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Universe - the fine structure constant.
Oh, yeah. There's a Moon - but it's going to do some great tricks as it leads the way to the M44, shows us an Apollo landing site, offers a variety of observing challenges, occults Jupiter and Eta Virginis, and even has a penumbral eclipse! This week provides an opportunity to view bright double stars, enjoy some "colors" and even catch a "falling star". So get out those binoculars and telescopes, because...
Since its formation billions of years ago, Mars has never been a perfectly spherical planet. Even now, the planet has the huge Tharsis Bulge on one side of the planet, where volcanic activity raised up vast region several kilometres above the surrounding plain. These instabilities have caused the planet to wobble on its orbit, obscuring its original orientation. A Canadian researcher has traced 5 impact craters which came from a single object that broke up as it struck the planet, defining the planet's original poles and equator.
NASA's DART mission, which launched on Friday to test automated docking techniques, was prematurely shut down on Saturday when the spacecraft ran out of fuel. DART launched perfectly on board a Pegasus XL rocket and reached within 90 meters of its target, an inactive satellite already in orbit. It was supposed to make several close approaches to the satellite, but it didn't even have enough propellant for one pass. Mission controllers aborted the mission and fired its deorbit rockets to put it into a decaying orbit where it will burn up. An investigation team has been assigned to figure out what went wrong.
Researchers from UC Berkeley have looked into the past to confirm that a fundamental aspect of the universe - the fine structure constant, or alpha - has remain unchanged for at least 7 billion years. This constant shows up in many formulae dealing with electricity and magnetism, and helps describe how radiation is emitted by atoms. This conflicts with a recent announcement from Australian researchers that described a change in alpha over time.
Scientists have been watching a huge iceberg called B-15A, after it split away from Antarctica almost 5 years ago. After drifting along the coast of the continent, it finally smashed into the 70 km Drygalski ice tongue, breaking off a large chunk. The ice tongue is such a well known feature of Antarctica that it appears on many maps (they'll need to be revised). B-15A, on the other hand, appears totally unaffected by the collision, and will continue to grind away at the tongue.
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