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

 

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.

skeptv:

How Big Is The Universe?

Beakus were commissioned to create three animated films that explain key concepts about our universe, with humour helping to explain the ‘almost’ unexplainable! Director Amaël Isnard also designed the films.

In ‘How Big Is The Universe?’ ROG astronomer Liz shows us the expanding nature of the Universe and how this affects the light reaching us from distant galaxies, some of which will remain forever hidden from our view.

via Beakus.


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.”

spaceplasma:

 The Bolshoi Simulation

What if you could fly through the universe and see dark matter? While the technology for taking such a flight remains under development, the technology for visualizing such a flight has taken a grand leap forward with the completion of the Bolshoi Cosmological Simulation.
After 6 million CPU hours, the world’s seventh fastest supercomputer output many scientific novelties including the above flight simulation. Starting from the relatively smooth dark matter distribution of the early universe discerned from the microwave background and other large sky data sets, the Bolshoi tracked the universe’s evolution to the present epoch shown above, given the standard concordance cosmology. The bright spots in the simulation above are all knots of normally invisible dark matter, many of which contain normal galaxies. Long filaments and clusters of galaxies, all gravitationally dominated by dark matter, become evident.
Statistical comparison between the Bolshoi and current real sky maps of actual galaxies show good agreement. Although the Bolshoi simulation bolsters the existence of dark matter, many questions about our universe remain, including the composition of dark matter, the nature of dark energy, and how the first generation of stars and galaxies formed.
For more information about the Bolshoi Cosmological Simulation, click here.

Credit:  A. Klypin (NMSU), J. Primack (UCSC) et al., Chris Henze (NASA Ames), NASA’s Pleiades Supercomputer

spaceplasma:

The Bolshoi Simulation

What if you could fly through the universe and see dark matter? While the technology for taking such a flight remains under development, the technology for visualizing such a flight has taken a grand leap forward with the completion of the Bolshoi Cosmological Simulation.

After 6 million CPU hours, the world’s seventh fastest supercomputer output many scientific novelties including the above flight simulation. Starting from the relatively smooth dark matter distribution of the early universe discerned from the microwave background and other large sky data sets, the Bolshoi tracked the universe’s evolution to the present epoch shown above, given the standard concordance cosmology. The bright spots in the simulation above are all knots of normally invisible dark matter, many of which contain normal galaxies. Long filaments and clusters of galaxies, all gravitationally dominated by dark matter, become evident.

Statistical comparison between the Bolshoi and current real sky maps of actual galaxies show good agreement. Although the Bolshoi simulation bolsters the existence of dark matter, many questions about our universe remain, including the composition of dark matter, the nature of dark energy, and how the first generation of stars and galaxies formed.

  • For more information about the Bolshoi Cosmological Simulation, click here.

Credit: A. Klypin (NMSU), J. Primack (UCSC) et al., Chris Henze (NASA Ames), NASA’s Pleiades Supercomputer

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.

skeptv:

The Moon Battered by Impacts

Where did the moon come from? What is it made of? And what events created the distinctive pattern of light and dark on its surface? To find out, we have sent satellites out to crash onto its surface, astronauts to comb its craters and hillsides and collect rocks, and high-tech spacecraft to map its nooks and crannies.

A half-century of study has brought us closer to the answers. Many scientists now believe that the moon was born in a monumental collision between Earth and a Mars-sized body early in the history of the solar system, some 4.5 billion years ago.

From the remains of the impact, a giant ball of magma coalesced in Earth orbit. Gravity sculpted this hot mass into a sphere. In time, its surface cooled, forming a hard crust with magma just underneath.

Around 4.3 billion years ago, a giant impact battered the moon’s south pole, sending debris as far as the opposite side of the moon. The impact formed the Aitken basin. At roughly 2,500 kilometers in diameter and 13 kilometers deep, it is one of the largest known impact craters in the Solar System.

Its formation marked the beginning of a period of large-scale changes to the moon’s surface. Over several hundred million years, the lunar terrain was rocked by a succession of heavy impacts. Some formed large basins that would eventually fill in to become the dark colored patches of the moon known as maria.

These impacts punched enormous holes in the relatively thin lunar crust. Because the moon had not yet fully cooled on the inside, lava began to seep out through cracks opened up by the impacts.

