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Astro Digest





5 4 32 1 The Astronomy countdown quiz conducted from 10.2.11 to 28.2.11, witnessed an impressive participation from students of all years. “ It’s really creating and kindling an awareness about astronomy among the engineering students and when we search for the answers in the internet, we get enriched with rare knowledge. The club should conduct more such activities throughout the year”- B Ramkumar, Mechanical Engineering, 2nd year ( participant) The set of questions are available at istdastro

Inside this issue: A legacy of inspiration 2 Astronomy in market- 2 place Solar flare in 2012


Face to face with Mr Moon


Pluto– we miss you


Impact of asteroids hitting the earth


What would happen if 6 we fall into a Blackhole? Astronomy crossword


Notes from president, vice president and astronomy club head


The founders


Why join astronomy


It was December 21st , the day when astrozens were busy marveling at the phenomenon of winter solstice when the word “orion” first vibrated in the campus. Since then, it has been an absolute exploitation of the word, among the clusters of people who by default whisper “orion” even while walking up the stairs against gravity. By mid February, ”orion” was chanted so many times that, for a moment we feared our beloved Orion of the skies might feel insecure and shut off its light from us. While Orion constellation has to deal with this insecurity, it also has to bear the sparks of jealousy from the neighboring constellations who spent few seconds of their lives wailing at the disappointment of not having been nominated as the name of B.S.Abdur Rahman University’s cultural festival. After a brainstorming ses-

sion among the members at the astronomy desk, we came up with top three reasons why the cultural fiesta is – ORION. A beginning to the end – Orion constellation lies still with charm and power towards the end of the Orion arm of the Milky way galaxy. With the neat alignment of stars which ornaments the night sky, orion constellation is a sight which could never be missed by the naked eye. Similarly, it’s the end of every academic year in BSAU which witnesses a diversified set of events marking the onset of ORION! In both cases the end marks the start of a new venture! 7 completes us – Orion constellation is defined by its 7 major stars which make up the sword, shoulders , knee and sword of the hunter. The 7 clubs – Dance, music, variety, literary, astronomy, fine arts

THE PIONEER ANOMALY The pioneer anomaly refers to the observed deviation from the predicted accelerations of pioneer 10 and pioneer 11 spacecrafts, which were sent to Jupiter and Saturn to study their environment , the asteroid belt and the far reaches of the universe. They contain plaques with a pictorial message depicting the human life on earth, with the hopes of them getting intercepted

and media swirl up to bring out a tornado of entertainment. In both cases, 7 is not just a number, but a cumulative pack of life. We hunt – Orion, depicts a hunter which dominates the night sky with an aura

Orion— Easily observable constellation in the night sky.

of its own. Orion, the cultural fest deems it as its responsibility to hunt for the unnoticed talent among the students of BSAU. In both cases, the motive of existence is to stay proud, hunt for the best and, display strength.

Sai Raghav 1st yr, CSE B

radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG). Interaction with the solar wind, electroOver the years, the positions magnetic forces ,changes n of the spacecrafts seemed to earth’s rotation, gravitational be varying from their calculat- pull by the planets and other bodies in space, drag from ed positions, and also a decrease in their speed was no- the interplanetary medium could be one of the possibiliticed. ties. It remains unknown There are a variety of explana- which of these explanations tions trying to reason out this is correct. No spacecraft beanomaly. One theory states haviors or property has yet that it might be because of been able to explain the the gas leaks by radioactive anomalous decelerations. decay from the spacecraft’s by the extraterrestrial life forms.

