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Galaxy Over the Dome by Neil Creek
Via Flickr:
A 380 megapixel panorama of the Milky Way Galaxy rising over the dome at Mount Burnett Observatory. I was there late one night recently, shooting the stars, when my telescope battery died. So I thought I’d try and capture an image I’ve had in my head for a while. This took me all day to process!

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Airglow waves. Do you you think our night sky is pitch black ? Have a look at this timelapse video. I captured it at Carnegie Las Campamas observatory. Those red waves are not clouds (!) - this is pretty intense airglow, which takes place in upper atmosphere. It’s very interesting to see how the waves move. While camera pans you will notice on the foreground both 6.5-m Magellan telescopes, as well as nicely setting Milky Way. I hope you’ll enjoy the view ! :) Music: “Airglow” by © Club 220

10 “Out of This World" Facts About the James Webb Space Telescope

Wouldn’t it be neat to see a period of the universe’s history that we’ve never seen before? That’s exactly what the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will be able to do…plus more!

Specifically, Webb will see the first objects that formed as the universe cooled down after the Big Bang. We don’t know exactly when the universe made the first stars and galaxies – or how for that matter. That is what we are building Webb to help answer.

Here are 10 awesome facts about this next generation space telescope:

1. The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s largest and next premier space observatory. It will extend the discoveries of the Hubble Space telescope and observe the birthplaces of stars, galaxies, planets and life over billions of years.

2. It is named after James Webb, NASA’s second administrator and champion of our science.

3. At 3 stories high and the size of a tennis court, it will be 100 times more powerful than Hubble!

4. It is so big that it has to fold origami-style to fit in the rocket, which is only 5.4 meters wide…And then it will unfurl, segment by segment, once in space.

5. The telescope will observe infrared light with unprecedented sensitivity. It will see the first galaxies born after the Big Bang over 13.5 billion years ago.

6. Webb’s infrared cameras are so sensitive they must be shielded from light from the sun, Earth, and moon. The 5-layer sunshield is like having sunblock of SPF 1 million.

7. Webb will orbit the sun 1 million miles from Earth, where the telescope will operate at temperatures below -390 F (-235 C).

8. Webb’s mirrors are coated with a super thin layer of gold only about 1000 atoms thick to optimize their reflectivity in the infrared.

9. Webb will launch from French Guiana in 2018. It is launched near the equator because the faster spin of Earth there gives the rocket an extra push.

10. Webb is an international mission, with contributions from the European Space Agency and Canadian Space Agency. Once operational, scientists from all over the world will be able to use Webb to explore our solar system, planets outside our solar system, stars and galaxies.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

In the winter of 1995, scientists pointed the Hubble Telescope at an area of the sky near the Big Dipper, a spot that was dark and out of the way of light pollution from surrounding stars. The location was apparently empty, and the whole endeavor was risky. What, if anything, was going to show up? Over ten consecutive days, the telescope took close to 150 hours of exposure of that same area. And what came back was nothing short of spectacular: an image of over 1,500 distinct galaxies glimmering in a tiny sliver of the universe. 

Now, let’s take a step back to understand the scale of this image. If you were to take a ballpoint pen and hold it at arm’s length in front of the night sky, focusing on its very tip, that is what the Hubble Telescope captured in its first Deep Field image. In other words, those 3,000 galaxies were seen in just a tiny speck of the universe, approximately one two-millionth of the night sky.

So the next time you stand gazing up at the night sky, take a moment to think about the enormity of what is beyond your vision, out in the dark spaces between the stars.

From the TED-Ed Lesson How small are we in the scale of the universe? - Alex Hofeldt

Animation by Yukai Du

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February 15th 1564: Galileo Galilei born

On this day in 1564, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei was born near Pisa. As a young man, Galileo began studying medicine at the University of Pisa, but later changed to philosophy and mathematics. He left university before graduation due to financial difficulties, but went on to have a successful academic career. Galileo became interested in astronomy around the time of the invention of the telescope, and soon developed his own. He proved a talented astronomer, discovering mountains and valleys on the moon, four of Jupiter’s moons, and the phases of Venus. Galileo’s success did not go unnoticed, and he was appointed court mathematician in Florence. However, Galileo was accused of heresy for supporting the Copernican theory that the sun, not the Earth, was at the centre of the solar system. The Church turned against Galileo, and in 1632 he was summoned to the Inquisition in Rome. After a long trial, and with the threat of torture hanging over him, Galileo recanted his support for Copernican theory. The Inquisition found him guilty and sentenced him to life imprisonment, which was commuted to permanent house arrest. Galileo continued to research and write until his death in January 1642 aged 77. The Church officially dropped its opposition to heliocentrism in 1835, and Galileo has since been redeemed and acknowledged as the great scientific mind he was.

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View of the Milky Way over the telescopes of the European Southern Observatory I believe, in the high desert of Chile