AAS Day 0: Non-Model Behavior in Dark Matter

I know I’ve been silent for a long time, but this week I hope to make up for my wayward ways and blog my brain out. This week is the 213th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, California. I’m here along with many of my friends and colleagues from across Astronomy Cast, 365 Days of Astronomy, IYA, and Galaxy Zoo. Since we’re all new media, Fraser and I were able to twist arms to get help live casting the conference to the world (which happens to include you). Joining me in person are: Fraser Cain (our second time meeting in person!), Ian O’Niell, Michael Koppelmann, Chris Lintott, Georgia Bracey, Scott Miller, and Jordan Raddick. Nancy Atkinson is also helping us from afar. Together, we’re going to get you as...

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Black Holes Only Grow So Big

A few weeks ago there was a fairly cool paper on arXiv that suggested that supermassive black holes may only be able to grow so big. This triggered several Astronomy Cast listeners to write and basically say “Huh?” We addressed this a little bit in today’s questions show (real show to follow tomorrow or Wednesday – we had problems with a corrupt audio file over the weekend and got behind). I wasn’t able to give as thoughtful a response in the show as I might have liked however, so I’m going to try and write something here. So, first, I’d like to say there are two ways to look at this: 1) In reality, 2) in make-believe land. Make-believe land is oh so much more fun. So, lets imagine that somehow we are able to grow a very...

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Ghosts are NOT Dark Matter

Just a quick one tonight. At Dragon*Con (which I won’t mention again until next summer) some fascinatingly misguided person suggested that ghosts are made of Dark Matter. Dark matter is the missing 22% of the stuff the universe is made of. This is stuff – it is just stuff that doesn’t interact with the electromagnetic force in a noticeable way. This means it does not obscure light (like dust), it does not give off light (like stars), it does not chemically interact, or in fact it does not do anything other than move stuff with its mass via gravity. This means that if you can see something, it is not Dark Matter. This means that if you can detect something as a cold spot (which implies something happened to the heat energy in that spot), and if...

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AAS – The Many Ring Circus

This is a crazy wonderful place. Over and over, I’ve heard people say this is the super bowl of astronomy. I’m not so sure that is the truth. I feel more like this is the 3 (or 5 or 10) ring circus of astronomy. In every ring there is a new group doing their thing and playing to crowds. I sometimes feel that my attention is getting pulled in every direction as the biggest, the brightest, the shiniest, and the newest all juggle and flip to the music of the stars.

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