A report from the European Southern Observatory (ESO):
New observations explain why Milky Way-like galaxies are
so common in the Universe
For decades scientists have believed that galaxy mergers usually result in the formation of elliptical galaxies. Now, for the the first time, researchers using ALMA and a host of other radio telescopes have found direct evidence that merging galaxies can instead form disc galaxies, and that this outcome is in fact quite common. This surprising result could explain why there are so many spiral galaxies like the Milky Way in the Universe.
An international research group led by Junko Ueda, a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science postdoctoral fellow, has made surprising observations that most galaxy collisions in the nearby Universe — within 40–600 million light-years from Earth — result in so-called disc galaxies. Disc galaxies — including spiral galaxies like the Milky Way and lenticular galaxies — are defined by pancake-shaped regions of dust and gas, and are distinct from the category of elliptical galaxies.
It has, for some time, been widely accepted that merging disc galaxies would eventually form an elliptically shaped galaxy. During these violent interactions the galaxies do not only gain mass as they merge or cannibalise each-other, but they are also changing their shape throughout cosmic time, and therefore changing type along the way.
Computer simulations from the 1970s predicted that mergers between two comparable disc galaxies would result in an elliptical galaxy. The simulations predict that most galaxies today are elliptical, clashing with observations that over 70% of galaxies are in fact disc galaxies. However, more recent simulations have suggested that collisions could also form disc galaxies.
To identify the final shapes of galaxies after mergers observationally, the group studied the distribution of gas in 37 galaxies that are in their final stages of merging. The Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array (ALMA) and several other radio telescopes  were used to observe emission from carbon monoxide (CO), an indicator of molecular gas.
The team’s research is the largest study of molecular gas in galaxies to date and provides unique insight into how the Milky Way might have formed. Their study revealed that almost all of the mergers show pancake-shaped areas of molecular gas, and hence are disc galaxies in the making. Ueda explains:
“For the first time there is observational evidence for merging galaxies that could result in disc galaxies. This is a large and unexpected step towards understanding the mystery of the birth of disc galaxies.”
Nonetheless, there is a lot more to discover. Ueda added:
“We have to start focusing on the formation of stars in these gas discs. Furthermore, we need to look farther out in the more distant Universe. We know that the majority of galaxies in the more distant Universe also have discs. We however do not yet know whether galaxy mergers are also responsible for these, or whether they are formed by cold gas gradually falling into the galaxy. Maybe we have found a general mechanism that applies throughout the history of the Universe.”
1. Monday, Sept. 15, 2014: 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT, 4-5:30 PM CDT): We welcome back DR. ERIK SEEDHOUSE regarding his new book, Beyond Human: Engineering Our Future Evolution.
2. Tuesday, Sept. 16 , 2014:,7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EDT, 9-10:30 PM CDT): We welcome back DR. MIKE GRIFFIN, former NASA Administrator and current CEO of Schafer Corp.
3. Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, 9:30 -11 AM PDT (12;30-2 PM EDT; 11:30-1 PM CDT): We welcome STEWART MONEY to discuss is new best selling book, Here Be Dragons: The Rise of SpaceX and the Journey to Mars“.
4. Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014, 12-1:30 PM PDT (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT). We welcome back noted space and science writer MICHAEL BELFIORE. Check out his website at http://michaelbelfiore.com.
The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.
The Spaceship Earth Grant program opens today with a spaceflight contest:
Spaceship Earth Grants Launches Global Crowdfunding Spaceflight Contest
Early applicants can also compete to win a weightless/parabolic flight
Spaceship Earth Grants Launches Global Crowdfunding Spaceflight Contest Early applicants can also compete to win a weightless/parabolic flight SAN DIEGO, CA (September 15, 2014) – Childhood dreams are now within reach and a unique approach to changing the world is underway as Spaceship Earth Grants (SEG) launches a new program to send private citizens to space. With its mission of enabling as many people as possible to have the spaceflight experience, the SEG crew is proud to launch its first contest to crowdfund an open number of spaceflight awards.
