Space is awesome!
I have recently been reading a lot of articles and watching a lot of documentaries about space, and I have to tell you, I’m in love! It really is amazing how much we are beginning to learn about what is “up there”, thanks to the Hubble, Fermi and Planck telescopes, and it seems that the new discoveries just keep rolling in!
Last week, the NASA announced that the Fermi telescope had detected before unseen bubbles of radiation emanating from the core of our galaxy, the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way is spewing vast amounts of gamma and x-ray radiation off into space, like a couple of bubbles above and below the galaxy. This is exciting! As to what the implications of this are, I might leave that to the astrophysicists to work out.
These bubbles can’t be seen with the naked eye, but it’s interesting to know they are out there.
On the Hubble websitem they released, just last week, some amazing pictures of dark matter, and its distribution in the center of the giant galaxy cluster Abell 1689, containing about 1,000 galaxies and trillions of stars. From the site:
Dark matter is an invisible form of matter that accounts for most of the universe’s mass. Hubble cannot see the dark matter directly. Astronomers inferred its location by analyzing the effect of gravitational lensing, where light from galaxies behind Abell 1689 is distorted by intervening matter within the cluster.
It really is an amazing picture, and you can actually see the distortion talked about above!
The Planck space observatory returned an image from space earlier this year that i find equally astounding. Between August 2009 and June 2010, the observatory took a continuous image of the entire sky as seen from Earth. Called the All-Sky Survey, this image depicts a multi-wavelength survey, and is the first of its kind to be produced. The results are stunning, as you can see below.
Every day there is something new to see coming from these telescopes, as well as more news that I can possibly keep up with. While the idea od space can be very daunting to those who are unfamiliar with it, I have some great resources to get you started if you have an interest and don’t know where to look.
NASA has numerous resources for space information, but to start with, why not look at one image a day. Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) is a wonderful resource, and serves up a stunning image once a day from the various missions NASA is involved in.
For popular news and science, as well as a healthy smattering of other interesting stuff, go check out iO9 for everything about space and our possible future.
For all things Hubble, go to the HubbleSite. For all things Fermi, check out The Fermi Mission homepage. Both of these websites are updated regularly with the latest news from these telescopes. The European Space Agency (ESA) has this site dedicated to the Planck Space Observatory.
Of course there are many many other resources out there, but this is just a start to set you on the right path. Also, if reading is more your style, anything by Michio Kaku, Lawrence Krauss or Carl Sagan ought to whet your appetite.
Just to close this blob piece, I leave you with an amazing photograph, one that may change your perspective for good. This is a photo taken by the Cassini Space Probe of Saturn in eclipse (the sun is directly behind Saturn here). If you look into the left half of Saturn’s rings, just inside the second major ring from the outside, you will see a small dot. Enlarge the image and look closer. That is where you are right now, on Earth, many millions of kilometers away from Saturn, but still able to be seen. we are so very small compared to the majesty of Saturn, and yet every living thing we know about is on that tiny tiny planet.
“The human brain now holds the key to our future. We have to recall the image of the planet from outer space: a single entity in which air, water, and continents are interconnected. That is our home.” – David Suzuki