Ok, I know this is not an original title for a blog about the sun and certainly not for the new solar cycle. Hey, I am an astronomer, not a writer. Like most science, my work on the Sun is partially something I fell into. My job on the Chandra science team is Monitoring and Trends Scientist. This means that it is my job to watch the spacecraft and make sure nothing is going to go wrong. To be honest, there are a whole bunch of engineers who have the same job for a specific part of the spacecraft and a chief engineer who monitors the whole spacecraft.
Combined data from Chandra (red, green, and blue) as well as optical light (light blue) and hydrogen emission (gold) reveals a “microquasar” in the galaxy NGC 7793. This system contains a stellar-mass black hole that is being fed by a companion star, shown in X-rays in the upper inset. Material falling onto the black hole is blowing outward via two powerful jets that plow into the surrounding gas and heat it. The lower inset shows the nebula that is being illuminated by the output from these jets.
Evidence for a recoiling black hole has been found using data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory, XMM-Newton, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), and several ground-based telescopes. A new paper reports that this black hole kickback was caused either by a slingshot effect produced in a triple black hole system, or from the effects of gravitational waves produced after two supermassive black holes merged a few million years earlier.
While most of the world was focused on that little soccer tournament in South Africa, astrophysicists were involved with their own form of competition last week. As they do every year, experts from around the globe gathered to conduct the Chandra Peer Review process. This is the way that astronomers figure out what targets Chandra will observe over the course of the next year. Most major telescopes – such as Hubble and Spitzer -- have a similar process. And as they say about democracy, it's not a perfect system but it’s better than just about any other.
Jonathan Taylor, a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at De Montfort University in the UK, wrote a poem about the cosmic 'ghost' lurking around a distant supermassive black hole. His poem also appears in the literary magazine Acumen, issue 67, http://www.acumen-poetry.co.uk/. Jonathan is not only a poet, but a memoirist and novelist.
NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has found a cosmic ‘ghost’ lurking around a distant supermassive black hole ....
(Chandra X-Ray Observatory, 28 May 2009)
Telescoped, the universe is a vast memory,
an over-long school-lesson in cosmic history,
background radiation droning on and on
from 300,000 years after the big bang,
remembering anything big enough (not us);
Recently, I attended a memorial service for Geoffrey Burbidge, who was my thesis advisor many years ago. He was eulogized for his pioneering work in several fields of astrophysics. In the 1950's, he was the first to determine the enormous energies involved in the giant radio sources, calculations still used today in studying the process of black hole feedback in galaxy clusters. He and his wife Margaret were leaders in documenting violent events occurring in what they called active galactic nuclei, or AGN, as they are commonly called today. They also paved the way for work that eventually led to the conclusion that the universe is dominated by dark matter, a peculiar substance whose nature is still not understood.
This image shows the symbiotic system known as CH Cyg, located only about 800 light years from Earth. The large image shows an optical view of CH Cyg, using the Digitized Sky Survey, and the inset shows a composite image containing Chandra X-ray data in red, optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) in green, and radio data from the Very Large Array (VLA) in blue.
Yesterday, the 2010 World Science Festival came to a climatic end with its Street Fair. This is the third year for this ambitious science festival that seems to take over Manhattan for several days. This year’s Street Fair spilled out from Washington Square Park into the streets around it.
Like last year, the Street Fair showcased Chandra images as part of the “From Earth to the Universe” project. The FETTU panels were arranged around the fountain in the middle of the park, providing a nice route for people to circle. The mood of the festival’s attendees was excited and upbeat – which is saying something on a very hot and humid day in New York City.
There are a lot of reasons why people like astronomy. For some, it's the topics it covers like black holes, exploded stars, and distant planets. For others, it's the sense of awe that the cosmos inspires. There are also lots of people that just think the images are beautiful and worth gazing at. And, for most, it’s some combination of these and others that make them want to learn more about astronomy.
This week, astronomers have gathered in the balmy city of Miami for the 216th meeting of the American Astronomical Society meeting. There are some interesting Chandra results – the new image of N49 and the latest on the black hole in Andromeda – but so much more. There has been news on the latest from the WISE mission, new stuff on exoplanets, some spectacular images and movies of the Sun from the Solar Dynamics Observatory – and that's just the first two days. Keep an eye on your favorite astronomy news website for the latest.
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