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n February 1 2003 the space shuttle Columbia STS - 107 exploded as it entered

the earth's atmosphere, perishing the entire crew of six. Among them was the young Indian-born American astronaut, Kalpana Chawla. A person who had always dreamt of the moon and the stars had herself become a star. Not only did she achieve her dreams but she also led her life with the highest sense of values and purpose in every respect. Kalpana Chawla was born in India's Karnal district of Haryana. After finishing her schooling she joined the aeronautical engineering stream at the Punjab Engineering College. She was the only girl at that time to join the aeronautical engineering stream in the college. She fought and overcame opposition from her parents and migrated to USA for further studies. Here, she joined the University of Texas to pursue her Masters and later, University of Boulder, Colorado for her doctorate. She had always dreamt of flying and reaching out to the stars and planets. Her fondness for flying saw her joining the local flying club. She acquired a certified flight instructor's license and commercial pilot's license. She also became skilled in aerobatics. Finally in 1994, her efforts paid when out of 2962 applicants for a space mission, NASA chose 19 and Kalpana's name figured in it. Her first space mission began on November 19, 1997 as part of the six-astronaut crew that flew the Space Shuttle Columbia flight STS-87. she was the first Indian-born woman and the second person of Indian origin to fly in space, following cosmonaut Rakesh Sharma who flew in 1984 in a Soviet spacecraft. On her first mission Chawla trav“When you look at the stars and the galaxy, you feel that you are elled over 10.4 million miles in 252 orbits of the earth, not from any other piece of land, but from the solar system”logging more than 372 hours in space.Her second misKalpana Chawla sion was the ill fated columbia STS-107 mission. Her tragic death in the space shuttle Columbia immortalized her in the annals of American history.she was awarded with ‘The NASA space flight medal, ’congressional space medal of honour’ and ‘The distinguished service medal’.Also,the weather satellite launched by India was named after her. Kalpana Chawla carved an identity for herself in space science. She has paved the way for the women to dream beyond the horizon and reach to reach for the stars. Her determination to follow her dreams and her passion for space science has made her a source of awe and admiration for the entire generation of young women..

ASTRONOMY IN MARKETPLACE -Rohit T George CSE,Final year Ford Galaxie S na nicker o Aries r o s ta C Nis o y o san s T ru Pu u a lsa Mil r dT r h ky w Fo atc ay c w r and y lsa Pu and rs c Ma




yc ar

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pe as ts ar te le vis io n


The allure of astronomy is so strong that many companies have named products after astronomical objects. This shows that astronomy doesn’t restrict itself to the scientific arena. Astronomers themselves have chuckled about these product names over the years. Years ago, when a small, previously unseen galaxy was discovered relatively near our Milky Way, it was nicknamed "Snickers'' because, compared to our Galaxy, it was just a peanut. Can you think of any other astronomical names that have been commercialized or which await commercialization ?? If yes, mail us at

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SOLAR FLARE In 2012 J.VISHVESWARAN EEE,3rd year We could be in for a huge firework display in 2012. The Sun will be approaching the peak of its 11-year cycle, called “solar maximum”, so we can expect a lot of solar activity. Some predictions put the solar maximum of Solar Cycle 24 even more energetic than the last solar maximum which took place in 2002-2003. According to one of the many Doomsday scenarios we have been presented with in the run-up to the Mayan Prophecy-fuelled “end of the world” in the year 2012, this scenario is actually based on some science. What’s more, there may be some correlation between the 11-year solar cycle and the time cycles seen in the Mayan calendar. Perhaps this ancient civilization understood how the Sun‘s magnetism undergoes polarity changes every decade or so? Also, religious texts (such as the Bible) say that we are due for a day of judgment, involving a lot of fire and brimstone. So it looks like we are going to get roasted alive by our closest star on December 21st, 2012! Before we go jumping to concluLike most of the various ways the world is Sun blasting out a huge, Earth-damaging solar there. But let’s have a look at what really hapevent.

sions, take a step back and think this through. going to end in 2012, the possibility of the flare is very attractive to the doomsayers out pens during an Earth-directed solar flare

The Earth is actually very well prooactive environment. The Sun constantly fires dominated surface as the solar wind. During active), the Earth may be unlucky enough to with the energy of 100 billion Hiroshima-sized solar flare and the effects of which can cause problems here on Earth.

tected. The Earth has evolved in a highly radihigh-energy particles from its magnetically solar maximum (when the Sun is at its most be staring down the barrel of an explosion atomic bombs. This explosion is known as a

But why does the Sun get so angry every 11 years or so. This phenomenon gets its credibility by what is known as a solar cycle, or the solar magnetic activity cycle, which is a periodic change in the amount of irradiation from the sun that is experienced on Earth. It has a period of about 10.7 years, and is one component of solar variation, the other being Aperiodic fluctuations. During powerful solar events such as flares, rates of ionization between X-rays and atmospheric gases increase in the layers of the ionosphere. There is a sudden surge in electron production in these layers. These electrons can cause interference to the passage of radio waves through the atmosphere, absorbing short wave radio signals (in the high frequency range), possibly blocking global communications. These events are known as “Sudden Ionospheric Disturbances” (or SID’s) and they become commonplace during periods of high solar activity. As these highly charged particles strike, satellites would not sustain it and they are more likely to perish. During this time, the Van Allen belt will also become “super-charged”, creating a region around the Earth that could cause problems to unprotected astronauts and any unshielded satellites. Many agencies which work for the government need ideas to protect valuable equipments so that it can save work force and heavy loss. Data that are stored in the computer or any electromagnetic device is more likely to be corrupted we

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WITH Mr MOON Naveena Vijayan

Mr Moon: Hey folks, Good to know that there are a few heads who are interested in knowing about the real me, than perceiving me to be just a headlamp that prevents the earth from going dark at night!

The plaque left by the Apol“What would you say about the earthlings??” lo 11 astronauts on the Every night, I find the people of earth ogling at me, praising me for reasons I have never been moon in 1969. able to figure out. I have always been a round shiny creature in the night sky. I show my same insatiable face to them every night and they still admire me! Thanks to the Sun! If it wasn’t for him, I would never have been visible! Though it’s hard to accept, I must confess that am just a body which reflects the light which the sun sends me! Ugh, ask your next question …


“We thought you were made of green cheese!” That’s hilarious!! If that was the case, I would have licked myself to death. Sorry to disappoint your tempting imagination, but am made of rock, with an iron core. I don’t have a cozy atmosphere around me, like your earth does, neither is my surface ornamented with waters and greenery! At times, I feel so exposed! Would we be invited to your abode?” Oh yes! I’ am around 4.6 billion years old and still without company. It’s disheartening to know that the population on earth is increasing at such an extent that, if all of them blow at me in synchronization, I would get blown away from my orbit, and yet none have had a courtesy to build a home on me. Recently, around 40 years ago, I was delighted to see few people stepping on me, walking around and driving a rover. I thought they were planning on the perfect site to set up their homes. I was rather sure they would come back to at least take back their belongings, which include golf balls, flags, silver astronaut pin, ‘fallen astronaut’ statuette and much other stuff. But how wrong was I? They scraped in a little soil and small rocks from my surface, and never returned back! What on earth did they do with those rocks?! They analyzed it for the presence of water molecules which is very vital for people on earth for their survival. With due respect, they found that you were incapable of sustaining life! But we do not want to give up, we are still meddling with your rocks and constantly spying on you and hoping that you sprout water fountains on your surface.”

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong put his left foot on the rocky Moon. The first footprints on the Moon will be there for a million years. There is no wind to blow them away.

Water? You want water? I have water! See, sun has always been generous to me; the solar winds brush my surface all the time. They contain a constant stream of positively charged hydrogen atoms. 50% of my surface composition is oxygen, bound up in silicate minerals. So these tiny atoms have to just strike my surface with a high speed, break the oxygen bonds, and there you are, water water everywhere!“

That surely tells us that you aren’t completely dry as few claimed you to be. But you are drier than any of the deserts on earth. Maybe, around one ton of your top layer would hold 32 ounces of water. We earth people have been advised to drink buckets of water to keep our kidneys and heart working. With all due respect again, you would dehydrate us to death !”

