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!Follow @telescoper
Archive for Hubble Space Telescope
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.Follow @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…Follow @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).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.Follow @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.Follow @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:
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.Follow @telescoper
News emerged last night that the US Government may be about to cancel the James Webb Space Telescope, which is intended to be the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. I’m slow out of the blocks on this one, as I had an early night last night, but there’s already extensive reaction to the JWST crisis around the blogosphere: see, for example, Andy Lawrence, Sarah Kendrew, and Amanda Bauer; I’m sure there are many more articles elsewhere.
The US House Appropriations Committee has released its Science Appropriations Bill for the Fiscal Year 2012, which will be voted on tomorrow. Among other announcements (of big cuts to NASA’s budget) listed in the accompanying press release we find
The bill also terminates funding for the James Webb Space Telescope, which is billions of dollars over budget and plagued by poor management.
It is undoubtedly the case that JWST is way over budget and very late. Initial estimates put the cost of the at $1.6 billion and that it would be launched this year (2011). Now it can’t launch until at least 2018, and probably won’t fly until as late as 2020, with an estimated final price tag of $6.8 billion. I couldn’t possibly comment on whether that is due to poor management or just that it’s an incredibly challenging project.
There’s a very informative piece on the Nature News Blog that explains that this is an early stage of the passage of the bill and that there’s a long way to go before JWST is definitely axed, but it is a worrying time for all those involved in it. There are serious implications for the European Space Agency, which is also involved in JWST, to STFC, which supports UK activity in related projects, and indeed for many groups of astronomers around the world who are currently engaged in building and testing instruments.
One of the arguments against cancelling JWST now is that all the money that has been spent on it so far would have been wasted, in other words that it’s “too big to fail”, which is an argument that obviously can’t be sustained indefinitely. It may be now it’s so far over budget that it’s become a political liability to NASA, i.e. it’s too big to succeed. It’s too early to say that JWST is doomed – this draft budget is partly a political shot across the bows of the President by the Republicans in the House – but it does that the politicians are prepared to think what has previously been unthinkable.
UPDATE: A statement has been issued by the American Astronomical Association.Follow @telescoper