Astronomy and Geophysics is Rife With Bullying and Harassment

It’s a common reassurance made by adults to teens and adolescents who constantly face the threat of violence, cyberbullying, and ostracism: “It gets better.” Once you graduate, once you grow up and join the workforce, all the mistreatment and abuse will cease and people will appreciate you for who you are. All the hard work and perseverance you’ve shown over these many years will finally pay off.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and even the STEM fields are not immune. This was the conclusion reached by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) based on a recent survey of 650 astronomers and geophysicists. What they found was that in 44% of cases, respondents reported bullying and harassment in the workplace during the preceding year, which was disproportionately high for women and minorities.

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Astronomers Measure the Background Brightness of the Night sky Across the World. Canary Islands are the Darkest in the Survey

Being able to look up at a clear, dark sky is becoming more and more rare in the rich world.  Authors, artists, and even scientists have started to express concern about what our lack of daily exposure to a dark night time sky might mean for our psyche and our sense of place in the universe.  Now a team has collected photometric data at 44 sites around the world in an attempt to quantify how dark the night sky actually is at different places on the globe. So where was the darkest place surveyed?  The Canary Islands.

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The Crab Nebula Seen in 3-Dimensions

The Crab Nebula is arguably one of the most famous objects in the night sky.  It was delineated as M1 in Messier’s famous catalogue.  It is the remnants of a supernova that was actually visible in day time almost 1000 years ago.  And its remnants have been astonishing both professional and amateur astronomers ever since.

Now thanks to modern technology, we can get an updated view of this iconic supernova remnant. Researchers from a variety of institutions, led by Thomas Martin from the Universite Laval, have created a three dimensional image of the nebula for the first time ever.

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One of the Largest, Most Complete Einstein Rings Ever Seen. Astronomers Call it the “Molten Ring”

A very rare astronomical phenomenon has been in the headlines a lot recently, and for good reason.  It will be hundreds of years until we can see Jupiter and Saturn this close to one another again.  However, there are some even more “truly strange and very rare phenomena” that can currently be observed in our night sky.  The only problem is that in order to observe this phenomena, you’ll need access to Hubble.

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A Single Filament of Gas Has Been Discovered That Stretches 50 Million Light-Years

Minute vibrating strings found in string theory are not the only ones that are of interest to physicists.  The Standard Model of particle physics provides for a theory regarding a different type of string – this one is a string of very sparse gas strung over very long distances.  In fact, the standard model predicts that a large percentage of “baryonic matter” (i.e. the type that makes up everything we can see and interact with) would be contained in these filaments. And now for the first time, scientists led by a team at the University of Bonn in Germany have detected one of these super long strings of gas.

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A New Artist’s Illustration of the Extremely Large Telescope. So Many Lasers

Everyone loves lasers. And the only thing better than a bunch of lasers is a bunch of lasers on one of the world’s (soon to be) largest telescopes, the E-ELT. Well, maybe a bunch of lasers on a time-travelling T. Rex that appears in your observatory and demands to know the locations and trajectories of incoming asteroids. That might be better. For the dinosaurs; not for us.

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What’s Possible When Earth and Space-based Telescopes Work Together?

Anyone who has ever worked on a team knows that their strength lies in coordination and a shared vision.  However, it is not always easy to provide that coordination and shared vision, and any team that lacks that cohesiveness becomes more of a hindrance than a help. 

Science is not immune to the difficulties of running effective teams.  There is plenty to be gained from more coordination between differing silos and physical locations.  Recently a meeting in Chile prompted a group of scientists to propose a plan to change that.  The result is a white paper that points out the potential benefits of coordinating ground, orbital and in situ based observations of objects.  But more importantly, it suggests a different path forward where all of the space science community can benefit from the type of coordinated output that can only come from a cohesive team.

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Antarctica Is the Best Place On Earth for a Telescope, Is Also the Hardest Place to Put a Telescope

Twinkling stars might make for spectacular viewing on a hot summer’s night, but they are an absolute nightmare to astronomers. That twinkling is caused by disturbances in the Earth’s atmosphere, and can wreak havoc on brightness readings, a key tool for astronomers everywhere.  Those readings are used for everything from understanding galaxy formation to the detection of exoplanets.

Astronomers now have a new potential location to try to avoid the twinkling.  Only one problem though: it’s really cold, especially this time of year.  A team of astronomers from Canada, China, and Australia have identified a part of Antarctica as the ideal place to put observational telescopes.  Now the challenge becomes how to actually build one there.

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This Is Fascinating. An Image of a Galaxy’s Magnetic Field

There’s always more than one way to look at the world.  There’s also more than one way to look at a galaxy.  And sometimes combining those ways of looking can result in something truly special.

That is what happened recently when a team of astronomers from seven different universities in four different countries used three different telescopes to produce an absolutely spectacular image of a galaxy and its surrounding magnetic field.

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