Posts Tagged: Astronomy

What Time Is "Primordial Gravitational Waves"?

Later today, science-type people are going to make an announcement that they promise is super-exciting and also possibly intelligible to the non-science community. The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the rumors have it, will be talking about evidence for "primordial gravitational waves." Now is the time to bone up on your weird science, so that you can have an opinion about it, or what else is the point of living?

Here's an explanation from a few years back: So-called gravitational waves are a prediction of Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity—moving objects perturb spacetime, generating waves like a boat moving across a lake….Such primordial waves might offer [...]


Star Eats Planet

"Catching a planet in the act of being devoured by a star is an almost improbable feat to accomplish because of the comparative swiftness of the process, but the occurrence of such a collision can be deduced from the way it affects the stellar chemistry. The highly elongated orbit of the massive planet we discovered around this lithium-polluted red giant star is exactly the kind of evidence that would point to the star's recent destruction of its now-missing planet." —Eva Villaver, one of a team of astronomers whose spectroscopic analysis recently documented a red giant star called BD+48 740 eating one of its own planets. This will likely happen [...]


Happy First Anniversary, Neptune!

"It's a frozen lump of frozen gases and I suppose not a terribly friendly place. Let's wish it a happy birthday but perhaps let's keep as far away from it as we can as it won't give you a welcome." —British astronomer Alan Chapman, on the fact that tomorrow will mark the first anniversary of the discovery of of Neptune—in Neptunian years, which are 164.79 times longer than Earth years. It was on September 24, 1896 that Johann Gottfried Galle, using theoretical predictions made earlier by French mathematician Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier (and, of course, a telescope) officially discovered the eighth planet in our solar system, 4.4 billion [...]


The Extremely Far-Off Green Pea Galaxies

"Round or elliptical galaxies are huge and almost always reddish. Spiral galaxies are less huge but still large and almost always bluish. Galaxies that are small are almost never round and certainly not green. By July, 2008, the Zooites had found enough of these galaxies they were now calling Green Peas-their slogan, Give Peas a Chance!-that astronomers were getting seriously interested. So astronomers did what they always do with a new project, they gave it to a graduate student, this one named Carie."


Planet Close

“The discovery that our nearest neighbor has rocky planets is the story of the decade. I’d bet $100 that there are other planets that are there as well.” —Yale astronomer Debra Fischer, on the recent discovery that there is a planet of roughly the same mass as Earth in the Alpha Centauri solar system, a mere 4.4 light years away. Now, sure, this is exciting—because where there is one small, rocky planet, there are often others and there is a habitable orbit zone around 65 million miles from Centauri B. (There are three stars in the Alpha Centauri system.) But, come on, not even the most devout reader [...]


20th Century Fox Co-ops NASA's Cassini Probe In Brilliant Marketing Strategy For "Prometheus"

If you thought the "Happy Birthday David" short was an ingenious bit of marketing for Ridley Scott's upcoming Prometheus, wait til you see this.


Something Something Lunar Eclipse

We weren't able to blow it up, but at least the moon—that crap-ass satellite that wastes valuable space in the sky and brings irritability and outright craziness everywhere it goes (THAT'S RIGHT, MOON, I AM CALLING YOU OUT! WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? OH, JUST SIT THERE SILENTLY IN THE COSMOS LIKE THE BIG DUMB HUNK OF ROCK THAT YOU ARE? I THOUGHT SO. FUCK YOU, MOON!)—will experience a lunar eclipse tonight, so for a very short period of time (at approximately 2:41 a.m., they say) we can pretend that it doesn't exist. It is absolutely worth setting your alarm so that you can get [...]


Huge Star Explodes 168,000 Light Years Away, Tiny Brain Does Same Here

Hey, want to see what a star exploding looks like in 3-D? Of course you do, it's totally amazing. Astronomers using the Very Large Telescope (that's what it's called) in Chile, have sent back zoom-lens images of supernova 1987A, which blew up 168,000 light-years away from earth and was first discovered in 1987. How we're able to see this event, that happened in the past, and was apparently visible to the naked eye 23 years ago, today, is one of those questions that hurts my brain to think about. Moving stuff is frozen in time by the incredible long distances in space? I guess? I don't know. But [...]


El-P, "Stay Down"

The new El-P video is good. His album Cancer 4 Cure is one of the two best rap albums released so far this year, I think. The other one is Killer Mike's R.A.P. Music, which El-P produced. And since El-P has said, wittily and correctly, "I swear to God I could make a beat with a banjo and a church organ only and someone will call it 'dystopian sci-fi'," I will take this opportunity to tell you that scientists have discovered a planet with four suns. (That's not "fi," I guess, but is is "sci.") But FOUR suns! I hope they have really, really awesome blackout [...]


Yes, But What Would Our Galaxy Taste Like To An Alien Astronomer?

"The best description I can give would be that if you looked at new spring snow, which has a fine grain size, about an hour after dawn or an hour before sunset, you'd see the same spectrum of light that an alien astronomer in another galaxy would see looking at the Milky Way." —University of Pittsburgh astronomer Jeffrey Newman, on how, by looking through telescopes at other galaxies, he and his colleagues have determined the exact color our own would have from an outside perspective. But what if, say, the alien astronomer had stayed up all night tripping on mushrooms? Like, if he'd rented a house in Vermont with [...]


First Potentially Habitable Exoplanet Found! So What's the Big Deal?

Read enough astronomy press releases, and you'll know that "habitable" is better than "earth-like," which means a certain distance from a star, which is better than "earth-sized," which could mean Venus which looks like pizza right out of the oven. So "Potentially Habitable," this is good. The planet's name is Gliese 581g, it's around three earths, it's probably not made of gas, it could conceivably hold on to an atmosphere, and it's at the right distance from its star, Gliese 581, to have liquid water on the surface. Gliese 581g for some physics reason always faces Gliese 581, so half of it may or may not be [...]


The Story of Hanny, So Far

Hanny van Arkel was 24 years old and teaching primary school in Heerlen, the Netherlands. She also played guitar and during summer vacation back in 2007, she was noodling around on the website of a famous rock guitarist named Brian May. Brian May got famous in the middle of a doctorate in astronomy on interplanetary dust, so his website had links to astronomy websites, and Hanny clicked on a new site called Galaxy Zoo. A week or so before, Galaxy Zoo had posted a million galaxy pictures and asked the internet to please classify each one according to whether it was a spiral or an elliptical or something [...]