Category Archives: Science

Ever get the feeling that things are not as they should be?

Here’s German educational design studio Kurzgesagt with the cure. To wit:

In this video we want to talk about one of the strongest predictors of how happy people are, how easily they make friends and how good they are at dealing with hardship. An antidote against dissatisfaction so to speak: Gratitude. 

Previously: Space Catapult

What is this? a meteor shower streaming toward us from a point source in the sky? Well, yes – in a way. To wit:

When the Earth crosses a stream of Sun-orbiting meteors, these meteors appear to come from the direction of the stream — with the directional point called the radiant.  An example occurs every mid-December for the Geminids meteor shower, as apparent in the featured image.  Recorded near the shower’s peak in 2013, the featured skyscape captures Gemini’s shooting stars in a four-hour composite from the dark skies of the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. In the foreground the 2.5-meter du Pont Telescope is visible as well as the 1-meter SWOPE telescope. The skies beyond the meteors are highlighted by Jupiter, seen as the bright spot near the image center, the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy, seen vertically on the image left, and the pinkish Orion Nebula on the far left. Dust swept up from the orbit of active asteroid 3200 Phaethon, Gemini’s meteors enter the atmosphere traveling at about 22 kilometers per second. The 2019 Geminid meteor shower peaks again this coming weekend.

(Image: Yuri Beletsky (Carnegie Las Campanas Observatory, TWAN)

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A spectacular (and very rare) ice halo photographed (on an iPhone) by Michael Schneider this month in the Swiss Alps. According to Schneider, the phenomenon developed gradually as fog dissipated at the top of a ski resort.

The annotated overlay (using information from this site on atmospheric optics) was created by Mark McCaughrean.

Previously: Dublin Rainbow

kottke

Not really. What appears to be an electrical discharge from the Milky Way is actually a distant storm photographed from the  Italian island of Sardinia last June. To wit:

The foreground rocks and shrubs are near the famous Capo Spartivento Lighthouse, and the camera is pointed south toward Algeria in Africa. In the distance, across the Mediterranean Sea, a thunderstorm is threatening, with several electric lightning strokes caught together during this 25-second wide-angle exposure. Much farther in the distance, strewn about the sky, are hundreds of stars in the neighbourhood of our Sun in the Milky Way Galaxy. Farthest away, and slanting down from the upper left, are billions of stars that together compose the central band of our Milky Way.

(Image: Ivan Pedretti)

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Behold: M27 – the Dumbell Nebula – possibly what will eventually happen to our own sun. To wit:

…the type of nebula our Sun will produce when nuclear fusion stops in its core.,M27 is one of the brightest planetary nebulae on the sky, and can be seen toward the constellation of the Fox (Vulpecula) with binoculars. It takes light about 1000 years to reach us from M27, featured here in colors emitted by hydrogen and oxygen. Understanding the physics and significance of M27 was well beyond 18th century science. Even today, many things remain mysterious about bipolar planetary nebula like M27, including the physical mechanism that expels a low-mass star’s gaseous outer-envelope, leaving an X-ray hot white dwarf.

(Image: Steve Mazlin)

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Or, pre-1998, Opal Fruits.

Behold: the spiral galaxy NGC 4736, aka Messier 94 – 15 million light years away in the in the northern constellation of the Hunting Dogs (Canes Venatici). To wit:

A popular target for Earth-based astronomers, the face-on spiral galaxy is about 30,000 light-years across, with spiral arms sweeping through the outskirts of its broad disk. But this Hubble Space Telescope field of view spans about 7,000 light-years across M94‘s central region. The featured close-up highlights the galaxy’s compact, bright nucleus, prominent inner dust lanes, and the remarkable bluish ring of young massive stars. The ring stars are all likely less than 10 million years old, indicating that M94 is a starburst galaxy that is experiencing an epoch of rapid star formation. The circular ripple of blue stars is likely a wave propagating outward, having been triggered by the gravity and rotation of a oval matter distributions. Because M94 is relatively nearby, astronomers can better explore details of its starburst ring.

(Image: ESA/Hubble & NASA)

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Behold: Europa –  fourth largest of Jupiter’s 79 moons and fictional forbidden location of future intelligent life in Arthur C. Clarke’s ’2010: Odyssey Two’ (1982) and Peter Hyam’s 1984 film adaptation ‘2010: The Year We Make Contact’.

Looping through the Jovian system in the late 1990s, the Galileo spacecraft recorded stunning views of Europa and uncovered evidence that the moon’s icy surface likely hides a deep, global ocean. Galileo’s Europa image data has been remastered here, using improved new calibrations to produce a color image approximating what the human eye might see. Europa’s long curving fractures hint at the subsurface liquid water. The tidal flexing the large moon experiences in its elliptical orbit around Jupiter supplies the energy to keep the ocean liquid. But more tantalizing is the possibility that even in the absence of sunlight that process could also supply the energy to support life, making Europa one of the best places to look for life beyond Earth. What kind of life could thrive in a deep, dark, subsurface ocean? Consider planet Earth’s own extreme shrimp.

Larger image here.

(Image: NASA, JPL-Caltech, SETI Institute, Cynthia Phillips, Marty Valenti)

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Behold: Hoag’s Object – an unusual extragalactic thingy we still don’t know a great deal about despite it  being discovered by astronomer Arthur Hoag in 1950. What is it? One galaxy? Two? The Eye of Sauron? The Doughnut Of Doom?  To wit:

On the outside is a ring dominated by bright blue stars, while near the center lies a ball of much redder stars that are likely much older. Between the two is a gap that appears almost completely dark. How Hoag’s Object formed, including its nearly perfectly round ring of stars and gas, remains unknown. Genesis hypotheses include a galaxy collision billions of years ago and the gravitational effect of a central bar that has since vanished. The featured photo was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and recently reprocessed using an artificially intelligent de-noising algorithm. Observations in radio waves indicate that Hoag’s Object has not accreted a smaller galaxy in the past billion years. Hoag’s Object spans about 100,000 light years and lies about 600 million light years away toward the constellation of the Snake (Serpens). Many galaxies far in the distance are visible toward the right, while coincidentally, visible in the gap at about seven o’clock, is another but more distant ring galaxy.

(Image: NASA, ESA, Hubble; Processing: Benoit Blanco)

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