Showing posts with label astronomy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label astronomy. Show all posts

09 February 2015

Earth-Moon ballet

This animation of the Earth-Moon system was made available by the BBC. The animation was produced by NASA.

This has to be seen by as many people as possible; it truly puts our planet into a different perspective. While you watch, remember that the entire Earth-Moon system that you see here is itself orbiting around the sun, which in turn is orbiting the centre of our Milky Way galaxy, which in turn is heading slowly towards an interaction with the Andromeda galaxy. If that doesn't inspire awe, nothing will!

31 January 2013

Full Moon rising

We take an unusual look at our nearest neighbour in the Solar System, the Moon. Watch it rise, with some unanticipated activity in the foreground, and then ponder some things you may not have considered before.

Full Moon
This remarkable video by Australian Mark Gee shows the Moon rising in an unexpected way in the New Zealand evening sky. There are many things to notice about this scene and I'll go through them below the embedded video. But please watch it first, you will not be disappointed!

You can watch it right here on the page. But I strongly recommend that you click the full screen control (the four arrow symbol at bottom right) and if you have a good internet connection, also make sure you view it in HD.

Come back here after you watch it, scroll down the page a little, and we'll talk about what you have just watched.

Big Moon or small people? - Mark was using a good telephoto lens here. Imagine looking at a nearly full Moon rising above a distant hill line with people walking along the ridge. They'd be silhouetted against the bright Moon but they be almost too small to see. In this shot both the Moon and the people are magnified by the same amount.

Fuzzy and shimmering Moon - Look at the edge of the Moon. Do you see the constant disturbance of what would should be a sharp and smooth edge? This is due to temperature differences along the line of sight. The density and refractive index of the air depend on temperature. You can see the same effect above a road surface on a hot day, or above a hot roof. Objects behind the shimmering air wobble and move continually.

Steady people - Take a careful look at the people and the grass and the fence line. Are they shimmering too? No! But why not? The answer may not be immediately obvious. There's a great distance of air between the camera and the Moon, much less between the camera and the people. Most of the disturbed air is way beyond the people, between them and the Moon.

Where's the Sun? - As a full Moon rises, the Sun sets on the opposite horizon. At times other than full Moon this is not the case. Sometimes both Sun and Moon will be in the sky at the same time. At other times both may be below the horizon. New Moon, when they are both in the same part of the sky, is a good time for astronomers because the sky is nice and dark all night long.

So why is there no sunlight? - If the Sun is setting as the full Moon rises, why can't we see its light on the people and the vegetation? If you'd been there at the time you'd have thought the sky was quite light, there may indeed have been a lovely glow behind you as you looked at the Moon. But the full Moon would have been brighter than the remaining light from the Sun and the camera was set to record the Moon, not the people.

Also, this Moon is not perfectly full. Notice that the right-hand edge of the Moon is sharper and brighter than the left-hand edge. The Sun had already dipped below the horizon before the Moon made its appearance.

Isn't the Moon moving the wrong way? - In the UK where I live, the Moon moves steadily to the right as it rises. But this Moon moves steadily left! Why? It moves to the right in the USA too, and indeed anywhere north of the equator. But in the southern hemisphere the Moon moves left. If you're a northerner imagine standing on your head. Now which way would the Moon seem to move - left or right? It moves from east to west wherever you live.

And it's upside down! - Indeed it is. But so are Australians. Or we northerners are, it depends who you ask.

It's more yellow than I expected - That's because it's made of well-matured cheese. I thought everyone knew that.

The real reason is that we are looking at it through a lot of atmosphere. Air scatters blue light (which is why the daylight sky looks blue). Near the horizon both the Sun and the Moon appear yellow or orange, or even reddish. As they rise higher they have less and less air to shine through so the orange effect is lost and a Moon high in the sky appears white (though in fact it's a rather dark grey). The night sky is dark and the Moon appears intensely white because of the high contrast.

More about the video - Mark Gee tells the story of making this video in his own words; it's well worth reading so do go and take a look. Mark's video was made on 28th January and featured on 'Astronomy Picture of the Day' (APOD) on 30th January.


