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Current Events & History

2020’s Winter Solstice Hosts the Greatest Conjunction in Nearly Four Hundred Years

On December 21, 2020, a visual astronomical spectacle will occur. The planets Jupiter and Saturn will pass so close to each other in the sky that, to the unaided eye, they will be difficult to separate. This is the closest the two planets have come in 397 years; the last time they were this close was July 16, 1623. When Jupiter and Saturn come close to each other in the sky as seen from Earth, this is known as a “great conjunction” and happens about every 20 years or so. But not all great conjunctions are as close as this one. The next great conjunction will be on November 5, 2040, and again on April 10, 2060, but the planets will be a bit over a degree apart, so not as close as the 2020 event. The next comparable event will be on March 15, 2080.


Exploring the Enigmatic Star, Eta Carinae

One of the most enigmatic stars in our galaxy is η Carinae (Eta Carinae). However, in its first recorded observation several hundred years ago, Eta Carinae was a star of little note. Since then, it has become a source of astronomical interest due to dramatic brightness variations, which at one time made it the second-brightest star in the sky. In this post, we’ll investigate the star using the Wolfram Language and the Wolfram Function Repository to discover why it’s changed in such a relatively short period of time, both in its appearance and in our interest in it.

Star Light, Star Bright: Stellar Aperture Photometry with the Wolfram Language

Stellar CCD aperture photometry is the technique of extracting information about the brightness of stars from a series of images collected over time. The light curve of a variable star can reveal useful information about the physics of the star, including a measure of its intrinsic brightness. Light curve analysis can yield information about eclipsing binary systems, and also lead to exoplanet discoveries when a planet alters the brightness of a star by crossing its disk as viewed from Earth.

In CCD photometry, we want to be able to determine a measure of the amount of radiation coming from a given star arriving on our CCD detector. Plotted as a function of time, this measurement can reveal important information about the star or star system.

Current Events & History

Get Ready for the Total Solar Eclipse of 2017

On August 21, 2017, an event will happen across parts of the Western Hemisphere that has not been seen by most people in their lifetimes. A total eclipse of the Sun will sweep across the face of the United States and nearby oceans. Although eclipses of this type are not uncommon across the world, the chance of one happening near you is quite small and is often a once-in-a-lifetime event unless you happen to travel the world regularly. This year, the total eclipse will be within driving distance of most people in the lower 48 states.

New Books on Applications of the Wolfram Language

We're always excited to see new books that illustrate applications of Wolfram technology in a wide range of fields. Below is another set of recently published books using the Wolfram Language to explore computational thinking. From André Dauphiné's outstanding geographical studies of our planet to Romano and Caveliere's work on the geometric optics that help us study the stars, we find a variety of fields served by Wolfram technology.

Exploring Exoplanet Systems with the Wolfram Language

Exoplanets are currently an active area of research in astronomy. In the past few years, the number of exoplanet discoveries has exploded, mainly as the result of the Kepler mission to survey eclipsing exoplanet systems. But Kepler isn't the only exoplanet study mission going on. For example, the TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) studies its own set of targets. In fact, the media recently focused on an exoplanet system orbiting an obscure star known as TRAPPIST-1. As an introduction to exoplanet systems, we'll explore TRAPPIST-1 and its system of exoplanets using the Wolfram Language.

Academy Award-Winning Interstellar Visuals Prototyped with the Wolfram Language

Kip Thorne, physicist, New York Times bestselling author, and professor emeritus at Caltech, ignited fans' passion for science through his work on the movie Interstellar. The sci-fi adventure won the 2015 Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, and the first cuts of some of those stunning visuals were created with Mathematica and the Wolfram Language. "Mathematica was my way of testing whether or not I had the equations right," says Thorne, whose computational approach to producing images led to publication in the American Journal of Physics and Classical and Quantum Gravity.