across a billion years

Webb 101: 10 Facts about the James Webb Space Telescope

Did you know…?

1. Our upcoming James Webb Space Telescope will act like a powerful time machine – because it will capture light that’s been traveling across space for as long as 13.5 billion years, when the first stars and galaxies were formed out of the darkness of the early universe.

2. Webb will be able to see infrared light. This is light that is just outside the visible spectrum, and just outside of what we can see with our human eyes.

3. Webb’s unprecedented sensitivity to infrared light will help astronomers to compare the faintest, earliest galaxies to today’s grand spirals and ellipticals, helping us to understand how galaxies assemble over billions of years.

Hubble’s infrared look at the Horsehead Nebula. Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team

4. Webb will be able to see right through and into massive clouds of dust that are opaque to visible-light observatories like the Hubble Space Telescope. Inside those clouds are where stars and planetary systems are born.

5. In addition to seeing things inside our own solar system, Webb will tell us more about the atmospheres of planets orbiting other stars, and perhaps even find the building blocks of life elsewhere in the universe.

Credit: Northrop Grumman

6. Webb will orbit the Sun a million miles away from Earth, at the place called the second Lagrange point. (L2 is four times further away than the moon!)

7. To preserve Webb’s heat sensitive vision, it has a ‘sunshield’ that’s the size of a tennis court; it gives the telescope the equivalent of SPF protection of 1 million! The sunshield also reduces the temperature between the hot and cold side of the spacecraft by almost 600 degrees Fahrenheit.

8.  Webb’s 18-segment primary mirror is over 6 times bigger in area than Hubble’s and will be ~100x more powerful. (How big is it? 6.5 meters in diameter.)

9.  Webb’s 18 primary mirror segments can each be individually adjusted to work as one massive mirror. They’re covered with a golf ball’s worth of gold, which optimizes them for reflecting infrared light (the coating is so thin that a human hair is 1,000 times thicker!).

10. Webb will be so sensitive, it could detect the heat signature of a bumblebee at the distance of the moon, and can see details the size of a US penny at the distance of about 40 km.

BONUS!  Over 1,200 scientists, engineers and technicians from 14 countries (and more than 27 U.S. states) have taken part in designing and building Webb. The entire project is a joint mission between NASA and the European and Canadian Space Agencies. The telescope part of the observatory was assembled in the world’s largest cleanroom at our Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

Webb is currently being tested at our Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston, TX.

Afterwards, the telescope will travel to Northrop Grumman to be mated with the spacecraft and undergo final testing. Once complete, Webb will be packed up and be transported via boat to its launch site in French Guiana, where a European Space Agency Ariane 5 rocket will take it into space.

Learn more about the James Webb Space Telescope HERE, or follow the mission on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.
—  Neil deGrasse Tyson
There’s a difference between hating the rich in general and hating the idle rich

I choose to hate the idle rich: those who use their gains and privilege for nothing by mindless self-indulgence. There are many people of wealth and means who do so much for their communities, for people across the globe. People like Bill and Melinda Gates who donate billions each year to humanitarian aid. And then there are people who are willing to blow thousands on music festivals that inconvenience people in poor foreign countries, or whose proceeds go to supporting agendas to take away human rights (I’m looking at you Coachella) that could go to something more worthwhile.

Was what happened at Fyre Festival unfortunate? Yes, without a doubt.

Am I thoroughly displeased with the unscrupulous business practices of Ja Rule and Billy McFarland? Of course, I expect every music promoter to follow through with promises and actually cancel a venue well in advance if it looks like an event is going to go south on them.

Do I feel bad for the majority of individuals complaining about it? Not on your life.

Am I going to enjoy a perhaps larger than is healthy dose of schadenfreude over a bunch of millionaires’ spoiled brats spending a miserable weekend in a tropical paradise without the brains or wherewithal to make the best of a bad situation in a beautiful location I will most likely never be able to afford to see in my lifetime? You bet your ass I will. 

