Courtesy NASA/ESA/Garth Illingworth (UCSC)/Rychard Bouwens (UCSC/Leiden University)/HUDF09 TeamThe Hubble Space Telescope has captured what astronomers are claiming is the oldest galaxy in the universe. Here's some of what NASA's Hubble website says about the discovery:
The farthest and one of the very earliest galaxies ever seen in the universe appears as a faint red blob in this ultra-deep–field exposure taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. This is the deepest infrared image taken of the universe. Based on the object's color, astronomers believe it is 13.2 billion light-years away.
The dim object is a compact galaxy of blue stars that existed 480 million years after the Big Bang, only four percent of the universe's current age. It is tiny and considered a building block of today's giant galaxies. Over one hundred such mini-galaxies would be needed to make up our Milky Way galaxy.
Think of that - the light from this object we're seeing now took 13.2 billion years to reach our eyes. That's mind-boggling. We're actually looking back in time. Anyway, the study which appears in the journal Nature, was led by Rychard Bouwens at the Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands, and Garth Illingworth, of the University of California, Santa Cruz. The tiny smudge of light will be further studied and confirmed when the infrared-optimized James Webb Space Telescope is up and running in 2014.
By the way, the Hubble Space Telescope is featured in one of five films at this year's Omnifest playing now through February 17th here at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Take it from me, the images in the film are quite spectacular and worth seeing.
According to the Aurora Alert mailing list, a solar event on Dec 14th may produce auroral displays (northern lights) starting around midnight tonight, Wednesday 12/15, and continuing Thursday 12/16 and possibly Friday 12/17. Your best bet for seeing the lights -- if they occur -- is to get away from the city, find a dark place with a clear view to the north, and look low on the horizon. Clouds will block your view, so if it's overcast, don't bother.
Now that's some boomin' bass.
New data from a French satellite launched to detect really low frequency waves--way deeper than the tune bumpin' from that Escalade next to you at the stop light--generated by the earth, saw some significant activity right before the Haitian earth quake, last January. While earthquake prediction is always going to be a difficult nut to crack, these sorts of satellite based measurements could be another useful tool in staying clear of shaky ground.
Courtesy EeekBig news from NASA today, y'all.
NASA scientists are holding a conference at 2:00 EST today, and I hate to spoil the surprise, but word on the street is that they've discovered life on the planet Earth. Ah... but it's not what you think—word is that they've discovered life that's really different from everything else here.
Last year, I posted about the theory that this sort of thing might exist, but it wasn't until now that it has actually been discovered. Here's the gist: bacteria living in the mud of weirdo Mono Lake have been found to use arsenic as a building block of their bodies. That may not sound like much, but, if it's true, it would mean that these bacteria are different than every other living thing on this planet. Everything else that lives on this planet is made of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. These creatures use arsenic instead of phosphorous.
Aside from being super cool and different, the discovery suggests that if life can exist in ways we didn't think was possible, it can exist in places we didn't think life was possible. Like other planets and moons in our own solar system.
More details after the conference, hopefully.
Courtesy European Space AgencyHere in Minnesota we live the land of political recounts. But in the world of astronomy, a recount on the density of the heavens is leading to the conclusion there might be three times as many stars in the sky than we have thought in the past. Just how many stars are there? You'll have to click this link to get that astronomically large number.
This past week on November 17th, the Leonid Meteor Shower sent meteors streaming down on Earth. "Shooting stars," or meteors, are actually bits of debris in space that burn up upon entering the earth's atmosphere at high speed. Technically, the meteors don't run into the Earth, the Earth runs into the meteors.
The trail of debris in space that the Earth encounters every November 17th was laid down by the comet Tempel-Tuttle. The comet orbits the sun and has made many orbits, laying down a trail of dust and debris on each pass. The comet was first recorded in the year 1366 and has an orbit period of 33 years.
This year was not a spectacular show. The peak, the time when earth passes though the densest part of the trail, only produced about 20 meteors per hour. There have been spectacular years when the Leonids produce meteor storms. These tend to occur every 33 years and there can be thousands of meteors per hour. The next storm probably won't be until around the year 2042.
This year, it was cloudy at my home so I "observed" the shower in a completely different way. I listened to it.
Let me explain.
The US Air Force runs the Space Surveillance Radar in Kickapoo, Texas. There's a lot of junk in space and when the government is flying multimillion dollar craft up there they want to keep them safe. Twenty-four hours a day the space radar puts out 800 kilowatts of continuous wave power at 216.98 Mhz. It sounds like a steady tone on a receiver. The primary mission is to monitor everything in orbit. It can detect objects as small as 10 centimeters orbiting at up to 30,000 km above earth. The radar works by having the signal bounce off objects and reflect the signal back to a number of listening stations.
During a meteor shower, meteors streak through the atmosphere and create a trail of ionized dust. The radio signal reflects off this trail and we can hear the signal of the radar change. Space Weather Radio, a private group, has a listening station set up by Stan Nelson on the roof of his house a couple hundred miles away in Roswell, NM. Space Weather Radio streams the signal over the web and you can listen in. During a meteor shower, you can recognize meteors by the sound.
I recoded for an hour and successfully heard the signature sound of meteors streaking through the atmosphere. For sure a cool experience on an otherwise cloudy night.
Voting irregularities, proper registration and showing identification at the polls have been growing concerns in recent elections. But here's a case where astronauts at the International Space Station today were able to cast their votes long distance. It makes for absolutely no excuse for those of us here on Earth not to cast our votes today.
Images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope show what NASA scientists claim is the aftermath of a collision of two asteroids. US and European scientists involved in the study say the collision probably took place in early 2009, and that the debris trail stretches out for hundreds of thousands of kilometers behind a 360 foot-wide chunk of remaining rock.
Courtesy Official White House Photo by Pete SouzaPresident Obama signed the NASA 2010 Authorization Act into law yesterday, giving approval for $58.4 billion to be spent on NASA programs over the next three years.
The details are yet to be ironed out, but we do know that the budget includes one more shuttle flight (meaning there are three now remaining (STS-133 (Discovery), November 1st, 2010; STS-134 (Endeavor) February 26, 2011; and the newly added STS-135 (Atlantis) likely in June 2011), the life of the International Space Station will be extended to at least 2020, and the development of a heavy-lift launch vehicle will start as early as 2011.
Courtesy Joel BonaseraCheck out this awesome gravity simulator (you'll need Flash and a decent processor). You can introduce objects of different mass and watch how their gravitational pull moves them through space. My personal favorite is the "proto disk" button. Protoplanetary disk theory is one explanation for planetary development, and you can investigate it on your own on the site. Once I have a complex system started, I like to throw a huge mass through and see how it wrecks the balance of forces. Just don't tell my psychologist.