Friday, July 29, 2011

comet crashes into the sun

here is nice footage from NASA of a comet that crashed into the sun on july 5th, 2011.

more details available at skymania

Saturday, July 23, 2011

the shuttles have landed

older generations saw the first humans launch into space and land on the moon. the shuttles have been a solid fixture in my life, all their successes and their incredible challenges.

no matter what difficult decisions the US space program must make over the next several years in light of financial decreases, we should all sit back and appreciate with awe just how much NASA has accomplished over the last several decades with a relatively small investment. they have inspired people all over the world and made space exploration seem like a normal facet of human existence.

truly awesome in the true sense of the word.

there are more photos of the shuttle program available at the big picture.

i'll leave you with this lovely nature video. as sarah suggests, switch to full screen, sit back and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


if this is jewelery artist kerry howley's goal with this collection, she has completely succeeded with me!

Attraction/Aversion is a material exploration of how people can feel seemingly opposing emotional responses simultaneously. The necklaces are made of human hair, a familiar material that we take pride in. However once off of the body hair becomes an innate source of aversion.

because they are truly beautiful pieces, but... ew!!

i'm trying to get over the creepiness and wondering why i find it so creepy. it's something about all the straggly, whispy bits of hair. they remind me of a wad of hair i might find in a shower drain, only beautifully designed.

also, i have no idea how she actually made the hair stay in these shapes.

Monday, July 18, 2011

dirty space news: the flow of pulsar wind

astronomer bryan gaensler recently claimed that the original dirty space news collection is incomplete unless i add Figure 10 of this paper, and then note the first author. so without further ado, here is an illustration of a supernova remnant in the large magellanic cloud:

Figure 10 from authors:  Q. Daniel Wang and Eric V. Gotthelf (1998)

some text from the paper with added emphasis and explanation:

"Such a relatively fast moving young pulsar [star leftover after a supernova explosion] can produce a strongly elongated pulsar wind bubble (Fig. 10). This bubble consists of several distinct regions. First, one may expect a bow shock running ahead of the pulsar, while the corresponding reverse shock terminates the free pulsar wind. The size of the region enclosed by this bow shock can be small, but the pressure can be large, depending on the ram pressure.

Enhanced synchrotron radiation can then make the region especially bright in the X-ray region. Second, accelerated by the pressure gradient between the bow shock and the ambient medium, the shocked wind materials, which are relativistically hot, naturally forms a supersonic jet inside a tunnel in the opposite direction of the pulsar's motion (Wang, Li, & Begelman 1993). Third, the jet likely shoots through the bubble and then induces another bow shock (or a series of oblique shocks) on the other side. Fourth, the terminated wind materials are forced back to the bubble, where most of the pulsar spin-down luminosity is dumped. Let us now examine this picture in a more quantitative way."


Friday, July 15, 2011

neptune's birthday

i missed posting about this in time, but july 12th was officially neptune's birthday, because it was exactly one neptunian year (164.79 earth years) since it was discovered in 1846.

here's the sixty symbols video about neptune, where i forget what its major moon is called and talk about beer :)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

women's world cup 2011

congratulations to the US national team who has made it to the finals of the women's world cup 2011 currently taking place in germany!! the finals will take place this sunday, july 17th, and see the US take on Japan for the world title! the quarter-final matches of the US vs brasil and france over england were some fantastic highlights so far!

in honor of the excitement of the tournament, i thought i'd share a couple old photos from my serious soccer-playing days, before i busted my knee and had to have ACL reconstruction surgery.

one year my team was lucky enough to go to a week-long training camp at the university of north carolina. throughout the week, various members of the tar heels and the US women's national team spent several training sessions with our team. we spent a whole day playing with, and hanging out with soccer icon mia hamm!! she has scored more international goals in her career than any other US soccer player, male or female.

Mia Hamm, me, i cant remember who he was - the assistant coach?

one of my distinct memories of that day was her excitement at seeing her brother, who visited us on the field. he died a few years later from complications related to aplastic anemia, which is the inspiration behind the mia hamm foundation.

another of the US national team's top all-time scorers is michelle akers. i have no idea really how my coach knew her, but she accepted his invitation to come visit us in ohio and play with us for several training sessions! during one of our scrimmages, i was her mark and i remember thinking she was very tall and incredibly muscular! haha.

