SETI bioastro: Sky & Telescope News Bulletin - April 21, 2000

From: Larry Klaes (
Date: Fri Apr 21 2000 - 14:38:22 PDT

Subject: Sky & Telescope News Bulletin - April 21, 2000
Date: 21 Apr 2000 20:04 UT
From: (Ron Baalke)
Organization: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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Directors of the SETI Institute and radio astronomers from the
University of California, Berkeley, have unveiled the first, modest
beginnings of what should become one of the world's most powerful
radio telescopes. In a tree preserve about 20 kilometers from the
Berkeley campus, the so-called Rapid Prototyping Array will serve as a
testbed for design of the revolutionary One Hectare Telescope (1hT).
The 1hT gets its name from its planned collecting area of 1 hectare,
an area equal to a square 100 meters on a side (2.47 acres).

The seven-dish prototype will blaze the technological trail for
linking hundreds or perhaps thousands of small radio dishes. The final
array will be knitted together by advanced interferometry techniques
-- whose development poses major challenges -- to create a unified
instrument that can observe dozens of different celestial objects
simultaneously at millions of frequencies with a single, huge
effective aperture.

The 1hT is being designed to carry out the most powerful search ever
for artificial radio signals from other civilizations, even while
performing conventional radio astronomy such as monitoring pulsars and
investigating star-forming nebulae. "The 1hT is a fundamentally new
way to build radio telescopes," says Jill Tarter, director of SETI
research at the Institute. At a projected cost of about $25 million,
it should have a price tag about one-third that of the similarly sized
conventional radio telescope now nearing completion at Green Bank,
West Virginia -- a single steel behemoth that towers far above the
countryside. The 1hT is being funded by private grants, largely from
moguls of the high-tech industry.

A second, larger prototype is planned for 2002. The final 1hT will be
constructed at Berkeley's Hat Creek Observatory in northern California
and should open for business in 2005. Radio astronomers hope that it,
in turn, will lead to development of the proposed Square Kilometer
Array, a network of antennas with a collecting area 100 times larger

For a description of all the searches for extraterrestrial
intelligence now under way, comparisons of their strengths and
weaknesses, and background on SETI in general, see Sky & Telescope's
SETI page at


The Hubble Space Telescope marks its 10th year in orbit next week.
Launched into space aboard the Space Shuttle *Discovery* on April 24,
1990, astronauts released the telescope on the following day. See the
April SKY & TELESCOPE for a retrospective on its mission and
discoveries, as well as details of how astronauts restored Hubble to
service last December.


The Lyrid meteor shower has been observed for more than 2,600 years;
Chinese records say "stars fell like rain" in the shower of 687 B.C.
But in recent times (apart from 1803) the Lyrids have generally been
weak. They have a brief maximum that lasts for less than a day, and
even then only 10 to 20 Lyrids per hour may appear. Prospects are not
very favorable this year because of glare from the waning gibbous
Moon. The best chance to see some Lyrids is the morning of April 22nd,
just before morning twilight begins. Any meteor whose path, extended
backward, goes within a few degrees of Vega is likely to be a Lyrid.


  Some daily events in the changing sky, from the editors of SKY &


  * Some doorstep astronomy: Face west after dark this week and look
very high. Two stars will be there, Pollux and Castor, lined up nearly
horizontally (if you live at a midnorthern latitude). Pollux is the
slightly brighter one, on the left. They appear separated by about
three finger-widths at arm's length. Pollux and Castor form the heads
of the Gemini constellation twins, which are made of fainter stars;
the twins are currently standing upright.


  * More doorstep astronomy: Look well to the lower left of Pollux and
Castor for brighter Procyon. Look even farther to their lower right
for bright Capella.


  * Look low in the southwest during late twilight this week for
Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. Procyon is very high
above it.


  * Last-quarter Moon (exact at 3:30 p.m. EDT).


  * The red long-period variable stars V Coronae Borealis and RV
Sagittarii should be at their maximum brightness (7th or 8th
magnitude) around this date.


  * Face due south as soon as twilight fades and look very high to
spot Regulus, the brightest star in Leo.


  * The brightest star in the eastern sky these evenings is pale
yellow-orange Arcturus.


MERCURY and VENUS are buried deep in the glow of sunrise.

MARS (magnitude +1.5) is very low in the west-northwest during
twilight. Look for it with binoculars.

JUPITER and SATURN are disappearing into the sunset, even lower in the
west-northwest than Mars.

URANUS and NEPTUNE (magnitudes 6 and 8 in Capricornus) are low in the
southeast before dawn.

PLUTO (magnitude 14 in Ophiuchus) is in the southeast during
early-morning hours.

(All descriptions that relate to the horizon or zenith -- including
the words up, down, right, and left -- are written for the world's
midnorthern latitudes. Descriptions that also depend on longitude are
for North America. Eastern Daylight Time, EDT, equals Universal Time
minus 4 hours.)

More celestial events, sky maps, and news of the world's astronomy
research appear each month in SKY & TELESCOPE, the essential magazine
of astronomy. See our enormous Web site and astronomy bookstore at . Clear skies!

SKY & TELESCOPE, P.O. Box 9111, Belmont, MA 02478 * 617-864-7360

Copyright 2000 Sky Publishing Corporation. S&T's Weekly News Bulletin
and Sky at a Glance stargazing calendar are provided as a service to
the astronomical community by the editors of SKY & TELESCOPE magazine.
Widespread electronic distribution is encouraged as long as these
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Updates of astronomical news, including active links to related
Internet resources, are available via SKY & TELESCOPE's site on the
World Wide Web at

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