Thursday, April 30, 2015

Square Kilometer Array radio telescope

"Lovell Telescope 5" by Mike Peel; Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, University of Manchester.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Jonathan Amos from BBC reports on the recent decision of international SKA radio telescope to locate the headquarters in Jodrell Bank Observatory near Goostrey, Cheshire in the north-west of England.. This is the home of the venerable 76 meter Lovell radio dish shown in the picutre. The huge new telescope is planned to become operatioal in 2025. Amos describes the magnificent project
The SKA will deploy huge fields of antennas across Africa and Australia to sweep the sky for answers to the major outstanding questions in astronomy.

The SKA will investigate light sources in the sky that radiate at centimetre to metre wavelengths - but it will achieve sensitivities that are far beyond the reach of current telescopes.

This should allow it to see the hydrogen in the first stars and galaxies to form after the Big Bang.

The SKA will also pinpoint precisely the positions of the nearest 100 million galaxies. Scientists hope their structure will reveal new details about "dark energy", the mysterious negative pressure that appears to be pushing the cosmos apart at an ever increasing speed.

Read the entire article in Jonathan Amos BBC Science and Environment
With the James Webb space telescope in orbit and the SKA radio telescope operational humanity can expect for some very deep insight into the early university and its secrets in the twenties - assuming, of course, that we do not blow ourselves into nuclear dust before that.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Space Ant for study

Planetary Nebula Mz3: the Ant by Hubble space telescope
Click on the NASA/APOD link below the image to see this extraordinary Hubble photo in its glory.

What You See Is What You Get. The photo of the Ant planetary nebula (PN) is piece of art to most of us, a curious formation seen here in great detail through the eye of the most powerful telescope human's have built so far. But for professionals the image (and others like it taken at different wavelengths) is the most important source of information for stellar study. It is truly amazing what we ant-like little creatures on a tiny planet have learned from images like this taken by instruments built by us for that purpose.

"Mz 3 was discovered by Donald Howard Menzel in 1922. It was studied on July 20, 1997 by astronomers Bruce Balick (University of Washington) and Vincent Icke (Leiden University) on observations done with the Hubble Space Telescope. The telescope was later used on June 30, 1998 by Raghvendra Sahai and John Trauger of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to picture the PN." wikipedia

Here is a compact explanation written by a professional astronomer for the general public telling about leading theories to explain the unusual nebula
Why then would the gas that is streaming away create an ant-shaped nebula that is distinctly not round? Clues might include the high 1000-kilometer per second speed of the expelled gas, the light-year long length of the structure, and the magnetism of the star visible above at the nebula's center. One possible answer is that Mz3 is hiding a second, dimmer star that orbits close in to the bright star. A competing hypothesis holds that the central star's own spin and magnetic field are channeling the gas.

An anonymous writer of wikipedia article discusses theories explaining this amazing gas cloud
Mz 3 is a complex system composed of three nested pairs of bipolar lobes and an equatorial ellipse. Its lobes all share the same axis of symmetry but each have very different morphologies and opening angles. It is an unusual  in that it is believed, by some researchers, to contain a symbiotic binary at its center.

Study suggests that the dense nebular gas at its center may have originated from a source different from that of its extended lobes. The working model to explain this hypothesizes that this PN is composed of a giant companion that caused a central dense gas region to form, and a white dwarf that provides ionizing photons for the PN.
For a professional discussion see for example Santander-Garcia et. al. Menzel 3: Dissecting the ant

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Digital model of asteroid Vesta

Another Space Theology bookmark: digital model of Vesta

What can I say?  We are being spoiled by NASA ... and we love it!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Christian disaster with space

Image WikiMedia

I recently wanted to check what can be found on North Star and Bible in the internet. It turned out to be a truly shivering experience because I usually do not deal with such things.

See for yourself what I found. Google for polaris star in bible


There is no doubt that the garbage found there easily alienates serious astronomers from anything that sounds like religion. Sensationalism, apocalyptic/right wing political nonsense, "signs in heaven" of the approaching rapture, pseudo-science and general lack of even the most basic fundamentals of modern space exploration.

Every truth loving Christians should stay away from this popular nonsense pretending to be some sort of Biblical interpretation. At the same time it is important not to throw the child with the wash water. There are many highly significant theological themes concerning the stars.

The Old Testament lives in the Ancient Near East and Mesopotamian Astronomy and Astrology is a serious subject for study. Egyptin Astronomy was highly advanced and is very difficult to learn because of their peculiar mathematical notation and language.

For example, the Jews were strictly forbidden to worship bright stars and planets like their neighbors did - everything was created by God and not to be considered divine, not even the Sun or the Moon. When they nevertheless adopted the worship of the Queen of Heaven (Venus, Isihtar) from Babylonia prophet Jeremiah castigated them most severely.
Then all the men who knew that their wives were burning incense to other gods, along with all the women who were present—a large assembly—and all the people living in Lower and Upper Egypt, said to Jeremiah, “We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord! We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our ancestors, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm. But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine.”
Jeremiah 44:15-17

Education best medicine
Proper study of Astronomy and Cosmology brings heavenly light that naturally shades out the oddities cooked up by the imagination of so many modern day Christian writers.

But what are the chances that Baptist Bible Colleges, Universities with Theological faculties or Christian private schools start to provide at least introductory classes on scientific Astronomy and Cosmology?


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Astronomic time scales

Star nursery in constellation Carina
Image Credit & License: ESO/G. Beccari
Astronomy not only expands our sense of space but it also extends our sense of time.

The dating of starlight and establishing a chronology of cosmic events is based on very exact high technology and deep theoretical understanding of light and its sources.

Astronomic time scales only began to be known from the work of Edwin Hubble and his colleagues at Mt. Wilson Observatory. Henreietta Swan Leavitt had realized in 1908 that variable stars, cepheids, could be used as stellar milestones because their regularly changing temperature and diameter provides accurate evidence for distances. Analysis of cepheids at Palomar led Hubble to the shocking realization that there are many galaxies out there in the deep space way beyond Milky Way.

Light year is a unit that combines distance and time. Accordingly, measuring the distance to the light source also gives date when photons and other radiation started their cosmic journey before reaching Earth. The current estimation of Big Bang to 13.8 billion years ago relies on this foundation. From evidence gathered from the light and radiation coming from different stars and galaxies it has been concluded that Sun is about 4.5 billion years old and will keep burning hydrogen into helium for another five billion years.

Since the discovery of pulsars in 1967 the research of radiation from these rapidly rotating neutron stars has added highly accurate stellar timers to the toolbox of cosmologists that rival atomic clocks in accuracy.

So the beautiful picture of open cluster NGC 3293 has both distances and dates that make it alive and multi-dimensional. The cluster is at the distance of about 8000 light years. The young blue "baby stars" in it are about 6 million years old and the reddish stars about 20 million years old. The formation of this cluster has taken 15 million years. (APOD).

The enhanced image thus opens in front of our eyes a canvas of extreme richness including dots of light that are indeed very old and dots that are fresh and young in the cosmic chronology.