“Space is thrilling; however, this is not just about creating thrill rides for people. There are aspects of spaceflight that can generate shifts in perspective to positively and profoundly influence the way people behave and think about our world” said former NASA Astronaut Leland Melvin, President of Spaceship Earth Grants. “We want to facilitate that positive impact by awarding space travel to enthusiastic individuals who will be influential ambassadors by sharing their new insights with others in a compelling and inspiring way.”
The contest, presented by Star Harbor Space Training Academy, begins today and is very unique. SEG will initially award one space flight for each 50,000 applications, but will increase the number of awards given per 50,000 applications as the number of applicants grows. This unique approach of offering ever-increasing odds will encourage applicants to share the contest opportunity enthusiastically among their family members, friends and communities worldwide, knowing their own chances of being selected increase as the more people apply.
The SEG Council (judge’s panel) is made up of former NASA astronauts, industry experts, space enthusiasts, celebrity artists, musicians and other influential people representing a wide variety of interests who share our mission of tapping the world’s love of space exploration to benefit our planet, #SpaceshipEarth.
- Create a Basic Profile: September 15 – December 31, 2014
- Must be 18+
- Pay the Application Fee: Application fee is $15 – 90 USD
- The fee is adjusted according to the relative wealth of the applicant’s home nation, providing opportunities for all of Earth’s citizens to participate.
- Complete Application: Must be complete by December 31, 11:59:59 EST, 2014
- Full application to include a short written summary
- 90 second video answering the question “How will you use this experience to better yourself, your community or our planet?”
- Applications may be in English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Arabic, Russian or Mandarin
- Social Media Rally Period: January 5 – February 28, 2015
- During this phase applicants are encouraged to leverage their social media networks to garner wider attention and support for why they should be chosen.
- List of Finalists Announced by SEG Council: March 20, 2015
- The primary selection criteria will be the applicants’ demonstration of a clear ability to communicate and a desire to convert their spaceflight experience into a planetary benefit upon their return.
- Additional selection criteria will also include the level of the applicant’s engagement in the campaign as well as the engagement of the globe with the applicant.
- Consideration will be given to applicants on a regional basis in an effort to ensure winners represent the diverse geographic locations of the applicant pool.
- Grant Winners Announced by SEG Council: April 12, 2015
- On the 54th anniversary of the first human spaceflight, winners of the largest
effort to propel humanity into space will be announced.
- On the 54th anniversary of the first human spaceflight, winners of the largest
Award Packages include:
- A trip aboard the winner’s choice of spaceflight providers currently available at time of award announcement
- Spaceflight Training package from Star Harbor Space Training Academy
- Travel expenses including coach airfare to/from home country, food/housing and ground transportation
PARABOLIC FLIGHT AWARDS for EARLY APPLICANTS
- For the first 5,000 profiles created, 1 in every 100 will be selected for a total of 50 Parabolic Flight Awards (full application must be complete by 11:59:59 Dec 31, 2014 to qualify – same selection criteria applies)
A percentage of funds generated will be granted to outstanding organizations around the world that share our mission of creating a world that works for everyone. Initial grants will be made to partner organizations: Fragile Oasis, The Overview Institute, The Planetary Society and Project Nominate. SEG looks forward to launching its organization and project grant program next year after individual winners of the contest are selected.
For more information and full contest terms and conditions, visit spaceshipearthgrant.com.
About Spaceship Earth Grants: Spaceship Earth Grants Corp. (SEG), a Public Benefit Corporation, is committed to making the space experience accessible to as many people as possible. SEG offers applicants a chance to travel to space while helping to fund efforts and organizations that are making a significant positive impact on planet Earth. SEG will be providing grants to individuals and organizations that are likewise committed to bettering their communities. For more information, visit spaceshipearthgrants.com.
About Star Harbor Space Training Academy: Star Harbor Space Training Academy will be the first-in-the-world publicly accessible, fully comprehensive and environmentally immersive space training academy. The Star Harbor team is led by CEO Maraia Hoffman and includes former NASA Astronauts Leland Melvin and Ron Garan. More information about Star Harbor will be announced in October.
A new video series titled Xploration Outer Space Online is opening on Hulu for free viewing:
Host Emily Calandrelli, Harvard scholar and former Nasa employee, takes viewers on incredible journeys through space. She visits various NASA facilities as we search for answers about our universe. Xploration Outer Space is part of the Xploration Station two hour syndicated block airing on Fox stations throughout the country.