Am I glad to hear that people are going to be getting a refund and assistance back to the mainland? Indubitably. Not everyone who purchased a ticket was a member of the idle rich. Some people just happened to be a little naive and just got caught up in the chance to experience a taste of luxury and be near their favorite pseudocelebrities that they try to live vicariously through on Instagram. Some people may have been spoiled rich kids, but there had to have been some actual decent human being there as well, and I’m glad they’ll be getting assistance in going home with a valuable lesson about not trusting a flashy salesman without suffering significant financial loss over it.

M13: A Great Globular Cluster of Stars : M13 is one of the most prominent and best known globular clusters. Visible with binoculars in the constellation of Hercules, M13 is frequently one of the first objects found by curious sky gazers seeking celestials wonders beyond normal human vision. M13 is a colossal home to over 100,000 stars, spans over 150 light years across, lies over 20,000 light years distant, and is over 12 billion years old. At the 1974 dedication of Arecibo Observatory, a radio message about Earth was sent in the direction of M13. The featured image in HDR, taken through a small telescope, spans an angular size just larger than a full Moon, whereas the inset image, taken by Hubble Space Telescope, zooms in on the central 0.04 degrees. via NASA


anonymous asked:

How do you combine science and religion? They're basically the opposite. I wish I could without feeling one is a lie.

Ahhhhhhh, nonny, nonny, nonny.

The answer is because, truly, nothing fuels my love for & faith in my religion more than science. And nothing keeps me motivated & driven to keep learning and working in science more than my religion.

I don’t try to analyse my Gods with the scientific method, the same way I don’t try to analyse my experience of being in love. Even if there is specific phenomenology one could identify, neurotransmitters being released, activity in parts of the brain, that’s not what those things are fundamentally about. Science does not hold all the answers to all the facets of the universe or life or the human condition. And a good scientist must always remember the limits of her theory and her experimentation.

But -

On Sunday night I watched David Attenborough’s Planet Earth II and had tears in my eyes at the infinite diversity and beauty of the natural world. Watching thunder clouds rolling over steppes and feeling filled up with love for Sif and Thor. Every sequence of predators chasing down prey resonating so deeply with the part of me that works with the Wild Hunt. And looking at every incredible living thing shown and knowing - that by the wonder of evolution - we are all cousins - all related - our ancestors are the same.

But everything I learn about molecular biology, the incredible, incomprehensible complexity of every cell in every living organism and how they interact - all hewn out of twenty amino acids, coded by four bases, all evolved from a single cell across billions of years - just increases my sense of awe and wonder and faith in the Gods. This is what they gave us.

As does the stunning beauty and elegance of the laws of physics. The wave equation. Dirac’s equation that knew more than he did. The energy-matter equivalence. Quantum-electro-dynamics, which is accurate to a degree equivalent to measuring the distance between New York and Los Angeles to within the breadth of a single hair. The fact that I can look up at the night sky and see light from millions of years ago. 

This is beauty, this is poetry, this is magic, this is where I find my Gods.

NASA’s Message-In-A-Bottle: The Interstellar Constellation

The picture above represents one of the most beautiful things we’ve ever done.

Here’s a short thought experiment and story:

Somewhere one day a person, who may or may not be somewhat like you, might be looking through their telescope.

They might see something strange, approaching the planet.

They contact the authorities.

A mission is conceived to rendezvous with the object.

Astronauts carefully seal the mysterious asteroid in a large container and bring it back to the planet for scientists to study.

The whole world would be tense, waiting for news to break of what this strange thing is.

Its enigmatic shape gives it away as almost certainly not being natural.

Finally a nervous person approaches the media and crowds outside the lab.

With a shaking hand the person wipes sweat from their brow. They look up briefly before speaking, as if half expecting something to be there.

The asteroid… is not from the solar system. It hurtled here at great speeds from a distant star.

It’s old. We’re not sure yet how old, but it’s clearly been a long time since it was home.

Inside the asteroid is a golden disc. We’ve managed to remove the disc. It has markings… and sounds etched into it.”

It was a little longer before the contents of the disc were deciphered. The scientists realized that the strange 14-branches of lines on the disc were binary. Yes or no. The simplest language in the universe, and a mathematical one.

A language that might be used to communicate with cosmic neighbors.

Across countless years and an unimaginable gulf of empty darkness, something was telling us, “Yes, yes, yes, no, no, yes, no, yes, no, yes, no, no, yes, yes, no, yes, yes, no…”

But yes to what? No to what?

The media exploded when an astronomer announced the binary series and the lengths of the branches corresponded exactly to the fingerprint-like beacons of 14 pulsars.

Around the world researchers mapped out where the center of the constellation should be, where the center of the 14 branches from their perspective night sky was.

They knew almost immediately but didn’t want to believe.

The star in the center of the constellation, the place where this message came from…

A news anchor looked into a camera, a somber look on their face:

“Astronomers have triangulated the location of the alien spacecraft. It came from a distant star which you can see in your telescopes. It’s the large red one.

It’s pretty to us but was a very different sort of star when this message was sent to us. Our space telescopes have confirmed that there’s a rocky planet in orbit around the star… there’s no atmosphere on it now as the star’s growth has boiled away any atmosphere there might have been.

Could those aliens still be alive somehow? Did they survive the incineration of their home?

As much as we ask these questions all we’ve got are the recordings they left on a sturdy golden record.

When played we hear strange sounds in an alien tongue. Deciphered, the recording reads,

“Hello, from the children of planet Earth…”

This story, believe it or not has already begun.

A few decades ago, NASA, working with Dr. Carl Sagan compiled a golden record to go aboard the Voyager spacecrafts. 

Voyager 1 launched from Earth in 1977. It left the solar system and entered interstellar space in 2013.

In 1 billion years, that golden record will still be readable and the sounds engraved thereon still readable.

NASA used the unique, lighthouse-like rhythms of specific pulsars to generate a map, a sort of interstellar constellation that, no matter where in the Milky Way you are, will always point to our Sun at the center.

It’s a beautiful message. For a billion years the sounds of children speaking across the universe will survive. For a billion years the sounds of a heartbeat of someone in love will be carried from star to star. 

That heartbeat, that love, will flow across the cosmos for a billion years.

For a billion years our interstellar message-in-a-bottle will drift among the current of starlight, perhaps until one day a person, who may or may not be somewhat like you, might look through their telescope and see a strange asteroid drifting towards their planet…

(Image credit: NASA)


The final frontier of the Frontier Fields

The NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope has peered across six billion light years of space to resolve extremely faint features of the galaxy cluster Abell 370 that have not been seen before. Imaged here in stunning detail, Abell 370 is part of the Frontier Fields programme which uses massive galaxy clusters to study the mysteries of dark matter and the very early Universe.

Six billion light-years away in the constellation Cetus (the Sea Monster), Abell 370 is made up of hundreds of galaxies [1]. Already in the mid-1980s higher-resolution images of the cluster showed that the giant luminous arc in the lower left of the image was not a curious structure within the cluster, but rather an astrophysical phenomenon: the gravitationally lensed image of a galaxy twice as far away as the cluster itself. Hubble helped show that this arc is composed of two distorted images of an ordinary spiral galaxy that just happens to lie behind the cluster.

Abell 370’s enormous gravitational influence warps the shape of spacetime around it, causing the light of background galaxies to spread out along multiple paths and appear both distorted and magnified. The effect can be seen as a series of streaks and arcs curving around the centre of the image. Massive galaxy clusters can therefore act like natural telescopes, giving astronomers a close-up view of the very distant galaxies behind the cluster — a glimpse of the Universe in its infancy, only a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.

This image of Abell 370 was captured as part of the Frontier Fields programme, which used a whopping 630 hours of Hubble observing time, over 560 orbits of the Earth. Six clusters of galaxies were imaged in exquisite detail, including Abell 370 which was the very last one to be finished. An earlier image of this object — using less observation time and therefore not recording such faint detail — was published in 2009.

During the cluster observations, Hubble also looked at six “parallel fields”, regions near the galaxy clusters which were imaged with the same exposure times as the clusters themselves. Each cluster and parallel field were imaged in infrared light by the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), and in visible light by the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS).

The Frontier Fields programme produced the deepest observations ever made of galaxy clusters and the magnified galaxies behind them. These observations are helping astronomers understand how stars and galaxies emerged out of the dark ages of the Universe, when space was dark, opaque, and filled with hydrogen.

Studying massive galaxy clusters like Abell 370 also helps with measuring the distribution of normal matter and dark matter within such clusters [heic1506]. By studying its lensing properties, astronomers have determined that Abell 370 contains two large, separate clumps of dark matter, contributing to the evidence that this massive galaxy cluster is actually the result of two smaller clusters merging together.

Now that the observations for the Frontier Fields programme are complete, astronomers can use the full dataset to explore the clusters, their gravitational lensing effects and the magnified galaxies from the early Universe in full detail.

[1] Galaxy clusters are the most massive structures in the Universe that are held together by gravity, generally thought to have formed when smaller groups of galaxies smashed into each other in ever-bigger cosmic collisions. Such clusters can contain up to 1000 galaxies, along with hot intergalactic gas that often shines brightly at X-ray wavelengths, all bound together primarily by the gravity of dark matter.

TOP IMAGE….With the final observation of the distant galaxy cluster Abell 370 — some five billion light-years away — the Frontier Fields program came to an end. Abell 370 is one of the very first galaxy clusters in which astronomers observed the phenomenon of gravitational lensing, the warping of spacetime by the cluster’s gravitational field that distorts the light from galaxies lying far behind it. This manifests as arcs and streaks in the picture, which are the stretched images of background galaxies. Credit: NASA, ESA/Hubble, HST Frontier Fields

CENTRE IMAGE….While one eye of Hubble was observing its main target, the massive galaxy cluster Abell 370, the second eye — another instrument — was looking at a part of the sky right next to the cluster. Although not as spectacular as the light-bending clusters, these parallel fields are as deep as the main images and can even compete with the famous Hubble Deep Field as regards depth. They are therefore a valuable tool for studying the evolution of galaxies from the early epochs of the Universe until today. Credit: NASA, ESA/Hubble, HST Frontier Fields

LOWER IMAGE….This image is a colour composite made from exposures from the Digitized Sky Survey 2 (DSS2). The field of view is approximately 2.2 x 2.2 degrees. Credit: NASA, ESA and Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgment: Davide De Martin.

BOTTOM IMAGE….This image of Abell 370 was released in 2009. Compared to the new image, which contains more observation time, less structures are visible and faint objects have disappeared — the new image has increased the depth of the image dramatically, clearly showing the benefit of additional observation time. A direct comparison between both images can be seen here. Credit: ESA/Hubble


The Big Bang Wasn’t The Beginning, After All

“The Universe began not with a whimper, but with a bang! At least, that’s what you’re commonly told: the Universe and everything in it came into existence at the moment of the Big Bang. Space, time, and all the matter and energy within began from a singular point, and then expanded and cooled, giving rise over billions of years to the atoms, stars, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies spread out across the billions of light years that make up our observable Universe. It’s a compelling, beautiful picture that explains so much of what we see, from the present large-scale structure of the Universe’s two trillion galaxies to the leftover glow of radiation permeating all of existence. Unfortunately, it’s also wrong, and scientists have known this for almost 40 years.”

Did the Universe begin with the Big Bang? When we discovered the cosmic microwave background, and its properties matched exactly the prediction of the Big Bang theory, it was a watershed moment for cosmology. For the first time, we had uncovered the origins to the entire Universe, having learned where all of this came from at long last. Emerging from a hot, dense, expanding, and cooling state, the matter-and-radiation-filled early Universe gave rise to everything we see today. Except there were a few pesky problems that the Big Bang couldn’t explain. If the Universe truly emerged from an arbitrarily hot, dense state, and if space and time themselves were born at that exact moment, the Universe would have signatures that we simply don’t see. Instead, theorists came up with an alternative beginning: cosmic inflation. Inflation made a bold prediction about the scale and magnitude of the fluctuations that should arise from this early state, and when our technology finally caught up to our imaginations, we measured them.

It turns out that the Universe didn’t begin from the Big Bang at all. It happened, but it wasn’t the beginning! Find out what came before, and how we know.

This Hubble Space Telescope view reveals thousands of galaxies stretching back into time across billions of light-years of space. The image covers a portion of a large galaxy census called the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS).

Besides the myriad of galaxies visible in this image, only 10 percent of the total number of galaxies in the universe are observable for the current generation of telescopes, according to a new analysis of the GOODS and other Hubble deep-field surveys. The study’s researchers concluded that at least 10 times more galaxies exist in the observable universe than previously thought.

According to the research, about 90 percent of galaxies in the observable universe are too faint and too far away to be seen with present-day telescopes.

Object Name: GOODS South

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: NASA, ESA, the GOODS Team, and M. Giavialisco (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

Time And Space

“Figure 2: Energy rate density, Φ m, for a wide spectrum of systems observed throughout Nature displays a clear increase across ~14 billion years, implying rising complexity throughout all known historical time. The solid blue curve in this “master plot,” graphed on the same temporal scale as in Figure 1, implies an exponential rise as cultural evolution (steepest slope at upper right) acts faster than biological evolution (moderate slope in middle part of curve), which in turn surpasses physical evolution (smallest slope at lower left). The shaded area includes a huge ensemble of Φ m values as many different individual types of complex systems continued changing and complexifying since their origin; the several small dashed blue lines within that shaded area delineate some major evolutionary events that are then graphed in greater detail in Figures 3–9. The Φ m values and historical dates plotted here are estimates for specific systems on the evolutionary path that led to humankind, namely, the Galaxy, Sun, and Earth, as well as much life all across our planet. As such, this particular graph is of the greatest relevance to big historians seeking to understand how human society emerged naturally over the course of all time.”

—Eric J. Chaisson, The Natural Science Underlying Big History, The Scientific World Journal, Volume 2014 (2014)

Starkquill Fic: Postcards From Space

616 fic but no incursions, Spider-Man is Peter and not Doc Ock. Based off a prompt from valerishka-s


Peter finds them first. He doesn’t mean to snoop, but MJ is at work and it’s not like he has anything else to do. Besides, it’s cool new technology Tony brought back from his space adventures. How could he not sneak a peek? 

The device looks nothing like the Starkphone Tony has given him, but Peter gets the impression that it’s meant to be similar. Despite its alien appearance, it’s familiar enough that he’s able to figure it out pretty quickly, and soon he’s exploring the contents. 

There isn’t much. Mostly pictures. They are all of incredible vistas out in space, and almost all of them have a caption attached. The pictures are so beautiful and, well, unearthly, that Peter is certain they must have been created in Photoshop. Either Tony used a picture he took while he was out in space with the Guardians of the Galaxy and then added to it, or else he just made the whole thing up. Whichever it is, the pictures are pretty amazing. 

The captions, though, are so cheesy that Peter can’t help wondering what Tony is thinking. He can get behind the idea of space postcards, some new money-making venture for Stark Resilient, maybe. But if that’s the case, Tony really needs to hire some new writers. 

Binary star system. Forever locked in orbit around each other. Like us.

Icy ringed planet, moon on the rise. Looks lonely. Makes me miss you.

Cloud with new stars forming. I like to imagine what you would say if you could see this.

Stopped a Badoon attack on a Spartoi colony today. You know how as a kid you think it would be fun for people to treat you like royalty? Trust me, it’s not. 