Michelle Akers and me

oh man, how much i loved those hot pink shorts and the super cool we are the world t-shirt that i stole from my older sister!

so many of my memories from those times come from playing soccer with these girls and traveling around to tournaments. amazing(ly bad hair cuts!).

not a handball...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

the final shuttle has launched

arockalypse at flickr shares this wonderful photo of himself and his father at the first shuttle launch, STS-1, in 1981, and the final shuttle launch, STS-135, just a few days ago on July 8, 2011.

what wonderful moments to share!

reminds me of young me now me but with an incredible setting!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

JWST, hubble's successor, cut from US budget?!

Breaking news about hubble's successor telescope: the james webb space telescope (JWST).

today the US House Appropriations Committee released the fiscal year 2012 science appropriations bill, which will be voted on in subcommittee tomorrow. the main result affecting NASA and astronomy's future??

"The bill also terminates funding for the James Webb Space Telescope, which is billions of dollars over budget and plagued by poor management."

the over budget and poor management statements are true, but the solution is reorganization, not a total budget cut.  if you are so inclined to influence the issue, contact the people involved in tomorrow's vote!  also, i dont know what this means regarding the canadian space agency and ESA who are also partners in the project. anyone know what the payoff would be?

here are other statements from the press release:

"National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – NASA is funded at $16.8 billion in the bill, which is $1.6 billion below last year’s level and $1.9 billion below the President’s request. This funding includes:
  • $3.65 billion for Space Exploration which is $152 million below last year. This includes funding above the request for NASA to meet Congressionally mandated program deadlines for the newly authorized crew vehicle and launch system.
  • $4.1 billion for Space Operations which is $1.4 billion below last year’s level. The legislation will continue the closeout of the Space Shuttle program for a savings of $1 billion.
  • $4.5 billion for NASA Science programs, which is $431 million below last year’s level. The bill also terminates funding for the James Webb Space Telescope, which is billions of dollars over budget and plagued by poor management."

5 awesome things about JWST:

more resources:

american astronomical society (AAS) press release

why we need the JWST by julianne at cosmic variance

from risa at cosmic variance

phil plait from bad astronomy

US house committee press release

Nature News blog

Science Insider

ian o'neill at discovery news

the e-Astronomer

sarah kendrew

universe today

southern night sky

hope youre not tired of gorgeous timelapse videos yet, because this one from Alex Cherney captures just how gorgeous the southern night sky is. from the southern hemisphere, you look straight through the center of our galaxy, resulting in more structure across the sky, and you can also see the fuzzy patches of the nearby magallenic dwarf galaxies.

Ocean Sky from Alex Cherney on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

australian national astronomy meeting

i'm currently in adelaide attending the astronomical society of australia's annual scientific meeting. i was flatterend several months ago to be asked to give an invited talk at this meeting, which means i have 30 minutes to talk instead of the typical 15 minutes that most speakers get.

this talk has been in the back of my mind since i accepted the invitation. i was asked to talk about "galaxy evolution" and really wanted to give a broad background to the topic for the benefit of the diverse range of attendees, and also show some of my recent results over the last couple years, and since joining the australian astronomical community as a super science fellow.

i'm pleased to report that i'm proud with the how the talk was received and i think many of you might be amused to know that during the introduction... i put on my bright red "super science fellow" cape and thanked the australian government and the AAO for giving me such a fabulous title :) haha! i figured if i was going to do it, i should really go for it, so i even threw my fist in the air to strike a real super hero pose!! it was the first time that i received spontaneous applause while giving a professional astronomy talk!

since i didnt warn anyone i was going to perform such shenanigans, and since i took the cape off quickly as i wanted people to actually listen to my talk and take me seriously, i dont think anyone got a photo of the event :( oh well - what a thrill!

here are some other bits of news...

  • the decision as to where the SKA telescope will be built (australia or africa) will be made on 29 February 2012.
  • the 1000 groups that submitted proposals during the first call to use ALMA will hear back in september 2011.
  • yesterday at this meeting, sarah brough presented conclusions and realizations from the women in astronomy workshop to the ENTIRE AUSTRALIAN ASTRONOMY COMMUNITY! i think that is fantastic. 
  • there is a new forum for astronomy PhD students (and postdocs, etc... really) with the clever title: astroPhD
  • CAASTRO (ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics) will advertise 35 postdoc positions over the next couple years. they are organizing wide-field astronomical capabilities of next-generation telescopes and the HUGE data sets they will provide. CAASTRO has a noteworthy policy: they offer all positions with a part-time option to help support parenting and other real life situations. excellent!
  • the suburu telescope in hawaii is currently shut down after an unfortunate coolant leak occurred above the telescope, spilling coolant (ethylene glycol) on the primary mirror, other optics, and surrounding areas.

hopefully i'll get back into my regular blogging schedule soon, but if you want to read about the lastest astronomical developments, follow along on the twitter hashtag: #asa11