Here’s the first episode – Prepping for Mars – Hulu:
Rob Godwin, the owner and founder of Apogee Space Books. was on the Space Show Friday and discussed the book, 2001: The Heritage And Legacy Of The Space Odyssey, published by www.apogeeprime.com and written by the late Fred Ordway and Godwin: Rob Godwin, Friday, 9-12-14 – Thespaceshow’s Blog
Listen to the audio:
The earth has been hit with a couple of large coronal mass ejections (i.e. solar flares) from the sun in the past couple of days and this is creating some spectacular auroral displays.
- Spaceweather.com Realtime Image Gallery – lots of beautiful images
- Spaceweather.com – Sept.14.14
- AuroraMAX – The Northern Lights Live – High Definition – Canadian Space Agency
- Aurora Forecast – Astronomy North
- Solar storm’s impacts to spacecraft should be limited – Spaceflight Now
As predicted, a pair of CMEs hit Earth’s magnetic field in quick succession on Sept. 11th and 12th. The result was a G3-class geomagnetic storm, the most intense of the year so far. At the peak of the storm on Sept 12-13, bright auroras ringed the Arctic Circle and spilled down over several northern-tier US states.
Here’s a great shot by Harald Albrigtsen:
And here is a photo from ” John Stetson [taken] on September 12, 2014 @ Quaker Ridge, Casco, Maine facing north towards the Presidential Range in [New Hampshire]“:
The sunspot number held close to steady in August: The solar maximum lingers on – Behind The Black
Latest plot of sunspots in the solar cycle:
The latest video Curiosity Rover Report from NASA JPL: We made it! Curiosity reaches Mount Sharp (Sept 11, 2014)
And here is a text report from NASA JPL on Curiosity’s plans:
NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has reached the Red Planet’s Mount Sharp, a Mount-Rainier-size mountain at the center of the vast Gale Crater and the rover mission’s long-term prime destination.
“Curiosity now will begin a new chapter from an already outstanding introduction to the world,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “After a historic and innovative landing along with its successful science discoveries, the scientific sequel is upon us.”
Curiosity’s trek up the mountain will begin with an examination of the mountain’s lower slopes. The rover is starting this process at an entry point near an outcrop called Pahrump Hills, rather than continuing on to the previously-planned, further entry point known as Murray Buttes. Both entry points lay along a boundary where the southern base layer of the mountain meets crater-floor deposits washed down from the crater’s northern rim.
“It has been a long but historic journey to this Martian mountain,” said Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “The nature of the terrain at Pahrump Hills and just beyond it is a better place than Murray Buttes to learn about the significance of this contact. The exposures at the contact are better due to greater topographic relief.”
The decision to head uphill sooner, instead of continuing to Murray Buttes, also draws from improved understanding of the region’s geography provided by the rover’s examinations of several outcrops during the past year. Curiosity currently is positioned at the base of the mountain along a pale, distinctive geological feature called the Murray formation. Compared to neighboring crater-floor terrain, the rock of the Murray formation is softer and does not preserve impact scars, as well. As viewed from orbit, it is not as well-layered as other units at the base of Mount Sharp.
Curiosity made its first close-up study last month of two Murray formation outcrops, both revealing notable differences from the terrain explored by Curiosity during the past year. The first outcrop, called Bonanza King, proved too unstable for drilling, but was examined by the rover’s instruments and determined to have high silicon content. A second outcrop, examined with the rover’s telephoto Mast Camera, revealed a fine-grained, platy surface laced with sulfate-filled veins.
While some of these terrain differences are not apparent in observations made by NASA’s Mars orbiters, the rover team still relies heavily on images taken by the agency’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) to plan Curiosity’s travel routes and locations for study.
For example, MRO images helped the rover team locate mesas that are over 60 feet (18 meters) tall in an area of terrain shortly beyond Pahrump Hills, which reveal an exposure of the Murray formation uphill and toward the south. The team plans to use Curiosity’s drill to acquire a sample from this site for analysis by instruments inside the rover. The site lies at the southern end of a valley Curiosity will enter this week from the north.
