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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

MTNL Launching Rs 4,500 PC

MTNL Launching Rs 4,500 PC

A PC for every home" may not be such a distant possibility after all -- especially if you happen to be a MTNL customer!

The state-owned telecom major, in association with Chennai-based Novatium, is today launching its Rs 4,500 PC, which comes with the added benefit of an Internet connection for just a small monthly fee.
The computer, christened 'netPC', will be launched today in the capital by Communication and IT minister, A Raja.

While 'netPC' looks and feels like any other PC, it's essentially a no-frills device. Which means it lacks most of the common hardware found on a typical PC. It does not have a regular CPU or any storage device.

MTNL will connect the terminals to a centralised server in the locality, and will provide the PC with Internet access. All applications including consumers' data storage will be done by the server.

According to Novatium, the advantage of 'netPC' is that customers will not have to face the challenges that are associated with a regular PC.
Besides, they will retain the choice to use either Windows or Linux operating systems.

The Novatium Web site explains the concept of 'netPC' as: "netPC reaches one's home on a network cable just like a cable television service or Broadband. Metro ethernet deployments are quickly becoming a pervasive reality, and hence, instead of just Internet Broadband to one's home, one can ask for a complete desktop with inbuilt Internet access, educational packages, online games, chat, Web cam, productivity suites, and much more served on the Nova netPC."

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Mission designed to unlock asteroids' secrets

Mission designed to unlock asteroids' secrets

NASA's Dawn spacecraft aims for the curious Vesta and Ceres

A half-dozen spacecraft launched by the United States and Europe have flown past or landed on asteroids. A Japanese mission that attempted to collect samples of an asteroid is due back on Earth in three years.

But NASA's Dawn spacecraft, scheduled for launch near dawn Thursday, is designed to bring a new day to asteroid science.

Dawn will aim for the solar system's vast asteroid belt, a collection of rocky materials left over from the formation of the planets, for closeup studies of Vesta and Ceres, two of the largest celestial bodies in the belt region.

Scientists expect Dawn's eight-year, $449 million mission to provide new insight into the early phase of the planet-building process that began more than 4.5 billion years ago.

Dawn was designed to steer into orbit around Vesta to map the terrain and study the mineral makeup, then depart for Ceres to conduct a second orbital reconnaissance.

Just hints so far

The spacecraft is scheduled for launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., aboard a Delta II rocket.
If successful, Dawn will become the first spacecraft to orbit a solar system body and then travel through space to circle another.

"To go to one body, leave and go to another is sort of what science fiction has always been about," said Christopher Russell, the University of California, Los Angeles space physicist who serves as the Dawn mission's chief scientist.

The Hubble Space Telescope and other powerful observatories offer only scant clues of what Vesta and Ceres must be like, revealing hints of past volcano activity on the first and water on the second.

Most of the asteroid belt orbits the sun between Mars and Jupiter.

"So, we are going out to two bodies, which are quite different as far as we can tell. One seems dry like our moon. The other seems to have a lot of water in it," Russell said. "On our planet, water is very important. We will try to understand why some bodies are very wet out there and some very dry."

Plans to launch the mission earlier this year encountered a series of problems with the assembly of Dawn's rocket launcher, bad weather and difficulties establishing a ground tracking network.

The first stop on Dawn's journey is Vesta, an asteroid the size of Arizona that offers a glimpse at the processes that produced the solar system's rocky inner planets - Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.

Ceres, the final stop, is about the size of Texas and was recently reclassified from asteroid to dwarf planet by astronomers. Ceres, which may have a thin atmosphere, could offer clues about the processes that folded water-born minerals into the final assembly of the icy moons of the outer planets - Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus.

Far-off sling shot

Scientists believe the thousands of rocky objects in the asteroid belt were once destined to collide and clump together until they became a full-fledged planet. However, the assembly process was interrupted by the strong gravitational forces of Jupiter, the solar system's biggest planet.
Dawn's liftoff will initiate a 3.2 billion mile journey that will swing the spacecraft into orbit around Vesta in August 2011.

After circling Vesta for seven months, Dawn will depart for Ceres. The final leg of Dawn's long journey will take nearly three years. Reaching Ceres in February 2015, the probe will orbit for at least six months of observations.

In April 2009, Dawn will speed close enough to Mars for the gravitational field of the Red Planet to sling the spacecraft outward with additional velocity.

Uncharted terrain

Ceres was discovered in 1801 by the Italian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi. Largest of the planetary fragments in the asteroid belt, Ceres is curiously planetlike. Ceres is spherical and possesses enough of a gravity field to pull the heaviest of its minerals to the core. It may have a weak atmosphere, a thick layer of water frozen below a dusty surface and perhaps frost-covered polar caps.
Last year, those qualities convinced the International Astronomical Union to upgrade Ceres' status from asteroid to dwarf planet - the same reclassification that resulted in the more controversial demotion of Pluto from planet to dwarf planet.

Vesta was discovered a half-dozen years after Ceres by the German astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers. Distant observations reveal a somewhat spherical shape with a surface of frozen lava that oozed from a hot interior shortly after Vesta formed.

At Vesta's south pole is a large crater that was gouged out by a collision with another asteroid. Some of the material blasted away from Vesta by the powerful impact may have reached the Earth as meteorites.

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Accenture to Invest $250 Million to Expand Technology Consulting Capabilities

Accenture to Invest $250 Million to Expand Technology Consulting Capabilities

Accenture to Invest $250 Million to Expand Technology Consulting Capabilities to Help Clients Align IT Strategy with Business Strategy..

Accenture will invest more than $250 million over the next three years to expand its technology consulting capabilities to help clients align information technology and business strategy.

Aligning IT with business strategy has, once again, become a top issue for companies worldwide. To address this, we are enhancing the end-to-end services we offer through Accenture Technology Consulting, an organization within our Systems Integration & Technology growth platform," said William D. Green, Chairman & CEO, Accenture.

The investment is designed to address a strong increase in demand from clients for services and advice from technology-platform-independent services providers.

It will enable Accenture to enhance its strategy planning, marketing, offering and asset development, alliance development and management, and recruiting and training for its technology capabilities.

It will focus on helping clients: develop IT strategies that deliver measurable business outcomes; standardize, virtualize and secure their IT infrastructures and applications; improve worker productivity; and implement new consumer-like, Web-based applications that tap into the potential of services-oriented architecture (SOA) and other newer technologies.

The investment will enable Accenture to expand on the development of next-generation data center capabilities, including data center consolidation; server consolidation and rationalization; storage transformation; test- and development-environment transformation; service desk optimization; and "green computing" for optimizing data-center performance while reducing power consumption.

It would also focus on a series of enterprise network offerings that leverage Accenture's expertise in designing and building converged data and voice systems, highly specialized IT infrastructure and application security capabilities and next-generation workplace capabilities to help deploy IT to automate common workplace activities.

"We are enhancing the services we offer by building and expanding our technical capabilities and investing aggressively in our workforce," said Don Rippert, Chief Technology Officer, Accenture.

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ENERGY :Challenges Facing the Kingdom of Coal

The towering chamber where coal is combusted in an electricity generation plant is a dark, unsettling, sulfurous place. Elemental coal, wrested from the earth, is here ignited to generate heat, create steam and spin a turbine. Without it, modern life would freeze.

The kingdom of coal provides more than half the electricity we now rely on, and is expected to play an even more dominant role in our energy future. That kingdom faces unprecedented challenges. Global warming has become a huge and growing concern and the carbon dioxide emissions of coal plants are blamed as a leading contributor to the problem.

Steven F. Leer, the chairman and CEO of Arch Coal in St. Louis, one of the major suppliers of coal to the utility industry, believes we need to significantly step up the search for a solution to that problem. "The only way you can be serious about stabilizing CO2 concentrations is that the United States and Europe invest in carbon sequestration technology, carbon capture technology and get on with it," says Leer. "We need 10 to 12 years and a meaningful investment of a couple billion dollars a year in these technologies, but we can get there."

Meantime, Michael Morris, chairman and chief executive of American Electric Power, said in a Wall Street Journal article that the cost of sharply reducing the 2.5 billion tons of CO2 emitted by utilities each year - one-third of all such emissions - will be unprecedented. "I think power prices could go up 50 percent, maybe more."

Trading System

With price disruptions of that magnitude barreling down on the utility industry, you can almost taste the risk in the air. That is opportunity for some. The New York Mercantile Exchange is preparing to help utilities and all industry deal with the risks they will face if Congress, as expected, eventually puts in place a carbon dioxide cap and trade emissions regime. James E. Newsome, NYMEX president and chief executive officer, says that he believes a futures contract tied to CO2 emissions restrictions is just 18 months off. It will fast become the largest commodity market, eclipsing even oil futures.

"It'll be huge," says Newsome. "It can dwarf oil. Any industry that is creating emissions that need to be neutralized will have the ability to do so through an exchange contract."

Some estimates put the size of the financial services business now emerging to help deal with emissions issues at $30 billion, on its way to $1 trillion. London is emerging as the global center of carbon finance, given the city's window on Europe's early efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. While Europe's cap-and-trade system has been beset with problems, policymakers there are determined to iron out the wrinkles.

But, if all of those efforts are to succeed and particularly after 2012 when the Kyoto Protocol expires, the Americans and the Australians must get involved, says Anthony White, a principal in the Canada-based Climate Change Capital. Both have rejected Kyoto because of its failure to address emissions in the rapidly industrializing parts of the Third World. Ultimately, he says, "We need a carbon price people can invest against."

We know the cost of coal and electricity generated from coal. Once Congress acts, and NYMEX and others respond, the utility industry will have a fix on the true cost of carbon. It will usher in a new age in the utility business and industrial society.

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Adobe refurbishes Photoshop :Windows Beats Mac to New Adobe Elements

Adobe Systems updated its hobbyist-oriented Elements family on Monday, grafting in some new DNA from Photoshop CS3 and Lightroom into Photoshop Elements 6 and giving Premiere Elements 4 a direct connection to YouTube

Adobe Monday announced Photoshop Elements 6 and Premiere Elements 4 for Windows. The applications are available separately or in a bundle to enable users to edit their photos and create video projects.

The latest version of Photoshop Elements includes new technology in Photomerge Group Shot which enables users to combine the best facial expressions and body language from a selection of group photographs into one shot. Enhanced compositing has also been added to Photomerge Panorama and new Photomerge Faces lets users experiment by combining different facial features.
Both the Elements family members, which cost $99 individually or $149 together, sport a new dark interface that resembles Lightroom, Apple Aperture and several other applications that set off images and videos more smartly than the usual Windows software. Less superficially, they also get Lightroom's tabbed interface designed to walk users through tasks in a sensible progression.

From Photoshop CS3, the little-brother Elements gets Photomerge and a new Quick Selection Tool. The first of these fancier features lets users join the best parts of multiple photos, such as those with faces of subjects who aren't blinking or grimacing, and create better panoramas. The second is for more sophisticated selection of complicated areas, for example junior minus a distracting background you don't want in the birthday card photo.

Another Photoshop Elements feature is smart albums, which directs the software to create dynamically updated groups of photos based on user-specified attributes such as whether they've been edited, when they were shot or what camera was used. The software also is faster than version 5 when it comes to importing, searching and tagging photos.

Premiere Elements always could be used to produce video files and DVDs, but some new output options are in version 4. For those who like the latest in rotating optical media, Premiere Elements has gone high-def with support for HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc. It's also got a multichannel audio mixer for more elaborate sound control.

And for those who want to skip straight to the virtual realm, a module lets users upload videos directly to YouTube in its native Flash video format, complete with tags.

Photoshop Elements doesn't have any equivalent, though, for photo-sharing sites such as Flickr.

The two components of Elements also are designed to work better together, sharing tags, ratings, styles and a file-browser interface called Organizer, Adobe said.

Both packages are available for Windows users now; a Mac version of Photoshop Elements is planned for early 2008. Though Adobe un-canceled its Mac OS X version of full-fledged Premiere, there's no Mac version of Premiere Elements.

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improving Vista

who blasted Microsoft three months ago for failing to deliver Windows Vista add-ons have again called the company on the carpet, this time for missing its self-imposed deadline to provide promised extras.

In late June, bloggers and users were already panning Vista Ultimate Extras as a bust. Extras, available only to customers running the top-end Vista edition, was one of the features cited by Microsoft to distinguish the $399 operating system from its $239 cousin, Home Premium. Microsoft's online marketing, for instance, touted Extras as "cutting-edge programs, innovative services, and unique publications" that would be regularly offered to Ultimate users.

But by June, Microsoft had not released any new Extras since it issued a beta of DreamScene, a video screensaver, in February. That infuriated some users; several days later, Microsoft tried to defuse the situation by promising to wrap up DreamScene and 20 unfinished language packs ... "By the end of the summer

Companies planning to roll out Microsoft Corp. 's Windows Vista operating system can thank people like Eric Craig.

Craig, a managing director at Continental Airlines Inc., started moving his company to Vista early this year, far sooner than most businesses. For Continental and other early Vista adopters, being first meant wrestling with an array of challenges that include security programs that weren't ready and problems with "driver" software for running printers and other devices.

Such pioneers are an important part of Microsoft's strategy, which employs customers' feedback to help improve Vista and the software universe designed to work with it.

"We're happy to share our experience," Craig said.

That is good news for the followers, many of whom remain daunted by the prospect of moving to Vista. Indeed, a recent Forrester Research survey of 565 companies in the United States and Europe with more than 1, 000 employees showed that only 7 percent plan to start rolling out Vista this year, with 25 percent expecting to begin the process next year. Some 38 percent of respondents said they didn't have plans yet to move to Vista.

Why the reticence ? By the time Microsoft first made Vista available to businesses last November - five years after its predecessor Windows XP - companies had built or bought many layers of software on earlier versions of Windows, including security software to guard against viruses and other malicious computer code. Moving to Vista requires modifying those software layers, running the risk of creating new problems.

And there is simply no substitute for actually installing Vista in real businesses to find the glitches, and to fully test the attendant software - like the drivers - that has been tweaked to run with Vista. Microsoft provides free software tools and programs to help with the migration, but those programs also must be enhanced based on experience gained through their use.

Roughly nine months after Vista was made broadly available, information-technology professionals say installing Vista is gradually becoming easier.

"If you're an IT person sitting down to do this you have much better information available than you did six months ago," said Steve Kleynhans, an analyst at Gartner Group. "Six months from now it's going to be even better."

Continental since May has replaced nearly 2, 000 personal computers at two of its three reservation centers with Vista PCs. The work was delayed a bit as Continental waited for certain Vista-compatible drivers, security software and other software from Microsoft partners, Craig said. Continental is now working with Cisco Systems Inc. to rejigger the network-equipment maker's call-center software to work better with Vista, Craig said. By sometime in the first quarter of next year, Craig expects to have converted up to 7, 000 of his company's 18, 000 PCs to Vista.

Another organization that experienced the trials is the Australian Customs Service, which decided to shift a fleet of aging PCs to Vista earlier this year. By dumping 3, 000 old machines for new ones that come with Vista, the agency avoided some onerous chores associated with upgrading existing hardware. But it still had problems with a security feature in Vista called BitLocker.

The customs service was able to get Hewlett-Packard Co., the PC supplier, to provide a revised piece of software that fixed the problem. Such fixes are typically shared with Microsoft and other makers of software tools to help Vista buyers.

"The third-party support has been a little bit slow but that's progressively gotten better," said Murray Harrison, the customs service's chief information officer.

Microsoft provides a free downloadable software kit businesses can use to upgrade existing PCs to Vista. The kit, called the Business Desktop Deployment tool, automatically transfers information over the Internet about companies' IT systems and technical problems to Microsoft. The data are used to help improve the upgrade kit. So far, customers have downloaded about 220, 000 copies of it, Microsoft executives say.

