Tag Archive: Stars


Astronomers at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in Chile have released a breathtaking new photograph showing the central area of our Milky Way galaxy. The photograph shows a whopping 84 million stars in an image measuring 108500×81500, which contains nearly 9 billion pixels.

It’s actually a composite of thousands of individual photographs shot with the observatory’s VISTA survey telescope, the same camera that captured the amazing 55-hour exposure that we shared back in March. Three different infrared filters were used to capture the different details present in the final image.

The VISTA’s camera is sensitive to infrared light, which allows its vision to pierce through much of the space dust that blocks the view of ordinary optical telescope/camera systems.

To give you an idea of how crazy this photo is (and what 84 million stars looks like), here are a couple of 100% crops we made while fully zoomed in. The first one shows the bright area seen in the center of the frame:

The Atlantic notes that if you were to print out this image as a standard book photograph, it would be nearly 30-feet wide and 23-feet tall.

Check out the zoomable version of the photograph yourself to get a sense of how massive this photo (and space) is.

Aboriginal Rock Art - Astronomy

The cluster of engraved astronomical markers found on a series of rock platforms is without parallel in Australia, and perhaps the world. Within a span of 3.5 kilometres there are at least 16 major rock platforms (at a location kept secret at this juncture) which contain no less than 3,500 star markers.

Conducted after extensive consultation with the relevant Original Elders and Custodians, and set against a backdrop of an enormous amount of Dreaming stories focused “on top,” in particular the Seven Sisters (the Pleiades), the construction of so many markers is part of a trend, verging on obsession, the Original people had with distant celestial objects and constellations.

Our estimated tally of 3,500 star-markers is extremely conservative, many platforms are yet to be seen, and it is possible some will never be seen. We set ourselves two tasks: to determine the approximate number of star markers engraved and the possible reasons that inspired these people to devote so much time and effort chipping and pecking into rock.

To begin with, we are by no means the first to see these engravings, undeniably many have obviously seen the thousands of engraved circles over the years, but amongst non-Original circles nothing seems to have registered. It wasn’t until researcher Paul White was assessing the credentials of the extremely contentious set of 300 hieroglyphs found on three sandstone walls near Kariong, in work not related to any astronomical issues, he and his colleague came upon the set of star markers closest to the glyphs. Soon after the positioning and alignment of these Original engravings of the night sky was fed into computer software at Sydney University and according to White, “the star charts reveal an unbelievable match with the star pattern above Gosford around the year 2,500 BC. The whole thing is a giant star map”.

Continue reading

Scientists have observed in unprecedented detail the birth of a massive star within a dark cloud core about 10,000 light years from Earth.

The team used the new ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array) telescope in Chile – the most powerful radio telescope in the world – to view the stellar womb which, at 500 times the mass of the Sun and many times more luminous, is the largest ever seen in our galaxy.

The researchers say their observations – to be published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics – reveal how matter is being dragged into the centre of the huge gaseous cloud by the gravitational pull of the forming star – or stars – along a number of dense threads or filaments.

“The remarkable observations from ALMA allowed us to get the first really in-depth look at what was going on within this cloud,” said lead author Dr Nicolas Peretto, from Cardiff University. “We wanted to see how monster stars form and grow, and we certainly achieved our aim. One of the sources we have found is an absolute giant — the largest protostellar core ever spotted in the Milky Way!

“Even though we already believed that the region was a good candidate for being a massive star-forming cloud, we were not expecting to find such a massive embryonic star at its centre. This cloud is expected to form at least one star 100 times more massive than the Sun and up to a million times brighter. Only about one in 10,000 of all the stars in the Milky Way reach that kind of mass.”

Continue reading

Pasta

A rare state of matter dubbed “nuclear pasta” appears to exist only inside ultra-dense objects called neutron stars, astronomers say.

There, the nuclei of atoms get crammed together so tightly that they arrange themselves in patterns akin to pasta shapes — some in flat sheets like lasagna and others in spirals like fusilli. And these formations are likely responsible for limiting the maximum rotation speed of these stars, according to a new study.

“Such conditions are only reached in neutron stars, the most dense objects in the universe besides black holes,” said astronomer José Pons of Alicante University in Spain.

This new phase of matter had been proposed by theorists years ago, but was never experimentally verified. Now, Pons and his colleagues have used the spin rates of a class of neutron stars called pulsars to offer the first evidence that nuclear pasta exists.

Pulsars emit light in a pair of beams that shoot out like rays from a lighthouse. As the pulsars spin, the beams rotate in and out of view, making the stars appear to “pulse” on and off, and allowing astronomers to calculate how fast the stars are spinning.

