Einstein was right about ripples in spacetime!

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Gravitational waves are real, and scientists have detected them. In the video above, PBS Space Time explains the discovery by researchers at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). From the New York Times:

A team of physicists who can now count themselves as astronomers announced on Thursday that they had heard and recorded the sound of two black holes colliding a billion light-years away, a fleeting chirp that fulfilled the last prophecy of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

That faint rising tone, physicists say, is the first direct evidence of gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time that Einstein predicted a century ago (Listen to it here.). And it is a ringing (pun intended) confirmation of the nature of black holes, the bottomless gravitational pits from which not even light can escape, which were the most foreboding (and unwelcome) part of his theory.

More generally, it means that scientists have finally tapped into the deepest register of physical reality, where the weirdest and wildest implications of Einstein’s universe become manifest.

Below, NASA's animated simulation of the black holes merging and releasing the gravitational radiation (background here):

above image credits: R. Hurt/Caltech-JPL Read the rest

Astronomers unofficially designate a David Bowie "constellation"

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Studio Brussels asked astronomers at Belgium's MIRA Public Observatory to select stars that would make a fitting asterism in memory of David Bowie. (Of course, only the International Astronomical Union can officially name stars and other astronomical objects, and it's almost always with a number.)

In any case, this effort was tied to the "Stardust for Bowie" annotation project for Google Sky. There is also an unrelated Change.org petition to "Rename planet Mars after David Bowie."

(via The Guardian) Read the rest

Star Wars planetary drinking glasses

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Thinkgeek has extended its solar system drinking glasses with a new link of six 10oz Star Wars glasses that symbolize six of the Lucas mythos's most important celestial bodies: Alderaan, Dagobah, Hoth, Tatooine, Endor, and the Death Star (natch). Read the rest

Astronomer, NASA advisor, and serial sexual harasser Geoff Marcy to resign from UC Berkeley

Geoffrey Marcy, possibly contemplating his next victim. [NASA photo]

Geoff Marcy, a famous and respected American astronomer, has announced his intention to step down as a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley, according to an email obtained by BuzzFeed News.

Marcy also works with NASA on the search for extraterrestrial life, via the NASA Kepler Mission.

Buzzfeed first broke today's news of Marcy's plans to step aside. It is the first real fallout he's facing from sexual harassment claims that the reported victims say were ignored for years.

Why would those claims be ignored by UC Berkeley? Because Marcy is kind of a big deal in the field of astronomy, and his name meant money for the struggling California academic institution. Read the rest

NASA rocket launch to be visible along U.S. East Coast Wednesday night

Predicted visibility map for NASA rocket launch Oct. 7.

If you're on the East Coast, keep your eyes on the skies this evening--you might see something rare up there.

Read the rest

A distinctive, discontinued telescope: the Edmund Scientific Astroscan

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I am frequently asked about this beautiful telescope! People think it is a bong! The Edmund Scientific Astroscan sits in the center of my living room coffee table.

I have heard astronomy buffs screech like wounded monkeys at the idea of my actually using this telescope to view the skies. I'm no celestial connoisseur, and this beautiful post-modern masterpiece offers me all I need in an at-home or camping telescope. Screw telling you about the optics, how much magnification it offers (variable based on your eyepiece,) or any other technical data! Here is the important thing:

I love how it looks!

Several years ago, I asked Mark what telescope he'd recommend. He sent me a picture of this one and I bought it immediately. Only later did I find out he just liked how it looked, neither of us did a bit of research on its utility as a functional sky viewing telescope.

Honestly, it is fine. Here is a great video that'll tell you more than you need to know:

If you'd like to find an AstroScan, try eBay! Mine is a lovely, functional conversation piece. Do not attempt to use it as a water pipe. Read the rest

Over 8,400 NASA Apollo moon mission photos just landed online, in high-resolution

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Space fans, rejoice: today, just about every image captured by Apollo astronauts on lunar missions is now on the Project Apollo Archive Flickr account. There are some 8,400 photographs in all at a resolution of 1800 dpi, and they're sorted by the roll of film they were on. Read the rest

Scale model of the solar system in Nevada's Black Rock Desert

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“On a dry lakebed in Nevada, a group of friends build the first scale model of the solar system with complete planetary orbits: a true illustration of our place in the universe.” A film by Wylie Overstreet and Alex Gorosh [HT: Mark Day]

Read the rest

New close-ups from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft show off Pluto's mysterious complexity

NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

The New Horizons spacecraft sent back new close-up images of Pluto, and they are stunning. Read the rest

World's most powerful digital camera gets green light from U.S. Dept. of Energy

”The LSST’s camera will include a filter-changing mechanism and shutter. This animation shows that mechanism, which allows the camera to view different wavelengths; the camera is capable of viewing light from near-ultraviolet to near-infrared (0.3-1 μm) wavelengths.
Illustration: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.”
Construction has been okayed for a 3.2-gigapixel digital camera, which would be the world’s largest, at the heart of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.

Cops mistake students' telescope for rifle, fortunately no shots fired

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A group of Fargo, North Dakota police officers confronted two men they thought were mounting a rifle on a tripod behind a garage at night. One man appeared to be wearing a tactical vest. Turned out that the "tactical vest" was a sweater and the two college students were just setting up a telescope behind their house to check out the moon.

NDSU student Levi Joraanstad told WDAY 6 that he and his buddy thought that it was just a couple of their neighbors trying to prank them by shining bright lights at them and yelling.

"I was kind of fumbling around with my stuff and my roommate and I were kind of talking, we were kind of wondering, what the heck's going on?," Joraanstadt said. "This is pretty dumb that these guys are doing this. And then they started shouting to quit moving or we could be shot. And so at that moment we kind of look at each other and we're thinking we better take this seriously."

Apparently the cops apologized when they realized that they had misread the situation. "Better safe than sorry," said one of the officers. Read the rest

Hubble captures shimmering, luminous Twin Jet Nebula

Bipolar planetary nebulae occur when a twin star system lies at the center, forming beautiful wing-like symmetrical lobes. The Hubble team estimates this translucent beauty occurred only 1200 years ago. Read the rest

SunCalc: customizable data for the sun at any time and place

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SunCalc is a nifty site and app by Torsten Hoffman that allows visitors to enter any location and date and find out all the details of that day's local solar path: Read the rest

Marvel at the space-beauty of Cassini's final close-up image of Saturn's moon Dione

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Two of the new images show the surface of Dione at the best resolution ever.

Fantastic video of Pluto fly-by made from still images

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Astronomical artist Björn Jónsson stitched together still images captured by the New Horizons spacecraft as it flew past the dwarf planet Pluto last month. Read the rest

Landscape astrophotography highlights stars in stunning locales

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This gorgeous vertical starscape taken near Death Valley by f1p4 is one of many examples of Reddit's landscape astrophotography group. Earthporn meets starporn! Read the rest

Dark Side of the Pluto

'shooped by Xeni.
"There is no dark side of the Pluto really. Matter of fact it's all dark."

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