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.

As physicist Neil Turok explains in this clip, it’s incredible to think that we as a species have the ability to understand nature on a scale 1 billionth the size of an atom. While at the same time, we are able to understand how the universe works on a scale 10 trillion times the size of the solar system.

He goes on to explain that through science, we have amazing capacities to understand nature. In this process, we advance our society and pave the way for the future of our planet.

(Video credit: NASA/Hubble Monkey nebula animation, Music by Tony Anderson)

The Orion Nebula

This magnificent image from NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes shows the Orion Nebula in an explosion of infrared, ultraviolet, and visible-light colors. It was ‘painted’ by hundreds of baby stars on a canvas of gas and dust, with intense ultraviolet light and strong stellar winds as brushes. At the heart of the nebula, in the brightest part of the image, is a group of four monstrously massive stars, collectively called the Trapezium. Located 1,500 light-years from Earth, the Orion Nebula is the brightest point in the sword of the Hunter constellation.

Full scale version can be found here

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/)

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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?

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Watch The First Flight Test Of SpaceX’s Next Generation Spacecraft

SpaceX successfully completed the first flight test of the company’s first human-rated spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to the International Space Station.

SpaceX performed a pad abort test of the company’s Dragon V2 spacecraft on Wednesday, May 6, when it lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The pad abort test was intended to evaluate the spacecraft’s launch escape system, which is supposed to carry astronauts to safety in the event of a rocket failure.

Learn more and watch it here: http://www.penny4nasa.org/2015/05/06/watch-spacex-dragon-spacecraft-completes-first-flight-test/

(From NASA): We captured possible ‘screams’ from zombie stars! Peering into the heart of the Milky Way galaxy, our Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) has spotted a mysterious glow of high-energy X-rays that, according to scientists, could be the “howls” of dead stars as they feed on stellar companions. The center of our Milky Way galaxy is bustling with young and old stars, smaller black holes and other varieties of stellar corpses - all swarming around a supermassive black hole called Sagittarius A*. Astronomers have four potential theories to explain the baffling X-ray glow, three of which involve different classes of stellar corpses. When stars die, they don’t always go quietly into the night. Unlike stars like our sun, collapsed dead stars that belong to stellar pairs, or binaries, can siphon matter from their companions. This zombie-like “feeding” process differs depending on the nature of the normal star, but the result may be an eruption of X-rays., NASA/NuSTAR