A Voorwerpish Comic

A Voorwerpish Comic

Sometimes, as an astronomer, I get to do some really weird stuff. This summer is one of those times. I actually, thanks to project PI (i.e. lead) Bill Keel, got an opportunity to help produce a comic book telling the story of how a Dutch school teacher found the light echo of a once bright Quasar. Light echos, like sound echos, for when waves (in this case light waves) bounce of a surface and reflect back to an observer, arriving after waves that took a more direct path. A man on a cliff may holler, with his initial outcry reaching you in factions of a second, while the reflection of his voice off a distant outcrop of rock may reach you a few moments later. Trying to figure out that a random green blob of gas is a light echo was anything but easy. In this comic...

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The (Galaxy Zoo) Keepers of the Data

The (Galaxy Zoo) Keepers of the Data

Last week I had a fabulous opportunity to sit down and talk with Galaxy Zookeepers Jordan Raddick and Chris Lintott. Here is the audio from our conversation – Enjoy! Star Stryder: An Interview with Zookeepers [Mp3 – 13.8 Mb] As you may have periodically read in this blog, I’m currently working on a project that is going to require a lot of work with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS – the online catalogue users of Galaxy Zoo are working with). Getting at the data I want is going to require me to get better at jumping through the web forms on SDSS than I am right now, but while I’m still learning, I want share a few of the tricks I’ve learned. Trick 1: So, you want a pretty picture of the field around your favorite obscure...

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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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Making a Milky Way

Making a Milky Way

According to research presented by Eric Gawiser of Rutgers University, ancestors of Milky Way (MW) like galaxies appear to be Lyman Alpha emitting galaxies. These progenitors were about 1/10th the size of the MW, 1/20th the mass of the MW, and 1/40th the stellar mass of the MW (the rest of the mass is gas and dust – the stars are still forming). (image left of Lyman Alpha galaxy, credit: NASA, ESA, Caryl Gronwall/Penn State) This research used the CTIO 4-m telescope to image optical and find lyman alpha emitting blobs (that are red shifted to visual), Spitzer IR images, Magellan 6.5m telescope spectra to get distances (and thus time the light was emitted), and HST ACS to determine sizes using hi resolution images. These objects had already formed by 2...

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Blue Blobs – Splat on the sky

Blue Blobs – Splat on the sky

Duilia deMello of the Catholic University of America and NASA Goddard is presenting in the afternoon galaxies press conference. I’m in here reporting while Rebecca edits, and Phil and Fraser are listening to the NASA town hall meeting. In peering around the universe we tend to stumble across a lot of weird small stuff. Blobs of gas. Blobs of stars. Blobs. Ever find some mysterious blob on your kitchen counter? You know something splattered, but the question often is “What was that?” New Hubble images in combination with GALEX ultraviolet images, and archived Hubble data have allowed astronomers to determine that these blue blobs (example at right, dwarf galaxy Holmberg IX) are actually clusters of 20,000 stars – dwarf galaxies newly...

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Galaxies in the Mist

Galaxies in the Mist

[warning Will Robinson: the voices in my head that used to help write Slacker Astronomy are forcing me to write in the genre of a sensationalized nature special] One of the most elusive creatures speculated to lurk within the sky are the mysterious very high-redshift Lyman alpha emission galaxies. These systems, without the metal found in their more common and larger low-redshift cousins, are rich in hydrogen and slow in producing stars. Scientists had long speculated these systems had to exist, but despite 30 years of searching beyond the Lyman Alpha Forest, none of these systems had ever before been found. Now, astronomers using the Very Large Telescope in Chile bring us word of a serendipitous discovery of 27 of these elusive systems. They were found quite by...

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