Though this valley has a sandy floor the length of two football fields, the team expects it will be an easier trek than the sandy-floored Hidden Valley, where last month Curiosity’s wheels slipped too much for safe crossing.
Curiosity reached its current location after its route was modified earlier this year in response to excessive wheel wear. In late 2013, the team realized a region of Martian terrain littered with sharp, embedded rocks was poking holes in four of the rover’s six wheels. This damage accelerated the rate of wear and tear beyond that for which the rover team had planned. In response, the team altered the rover’s route to a milder terrain, bringing the rover farther south, toward the base of Mount Sharp.
“The wheels issue contributed to taking the rover farther south sooner than planned, but it is not a factor in the science-driven decision to start ascending here rather than continuing to Murray Buttes first,” said Jennifer Trosper, Curiosity Deputy Project Manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “We have been driving hard for many months to reach the entry point to Mount Sharp,” Trosper said. “Now that we’ve made it, we’ll be adjusting the operations style from a priority on driving to a priority on conducting the investigations needed at each layer of the mountain.”
After landing inside Gale Crater in August 2012, Curiosity fulfilled in its first year of operations its major science goal of determining whether Mars ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. Clay-bearing sedimentary rocks on the crater floor, in an area called Yellowknife Bay, yielded evidence of a lakebed environment billions of years ago that offered fresh water, all of the key elemental ingredients for life, and a chemical source of energy for microbes.
NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Project continues to use Curiosity to assess ancient habitable environments and major changes in Martian environmental conditions. The destinations on Mount Sharp offer a series of geological layers that recorded different chapters in the environmental evolution of Mars.
The Mars Exploration Rover Project is one element of NASA’s ongoing preparation for a human mission to the Red Planet in the 2030s. JPL built Curiosity and manages the project and MRO for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
For more information about Curiosity, visit:
Information about MRO activities is available online at: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/MRO
Follow the Curiosity rover mission on social media at:
This blooper reel from the movie, Star Trek Into Darkness, is quite fun:
[ Update: Apparently Paramount objected to the posting of the clip and it was removed. You can find it on the Star Trek: The Compendium [Blu-ray]:
Here’s a report on their rocket projects: India’s First Private Rocket Construction and Launch Initiatives for Space Education – Sept.9.2014 (pdf).
The 4.5 km is rescheduled to launch on 27 September 2014. Also in the coming months the team will have two rocket launch done with altitudes attaining 10 kms and 100 kms with a 500 gms of payload. These two tests in next month’s will be formally offered for all the young space researchers.
These are among the first Indian high altitude rockets developed outside of government programs.
Here are a couple photos:
Rick Boozer has opened a series of posts that will provide a tutorial on advanced stellar photometry : Photometry with AIP4WIN: A Tutorial – Part 1 – Astron Maven –
The science of photometry can be used by both amateur astronomers and professionals for some very advanced scientific work. You can detect the light changes caused by eclipsing binary stars, plot the changes in luminosity of a variable star and even detect an exoplanet orbiting another star. This tutorial will be your step-by-step guide on how to employ the powerful Magnitude Measurement Tool that comes with the renowned astronomical imaging software known as AIP4WIN by Richard Berry and Robert Burnell. Special thanks to Mr. Berry for giving me permission to include screen images and extensive operating details from AIP4WIN.
The proper equipment for this endeavor is as follows: a telescope with an accurate tracking drive, a sufficiently sensitive CCD or CMOS camera, and a computer with AIP4WIN installed. AIP4WIN comes on a DVD accompanying the book The Handbook of Astronomical Image Processing by the aforementioned Messrs. Berry and Burnell.
Red Planet Respite is a play by
Written by Katherine Harroff, in collaboration with Soroya Rowley, Patrick Young, Karen Knierman, the ASU [Arizona State University] School of Theatre, Film, and Dance, the School of Earth and Space Exploration, and the Mars Space Flight Facility.
In the year 2044 GlobalCom Venture Capitals, an American corporation, has developed the first interactive resort experience on Mars with the Marsimerica space research institution. Red Planet Respite is the story of the premiere crew sent to test out the luxurious resort intended for the socially elite. An unexpected phenomenon that takes place in the universe during their voyage forces the crew to face consequences and psychological extremities they could never prepare for.