Customer feedback has also aided the process of modifying the driver programs. Microsoft executives say the number of driver programs for Vista has swelled to 2. 2 million from 1. 5 million in January.

Another critical issue is application compatibility - whether Vista can run the business programs that companies now use. Some are sold by software companies and some are internally developed by users. Companies may have thousands of different applications that need to be tested for compatibility before a new operating system is introduced.

Microsoft runs a program for certifying software applications for Vista. As of last week, about 2, 100 applications had been certified - up from 250 in January, Microsoft executives say.

Meanwhile, many IT managers are waiting for Vista improvements that will be included in Service Pack 1, a set of software enhancements for Vista that will have new drivers, security features and bug fixes. Microsoft says the software will be available in January.

Still, some businesses don't see enough benefits from the new software to go through all the trouble.

"We don't have any plans for rolling out Vista in our environment in the near future," said Gentry Ganote, chief information officer of Golf and Tennis Pro Shop Inc., which runs sports shops around the U. S. Instead, Ganote said his company is shifting more of its employees from PCs to more simplified devices known as thin clients, which he said will be easier for his IT group to manage.

Earth Tech Inc., though a big user of Microsoft software, doesn't see enough new value in Vista itself to justify upgrading its 8, 000 PCs, said Jim Walsh, its chief information officer.

Walsh, whose company handles infrastructure work that includes building roads and airports and managing water-treatment facilities, is studying whether software that runs on Vista - including the new version of Microsoft's Office software and software called SharePoint - offer enough benefits to justify a move to Vista.

And like his peers at many other companies, Walsh is concerned about problems arising from adding Vista to his company's IT system, which has a mix of both Microsoft and software from some 25 other companies.

"I'm generally personally afraid of the integration issues," he said. "Can the existing software I have run on it ? I have to make sure it does."

Such thinking is one reason why a significant number of businesses won't start the transition until next year, said Benjamin Gray, an analyst at Forrester Research. Still, with the gradual improvements to the infrastructure around Vista, for most businesses "it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when and how," he said.

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Researchers study software gender gap

Researchers study software gender gap

Men more likely to use advanced features to 'debug', fix errors

For more than a decade, academics and technology executives have been frowning at the widening gender gap in computer science. Everyone has a theory, but no one has managed to attract many more women.

Now, some computer science researchers say one solution may lie in the design of software itself - even programs regular people use every day.

Laura Beckwith, a new computer science Ph.D. from Oregon State University, and her adviser, Margaret Burnett, specialize in studying the way people use computers to solve everyday problems - like adding formulas to spreadsheets, animation to Web sites and styles to word processing documents.

A couple of years ago, they stumbled upon an intriguing tidbit: Men, it seemed, were more likely than women to use advanced software features, specifically ones that help users find and fix errors. Programmers call this "debugging," and it's a crucial step in building programs that work.

Beckwith decided to investigate why women and men might interact so differently with the same software. She pored over 30 years' worth of books and academic papers from psychologists, education researchers, economists, computer scientists and others about gender differences in problem solving and computer use.

One theory grabbed her attention: High confidence correlates with success. Both men's and women's confidence in their ability to do a challenging task affects their approach and the outcome. And most studies indicated that women - even ones who study computer science - have less confidence than men in their computer skills.

So Beckwith wondered, could that be one of the culprits? Are women less confident than men when it comes to software debugging? Are women less willing than men to try using these advanced features?

Beckwith tackled these and other questions in her dissertation, with guidance from Burnett and Susan Wiedenbeck of Drexel University.

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Harvest moon to grace evening sky

Harvest moon to grace evening sky

Skywatching Columnist - The moon of Wednesday, Sept. 26 also carries the title of the Harvest Moon for those living in the northern hemisphere.

The moon officially turns full when it reaches that spot in the sky diametrically opposite (180 degrees) to the sun in the sky. This moment will occur on Wednesday at 19:45 Greenwich Time (3:45 p.m. EDT or 12:45 p.m. PDT). Wednesday's full moon is the one that comes the closest to the September equinox so this year it falls in September, although in one out of three years this title can be bestowed upon the October full moon (as was the case in 2006).

