Raise a glass to Hubble! – Redux

The Hubble Space Telescope celebrates its 25th Anniversary in space today, 24th April, with the release of this wondrous image of the giant star-cluster, Westerlund 2, in the stellar nursery, Gum 29, located 20,000 light-years away in the constellation Carina.  [Image credit: Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), A. Nota (ESA/STScI), and the Westerlund 2 Science Team] From the accompanying text to the image. To capture this image, Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 pierced through the dusty veil shrouding … Read more

“We stared at this patch of sky for about 22 days…”

As the BBC’s spaceman, Jonathan Amos, notes, the Hubble Space Telescope team have released an updated version of their stunning Ultra Deep Field image – the eXtreme Deep Field (XDF) – and they have seen further than ever.  [Image credit: NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth, D. Magee, and P. Oesch (University of California, Santa Cruz), R. Bouwens (Leiden University), and the HUDF09 Team] From the text accompanying the above image The Hubble Ultra Deep Field is an image of a small area of space in the … Read more

The Universe at a glance…

Well, several glances actually…  As spotted by the Guardian blog’s Tom McCarthy, NASA has released a new atlas and catalog of the entire infrared sky “showing more than a half billion stars, galaxies and other objects captured by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission.”  And an impressive view it is. [Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA]   From the Nasa press release The sky can be thought of as a sphere that surrounds us in three dimensions. To make a map of … Read more

Stargazing, and [exo]planet hunting…

The last three nights saw the return to BBC2 of popular astronomy show Stargazing Live – presented by Brian Cox and Dara O’Briain.  Hopefully it will become, at least, an annual fixture. [Image credit: ESO/Y. Beletsky] The three hour-long programmes are still available, for now, on the iPlayer.  The entertaining ‘after-show’ shows, Back to Earth, appears to be missing are also available. If you’ve been paying attention you’ll have recognised some of the material – for example, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s images … Read more

Most distant “angry monster” brightest in early Universe

[Image credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser] The BBC reports on the discovery of the most distant quasar yet seen, ULAS J1120+0641.  An “angry monster” 12.9 billion light-years away – a mere 770 million years after the Big Bang.  Before the process of re-ionization was completed.  As the BBC report notes The light from ULAS J1120+0641 displays the characteristic signature of neutral gas, indicating that, at 770 million years after the Big Bang, the process of re-ionization had some way to go before the process was … Read more

Dr Neil Tyson’s “disturbing” thought for the day

The Guardian’s tame particle physicist, Jon Butterworth, is “playing truant” from the LHC at Cern to attend the Boost 2011 meeting at Princeton.  But he’s left a link-tastic post on the results so far.  Meanwhile, the Big G’s GrrlScientist points to director of the Hayden Planetarium, New York, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, explaining one of his “disturbing thoughts”. As an aside, the paper, “The Origin of Chemical Elements”, was published in the 1 April 1948 issue of the Physical Review. The … Read more

“you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s…”

With Cassini exploring Saturn’s moons, and Messenger finally at Mercury, the BBC’s Spaceman, Jonathan Amos, takes an interesting look at the future prospects for interstellar travel.  And he starts with this observation of Voyager’s 33-year-long journey. I’ve been troubled of late by the scale of things, by the vastness of space. It’s been brought into focus by two things, I think. The first is the Voyager 1 probe – the most distant man-made object from Earth. I’ve written a couple of … Read more

Clearing the cosmic fog

As the BBC noted, astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope [VLT] have confirmed that galaxy UDFy-38135539, one of several candidates identified in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (UDF) image of the Fornax Constellation acquired with the telescope’s new Wide Field Camera 3 last year, is the most distant galaxy ever detected. [Image credit: NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth (UCO/Lick Observatory and University of California, Santa Cruz) and the HUDF09 Team] Spectroscopic analysis of data collected during a 16 hour observation using the VLT identified a red shift … Read more

“it’s a thing of beauty”

Launched in May 2009 ESA’s super-cool Planck observatory achieved first light in September.  Now, as the BBC’s Jonathan Amos notes, ESA have released Planck’s first all-sky image. “This is the moment that Planck was conceived for,” says ESA Director of Science and Robotic Exploration, David Southwood. “We’re not giving the answer. We are opening the door to an Eldorado where scientists can seek the nuggets that will lead to deeper understanding of how our Universe came to be and how it … Read more