumuamua and where did it come from?

Artists impression of Oumuamua

Its been covered by this site before but here's a re-cap. Oumuamua is the name of an asteroid that visited our Solar System nearly a year ago. Most asteroids just orbit the Sun and stay in a short orbit, mainly in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Scientists have said is it from another solar system and is an Interstellar visitor. There had been those who believed it to be an alien craft but as we've not made contact, think we can discount that one.

Oumuamua passed to within 0.25 A.U. of the Sun. 1 A.U. is the distance between the Earth and the Sun so therefore the asteroid passed within a quarter of the distance between Earth and the Sun.

A group of scientists have identified four possible locations of where the star could have come from. Two stars are easy to find information on whereas the other two are "obscure" stars and don't have easy classification names. The other two stars have GAIA references and are not discussed here and for more information, visit Arxiv.

As mentioned in my previous article, it had been believed that the star came from Lyra constellation. The asteroid started on its journey as a result of a possible collision or explosion.

The name Oumuamua, not one to roll off the tongue easily for most people is a Hawaiian term. Researchers from the University of Hawaii were first to spot the object so they had the luxury of it being named. They chose Oumuamua as it is the Hawaiian term for Scout. Metro

Hip 3757

Hip 3757 is a red dwarf star and not one that can be seen with the naked eye. The star is calculated as being in the constellation of Cetus, the whale. The star is relatively close by galactic standards at about 83.83 light years based on Hipparcos 2007 measurements.

HD 292249

HD 292249 is more solar like but too far away to be seen with the naked eye. The star has been calculated as being in the constellation of Monoceros. The star is yellow/white in colour similar to our own star, the Sun, it is too far away to be seen.

Comments9/30/2018 12:48:15 PM

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