A New Theory of Life: Physics to Evolution

When Isaac Newton quantified gravity, his theory explained how everything in the world around us behaved in its presence.  It opened a door to an understanding of something fundamental, yet elusive in explanation.   Centuries later, Einstein came along and took a step back, finding a larger more comprehensive theory of gravity, one that explained the strange things that happen in the grand universe.  His theory could even explain things that Newton’s theory of gravity could not, such as the odd orbit of Mercury around the Sun.  But the greatest part of Einstein’s theory is that if you use it to...

X-Ray Vision

If you actually had the ability to see X-Rays, the world around you would look pretty boring.  Actually it would be invisible, since nothing around you gives off X-rays.  You might be able to see an imaging device if you live or work near a medical office, but that’s about it.  If you looked at the night sky, you would see many interesting sources of X-Ray light, mostly from active black holes in our own galaxy and beyond.  Recently a high-resolution scan of the Andromeda Galaxy revealed a plethora of sources, showing where black holes and neutron stars are feeding...

Starship Fuel for the Future

For the first time in 30 years, the United States has the capability to produce fuel for deep space missions.  Plutonium-238 is an isotope that produces thermal energy through radioactive decay.  This energy can be converted into electricity and used to power spacecraft systems for decades of flight.  Systems using this isotope include the Viking landers, the Voyager spacecraft, and more recent missions like the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity) and New Horizons. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, run by the US Department of Energy, has produced 50 grams of the isotope, amounting to the size of a golf...

Motivation Monday: Fear 2

Tackling fear is a tough one, but It’s too important not to cover in a motivational post. I am afraid.  I am afraid of waking up and facing the world. I am afraid of the work I have to do today, and the people I have to interact with.  I am afraid of driving in traffic.  I am afraid of being tired and not having the energy to keep the life I have, because I am afraid of losing it.  I am afraid of the past because of the hurt I’ve felt.  I am afraid of the present because I worry...

The Trailblazing Heroism of Vladimir Komarov

This is a story that not many know, about a Russian cosmonaut named Vladimir Komarov.  He was one of the first Soviet cosmonauts in the 1960s during the cold war space race between the United States and the Soviet Union.  He was the first cosmonaut to fly on more than one space mission, and he sadly became the first human being to die due to space flight. An Aerospace Engineer and test pilot, he was one of the few exceptional candidates accepted into Air Force Group One, the original Soviet cosmonaut program.   He wasn’t medically fit for the program on...

Astrophotography Reflections

I was doing my daily check of some astronomy and space news sites to see what was happening today, as I do every morning before I decide what to write about in my daily blog post.  I looked at today’s astronomy picture of the day, a gorgeous work of astrophtographic art showing Mt.Rainier and dozens of meteors, all in front of the sharp filaments of gas of the Milky Way. As a newbie in the world of astrophotography, I look at this picture and try to think about how it was done.  Did he take a foreground shot to get...

1000 Things You Didn’t Know About The Universe #1: The Universe is Huge

Welcome to a new series of posts that will characterize 1000 amazing facts about the Universe.  There is so much out there that we have yet to learn, and every day, astronomers across the globe are using their research to reveal the deepest secrets of the cosmos.  This series will look at the strangest, coolest, most exciting facts that we have discovered in hundreds of years of modern science. Fact #1: The Universe is Far Larger than you Can Possibly Imagine Let’s start with the fastest speed ever travelled by a human being, about 11 Km/s (40,000 Km/h).  This is incredibly fast...

How Big is the Andromeda Galaxy?

If you have ever seen the Andromeda Galaxy, M31, in the sky or through a telescope, you’ll find it’s reminiscent of a small blurry, fuzzy patch, almost like a cloud. The cloudy look is similar to looking at the hazy white glow of the milky way’s concentrated disk. But that cloudy view is not all of M31.  The galaxy is so far away, around 2.5 Million light years, that you’re only seeing the concentrated light from its central bulge.  You’re actually missing a large portion of the galaxy because its just too dim for your eyes to see. If you can take a...

UV Andromeda

Looking at the universe in different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum can reveal features and structures that are invisible to human eyes.  The vast black emptiness of space explodes into a sea of colour when we use cameras to expand our vision.  Looking at a galaxy through human eyes can be a simple and seemingly uninteresting view, but in infrared, microwave, or ultraviolet wavelengths we see the deeper layers of the vast array of stars.  The closest large spiral galaxy and a cousin of our own Milky Way, the Andromeda galaxy, is revealed in ultraviolet. The Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX)...

Lonely Galaxy in an Empty Void

Stars are far apart, especially compared to the everyday distances in human experience.  The fastest a human being has ever travelled is just shy of 40 Km/s, and even at that incredible speed it would take 30,000 years to reach the closest star.  That is an incredible distance no matter how you slice it.  Taking it a step further, most stars in the sky are 20-200 times further away, and that’s just the population of stars we can see.  So if we go beyond and talk about galaxies and the distances between them, we are literally talking astronomical quantities.  Yet even with...