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Suit yourself! Dying dehydrated is better than dying due to , er…that phenomenon …oh what is it called…pol? Politician?…no….POLLUTION ! “ You seem to be quite updated. Why do you shy away on few nights?” I revolve around your earth and just complete one rotation in one revolution. This task takes me 27 days 7 hours and 43 minutes! Phew! It’s sometimes funny to see the earth rotate like an insane every 24 hours and simultaneously revolve in its orbit. Since I make it a point to show one face constantly to earth and another to sun, and also have the rotation to carry on, either one of my faces always gets the light (obviously the side facing the sun) and the other remains in shadow. I feel the happiest and complete when I face both the earth and sun simultaneously. I become the full moon. I become invisible to earth people when I have one of my faces directed to the earth and the backside directed to the sun! New moon time. The shy stages come in between these two. “Do you have any entertainment at all??” Of course I do! When am low on admiration during the earth daytime, I look around the 170000 kg of debris left by the mankind on my surface. I look around the shiny, weird shaped objects floating around, laughing at their names and hoping they would collide with each other someday. I find many Luna, Surveyor , Lunar orbiter, explorer, chandrayaan looking at me constantly day and night. It was a little disturbing to see these weird objects shoot out from the earth and occupy a space comfortable enough to stare at me, but now I am used to it. I would like to request earth to stop spying on me! Am right here, am not going anywhere! Nights are the best part. While I enjoy the admiration, my gravitational pull causes the oceans to bulge out in my direction. The part of earth which is closest to me, gets pulled the maximum, and the part which is farthest from me gets pulled the minimum. This leads to an interesting phenomenon called tides, which I wholly deserve the credit for. I pass the whole night laughing as the earth becomes slightly egg shaped with my push pull stunts!

Moon phase cycle from 1 day to 28 days old(fully dark)

Think you've had a long day? Be thankful! A day on the Moon (from sunrise to sunrise) is ~708 hours!


“ Do you have any lines for us before we wrap up”? Yes. I deserve to be a planet. Earth and I are twin planets. We orbit the sun and also orbit each other! Unfortunately, earth has a greater mass than me. This prevents me from getting the “planet” status. Kids never draw me in their solar system chart and I am never listed in the series of planets which people tell by heart. I need my status…..(sobs)

InOMN !! The Internationsl Observe the Moon Night for the year 2011 is on October 8 ! The motive of this event is to engage the local public and amateur astronomer communities in an event to raise awareness of NASA's involvement in lunar research and exploration. It started as an event to celebrate Lunar reconnaissance orbiter’s successful journey to the orbital insertion around the moon.

On Aug. 23, 1966, the world received its first view of Earth taken by a spacecraft from the vicinity of the Moon. The photo was transmitted to Earth by the Lunar Orbiter I and received at the NASA tracking station at Robledo De Chavela near Madrid, Spain. The image was taken during the spacecraft’s 16th orbit. Image credit : NASA

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PLUTO, we miss you ! Deepak Ram Since 1930, quite a run It was always the smallest one, And oh so distant from the sun But Pluto’s not a planet anymore Astronomers who had a look Said “go re-write your science book” They gave it the celestial hook Now Pluto’s not a planet anymore Listen James and Janet Some experts said to can it Now Pluto’s not a planet No, Pluto’s not a planet Anymore Uranus may be famous But Mercury’s feeling hot For Pluto was a planet, And somehow now it’s not Neptune’s nervous, Saturn’s sad, And jumpin’ Jupiter is hoppin’ mad Eight remain of nine we had Pluto’s not a planet anymore They held the meeting here on Earth Mars and Venus proved their worth But puny Pluto lacked the girth So Pluto’s not a planet anymore Listen James and Janet Some experts said to can it Now Pluto’s not a planet No, Pluto’s not a planet Anymore They met in Prague and voted Now Pluto’s been demoted Oh, Pluto’s not a planet anymore

Impact of asteroids hitting the earth M.mohammad yaseen taher ECE A,2nd year Imagine, a giant asteroid is heading towards our earth and is on a verge to destroy the whole planet within seconds. Just the thought of it gives us shivers. If such an incident happens no one would survive in this world. In 2004, NASA scientists announced that there was a chance that Apophis, an asteroid larger than two football fields, could smash into earth in 2029.However on keen observation and study, it was found that during the 2029 close encounter with Earth, Apophis would pass through a gravitational keyhole, a precise region in space no more than about 600 meters across*6+, that would set up a future impact on April 13, 2036. Though technically the possibility may sound sane, the chance of the asteroid hitting us is just 1-in-250000!!