Many think that the Harvest Moon remains in the night sky longer than any of the other full moons we see during the year, but that is not so.

What sets Wednesday's full moon apart from the others is that farmers - at the climax of the current harvest season - can work late into the night by the moon's light. It rises about the time the sun sets, but more importantly, at this time of year, instead of rising its normal average 50 minutes later each day, the moon seems to rise at nearly the same time each night.

In analyzing local moonrise times for Sept. 25, 26 and 27 in 10 locations across North America, the rising of the moon comes, on average, less than 27 minutes later each night. The night-to-night difference is greatest for the more southerly locations. (Miami, located at near latitude 26-degrees N., sees moonrise come an average of 37 minutes later). Meanwhile, the difference is less at more northerly locations (at Edmonton, Alberta, located at latitude 53.6-degrees N, the average difference is just 12 minutes).

The reason for this seasonal circumstance is that the moon appears to move along the ecliptic, and at this time of year when rising, the ecliptic makes its smallest angle with respect to the horizon for those living in the Northern Hemisphere.

In contrast, for those living in the Southern Hemisphere, the ecliptic at this time of year appears to stand almost perpendicular (at nearly a right angle) to the eastern horizon. As such, the difference for the time of moonrise exceeds the average of 50 minutes per night. At Sydney, Australia, for instance, the night-to-night rise time difference amounts to about 71 minutes.


Harvest moon

The Harvest Moon is the full moon nearest to the autumnal equinox, which occurs (in the northern hemisphere) on or about September 23rd, and in the southern hemisphere on or about March 21st. Its physical characteristics - rising time, path across the sky - are similar to those of the Hunter's moon.

All full moons have their own special characteristics, based primarily on the whereabouts of the ecliptic in the sky at the time of year that these moons are visible. The full moons of September, October and November as seen from the northern hemisphere - which correspond to the full moons of March, April and May as seen from the southern hemisphere - are well known in the folklore of the sky. All full moons rise around the time of sunset. However, although in general the moon rises about 50 minutes later each day, as it moves in orbit around Earth, the Harvest Moon and Hunter's Moon are special, because around the time of these full moons, the time difference between moonrise on successive evenings is shorter than usual. In other words, the moon rises approximately 30 minutes later, from one night to the next, as seen from about 40 degrees N. or S. latitude, for several evenings around the full Hunter's or Harvest Moons. Thus there is no long period of darkness between sunset and moonrise around the time following these full moons. In times past this feature of these autumn moons was said to help farmers working to bring in their crops (or, in the case of the Hunter's Moon, hunters tracking their prey). They could continue being productive by moonlight even after the sun had set. Hence the name Harvest (or Hunter's) Moon.

The reason for the shorter-than-usual rising time between successive moonrises around the time of the Harvest and Hunter's Moon is that the ecliptic - or plane of Earth's orbit around the sun - makes a narrow angle with respect to the horizon in the evening in autumn.

The Harvest Moon can come before or after the autumnal equinox. It is simply the full moon closest to that equinox. About once every four years it occurs in October, depending on the cycles of the moon. Currently, the latest the Harvest Moon can occur is on October 8. Between 1900 and 2010 the Harvest Moon falls on October 7 in 1930, 1949, 1987, 2006, and on October 8 in 1911.

Many cultures celebrate with gatherings, festivals, and rituals that are intricately attuned to the Harvest Moon or Hunter's Moon.

It is claimed by some that the Harvest Moon seems to be somehow bigger or brighter or yellower in color than other full moons. This is an illusion. The yellow or golden or orangish or reddish color of the moon shortly after it rises is a physical effect, which stems from the fact that, when you see the moon low in the sky, you are looking at it through a greater amount of atmosphere than when the moon is overhead. The atmosphere scatters the bluish component of white moonlight (which is really reflected sunlight) but allows the reddish component of the light to travel a straighter path to your eyes. Hence all moons (and stars and planets) look reddish when they are low in the sky.

