telescopic astronomy

In 1974, an interstellar radio message containing encoded information about the human race, DNA, atomic numbers, Earth’s position and other information, was beamed from the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope towards globular cluster M13 and its 300,000 stars as an experiment in contacting potential extraterrestrial civilizations. Traveling at the speed of light, it will take 25,000 years to arrive.

(Image Credit & Copyright: Adam Block, Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, U. Arizona)

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Stars reflect off a telescope in the Canary Islands as it pivots

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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

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.

The Whirpool Galaxy is a magnificent example of a grand-design spiral galaxy. These are galaxies with defined spiral arms that extend around the galaxy, often looping several times. It is estimated to be 23 million light years away, whilst being 60,000 light years in diameter. The galaxy also has a companion galaxy, as seen on the right and can be seen though binoculars.

Messier 81, more commonly known as Bode’s Galaxy, is a spiral galaxy located about 12 million light years away in the constellation Ursa Major. The galaxy is continuously being studied by professional astrophysicists due to both its size and proximity. This is the neighbour to the Cigar Galaxy, which I blogged about before. I’ve tried to find this galaxy in the sky with my telescope, but I haven’t seen anything yet. Not sure what that says about my skill-set. 🌚

“You cannot look up at the night sky on the Planet Earth and not wonder what it’s like to be up there amongst the stars. And I always look up at the moon and see it as the single most romantic place within the cosmos” - Tom Hanks

Image Credit & Copyright: Yuri Beletsky (Carnegie Las Campanas Observatory, TWAN)