Globular Cluster M22 in Hubble’s Eye

Globular Clusters are tightly packed collections of hundreds of thousands of very old stars, spherically distributed around the Milky Way Galaxy.  They undergo little change, have nearly no gas, and have a stellar density way higher than the rest of the Galaxy.  The first one discovered, in 1665, is messier 22, one of the most well studied, easily visible, and interesting globular clusters. Based on observations, this globular cluster contains at least two black holes. It is also one of only three globular clusters ever found to host a planetary nebula, a gaseous shell emitted by a dying star with...

The Beginnings of Galaxy Clusters: Proto-Clusters Finally Seen!

The deeper we peer through the cosmos, the more we are looking into the distant past.  Light from other galaxies takes millions of years to reach us, and so when that light has finally arrived at Earth, it is millions of years old, a snapshot in time of the distant galaxy.  The furthest we can see is so far back in the history of the universe, that galaxies haven’t even formed yet.  As we look at the large-scale structure of the Universe, we see it filled with a cosmic web of galaxy clusters, containing tens of thousands of galaxies each....

Science on the Ground Gives Clues to Planetary Formation

Astronomy is a science that is always associated with the sky, and rightly so.  But since the beginning of modern science there have been discoveries made on Earth that teach us about the formation and evolution of the Universe.  As telescopes become more powerful and allow us to look deeper into space, the technology to simulate outer-space conditions here on Earth has grown significantly.  In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a powerful tool called the Z machine generates quick high-energy pulses of electricity, which can be used to generate X-rays and Gamma rays to be used in experiments. Outside of astronomy, the...

Ancient Black Hole Larger than Current Theories can Handle

The thing about black holes is that they are very dense.  If we took the entire 2,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Kg of the Sun (This is the real mass of the Sun) and turned it into a black hole, it would be about 6 Km in diameter. It is theorized that there are around 100 Million Black holes in the Milky Way Galaxy alone.  But if they aren’t near a large reservoir of gas and dust, with their small size they are pretty harmless and invisible.  The only way we could find them would be through their gravitational influence, which is hard to...

Stunning Astronomical Images & What They Teach Us

Today I found a few nice images that I wanted to talk about, and each one revealed something different about the object that was being imaged.  I thought it would be a good chance to show everyone how astronomy is really the study of patterns of light, speaking from a minimalist perspective.  We learn literally everything about the Universe beyond the solar system from the photons we see.  From photons we can deduce the mass, distance, density, composition, behaviour, formation, and evolution of the cosmos.  Pretty stellar! (pun intended)  Here are some recent images and what we learn from them....

Finding Planets is Easier than we Thought: Part Two – Less Dusty Sun-Like Stars

Yesterday I wrote about young stars that had a habitable zone further away than we thought, and how this would help us spot habitable planets more easily in the future. Today is the second news story this week dealing with finding planets, and it deals with more familiar Sun-like stars and their dusty planetary discs. Dust is both a good thing and a bad thing when looking for planets orbiting other stars.  Dust tells us that there is a high likelihood of finding planets, but too much dust blocks out the planets that we look for.  Warm dust is worse...

Hubble has nothing on ALMA: Planets forming around a star captured in finest detail ever

The Hubble Space telescope produced the finest Astronomical images in a generation, but Hubble’s time in the limelight has ended, and now it’s time for a new generation of both space- and ground-based telescopes to take over with their own jaw-dropping images and revolutionary science. Recently the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) has taken the leap and used its full power to take an astonishing image of the protoplanetary disk of the young star HL Tau. This image is of a very young star, only about a million years old (Which is really young compared to the 4.5 billions year old...

Fairwell fair Herschel

The Hershel Observatory, an ESA telescope for which NASA helped build instruments and process data, has stopped making observations as it has finally run out of its liquid Helium coolant, as expected.  This is a good time to remember the multitude of data that a space based telescope can churn out, and the incredible scientific advancement that comes from such missions. On the heels of the NASA proposed budget, it reminds us how important scientific funding and advancement are, especially for countries that have a good standard of living.  The high end technology that comes from developing missions like this...