StarParty Pfalzen/Falzes

Yesterday I have been an invited speaker at the Star Party 2018 in Pfalzen/Falzes in South Tyrol Italy.

I use this post to thank my former teacher Christof Wiedemair for the invitation. For me it has been a confidence boost - the audience was engaged and interested, like this it's fun to give a talk!

Star Party of the Dolomites still goes on on the Weekend, so if anybody around is interested on an insight of amateur astronomy, have a look at this Facebook event page - (Warning: Goes to Facebook) or the Empiricamente Event page.

I am honestly impressed by the passion and the professionalism of those people. It's worth going there!


Thanks again Christof, I'm looking forward to more opportunities like this đŸ™‚


Looking at Venus and Mars

Maybe some of you have noticed a bright spot in the morning and evening hours at the sky - That's Venus.
Venus has a fixed position in human culture, often referred as "morning star" and "evening star".

A friend of mine noticed, that there is as well a second bright spot, like a "shadow" visible from Innsbruck - Interesting! Let's have a look in Stellarium:

Venus and Mars are currently visible

That's actually Mars. They both are in a fortunate constellation, so that one can observe both of them at the same time in the morning and evening hours.

So people, go outside and have a look. And when you see two bright spots at the morning and evening sky you look at two planets of our solar system.

Perseid Meteor Shower

On a nice, cloudless night in Mid-August one can observe a beautiful spectacle of nature: The Perseid showers.

Perseid Shower - Creadit APOD
Perseid Shower over Mount Shasta - Creadit APOD

According to Bill Cooke from NASA this year will be exceptional good, where normal rates are somewhere between 50-75 meteors per minute, this year we could have peaks up to 150 and even 200 meteors per minute.

The meteors appear to originate from the constellation Perseus, giving the shower it's name.  In reality the meteor comes from a debris field, left behind of 109P/Comet Swift-Tuttle. The comet was already known by the Chinese in 188.
The shower can be seen as Shooting Stars, leaving a small trail of ionized gas behind them.

During the whole travel through the debris field in July and August one can see the Perseid shower, but in the range from 12. - 13. August there will be a maximum. The peak is expected on 12. August between 13:00 and 15:00 UTC.

For HAM-operators this peak is interesting. Because of the increase ionisation of the Ionosphere, sporadic-E-Emission are way more likely to happen. Also long echoes in the 2m band are possible during the Perseid shower.

ESO: White dwarf heats up red dwarf with electron beam

Today ESO revealed a new type of exotic binary stars: A red dwarf that is heated by a magnetised white dwarf - It's like a lash punching every 1.97 Minutes at the poor red dwarf. The discovery was rewarded with a publication in Nature1.

The white dwarf is for some reasons highly magnetised and can therefore accelerate electrons to relativistic velocities ("almost lightspeed") - These display a huge energy flow that can heat up the nearby red dwarf every half spinning time.

This artist’s impression shows the strange object AR Scorpii. In this unique double star a rapidly spinning white dwarf star (right) powers electrons up to almost the speed of light. These high energy particles release blasts of radiation that lash the companion red dwarf star (left) and cause the entire system to pulse dramatically every 1.97 minutes with radiation ranging from the ultraviolet to radio.
This artist’s impression shows the strange object AR Scorpii. In this unique double star a rapidly spinning white dwarf star (right) powers electrons up to almost the speed of light. These high energy particles release blasts of radiation that lash the companion red dwarf star (left) and cause the entire system to pulse dramatically every 1.97 minutes with radiation ranging from the ultraviolet to radio. Credits: ESO

The star system has already been found 40 years ago but was mistakenly falsely categorised as variable single star. Amateur-astronomers found peculiarities and follow-up professional observations revealed the true nature of the object.

Details can be found on the ESO page. An because it's beautiful, I also link the video to the artist impression here.

1 "A radio pulsing white dwarf binary star" - T. Marsh et al., to appear in the journal Nature on 28 July 2016.