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The backyard astronomer: Starbirth, and how to see it – Straight.com

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The stars we see on a clear night have been burning for millions or billions of years. But how did they come to be?

Stars, like our sun, are created from vast interstellar clouds of gas and dust called nebulae. These stellar objects can measure more than 100 light years across. (A light year is the distance light travels in one year; because light moves at a speed of approximately 300,000 kilometres per second, a light year is almost 9.5 trillion kilometres.) Over time, smaller clouds in the nebula might rub against each other, or the shockwave of a nearby supernova might disturb the cloud to start a slight spinning motion.

As the cloud rotates, it picks up speed as more gas starts condensing and collapsing toward the middle, and as gravity accelerates the process. The core continually gets hotter and grows, much like the snowball effect. Over time, the star grows to a critical mass, temperatures in the core reach about 15,000,000 °C, and the star lights up. It took our sun about 50 million years to grow.

These regions of starbirth are also called “stellar nurseries”, and you can easily see one tonight. It is called the Orion Nebula, or M42. The constellation Orion the Hunter now rises in the east a couple of hours after sunset. Locate the iconic three stars in a row that form his belt. Look down the imaginary sword hanging off the belt and you will see a hazy patch of light. This is where thousands of stars will eventually be born, but the process will still take millions of years.

The Orion Nebula is located about 1,500 light years from us and measures about 30 light years across. The Hubble Space Telescope has imaged small cocoons of material showing the baby stars forming in the swirling cloud of dust and gas. As with many stars, possible exoplanets will be born from the leftover dusty material. This is the same process our solar system followed in the early stages of its birth.

Our Milky Way contains hundreds of these emission nebulae, but a telescope is required to locate and observe them. M42 is an easy target for the unaided eye or binoculars. It is also well placed on the celestial equator, allowing both the northern and southern hemispheres to see it.

Till next time, clear skies.

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Talk like you: Scientists discover why humans evolved to talk while other primates can’t – Euronews

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Why did humans evolve to talk, while monkeys were left to hoot, squeak and grunt to communicate?

The question has long puzzled scientists, who blamed our closest primate cousins’ inability to reproduce human speech sounds on their vocal anatomy.

Until now, researchers could not quite underpin what happened exactly during our evolution to make us able to speak while apes and monkeys can’t, given our vocal structures look almost identical to other primates.

Now, a new study published on Thursday in the journal Science claims to have the answer – and it’s not what anyone expected.

Analysing the phonal apparatus – the larynx – of 43 species of primates, a team of researchers based mainly in Japan found that all non-human primates – from orangutans to chimpanzees – had an additional feature in their throat that humans do not have.

Ability to speak and develop languages

While both humans and non-human primates produce sounds by forcing air through their larynges, causing folds of tissue to vibrate, monkeys and apes have an additional feature, a thin flap of tissue known as vocal membranes, or vocal lips.

Compared to apes and monkeys, humans were found to lack this anatomical vocal membrane – a small muscle just above the vocal cords – as well as balloon-like laryngeal structures called air sacs which apes and monkeys use to produce the loud calls and screams we’re not quite capable of.

According to the researchers, humans have lost this extra vocal tissue over time, somehow simplifying and stabilising the sounds coming out of our throat, and allowing us, in time, to develop the ability to speak – and eventually develop very complex sophisticated languages.

Monkeys and apes, on the other hand, maintained these vocal lips which don’t really allow them to control the inflection and register of their voice and produce stable, clear vocal fold vibrations.

“Paradoxically, the increased complexity of human spoken language thus followed simplification of our laryngeal anatomy,” says the study.

Communication through sign language

It’s unclear when humans lost these extra tissues still present in apes and monkeys and became able to speak, as the soft tissues in the larynx are not preserved in fossils, and researchers could only study living species.

We know that it must have happened sometime after the Homo Sapiens lineage split from the other primates, some 6-7 million years ago.

The fact that apes and monkeys haven’t developed the ability to speak like humans doesn’t mean that they are not able to clearly communicate with each other.

Though their vocal anatomy doesn’t allow them to form vowel sounds and proper words, non-human primates have a complex communication system based primarily on body language rather than oral sounds.

But monkeys and apes have also proven to be able to communicate with humans.

In the not-often-happy history of the interaction between non-human primates and humans, researchers have been able to teach apes and monkeys to communicate with people.

Koko the gorilla, for example, became famous for being able to use over 1,000 hand signs in sign language, while the bonobo Kanzi was reportedly able to communicate using a keyboard.

But when it comes to having a chat, monkeys and humans might never be able to share one.

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When Summer 'Supermoons' Hit Your Eye: Spectacular Photos – Forbes

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When the moon takes the celestial stage during the summer, the spectacle is simply amazing: Currently topping the program is the Sturgeon Supermoon, shining in all its splendor.

In July, it was the Buck Supermoon, the biggest and shiniest of the year. That one followed the Strawberry Supermoon that delighted sky watchers in June.

They have other stage names. This Sturgeon Moon, which derives its principal name from the giant sturgeon fish season in the Great Lakes, is known also as Thunder Moon, Mead Moon and Hay Moon, among others, and is the last supermoon of the year.

July’s Buck Moon, which drew that name because the antlers of male deer — bucks — are in full-growth mode at the time, is also called Salmon Moon and Berry Moon.

The Strawberry supermoon of June gets its name from fruit harvest seasons. It’s also known as Blooming Moon, Honey Moon and the Mead Moon.

The full moon names collected by the iconic Old Farmer’s Almanac come mainly from Native American tribes, Colonial American, and European sources.

“A full moon doubles as a supermoon when it’s near perigee, or the point in the moon’s orbit that is closest to Earth,” the Almanac explains, making it larger and brighter.

August’s Sturgeon Moon is the fourth and final supermoon of the year and it happens to coincide with the Perseid meteor shower, considered by many as “the best meteor shower of the year,” according to NASA. It will peak on August 13 and will remain active through August 24.

And if you happen to notice a bright-looking “star” near the moon, you’re looking at Saturn.

Lunar lovers and star seekers have been enjoying the summer’s stunning celestial performances and here are some of the best photos taken around the globe:

July’s Buck Supermoon

June’s Strawberry Supermoon of June

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Tips on how to spot the 2022 Perseid meteor shower – StrathmoreNow.com

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The Perseid meteor shower will peak this year early Saturday morning over Cochrane. 

Local photographer, Dylan Kaniski is gearing up for some sleepless nights to ensure the perfect shot. “I’m always really excited for this meteor shower, it is one of the biggest of the year and we always get a lot of great meteors.”

Meteor showers are clouds of debris left when comets zoom past Earth on their way around the sun. The Perseids come from the comet Swift-Tuttle, which was last visible in 1992. While Cochranites won’t be seeing the comet again until 2125, in the meantime, sky gazers can enjoy the yearly shower from the debris. 

“It does change every year and some years are better than others. But this one is special because the Perseids are pretty consistent from year to year. I usually get a really good shot and that’s why people are really excited about this.”

Unfortunately, a full moon will make it trickier to see this year but Kaniski has plenty of tips for people looking to experience the Perseids for the first time.

“The best way to view the meteor shower is to first get somewhere dark. It doesn’t have to be anywhere super far. I personally like going to the mountains but anywhere around Cochrane, you can go to the countryside just 10 minutes out of town.”

“If you can’t make it out of town, just go into a local park or even turning your back to any streetlights and just letting your eyes adjust is going to help out.”

He also believes you don’t need top-of-the-line photography equipment to get breathtaking shots.

“You don’t need any fancy equipment or anything special. Meteors do move quite fast and they’re usually quite bright so you don’t really have any struggles capturing them with any-level cameras.”

“For advice on cameras, I like to do a higher ISO around like 6,400 and usually a 20-second exposure time. If people are heading out and want to capture it with their cameras, I suggest using a focal length that’s a little bit tighter because a lot of meteors can be a bit smaller, and having a tighter focal length will allow you to emphasize the size of the meteor. Something like 20 to 35 millimeters is what I would recommend.”

”I’d stay away from the super wide angle lenses that you see a lot of nighttime and landscape photographers using.”

While the 2022 Perseid meteor shower will peak early on August 13, 2022, meteors could be visible on clear nights leading up to and past Saturday morning.

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