Friday, August 30, 2013

dirty space news: merging galaxy clusters

at a distance of 3.4 billion light years lives a very excited system known as the bullet cluster.  the image below shows the cluster - lots of galaxies speckled throughout, two clumps of hot x-ray gas shown in red, and two separate regions of blue that represent dark matter.

the bullet cluster: interacting galaxy clusters (credit: link)

the bullet cluster is actually two separate galaxy clusters, caught in the act of intergalactic intercourse - they are merging together to become one.   the separation of the two red and two blue clumps is evidence that the clusters have just slammed together.

when the clusters pass through each other the first time, the gas between the galaxies kinda slams together, heats up to very high X-ray temperatures and slows down to stay more centrally concentrated. the dark matter does not heat up due to this thermodynamic friction and instead passes through more easily without as much slowing.   so the red and blue blotches are separated.

a team in germany decided to use computer models to simulate this process and guess what they found? thats right - dirty space news!

Credit: bullet cluster simulations (pdf)
they took two clusters of galaxies and allowed them to come together, checking the effects when using clusters of different size ratios.

in the image above, you can see a map of how the hot gas spreads during the encounter.  the authors point out that "a top-down inclination of the plane of the encounter ... does not produce drastic changes in the morphology of the bow shock or of the edge of the bullet."  this has not been my own experience, but to be fair, my work is not yet published.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

banana print

seeing this image reminded me that i have a tag for bananas on this blog.

also, i want a banana print dress!

Photo Credit: The Sartorialist
let's hope i never forget the bananas tag again.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

astronomy bootcamp for journalists

i just heard about this astronomy bootcamp for journalists, to be held in october in cambridge, massachusetts, USA.   

"In a two-day intensive workshop for journalists, top scientists from MIT, Harvard and other institutions will explain the latest of what is known at all scales—from a primordial soup bubbling with universes, to the vast structure of our own, to galaxies, to stars and solar systems, and finally to the planets and moons. We’ll hear about the first moments the universe existed and see instruments scientists are using to explore further. "

the array of professional astronomers who will be speaker is impressive!  the program looks great and there is some financial assistance available, so register by august 30th if youre interested!  

Sunday, August 25, 2013


while trying to put together a costume this weekend, i discovered that i own not one cape, but THREE!?!  i'm not sure how i acquired the third, but the other two have proven to be quite useful.

artwork by william wray.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Monday, August 19, 2013

the innovation of loneliness

shimi cohen asks what the connection is between social media and loneliness in this insightful and kind of sad animated short.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

penguin galaxy

doesnt it look like a penguin?   or a hummingbird with sunglasses?

Credit: NASA, ESA and the Heritage Hubble Team (STScI/AURA)
the galaxy is actually called NGC 2936 and has been warped into that shape by the gravitational tug of the smooth little yellow galaxy nearby, called NGC 2937.   together, they are known as Arp 142, the name given to the interacting galaxy pair by the first person to identify them, halton arp in the 1960s.

the system is about 326 million light years away.  the dark red-looking streaks are dust lanes that are blocking the light from the stars behind them.   they actually absorb energy from that starlight and as a result, glow in the infrared.  the bright blue bits are all regions glowing hot from very new stars forming as a result of the interaction of these two galaxies.

interestingly, at the bottom right of the penguin, you can see lots of tiny little galaxies which look very red and live far off in the distant universe.

there are SO MANY galaxies out there in the universe!!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

identify that light in the sky

here is an entertaining and useful guide to identifying lights that you might see in the sky.

Credit: link

Monday, August 12, 2013

bad astronomer under southern skies

i saw this lovely astronomy image collage on elise andrew's twitter feed this week and thought you might like it too.

Credit: link
elise is the founder of the fantastic "i fucking love science" facebook group, and is hosting an "IFLS live" event in sydney tonight.  the event features a pretty amazing array of special guests, including the bad astronomer, phil plait, who i was lucky enough to hang out with over the weekend.

trouble makers making trouble
we spent some time enjoying the views from sydney observatory.

sydney's harbour bridge and opera house from observatory hill
the southern cross over phil plait
i think phil was searching for special southern hemishere dirty space news in the night sky above the crescent moon and very bright venus.

phil plate admiring the southern skies

you can listen to some of our visit , as it was captured in the skeptic zone podcast #251 by richard saunders.

richard saunders recording phil plait while observing with this 16'' telescope
looking forward to the event tonight and will hopefully post something here about it afterwards!   you can follow me on twitter for updates, or the #IFLSlive hashtag.

Credit: link

Saturday, August 10, 2013

it can wait

if you drive a car, you should watch this 30 minute documentary by werner hertzog called from one second to the next.  it's a haunting look at 4 stories of drivers who were texting while driving.  please remember, it can wait.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Monday, August 5, 2013

astrophotography in 2013

the royal observatory greenwich released the contenders for the astronomy photographer of the year awards.    so sit back and enjoy some gratuitously gorgeous shots of our universe, as seen from planet earth.

Milky Way over Yosemite Valley (Credit: Rogelio Bernal Andreo)

The Jurassic Coast (Credit: Stephen Banks)
Eta Carina and Her Keyhole (Credit: Michael Sidonio)

Hunter's Moon over the Alps (Credit: Stefano De Rosa)

Leaning In (Credit: Anna Walls)
enjoy more photos HERE.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

curiosity's first year on mars

yes, it has been a whole year since the curiosity rover landed on mars.  do you remember where you were at the moment...?   ... during the minutes when we all collectively thought "wow, i can't believe the skycrane landing maneuver actually worked!?!"

happy 1st landiversary, curiosity!

to celebrate the occasion, nasa made a video showing curiosity's activities since landing: twelve months in two minutes.    enjoy!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

jupiter layer cake

i'm slightly experimental with my baking and cooking, but this jupiter structural layer cake requires some serious skills and experience.   the layers are not to scale, but wow wow wow - look at the icing and the round layers inside.   so impressive!!   

Jupiter Structural Layer Cake: outside (Credit: CakeCrumbs)

Jupiter Structural Layer Cake: inside (Credit: CakeCrumbs)

the main feature most people recognize on jupiter's surface is the giant red storm - a hurricane twice the size of the earth!

Jupiter Structural Layer Cake: outside (Credit: CakeCrumbs)

the oddity of jupiter is its interior.   the giant planet has no solid surface on which one could stand and watch the stars.  instead, about 90% of the planet's atoms are hydrogen.  in the outer regions, the hydrogen is a transparent gas, like on earth, but then conditions change as you go deeper inside.

the pressure starts to increase as you go farther down towards the center, and the increased pressure makes the gas more dense, until it becomes "liquid metallic hydrogen" - a state of hydrogen not produced naturally on earth.

there is probably a rocky core at the very center of jupiter, but actually, we really dont know.

Jupiter Structural Layer Cake: inside (Credit: CakeCrumbs)

we'll know more about the biggest planet in our solar system, jupiter, soon(ish), when the spacecraft called juno reaches its destination in 2+ years.  the SWRI mission webpage has a cool animation of how we think our solar system and jupiter formed.  stay tuned!