HubbleART: Pearl Jam to Final Doom

The latest gem from ESA’s HubbleCast. The Hubble Space Telescope has inspired widespread awe in the beauty and complexity of the Universe. But with its stunning gallery of images, Hubble has also become embedded in popular culture.

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Cosmic Energy: Cold Sparks to Black Holes

What’s the hottest place in the universe? What’s it like inside a Black Hole? This video climbs the power scales of the universe, from the coldest and bleakest reaches of our galaxy on out to the hottest and most violent places known. How and where do Earth and humanity fit within the immensely powerful scales that define our universe?

All across the immense reaches of time and space, energy is being exchanged, transferred, released, in a great cosmic pinball game we call our universe.

To see how energy stitches the cosmos together, and how we fit within it, we now journey through the cosmic power scales of the universe, from atoms nearly frozen to stillness. To Earth’s largest explosions. From stars colliding, exploding, to distant centers of power so strange, and violent, they challenge our imaginations.

Today, energy is very much on our minds, as we search for ways to power our civilization and serve the needs of our citizens. But what is energy? Where does it come from? And where do we stand within the great power streams that shape time and space?

Energy comes from a Greek word for activity or working. In physics, it’s simply the property Continue reading Cosmic Energy: Cold Sparks to Black Holes

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Craters Reveal the Moon’s Turbulent Early History

Results from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter showing the ages of craters on the moon. The larger the crater, the older it is. This shows that the moon was bombarded by larger objects in its early years. This suggests that the Earth was subject to the same pattern or larger, more violent impacts the deeper you go into its past.

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Alien’s View of Our Solar System

From NASA Astrophysics… a supercomputer simulation shows how alien astronomers might have seen the formation of our solar system. Dust ground off icy bodies in the Kuiper Belt, the cold-storage zone that includes Pluto and millions of other objects, creates a faint infrared disk potentially visible to alien astronomers looking for planets around the sun. Neptune’s gravitational imprint on the dust is always detectable in new simulations of how this dust moves through the solar system. By ramping up the collision rate, the simulations show how the distant view of the solar system might have changed over its history.

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Mapping the History of Space & Time

The longer a telescope spends looking at a target, the more sensitive the observations become, and the deeper we can look into space. But to get the full picture of what’s happening in the Universe, astronomers also need observations at a range of different wavelengths, requiring different telescopes. These are the key ideas behind the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey, or GOODS for short.

The GOODS project unites the world’s most advanced observatories, these include ESO’s Very Large Telescope, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and many more, each making extremely deep observations of the distant Universe, across the electromagnetic spectrum. By combining their powers and observing the same piece of the sky, the GOODS observatories are giving us a unique view of the formation and evolution of galaxies across cosmic time, and mapping the history of the expansion of the Universe.

Now, this is not the first time that telescopes have been used to give us extremely deep views of the cosmos. For example, the Hubble Deep Field is a very deep image of a small piece of sky in the northern constellation of Ursa Major. This revealed thousands of distant galaxies despite the Continue reading Mapping the History of Space & Time

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Curiosity Shop of Saturn’s Moons

This video is modeled in the classic tradition of P.T. Barnum, offering a collection of oddities for your viewing pleasure. So enter the Curiosity Shop for a compilation of facts and beautiful moon images taken by the Cassini spacecraft in orbit around Saturn since 2004, set to Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16 II. Adagio. This video is produced in honor of the recent Cassini Spacecraft Mission extension through September 2017.

Take a gander at Gigantic Titan to your left. Feel free to ogle bright Enceladus to your right, reflecting close to 100 percent of the light that hits its surface. Don’t be afraid to eyeball Mimas and her craters. That’s what she’s there for! Saturn has the second most moons of planets in the solar system. Second, only to Jupiter.

September 27th, 2010 marked the end of the Cassini Equinox Mission, which was over the last 2 years, and the beginning of the Cassini Solstice Mission. The extension to takes the spacecraft to September 2017, a couple months past Saturn’s Northern summer solstice in May 2017. Cassini has done a great deal to extend our knowledge of Continue reading Curiosity Shop of Saturn’s Moons

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Search for Asteroid Threats

What is the true long-term threat of Near Earth Objects? NASA defines “potentially hazardous” as a Near Earth Object that will pass within .05 AU from Earth and is at least 140 meters in diameter. (http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/neo/pha.html)

But consider the damage left by a 30-meter object in the famed Siberian impact of 1908:

“Recent scientific studies by meteorite researcher Christopher Chyba have estimated that the Tunguska event may have been caused by the explosion of a stony meteroid about 30 meters in diameter traveling at about 15 km/s. Compare the energy released by such an object with that of an atomic bomb such as those dropped on Japan in World War II.”
See: http://www.psi.edu/projects/siberia/siberia.html

The truth is no one really knows how many asteroids this size or larger are out there. According to NASA sources, the population breaks down as follows:

100 meters in diameter: 300,000
500 meters in diameter: 10,000
Over one kilometer in diameter: 500-1,000

The good news is that eight projects are at work to search for them, including NASA’s NEO-Wise space telescope, and more are coming on line soon. The bad news is that fewer than 8,000 of these have been discovered so far.

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Chrome-plated Universe

Recently astronomers used the Suzaku orbiting X-ray observatory, operated jointly by NASA and the Japanese space agency, to discover the largest known reservoir of rare metals in the universe. Suzaku detected the elements chromium and manganese while observing the central region of the Perseus galaxy cluster. The metallic atoms are part of the hot gas, or “intergalactic medium,” that lies between galaxies.

Thumbnail: “The Robot (3) 20102007 Inspired by Hajime Sorayama by Emile Noordeloos.”

Exploding stars, or supernovas, forge the heavy elements. The supernovas also create vast outflows, called superwinds. These galactic gusts transport heavy elements into the intergalactic void.

What is the universe made of? The vast majority of it consists of the wispy cosmic lightweights hydrogen and helium. Everything else on the periodic table contributes only a small fraction of the whole.

Elements heavier than hydrogen and helium are forged in stars, and during their explosive deaths as supernovas.

Type 1a supernovas are nature’s most productive foundries. An old white dwarf star pulls gas off its giant neighbor. The dwarf gains mass until it becomes unstable and blows itself to bits.

The explosion creates vast amounts of heavy elements and blasts them into space.

Suzaku is an orbiting X-ray Continue reading Chrome-plated Universe

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The Most Distant Galaxy in the Universe So Far

From ESOCast: An international team of astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope has measured the distance to the most remote galaxy so far. This is the first time that astronomers have been able to confirm that they are observing a galaxy as it was in the era of reionization — when the first generation of brilliant stars was making the young Universe transparent and ending the cosmic Dark Ages.

We are going to find out how a team of astronomers used ESO’s Very Large Telescope, the VLT, to confirm that a galaxy that had previously been spotted in images from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is in fact the most distant object that is ever been identified in the Universe.

Studying these first galaxies is extremely difficult; they are very faint and small and by the time their dim light gets to Earth it falls mostly in the infrared part of the spectrum because it has been stretched by the expansion of the Universe.

To make matters worse, at this very early time, less than a billion years after the Big Bang, the Universe was not completely transparent. It was filled with hydrogen which acted kind of like a fog Continue reading The Most Distant Galaxy in the Universe So Far

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Space is exciting