Self Care – Astronomy Picture of the Week: Quasar’s Light Yields Clues to Outflow

So… that supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy? It’s inactive, and has been for a long time. Scientists wondered just how long it’s been inactive, and now they have an idea…

It ate it’s last meal about 6 million years ago.

And here’s the image (as usual, click on the image for the hi-res tif file):

Quasar's Light Yields Clues to Outflow

Quasar’s Light Yields Clues to Outflow

Self Care: Astronomy Picture(/News) of the Week – NASA Finds a New Solar System with 3 Habitable Planets

Okay okay… potentially habitable planets… the title was already long enough…

(Thanks to Rob Grigjanis for alerting me to this…)

Allowing for the fact that NASA is known for its sensationalism (routinely mocked, actually, by some astronomy podcasts I listen to, like Awesome Astronomy), this is actually really intriguing. From Vox

TRAPPIST-1 System... planets e, f, and g are the potentially habitable planets

TRAPPIST-1 System… planets e, f, and g are the potentially habitable planets

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Self Care – Astronomy Picture of the Week: The Heart and Soul Nebula

Yeah yeah… I know Valentine’s Day was yesterday… but Astronomy Picture of the Week is on Wednesdays, so get over it.

This is an infrared mosaic known as “Heart and Soul“… two nebulae captured by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. As usual, click on the image for the .tif download…

Heart (right) and Soul (left) Nebulae

Heart (right) and Soul (left) Nebulae

I would say “Happy Valentine’s Day from the Universe!” but… you know… day late, and all…

Self Care – Astronomy Picture(s and Video) of the Week: Quasars Help Find That Universe is Expanding Faster Than Originally Thought

(There are 5 images and a video here…)

This is a pretty awesome story…

Basically, 5 quasars were studied to figure out the expansion rate of the universe, and the results were… interesting:

When astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered nearly 100 years ago that the universe was uniformly expanding in all directions, the finding was a big surprise. Then, in the mid-1990s, another shocker occurred: astronomers found that the expansion rate was accelerating perhaps due to a repulsive property called “dark energy.” Now, the latest measurements of our runaway universe suggest that it is expanding faster than astronomers thought. The consequences could be very significant for our understanding of the shadowy contents of our unruly universe. It may mean that dark energy is shoving galaxies away from each other with even greater – or growing – strength. Or, the early cosmos may contain a new type of subatomic particle referred to as “dark radiation.” A third possibility is that “dark matter,” an invisible form of matter that makes up the bulk of our universe, possesses some weird, unexpected characteristics. Finally, Einstein’s theory of gravity may be incomplete.

These unnerving scenarios are based on the research of a team led by Nobel Laureate Adam Riess, who began a quest in 2005 to measure the universe’s expansion rate to unprecedented accuracy with new, innovative observing techniques. The new measurement reduces the rate of expansion to an uncertainty of only 2.4 percent. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it does not agree with expansion measurements derived from probing the fireball relic radiation from the big bang. So it seems like something’s amiss – possibly sending cosmologists back to the drawing board.

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Self Care – Astronomy Picture of the Week: The Multiverse

Okay… you might be thinking I’ve jumped the shark with this series now, but before getting back to images of objects within our observable universe, I just have to go here…

You see, I’m fascinated by the idea of multiple universes, especially the idea that there could be an infinite number of universes, because that means that everything is real. In such a multiverse, there is no such thing as fiction or fantasy. I kind of love that. I won’t go into detail, because this is largely an image series, but just let your imagination go wild thinking about this.

It’s awesome.

The following image is an artist’s rendition of one idea born out of various multiverse ideas, including String Theory, Superstring theory, and M-Theory. I got it from an article on The Physics of the Universe.

Artist's visualization of rippling membranes

Artist’s visualization of rippling membranes

I remember seeing this membrane idea described on one of those TV science documentary shows. It was something like this…

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Self Care – Astronomy Picture of the Week: The Observable Universe

(I’m also incorporating this series into my Self Care series for the foreseeable future…)

I guess this is the best way to follow up the last post. I’m using Wikipedia for this one.

This is one simulated image of the entirety of the observable universe. As I already mentioned last week, the universe is currently estimated to be roughly 93 billion lightyears in diameter, putting the edge around 46.5 billion lightyears away from us.

This image is taken from the Wiki page linked to above, as is the information I’m including about it and about the universe…

Observable_Universe_with_Measurements_01

Visualization of the whole observable universe. The scale is such that the fine grains represent collections of large numbers of superclusters. The Virgo Supercluster – home of Milky Way – is marked at the center, but is too small to be seen.

Diameter 8.8×1026 m (28.5 Gpc or 93 Gly)[1]
Volume 4×1080 m3[2]
Mass (ordinary matter) 1053 kg[3]
Density 9.9×10−30 g/cm3 (equivalent to 6 protons per cubic meter of space)[4]
Age 13.799±0.021 billion years[5]
Average temperature 2.72548 K[6]
Contents Ordinary (baryonic) matter (4.9%)
Dark matter (26.8%)
Dark energy (68.3%)

So the universe is not only old (to us), but huge.