Hubble Spies Cosmic Dust Bunnies

Like dust bunnies that lurk in corners and under beds, surprisingly complex loops and blobs of cosmic dust lie hidden in the giant elliptical galaxy NGC 1316. This image made from data obtained with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope reveals the dust lanes and star clusters of this giant galaxy that give evidence that it was formed from a past merger of two gas-rich galaxies.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)
Source: http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/opo0511a/

Most astrophysicists accept the probability of life elsewhere. The reasoning is easy: if our solar system is not unusual, then there are so many planets in the universe that, for example, they outnumber the sum of all the sounds and words ever uttered by every human who has ever lived. To declare that Earth must be the only planet with life in the universe would be inexcusably bigheaded of us.
—  Neil deGrasse Tyson
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Overcoming the Fingers of God

"Hubble’s Law gives a very good approximation for distances on average, particularly on large scales. But Hubble’s law doesn’t account for all of an object’s redshift. There’s also the very minor issue (that’s sarcasm) of all the other matter in the Universe, and the gravitational effects it’s had on each and every galaxy it’s had time to interact with over the past 13.8 billion years.
Matter has this annoying property that it clumps and clusters together, and that’s because gravitational attraction causes it to move. Don’t get me wrong, this is great for lots of things, but it’s not great when you’re trying to figure out how distant an object truly is when all you measure is its motion!”

God not only plays dice with the Universe, he also gives us fingers and pancakes. The latter two, at least, we can overcome!

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 2015 March 26

Orion Spring

As spring comes to planet Earth’s northern hemisphere, familiar winter constellation Orion sets in early evening skies and budding trees frame the Hunter’s stars. The yellowish hue of cool red supergiant Alpha Orionis, the great star Betelgeuse, mingles with the branches at the top of this colorful skyscape. Orion’s alpha star is joined on the far right by Alpha Tauri. Also known as Aldebaran and also a giant star cooler than the Sun, it shines with a yellow light at the head of Taurus, the Bull. Contrasting blue supergiant Rigel, Beta Orionis, is Orion’s other dominant star though, and marks the Hunter’s foot below center. Of course, the sword of Orion hangs from the Hunter’s three blue belt stars near picture center, but the middle star in the sword is not a star at all. A slightly fuzzy pinkish glow hints at its true nature, a nearby stellar nursery visible to the unaided eye known as the Orion Nebula.

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Best of 2014!

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Still not satisfied? Relive the previous year in science!

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The Shape of the Universe that Sends Chills Down your Spine

According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, gravity and energy effect the shape of space.

You can imagine this by looking at gravity not as a ‘force’ but as a downwards indentation in space. If you take a towel and have it pulled flat then drop a bowling ball in the middle, the area around the bowling ball will have been pressed down. The Moon orbiting Earth is just following a straight trajectory around this downward curvature of space.

Energy does the opposite of gravity. It makes a positive curvature.

When you look at the big picture, you’ve got a universe whose overall shape is dictated by whether or not it’s got an overall positive, negative or zero amount of energy.

We know, thanks to measuring the gravity of regular matter, dark matter and the strange anti-gravitational force called ‘dark energy’, that we can make an equation with energy on one side and gravity on the other.

This equation will tell us the shape of the universe.

A negative answer means our universe is shaped like a saddle. A positive one means our universe is shaped like a globe (closed). An answer of zero means the universe has flat geometry.

Want the mysterious part?

Scientists have found that the universe is somehow, shockingly *perfectly tuned*. The measured amount of dark energy combined with the average density of matter is approximately zero. Our universe is flat.

With a flat universe, a universe with a net total of zero energy, we have a case of an entire universe being created out of nothing.

Somehow the matter and gravitational energies that otherwise cancelled each other out in a state of ‘zero-ness’ were separated. Our universe may have in fact been created out of nothing.

It gets more odd. If you were to add (which we can’t) a single gram of matter (just one gram) it totally changes the entire shape of the universe. Our universe would be a closed one that would end in a ‘Big Crunch’ where all things collapse and fall into a singularity: a perfect opposite of the Big Bang.

Scientists don’t like it when things seem to be fine tuned. It usually means we’re missing something. This means that our universe is many times more incredible and mysterious than you may have ever imagined before…

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Wonderful. Chromoscope:

Ever wanted X-ray specs or super-human vision? Chromoscope lets you explore our Galaxy (the Milky Way) and the distant Universe in a range of wavelengths from gamma-rays to the longest radio waves.

From top to down:

Quick Tour of Chromoscope

Big Bang May Have Created a Mirror Universe Where Time Runs Backwards

By Tim De Chant

Why does time seem to move forward? It’s a riddle that’s puzzled physicists for well over a century, and they’ve come up with numerous theories to explain time’s arrow. The latest, though, suggests that while time moves forward in our universe, it may run backwards in another, mirror universe that was created on the “other side” of the Big Bang.

Two leading theories propose to explain the direction of time by way of the relatively uniform conditions of the Big Bang. At the very start, what is now the universe was homogeneously hot, so much so that matter didn’t really exist. It was all just a superheated soup. But as the universe expanded and cooled, stars, galaxies, planets, and other celestial bodies formed, birthing the universe’s irregular structure and raising its entropy.

Continue Reading

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NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 2015 January 28

Comet Lovejoy in a Winter Sky

Which of these night sky icons can you find in this beautiful and deep exposure of the northern winter sky? Skylights include the stars in Orion’s belt, the Orion Nebula, the Pleiades star cluster, the bright stars Betelgeuse and Rigel, the California Nebula, Barnard’s Loop, and Comet Lovejoy. The belt stars of Orion are nearly vertical in the central line between the horizon and the image center, with the lowest belt star obscured by the red glowing Flame Nebula. To the belt’s left is the red arc of Barnard’s Loop followed by the bright orange star Betelgeuse, while to the belt’s right is the colorful Orion Nebula followed by the bright blue star Rigel. The blue cluster of bright stars near the top center is the Pleiades, and the red nebula to its left is the California nebula. The bright orange dot above the image center is the star Aldebaran, while the green object with the long tail to its right is Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy). The featured image was taken about two weeks ago near Palau village in Spain.

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The 5 Massive New Telescopes That Will Change Astronomy Forever

The biggest building boom in the history of astronomy is upon us. In Chile and Hawaii and in space, astronomers are getting powerful telescopes that dwarf the current state-of-the-art instruments. When the mountain blasting and the mirror polishing are all done, we will have the clearest and most detailed views of outer space ever.

This boom has long been in the works for years, as billion-dollar telescopes don’t just fund and plan themselves.Now, these telescopes are starting to break ground. “If it all plays out as expected and budgeted,” writes Dennis Overbye in the New York Times, “astronomers of the 2020s will be swimming in petabytes of data streaming from space and the ground.” Let’s take a closer took at what these billion-dollar telescopes can do for astronomy in the decades to come.

Read all about these 5 amazing telescopes at Gizmodo