Astronomers Set a New Galaxy Distance Record

Astronomers continue to peer toward the beginning of time as observations confirmed the most distant galaxy currently measured. Using the combined data from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes along with the Keck Observatory, a team of astronomers led by Yale and U. of California found a luminous galaxy that appears to be only 100 million years old. The galaxy is so far away that the light we receive left the galaxy over 13 billion years ago, and it is just arriving now.

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Gravitational distortions caused by a Black Hole in front of the Large Magellanic Cloud.

Nine Facts about Black Holes

1. The gravitational pull of a Black Hole can greatly slow down Time itself, according to Relativity. If you could take a spaceship to a Black Hole, Orbit around it for awhile, and then fly back to Earth, you would have successfully traveled to the Future.

2. Some equations suggest that every Black Hole contains a Universe - which would mean our Universe is inside a Black Hole right now.

3. While Black Holes are most definitely Real, they have theoretical opposites called White Holes, which would endlessly spew Matter into the Universe. They were thought to be purely hypothetical, but an unusual Gamma Ray burst observed in 2006 is turning out to be a potential candidate for a real-life White Hole.

4. Supermassive Black Holes likely exist at the Centers of most Galaxies. And since Galaxies sometimes collide, that means Black Holes do too, and when that happens, it’s thought that one Black Hole ‘kicks’ the other out of the Galaxy.

5. Black Holes are Black because their Gravity is so strong that not even Light can escape. But they do emit Radiation, usually called Hawking Radiation, after Stephen Hawking, who first theorized its Existence.

6. The Milky Way has a Supermassive Black Hole in its Center, and it seems to have exploded about 2 million years ago in an event known as a Seyfert Flare. The Radiation from the Black Hole would have been 100 million times more powerful than it is now; the Explosion may have even been visible from Earth.

7. Black Holes can emit Material at nearly the Speed of Light. Using an array of radio Telescopes, a team of scientists looked at a Galaxy 1.5 billion light-years from Earth and found a Black Hole doing just that. The jet is so Powerful that it’s blowing Gas right out of the Galaxy.

8. Black Holes are the densest Objects in Existence. If you made a Black Hole with the Mass of the entire Earth, the Black Hole would be 9 millimeters across.

9. Black Holes can form when Stars collapse in on themselves after Death. They keep growing by eating the Dust and Gas around them. No one’s really sure how the biggest ones, called Supermassive Black Holes, are born.

Solar Dynamics Observatory Sees ‘Cinco de Mayo’ Solar Flare.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured these images of a significant solar flare – as seen in the bright flash on the left – peaking at 6:11 p.m. EDT on May 5, 2015.

Each image shows a different wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light that highlights a different temperature of material on the sun. By comparing different images, scientists can better understand the movement of solar matter and energy during a flare.From left to right, the wavelengths are: visible light, 171 angstroms, 304 angstroms, 193 angstroms and 131 angstroms. Each wavelength has been colorized.

Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however – when intense enough – they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. 

This flare is classified as an X2.7-class flare. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, and so on.

Image Credit: NASA/SDO/Wiessinger

(Source: http://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/solar-dynamics-observatory-sees-cinco-de-mayo-solar-flare/)

On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space.

While NASA has been sending American astronauts into space for over half a century, it all began with one - Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. An American test pilot, Shepard was selected as one of the first seven astronauts by the then newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Coined the ‘Mercury 7’, NASA’s first batch of carefully selected and trained individuals were to pilot the manned spaceflights of the Mercury program. In January 1961, Alan Shepard was selected from this group to pilot the Freedom 7 mission which would make him not only the first American in space, but the first human to reach this threshold.

Unfortunately, due to delays by unplanned preparatory work, the flight was postponed nearly seven months after the initial planned date. In this time, more specifically less than a month prior to Shepard’s flight, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin would leapfrog Shepard to become the first person in space and to orbit the Earth. On May 5, 1961, Shepard piloted the Freedom 7 mission and became the second person, and the first American, to travel into space.

Following his involvement with Mercury and Gemini, Shepard would command America’s third successful lunar landing mission - Apollo 14. The first mission to successfully broadcast color television pictures from the surface of the Moon, Shepard piloted the Lunar Module Antares to the most accurate landing of the entire Apollo program.

Celebrate the career of Alan Shepard by telling Congress to increase NASA’s budget: http://www.penny4nasa.org/take-action/

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NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 2015 May 6

Summer Triangles over Japan

Have you ever seen the Summer Triangle? The bright stars Vega, Deneb, and Altair form a large triangle on the sky that can be seen rising in the early northern early spring during the morning and rising in the northern fall during the evening. During summer months, the triangle can be found nearly overhead near midnight. Featured here, the Summer Triangle asterism was captured last month from Gunma, Japan. In the foreground, sporting a triangular shape of its own, is a flowering 500 year old cherry tree, standing about 15 meters tall. The triangular shape of the asterism is only evident from the direction of Earth – in actuality the stars are thousands of light years apart in space.

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I got to ask Astronaut Scott Kelly of the International Space Station a question about microbiomes! 

I honestly don’t know how we expect to survive in space if we are never exposed to the all of the complicated microbial environments we encounter every single day. We owe our healthy immune systems to well-balanced microbiomes gained from the food we eat and the places we go, and all of the people and plants and environments we encounter along the way.

So what if we attempt to remove ourselves from the natural world and into an area without dirt to play in as children, trees to climb, dogs to lick our faces? Do you have any thoughts?

NASA's Chandra Suggests Black Holes Gorging at Excessive Rates

Boston MA (SPX) May 05, 2015
A group of unusual giant black holes may be consuming excessive amounts of matter, according to a new study using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. This finding may help astronomers understand how the largest black holes were able to grow so rapidly in the early Universe. Astronomers have known for some time that supermassive black holes - with masses ranging from millions to billions of t
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