As for the large size of a full moon when seen low in the sky, it is true that the human eye sees a low hanging moon as being larger than one that rides high in the sky. This is known as a Moon Illusion and can be seen with any full moon. It can also be seen with constellations; in other words, a constellation viewed low in the sky will appear bigger than when it is high in the sky.

The Harvest Moon is also known as the Wine Moon, the Singing Moon and the Elk Call Moon. In myth and folklore the full moon of each month is given a name. There are many variations but the following list gives the most widely known names:

January - Wolf moon
February - Ice moon
March - Storm moon
April - Growing moon
May - Hare moon
June - Mead moon
July - Hay moon
August - Corn moon
September - Harvest moon
October - Hunter's moon
November - Snow moon
December - Winter moon

The third full moon in a season with four full moons is called a blue moon, as described in the Maine Farmer's Almanac. Until recently it was commonly misunderstood that the second full moon in a month was the blue moon. However, it was recently discovered by Sky and Telescope Magazine and reported on NPR that the interpretation of a blue moon as the second full moon of the month was erroneously reported in an issue of Sky and Telescope Magazine dating back to 1946 and then perpetuated by other media.

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Orphan Stars Found In Long Galaxy Tail

Orphan Stars Found In Long Galaxy Tail

Astronomers have found evidence that stars have been forming in a long tail of gas that extends well outside its parent galaxy. This discovery suggests that such "orphan" stars may be much more prevalent than previously thought.

The comet-like tail was observed in X-ray light with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and in optical light with the Southern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) telescope in Chile. The feature extends for more than 200,000 light years and was created as gas was stripped from a galaxy called ESO 137-001 that is plunging toward the center of Abell 3627, a giant cluster of galaxies.

"This is one of the longest tails like this we have ever seen," said Ming Sun of Michigan State University, who led the study. "And, it turns out that this is a giant wake of creation, not of destruction."

The observations indicate that the gas in the tail has formed millions of stars. Because the large amounts of gas and dust needed to form stars are typically found only within galaxies, astronomers have previously thought it unlikely that large numbers of stars would form outside a galaxy.

"This isn't the first time that stars have been seen to form between galaxies," said team member Megan Donahue, also of MSU. "But the number of stars forming here is unprecedented."

The evidence for star formation in this tail includes 29 regions of ionized hydrogen glowing in optical light, thought to be from newly formed stars. These regions are all downstream of the galaxy, located in or near the tail. Two Chandra X-ray sources are near these regions, another indication of star formation activity. The researchers believe the orphan stars formed within the last 10 million years or so.

The stars in the tail of this fast-moving galaxy, which is some 220 million light years away, would be much more isolated than the vast majority of stars in galaxies.

"By our galactic standards, these are extremely lonely stars," said Mark Voit, another team member from MSU. "If life was to form out there on a planet a few billion years from now, they would have very dark skies."

The gas that formed the orphan stars was stripped out of its parent galaxy by the pressure induced by the motion of the galaxy through the multimillion degree gas that pervades the intergalactic space of the galaxy cluster. Eventually most of the gas will be scoured from the galaxy, depleting the raw material for new stars, and effectively stopping further star formation in the galaxy.

This process may represent an important but short-lived stage in the transformation of a galaxy. Although apparently rare in the present-day universe, galactic tails of gas and orphan stars may have been more common billions of years ago when galaxies were younger and richer in star-forming gas.

These results will appear in the December 10th issue of The Astrophysical Journal. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for the agency's Science Mission Directorate. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls science and flight operations from the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Mass.

The SOAR (Southern Astrophysical Research Telescope) is a joint project of Michigan State University, Conselho Nacional de Pesquisas Científicas e Tecnológicas (CNPq-Brazil), The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory.

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Starbucks to Give Away Free ITunes Songs

Starbucks to Give Away Free ITunes Songs

Starbucks Corp. plans to give away 50 million free digital songs to customers in all of its domestic coffee houses to promote a new wireless iTunes music service that's about to debut in select markets.

