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...

The Eclipse Feeling

It was like someone turned down the Sun with a dimmer switch.  The tempurate dropped quickly, enhanced by the lack of moisture in the dry mountain air.  In a span of an hour, the Sun looked the same, but was very different, as totality approached.  I was taking photos through my telescope with an attached solar filter, so I could see the Moon slowly covering the Sun.  But as the environment changed in Northern Wyoming, I grew more excited for what was to come.  Over a year of preparation for this event, and clear skies greeted me with the confidence...

Relative Time: Photography Year 2

Last year after getting a Canon DSLR camera, I spent as much time as I could doing some basic astrophotography.  I took photos of stars, planets, the Moon, and even did some star trails.  One thing I quickly realized is that there are limitations if you don’t have a tracking mount or a telescope adaptor.  The tracking gives you a method for taking longer exposures, and the telescope adaptor as expected gives you the ability to zoom in on distant objects. Even with these temporary limitations (I hope to invest in them someday) there are still a lot of options...

The Next Canadian Astronaut

This guy is everything you expect in an astronaut.  At least that was my first thought when I was looking at his biography.  David St. Jacques was one of only two candidates (along with Jeremy Hansen) chosen in the 2008 Canadian Astronaut draft, the third in our nation’s history. He has a degree in Engineering Physics, a Ph.D. in Astrophysics, and is a medical doctor.  And that’s just his formal education.  He’s an avid mountaineer, cyclist, skier, and sailor.  Not to mention his advanced certification as a scuba diver, his commercial pilot’s license, and his ability to converse in Russian, Spanish, and Japanese. And so...

Review: IMAX: A Beautiful Planet

I recently had the opportunity to watch a brand new IMAX feature, called A Beautiful Planet.  It features incredible views of the Earth from space, captured by astronauts aboard the International Space Station.  Most of the footage was taken during Expedition 42 on the ISS, starting with the arrival of Samantha Cristoforetti, Terry Virts, and Anton Shkaplerov aboard the Soyuz TMA-15M, and ending with their departure. Much of the film was focused on the views of Earth, the scenic diversity of life and land that can only be seen from space.  It was difficult to see the effects of humans during the day time,...

Falcon Flight to the Galaxy

In the APOD photo from May 14th, it is easy to imagine the rocket launching far away into the galactic disk.  Sadly the rocket can’t traverse the thousands of light years to reach the distant stars, and is restricted to orbiting the Earth. Another beautiful part of this image is the technique involved in producing it.  It required combining two exposures. The first, with low sensitivity to capture the orange rocket trail of the Falcon 9.  The second with high sensitivity and a longer exposure time to capture the faint light of the Milky Way galaxy beyond.  The result is...

Polar Asterisms

Have you ever seen the North star, Polaris? It’s decently bright and very close to the North celestial pole.  Lining up with the rotation axis of the Earth, the North celestial pole is the point in the sky that never moves, day or night.  If you know how to find Polaris, it becomes easy to find the cardinal directions and navigate by the stars. And finding it simply requires finding the big dipper, a bright and easily recognizable object.  The same rules apply in the southern hemisphere.  But even though there is no southern star, there is another fantastic object in the South that can guide you to the...

Nature Outshines CERN

The gravitational center of most objects and clusters in the universe are the place where the most massive and high energy interactions take place.  For the solar system, the Sun’s core is hot and energetic.  For star clusters, central regions host the most massive and brightest stars.  For galaxy clusters, the most massive galaxies in the universe are seen in the center.  And for individual galaxies, the Milky Way included, the core is where the fun happens. In the core of our galaxy, there are many massive and powerful objects, not limited to a supermassive star cluster, pulsars, supernova remnants,...

Galactic Hide and Seek

Remember the big picture of Andromeda that showed 100 Million stars? That image resulted in a ton of new galaxy discoveries.  Most of these new galaxies were once hidden beyond the Andromeda galaxy, but with the super high resolution image, astronomers and the public were able to look straight through and see far more distant objects. Most images of galaxies have what we call ‘field stars’ in them.  These are some of the 400 Billion stars of the Milky Way that are far closer than the galaxy we are imaging.  For this reason, galaxy images tend to look very cluttered...

A running Chicken

When you think of a nebula forming stars, it’s hard to imagine how large it is. Most nebulae form hundreds or even thousands of stars before being blown away by the young stellar winds. Pockets of a nebula collapse into dense regions that will eventually become stars with surrounding planetary systems. There are places in the galaxy we can look and actually see it happening. Pictured above, the beautiful ‘running chicken’ nebula, as strangely named as it is, is in the later stages of it’s star forming life. Many bright young stars have formed and their intense radiation is now...