Watch a Tornado on the Sun

February 19th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

These images from the Solar Dynamics Observatory are awesome and actually quite creepy:

Recent Astro News

September 9th, 2011 § Leave a Comment

I haven’t written an Astro roundup for ages, but that doesn’t mean nothing’s been happening. Last month I went to Rufforth Airfield near York to watch the Perseids – it was a cloudy night with a massive count of two(!) shooting stars, but I did get to go up in a glider 😀 In case you missed them, this page tells you about all the upcoming meteor showers – there’s no excuse not to get out there with a scarf and a hip flask.

Scientists have discovered the closest bright supernova since 1972. Called PTF 11kly (catchy!) it’s special for a couple of reasons. Firstly because it’s so new – astronomers have been able to pretty much watch the whole event unfold. Secondly, it’s a type 1a supernova, meaning that it’s what scientists refer to as a “standard candle” – it’s light behaves in a known way, and this allows astronomers to measure things like distances really accurately. Handy as a baseline when you’re trying to calculate the expansion of the universe.

I’m a big fan of CERN, especially the whole Higgs Boson search – a particle I learned about in A-Level physics but which doesn’t conclusively exist. Physicists at CERN and the Tevatron (which totally sounds like a transformer) at Fermilab are hoping to find it by the end of the month. If they don’t? Well, say goodbye to the Standard Model.

Finally, the BBC has some truly extraordinary photos from the Astronomy Photographer 2011 awards.

April Astro Roundup

April 13th, 2011 § Leave a Comment

Hooray for space stuff! Here are my latest cool space stories:

Space Shuttle Discovery has been retired, and here are some pretty cool pictures of technicians taking it apart for cleaning. It basically looks like it’s made from tinfoil 😀

Hers is a NASA video commemorating the space shuttle, narrated by William Shatner:

Apostolos Christou and David Asher have discovered a pretty neat Asteroid called SO16 that has a similar orbit to the earth. Most asteroids have unstable orbits, but this one is following us around and could stay on the same path for a million years.

An article on the BBC talks about a red giant, seen by the Kepler telescope, that doesn’t emit sound waves like stars usually do. This isn’t what interested me though – what did is that in 2001 the BBC reported on the first sound waves to be measured from a star other than our sun. That’s just ten years ago yet now it’s mentioned off-hand like it’s nothing special at all 🙂

Chandra Wickramasinghe is talking at York Astro society this Friday about the antiquity of cosmic life. More info is on the York Astro events page.

Large Hadron Collider Is World’s First Time Machine

March 17th, 2011 § Leave a Comment

There’s an interesting article on Physorg about how the Large Hadron Collider could discover particles that travel in time.

I’ve been reading The Grand Design over the last few days which explains all the theory behind the Physorg article, so if you want to know about M-theory and other dimensions, and the nature of time I’d definitely recommend giving it a read. Some of the random cool things I learned from it:

– If your telly is out of tune, some of the static on the screen is caused by background radiation from the big bang

– The sun radiates energy in all wavelengths but most strongly in visible light, so it makes sense that our eyes evolved to detect this. If some aliens on another planet had a star that radiated most strongly in another wavelength like x-rays, they would probably evolve eyes that detected this instead.

– Something can actually be created out of nothing thanks to gravity, so the big bang is philosophically explainable in physical terms. Okay, so I didn’t actually understand this bit of the book, and it was glossed over in the last two or three pages so I’m not convinced. But I plan to investigate.

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