Galactic Clumping

A galactic group or "clump" in the Fornax cluster of galaxies. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A galactic group or “clump” in the Fornax cluster of galaxies. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

I subscribed to the theory that black holes in the centers of galaxies, the supermassive ones were all surrounded by a torus and it was how the galactic plane was angled toward us that made them appear different. NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) casts a shadow doubt on this so-called unified theory of active supermassive black holes:

From the Wise site:

Active, supermassive black holes at the hearts of galaxies tend to fall into two categories: those that are hidden by dust, and those that are exposed. Data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, have shown that galaxies with hidden supermassive black holes tend to clump together in space more than the galaxies with exposed, or unobscured, black holes.

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Closer to the Big Bang?

Those whom subscribe to the idea of cosmic inflation theory of the Big Bang are a little closer having the idea confirmed. The Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarisation — BICEP2 — experiment at the South Pole has spotted the footprints of something called primordial gravitational waves.

The “instruments” used to detect the primordial gravity waves are both huge and exquisitely precise.

Other stuff:

Apparently I didn’t miss too much not being able to see the Camelopardalis meteor shower due to rain. Oh well it goes like that sometimes.

video form ESA Eronews.

New Crater on Mars

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter using the MARCI, the Mars Color Imager used as a weather monitoring camera took an image of a new crater on Mars. The crater, first appeared in March 2012 was caused by an air-bursting meteor. Intense pressures caused by friction with the thin Martian atmosphere caused the meteor to explode before it impacted the ground. We see that happen on Earth too. An example is the the Russian meteor last year in Chelyabinsk.


See a Double Star!

While you are out tonight or early tomorrow morning enjoying (or at least looking for) the Camelopardalis meteor shower — you ARE going to look right? — you can see a double star too maybe even at the same time.

The stars, Mizar and Alcor are in the constellation Ursa Major (also The Big Dipper or The Plough). The picture below will help you get your bearings. In the “handle” of the “dipper” the second star is named Mizar. Mizer has a partner  called Alcor. I’ve heard stories the pair was used to as a vision test, if you could resolve the pair you had “normal” eyes. Maybe you have good eyes and can see both, I’ve not had that experience, skies were darker not so many years ago too and that had to help. Still it’s right there get your eyes dark adapted (no lights for about 15 minutes should do it) and have a look.

Note:  The Mizar and Alcor pair are much more than a pair.  Mizar is really part of a four-star system and Alcor is part of another binary system and apparently all are gravitationally bound.  A sextuple system!

Better yet if you have even a small pair of binoculars, take a look at that star and you will see the pair. Click the image to see them resolved.

Ursa Major and Mizar.  Stellarium

Ursa Major and Mizar. Stellarium

Also notice how the end two stars making the “dipper” part sort of point to the star labeled Polaris. Polaris is of course the “North Star. The meteor shower should emanate from the constellation Camelopardalis which is between Polaris and your northern horizon early on. Normally we think of stars moving from East to West, but the stars in Camelopardalis, being “below” Polaris will rotate to the East as the night goes on.

Here’s a picture to help. I would imagine if the meteor shower is anything at all you will find the radiant pretty easily if you just look north.

The radiant for the Camelopardalis meteor shower.

The radiant for the Camelopardalis meteor shower.

But what to do if is cloudy? All is not lost, turns out the forecast for me is rain, naturally. I’ll be watching on SLOOH if nothing else.

Camelopardalis Meteor Shower

Don’t forget about this new meteor shower on Friday night. Hoping for clear skies on Friday overnight into Saturday, I’ll have a link to Slooh just in case.

Quick hints: Likely best viewed in the early Saturday morning hours and basically look north, if the shower occurs you should see it (assuming you have good skies of course).


Making a Giant Galaxy

A galactic merger. Image credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/UC Irvine/STScI/Keck/NRAO/SAO

A galactic merger. Image credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/UC Irvine/STScI/Keck/NRAO/SAO

Merging two galaxies to create a new huge galaxy and making new stars in the process. Another great collaborative effort. Maybe this will be what happens to the Milky Way and Andromeda many millions of years from now.

The story from NASA (source):

Several telescopes have teamed up to discover a rare and massive merging of two galaxies that took place when the universe was just 3 billion years old (its current age is about 14 billion years). The galaxies, collectively called HXMM01, are churning out the equivalent of 2,000 suns a year.

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Colorful Flare

A solar flare photographed in different wavelengths of light by the SDO. Image Credit: NASA/SDO

We had a bit of an aurora last night, it was nice to see. The Boulder K index was 6 for a while.

This was all thanks to an X-class flare which was imaged by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The flare took place at 12:25 UTC (24 February, 19:25 EST).

The SDO took images in different wavelengths and you can see the result. Larger versions of the image can be found at this NASA page.

Watch the video!

And if you missed the aurora don’t worry more will happen, I saw this one by accident myself, thanks to the dog. LOL.

Compact Solar System Found

The compact solar system.  Click for larger. Credit: DLR

The compact solar system. Click for larger. Credit: DLR

A very interesting system too. A group of astrophysicists have found a small solar system of seven planets around a sun-like star 2,700 light-years away in the direction of Draco.

The press release doesn’t talk too much about the star KOI-351; it is just a little bigger than our sun in terms of mass (sun * 1.13), and in radius (sun * 1.2). It’s a a little warmer too at just over 5900 K.

The outermost planet which is close to being as far from its sun as we are from ours. That’s the outermost. Instead of an Earth-sized planet this one Kepler-90 h is 11.3 times the radius of Earth. Don’t know what the density is, but being that big I would expect the atmosphere to contain more in the way of hydrogen, helium and methane than ours.

The really cool, but hot planets are the inner most. The inner two are both larger than Earth and speed around KOI-351 in 7 days for the inner most and 9 days for the next one out. By the time we get to the third planet we are nearly the same orbital time as Mercury.

Read the press release here.

ISON Survives

ISON comes around the sun. ©ESA/NASA/SOHO

ISON comes around the sun. ©ESA/NASA/SOHO via SpaceRef

An update to yesterday’s post when I was unsure of whether ISON actually did survive and apparently it did although it could be in pieces. Glad I didn’t jump on the ISON is dead bandwagon the one newscast had running around — no wonder I don’t listen to that one network.

Hope to have a look at it soon, naturally there is a hill in the way though so it might be a few days from here. Time for a short road trip to get around the hill in question.

Thank goodness for my little Meade ETX scope, I can toss it in the car an go. Looking for a Christmas gift? The smaller Meade’s (and probably Celestron) are priced reasonably. A pair of image stabilizing binoculars would be a great gift too, best thing about them is the fact you can use them anytime. I heard once the best scope is the one you use the most and there is much truth in that. I would stay away from the department store “telescopes” though, and notice I’m not going to admonish you to NOT buy one, just if possible get something from a company that knows something about quality optics. If a sales pitch involves telling you how powerful the product is, consider that a red-flag. Concern yourself with optical quality first.

There, before I really get going, back to the original point of the post. Here’s a press release from the Max Planck Institute:

The unusual shape of the comet’s tail permits conclusions about yesterday’s encounter with the sun November 29, 2013

At the time of its closest approach to the sun, comet ISON still had an active nucleus which was spewing gas and dust. This is the assessment made by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg- Lindau. They are currently analyzing actual pictures of the instrument LASCO which enjoys a unique view of the comet from its vantage point on board of the Solar Observatory SOHO. From the assessments, it is not clear whether the nucleus still exists or whether it partially fragmented on its fiery swing around the sun.
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