Astronauts on a mission to Mars will need much more than freeze-dried ice cream to sustain them, and researchers at Cornell are working to determine the best way to keep them well nourished during their three-year journeys and four-month stays on the Red Planet.

To do so, they are seeking volunteers to spend four months in a simulated Mars habitat on the barren lava fields of Hawai'i.

The application can be found at:
_As reported on BBC

An asteroid hurtled past the Earth on Friday in something of a cosmic near-miss, making its closest approach at about 1600 GMT.

The asteroid, estimated to be about 11m (36ft) in diameter, was first detected on Wednesday.

At its closest, the space rock - named 2012 BX34 - passed within about 60,000km of Earth - less than a fifth of the distance to the Moon.
Frenetic star-forming activity in the early Universe is linked to the most massive galaxies in today's cosmos, new research reported at BBC today suggests.

This "starbursting" activity when the Universe was just a few billion years old appears to have been clamped off by the growth of supermassive black holes.

An international team gathered hints of the mysterious "dark matter" in early galaxies to confirm the link.

Click here to read more at BBC !
Monday January 23rd is the first day back for UW Madison students!

This is a good time to remind everyone that astronomy is for everyone, including students at the university, parents, the retired, and public and private workers.  Everyone can get involved in researching and discovering the universe around them.  In the "Awesome Astro Sites" tab above I've listed a few good websites that involve people in actual astronomy research.  Today I came accross another great one:

The website hosts data gathered by Nasa's Kepler space telescope, and asks volunteers to sift the information for anything unusual that might have been missed in a computer search.
Think you won't make a difference or find something?  Think again!  Chris Holmes from Peterborough found a world that is circling a star called SPH10066540.  Chris' story is now featured on hereMaybe you will be the next person to be featured in international news for your discovery!

For decades astronomers have been puzzeled as to why we do not observe more dwarf galaxies.  In fact, this is one of the biggest problems of the current Lambda-Cold-Dark-Matter model of the universe.  

However, one team reports in Nature that the explaination might be that these dwarfs are a new type of galaxy made up of mostly dark matter!

Read more at BBC
Tune in every Tuesday night 6-7 for In Our Back Yard!  There is always an astronomy portion of the show with connection to Madison Astronomy! 

Sunset on the Alien Planet Osiris HD209458b

The amazing image in the link above of a sunset on exo-planet HD209458b 150 light years away, was reconstructed by Frederic Pont of the University of Exeter using data from a camera onboard the Hubble Space Telescope. Pont used his knowledge of how the color of light changes based on chemicals it encounters, and computer modeling, to create an actual image of what a sunset on the actual planet would look like. He’s posted it on his blog.

The large exo planet in question, exoplanet HD209458b, nicknamed Osiris, circles its star rather closely. At certain points, when the planet passes between us and its star, the light from that star passes through Osiris’s atmosphere before reaching us, which allowed Pont to determine the chemical composition of the atmosphere and deduce what colors would appear to the naked human eye.

The light from Osiris’s star is white, like our own sun, but when it passes through the sodium in Osirisi’s atmosphere, red light in it is absorbed, leaving the starlight to appear blue. But as the sun sets, the blue light is scattered in the same way as it is here on Earth (Rayleigh scattering) causing a gradual change to green, and then to a dim dark green. And finally, due to diffraction, the bottom of the image becomes slightly flattened.