Archive for the Astronomy Category

Theoretical upper limit for existing black holes: ridiculously stupidly big

Posted in Astronomy, Physics on 2009/07/15 by iyokobat

BlackHole1

from Luke McKinney at the Daily Galaxy:

Scientists have determined the mass of the largest things that could possibly exist in our universe. New results have placed an upper limit on the current size of black holes – and at fifty billion suns it’s pretty damn big. That’s a hundred thousand tredagrams, and you’ll never get the chance to use that word in relation to anything else.

Read more here:  50 Billion Suns -The Biggest Black Hole in the Universe

First light from Herschel Space Observatory

Posted in Astronomy, Technology on 2009/07/13 by iyokobat

SPIRE_3bands_M74_fig4

Launched earlier this year, the Herschel Space Observatory has successfully conducted the initial tests for three of its instruments, (HIFI, PACS and SPIRE). If all goes as planned, the first scientific results are expected before the end of 2009.

Less than two months after a flawless launch on 14 May, the Herschel Space Observatory has passed a number of key milestones. Amongst these are the ‘first light’ observations obtained by each of the three instruments. The images and spectra clearly demonstrate that the main scientific objectives of the mission – photometric surveys of the galactic and extragalactic sky; detailed studies of the physical and chemical composition of gas, dust and the interstellar medium; spectroscopic and photometric studies of Solar System objects – are on track.

European Space Agency – Herschel’s ‘first light’ promises superb science

New Solar Cycle Prediction

Posted in Astronomy, Physics with tags , on 2009/06/04 by iyokobat

flare_sxi2_med

The debate has been going back and forth for a few years about how powerful or how mild the next solar cycle will be. Now NASA is saying that the upcoming cycle will likely be one of quietest in regards to the number of sunspots:

An international panel of experts led by NOAA and sponsored by NASA has released a new prediction for the next solar cycle. Solar Cycle 24 will peak, they say, in May 2013 with a below-average number of sunspots.

“If our prediction is correct, Solar Cycle 24 will have a peak sunspot number of 90, the lowest of any cycle since 1928 when Solar Cycle 16 peaked at 78,” says panel chairman Doug Biesecker of the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center.

It is tempting to describe such a cycle as “weak” or “mild,” but that could give the wrong impression.

“Even a below-average cycle is capable of producing severe space weather,” points out Biesecker. “The great geomagnetic storm of 1859, for instance, occurred during a solar cycle of about the same size we’re predicting for 2013.”

The 1859 storm–known as the “Carrington Event” after astronomer Richard Carrington who witnessed the instigating solar flare–electrified transmission cables, set fires in telegraph offices, and produced Northern Lights so bright that people could read newspapers by their red and green glow.

Read more

Star charts for mobile phones

Posted in Astronomy, Technology on 2009/05/30 by iyokobat

LP3

Google has announced development of a handy tool for stargazers, navigators, and anyone with an interest in the night sky. Using the phone’s GPS and the camera view finder, the new service would essentially turn your phone into a star chart for your current location and time.

Graham Bryant, chairman of the Hampshire Astronomical Group, told the newspaper: “If children are studying geology they are often happy to go out and examine rocks, but not many children seem to be able to navigate their way round the night sky.”

The application could reignite interest in planets and constellations that has been dampened by light pollution from street lamps that make the night sky hard to observe.

Google plans space exploration gadget to help mobile phone users study night skies

Also check out Seeing the light. This is a good article about light pollution.

Galactic Center of Milky Way Rises over Texas Star Party

Posted in Astronomy, Video on 2009/05/18 by iyokobat

TexasTimelapse

If you’ve never attended a star party, then this time-lapse video should give you some idea of how beautiful the night sky can be (if you can get away from city lights).

Night sky video

Last mission to Hubble

Posted in Astronomy, Space Exploration, Technology on 2009/05/12 by iyokobat

servicing_hst_big

The Hubble Space Telescope will be getting some much needed maintenance from the shuttle Atlantis and its crew. Equipped with over 100 specialized tools, the crew will be doing extensive work on Hubble, which includes replacing the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 with the new Wide Field Camera 3. They will also be adding a new instrument called the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS). In order to make room for this device, they will be removing the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR) and returning COSTAR to Earth. COSTAR was installed to correct design problems with Hubble’s primary mirror, but is now obsolete due to previous Hubble upgrades.

Hubble was launched in 1990 and has been providing some of the best photographs of the universe as well as groundbreaking science and astronomy. This mission is scheduled to be the last shuttle mission to the Hubble and considered very risky. Hopefully the repairs will be successful and will give Hubble many more years of operation or at least until the next space telescope, the James Webb Telescope, is launched. The JWT is scheduled to launch in 2014, but has already had numerous delays.

I have the utmost respect for the courageous astronauts of Atlantis who are conducting this mission. I wish them success and a safe journey home.

For more on this ongoing story, check out NASA’s web site for the Hubble servicing mission.

Black hole simulation

Posted in Astronomy, Physics, Video on 2009/05/09 by iyokobat

Inside a black hole

Two scientists from the University of Colorado, Andrew Hamilton and Gavin Polhemus, have created an awesome simulation of traveling through a black hole.

Here is an excerpt from Technology Review:

Hamilton provides a commentary for this and other videos which dismisses some of the myths that have grown up around black holes, such as the notion that falling inside one would engulf you in darkness.

Not by any means. According to Hamilton and Polhemus, inside a black hole the view in the horizontal plane is highly blueshifted, but all directions other than horizontal appear highly redshifted.

To read the full story and see the video, click here.