Egyptian Astronomy & Smog | SciByte 45

Egyptian Astronomy & Smog | SciByte 45

We take a look at how the Egyptians are helping astronomical models today, a star being eaten, strange smog contributors, the upcoming Venus transit, viewer feedback, SpaceX spacecraft update, and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

Direct Download:

MP3 Download | Ogg Download | HD Video | Mobile Video | YouTube

RSS Feeds:

MP3 Feed | Ogg Feed | iTunes Feed | HD Feed | Mobile Feed

Support the Show:

Show Notes:

Egyptian Astronomy helping further today’s models

Credit: | Credit:

*— NEWS BYTE — *

Black hole munching on stars

Image Credit: NASA, S. Gezari, A. Rest, and R. Chornock

See smog, think cows

Credit: NASA | Credit :

  • The low down
  • People typically blame Southern California’s smog on automobiles, a new study suggests that cows may be just as responsible, if not more so
  • A large fraction of the region’s smog, especially the particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, is ammonium nitrate
  • Ammonia is generated by cars with certain types of catalytic converters and by bacteria that consume cattle waste
  • When the ammonia reacts with nitrogen oxides that are produced in large quantities in automobile emissions
  • Significance
  • Data gathered during low-altitude flights in and around the Los Angeles basin in May 2010 suggest that the region’s 9.9 million autos generate about 62 metric tons of ammonia each day
  • White ammonia emissions from dairy farms in the eastern portion of the basin—home to about 298,000 cattle—range between 33 and 176 metric tons per day
  • * Of Note*
  • In addition ammonia emissions from the dairy farms are concentrated, boosting atmospheric levels of the gas to more than 100 times background levels
  • So efforts to curb the farms’ emissions (perhaps by feeding the animals different diets) might reduce smog more than those targeting cars.
  • Also theorized to contribute are vapors from paint, fumes from outdoor barbecues, and even the fresh scent emitted by trees
  • Multimedia
  • California Smog |
  • Cow | [Photo by N. Wade Snyder]
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Smog: It’s Not All Cars’ Fault | Science Magazine
  • ScienceShot: There’s Cow in Your Smog |


Venus Transit Upcoming on June 5th / 6th

  • * Last time on SciByte*
  • Meteorites & Lasers | SciByte 38 – Venus Transit [March 20, 2012]
  • Curiosity Rover | SciByte 22 – Science Calender [November 22, 2011]
  • The low down
  • On June 5 (June 6 in Australia and Asia), it will pass between the Earth and Sun… an event which only happens about twice and century and won’t happen again until the year 2117!
  • The transit this year will last about 6.5 hours and will be visible from more than half of the Earth’s surface
  • The Sun will set while the transit is still in progress from most of North America, the Caribbean, and northwest South America
  • It will also already be in progress at sunrise for observers in central Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and eastern Africa
  • No portion of the transit will be visible from Portugal or southern Spain, western Africa, and the southeastern 2/3 of South America
  • Between each occurrence is happens at uneven occurrences at 121.5, then 8 then 105.5, then 8 years again. So only four times every 243 years and only in early Dec or early June
  • The next pair of Venus transits occur over a century from now on 2117 Dec 11 and 2125 Dec 08
  • * Of Note*
  • You can start preparations now to view the transit of Venus
  • Many retailers, like amazon, are are carrying special eclipse/transit viewing glasses and lenses
  • Make sure all glasses are sealed and that no sunlight can enter
  • Binoculars and telescopes require special lenses, if you have those you might want to practice before the event
  • Start thinking about what time it will occur in your area
  • Even the Hubble space telescope is getting in on the transit action by looking away from the Sun, more information on that in the SciByte near the transit.
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube VIDEO : NE Live – Transit of Venus Promo for Sun-Earth Day 2012 | SunEarthDay
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Sun Earth Day
  • 2012 Venus Transit – The Countdown Is On! |


  • SOFTWARE : MetalFreak
  • “Stellarium is a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope. It is being used in planetarium projectors. Just set your coordinates and go."
  • Screenshots
  • On you can download in Linux, Mac, or Windows
  • [on cnet](–2054_4–10072276.html
  • on Softpedia


SpaceX Dragon flight delay

  • * Last time on SciByte*
  • Mining Asteroids & Shuttle Discovery | SciByte 44 – SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket [May 1, 2012]](–44/)
  • Solar Storms & Private Space Flight | SciByte 30 – SpaceX Space Station resupply mission resceduled [January 24, 2012]](–30/)
  • The low down
  • On May 2nd it was announced that the launch will likely shift to a later date, possibly May 10
  • A SpaceX spokesperson said that “SpaceX is continuing to work through the software assurance process with NASA. We will issue a statement as soon as a new launch target is set.”
  • The flight was previously delayed from an April 30 launch date to allow more time for tests of Dragon’s flight software. The new delay is also meant to allow for further checkouts.
  • Social Media
  • SpaceX @SpaceX
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • SpaceX
  • SpaceX Says Delay Likely for 1st Private Launch to Space Station |


Looking back

  • May 9, 1893 : 119 years ago : First motion picture
    : The first motion picture exhibition was given by Thomas Alva Edison in Brooklyn, New York to an audience of 400 people at the Dept of Physics, Brooklyn Institute, Brooklyn, N.Y. using Edision’s Kinetograph. An optical lantern projector showed moving images of a blacksmith and his two helpers passing a bottle and forging a piece of iron. Each filmstrip had 700 images, each image being shown for 1/92 sec. The event was reported in the Scientific American of 20 May 1893.
  • May 9, 1962 : 50 years ago : Moon reached by laser light : A laser beam was bounced off the moon from earth by MIT scientists. The area of the light beam on the surface was estimated at a diameter of 4 miles.

Looking up this week

Question? Comments? Contact us here!