When Galaxies Collide

Honestly this could be the name of a new TV show, similar to ‘when buildings collapse,’ or ‘here’s what Kim Kardashian did today.’ I’ll take the colliding galaxies, simply because they can hold my attention longer.  Galaxy collisions are some of the most massive and long term events in the universe.  The result is the formation of billions of stars, the change in orbit of Billions more, and the complete restructuring of a galaxy.  Since we see a snapshot of the Universe whenever we look at a single galaxy, we tend to see collisions happening at all stages of the...

Peeking at Galaxies in the Early Universe

The only way we can understand the cosmos is to find new and innovative ways to interpret the light we capture from it.  Using the largest and most technologically advanced telescopes in the world, we peer deeper into space, further back in time, and see photons that have spent eons travelling to Earth.  If we can get rid of all of the other light from closer objects, and zero in on this distant light, we can begin to understand what was present at the beginning. Using data from deep sky surveys conducted by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), astronomers from...

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...

Precision and the Prime Meridian

The Prime Meridian is the imaginary line of zero longitude, the geographic starting point for any East-West degree measurement of any place on the Earth.  It was selected by an international delegation that convened in 1884 in Washington, DC.  It’s a North-South imaginary line that run right through the Airy transit circle at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England.  This is also where we get the measurement of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). As our ability to measure position and time improves with the Global Positioning System (GPS), the precise position of the prime meridian has actually changed, moving 102 meters East...

Is Gravity the Same Everywhere?

One of the big questions in astrophysics is about variation of the laws of Physics.  The laws we know and are familiar with; angular momentum, gravity, energy, are the same everywhere on Earth.  But what about beyond Earth? The universe is so large and so vast, we may be in a local region where the laws of Physics are set, and our laws may be different from a distinct region somewhere else in the universe. The good news is that we can make predictions based on our understanding of physics. And with our powerful telescopes that allow us to view a variety of...

The Universe May be Lonelier than we Thought

If you could see through the lens of a very powerful telescope, to an area of sky the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length, a new universe would be revealed to you.  For in that tiny patch of seemingly empty sky, there are thousands of galaxies visible, albeit with many hours of light collection.  Observing the most distant of these galaxies, at the edge of the universe, allows us to estimate the number of Galaxies present in the distant past, when the universe was very young.  As our observations improve, and our ability to simulate the conditions of the...

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...

We could see Star Wars happening right now!

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…. Not just the star wars intro, but a true statement if you’re an astronomer.  You see, once we start to look deep in space at the more distant objects in the universe, we are actually looking deep in time as well.  It all begins with a light year. A light year is not a measure of time, it’s a measure of distance.  When you turn on the light in a dark room, the light appears to fill the room instantly.  But it actually takes a small amount of time, as light has...

Motivation Monday: The Make or Break Cliff

There is a pattern I’ve noticed in the last few years.  As much as I have gotten better at setting goals and carrying them out, there are times when those goals come to a head, and then slowly fade away, whether I achieve them or not.  A good example of this is running.  After running a big race, which for me is a 5 Km or 10 Km run in a goal time, I find that the next few days are sluggish and slow and I have little focus and energy.  In the past this would sometimes derail my progress...

Happy 386th Birthday to Christiaan Huygens

No, he isn’t a zombie.  He’s a long dead scientific pioneer. He discovered Saturn’s moon of Titan and was the first to suggest that Saturn’s odd ‘blob’ shape could be explained by rings around the planet.  He was a pioneer of optics and developed a telescope with two lenses, more powerful than Galileos. He also characterized the motion of an ideal mathematical pendulum (with a massless cord and a length longer than its swing), and invented the pendulum clock as a method of keeping time.  He had a few other contributions to astronomy, including the observation of individual stars in...