  • We live in a truly astounding universe. What is the most amazing thing you have ever seen?
  • Are you surprised to see how fast the Moon rises?
  • How do you feel when you watch this video?

See also:

22 January 2013

From the beginning to atoms

The universe, Part 4
< In the beginningSeries index | Penzias, Wilson and some noise >

The universe grows larger, cooler and more complex at astonishing speed until it's a few minutes old. Further change is much slower and less dramatic. Fundamental forces and particles are generated, hydrogen and helium are formed and light is released.

The cosmic microwave background radiation
The first few minutes of the universe's existence see a huge increase in volume and a dramatic reduction in temperature. Gravity, light, and atomic forces separate from one another. And finally matter comes into existence in the form of hydrogen and helium nuclei and electrons.

More fundamentally we could say that the universe evolves from a simple, evenly distributed beginning and generates greater and greater complexities confined to smaller and smaller volumes as it expands. We'll explore this concept in a later post.

In Part 3 we discussed the beginning but also understood that we can't directly understand or observe it. A good theory of quantum gravity might help, but we don't have one yet.

So how near the beginning can we claim to have any real understanding? The answer is back to 10-43 of a second. If you want to see that as an ordinary fraction you would need to write 1 at the top with 1 followed by 43 zeroes at the bottom. So we understand the universe (in some sense) back to a very, very tiny part of a second.

What exactly do we know from that very early time?

Gravity and inflation - For one thing, gravity and the other fundamental forces may have all been of equal strength at first, with gravity separating out at 10-43 seconds. There is theoretical support for this. After gravity separated to become the very mild force it is today, the universe entered a time of extremely rapid expansion known as inflation.

This is not just something scientists have dreamed up; the observed properties of the universe can only be explained by such a rapid inflation during which it became unimaginably larger in a tiny, tiny fraction of a second. Before inflation the universe was smaller than a sub atomic particle. Inflation ended between 10-33 and 10-32 seconds, but by this time the universe was spacious (perhaps as large as a football) and packed with elementary particles that still exist in our own time - quarks, antiquarks and gluons.

How do we know all this? There are three important things that constrain what is possible.

  • Theory - Based on what we know of the later universe, theory rules out most hypotheses about the earliest eras. Only an early universe similar to what is described above could have resulted in what we see today.
  • Cosmology - Observations suggest a great deal. The cosmic background radiation (shown above) and the distribution of galaxy clusters, for example, can only be explained by inflation.
  • High energy physics experiments - By creating high energies in particle accelerators we can observe the properties and behaviour of particles in a similar state to these early phases of the universe.

Here's one more thing about inflation. If, as many think, our universe began as a quantum fluctuation, then without inflation it would have been the most transient of fluctuations and the universe would have been snuffed out almost immediately while it was still very tiny.

The electroweak epoch - The next stage in the evolution of the universe involved the strong nuclear force separating from the remaining two fundamental forces. Like the earlier events, this too happened at a very early time, around 10-34 seconds. More particles were able to condense out of the soup of energy at this stage, W bosons, Z bosons and Higgs Bosons became common. These are particles that can be generated in our most powerful accelerators today, so we are able to study them and understand them reasonably well.

The universe continued to expand and cool so that by 10-12 seconds bosons could no longer be created. 10-12 seconds is also called a picosecond (one quadrillionth of a second). Lasers with pulses as short as a picosecond are used for cutting and shaping materials, in medicine, and for removing tatoos. It's still a very brief time, but meaningful enough for real life use. Light travels just 0.3 mm in this time.

The quark, hadron and lepton epochs - The universe continued to expand and cool. After it was a picosecond old the electromagnetic and weak forces separated and the universe at this time was full of a dense quark-gluon plasma.

By the end of this epoch at around a microsecond old (one millionth of a second), the universe was cool enough that the quarks could combine to form protons, neutrons and their anti-particles. At an age of about one second the universe was cool enough for particles and anti-particles to annihilate, leaving a small excess of protons and neutrons.

As the universe expanded and cooled further and aged to about ten seconds, electrons and other leptons were also able to annihilate with their anti-particles leaving a small excess of mostly protons, neutrons, electrons, and photons.

