NASA Image of the Day for April 28th – ‘El Gordo’ Galaxy

NASA Hubble Team Finds Monster ‘El Gordo’ Galaxy

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has weighed the largest known galaxy cluster in the distant universe, catalogued as ACT-CL J0102-4915, and found it definitely lives up to its nickname — El Gordo (Spanish for “the fat one”).

By measuring how much the cluster’s gravity warps images of galaxies in the distant background, a team of astronomers has calculated the cluster’s mass to be as much as 3 million billion times the mass of our sun. Hubble data show the galaxy cluster, which is 9.7 billion light-years away from Earth, is roughly 43 percent more massive than earlier estimates.

The team used Hubble to measure how strongly the mass of the cluster warped space. Hubble’s high resolution allowed measurements of so-called “weak lensing,” where the cluster’s immense gravity subtly distorts space like a funhouse mirror and warps images of background galaxies. The greater the warping, the more mass is locked up in the cluster.

Celebrating Our Spirituality 365 Day A Year – August 23

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Celebrating Our Spirituality 365 Day A Year – August 23

August 23

Vocanalia

Vulcan was the ancient Roman God of fire and smithcraft. He had his own Flamen, the Flamen Vocanalis.

Very little is known about his festival and worship, but he did have a temple on the Campus Martius. Mythologically, Vulcan was the father of the fire-breathing monster Cacus, and his two consorts were Maia and Hora–also worshipped during his festival.

Celebrating Other Spirituality 365 Days A Year – Neptunalia

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July 23

Neptunalia

The Neptunalia venerates the divine God of the sea, Neptune. Originally a freshwater God, Neptune acquired his maritime status when he was identified with the Greek Poseidon. At Rome, there was a temple dedicated to Neptune in the circus Flaminius within the Campus Martius where his festivals were held on July 23 and December 1.

Neptune was one of only three Gods to whom a bull might be sacrificed (the others were Mars and Apollo). According to legend, he has a wife whose name was Salacia, Goddess of the salty sea and inland guardian of springs. It is believed that the Goddess Sulis, who is still worshiped at the sacred hot springs at Bath, may have been an aspect of Salacia.

“Mighty Neptune, may it please,

Thee, the Rector of the Seas.

Through thy watrie-region;

And a Tunnie-fish shall be,

Offer’d up with thanks to thee.

—Robert Herrick, “To Neptune, Hesperides”

(1648)

Air Elementals

Air Elementals

 

At their most powerful, these are manifest as the sudden tossing of a pile of leaves, as high winds, storms, sand storms, dust clouds, whirlwinds, hurricanes, tornadoes, rainbows, comets and shooting stars. You can experience air elemental if you are standing on the deck of a ship in a high wind; see their patterns in the clouds outside the cabin of an aircraft during turbulence; and witness them on swinging bridges and in all high, open places, especially in unsettled weather.

They are also expressed through the power and flight of the eagle, hawk and birds of prey in swooping flocks of birds, as butterflies and as the mythical Native North American Thunderbird.

Astronomy Picture of the Day – Spiral Galaxy in Collision

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2012 August 12

Spiral Galaxy NGC 4038 in Collision I

mage Credit: Data Collection: Hubble Legacy Archive;

Processing: Danny Lee Russell

 

Explanation: This galaxy is having a bad millennium.  In fact, the past 100 million years haven’t been so good,  and probably the next billion or so will be quite tumultuous.  Visible on the upper left, NGC 4038 used to be a normal spiral galaxy, minding its own business, until NGC 4039, toward its right,  crashed into it.  The evolving wreckage, known famously as  the Antennae, is pictured above.  As gravity  restructures each galaxy, clouds of gas slam into each other,  bright blue knots of stars form, massive stars form and  explode,  and brown filaments of dust are strewn about.  Eventually the  two galaxies will converge into one larger spiral galaxy. Such collisions are not unusual, and even our own  Milky Way Galaxy has undergone several in the past and is  predicted to collide with our neighboring  Andromeda Galaxy in a few billion years. The  frames that compose this image were taken by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope by professional astronomers to  better understand galaxy collisions. These frames — and many other deep space images from  Hubble — have since been  made public,  allowing an interested amateur to download and  process them into this visually stunning composite.

The best party ever: ‘What motivates you?”

The best party ever: ‘What motivates you?”

By: Tosha Silver

Now first off,  I understand this might be one misleading header since it sounds like I’m motivated by parties.  In fact, just the opposite.  With most my planets below the horizon, unless I’m promised off-the-hook dance music, I usually shy away from big parties like crazy.

But yesterday my friend Dan sent this video of the legendary Bryan Ferry, still going gloriously strong after all these years.  And it reminded me of something I’d forgotten about for a long time:  the best party ever.

One of my closest friends, Cyn, loved to give theme events so she sent me an invite once saying,

What motivates you?  Bring art, food, music, a costume, or anything at all, that represents what makes you in tick.  We’ll all decipher what you bring.

“What mad genius,” I thought, especially since Cyn was known for having the most diverse  pals around.  Few of us had ever even met each other.

In the bathtub that evening I knew what two pieces of music I would bring.

The party was as amazing as expected, such raw comic truth-telling.  I remember someone showed up with dollar bills pinned on every inch of her black velvet dress.  ‘Yep, material girl.” she laughed. “Just show me the money…”

Cyn carried a single rose in a cut-glass bud vase for.. romance.

One guy brought a huge poster of a train going into a tunnel between a woman’s long pair of legs.  With no sense of irony.  Well, at least he was honest.

This blonde woman brought a copy of the New York Times best-seller list for her lust for fame.  A short, bald guy brought a Sundance movie poster.  Another girl some copies of Rilke.

One of my favorites I remember was a Sag who showed up with a fully packed parachute.  For a freedom, adventure and a quick getaway.

And me?  Well, I threw most people for a loop.  I brought this song by Ferry but also George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.”  (Unfortunately the examiner site won’t let me post both but no doubt you know the other.)  With almost every planet in my chart aspecting Pluto, it all made perfect contradictory and concise sense to me.

I guess it still does.

But the room was baffled.

Finally, at the end of the evening, a quiet woman with a disarmingly direct gaze walked up and simply said, “Totally get it.  Transcendental Intensity.  Straight out of my own psyche.”

I smiled and asked if she knew her own chart.

She was, of course…a triple Scorpio.

Perfect.

And so, I can’t help but ask…

What would YOU have brought to this party?

****

Astronomy Picture of the Day for June 15

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is  featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2012 June 15

M65 and M66

Image Credit & Copyright: Bill Snyder (Heavens Mirror Observatory)

Explanation: Nearby and bright, spiral galaxies M65 (top) and M66 stand out in this engaging cosmic snapshot. The pair are just 35 million light-years distant and around 100,000 light-years across, about the size of our own spiral Milky Way. While both exhibit prominent dust lanes sweeping along their broad spiral arms, M66 in particular is a striking contrast in red and blue hues; the telltale pinkish glow of hydrogen gas in star forming regions and young blue star clusters. M65 and M66 make up two thirds of the well-known Leo Triplet of galaxies with warps and tidal tails that offer evidence of the group’s past close encounters. The larger M66 has been host to four supernovae discovered since 1973.

Astronomy Picture of the Day for April 14th

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1300
Image Credit: Hubble Heritage Team, ESA, NASA 

 

Explanation: Big, beautiful, barred spiral galaxy NGC 1300 lies some 70 million light-years away on the banks of the constellation Eridanus. This Hubble Space Telescope composite view of the gorgeous island universe is one of the largest Hubble images ever made of a complete galaxy. NGC 1300 spans over 100,000 light-years and the Hubble image reveals striking details of the galaxy’s dominant central bar and majestic spiral arms. In fact, on close inspection the nucleus of this classic barred spiral itself shows a remarkable region of spiral structure about 3,000 light-years across. Unlike other spiral galaxies, including our own Milky Way, NGC 1300 is not presently known to have a massive central black hole.

Astronomy Picture of the Day for April 12 – A Beautiful Trifid

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will downloadthe highest resolution version available.

A Beautiful Trifid
Image Credit & Copyright: R Jay Gabany Explanation: The beautiful Trifid Nebula is a cosmic study in colorful contrasts. Also known as M20, it lies about 5,000 light-years away toward the nebula rich constellation Sagittarius. A star forming region in the plane of our galaxy, the Trifid illustrates three different types of astronomical nebulae; red emission nebulae dominated by light emitted by hydrogen atoms, blue reflection nebulae produced by dust reflecting starlight, and dark nebulae where dense dust clouds appear in silhouette. The bright red emission region, roughly separated into three parts by obscuring, dark dust lanes, lends the Trifid its popular name. In this well met scene, the red emission is also juxtaposed with the telltale blue haze of reflection nebulae. Pillars and jets sculpted by newborn stars, below and left of the emission nebula’s center, appear in Hubble Space Telescope close-up images of the region. The Trifid Nebula is about 40 light-years across.

Astronomy Picture of the Day for April 9th

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2012 April 9
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

Blue Straggler Stars in Globular Cluster M53
Image Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA 

Explanation: If our Sun were part of M53, the night sky would glow like a jewel box of bright stars. M53, also known as NGC 5024, is one of about 250 globular clusters that survive in our Galaxy. Most of the stars in M53 are older and redder than our Sun, but some enigmatic stars appear to be bluer and younger. These young stars might contradict the hypothesis that all the stars in M53 formed at nearly the same time. These unusual stars are known as blue stragglers and are unusually common in M53. After much debate, blue stragglers are now thought to be stars rejuvenated by fresh matter falling in from a binary star companion. By analyzing pictures of globular clusters like the above image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers use the abundance of stars like blue stragglers to help determine the age of the globular cluster and hence a limit on the age of the universe. M53, visible with a binoculars towards the constellation of Bernice’s Hair (Coma Berenices), contains over 250,000 stars and is one of the furthest globulars from the center of our Galaxy.

Astronomy Picture of the Day for February 20th

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2012 February 20
See Explanation.Moving the cursor over the image will bring up an annotated version.Clicking on the image will bring up the highest resolution versionavailable.

Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1073
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Space Telescope 

Explanation: Many spiral galaxies have bars across their centers. Even our own Milky Way Galaxy is thought to have a modest central bar. Prominently barred spiral galaxy NGC 1073, pictured above, was captured in spectacular detail in this recently released image taken by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. Visible are dark filamentary dust lanes, young clusters of bright blue stars, red emission nebulas of glowing hydrogen gas, a long bright bar of stars across the center, and a bright active nucleus that likely houses a supermassive black hole. Light takes about 55 million years to reach us from NGC 1073, which spans about 80,000 light years across. NGC 1073 can be seen with a moderately-sized telescope toward the constellation of the Sea Monster (Cetus), Fortuitously, the above image not only caught the X-ray bright star system IXO 5, visible on the upper left and likely internal to the barred spiral, but three quasars far in the distance.

Astronomy Picture of the Day for Thursday, Feb. 9th

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

Nobels for a Strange Universe
Image Credit: High-Z Supernova Search Team, HST, NASA

 

Explanation: Thirteen years ago results were first presented indicating that most of the energy in our universe is not in stars or galaxies but is tied to space itself. In the language of cosmologists, a large cosmological constant is directly implied by new distant supernova observations. Suggestions of a cosmological constant (lambda) were not new — they have existed since the advent of modern relativistic cosmology. Such claims were not usually popular with astronomers, though, because lambda is so unlike known universe components, because lambda’s value appeared limited by other observations, and because less-strange cosmologies without lambda had previously done well in explaining the data. What is noteworthy here is the seemingly direct and reliable method of the observations and the good reputations of the scientists conducting the investigations. Over the past thirteen years, independent teams of astronomers have continued to accumulate data that appears to confirm the existence of dark energy and the unsettling result of a presently accelerating universe. This year, the team leaders were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work. The above picture of a supernova that occurred in 1994 on the outskirts of a spiral galaxy was taken by one of these collaborations.

Astronomy Picture of the Day for February 3rd

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2012 February 3
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

Inside the Eagle Nebula
Credit: Far-infrared: ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/Hill, Motte, HOBYS Key Programme Consortium;
X-ray: ESA/XMM-Newton/EPIC/XMM-Newton-SOC/Boulanger 

Explanation: In 1995, a now famous picture from the Hubble Space Telescope featured Pillars of Creation, star forming columns of cold gas and dust light-years long inside M16, the Eagle Nebula. This remarkable false-color composite image revisits the nearby stellar nursery with image data from the orbiting Herschel Space Observatory and XMM-Newton telescopes. Herschel’s far infrared detectors record the emission from the region’s cold dust directly, including the famous pillars and other structures near the center of the scene. Toward the other extreme of the electromagnetic spectrum, XMM-Newton’s X-ray vision reveals the massive, hot stars of the nebula’s embedded star cluster. Hidden from Hubble’s view at optical wavelengths, the massive stars have a profound effect, sculpting and transforming the natal gas and dust structures with their energetic winds and radiation. In fact, the massive stars are short lived and astronomers have found evidence in the image data pointing to the remnant of a supernova explosion with an apparent age of 6,000 years. If true, the expanding shock waves would have destroyed the visible structures, including the famous pillars. But because the Eagle Nebula is some 6,500 light-years distant, their destruction won’t be witnessed for hundreds of years.

Hubble Image Gallery for December 27th

Spiral Galaxy M100

An image of the grand design spiral galaxy M100 obtained with the second generation Wide Field and Planetary Camera (WFPC-2), newly installed in the Hubble Space Telescope. Though the galaxy lies several tens of millions of light-years away, modified optics incorporated within the WFPC-2 allow Hubble to view M100 with a level of clarity and sensitivity previously possible only for the very few nearby galaxies that compose our “Local Group.” Just as one does not learn about the diversity of mankind by conversing only with your next door neighbor, astronomers must study many galaxies in a host of different environments if they are to come to understand how our own galaxy, out star, and our earth came to be. By expanding the region of the universe that can be studied in such detail a thousand fold, the WFPC-2 will help the Hubble Space Telescope to fulfill this mission.

Astronomy Picture of the Day for November 20th

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2011 November 20
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

W5: Pillars of Star Formation
Image Credit & Copyright: Lori Allen, Xavier Koenig (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA) et al., JPL-Caltech, NASA  

 

Explanation: How do stars form? A study of star forming region W5 by the sun-orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope provides clear clues by recording that massive stars near the center of empty cavities are older than stars near the edges. A likely reason for this is that the older stars in the center are actually triggering the formation of the younger edge stars. The triggered star formation occurs when hot outflowing gas compresses cooler gas into knots dense enough to gravitationally contract into stars. Spectacular pillars, left slowly evaporating from the hot outflowing gas, provide further visual clues. In the above scientifically-colored infrared image, red indicates heated dust, while white and green indicate particularly dense gas clouds. W5 is also known as IC 1848, and together with IC 1805 form a complex region of star formation popularly dubbed the Heart and Soul Nebulas. The above image highlights a part of W5 spanning about 2,000 light years that is rich in star forming pillars. W5 lies about 6,500 light years away toward the constellation of Cassiopeia.