From Oct. 2 to Nov. 7, baristas in the company's more than 10,000 U.S. stores will hand out about 1.5 million "Song of the Day" cards each day. The cards can be redeemed at Apple Inc.'s online iTunes Store.

Thirty-seven artists with featured songs include Paul McCartney and Joni Mitchell - the first two to sign on with Starbucks' Hear Music label - along with Joss Stone, Dave Matthews, John Mayer, Annie Lennox and Band of Horses.

The first song will be Bob Dylan's "Joker Man."

Also on Oct. 2, Starbucks will start selling iTunes digital release cards that allow a full album of music and bonus material to be downloaded online. KT Tunstall's "Drastic Fantastic" and the soundtrack to the film "Into the Wild" with new music from Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder will be the first two featured albums, retailing for $14.99 and $11.99, respectively.

Starbucks also will offer a limited-edition reloadable purchasing card that includes two free iTunes downloads when customers register their cards online.

Earlier this month, Starbucks and Apple announced a partnership that will allow users of Apple's iPhone and new iPod Touch to download songs playing in a Starbucks shop directly to their portable devices.

The coffee chain's icon will light up on the iPhone or Touch whenever a user is within range of a Starbucks shop's Wi-Fi signal. People with the devices - or a laptop with iTunes software - will also be able to use the signal for free to browse and buy other iTunes music.

The service will launch at 600 Starbucks shops in Seattle and New York on Oct. 2, then roll out in San Francisco in early November.

Starbucks plans to have the service up and running in a quarter of its stores by the end of next year and in all U.S. stores with wireless networks by the end of 2009. There are no immediate plans to expand the service to international markets.

Starbucks has been selling CDs in its stores for years and added its music catalog to iTunes last fall.

Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks' entertainment division, declined to release any specifics on the company's digital music sales so far or compare how they've been stacking up to CD sales. He would only say that music in both formats has been selling well.

Expectations remain high for the upcoming wireless service. "We're going to see huge improvement in terms of the amount of tracks" that are downloaded, Lombard said..

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Astronomers use new method to find galaxies

Astronomers use new method to find galaxies

To find galaxies, researchers looked for 'dips' in light signatures

Deer can't see cars at night because of blindingly bright headlights. And until now, astronomers couldn't see foreground galaxies outshined by the dazzling quasars behind them.

A new technique can pick apart the intense pattern of light emitted by quasars, finding irregularities in the image where "invisible" galaxies are absorbing some of the quasar light.

"The difficulty in actually spotting and seeing these galaxies stems from the fact that the glare of the quasar is too strong compared to the dim light of the galaxy," said Nicholas Bouche, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Munich, Germany.

Bouche and his team's findings will be detailed in an upcoming issue of Astrophysical Journal.

Very large help

Quasars are small, distant and extremely bright cosmic beacons that produce more light than typically comes from an entire large galaxy. In spite of their brightness, however, some of the light is soaked up by intervening objects during its long journey to Earth's telescopes.

To locate the so-called "invisible" galaxies, Bouche and his team looked through huge catalogues of quasar data and picked out those with "dips" in their light signatures. Then, using the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT), located in the mountains of northern Chile, the team searched for galaxies close to the pulse of quasar light.

The astronomers capitalized on the VLT's special infrared spectrometer, called SINFONI, to pick apart 20 patches of sky around the quasars to search for galaxies from the time when the universe was about 6 billion years old, almost half its current age. Seventy percent of the time, they found a galaxy hiding in the "headlights" of a quasar.

So far, the astronomers who pioneered the technique have detected 14 hidden galaxies by targeting the VLT on unusual quasar light signatures.

Galaxy hunt

Bouche said he is surprised by not only the amount of galaxies he and his colleagues have found hiding near quasars, but also by the types of these galaxies.

"These are not just ordinary galaxies," he said. "They are ... actively forming a lot of new stars and qualifying as 'starburst galaxies.'"

These types of galaxies are forming the equivalent of about "20 suns per year," noted team member Celine Peroux, an astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge.

The team thinks their finding will spur a new hunt for galaxies in the universe.

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