Over the next few minutes conditions cooled to a point where atomic nuclei could form, mostly deuterium and helium with a little lithium. At this point the universe contained these nuclei, protons, electrons, and photons. After a further 380 000 years of cooling and expansion the protons and other nuclei combined with the electrons to form hydrogen and helium atoms (and some lithium atoms). This allowed the photons to move freely (the cosmic microwave background radiation), space became transparent and the earliest structures formed. These structures were simply volumes of slightly varying density and temperature. They are the first things we can 'see' directly and are shown in the illustration at the top of the article.

From this point on the universe becomes more and more recognisable to us, albeit still far hotter and denser than today. We will be able to see the rest of the story much more in terms of astronomy.

  • Are you surprised at the amount of change that took place in the first second?
  • Is the creation of the universe more complex than you had imagined?
  • How do you feel about a universe that started this way?

See also: 

< In the beginning | Series index | Penzias, Wilson and some noise >

16 March 2011

Messenger in orbit

The Mercury Messenger probe is intended to make a long burn to decelerate into Mercury orbit tomorrow (Thursday 17th March). If successful this should be the start of a year of detailed observations of the innermost planet.

The MESSENGER spacecraftIt's taken the spaceprobe six and a half years to get to the right place at the right time and at the right velocity to make a major 15 minute engine burn for capture into Mercurian orbit.

This is, frankly, an astonishing achievement. Hopefully all will go well and the prime mission will return very large amounts of new and detailed knowledge about the innermost planet.

Read more on these web pages...

19 October 2010

SCIENCE - 500 planets

Not that long ago (pre 1994) we only knew of nine planets, and one of those has been demoted to dwarf planet status. Today we know of nearly 500!

An artist's impression of an exoplanet systemThe reason for the huge increase is that astronomers are discovering planets around stars other than our own Sun using several techniques.

Sometimes this can be done by accurate measurements of the parent star's brightness. If a planet orbiting the star happens to pass in front of it, it will block part of the light and the dip can be measured and timed.

Another method involves tracking the position of a star very accurately. If it wobbles to and fro ever so slightly this is evidence of a smaller object in orbit around it - a planet or a faint companion star.

More recently it's become possible to image some of these planets directly by detecting the light they reflect from their parent star. This is pretty tricky, but just about doable using current telescopes. Of course we can't see any details, the planetary image is essentially a highly blurred point source. But it's still a very impressive feat of technology.

'Discover' magazine's website presents a gallery of these images, with good explanations in terms most people will understand. It's well worth a look.

The number of exoplanets will continue to rise and will soon pass the 500 mark. And one day, with better telescopes, it may even become possible to see some basic detail on some of these planets. But that is probably a long, long way off.

See also: Fomalhaut b

04 October 2010

SCIENCE - The biggest collisions

We all know what happens when two objects collide, don't we? It depends on the speed of collision and the nature of the objects. Two balls of dough will stick together, billiard balls will bounce apart, slowly moving cars will stop one another, fast moving cars will crumple.

The bullet cluster collisionAt some of the largest scales imaginable colliding galaxies pass through one another in a shape-distorting ballet that takes tens of millions of years. Where there were once two spiral galaxies, eventually there will be a single elliptical galaxy. To understand this process it becomes necessary to take into account the presence of dark matter in and around the two galaxies as well as the collisions of gas and the gravitational interactions of countless stars.

But what happens at an even larger scale? What happens when clusters of galaxies collide?

To understand this process more clearly, scientists at three prestigious labs in the USA have run a very large, very complex computer simulation. It took a long time to create and run the model, but you can watch the results in a movie that takes less than three and a half minutes.

What are you watching? First you will see the dark matter interactions, then the mixing of the intergalactic gas, and finally the combination. I should mention that what you see is a series of stop-start movies. In each one some interaction is shown, then the movement stops while the stationary scene is rotated to give you a better view and help you visualise the shapes, then the action moves on again.

For more information about the simulation and what you are seeing, visit Ian O'Neill's article on Discovery News.

17 December 2008

The Antikythera Mechanism

The heavily corroded remains of an intricate and strange looking mechanism were found in 1901 in a Mediterranean shipwreck. The calendar dial of the deviceSixty years later after painstaking cleaning and study, it emerged that the device was a mechanical analogue computer for predicting the movements of the sun and moon in the sky. Various replicas have been built based on the known features of the mechanism.

