Scientists Have Seen Gravitational Waves For A Second Time. Here’s Why That’s A Huge Deal

June 15th, 2016 § 1 comment § permalink

Tom Chivers writing for Buzzfeed explains why gravitational waves are such a big deal.

“Light’s always been how we do astronomy,” Professor Jo Dunkley, an astrophysicist at Oxford University who didn’t work on the experiment, told BuzzFeed News. “Everything we know about space, we’ve got from light. This can show the stuff you can’t see with light.
“This is a really big deal. It’s really exciting.”

This time it’s real

Professor Graham Woan, an astrophysicist at Glasgow University who also worked on the research, told BuzzFeed News: “There’s always a chance when you first detect something that it’s just a fluke. This proves it wasn’t. It shows that we can expect to see a lot more of these things. This is real astronomy.”


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To Scale: The Solar System

September 18th, 2015 § 1 comment § permalink

Pretty cool desert installation showingthe scale of our Solar System.

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A sphere of bubbling water in zero gravity

July 30th, 2015 § 1 comment § permalink

At point point it looks like the bubbles are orbiting the sphere of water.

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A different perspective on how our solar system moves

July 22nd, 2015 § 1 comment § permalink

UPDATE: Phil Plait has a great article over on Slate about what these videos get right and what they get wrong. In the first video he shows the sun leading the planets which is not true, they are all in the same plane. In the second video he gets the angle of the solar plane wrong (it’s 60° not 90°) and while our solar system does bounce above and below the galactic plane the corkscrew he shows is totally bunk. Also his numbers regarding length of galactic orbit are way off. Plait acknowledges that he gets some things right and it’s a very beautiful video but as far as science goes it needs to be take with a “galactic size grain of salt”.

The author of these videos readily admits that he is not a scientist and that there are flaws with his models, but I suspect that in broad strokes his vision is mostly correct. It’s certainly worth viewing if for no other reason than to understand that the flat model we use for orbits is not just wrong, but incredibly boring.

His second video is even more scientifically questionable but it’s still worth watching. He posits that even how our solar system orbits the black hole at the center of our galaxy is not as simple as we might imagine.

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Black Hole Comparison

June 18th, 2015 § Comments Off on Black Hole Comparison § permalink

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Astronomers Watch a Supernova and See Reruns

March 10th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

It’s “Groundhog Day” in the cosmos.

In the 1993 Bill Murray movie, a weatherman finds himself reliving the same day over and over again. Now astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope say they have been watching the same star blow itself to smithereens in a supernova explosion over and over again, thanks to a trick of Einsteinian optics.

The star exploded more than nine billion years ago on the other side of the universe, too far for even the Hubble to see without special help from the cosmos. In this case, however, light rays from the star have been bent and magnified by the gravity of an intervening cluster of galaxies so that multiple images of it appear.

Be sure to check out the accompanying video for a fantastic explanation for why this is not science fiction.

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NASA | SDO: Year 5 Tribute

February 16th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

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The strangest moon in the Solar System

February 9th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

A short but interesting article covering the many strange aspects of Saturn’s Iapetus

Cassini made many great discoveries about this planet, including the divisions between the rings and a number of Saturn’s moons. In fact, the second of Saturn’s moons ever discovered, Iapetus, presented a tremendous mystery to Cassini. While it clearly orbited Saturn like the other moons, it was only visible during half its orbit, remaining completely invisible during the other half.

It would take three centuries and an unmanned spacecraft named in his honor to figure out why.

Saturn's Iapetus

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The Next Space Race

December 2nd, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink

I have very high hopes for humanity and look forward to witnessing the steady march of progress on everything from racism and gender equality to health care and economic opportunities. While these advances are of the utmost importance to our individual day-to-day lives the call of the stars holds a special place in my heart. I’ve long been a sucker for Science Fiction and the nerd in me really hopes that I will bear witness to the next space race.

This is why I’m so bullish on private companies like SpaceX and Planetary Resources taking up the mantel of near earth exploration. If we can find direct ways to profit from traveling outside of our atmosphere not only will the rate of innovation be vastly as increased, but so to will the imagination of those still bound to this pale blue dot.

Do not expect organizations like NASA and the ESA to be marginalized however. Unshackled from the burden of launching satellites and supplying the space station I expect those organizations to continue to take humanity to places that private companies can only dream. Space Agencies are able to look beyond a fiduciary responsibility to stockholders and focus on exploration and the advancement of science for the betterment of humanity. A race to the stars fueled by a symbiotic relationship between private and public entities sounds like a pretty potent cocktail.

After all if the history of human civilization is to span more than a few millennia surely it must take root beyond this precious and fragile world that gave us life. I just hope I live to see it.

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Will Marshall: Tiny satellites that photograph the entire planet, every day

November 19th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

As private industry moves into low earth orbit we are starting to see some really innovative ideas being executed that are outside the wheelhouse of large government organization like NASA and the ESA.

Of course there is still a lot of space exploration to be done that private industry is not ready to handle. It’s going to be an incredibly interesting couple of decades for those looking beyond spaceship earth.

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