Link roundup for 7 April 2012

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Here's some of what wass interesting this week:

--- The astronomy picture of the day for yesterday is fantastic: Venus wandering through the Pleiades. Right now Venus is about as high up in the evening sky as it gets, and in the next few months it will suddenly lower until it finally transits the face of the sun in June. After that there are no more transits of this nature until 2117. Well, from Earth at least. To see them before 2117 we'll have to be looking at Venus from another point in space.

--- Kepler has been renewed until 2016, which is one of the best pieces of news this year. Since Kepler does not confirm extrasolar planet candidates until it has seen three passes, the minimum amount of time it takes to find a planet is equal to the planet's orbit multiplied by two, and the maximum three. Example: let's say a planet orbits its star every 500 days. If Kepler began its mission one hour before the planet passed in front of its star we would see three transits after 1000 days: one on the first hour of day 1 of the mission, the second 500 days later, and the third 500 days after that. If it began the mission one hour after the planet had passed in front of its star then it would take almost 500 days for the first transit, then 500 more for the second, and another 500 for the third.

--- An article on Fanagalo, the only pidgin based on Zulu (plus Afrikaans, English and other African languages), and the lingua franca of mines in South Africa. Not surprisingly, it is endangered and in danger of extinction.

--- More on the UK's Skylon spaceplane.

--- Just found out about this recently: a history of the world in 100 objects from BBC. 100 podcasts, each about 15 - 20 minutes in length. That's a total of about 30 hours, and if you are blessed with enough time to hear them all then definitely do so.

--- Europe is considering one of three projects for a major mission in the 2020s. The first is an X-ray telescope specifically designed to study black holes, the second would study gravitational waves, the third would be a dedicated mission to the moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. My vote naturally goes to the third: as a general rule, when one cannot fund all the missions one wants to, the ones with the best PR should normally take precedence.

--- Somebody (not me) has started a Sambahsa subreddit. I'm the 14th subscriber.


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