Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Milky Way Data Bonanza

Hey Space Placers!

The European Space Agency (ESA) released today the most recent data about the Milky Way Galaxy (MWG) and surrounding area of space. This is a HUGE data release of over 1.7 BILLION stars in our galaxy, data on the 12 dwarf galaxies orbiting the MWG and the Andromeda Galaxy.

Just look at YOUR home galaxy in color:



Here is the description by ESA:

  • Gaia’s all-sky view of our Milky Way Galaxy and neighbouring galaxies, based on measurements of nearly 1.7 billion stars. The map shows the total brightness and colour of stars observed by the ESA satellite in each portion of the sky between July 2014 and May 2016.

    Brighter regions indicate denser concentrations of especially bright stars, while darker regions correspond to patches of the sky where fewer bright stars are observed. The colour representation is obtained by combining the total amount of light with the amount of blue and red light recorded by Gaia in each patch of the sky. 

    The bright horizontal structure that dominates the image is the Galactic plane, the flattened disc that hosts most of the stars in our home Galaxy. In the middle of the image, the Galactic centre appears vivid and teeming with stars.

    Darker regions across the Galactic plane correspond to foreground clouds of interstellar gas and dust, which absorb the light of stars located further away, behind the clouds. Many of these conceal stellar nurseries where new generations of stars are being born.

    Sprinkled across the image are also many globular and open clusters – groupings of stars held together by their mutual gravity, as well as entire galaxies beyond our own. 

    The two bright objects in the lower right of the image are the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, two dwarf galaxies orbiting the Milky Way. 

    In small areas of the image where no colour information was available – to the lower left of the Galactic centre, to the upper left of the Small Magellanic Cloud, and in the top portion of the map – an equivalent greyscale value was assigned.

    The second Gaia data release was made public on 25 April 2018 and includes the position and brightness of almost 1.7 billion stars, and the parallax, proper motion and colour of more than 1.3 billion stars. It also includes the radial velocity of more than seven million stars, the surface temperature of more than 100 million stars, and the amount of dust intervening between us and of 87 million stars. There are also more than 500 000 variable sources, and the position of 14 099 known Solar System objects – most of them asteroids – included in the release. 

    A complementary image showing Gaia’s density map of the stars is available here
    Acknowledgement: Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC); A. Moitinho / A. F. Silva / M. Barros / C. Barata, University of Lisbon, Portugal; H. Savietto, Fork Research, Portugal.
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I don't know about you but I could stare at this picture for quite awhile soaking it all in...especially the galactic center and the tendrils of gas and dust that will form new stars and planets someday. The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are gorgeous in the lower right and you can see Andromeda Galaxy in the upper right.

Astronomers have a gold mine of data to learn about our galaxy and the others observed by Gaia. This is going to keep them busy for quite a long time.


Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Farthest Star Imaged by 28 YO HST

Hey Space Placers!

HST is 28 years old this month! Hard to believe but it is still going strong as you can see in this image of the farthest individual star seen to date.

Icarus (MACS J1149+2223 Lensed Star 1)
The Farthest Star Ever Seen
Icarus, whose official name is MACS J1149+2223 Lensed Star 1, is the farthest individual star ever seen. It is only visible because it is being magnified by the gravity of a massive galaxy cluster, located about 5 billion light-years from Earth. Called MACS J1149+2223, this cluster, shown at left, sits between the Earth and the galaxy that contains the distant star. The team had been using Hubble to monitor a supernova in the far-off spiral galaxy when, in 2016, they spotted a point of light near the supernova that began to brighten. Even though the object subsequently became three times brighter in one month, the colors of the light coming from the object did not change. Analysis of these colors showed it was a blue supergiant star in the background galaxy whose magnification grew for several weeks due to an intervening object, probably a star, in the galaxy cluster. The panels at the right show the view in 2011, without Icarus visible, compared with the star’s brightening in 2016.

Hopefully HST will last a few more years to work in concert with James Webb Space Telescope.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Earth Day 2018

Hey Space Placers!

This is our planet seen from the Moon. What a photograph for Earth Day 2018. Will human eyes experience this in person from the Moon someday? Only time and our collective caring for Earth and therefore ourselves will decide.
Earth From Lunar Orbit
Credit: NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
Please visit EarthSky to get a great read on Earth Day, its origins and learn about the theme of 2018 - plastic.

If there is just one thing you remember from Earth Day, let it be this: "The Earth doesn't need us, we need the Earth".

We humans are so wrapped up in our own lives and timelines that we forget the Earth is 4.6 BILLION years old and has another couple billion years to go. The dying Sun will vaporize the planet and eventually return all that it was back to the Milky Way Galaxy. Every atom that ever existed on the planet will return to from whence it came perhaps to form a new planet and life elsewhere.

We are not immortal, nothing is. But we are in very grave danger of altering the planet's climate due to overpopulation, pollution, and lack of total worldwide political commitment to the issue - especially from the current Administration in the U.S. I have always said, "Change the planet's climate or its geology and you change humanity." We are at that point now with regard to climate change - see for your self at https://climate.nasa.gov.

We can destroy ourselves quite easily through any number of unleashed human causes or be wiped out by a comet impact. But there is comfort for me in knowing this, the Earth will survive regardless. The history of the Earth has seen several mass extinctions, the last being the dinosaurs 65 million years ago most likely due to an impact event in the Gulf of Mexico. The dinosaurs lasted hundreds of millions of years.....we just stood upright on the plains of Africa 2.5 million years ago and civilization   is only 30,000 years old.

The dinosaurs are dead because they didn't have telescopes and a space program to save themselves. What will be the epitaph for humanity? Will we destroy ourselves while temporarily altering the Earth?

Make no mistake about it this Earth Day 2018........we are now at the decision point that will determine the fate of humanity. We must act in Earth's favor which ultimately means in our own. Governments must be compelled by their people to be Earth (and human) friendly. Humanity must change the current worldwide status quo to renewable energy, less pollution and environmentally sound decisions.

We live on a very special planet that is currently home to the only known life in all of the observable Universe. What will be our future? Our legacy? Will we survive and thrive or fail to extinction?

The choice is ours.

Sky Guy in VA




Saturday, April 21, 2018

Sky Guy ALERT 4/21/18 Happy Astronomy Day & Lyrid Meteor Shower Viewing

Hey Space Placers!

Today is Astronomy Day and the Lyrid Meteor Shower is peaking.

Got back from Windstar Cruises' Star Pride - what a great trans-Atlantic crossing that was. Getting over a bit of jet lag ;-)

Have a grand time today and tonight.

Sky Guy Greg

Thursday, April 19, 2018

TESS In Orbit

Hey Space Placers!

NASA's TESS mission was successfully launched yesterday. The hunt for planets beyond our solar system will get a big boost with this mission.

Pulling into Lisbon tomorrow and returning to the U.S.

Sky Guy in the Atlantic

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

SKY GUY VIEWING ALERT!!!!! 4/17/18 Venus & Moon

Hey Space Placers!

Tonight about 45 minutes or so after sunset go out and face the West. Look for brilliant Venus about a fist width at arm's length above the horizon and the very thin crescent Moon just to the lower left.

Binoculars can help in the view and there should be some Earthshine visible.

We are cloudy out here in the Atlantic but I will be looking anyway to see if a pic is possible.

Sky Guy in the Atlantic

Monday, April 16, 2018

Another Close Asteroid Call

Hey Space Placers!

Read all about the close call we had by an asteroid this weekend that we discovered only hours before it flew by by just over 119,000 miles. This asteroid was 3 to 6 times larger than Chelyabinsk which hit Earth on 2/15/13.

Spaceweather.com in its 4/16/18 posting placed 2018 GE3 in the 48-110 meter range which makes it A Tunguska size asteroid - Tunguska wiped out 80 million trees over 800 square miles in Tunguska on 6/30/1908.

Once again we are reminded that space rocks are all around us and we need to step up our efforts to detect them and build a defense system.

Sky Guy in VA