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.Continue reading “A New Artist’s Illustration of the Extremely Large Telescope. So Many Lasers”
Ever wonder how modern astronomical observatories take such clear images of distant objects? Advances in mirror design have allowed for larger and larger primary mirrors. But adaptive optics play a huge role, too.Continue reading “The Carina Nebula. Seen With and Without Adaptive Optics”
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.Continue reading “What’s Possible When Earth and Space-based Telescopes Work Together?”
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.Continue reading “Antarctica Is the Best Place On Earth for a Telescope, Is Also the Hardest Place to Put a Telescope”
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.Continue reading “This Is Fascinating. An Image of a Galaxy’s Magnetic Field”
Most of us will be forgotten only a generation or two after we pass. But some few of us will be remembered: great scientists, leaders, or generals, for example. But we can add history’s great artists to that list, and one in particular: Johannes Vermeer.
Vermeer was largely ignored during the two centures that followed his death, and died as other painters often did: penniless. But as more time has passed, the Dutch Baroque painter has grown in reputation, as historians increasingly recognize him as a master.Continue reading “Astronomers Do the Math to Figure Out Exactly When Johannes Vermeer Painted this, More than 350 Years Ago”
Normally the images from NASA’s Curiosity rover, currently sitting near “Bloodstone Hill” on Mars, are of alien vistas and rock outcroppings that conspiracy theorists constantly try to anthropomorphize into UFOs. However, the rover is also excellently positioned to capture a unique perspective of an alien sky. And that is exactly what it did recently when it captured an image of both Venus and Earth in the same Martian night sky. The images were actually taken in two separate frames, though the two planets were visible in the sky at the same time.Continue reading “Curiosity Sees Earth and Venus in the Night Skies on Mars”
The speed of light is the absolute fastest thing in the universe, clocking in at a whopping 299,792,458 meters per second. At that speed, a beam of light could travel around the Earth’s entire equator in a mere 0.13 seconds. That’s…fast. And yet, when it comes to cosmic distances, it’s incredibly, frustratingly, boringly slow.Continue reading “At cosmic distances, even the speed of light is really slow”
We’re inching closer and closer to the James Webb Space Telescope’s (JWST) launch date of March 30th, 2021, (or maybe July 2021.) We never thought we’d get this close, with only a year to go before we send this powerful space telescope on its way. Now the telescope has been put in its launch configuration.Continue reading “James Webb is Fully Stowed Into its Launch Configuration”
Picture the space around Earth filled with tens of thousands of communications satellites. That scenario is slowly coming into being, and it has astronomers concerned. Now a group of astronomers have written a paper outlining their detailed concerns, and how all of these satellites could have a severe, negative impact on ground-based astronomy.Continue reading “Astronomers Have Some Serious Concerns About Starlink and Other Satellite Constellations”