Geeky Astronomy

HUDF – Something New Has Been Added


The Hubble Ultra Deep Field. Click to Largerizerize.

Good morning everyone.

One of the most famous astronomical images in history just got a lot better. The image above was released at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Boston yesterday, June 3rd, the result of revisiting the same region of the sky as the Hubble Ultra Deep Field from 2004, but this time collecting ultraviolet data too and adding it to the new image. The original HUDF only contained near-infrared and visible light data, and only showed a partial picture of what was really out there. The addition of the ultraviolet data, which  shows the younger and hotter stars in the region, makes a startling difference, as you can see from comparing the original HUDF image (after the jump).

Very cool stuff indeed.

Continue reading HUDF – Something New Has Been Added

Geeky Planetary Science

Geeky Planetary Science: Earth Winds

This illustrates why I never want to sail the Southern Ocean.

I’ve come across several articles about the new interactive wind map modeled from the U.S. National Weather Service’s Global Forecast System database, but I hadn’t gotten around to checking it out until today whilst catching up on Universe Today. You should take […]

Geeky Astronomy, Geeky Physics, Spaceheads

When Galaxies Collide


A galaxy of stars is mostly empty. And in the emptiness of space, even the scale of a galaxy is nothing by comparison. And I thought about how unlikely it is for two objects in the universe to ever meet, how all the infinitesimal points that make up a galaxy will mostly pass […]

Geeky Planetary Science

Women Are From Venus; Men Are From Mars

Nerds shuck these labels.

[Image Credit: Lila Prime]

Geeky Astronomy

A Close Shave


Artist’s impression of asteroid 2012 DA14 approaching Earth on February 15, 2013. That’s tomorrow. Image credit: NASA

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the asteroid that’s going to pass by Earth extremely closely tomorrow. How close? It’s calculated to pass at a distance of 17,200 miles – that’s inside of geosynchronous orbit and through the satellite cloud that surrounds Earth. It’s like being out on the golf course and taking your stance to hit from the fairway onto the green, and WHIZZ – a ball flies by your face close enough so that you can read the brand name. Uncomfortably close.

Over on Universe Today, I found a nice little animation that shows just how big the rock is and how close it’s going to come to us, and you can watch it after the jump.

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Geeky Astronomy

Trans-Neptunian Objects


click to überLargerizerize

Good morning everyone.

Today we’re going to take a look0 at Trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), which is any object in the Solar System that orbits the Sun at a greater average distance than the orbit of Neptune1 . In particular, we’ll look at the TNOs that are dwarf planets and dwarf planet candidates because they are more interesting than the rubble floating around out there, at least so far.

First, let’s look at the definition of a dwarf planet:

A dwarf planet, as defined by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), is a celestial body in direct orbit of the Sun[1] that is massive enough that its shape is controlled by gravitational forces rather than mechanical forces (and is thus an ellipsoid), but has not cleared the neighboring region of other objects. More explicitly, it is a planetary-mass object—it has sufficient mass to overcome its internal compressive strength and achieve hydrostatic equilibrium—but is neither a planet nor a satellite.2

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Geeky Planetary Science

Maps of Tethys


Tethys in 2008. Click to engage the largerizer

Good morning everyone.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 15 years since the Cassini-Huygens mission was launched, and over 8 years since the probe went into orbit around Saturn. In that time Cassini has sent back thousands of spectacular images of Saturn and it’s moons, and the Huygens probe showed us just how strange and oddly familiar the surface of Titan looks. Cassini’s current mission, Solstice, will keep the spacecraft busy until 2017 at least and continue to give us amazing images of the Saturn system.

The accumulation of images from Cassini has given NASA/JPL the chance to construct rather detailed maps of some of Saturn’s moons. The first map of Tethys (above) was made in 2008 using Cassini and Voyager image data, and in 2010 a map was made of the entire moon using only Cassini image data. In June of this year the maps of Tethys were updated with more detailed imagery, and you can examine them after the jump.

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Geeky Planetary Science

Pretty as a Picture

Click for hi-res largerization

I was perusing the articles over at as is my wont, and I came across this interesting self-portrait of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity, and I thought that I’d bring it to your attention. The first thing that came to mind was “where is the photographer?”. It doesn’t […]

Geeky Astronomy, I Spy With My Little Eye

Hubble Extreme Deep Field


The Hubble eXtreme Deep Field. Click for hires

Good morning everyone.

The astronomers at NASA, ESA and the Space Telescope Science Institute have put together an even deeper look into the universe than the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF). The new image, called the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field (HXDF), is made from over 10 years of observations of a patch of sky at the center of the original HUDF. The original HUDF can be seen here. I don’t know the exact percentage of the of the HUDF view that was used for the HXDF, I haven’t been able to find the numbers.

The HUDF contained 10,000 galaxies in its image. The HXDF shows around 5,500 galaxies at the center area of the HUDF, like zooming into an already zoomed-in picture, but instead of the picture falling apart like a regular photo, more detail is revealed.

And it shows time. The HXDF shows galaxies that span back 13.2 x 109 years in time (13.2 billion years), back when the universe was less than 500 million years old.

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Geeky Planetary Science

PSR J1719-1438 b: A Girl’s Best Friend

A team headed by Matthew Bailes of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia made a sparkling discovery in 2009. They discovered a planet, PSR J1719-1438 b, circling a star about 3900 lightyears away. This planet, after careful analysis, appears to be very dense carbon and oxygen. Those with a metallurgical background may recognized that as the building blocks of diamonds.
Continue reading PSR J1719-1438 b: A Girl’s Best Friend