Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Big Ol' Black Hole Jets

Written By Tammy Plotner

Some 20,000 light years away, a black hole named GX 339-4 has produced one of the most exciting visible events possible - a massive flare. This searing jet is an extraordinary occurrence and astronomers using NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) were able to capture elusive data to further refine their studies of the extreme environments surrounding black holes.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Even Small Galaxies Can Have Big Black Holes

Written By Tammy Plotner

Astronomers detected supermassive black holes in 28 distant, low-mass galaxies, including the four shown in these Hubble Space Telescope images. Image credit: A. Koekemoer, Space Telescope Science Institute.

The Hubble Space Telescope has done it again. By utilizing a slitless grism, the Wide Field Camera 3 has uncovered evidence that supermassive black holes are right at home in some very small galaxies. Apparently these central black holes began their life when their host galaxies were first forming!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

NASA - Eyes On The Solar System

Submitted by Tammy Plotner

Are you ready for a fascinating virtual experience? Then check out "Eyes on the Solar System"! This clever compilation of visualizations and real images takes you on a journey that's sure to keep you entertained for hours!

If you've had the chance to use high dollar astronomy software, you'll appreciate this free program. Inside is a 3-D environment full of real NASA mission data which let's you explore the cosmos from the comfort of your computer. You can choose exploring an asteroid, scouring around a planet or taking a look at Earth from above. Fly with NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft or join Casinni. You can even see the entire solar system moving in real time! Just check out a very small part of the features in this introductory video...

There's so much more there, too. Imagine the possibilities of Kepler, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Spitzer Space Telescope! Move forward and backward in time... You're in command of this space journey! According to the developers, the awesome modeling team is current working on a number of spacecraft models. In the near future, expect to see finished models of Phoenix (cruise), Mars Exploration Rovers (cruise), Mars Science Laboratory (cruise), Mars Odyssey, and Mars Express. There are many spacecraft in the pipeline, so be patient!

While NASA's "Eyes on the Solar System" is compatible with Windows and Mac OS X, the partially Java-scripted format has a certain dependence on what browser is used. Firefox is recommended for smoothest operation, but it also works with IE and Safari. (I personally use Opera and encountered no problems - but avoid Chrome.) Other than that? Grab and comfy seat and take flight!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Great Weekend For Observing!

By Tammy Plotner

What an awesome weekend to have a small telescope or a pair of binoculars! There's lots of great things to observe and one of the best right now is Comet Garradd. You'll catch the bright - yet small - traveller cruising its way west out of Cygnus, not far from Beta. While you. As a matter of fact, why not stop at Albireo and enjoy this lovely binary's red and blue colors?! Head about 4 degrees south/south west and pick up another gem - Collinder 399 - better known as the "Coathanger" cluster. It will appear as an upside down "2" to a wide field view. Just check out the interaction with the comet that happened on August 1!

Need more? Then this is your chance to take in a supernova event, too. Let's give a listen to Dr.Peter Nugent, an astrophysicist from Lawrence Berkeley National Labs as he explains just how to find this star that exploded about 21 million light years away.

Still not enough? How about an occultation? On the evening of Saturday, September 3rd, the dark edge of the Moon will cover the 2.3-magnitude star Delta Scorpii from the eastern and southern U.S. Check with IOTA for specific times and locations.

So what are you waiting for? Get thee into the dark and enjoy!

Many thanks to John Chumack for the image of the "Comet and the Coathanger"!