Earlier this year, Blueshift contributor Koji Mukai sent us a link to a series of astronomy videos produced by Jessica Few, a student at Durham University in the UK. We loved the videos, and knew we wanted to share them… and find out a bit more about Jessica and her project!
Blueshift: Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Jessica: I finished my physics degree at Durham University this summer. I’ve always been interested in physics – it’s so fundamental. I find it amazing that we can understand so much about the way that the universe works from the smallest scale to the largest… but there’s still so much more to discover!
While scientists have discovered hundreds of extrasolar planets over the past decade, finding Earth’s twin (an Earth-like planet in a similar orbit to ours around a Sun-like star) has been much more difficult. But a recent discovery by the Kepler mission has brought us one step closer – planet Kepler-22b is 2.4 times the radius of Earth, orbiting within the habitable zone (the region where an Earth-like planet could maintain liquid water on its surface) around a host star slightly smaller and cooler than our Sun. Kepler’s observations have identified several dozen other habitable zone planet candidates, and the mission will continue watching these objects as they transit in front of their host stars to see if more potential Earth twins are found.
As Maggie mentioned in her intriguing post last week, things have been quite busy around here recently. So here is a bit of a catch-up edition of your weekly Awesomeness Round-Up. Enjoy!
Historically, astronomy has always required a great deal of patience as astronomers spent long, cold nights at the telescope, but that was only the beginning. NASA’s Chandra satellite exercised even more extreme measures of patience while it stared at a tiny patch of sky for more than six weeks in order to observe the incredibly faint galaxies visible in the Chandra Deep Field South (pictured below). Chandra’s team announced last week that they had examined over 200 distant galaxies as they were approximately 800 to 950 million years after the Big Bang, finding that black holes were far more common in the early Universe than was ever previously suspected. These baby black holes will have continued to evolve into today’s supermassive black holes over the Universe’s 13 billion year lifetime.
Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/U.Hawaii/E.Treister et al; Infrared: NASA/STScI/UC Santa Cruz/
G.Illingworth et al; Optical: NASA/STScI/S.Beckwith et al
Sorry we were slow with posts last week – we were swamped with preparations for the government shut-down that (thankfully) never happened. We’ve got a bunch of things in the works, but we’ll start with a link round-up.
Gamma-ray Bursts (GRBs) are huge explosions in space, and scientists think they happen either when a very massive star explodes or when two very dense neutron stars collide. Either way, it’s thought that a GRB signals the birth of a black hole. Very short duration GRBs are less common than another kind of burst that lasts longer, more than two seconds. Also, their shorter duration makes them harder to study. This new supercomputer simulation of short GRBs has shown that merging neutron stars could indeed power short GRBs. You can read all the details in this web feature.
It’s been very cold and windy here in Maryland lately – but not quite THIS cold. I guess the upside to extreme temperatures is that you can do experiments like this one, done at Mount Washington Observatory when it was nearly -35 degrees F. Do you know what happens when you throw boiling water in the air when it’s that cold? Watch the video to find out!
This past week marked a major milestone in mankind’s exploration and understanding of comets – the EPOXI mission flew just 700 km from the nucleus of comet Hartley 2 and snapped some amazing images! This close pass will give researchers incredible new insight into the structure of comets. As we mentioned a few weeks ago, Hubble also took a look at Hartley 2. Numerous fantastic images and more information on the mission at the EPOXI site, and nice summaries of the mission available from Phil Plait and The Planetary Society.
If you’ve visited Blueshift before, you’re probably wondering… hey, where have you been for the last year? We released six podcasts in 2007 but got a lot of mixed feedback from listeners about the content and structure. We decided to take some time off to re-think and get a better handle on our Blueshift audience and what they wanted. We asked questions – a lot of questions – and finally felt like we knew what you wanted us to create!
After taking some time off to seek listener feedback and consider the future direction of our podcast, Blueshift is back with a new episode to kick off 2009! For our re-launch, we’ve focused our first episode on another recently launched NASA project – the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope – and the exciting gamma-ray bursts that it observes.
We produced a segment in our second episode of 2007 about gamma-ray bursts, mysterious and powerful explosions visable across the Universe. With the launch of Fermi, our observations and understandings of these events is rapidly growing.
This episode features the voices of five scientists in the field of gamma-ray astronomy, exploring how – and why – they study gamma-ray bursts.
Welcome to the May 2007 episode of Blueshift, from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. We’ll discuss our search for Earth-like planets outside of our own Solar System. We’ll also look into gamma ray bursts, and how the Swift satellite team is working to solve their mysteries. This episode includes a brain teaser and mailbag question.