The Antikythera mechanism makes it abundantly clear that the Greeks were advanced, not only in their scientific knowledge, but also in their mechanical technology. Reports from ancient writers like the Roman author, Cicero, describe mechanisms such as Antikythera. But until the corroded remains were recovered and studied these written accounts seemed fanciful. Surely the ancient world had nothing this advanced?

More recent studies have used high resolution X-ray tomography, and better reconstructions have become possible.

One of the later reconstructions can be seen working in the video below. If you view the video from You Tube you can switch to a higher resolution.

The X-ray tomography data has opened up a new window into the workings of the device. But it has also enabled historians to read a considerable amount of Greek text from the metal surfaces. This text consists partly of labels on the various scales and displays the mechanism used to present the positions of planets, calendar dates and so forth. The remainder of the text is a guide on how to use the device.

A great deal can be learned from the inscribed text. The names of the months varied from place to place in the ancient Greek world and this means we can determine its place of manufacture or intended use to be the central Mediterranean, not as originally supposed the eastern Aegean.

A longer and more technical video is presented on the Nature website (select the high resolution version and watch it in full-screen for the best view). There are also links to the Nature paper by Freeth, Jones, Steele, and Bitsakis, and a Nature news story (though there's a fee for the full text of these).

Wikipedia's article on the mechanism provides more detail for the average reader and has an excellent list of references, links, and suggested additional reading. One of the links is an article from New Scientist giving a good deal of background.


16 November 2008

Fomalhaut b

What, you may ask, is 'Fomalhaut b'? If you are interested in astronomy you will already know. Fomalhaut bFomalhaut b is a planet circling one of our Sun's nearest neighbour stars.

Fomalhaut b has been imaged twice by the Hubble Space Telescope, once in 2004 and again in 2006. This is important because it's the first time a planet outside our own Solar System has been seen to have moved in its orbit around its central star.

This is extraordinary news indeed. It's the same scale of forward step as Galileo seeing craters on the Moon for the first time, or discovering the rings of Saturn, Halley predicting the return of his eponymous comet, or the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969.

Why is it so important? It's a milestone because astronomers have long assumed that other stars have planets. In recent years the presence of such planets has been indirectly detected, but this is the first time we can claim to have seen the light reflected by an exoplanet. You may not have realised it, but you have just lived through a truly historic moment.

The difficulty of making these images is difficult to grasp. Look at the picture again (you can click the image to see the full-size version).

The star - In the middle of the full image (but near the upper left in the article's thumbnail picture) is a small white circle. This is not part of the image, it was added later, but it marks the position of the star (Fomalhaut). In reality the star would be far smaller, just the tiniest speck, it's shown much larger to make it easy to see.

The obscuring disk - if the Hubble telescope had just been pointed at the star, the overpowering brightness would have flooded the image with light so that nothing but glare would be visible.

To see details really close to the star, it's essential to block the direct starlight. This was done by moving an obscuring disk in front of the star, and this is seen in the image as the irregular black area around the central white dot.

The halo of diffracted light - Outside the black zone, some starlight is still diffracted into the surrounding area. This is the circular zone that looks like the iris of an eye, close inspection of the large version of the image reveals that it's made up of lines of light radiating out from the position of the star. This not a real, distant object, it's created by subtle interactions between the starlight and the structure of the telecope.

The debris disk - The oval shape (clearly visible only in the full-size version) is a band of dust, gas, and orbiting rock and ice particles. It's part of a disk of material which is in the process of condensing into planets. Fomalhaut is a young star and is still developing a planetary system.

The planet - Just inside the inner edge of the dusty band is where astronomers thought there might be a planet, and sure enough when they looked they found one! This is a gas giant, probably much like Jupiter though something like twice as large, and it is so bright that many astronomers suspect it must have a ring similar to Saturn's (but larger).

The real clincher is that the planet appears in two Hubble photos of Fomalhaut, taken two years apart. It has moved, as expected, in its orbit around the star.

For more information see

19 September 2008

Who moved our spacecraft?

