Spacey stuff, near and far

2 04 2009

A couple of space-type articles have caught my eye recently and I’d like to share.  It’s been a while since I’ve written a post about space or astronomy, and it feels odd to have gone so long without one.  So, here are a couple of things quite unoriginal yet very neat and I’ll get out an original astro-related post soon.

First up, Mars.  Spirit and Opportunity were two probes designed to give us some really good science for 3 months back in 2004.  Now, five years later, they’re still making their way around the red planet sending data back to Earth.  Neither is in the best shape, but the fact that they’re still going shows the engineers who built them did a real bang-up job.

Of the tons of pictures they’ve sent back, this one’s my favorite: [click to embiggen]


Almost makes you imagine some John Williams playing in the background, doesn’t it?

The other awesome thing I’ve found is this picture from APOD.

This is the best multi-wave image of Tycho’s Supernova yet.  If you go here you’ll find all sorts of science-y details that’ll make it all the more cooler.  But this is one image that looks unbelievable even without understanding what it is you’re looking at.  Go ahead and click on the pic and just look around it for a moment.  Ahhhhhh….


Okay, so that image is in false color and is only representative of the spectrum outside the normal range of human vision.  But imagine, 400 years ago people across the  northern hemisphere saw this star grow from imperceptible to as bright as Jupiter overnight.  And then it got even brighter.  Over the next two weeks it was visible even in daylight.  The event so impressed Tycho Brahe that he devoted the rest of his life to studying astronomy.

This was a Type Ia supernova.  That means there were actually two stars very close together, one drawing material from the other.  When the cannibal star had absorbed too much material, it was unable to keep its mass from collapsing, and the star self-destructed. The blast was so strong that in just the last 400 years the shell has expanded to 24 light-years across!


Though the original stellar explosion was incredibly bright, the resulting nebula is so dim it wasn’t observed by even the largest telescopes until the 1960s.   And the stellar remnant is still unidentified.  Though at least one research group now believes that the very faint star in the center may be the star from which the supernova drew it’s material.

I would recommend reading the first couple of paragraphs of Nasa’s view of this event.  It’s a pretty good read.

Hope you enjoyed these two items that caught my eye.  I promise to get you lots more stuff soon.




One response

5 04 2009

I am always amazed at how truly awesome super novas are. “Awesome” here meaning not only totally wicked, but also immeasurably grand. I’m really glad that you included how big it is now. Scale is probably the one thing about space photos that people seldom take into account.
“You see that itty bitty dot riiiight there?”
“I think so”
“Yeah, that’s 10x the size of Earth”

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