Reflection in a Dark Universe

Like lighthouse beacons in a dark ocean, stars act as tiny islands in the vast universe.  Producing light at the atomic level from the powerful release of energy through fusion, they are the engines that drive the formation of new elements.  But in the darkness there are plenty of other hidden objects that are cold and give off little to no light.  Yet many of them are easily seen.  Here’s Why! The first thing to think about is infrared light, the radiation given off by warm objects.  Large planets and brown dwarf stars are very bright in infrared, much brighter...

A Beacon in the Dark

Until the recent discovery of gravitational waves, the only ‘sense’ that astronomers had was vision.  Granted our ‘vision’ with telescopes is far broader than human eyes, we still need to find ingenious ways to use the precious photons that rain down on Earth. One of the new ways astronomers are using light is to look at what we call a ‘light echo.’  In reality it’s a reflection of starlight.  When a new star is forming, it is accompanied by a protoplanetary disk, which will eventually form all the planets of the system.  Our own solar system went through this stage 4.5...

Halloween Space Photos

Halloween is an amazing chance for people to be someone (or something) they have always wanted to be.  To step outside of their norm and live their life as an alter ego, if only for one night.  This is why so many people have crazy Halloween stories, and why the ‘holiday’ captivates us so much.  With humanity’s excellent pattern recognition skills, we tend to see spooky things in space, where if you would just turn the picture 90 degrees, it probably would look like some other item from human experience, and not be spooky after all.  Here are a few...

Motivation Monday: The Detriment of Perfectionism

I am a perfectionist.  This means that although I work very hard on projects to put my best work forward, I also have a tendency to hold my own work to an insanely high standard.  It also means that when I see the incredible successes of others, I beat myself down for what I feel I haven’t yet accomplished.  It often leads to stress because I can almost never reach my own high standards, and depression occasionally follows because they can’t be met.  I have curbed these tendencies over the years, by understanding exactly what I need to feel accomplished,...

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...

Saturn at Opposition is Amazing!

Every year, as the Earth revolves around the Sun, we pass an imaginary line directly from the Sun to Saturn.  The Sun is on one side of us and Saturn is on the other.  When two bodies are on opposite sides of the Earth like this we call it opposition.  Saturn’s opposition for the year was on May 23rd, and even though it has been a few days, you can still see Saturn up pretty much all night. Along with opposition, we can clearly see the rings, but Saturn does wobble on a 29.5 year cycle, meaning there are times...

Dawn Mosaic of Ceres Shows a Dark Cratered World

The Dawn space craft has finally begun its science phase after settling into a 13,500 Km orbit around the dark dwarf planet Ceres.  It took some manoeuvring to get it in the right spot, but now it has begun mapping the surface as it slowly orbits once every two weeks.  A lovely mosaic image from the space craft is the latest jaw-dropping picture of the former asteroid. Like a great shot of the Lunar terminator, by seeing the shadows created by the light from the Sun, we can get a sense of depth of the heavy craters on the surface....

Reflected Light from First True Exoplanet Observed

The first exoplanet ever discovered was 51 Pegasi b in 1995.  It kicked marked the slow beginning of what would soon become the ‘exoplanet gold rush.’  It meant that for the first time, we had the technological capacity to discover new worlds, and science fiction soon became science fact.  51 Pegasi b was also a very strange planet.  A massive Jupiter sized world orbiting very close to its home star.  On one hand it was this characteristic that made it much easier to detect.  On the other, it showed us that we did not understand planetary system formation as well...

Motivation Monday: The Rocky Road

When the circumstances of life are great, it makes sense to try and keep them that way.  After we work so hard to get our life on the right track, we can become fearful of any subtle changes that derail our progress.  But positive action and progression toward a goal do not follow a straight pathway.  It doesn’t matter whether your goal is about work, fitness, hobbies, relationships, or finances.  There will be periods of time where you feel like you are making progress and periods where the progress is subtle or unmeasurable, and you want to give up. The...

Best Ever Image of a Cometary Globule: Also What is a Cometary Globule?

The best ever image of a Cometary Globule has been released by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) from the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in the Atacama desert in Chile. It looks a lot like a nebula right? In actuality a cometary globule is a very specific type of nebula.  It’s very faint, and it’s formation is a matter of debate among the astronomical community.  A cometary globule is small, containing the mass of a few suns worth of material.  Compare this to a typical nebula, which has enough material to form thousands or even hundreds of thousands of stars. The...