Archive for Hubble Space Telescope

A Happy Hubble Coincidence

Posted in Biographical, Books, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on April 25, 2015 by telescoper


Preoccupied with getting ready for my talk in Bath  I forgot t post an item pointing out that yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope. Can it really be so long?

Anyway, many happy returns to Hubble. I did manage to preempt the celebrations however by choosing the above picture of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field as the background fo the poster advertising the talk.

Anyway it went reasonably well. There was a full house and questions went on quite a while. Thanks to Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution for the invitation!

Andromeda in High Resolution

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , on January 20, 2015 by telescoper

This afternoon I gave three hours of lectures on the trot, so I’m now feeling more than a little knackered. Before I head home for an early night, though, I thought I’d share this amazing video produced by the Panchromatic Hubble Andromeda Survey (or PHAT, for short), which is a Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Multi-cycle program to map roughly a third of the star-forming disk of the Andromeda Nebula (M31), using 6 filters covering from the ultraviolet through the near infrared. With HST’s resolution and sensitivity, the disk of M31 is resolved into more than 100 million stars. The combination of scale and detail is simply jaw-dropping. Hat’s off to the PHAT team!

Hubble + Beethoven

Posted in Music, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on January 10, 2015 by telescoper

In an attempt to get away from the horrors of the last few days I thought I’d offer this video I just found on Youtube. It features majestic, life-affirming music from the 2nd Movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major along with some wonderful astronomical images from the Hubble Space Telescope. Science and art for all humanity. How pathetic our petty squabbles appear when we think about the Universe or listen to great music.

Hubble Images With Music By Herschel

Posted in History, Music, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on November 20, 2014 by telescoper

Too busy for a full post today, so here’s a little stocking filler. The, perhaps familiar, pictures are taken by the Hubble Space Telescope but the music is by noted astronomer (geddit?) Sir William Herschel – the Second Movement of his Chamber Symphony In F Major, marked Adagio e Cantabile. Although best known as an astronomer Herschel was a capable musician and composer with a style very obviously influenced by his near contemporary Georg Frideric Handel. Although music of this era puts me on a High Harpsichord Alert, I thought I’d share this example of music for those of you unfamiliar with his work…

Cosmology Webcasts Coming Up…

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on September 29, 2012 by telescoper

Courtesy of freelance science writer Bruce Lieberman, whom I met briefly at the recent “Origin of the Expansion of the Universe” meeting in Flagstaff, AZ,  here’s a plug for two live webcasts on topical topics that are coming up in the next couple of weeks. On behalf of the Kavli Foundation, Bruce will be interviewing astronomers about the new Hubble XDF image (Oct. 4) and the new Dark Energy Survey camera, which just saw First Light (Oct. 11).

Live Q&A and Webcast: What Does Hubble’s Deepest Image of the Universe Reveal?

Click on the above heading for  direct link to webcast.

October 4, 11-11:30 am PDT (18-18:30 GMT; 19-19:30 BST)

Using data from the Hubble Space Telescope, a multi-national team of astronomers recently released our deepest-ever image of the
universe. Pascal Oesch, a Hubble Fellow at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and Michele Trenti, a researcher at the Kavli Institute for Cosmology, Cambridge at the University of Cambridge in the U.K., answer your questions about how the image was created and what it reveals about the early universe.

Viewers may submit questions to the two Hubble researchers via Twitter using #KavliAstro or email to

Live Q&A and Webcast: Can a New Camera Unravel the Nature of Dark Energy?

Click on the above heading for  direct link to webcast.

October 11, 9-9:30 am PDT (16-16:30 GMT; 17-17:30 BST)

Scientists have great expectations for the newly operational Dark Energy Camera, which may significantly advance our understanding of the mysterious force expanding the universe at an ever accelerating rate. Fermilab scientists Brenna Flaugher, project manager for the Dark Energy Camera, and Joshua Frieman, director of the Dark Energy Survey, answer your questions about the camera and what it’s expected to reveal.

Viewers may submit questions via Twitter using #KavliAstro or email to

Extremely Deep Space

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on September 27, 2012 by telescoper

There’s been a lot of media coverage of this image, taken using the Hubble Space Telescope using an exposure time of 2 million seconds (aproximately 23 days), including a nice feature article on the BBC Website to which I refer you for more explanation, so I’ll keep this post brief. Suffice to say that the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field (XDF) is the deepest image of the sky ever obtained and it reveals the faintest and most distant galaxies ever seen, showing some galaxies as they were over 13 billion years ago. It’s also very very pretty…

And if the overwhelming scale of the Universe revealed by this picture makes you feel worthless and insignificant, just remember that things could have been much worse. You might have been Nick Clegg.

Heart of Darkness

Posted in Astrohype, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , on March 6, 2012 by telescoper

Now here’s a funny thing. I’ve been struggling to keep up with matters astronomical recently owing to pressure of other things, but I could resist a quick post today about an interesting object, a galaxy cluster called Abell 520. New observations of this complex system – which appears to involve a collision between two smaller clusters, hence its nickname “The Train Wreck Cluster” – have led to a flurry of interest all over the internet, because the dark matter in the cluster isn’t behaving entirely as expected. Here is the abstract of the paper (by Jee et al., now published in the Astrophysical Journal):

We present a Hubble Space Telescope/Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 weak-lensing study of A520, where a previous analysis of ground-based data suggested the presence of a dark mass concentration. We map the complex mass structure in much greater detail leveraging more than a factor of three increase in the number density of source galaxies available for lensing analysis. The “dark core” that is coincident with the X-ray gas peak, but not with any stellar luminosity peak is now detected with more than 10 sigma significance. The ~1.5 Mpc filamentary structure elongated in the NE-SW direction is also clearly visible. Taken at face value, the comparison among the centroids of dark matter, intracluster medium, and galaxy luminosity is at odds with what has been observed in other merging clusters with a similar geometric configuration. To date, the most remarkable counter-example might be the Bullet Cluster, which shows a distinct bow-shock feature as in A520, but no significant weak-lensing mass concentration around the X-ray gas. With the most up-to-date data, we consider several possible explanations that might lead to the detection of this peculiar feature in A520. However, we conclude that none of these scenarios can be singled out yet as the definite explanation for this puzzle.

Here’s a pretty picture in which the dark matter distribution (inferred from gravitational lensing measurements) is depicted by the bluey-green colours and which seems to be more concentrated in the middle of the picture than the galaxies, although the whole thing is clearly in a rather disturbed state:

Credit: NASA, ESA, CFHT, CXO, M.J. Jee (University of California, Davis), and A. Mahdavi (San Francisco State University)

The three main components of a galaxy cluster are: (i) its member galaxies; (ii) an extended distribution of hot X-ray emitting gas and (iii) a dark matter halo. In a nutshell, the main finding of this study is that the dark matter seems to be stuck in the middle of the cluster with the X-ray gas, while the  visible galaxies seem to be sloshing about all over the place.

No doubt there will be people jumping to the conclusion that this cluster proves that the theory of dark matter is all wrong, but I think that it simply demonstrates that this is a complicated object and we don’t really understand what’s going on. The paper gives a long list of possible explanations, but there’s no way of knowing at the moment which (if any) is correct.

The Universe is like that. Most of it is a complete mess.


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