What would happen if we fall into a Black Hole Vikram Nagarajan ECE B, 3rd year Black hole is one of the mysteries that mankind is yet to solve. It can be said that black holes are really just the evolutionary end point of massive stars. To understand a black hole we must be in a black hole. Let us presume that you are in a spaceship and heading towards a black hole many light years away from the centre of our galaxy. After reaching near the black hole you just turn of your engine. At first you don’t feel anything, you will feel the same way as astronauts feel ,weightless (This is exactly the same thing that happens to astronauts in Earth’s orbit: even though both astronauts and space shuttle are being pulled by the Earth's gravity, they don't feel any gravitational force because everything is being pulled in exactly the same way). As you get closer and closer you will experience tidal force. Imagine that your feet is closer to the centre than your head and as you near the centre of the black hole your feet experiences more gravitational pull than your head, kind of like being stretched . As you get closer and closer to the centre you would eventually be ripped apart. For a very large black hole like the one in which you are falling into the tidal force is not experienced until you reach about 600,000Km. This is known as the horizon. Note that after you crossed the horizon there is no return, even light can’t escape. No one on the outside can see you, of course, since the light from you can't escape past the horizon How long would the process take? Let's say you start at rest from a point whose distance from the centre is ten times the black hole's radius. Then for a million-solar-mass black hole, it takes you about 8 minutes to reach the horizon. Once you've gotten that far, it takes you only another seven seconds to hit the centre. By the way, this time scales with the size of the black hole, so if you'd jumped into a smaller black hole, your time of death would be that much sooner. Once you've crossed the horizon, in your remaining seven seconds, as usual you might panic and start to fire your rockets in a desperate attempt to avoid the singularity. Unfortunately, it's hopeless, since the singularity lies in your future, and there's no way to avoid your future. In fact, the harder you fire your rockets, the sooner you hit the singularity. It's best just to sit back and enjoy the ride. There is another way to look at this whole business. In a sense, time really does pass more slowly near the horizon than it does far away. Suppose you take your spaceship and ride down to a point just outside the horizon, and then just hover there for a while (burning enormous amounts of fuel to keep yourself from falling in). Then you fly back out and rejoin your friend. You will find that your friend has aged much more than you during the whole process; time passed more slowly for you !!

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PUZZLE -Fahima Kabir ECE A , 3rd year



1.The type of galaxy in which we live. (6)

1Black holes at galactic centres are thought to be this. (12)

3.Closest star to the Earth. (3) 4.Closest planet to the sun. (7) 7.Red supergiant star in the consellation of Orion. (10)

2Rotating neutron star; emits electromagnetic radiation. (6) 4Large & small satellite galaxies of the Milky Way. (10)

9.Hypothetical comet zone 1 light year from the sun. (4,5) 11.The planets of our solar system have their mean orbit in this plane. (8) 14.An interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen and plasma. (6)

5This is popularly known as "dirty snowballs"(5) 6.Moon's closest approach to the Earth. (7)

15.The brightest star in the night sky. (6)

8Cosmic background radiation is this type of EMR. (9)

16.Fiery moon of jupiter. (2)

10Theoretical particles which can travel faster than light. (8)

17.Brightest star in the constellation of Auriga. (7)

12Outermost layer of the sun. (6)

19.This mirrored telescope views the universe from orbit. (6)

13A hypothetical short cut through space and time. (8)

20.Beyond this there is no escape from a black hole's gravity. (5,7)

15Stream of charged particles ejected from the sun. (5,4)

24.Stellar magnitude & colour diagram. 2nd word. (7) 25.A stellar explosion. (9) 27.Stellar magnitude & colour diagram. 1st word. (11)

18The pole star. (7) 21Icy moon of Jupiter. (6) 22The most abundant element in the sun. (8) 23Name for the Doppler effect on light of receding objects. (8) 26Brightest object in the sky other than sun and moon. (5)

Send your answers to

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PRESIDENT’S NOTE - M.Tirulok Chandar The Astronomy club has been a part of the ISTD for past 3 years. Though the club hasn’t been loud enough like the other clubs, it has maintained it’s own dignity in the ISTD team by providing a platform for all the likeminded people who have astronomy as their passion. This true interest among the students is now being manifested in the form of astro digest. I wish all the members of this club good luck and also thank them for their efforts.

VICE PRESIDENT’S NOTE - Rohit.T.George Am happy to see that astronomy club is finally getting the attention it deserves from the student members. Astronomy has always been looked upon as a serious and strenuous subject. The club’s main motive is to disprove this prejudiced thought in the minds of the people. A significant step towards this was the countdown quiz which brought in amazing response. Credit for Astro digest goes to all the students who are a part of this club .I am also proud that this newsletter took only a week’s time when normally the job takes more than 3 month’s time. ASTRONOMY CLUB HEAD -Naveena Vijayan From the first meeting that the club conducted, to now, astronomy club has seen an expansion in the number of members and also a broad level of awareness among them, about astronomy. A passion for the subject and a group of enthusiastic-ready-to absorb-knowledge crowd are the right ingredients to fuel the club in future for all the events. The Astrodigest , would have remained just another ‘idea’ if not for the interest shown by the students towards it. I would like to thank our registrar for giving us the permission to release the newsletter, Usha rani mam, Astronomy club staff in-charge for being ever so supportive and I also thank other students who have been directly or indirectly been involved in it.

“It was the SEDS international conference which inculcated a strong feeling for starting an astronomy club in our college. Adithya Jayakumar was very keen to start this venture but as they say teamwork leads to success, a group of 5 (Adithya Jayakumar, Prhabhu S., Sathish Mathews, Vijay Bhaskar, Tanzim) came together to realize this under the canopy of ISTD. Initially, hiccups were part of our routine; approaching faculty and talking to then ISTD office bearers was a great task being nd in 2 year. Gradually, things started to take shape. It was English department which was common to all of us and we thought of getting help from them. A small push from the English department made a large leap under the banner of ISTD. Thanks to Naveed Ahmed (then ISTD president and alltime astronomy enthusiast) who helped us. And then a THE final decision was taken, to design FOUNDERS and print a handful of posters on our own expenses (Rs.100 per head was collected). We hired our first official poster designers (for free :D), Khuzema Siam and Syed Ibrahim Aduham who showcased their talent with unusual font that resembled Malayalam more than English. The best part was the remark that we received from our principal when he glanced at the innovative poster, “ Why is this poster in Malayalam?”; after a closer look “Although, it is in English; it is confusing.” Some things actually help you perform better and this actually helped us a lot I am really thankful to our principal, Dr. V.M. Periasamy for having given us the permission to start something new; Dr. Abdul Kader, Faculty Incharge of ISTD; Dr. Usha Rani, who helped us in forwarding the thoughts to ISTD faculty and others directly or indirectly associated with the formation of Astronomy Club. Paper Plane Modelling, a event hosted by Astronomy Club surfaced during Orion-08. This has been the event that witnessed maximum participation for three consecutive years.

- Tanzim Baig

WHY JOIN ASTRONOMY CLUB?? Mubarish Jisthi, 1st yr civil When we were kids, how strange was the world to us, how thrilling and exciting were the stories of our elders on stars, and moon. How our mothers outsmarted us by feeding us food showing the stars and the moon! We gobbled up food, immersed in the a sense of curiosity of what was beyond earth. Now there is a truck load of science out there to reason out all those stories . We ought to know about the universe, our milky way, our earth ! It is a shame if we are not aware about our own abode ! And when this very knowledge is imparted by sharing knowledge, discussions, games and activities, we would be missing the greatest opportunity by not becoming a member of such a forum. The best option for us is to join astronomy club of our college and start exploring interesting stuffs and open ourselves to the abundant knowledge available out there.Thanks to the Astronomy club and its members for providing an easy knowledge gaining path for the students who always have an interest and passion for astronomy.

Astronomy Newletter  

B.S.Abdur Rahman University ,Chennai,India ISTD-C presents its first Astronomy Newsletter.

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