Some spacecraft have trajectories that are slightly unexpected. Something has speeded them up or slowed them down - but what? Current methods of analysing and predicting spacecraft behaviour involve many factors, but the figures just don't add up. Something strange and unexpected is going on.

The major factors that affect spacecraft motion are gravity and rocket propulsion. Spacecraft and indeed all bodies in the solar system, The Rosetta spacecraftfrom dust grains right up to the the largest planet Jupiter, move through a complex gravity field. Each body is tugged upon by every other, and the strength of pull depends on the masses involved. The mathematics is very complex and for more than two bodies involves iteration.

The second major factor comes into play whenever a manoevering engine is fired, this clearly changes the trajectory (which is the purpose of the engine of course).

The velocity of a spacecraft can be measured very accurately by examining its radio signals. Changes in velocity cause a change in frequency. But the calculated trajectories don't always match up with the measured ones.

There are many other subtle factors that affect a spacecraft. Pressure from solar radiation, loss of gas from the spacecraft's systems, impact by small particles, relativity effects, loss of speed due to passing through the outermost fringes of a planetary atmosphere, magnetic and electrostatic fields, and more.

But effects such as these are quite well known and can be allowed for. Yet the figures still don't quite add up. And nobody knows why.

The effect was first noticed decades ago as the Pioneer probes passed into the outer Solar System. They were travelling ever so slightly slower than they should have been. At the time this didn't cause much surprise, it was put down to some minor effect that nobody could identify and, like all these effects, it was far too small to affect the mission. Several possibilities were discussed at the time, none of them were accepted enthusiastically.

But it's happened again, and again, and again with other spacecraft.

At last a pattern is beginning to emerge. All the affected spacecraft have made close planetary passes to help shape their trajectory (gravity assists), while other spacecraft have not been affected. John D Anderson, Curator of Aerodynamics at the National Air and Space Museum in the USA, has been looking very carefully at the evidence. Anderson and others working with him have now come up with a mathematical formula which may enable them to predict the size and direction of the effect, it seems to work for all the effects seen in past spaceflights and they're waiting with bated breath to see if it accurately predicts the effect for Rosetta as it made its second fly-by of Earth last November (they haven't seen the data yet). There's another opportunity in November 2009. (John Anderson's scientific paper is "Anomolous orbital-energy changes observed during spaceflight fly-bys of Earth", John Anderson et al., Physical Review Letters, Vol 100, p 091102. There's also a report in New Scientist, 20th September 2008, pp 38-41).

All of this is quite fascinating, both to spacecraft engineers and to physicists; it really does seem as if something may be slightly wrong with our theory of gravity or there's some other effect at work that we are not yet aware of. Either way, prepare for a major new discovery in physics. But either way, don't hold your breath. Finding the underlying mechanism could take quite some time (years or decades, perhaps even longer).

10 August 2008

Earth and Moon movie

NASA has done something amazing. One of their spacecraft has made a movie of the Moon passing in front of the Earth as it orbits our planet.

The Moon passing in front of AfricaThis was not a simple achievement! To see things from a suitable distance you need to have a camera position many times further away than the Moon.

A hundred and twenty times as far as the Moon would be fine, and this is what NASA has done.

Just think, the Moon circles the Earth once every 28 days, drawing out a circle half a million miles across. From our perspective the Moon glides past the starry constellations of the night sky.

But if we could travel far enough away we'd see the Moon sometimes one side of the Earth, sometimes the other, but never straying very far.

First, sit back and watch the movie. Then come back and read more of this blog post to find out how it was done.

In the year 1610 Galileo saw four points of light changing position night by night when he turned his telecope on the bright planet Jupiter. He realised that these points of light were circling Jupiter. It was final proof that not all celestial bodies orbit the Earth and therefore our planet cannot be the centre of the universe as was supposed by the mediaeval church.

This is exactly how the Moon would be seen to behave from a camera 31 million miles away, and this is what the video shows.

Here's how this amazing video was made. The Deep Impact spacecraft successfully investigated a comet in July 2005, but with its primary mission completed NASA decided it could usefully perform two further tasks. The Deep Impact team realised that they could also use the spacecraft to take images of the Earth and Moon, and they commanded the craft to take a series of images through four different colour filters at 15 minute intervals. Afterwards, the images were combined to make full colour versions and a series of the colour images were put together to make the video.

