Galaxies: Born Blue, Red when Dead, Fat Die First

Galaxies: Born Blue, Red when Dead, Fat Die First

I just had the strangest realization. Stepping into the Galaxy Evolution session of oral presentations I got to listen to the AstroPixie present her research. Like me, she is a UT person (I got my PhD, she is getting her PhD). I knew that. What I didn’t know is we both have/had one of the same dissertation advisors: Gary Hill (I also worked with John Kormendy. What a strange small field it is. Galaxies began to form just a few billion years after the Big Bang. As we learned yesterday, it now looks like this formation took too different paths, with giant spiral galaxies forming out of mass gas + dust collapse, that had the stars and the full fledged giant galaxy all forming at once. at the same time, in other less dense areas, smaller systems also formed...

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4 stars within 6 AU

4 stars within 6 AU

The universe keeps throwing neat stuff up for our telescopes to look at. A team lead by Evgenya Shkolnik (University of Hawaii), has observed a tight system of 4 stars crammed within 6 AU of one another – If located in our solar system, all four stars would fit within the orbit of Jupiter! The system consists of 2 tight binaries, with the two binary systems orbiting the center of mass for all 4 stars. There is less than a 1 in 2000 percent chance that stars of this type could form in this 4-star type of a system, and this is the first time a system like this has been found. The two sets of binaries are very tight. One pair orbits a point between the two stars (their center of mass) with a separation of 0.06 AU, and the other set has a maximum separation of...

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Beautiful in Death

Beautiful in Death

Megan Gray of the University of Nottingham (UK) is blowing away my mind with an elegant and articulate press conference on the link between galaxies and their environment. She is using beautiful analogies and I just want to say that if you want a speaker on galaxy evolution and you’re in England (or have a good travel budget), get her. It helps that there are amazing pictures punctuating her lilting scientific story. Case in point. Okay, here’s the science. By looking at a section of the sky in the optical, x-ray, ultraviolet, and infrared colors of light, they were able to peer through gas and dust and explore the apparent shapes of galaxies. The thing is, how things appear and how they are actually shaped aren’t always the same thing –...

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NASA, I think we need to talk

Yesterday’s Michael Griffin talk left me feeling just plain disgruntled. This morning, walking over from Starbucks, the gang of us ran into a NASA related person (whose name I didn’t ask permission to use, so I won’t), and had a really good talk about what went wrong yesterday, what was meant, and a few things regarding NASA’s budget allocations that I’ve talked about before (things my frustrations yesterday erased from my blogging). I’m feeling more gruntled, and I want to share my thoughts. Michael Griffin is in a really rough spot. I won’t go so far as to say he is a congressional / Bush administration toady, but he is a political appointment. He doesn’t generally get to make policy. Rather, he works to educate...

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Deep and Red

Deep and Red

At 9am the the IKIRT Infrared Deep Sky Survey (UKIDSS) was released to the world. This survey was started in 2005 when the world’s largest and most sensitive IR instrument was commissioned on IKIRT. It is able to survey the sky faster and deeper than anything else. Hubble Deep Field , move over, there is a new kid in town. But the question is: why should such a powerful instrument dedicate its life to exploring the sky and just letting all its data hang out online, free of charge and free for anyone to use? Where to start… Data surveys like UKIDSS allow multiple astronomers (and teams of astronomers) to explore multiple questions on the same data set at the same time freely and easily. With infrared data, we are able to peer through the dust and gas...

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