great observatories

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


NASA has selected a science mission that will measure emissions from the interstellar medium, which is the cosmic material found between stars. This data will help scientists determine the life cycle of interstellar gas in our Milky Way galaxy, witness the formation and destruction of star-forming clouds, and understand the dynamics and gas flow in the vicinity of the center of our galaxy.

The Galactic/Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory (GUSTO) mission, led by principal investigator of the University of Arizona, Christopher Walker, will fly an ultralong-duration balloon (ULDB) carrying a telescope with carbon, oxygen and nitrogen emission line detectors. This unique combination of data will provide the spectral and spatial resolution information needed for Walker and his team to untangle the complexities of the interstellar medium, and map out large sections of the plane of our Milky Way galaxy and the nearby galaxy known as the Large Magellanic Cloud.

“GUSTO will provide the first complete study of all phases of the stellar life cycle, from the formation of molecular clouds, through star birth and evolution, to the formation of gas clouds and the re-initiation of the cycle,” said Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director in the Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “NASA has a great history of launching observatories in the Astrophysics Explorers Program with new and unique observational capabilities. GUSTO continues that tradition.”

The mission is targeted for launch in 2021 from McMurdo, Antarctica, and is expected to stay in the air between 100 to 170 days, depending on weather conditions. It will cost approximately $40 million, including the balloon launch funding and the cost of post-launch operations and data analysis.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, is providing the mission operations, and the balloon platform where the instruments are mounted, known as the gondola. The University of Arizona in Tucson will provide the GUSTO telescope and instrument, which will incorporate detector technologies from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Arizona State University in Tempe, and SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research.

NASA’s Astrophysics Explorers Program requested proposals for mission of opportunity investigations in September 2014. A panel of NASA and other scientists and engineers reviewed two mission of opportunity concept studies selected from the eight proposals submitted at that time, and NASA has determined that GUSTO has the best potential for excellent science return with a feasible development plan.

Mayan History (Part 51): Chichén Itzá

Chichén Itzá is situated on the Yucatán Peninsula.

Chichén Itzá was founded by the mid-400’s, on a flat site near two large cenotes. The city’s history is divided into two parts, although there is some overlap.

The first part is about 750-900 AD, or perhaps 800-1000.  The buildings from this time are of the distinctive Puuc style architectural style, and they have Mayan hieroglyphs.

The second part is 1000-1200 AD.  Buildings from this time show influence of the Toltecs, whose capital Tula was 1000km to the north.  It is possible that the Toltecs conquered Chichén Itzá as they expanded their empire; or it may have been because of cultural/economic contact & sharing.

Common features of Chichén Itzá & Tula include warrior columns, quetzal-feathered rattlesnakes, clothing styles of the subjects, the chac mools, atlantids, the representation of certain animals, Tlaloc (the rain god), a tzompantli (sacrificial skull rack), incense burners, and certain personal names represented by glyphs which are in both cities, but which are not Maya.

Temple of the Warriors - strong Toltec influence.

Columns at Temple of the Warriors.

From 1200 AD onwards, Chichén Itzá fell into a decline, and Mayapan became the new capital in the region.  But it wasn’t fully abandoned: ordinary people continued to live there, and the city remained a place of ancestry & pilgrimage, even after the Spanish invasion.

The Great Ballcourt.

El Caracol (the observatory).

A lot of galaxies need guarding!

Much like the eclectic group of space rebels in the upcoming film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has some amazing superpowers, specifically when it comes to observing innumerable galaxies flung across time and space.

A stunning example is a galaxy cluster called Abell 370 that contains an astounding assortment of several hundred galaxies tied together by the mutual pull of gravity. That’s a lot of galaxies to be guarding, and just in this one cluster!

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Mostly Mute Monday: NASA’s Greatest Observatories View The Galactic Center 

“What we find inside is a tumultuous region of dense stars, the gas blown off from recent stellar deaths, the neutral atoms that will collapse to form new stars, and a myriad of intense, high-energy sources that correspond to neutron stars and black holes. Perhaps most spectacularly, there’s a four million solar mass black hole at our galaxy’s center, illuminated uniquely… by each of the three great observatories. By combining the data from all of them, we get a unique look at the astrophysical signatures emitted by the closest supermassive black hole to us in the Universe.”

Sure, the Hubble Space Telescope gives us unparalleled views of our Universe. We can even use it – with its near-infrared camera, NICMOS – to view the very center of our galaxy, something completely blocked by dust in visible light. But part of the incredible power of Hubble relies not on anything to do with the spacecraft or the instruments itself, but rather on the fact that Hubble is only one part of NASA’s great observatories program. Combined with Spitzer (mid-and-far IR) and Chandra (X-ray) data, the astrophysics of this truly remarkable region is revealed in unprecedented detail.

Happy 15 years Chandra!! 

Fifteen years ago, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory was launched into space on board the Space Shuttle Columbia. Deployed on July 23, 1999, Chandra has changed our understanding of the Universe through unprecedented X-ray images. 

Chandra joins the ranks of NASA’s current “Great Observatories” along side the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope. Chandra is specifically engineered to collect X-ray emissions from hot, energetic regions of our Universe. Thanks to its high sensitivity and resolution, Chandra is able to observe objects like close planets and comets to the most distant quasars. It has provided us with stunning images of supernova remnants, regions around supermassive black holes (including the one at the heart of our Milky Way) and has led to the discovery of new black holes all across the cosmos. 

In addition, Chandra has advanced our knowledge of dark matter, by highlighting the separation of dark matter from normal matter in various galaxy clusters. 

In honor of Chandra’s 15 years of hard work, four new images have been released. These are not new objects but new images showing them in greater detail. Stay tuned for future articles on each of these amazing images. You can see all four represented above. Starting at the top left and going clockwise we can see the Crab Nebula, then G292.0+1.8, then Tycho and at the bottom we have 3C58. These four supernova remnants are examples of what remains when a star dies. The resulting remnants are very hot and energetic, thus they glow very brightly in X-ray light, allowing them to be seen by Chandra.

“Chandra changed the way we do astronomy. It showed that precision observation of the X-rays from cosmic sources is critical to understanding what is going on,” said Paul Hertz, NASA’s Astrophysics Division director in Washington. “We’re fortunate we’ve had 15 years – so far – to use Chandra to advance our understanding of stars, galaxies, black holes, dark energy, and the origin of the elements necessary for life.”

Chandra’s name was selected as a result of a global contest. Participants submitted names along with an essay explaining why the name should be chosen. The contest winners were determined by the essays as many people submitted the same names. Named for the late Indian-American Nobel laureate, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, the name Chandra means “moon” or “luminous” in sanskrit - quite fitting for the telescope. 

In order to provide us with the images we see, Chandra orbits the Earth at an altitude of 86,500 mi (139,00 km). This allows for the telescope to make long observations without having to worry about Earth’s shadow. Chandra was the largest satellite ever launched by the shuttle. 

“We are thrilled at how well Chandra continues to perform,” said Belinda Wilkes, director of the Chandra X-ray Center (CXC) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “The science and operations teams work very hard to ensure that Chandra delivers its astounding results, just as it has for the past decade and a half. We are looking forward to more ground-breaking science over the next decade and beyond.”

In the beginning stages of development, Chandra was referred to as the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF) and as the very first telescope proposed to NASA back in 1976. After fifteen years of stunning imagery, what do we have to look forward to? Can Chandra help us discover new objects in the universe? Most likely Chandra will allow us to look deeper into objects, like the Crab Nebula, and discover more about supernova remnants. While Chandra may not necessarily help us discover new objects, it will be able to increase our understanding of current objects by leaps and bounds. We look forward to 15 more years!

“Chandra continues to be one of the most successful missions that NASA has ever flown as measured against any metric – cost, schedule, technical success and, most of all, scientific discoveries,” said Martin Weisskopf, Chandra Project Scientist at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. “It has been a privilege to work on developing and maintaining this scientific powerhouse, and we look forward to many years to come.”

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra’s science and flight operations. 

Image & Source Credit: NASA/Chandra


Mostly Mute Monday: The Milky Way’s Most Recent Supernova

“In 1947, a radio source towards the center of our galaxy was discovered: the strongest outside of the Solar System, Cassiopeia A. What caused it? A supernova dating back to the 17th century — the most recent one in our galaxy — with a massive black hole left behind.”

Located in the plane of our Milky Way galaxy, the light was obscured for skywatchers on Earth, but thanks to a suite of great, space-based observatories (Hubble, Spitzer, and Chandra), we’ve been able to piece together exactly what occurred. Not only that, but observations of a “light-echo,” or reflected light off of the nearby gas, has allowed us to see the light from this explosion centuries later, and learn exactly how it happened.

Sombrero Galaxy M104
Credit: X-ray: NASA/UMass/Q.D.Wang et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI/AURA/Hubble Heritage; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. AZ/R.Kennicutt/SINGS Team

The Sombrero, also known as M104, is one of the largest galaxies in the nearby Virgo cluster, about 28 million light years from Earth. This Great Observatories view of the famous Sombrero galaxy was made using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope.

anonymous asked:

What do you mean, when you nod your head yes but you wanna say no, what do you mean. Narry

3.5k of angsty canon compliance

“I’m in LA now,” Niall tells Harry, twirling the phone cord around his finger. He’s in some hole-in-the-wall podunk diner just this side of Hermosa Beach. The lads are sat around the table with an ice-cold pitcher of margaritas sweating onto the wooden tabletop and in the kitchen, their orders of fajitas and nachos sizzle on the grill. Niall can smell onions and peppers and cheese and, because he’s talking to Harry, a whiff of Harry’s vanilla candles. 

It’s weird and Niall’s never told anyone because he’s never told anyone that Harry kissed him once and sometimes they kiss now but it’s not a regular thing and even if it was, it wouldn’t work, and. Anyway. The point is, when Niall thinks of Harry he smells vanilla and it’s nauseating now, because he thought he’d outgrown that. 

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Astronomers Push The Limits Of Hubble

“These surveys were instrumental in determining that the Universe becomes reionized and transparent to visible light about 550 million years after the Big Bang, and that star formation reaches a maximum about 2.5 billion years later. Since then, even as new galaxies and stars form, the total number of new stars steadily declines.”

If you could gather 250 million times as much light as your eye, and improve your resolution by several orders of magnitude, you just might be able to see what the Hubble Space Telescope can. By extending down into the near-infrared, and combining those observations with that from other great observatories like Chandra and Spitzer, we can probe the star-formation history of the Universe.

Thanks to NASA’s GOODS and CANDELS programs, we’ve been able to determine when the Universe becomes reionized, when star formation peaks and how it declines up through the present day. Go read the whole piece in no more than 200 words and a glorious set of pictures on today’s Mostly Mute Monday!