Keep reading

Alright, here’s today’s fic from my collection of one shots, written during the hiatus between 3x10 and 3x11. It’s always been one of my favorties, so I hope you all enjoy!



Jemma took deep breaths, struggling to imagine that she was breathing out her anxiety and breathing in calm, like May had told her to. It didn’t help.

In fact, her anxiety only seemed to skyrocket when she heard familiar voices, dulled by the glass separating her from them.

“I don’t know why we’re even – are you taking me to dinner?” The voice she’d had memorized for years had gone up a few octaves at the end, and Jemma pressed a hand to her mouth to hide her sudden grin.

“Not that you aren’t very pretty, mate, but I just don’t think you’re my type, yeah?”

Then, the door to the restaurant opened, and Fitz froze just inside as he caught sight of her, his hand falling away from the door and causing it nearly smack an irritated Hunter in the face.

“I got him here, Simmons, but don’t think you don’t owe me after having to listen to his constant complaining on the way here,” Hunter told her.

“Of course,” Jemma agreed, giving Hunter a grateful smile and a playful salute. Hunter rolled his eyes good-naturedly, returning the salute before leaving, heading back for the SUV they’d arrived in. Turning back to Fitz, who seemed to be staring at her in a mix of confusion and a longing he was clearly trying to hide, she cleared her throat and murmured, “Hello Fitz.”

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Trillions and Trillions

As far as astronomers know, this universe of ours is nearly 14 billion years old and 93 billion light-years across. Only objects closer than between 10 to 12 billion light-years distant will ever be visible due to the expansion of the universe.

Recently, a new survey upped the believed galactic population from around 100 billion to TWO TRILLION.

Top: NGC 1365
    Credit: Jason Jennings
Bottom: Hubble Deep Field added to the background of NGC 1365
    Credit: NASA/ESA

The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.
—  Neil deGrasse Tyson

Diamond Star

In 2004, astronomers discovered a star composed entirely of diamond, measuring 4,000 km across and 10 billion trillion trillion carats. 50 light years from Earth, the diamond star is classified as a crystallized white dwarf, the hot core that remains after a star burns out. Only recently have scientists been able to study the contents of the white dwarf, and they’ve confirmed that the crystallized carbon interior of the star is, in fact, the galaxy’s largest diamond.


Tattoo design and work by Jessica Cooke, Old Crow Tattoo, Oakland CA.

Galaxies referenced: R136, M17 (Omega Nebula stellar nursery), “Pillars of Creation” (Eagle Nebula).

Quote is Neil DeGrasse Tyson, riffing on Carl Sagan: “The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.”  

This is a (pre)memorial tattoo for my father, started after he had a third stroke last year. i find the idea that he will not be lost, that his components will be carried forward, immensely comforting.


Galaxies Found Close Together Show Signs Of Impending Doom

“Known as compact groups, these collections are surprisingly numerous, and were first catalogued explicitly by astronomer Paul Hickson in 1982. A combination of spirals and ellipticals, many galaxies within these groups contain irregular shapes and unusually high rates of electromagnetic emissions. This is due to gravitational interactions between gas within the galaxies, which triggers star formation, infrared and radio emission and can even turn on a central black hole.”

With hundreds of billions of galaxies in an observable Universe nearly 100 billion light years across, it should come as no surprise that most galaxies are separated by millions of light years from their next-nearest neighbor. Yet even outside of dense galaxy clusters, large numbers of three or more galaxies all grouped together are found to exist. First catalogued explicitly by Paul Hickson in 1982, these compact groups of galaxies tell an oft-ignored story of our cosmic history: how individual galaxies are brought together in the abyss of space by gravitation, forming stars and even activating central black holes. Most of the compact groups catalogued are in the process of merging into a single, giant galaxy.

Come get the whole story in a slew of amazing pictures and no more than 200 words on today’s Mostly Mute Monday!