Chronicling the follies of religion and superstition, the virtues of skepticism, and the wonders of the real (natural) universe as revealed by science. Plus other interesting and educational stuff.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

But if the universe were only 6,500 years old, how could we see the light of anything more distant than the Crab Nebula? We couldn’t. There wouldn’t have been enough time for the light to get to Earth from anywhere farther away than 6,500 light years in any direction. That’s just enough time for light to travel a tiny portion of our Milky Way Galaxy… To believe in a universe as young as 6 or 7 thousand years old, is to extinguish the light of most of the galaxy.

Cosmos w/ Neil deGrasse Tyson

From Wired.com

A stunning 360-degree mosaic of images shot by Nasa contains more than half of the stars in the Milky Way. The images have been captured by the Spitzer Space Telescope as part of Nasa’s GLIMPSE360 project — or to give it its full title, Galactic Legacy Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire. It’s a big name alright, but a project of this magnitude does justify it at least.

The panoramas have been stitched together from more than two million photos that have been captured using infrared light over the course of ten years. As you might expect, the use of infrared light allowed the Spitzer to illuminate and capture much more of the galaxy than can be seen simply by using natural light. Visible light is frequently blocked out by a dust that infrared light can easily penetrate. Stars and other objects emit infrared light, which is then picked up by the Spitzer’s detectors.

The stars that we can see are around 1,000 light-years away, but the panoramic photo captured by Spitzer shows stars that are 100,000 light-years away. The blue stars in the image are quite close to us, whereas the red patches are “dusty areas of star formation”. The blue haze in the image is starlight from mature stars thats are packed so tightly together that they cannot be individually identified.

The Spitzer launched in 2003 from Cape Canaveral and is the fourth and final project of the Nasa Great Observatories program. Originally it was thought that the mission life of the telescope would be two and a half years, which could possibly be extended to five. Most of the instruments on board are no longer usable as the telescope’s liquid helium supply has been exhausted. However some of the wavelength modules on the infrared camera are still operable and in use as part of the Spitzer Warm Mission.

From Wired.com

A stunning 360-degree mosaic of images shot by Nasa contains more than half of the stars in the Milky Way. The images have been captured by the Spitzer Space Telescope as part of Nasa’s GLIMPSE360 project — or to give it its full title, Galactic Legacy Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire. It’s a big name alright, but a project of this magnitude does justify it at least.

The panoramas have been stitched together from more than two million photos that have been captured using infrared light over the course of ten years. As you might expect, the use of infrared light allowed the Spitzer to illuminate and capture much more of the galaxy than can be seen simply by using natural light. Visible light is frequently blocked out by a dust that infrared light can easily penetrate. Stars and other objects emit infrared light, which is then picked up by the Spitzer’s detectors.

The stars that we can see are around 1,000 light-years away, but the panoramic photo captured by Spitzer shows stars that are 100,000 light-years away. The blue stars in the image are quite close to us, whereas the red patches are “dusty areas of star formation”. The blue haze in the image is starlight from mature stars thats are packed so tightly together that they cannot be individually identified.

The Spitzer launched in 2003 from Cape Canaveral and is the fourth and final project of the Nasa Great Observatories program. Originally it was thought that the mission life of the telescope would be two and a half years, which could possibly be extended to five. Most of the instruments on board are no longer usable as the telescope’s liquid helium supply has been exhausted. However some of the wavelength modules on the infrared camera are still operable and in use as part of the Spitzer Warm Mission.

jtotheizzoe:

If the moon were only 1 pixel on your screen, how big would the rest of the solar system be?
Just click this link, I beg you, and prepare to have your mind blown.
Absolutely amazing. Fantastic work by designer Josh Worth.
For a a different look at the problem of cosmic distance, check out my video “How Big is the Solar System?”:

And for lots more fun ways to look at the scale of the universe maybe watch this one called (naturally) "The Scale of the Universe":

jtotheizzoe:

If the moon were only 1 pixel on your screen, how big would the rest of the solar system be?

Just click this link, I beg you, and prepare to have your mind blown.

