So you wanna be an astrophysicist? Try this route!
  1. Leave a well-paying NASA job to get a Ph.D.
  2. Begin studying solar CMEs ... while the sun is at solar minimum.
  3. Assessing how the web is kicking print media's butt, consider shifting career to ... journalism?
An extremely deep Chandra X-ray Observatory image of a region near the center of our Galaxy has resolved a long-standing mystery about an X-ray glow along the plane of the Galaxy. The glow in the region covered by the Chandra image was discovered to be caused by hundreds of point-like X- ray sources, implying that the glow along the plane of the Galaxy is due to millions of such sources.

This image shows an infrared view from the Spitzer Space Telescope of the central region of the Milky Way, with a pullout showing a Chandra image of a region located only 1.4 degrees away from the center of the Galaxy.

For over three decades, globes of Mercury were blank on one side. Though Mariner 10 explored the small planet in three flybys in 1974 and 1975, no more than half was ever seen.   Of the four terrestrial planets – Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars - we knew the least about Mercury.

On Oct. 6, 2008, the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging spacecraft, better known as MESSENGER, made its second close-approach flyby of Mercury. 30 years after man's first look, MESSENGER has revealed Mercury in its entirety - well, mostly.

From CNN:

Scientists spot oldest ever object in universe

Wow, that gamma ray from the exploding star GRB 090423 is so old.  Why do we even keep it around?  It’s like, 95% as old as time.  And what an eyesore.  We can see it from anywhere in the universe. 

Gamma ray image from the oldest thing we've ever seen.
Calculations by Ryan O'Leary and Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics suggest that hundreds of massive black holes, left over from the galaxy-building days of the early universe, may wander the Milky Way.   Rogue black holes roaming our galaxy, threatening to swallow anything that gets too close?  Do we call the UN?

No, Earth is safe. The closest rogue black hole should reside thousands of light-years away. Astronomers are eager to locate them, though, for the clues they will provide to the formation of the Milky Way. 
The Daytime Astronomer, Tues&Fri here, via RSS feed, and twitter @skyday

Two days ago, I woke up blind. Couldn't open my eyes-- lids were fused shut. For that early morning hour, I had to question just what I would do as a blind astronomer.

I'd had blurry vision the night before, but this was still unexpected. Pragmatically, I found my way to a sink to try and flush out my eyes, get some vision back. To avoid false suspense-- I was able to see (mostly) in fairly short order. And I can safely assure you there is a huge emotional difference between 'no sight' and 'can see slightly'.
In ancient stories, and even some newer ones, the appearance of a comet or any heavenly object could symbolize a God's displeasure and even mean a sure failure in battle for one side.   Tel Aviv University researchers say comets could be even more relevant than mythology suggests; they might have actually provided the elements for the emergence of life on our planet.
The farthest we have 'seen' in space just got a little farther away, thanks to ESO's Very Large Telescope and GRB (Gamma Ray Burst) 090423.

VLT has shown that a faint gamma-ray burst detected last Thursday is the signature of the explosion of the earliest, most distant known object in the Universe (a redshift of 8.2). The explosion apparently took place more than 13 billion years ago, only about 600 million years after the Big Bang.
Back on a frozen pre-Inaugeration Day, I picked up a hitchhiker on US295N. We exchanged the usual banter ("Got any guns? No? Great!").  He wasn't a local, just in town to help assemble bandstands in DC and visiting a friend in Baltimore.  He had three reasons for hitching that cold wintry day: his car had died, he had no money, and it made him feel like he was 17 again.

The strangest part was that he started talking about recent lack of sunspots, as seen by a NASA satellite mission and reported on

Now, what are the odds that an itinerant hitchhiker whose hobby is space weather would happen to get picked up by a solar physicist who worked with the very satellite he'd just read about?
The Hubble Space Telescope turned 19 today.  On this date in 1990, Hubble was launched by the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-31).
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