Continue reading

100,000 Stars is a new experiment for Chrome web browsers (or any other WebGL browser like Firefox or Safari) that lets you interactively explore the Milky Way galaxy with your mouse and scroll wheel. MIND = BLOWN

100,000 Stars: An Interactive Exploration of the Milky Way Galaxy website space science interactive

100,000 Stars: An Interactive Exploration of the Milky Way Galaxy website space science interactive

Hubble Space Telescope image - dubbed eXtreme Deep Field - of the universe. In the image are 5,000 galaxies. The image took 2,000 exposures lasting a total of 500 hours.

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has produced one of its most extraordinary views of the Universe to date.

Called the eXtreme Deep Field, the picture captures a mass of galaxies stretching back almost to the time when the first stars began to shine.

But this was no simple point and snap – some of the objects in this image are too distant and too faint for that.

Rather, this view required Hubble to stare at a tiny patch of sky for more than 500 hours to detect all the light.

“It’s a really spectacular image,” said Dr Michele Trenti, a science team member from the University of Cambridge, UK.

“We stared at this patch of sky for about 22 days, and have obtained a very deep view of the distant Universe, and therefore we see how galaxies were looking in its infancy.”

The XDF will become a tool for astronomy. The objects embedded in it can be followed up by other telescopes. It should keep scientists busy for years, enabling them to study the full history of galaxy formation and evolution.

The new vista is actually an updating of a previous HST product – the Hubble Ultra Deep Field.

Continue reading

Kepler 21b

The National Optical Astronomy Observatory announced on Wednesday the discovery of Kepler-21b, a new planet that’s close to the size of earth and is only about 352 light years away.

“By astronomical standards, that’s right next door,” Katy Garmany, the Deputy Press Officer at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory.

Astronomers frequently discover new planets (according to Time magazine, we’re up to over 2,000), but Garmany said that what’s exciting about Kepler 21-b is that the planet is relatively Earth-sized. While its mass is about 10 times the size of our planet, its radius is only 1.6 times the size of Earth’s.

“Until a few years ago, the smallest extra-solar planet that we had discovered was the size of Jupiter or Saturn, which are about ten times bigger than the Earth,” Garmany said. “Now we’re getting down to something almost the size of the Earth, showing that we have the technology to find the earth-size planets.”

The new planet has a star that’s just a bit bigger and hotter than Earth’s sun, although it’s substantially younger. But because the planet is so close to its star, it’s far too hot to have liquid water, the base for life as we know it. At only 6 million kilometers (about 3.7 million miles) away from the star, Kepler-21b’s temperature is a blistering 2,960 degrees Fahrenheit, according to scientists’ estimates.

By contrast, Earth is about 150,000,000 km (93 million miles) from its own sun.

The discovery of Kepler-21b was a collaboration of both sky (the Kepler observatory) and ground-based telescopes at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona.

Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, writes in Discover Magazine that researchers examined the planet for 15 months. The results of the study will be published in Astrophysical Journal.

A meteor, the Milky Way and the Northern Lights. Capturing just one of these natural beauties in a photo is a feat many photographers would be proud of.

Amateur photographer Tommy Eliassen struck photo gold in this beautifully composed image he shot in Ifjord, Finnmark, Norway.

Eliassen made the photo on Sept. 25 using a Nikon D700 with a wide angle lens and long exposures between 25-30 seconds.

In an interview with Caters News, The 33-year-old, who capitalized on a narrow window of clear skies, talked about the experience.

I quickly went and took some pictures in a regular spot of mine, and thought to myself that I had got some good aurora shots and also some separate good milky way shots. But just as the clouds started to come in over the mountains I noticed this faint aurora lining up perfectly beside the milky way. Normally the lights from the aurora is much, much stronger than the lights from the stars, so getting the right exposure on both is difficult. But it was ideal conditions – almost once in a lifetime.

He was able to snap seven images of the scene before clouds moved back in.

“I was so focused on getting it right that I didn’t think about it at the time. But afterwards I realised that this was something special and that it might be years before I get an opportunity like it again,” he said. More here.

Around the world, a new generation of astronomers are hunting for the most mysterious objects in the universe. Young stars, black holes, even other forms of life. They have created a dazzling new set of super-telescopes that promise to rewrite the story of the heavens.

This film follows the men and women who are pushing the limits of science and engineering in some of the most extreme environments on earth. But most strikingly of all, no-one really knows what they will find out there.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 264 other followers

%d bloggers like this: