Space

This week's PhD Comic lists the 4 'research topics guaranteed to be picked up by the new media':

  1. Chocolate
  2. Robots
  3. Unrealistic Sci-Fi gadgets
  4. Experiments that might blow up the world
Pulsars are superdense neutron stars, the remnants left after massive stars have exploded as supernovae. Their powerful magnetic fields generate lighthouse-like beams of light and radio waves that sweep around as the star rotates. Most rotate a few to tens of times a second, slowing down over thousands of years.
Using ESO's Very Large Telescope, astronomers have succeeded in measuring the size of giant galaxy Messier 87 - or what they thought there should be.    It turns out that its outer parts have been stripped away - and no one is yet sure how.   To add to its woes, the galaxy also appears to be on a collision course with another giant galaxy in this dynamic cluster.

"We have the habit, as humans, of only thinking that what we see is real", began Neil Tyson.  Our job as astronomers is to 'turn something invisible and make it real'.  His premise: space weather is important to study, but scientists also have to step up their game in communicating why this is important.


Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson spoke at the 3rd Space Weather Enterprise Forum today.  As an astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium, part of his job is "when the universe flinches and the reporters come to knock on my door" it's "because there is a hunger" for science.

Astronauts blazed through their third of five spacewalks Saturday as they continued servicing the Hubble Space Telescope, installing the new Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) and repairing the main science camera of the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) which has been disabled since February 2007.  Initial tests verified that both instruments were alive and able to communicate with ground control.

(2007 photo: Cariana Nebula imaged with ACS and CTIO; credit: NASA, ESA, N. Smith, STScI, AURA, NOAO, NSF)
8 classrooms in 5 hours. 30 minutes per class. Grade levels ranging from kindergarten to 6th grade. Unscripted, 1 index card of talking points. When I compare 'Career Day' at my kids' elementary school with my Ph.D. defense, that dissertation committee seems the easier audience-- fewer questions outside of my field.

This blog serves me well for my K12 talks. Many of the concepts I work with here-- what it's like to be a working astronomer, what motivates me, what neat science stuff have I come across-- are perfect for talking to school kids. I used much of material here when I talked there.
The Whole Earth Telescope (WET), a worldwide network of observatories coordinated by the University of Delaware, is synchronizing its lenses to provide round-the-clock coverage of a cooling star. As the star dims in the twilight of its life, scientists hope it will shed light on the workings of our own planet and other mysteries of the galaxy.

The dying star, a white dwarf identified as WDJ1524-0030, located in the constellation Ophiuchus in the southern sky, is losing its brightness as it cools, its nuclear fuel spent. It will be monitored continuously from May 15 to June 11 by WET, a global partnership of telescopes which was formed in 1986.
Astronauts John Grunsfeld and Drew Feustel successfully installed the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) Thursday during the first of five scheduled EVAs, or spacewalks, to rejuvenate the Hubble Space Telescope.

Hubble was "full of surprises" for the astronauts, and EVA 1 took an hour longer than planned, but the veteran space and ground crews overcame all obstacles and Servicing Mission 4 (SM4) remains right on schedule.  (See the full scheduled timeline in my previous post.)
They did a great job describing the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, but an awful job showing a picture of it.  "They" will remain nameless, as they otherwise put together a really great exhibit of images from the Hubble Space Telescope.  But in a panel where they talk about the Ultra Deep Field, they show pictures of something completely different: two galaxy clusters named Abell 1689 and CL0024.  They are beautiful examples of gravitational lensing which enables us to almost "see" dark matter, but not they are not the UDF.
Monday afternoon the space shuttle Atlantis blasted off into the Florida sky carrying with it the hopes and dreams of astronomers like me and people around the world.  Seven NASA astronauts have set out to repair the aging Hubble Space Telescope and upgrade it with new instruments.

The launch was picture-perfect from our vantage point at Space View Park in Titusville, Florida.  This may be the second shuttle launch I have seen in person, but it is the first I am old enough to remember.  (photo courtesy of David Radburn-Smith)