Lava spread throughout the craters, gradually filling them in and cooling. Because of the high iron content of this lava, the mare regions reflect less light and therefore appear darker than the surrounding highlands. Around one billion years ago, volcanic activity ended on the near side of the moon as the last of the large impacts made their mark on the surface. The impacts did not cease, although they were much smaller than the ones that formed the largest basins.

Some of the largest and best-known impacts from this period formed the Tycho, Copernicus, and Aristarchus craters. They feature distinctive “rays” that stretch out from the crater sites, formed by material blasted out at the moment of impact.

Finally, after billions of years of relative quiet, we arrive at the moon we see today. Though its surface continues to be affected by impacts, the bombardment has slowed dramatically.

The features we now see on the Moon’s surface are a permanent record of its early history. Within them, too, we are finding clues to the evolution of Earth itself.

via Space Rip.


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

thenewenlightenmentage:

Scale of Universe Measured with 1-Percent Accuracy
An ultraprecise new galaxy map is shedding light on the properties of dark energy, the mysterious force thought to be responsible for the universe’s accelerating expansion.
A team of researchers working with the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) has determined the distances to galaxies more than 6 billion light-years away to within 1 percent accuracy — an unprecedented measurement.
Continue Reading

thenewenlightenmentage:

Scale of Universe Measured with 1-Percent Accuracy

An ultraprecise new galaxy map is shedding light on the properties of dark energy, the mysterious force thought to be responsible for the universe’s accelerating expansion.

A team of researchers working with the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) has determined the distances to galaxies more than 6 billion light-years away to within 1 percent accuracy — an unprecedented measurement.

Continue Reading

Hubble Reveals Cloudy Weather on Exoplanet GJ1214b

A team of scientists led by researchers in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago report they have definitively characterized the atmosphere of a super-Earth class planet orbiting another star for the first time.

thenewenlightenmentage:

Strange New Worlds: The Amazing Alien Planet Discoveries of 2013
While astronomers didn’t bag that elusive first “alien Earth” in 2013, they made plenty of exciting exoplanet discoveries during the past year.
Here’s a list of the top exoplanet finds of 2013, from a tiny world about the size of Earth’s moon to a blue gas giant on which it rains molten glass:
Continue Reading

thenewenlightenmentage:

Strange New Worlds: The Amazing Alien Planet Discoveries of 2013

While astronomers didn’t bag that elusive first “alien Earth” in 2013, they made plenty of exciting exoplanet discoveries during the past year.

Here’s a list of the top exoplanet finds of 2013, from a tiny world about the size of Earth’s moon to a blue gas giant on which it rains molten glass:

Continue Reading

jtotheizzoe:

NEW VIDEO!

Is Earth the only living needle in this haystack of planets?

We live in one of a hundred billion of galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of stars. And now, thanks to modern astronomy, we know that the Milky Way is home to perhaps a hundred billion planets! In the past two decades, these exoplanet discoveries have spawned new questions about our universe, and if there might be another Earth, or other life, somewhere out there.

In part one of my two-part series on exoplanets, we’ll look at how astronomers find exoplanets, and what it means to call them Earth-like. We also trace the history of planetary science back three thousand years and examine Earth’s changing status in the cosmos.

We were once the center of the universe, and now Earth is just another rock in the sky. What does that mean for us?

(Check out more It’s Okay To Be Smart on YouTube)

ohstarstuff:

This is a stunning look at NGC 772, aka Arp 78, as seen by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope at Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The galaxy is found within the constellation Aries, some 100 million light-years away from Earth. NGC 772 is over 100,000 light-years across and features a single prominent outer spiral arm that is likely due to gravitational tidal interactions. Faint streams of material seem to connect NGC 772 with its nearby companion galaxies.
Image Credit: Jean-Charles Cuillandre, CFHT and Giovanni Anselmi, Coelum Astronomia


What an incredible image! Every speck of light in the background is a whole other galaxy.

ohstarstuff:

This is a stunning look at NGC 772, aka Arp 78, as seen by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope at Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The galaxy is found within the constellation Aries, some 100 million light-years away from Earth. NGC 772 is over 100,000 light-years across and features a single prominent outer spiral arm that is likely due to gravitational tidal interactions. Faint streams of material seem to connect NGC 772 with its nearby companion galaxies.

Image Credit: Jean-Charles Cuillandre, CFHT and Giovanni Anselmi, Coelum Astronomia

What an incredible image! Every speck of light in the background is a whole other galaxy.