Sample Size Solves Problems

Science and technology benefit one another.  New scientific theories afford new opportunities to create technology that can harness the laws of nature.  Conversely, new technologies allow for better instrumentation and unprecedented efficiency in scientific progress.  It’s a continual feedback loop, and some of the greatest challenges in science are solved simply by throwing more resources at them, or in other words, gathering more data. A good example of this is a relatively old problem for astronomers – determining how the spin of a galaxy affects it’s shape.  We certainly don’t want for analogies on Earth, spinning pizza, driving on a...

Don’t Blink or You’ll Miss it

Have you ever seen a picture of a comet or asteroid in the sky against a background of stars? Here let me show you. Can you spot the asteroid? Okay I confess there is no asteroid in the image above, but if there was you’d believe me because an asteroid in this image would be indistinguishable from the stars.  They are all points of light, so how can you tell them apart? There’s something that separates asteroids, comets, planets, and all other solar system objects from background stars in an image. When you’re driving in a car and you look to the...

Stellar Snowball

The closest star to the Earth, aside from the Sun, is Proxima Centauri, a small red dwarf star that is part of the Alpha Centauri system, roughly 4 light years away.  If you don’t know light years, the distance is a staggering 37,800,000,000,000 Km.  Beyond that our stellar neighbourhood fills in as you move 20 light years in any direction, and by 100 light years, there are dozens of stars around us.  This gives a stellar density of about 0.14 stars per cubic parsec (a parsec is about 3.26 light years), pretty normal in terms of the number of stars in a given...

Motivation Monday: The Little Victories

The difficulties and struggles of today are but the price we must pay for the accomplishments and victories of tomorrow. – William J. H. Boetcker There’s a goal you have in mind.  It’s big, it’s difficult to achieve, and if you succeed it will look good to everyone else who sees you accomplish it.  People will envy you and wonder how you did it.  they will see the huge difference it has made in your life and it will inspire them.  But there is a lot that they don’t see. I’ve talked about the grind, the adjustment, the focus and...

Still More Hidden Galaxies

I’ve covered a few ‘hidden galaxy’ stories lately, from the ultra high resolution see-through of Andromeda, to dark dust in front of M81 and M82.  Now, hundreds of new hidden galaxies have been revealed by a team of astronomers who are looking straight through the Milky Way for the first time ever, shedding light on the structure of new galaxy clusters and the enigmatic pull of the ‘great attractor.’ The Earth is not stationary in space.  It orbits the Sun, which in turn orbits the Milky Way galaxy, which then moves through the Universe as part of a galaxy cluster. ...