Absolutely amazing. Fantastic work by designer Josh Worth.

For a a different look at the problem of cosmic distance, check out my video “How Big is the Solar System?”:

And for lots more fun ways to look at the scale of the universe maybe watch this one called (naturally) "The Scale of the Universe":

The Universe From 10 Billion Lightyears

This picture is arguable one of Herschel’s most profound images. If you are tired of seeing the same old sky day after day, take some time to gaze at this beauty. It is sure to give you a different perspective. Similar to the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field, in this image, every speck of light is an entire galaxy, each containing billions of stars billions of light-years away.

In this photo, the telescope shows us the very distant universe. It is the cosmos as it existed some 10 billion years ago (meaning that the light from these glittering beacons took 10 billion light-years to get here). In other words, these tiny specks are extremely young galaxies that appeared shortly after the Big Bang. But of course, keep in mind that “young” is a relative term, but applicable when talking about a universe that is some 14 billion years old.

One of Herschel’s primary mission objectives was to resolve the hazy background seen in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field image – that is where this picture comes in. This resolution helps scientists to peel back the curtain on the early universe and answer important questions. The problem with looking at galaxies that are so young and so distant is that, at this epoch in the universe’s history, galaxies were rather close together. To understand the problem, consider the following:

Our Galaxy, the Milky Way, exists as a part of a large supercluster that is centered about 60 million light-years away. And of course, we aren’t the only supercluster in the universe. There are others. Many others. Yet, the closest neighboring supercluster of galaxies is an astounding around 300 million light-years away (it would take us billions and billions of years to get there using modern technology).  However, for comparison, 10 billion years ago, galaxies were only 20 to 30 million light-years apart on average. That makes them rather difficult to image accurately because it is hard to differentiate one from the other.

Herschel used SPIRE, one of its wide field mapping instruments, to take these images. You’re looking at an area covering about 15 square degrees, which is about 60 times the apparent size of the full moon. Professor Asantha Cooray, of the University of California, commented on the significance of this image, stating, “Thanks to the superb resolution and sensitivity of the SPIRE instrument on Herschel, we managed to map in detail the spatial distribution of massively starforming galaxies in the early universe. All indications are that these galaxies are busy. They are crashing, merging, and possibly settling down at centers of large dark matter halos.”

The Universe From 10 Billion Lightyears

This picture is arguable one of Herschel’s most profound images. If you are tired of seeing the same old sky day after day, take some time to gaze at this beauty. It is sure to give you a different perspective. Similar to the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field, in this image, every speck of light is an entire galaxy, each containing billions of stars billions of light-years away.

In this photo, the telescope shows us the very distant universe. It is the cosmos as it existed some 10 billion years ago (meaning that the light from these glittering beacons took 10 billion light-years to get here). In other words, these tiny specks are extremely young galaxies that appeared shortly after the Big Bang. But of course, keep in mind that “young” is a relative term, but applicable when talking about a universe that is some 14 billion years old.

One of Herschel’s primary mission objectives was to resolve the hazy background seen in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field image – that is where this picture comes in. This resolution helps scientists to peel back the curtain on the early universe and answer important questions. The problem with looking at galaxies that are so young and so distant is that, at this epoch in the universe’s history, galaxies were rather close together. To understand the problem, consider the following:

Our Galaxy, the Milky Way, exists as a part of a large supercluster that is centered about 60 million light-years away. And of course, we aren’t the only supercluster in the universe. There are others. Many others. Yet, the closest neighboring supercluster of galaxies is an astounding around 300 million light-years away (it would take us billions and billions of years to get there using modern technology). However, for comparison, 10 billion years ago, galaxies were only 20 to 30 million light-years apart on average. That makes them rather difficult to image accurately because it is hard to differentiate one from the other.

Herschel used SPIRE, one of its wide field mapping instruments, to take these images. You’re looking at an area covering about 15 square degrees, which is about 60 times the apparent size of the full moon. Professor Asantha Cooray, of the University of California, commented on the significance of this image, stating, “Thanks to the superb resolution and sensitivity of the SPIRE instrument on Herschel, we managed to map in detail the spatial distribution of massively starforming galaxies in the early universe. All indications are that these galaxies are busy. They are crashing, merging, and possibly settling down at centers of large dark matter halos.”

txchnologist:

Revolutionary Telescope Gets Green Light

An 82-foot telescope boasting ten times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope has successfully passed design reviews and is ready to be constructed.

The Giant Magellan Telescope will use a light-collecting mirror surface more than six times the area of current instruments to hunt for distant, potentially habitable planets and let astronomers time travel back to a billion years after the Big Bang.

Read More

Yes.

mothernaturenetwork:

Space dust is filled with building blocks of lifeGrit from rare space rocks may be filled with the tiny seeds of life, but sensitive techniques are needed to extract the proof of these cosmic seeds.

mothernaturenetwork:

Space dust is filled with building blocks of life
Grit from rare space rocks may be filled with the tiny seeds of life, but sensitive techniques are needed to extract the proof of these cosmic seeds.

Scientists Discover Water in Stardust and It Suggests We're Not Alone

The water forms within dust grains when they’re bombarded with charged winds from the sun. The chemical reaction set up by the winds was hypothesized by scientists in the past, but this is the first time anyone’s actually found H2O trapped inside real stardust.

The finding saw John Bradley, from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, take a very close look indeed at the outer layers of interplanetary dust particles that were found in the Earth’s stratosphere. Incredibly high-resolution microscopy revealed tiny pockets of water in the already-tiny specks of dust—each of which themselves measured less than 25-micrometres, half the width of a human hair. New Scientist explains how the water forms:

"The dust is mostly made of silicates, which contains oxygen. As it travels through space, it encounters the solar wind. This stream of charged particles including high-energy hydrogen ions is ejected from the sun’s atmosphere. When the two collide, hydrogen and oxygen combine to make water."

Roll the new finding together with the fact that there are plenty of organic compounds in interplanetary dust, and the suggestion is, as New Scientist points out, that stardust contains all the basic ingredients needed for life like that on our planet. Because it’s believed that similar stardust grains exists in solar systems throughout the universe, the finding bodes well for the existence of life elsewhere. In other words, we’re almost certainly not alone. [PNAS via New Scientist]

It’s likely the universe extends forever in space and will go on forever in time. Our results are consistent with an infinite universe.

New measurements from the BOSS study tell us the shape and size of our universe to within one percent accuracy. Turns out, it’s essentially flat, and probably infinite.  (via brookhavenlab)

No edge, like a BOSS

(via jtotheizzoe)

thenewenlightenmentage:

"The Unexplored Planet" —NASA’s Fastest Spaceship on Approach to Pluto
One of the fastest spacecraft ever built — NASA’s New Horizons — is hurtling through the void at nearly one million miles per day. Launched in 2006, it has been in flight longer than some missions last, and it is nearing its destination: Pluto.
“There is a real possibility that New Horizons will discover new moons and rings as well,” says Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute and the mission’s principal investigator. Already, Pluto has five known moons: Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra. Numerical simulations show that meteoroids striking those satellites could send debris into orbit, forming a ring system that waxes and wanes over time in response to changes in bombardment. “We’re flying into the unknown,” says Stern, “and there is no telling what we might find. The encounter begins next January,” adds Stern. “We’re less than a year away.”
Continue Reading

thenewenlightenmentage:

"The Unexplored Planet" —NASA’s Fastest Spaceship on Approach to Pluto

One of the fastest spacecraft ever built — NASA’s New Horizons — is hurtling through the void at nearly one million miles per day. Launched in 2006, it has been in flight longer than some missions last, and it is nearing its destination: Pluto.

“There is a real possibility that New Horizons will discover new moons and rings as well,” says Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute and the mission’s principal investigator. Already, Pluto has five known moons: Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra. Numerical simulations show that meteoroids striking those satellites could send debris into orbit, forming a ring system that waxes and wanes over time in response to changes in bombardment. “We’re flying into the unknown,” says Stern, “and there is no telling what we might find. The encounter begins next January,” adds Stern. “We’re less than a year away.”

Continue Reading