jump to navigation

A year of looking up December 31, 2011

Posted by Marie in Astronomy, ESO, Look up, Paranal, Stars.
add a comment

On New Year’s Eve 2010, I made a resolution to explore astronomy a bit more, and learn something about what’s ‘out there’.

Although these posts haven’t been quite as frequent as I’d hoped, they still give an indication of lots of different things which have caught my attention during the year.

I have no intention of stopping now, and I’ll continue to collect and share things which I like.  So to end 2011, here’s a video from the European Southern Observatory showing a whole night in less than one minute.

This video depicts a whole night of work at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, from dusk till dawn. As the starry sky begins disclosing its beauties, the domes of the four VLT Unit Telescopes rapidly move to observe different celestial objects. Above the observatory, the wonderful landscape of the Milky Way rides the firmament in all its glory, while several shooting stars ‘scratch’ the sky, leaving very distinctive trails.

Credit: ESO/S. Guisard (www.eso.org/~sguisard)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

ESO – vltplatftimelapse – From Dusk till Dawn -…, posted with vodpod

Black holes February 18, 2011

Posted by Marie in Black hole, Stars.
add a comment

Black holes seem to capture people’s imagination for some reason.

I just loved this animation, which was posted by a Twitter friend recently.  You can’t see the animation below, but click on it, and you’ll see the movement of stars tracked from the years 1995 through to 2008 near the proposed black hole at the center of the galaxy.

The star in the middle of the image is where the black hole is supposed to be.  I like watching the orbits of the stars that are in the vicinity of the black hole veer off suddenly as they get near.

These images/animations were created by Prof. Andrea Ghez and her research team at UCLA and are from data sets obtained with the W. M. Keck Telescopes.

Is it too early to have favourites? February 11, 2011

Posted by Marie in Constellations, Look up, Stars.
add a comment

It may be early days, but I think I have discovered my favourite constellation already!

Big, beautiful, and instantly recognisable, Orion dominates the (clear!) night sky at this time of year.

I love it for many reasons.  One is that it was the first constellation I learned to recognise – it’s unmistakable.

Another is that the geek in me always thinks of Star Trek when I see it.  Why?  Well the bottom right star (if you’re looking directly at the constellation) is called Rigel, and planets of that name are referenced several times in Trek films and TV episodes.  (Sorry.)

Third reason – Betelgeuse, at the top left ‘shoulder’, was the first time I realised that not all stars are white.  Even to the naked eye, Betelgeuse is orangey-red.  Go on, go and have a look.  And it is e-nor-mous.

Look at this:

If  Betelgeuse was placed where our sun is, it would almost fill up to the edge of Saturn’s orbit.  Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars and Jupiter – gone!

I came home from work recently, in the rain, with a dark, cloud-filled sky.  No chance of looking up and seeing anything.  Later that evening, I went to get something from the car, and Orion literally took my breath away.  The clouds had cleared, and I hadn’t expected to see it there; it was just magnificent.  It’s around for a while longer, so go and admire!

%d bloggers like this: