Space

A new Hubble image highlights striking swirling dust lanes and glittering globular clusters in oddball galaxy NGC 7049.

The NASA/ESA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured this image of NGC 7049, a mysterious looking galaxy on the border between spiral and elliptical galaxies. NGC 7049 is found in the constellation of Indus, and is the brightest of a cluster of galaxies, a so-called Brightest Cluster Galaxy (BCG). Typical BCGs are some of the oldest and most massive galaxies. They provide excellent opportunities for astronomers to study the elusive globular clusters lurking within.
As part of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 Cornerstone project, 100 Hours of Astronomy, the ambitious “Around the World in 80 Telescopes” event is a unique live webcast over 24 hours, following night and day around the globe to some of the most advanced observatories on and off the planet.

To provide a long-lasting memory of this amazing world tour, observatories worldwide are revealing wonderful, and previously unseen, astronomical images. For its part, ESO is releasing outstanding pictures of two galaxies, observed with telescopes at the La Silla and Paranal observatories. 
A small, dense object only twelve miles in diameter is responsible for this beautiful X-ray nebula that spans 150 light years. At the center of this image made by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is a very young and powerful pulsar, known as PSR B1509-58, or B1509 for short.

The pulsar is a rapidly spinning neutron star which is spewing energy out into the space around it to create complex and intriguing structures, including one that resembles a large cosmic hand. In this image, the lowest energy X-rays that Chandra detects are red, the medium range is green, and the most energetic ones are colored blue. Astronomers think that B1509 is about 1,700 years old and is located about 17,000 light years away.
While the team here discusses our current veeery quiet solar minimum, what are working solar physicists thinking?  Well, from the SPA Newsletter (http://spc.igpp.ucla.edu/spa/spanews.html), a twice-weekly newsletter, came this neat bit of April 1 whimsy:

Solar Dynamics Observer Mission Postponed

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From: <claruse at igpp.ucla.edu>
Integral has captured one of the brightest gamma-ray bursts ever seen. A meticulous analysis of the data has allowed astronomers to investigate the initial phases of this giant stellar explosion, which led to the ejection of matter at velocities close to the speed of light. In particular, the astronomers believe that the explosion lifted a piece of the central engine’s magnetic field into space.
 
On 19 December 2004, the blast from an exploding star arrived at Earth. ESA’s Integral satellite, an orbiting gamma-ray observatory, recorded the entire event, providing information for what may prove to be one of the most important gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) seen in recent years. As the data was collected, astronomers saw the 500-second-long burst rise to extraordinary brilliance. 
The sunspot cycle is behaving a little like the stock market. Just when you think it has hit bottom, it goes even lower. 

2008 was a bear. There were no sunspots observed on 266 of the year's 366 days (73 percent). To find a year with more blank suns, you have to go all the way back to 1913, which had 311 spotless days. Prompted by these numbers, some observers suggested that the solar cycle had hit bottom in 2008.

Maybe not. Sunspot counts for 2009 have dropped even lower. As of March 31st, there were no sunspots on 78 of the year's 90 days (87 percent).  

A team of astronomers, led by Stefan Kraus and Gerd Weigelt from the Max-Planck-Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn, used ESO's Very Large telescope Interferometer (VLTI) to obtain the sharpest ever image of the young double star Theta 1 Ori C in the Orion Trapezium Cluster, the most massive star in the nearest high-mass star-forming region.
Mission Madness got personal. Perhaps it was the SPB ballooning of votes, perhaps it is simply inherent in any popularity contest like this. With only three rounds let to go (vote early, vote often!), the epithets are flying. Match the quote below with its quarterfinalist mission! Trash Talk
  1. "a mission to cold, dead rocks"
  2. "biologically infested mission"
  3. "biologically infested mission"
  4. "hasn't launched yet"
  5. don't even count as [a] mission!
  6. "It either deflates or explodes"
I'm putting the finishing touches to a GUI when the red light starts flashing. The voice comes over the PA from ops, "Warning, Jupiter hoving to view". We quickly drop our work and run across the metal crosswalk that separates us from the STEREO operations bunker. Inside, against the din of the klaxon, we see the massive bulk of Jupiter crowding the leftmost of the main displays. STEREO B was in danger!


And here is the result from our STEREO website. Jupiter seen by STEREO COR1 Okay, I made up the bit about the red light and the klaxons. And after this brief science break, I'll even bring in some irony.

It was bound to happen - stink-free underwear. And naturally, it was developed by women.

Textile experts at Japan Women's University in Tokyo developed J-ware, a a line of odor-free underwear and casual clothing. The first Japanese astronaut to live on the International Space Station, Koichi Wakata, is the guinea pig (or maybe his fellow ISS habitants are).