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  • Posts Tagged ‘little mind-blowing things’

    This pic of the Orion Nebula is so fresh.


    2012 - 07.17

    No one can argue otherwise:

     

    Infrared Telescope Action


    2012 - 05.25

    Just check this out.

    Now think about what the James Webb will be able to do in infrared….

    Riding the Solid Rocket Booster, Skywalker Sound Style


    2012 - 03.28

    While we’re on the subject of pure, incredible space videos, this one:

    Sequel to my previous SRB video post, this video has got auditory improvements courtesy of Skywalker Sound.  Where was this video, like, 8 years ago when they were busy axing the space shuttle??

    Timelapse… IN SPACE


    2012 - 03.26

    I’m guessing a lot of the readership is already aware of this video, but I’m going to post it anyway because this timelapse is just THAT badass. It’s shot from outer space (on the ISS) and shows some unbelievably spectacular views of the heavens in motion and earth spinning below them.  To me, it really drives home the notion that we’re floating in space… a fact that we seldom take time to appreciate.  Ultra-cool:

     

    And, unlike a lot of awesome timelapse videos, the music is surprisingly tasteful! I can’t get enough of this one.

    μC Bicentennial


    2012 - 03.12

    Well here we are folks, blogpost # 200. It’s nice milestone to be hitting!

    Hmm, pressure’s on, better bust out something cool… how about a photo I took…… of the moon?? 

    Shot with Canon 100-300mm @ 300 and cropped (1:1 original resolution shown). 1/125th @ f/11 ISO 100. w/ a Canon T3i. Mirror lockup and ten second delay on the shutter. Phase based autofocus (through the viewfinder). Light enhancements in CS5.

    It occurred to me that I’d never taken my 100-300mm zoom outside on a clear night at tried snapping shots of the moon at the long end of the lens. What you see here is a 100% resolution crop. So this is the max resolving power of my erm, best refractor, at the moment, coupled with the T3i’s max 18MP setting. I’d say it came out pretty well.

    And speaking of new phases, I will be moving soon! Which means a whole lot less time on the computer and thereby a whole lot less time available for posting on here for a while. Fortunately I’m way, way, way behind on posting my Primo Vino Art, so there will be a bountiful explosion of images for you photography nuts and oenophiles. I intend to schedule these posts in advance, so while I am busy shuffling boxes around there will still be a steady stream of things to look at.

    Speaking of things to look at, some of you may have noticed that the header image at the top of this blog has been changing recently. I happened upon a really sweet little piece of code that allows you to setup a directory full of images, and then randomly display any one of them. Currently there are 4 different header images that appear at random. Over time, I intend to continue expanding this until there’s like 10-20 different ones. Eventually the background may become randomized as well. Variety! It’s the spice of life. And we all know spice expands consciousness.

    Feels good to hit 200! Cheers people!

    A sampling of Nebulae from Other Galaxies


    2012 - 03.03

    A week or so ago I sent a brief letter to mister Phil Plait, aka the Bad Astronomer. I read his blog about every day and it’s almost always got something of interest to me. The letter was:

    I keep thinking about something you said on Bad Astronomy. You were talking about the Orion Nebula, saying how it’s so large and vibrant that it would stand out to observers from another galaxy who were looking at the Milky Way. That got me thinking: are there large nebulae in other galaxies that we can see, as ‘standout’ features? The biggest picture I’ve ever seen of another galaxy was Andromeda, and I looked for an equivalent of M42 in M31, but I didn’t spot much. Are there any well known examples of large beautiful nebulas in other galaxies?

    And he replied:

    Actually, yes. Look online for image of the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is lousy with nebulae. Also NGC 604 in the Triangulum Galaxy. One of my favorites!

    So let’s look at those things he recommended! We’ll start with NCG 604.  Since this one is actually located inside of a distant galaxy, I think it qualifies best as what I was originally thinking of.  First off, check out this sweet 25 hour “amateur” capture of the whole Triangulum Galaxy:

    If you didn’t spot NGC 604 already, it’s the large pinkish area straight below the two large yellow stars at the top of the picture.  The appearance of NGC 604 seems to vary a lot depending on what wavelengths you look at.  This one from Hubble is my favorite:

    I did a little reading based off Phil’s suggestions and found out that all the Nebulae I’ve been digging are called H II regions, for those who are ‘in the know’. As you might guess, this name refers to a concentration of ionized hydrogen gas, H2. Get the full lowdown on wikipedia, it’s a good read.  But back to the gawking.  Checking out the Large Magellanic Cloud, the biggest standout Nebula is the Tarantula, which is actually the most active starburst region in our local group of galaxies. Accordingly, it’s mondo-luminous. If the Tarantula Nebula were as close to Earth as the Orion Nebula, it would shine as bright as the full moon in the night sky. Think about that! It would cast shadows; you could possibly read by that light at night. Jeez.

    Also really sweet in the LMC is LH 95, another incredible-looking nebula where stars are being born.

    Just for a little perspective, here are some distances:
    Large Magellanic Cloud: 160 thousand light years (w/ Tarantula Nebula NGC 2070)
    Andromeda Galaxy (M31): 2.6 million light years
    Triangulum Galaxy (M33): 3 million light years (w/ NGC 604)

    Far out, maaaan. It’s cool to check out those starburst regions as parts of other galaxies. A brief blurb from wikipedia worth repeating:

    From a viewpoint in the LMC, the Milky Way would be a spectacular sight. The galaxy’s total apparent magnitude would be -2.0—over 14 times brighter than the LMC appears to us on Earth—and it would span about 36° across the sky, which is the width of over 70 full moons. Furthermore, because of the LMC’s high galactic latitude, an observer there would get an oblique view of the entire galaxy, free from the interference of interstellar dust which makes studying in the Milky Way’s plane difficult from Earth. The Small Magellanic Cloud would be about magnitude 0.6, substantially brighter than the LMC appears to us.

    One more to leave you with, N90, in the Small Magellanic Cloud:

    If you dig this, then check out what else awaits under the cosmology tag.

    Space Is The Place: The Carina Nebula


    2012 - 02.08

    Today in totally mindblowing space images, NGC 3372, aka the Carina Nebula, as captured by the Very Large Telescope in Chile.  Click to see the awe-inspiring 4000 x 2727 version; although the interwebs are abuzz with this image, I had a hard time finding huge-size versions, which was part of my motivation to post it here.  Also, if you wanna go whole-hog, check out the 13092 x 8926 version on ESO’s website.  WOW.  If you like the picture, do read the wikipedia article, as there are several neat facts about the nebula.  Foremost of which is that although the southern-hemisphere-only Carina is not as well known as its northern cousin, M42 (the Orion Nebula), it’s actually bigger and brighter.  For observers in the Andromeda Galaxy, this baby would be one of the standout features of the mysterious, nearby Milky Way.  And what a stunner she is:

    Soulive in Star Filtery Glory


    2012 - 01.23

    Ok, I lied, there are more awesome videos from Bear Creek.  In the clip below, I set the player to start at 7 minutes in (you can do this by adding &start= and then the number of seconds to the embed code), so it jumps straight to the awesome part with the wicked star filter action. Feel free to rewind if you dig these styles! Man! Just look at that guitar! It’s magically delicious!

     

    Kepler Space Telescope still bursting our conception of the universe at its seams


    2011 - 12.27

     As Microcosmologist turns one, today is Johannes Kepler’s 440th Birthday. Happy 440th, ya old coot!

    This week I saw a headline at Ars Technica (one of my favorite sites to read): “This week in Exoplanets” which added the subtitle “with a side dose of the rest of science”. I had to laugh at this.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and venture that my readership is already well informed about the latest findings (go ahead and peruse the above link if not) so I’ll skip out on rehashing these latest news bytes. Indeed, one could run a whole blog solely devoted to chronicling the Kepler team’s findings.

    What fascinates and delights me at this moment is standing back and observing the fact that this project is completely dominating the headlines. To the point where other very interesting scientific discoveries are taking a backseat to Kepler. It underscores the universal desire to know this cosmos around us. And the yearning to answer that nagging question ‘are we alone?’ (spoiler alert: we’re certainly not!) It’s a natural question to ask. But it’s an exceptional group of people who begin the undertaking to concretely find it and prove life exists, which is what we’re all talking about here.

    So Kepler has found Earth-sized exoplanets, and exoplanets within the habitable zone of their star. It’s simply a matter of time before a world is located satisfying both of these criteria. As much as Kepler has grabbed the headlines, the project is still in the ‘warm-up’ phase, in the sense that if they need 3 transits to verify a planet, and the mission launched in 2009, next year will be the year in which they could start verifying planets with the exact size and position of Earth, orbiting around other stars. The best is yet to come!

    I firmly believe they will find their Earth-twin. Probably tens or even hundreds of them. To me, this is a foregone conclusion, but one that will nevertheless be monumental when it’s announced. It’s a major stepping stone on the path to finding more life as-we-know-it. When I think about the cosmos, think about its vastness, it occurs to me that if there is a non-zero probability of life arising (and here we are), then in a universe as inconceivably expansive as ours, life MUST abound. It simply must. The realist in me doubts that I will live to see its existence scientifically verified, but as a nerd-type I deeply envy/revere the people who are conducting this search. Going a step further, as a human being, a self-aware consciousness, I know it is in our nature and our very destiny to seek connection with whomever else shares this universe with us. It is a quest upon which we are compelled to embark.

    One thought that keeps reoccurring to me as the Kepler data gets dissected, is that our search is so ‘geocentric’. That is to say a lot of the analysis I read is focused purely upon the assumption that life can only arise on a goldilocks planet with Earth mass, Earth gravity, Earth atmosphere, and Earth chemistry. That’s a sensible and proper extension of the scientific though-process: we go with what we know. One thing I am very hopeful to see in my lifetime is the shattering of this geocentric view on life. Maybe even as early as this time next year when the Mars über-rover curiosity touches down on the red planet and kicks off its search for life there.

    We humans think of ourselves as impossibly complex organisms, but really we are nothing more than collections of microbes that have had long time scales to build up into spiffy configurations. If we find microbes in the soil of Mars, or deep underground in Martian caves or aquifers, or somewhere beneath the icy surfaces of Europa’s oceans, then it follows that given adequate timescales, these microbes can build up their own spiffy configurations in the form of Europa-pean super-intelligent dolphins or whales, or fox-like Martian creatures that exist in complex networks of subterranean caves. Consider the fact that the number of microbes which live inside your digestive tract is greater than the number of humans ever born. Intricate organisms grows from microbes, and the more extremeophiles that pop up, the wider the playing field grows.

    Daydreaming of what must be out there, I imagine there must be species which exist in far heavier gravities than a human could withstand, species that dine on arsenic-seasoned dishes, and organisms that swim through seas of radiation which would kill us almost instantly. When asked whether he looked forward to the first contact with an alien lifeform, Stephen Hawking expressed his belief that the encounter would likely parallel the meeting of Christopher Columbus and the American Indians. You’d be hard-pressed to come up with a more formidable intellect than Stephan, but the alien Christopher Columbus parable only holds true if Earth had some uncommon resource or a hospitable environment. Perhaps it does; oxygen atmospheres and vast oceans of liquid water. But look at our own search: singlemindedly seeking Earth-twins. Aliens from a gas giant would be singlemindedly searching for a planet like our Jupiter. How common would it be, for other intelligences to arise whose environmental requirements are incompatible with our own? And perhaps a more fascinating question: what would we learn by communicating with them? Even if we could never physically meet in person, what would their cultures have created? What truths would they see in the universe we share?

    Among the awe-inspiring discoveries ongoing in our lifetimes, the chronicling and cataloging of exoplanets is right up there at the top. The other prong of this search is the expansion of our science’s boundaries on where life can exist. That includes extremeophiles living in volcanos and deep sea trenches here on earth, as well as the planetary science missions underway and forthcoming. Both of these are metaphorical digging in our own backyard that will change the way we look at what we see through the mirrors of our greatest telescopes. As Kepler blows up the newspaper headlines, my mind floats out to the Curiosity rover, traveling fast and silent through the coldness of space, racing towards a higher plateau in our search to find the next door neighbors beyond the thin blue shell of Earth’s skies…

    To Catch Some Photons From Across Our Cosmos


    2011 - 12.06

    So I’ve been researching telescopes with the goal of getting into astrophotography.  So far I’ve learned that I have A LOT to learn.  As in, seriously, A LOT.  This remains a distant goal.

    A good part of this research is simply gawking at awesome pictures that people have taken and seeing what equipment they used to do it.  This has also been a learning experience about objects in the sky and a good calibration of expectations towards what I might achieve on my own someday assuming I put in the time to learn the tricks of the trade, the money to get a capable setup, and practice enough to become talented with it.  Just tonight I saw the first amateur image of an object I really love, 47 Tucanae.  This picture was taken in the Andes mountains, with a mind-mindbogglingly expensive telescope setup, but still… it gives a glimpse of what is possible.  Even a fraction of this is mind-gasmly sweet: