Space

The Fermi collaboration released yesterday a paper describing their measurement of the electron and positron flux of cosmic rays. Simultaneously, a second paper was published by the HESS collaboration on the very same topic. Together, these two important new articles provide the means for a significant advancement in our understanding of the spectrum of electrons and positrons from nearby sources.

It is especially meaningful to consider the two results together because the two instruments are as different as salt grains and tequila. Let me see where to start:


While I was napping, Jupiter became a 2nd sun. Although it was observed in January by STEREO, we forgot to tell people. Or perhaps we were hiding the truth. Also, it was so well covered on YouTube that we didn't think we had to bother with a press release.

And thus occurred the most benign conspiracy in the history of NASA.

See, usually NASA is accused of hiding evidence of aliens, moon landing hoaxes, flat Earths, and other things Too Dangerous For People To Know. But when Jupiter was seen igniting as a second sun, the response was... upbeat.


HI image of Jupiter and Sun

It's certainly the case that 'dark matter', like 'Smurf' or 'government regulation', has in recent times become a de facto explanation for the unexplained.   We aren't big believers in magic so mysterious, undetected forces that explain everything probably actually explain nothing - and tossing out Newton in the process  brings on a higher order of scrutiny, since he has been declared irrelevant often before only to survive quite nicely.

Dark matter is currently unable to reconcile all the current discrepancies between measurements and predictions based on theoretical models and competing theories of gravitation have therefore been developed - their problem is that they conflict with Newton's theory of gravitation.
What happened in the first trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang?  Super-sensitive microwave detectors, built at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), may soon help scientists find out.

The new sensors, described today at the American Physical Society (APS) meeting in Denver, were made for a potentially ground-breaking experiment by a collaboration involving NIST, Princeton University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, and the University of Chicago.
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'.