Learn more about Deep Impact (now renamed EPOXI) and the Earth/Moon video from NASA's website.

19 July 2008


Previous | Part 3 of a series | Next

Why am I interested in astronomy? I think it's because I'm fascinated by the vastness of the Universe and the amazing variety of objects it contains - including, of course, the Earth.

I don't remember when I developed this interest. I do remember being 14 or 15 years old and saving my pocket money to buy 'The Observer's Book of Astronomy' (I still have it), and around the same time I remember watching 'The Sky At Night', a monthly TV program that is one of the longest running series ever. It was (and still is) presented by Patrick Moore whose enthusiasm was intense and exciting. That was in the days when TV was only available in black and white.

I remember being even younger and looking at a nearly total eclipse of the Sun through heavily smoked glass, it was 30th June 1954, just a few weeks before my sixth birthday. Dad wanted me to see the eclipse because there wasn't going to be another like it in the UK until 1999!

I also remember projecting an image of the sun with an old telescope, and drawing the sunspots when there were any to be seen. I used the same telescope at night to look at Jupiter and the four Galilean moons.

The fascination has never left me. The more you learn about distant objects, the more you understand about the structure of the Universe, the more amazing it all seems. When I was a small child space exploration was the stuff of science fiction, but when I was nine the Russians launched Sputnik and space became a real place that could be visited. The world had changed, and so did astronomy.

To me it seems an immense priviledge to have witnessed the beginning of spaceflight and the blossoming of modern astronomy. Astronomy had blossomed once before with the invention of the telescope in the early 17th century, but the flow of new information slowed to a crawl once resolution of the instruments reached the limits imposed by the Earth's shimmering atmosphere. But now we could image and measure from outside the atmosphere and a whole new series of possibilities opened up. I drank it all in.

For me, astronomy is special amongst the sciences. It's special because it reveals how vast and how old the Universe is; it gives a better perspective of our own smallness. So there is a tangible link with my Christian beliefs, astronomy helps me to understand that bringing the Universe into existence was a task requiring unimaginable authority and imagination.

Then there are links with photography because imaging is such an important technique in astronomy. Many astronomical images are breathtakingly beautiful, if you want to enjoy some you can do much worse than visit the 'Astronomy Picture Of The Day' (APOD).

Computing is essential in modern astronomy, and computer simulations of the night sky are interesting and instructive. There are clear links between astronomy and other sciences such as physics, chemistry, and even biology. And there are links with technology too, how would you do astronomy without a spacecraft, a telescope, a camera - it's a long list.

There are powerful links with history and archaeology, astronomy allows dates to be tied to recorded events like solar eclipses and planetary conjunctions. If a Chinese, Egyptian or Sumerian record says there was an eclipse on the 12 day of the eighth month of the third year of so-and-so's reign we may be able to lock the ancient calendar onto a date in our own calendar.

I could continue, but I think you get the idea. We live in an amazing place, so big that this Earth of ours is just a tiny speck. Astronomy shows us how small we truly are. It gives us a sense of proportion. And it's connected with almost everything we are and do.

Previous | Part 3 of a series | Next

06 July 2008

What on earth?

This is an amazing image for a variety of reasons. What is it? Could it be a pulsating jellyfish from deep in the ocean? An iridescent soap bubble against a black background? Maybe it's a cell viewed in a fluorecence microscope?

No, the truth is stranger than any of these. Much of the 'light' you see here is invisible, the rest is far too faint to see. This bubble is the result of a sudden event witnessed by the Saxons, although it actually happened during the Stone Age. The photograph was taken by a range of telescopes, not all on the earth's surface.

This is SN 1006, a supernova remnant. Everything about it is awesome, almost beyond the human mind's ability to appreciate. And of course it's not on Earth at all. An astonishing feature of this little corner of the universe where we live, our Milky Way galaxy.

What is Supernova 1006? How did it happen? How was the image made?

Exploding stars
Supernovae are exploding stars; but don't worry, our closest star (the Sun) is not expected to explode and will not change fundamentally for about another four thousand million years. It won't affect you!

There are various things that might cause a star to blow its top. In the case of SN 1006, a small, dense, white dwarf and a more normal star similar to the Sun were circling one another. As the sun-like star entered its red giant stage, the strong gravity of the white dwarf pulled gas away from the giant's atmosphere. Over a long period of time the white dwarf grew ever heavier at the expense of its neighbour. Eventually it became unstable, and violently exploded in an unimaginable cataclysm (too feeble a description by far, but there are no words to describe a detonation like this one). The mechanism is fairly well understood.

Seeing the light
The explosion happened about 8000 years ago. The fearsome burst of light and heat roared out and after travelling for around 7000 years arrived at the Earth in Saxon times, about 1st May 1006. The 'new' star was recorded by astronomers in Japan, China, Arabia, and Europe. It must have been noted in wonder by millions of people throughout the southern hemisphere and much of the north. The pinpoint of light outshone everything else in the sky apart from the Sun and Moon. It was visible even in broad daylight, bright enough to read at night. It remained visible for about two years, dimming, brightening again, and finally fading away. As the generations passed it was forgotten.

The aftermath
The gaseous debris of the broken star spread out behind the wave of light and heat. The star's substance travelled out so fast that it would have travelled the distance from the Earth to the Moon in less than a minute (it took the NASA astronauts three days). In 1965 it was identified by radio astronomers as a circular feature.

The image
This image is itself amazing. It looks just like an ordinary colour photo, but this has very little in common with a typical holiday snap. Like any full colour image this one contains three superimposed images in three different wavelengths. In a normal photo these more or less match the sensitive ranges of the the three types of colour detecting cells (cones) in the human retina. But in this image, a little astronomical imaging sleight of hand has been committed.

The red image is not light at all, or not as we normally understand it. It's an image in radio frequencies captured by the 23 mile equivalent 'lens' of the Very Large Array (VLA) and by the Green Bank Telescope. The yellow, orange and pale blue images are visible light recorded by optical telescopes. The deep blue is an X-ray image collected by NASA's Chandra satellite.

03 October 2004

Creation speaks of the Creator (KN)

Science, art, music, poetry, The Orion Nebulaand every human endeavour can illuminate the truth about the Almighty, even when that was not the original intention.

I've been reading a book called 'The Bit and the Pendulum' by Tom Siegfried, science editor for the Dallas Morning News. He discusses the ways in which scientists are discovering that information lies at the heart of existence.

Here's a short extract...

Siegfried writes

'There are many hints from the frontiers of research that the information viewpoint will allow scientists to see truths about existence that were obscured from other angles. Using a microscopeSuch new truths may someday offer the explanation for existence that visionary scientists like [John Archibald] Wheeler have long sought.'

'Wheeler, for one, has faith that the quest to understand existence will not be futile: "Surely someday, we can believe, we will grasp the central idea of it all as so simple, so beautiful, so compelling that we will all say to each other, 'Oh, how could it have been otherwise! How could we all have been so blind so long!'" It could just be that the compelling clue that Wheeler seeks is as simple as the realisation that information is real.'

So close to the real truth, yet still so far! Indeed there is an 'explanation for existence', the quest to understand it is not futile, and the answer is indeed simple, beautiful, and compelling!

HalleluYah! We have seen the answer, and we have tasted that he is good! How privileged we are!

Rejoice, for what has been hidden from the wise is revealed to the simple heart; there's no need for scientific study.

Comments copied from the original Chris Jefferies' Blog.

Comment from: Barry [Member] Email ·

Interesting read. I think it was Chuck Missler who made the point:
SETI searches for evidence of extra terrestial life by looking for patterns of communication in radio signals.

yet, the DNA codes of life contains an information message system so complex that we have not figured it out. Now that we are mapping the genome, we are discovering that there is all this stuff that was referred to as junk DNA, because we thought it had no meaning. No they are starting to discover that there is another deeper message system hidden in what we thought was junk.

How ironic, our scientist think that DNA arose by random chance, and won't accept it as evidence of a creator. Yet a simple code message on radio waves would be accepted as evidence of extra terrestial life.
03/10/04 @ 23:48


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