The play was first performed at ASU and is being staged this month at the Circle Circle dot dot Community-Based Theatre in La Jolla, California near San Diego : Show about Mars exploration launches Circle Circle Dot Dot residency at Playhouse. – UTSanDiego.com
For details on times and tickets, see Current show – Red Planet Respite
Here’s an interesting report about a “bunch of guys [who built] a starship simulator in a caravan” (i.e. a “trailer” in US/Canada) : The DIY Spaceship Simulator That’s More Immersive Than Virtual Reality – Motherboard
While virtual reality games are often called “immersive,” this experience showed that the most captivating experiences don’t have to involve wearing goggles. I was inside the LHS Bikeshed spaceship simulator, a DIY, sci-fi styled caravan that takes immersive gaming to the next level.
Unlike VR, the game delivers its real kicks through off-screen elements. When the ship shakes, the whole caravan actually physically shakes. When you have to plug in an emergency cable to save the ship, you have to actually, physically get up and plug the right cable into the right port. It’s not virtual reality, it’s real-life reality—and that’s what made it the best space simulator I’ve ever set foot in.
Find a history of the project at LHS BIKESHED.
In this SETI Institute talk, Elisa Quintana talks about Earth-Sized Planets in the Habitable Zones of Cool Stars:
Abstract: A primary goal of the Kepler mission is to determine the frequency of Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones of other stars. M dwarfs, stars that are smaller and cooler than the Sun, comprise more than 70% of the stars in our galaxy. Finding that Earth-sized planets around M dwarfs are common, therefore, has big implications for determining the frequency of other Earths.
In April 2014 we announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, the first definitive Earth-sized planet found to orbit in the habitable zone of a star other than our Sun. We will discuss our methods of combining ground-based observations with transit modeling to confirm this system, and will present our theoretical studies on the formation and habitability of this planet. We will also present updates on several promising multi-planet systems that have Earth-sized, and possibly sub-Earth-sized, candidates in the habitable zones of cool low-mass stars in the Kepler field-of-view.
Here’s a long list of early electronic music: The greatest electronic albums of the 1950s and 1960s – The Vinyl Factory. (via Behind The Black.)
See also my Space Age Sounds section, which focuses on spacey sounding jazz-orchestral style music, usually with electronic sounds included, of the 1950s and early 1960s. This music is sometimes referred to as Space Age Lounge music. Some of the it overlaps with the Vinyl Factory’s list.
Here’s one of my Space Age Lounge classics:
A new finding from the European Southern Observatory (ESO):
This new image from the VLT Survey Telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in northern Chile shows a vast collection of stars, the globular cluster Messier 54. This cluster looks very similar to many others but it has a secret. Messier 54 doesn’t belong to the Milky Way, but is part of a small satellite galaxy, the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy. This unusual parentage has now allowed astronomers to use the Very Large Telescope (VLT) to test whether there are also unexpectedly low levels of the element lithium in stars outside the Milky Way.
This video takes you on a journey past the centre of the Milky Way
and far out the other side to the globular cluster Messier 54.
This cluster looks very similar to many others, but it has a secret.
Messier 54 doesn’t belong to the Milky Way, but actually is
part of a small satellite galaxy, the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy.
The final close-up view comes from the VLT Survey Telescope
at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in northern Chile.
The Milky Way galaxy is orbited by more than 150 globular star clusters, which are balls of hundreds of thousands of old stars dating back to the formation of the galaxy. One of these, along with several others in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer), was found in the late eighteenth century by the French comet hunter Charles Messier and given the designation Messier 54.
For more than two hundred years after its discovery Messier 54 was thought to be similar to the other Milky Way globulars. But in 1994 it was discovered that it was actually associated with a separate galaxy — the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy. It was found to be at a distance of around 90 000 light-years — more than three times as far from Earth as the galactic centre.
Astronomers have now observed Messier 54 using the VLT as a test case to try to solve one of the mysteries of modern astronomy — the lithium problem.
Most of the light chemical element lithium now present in the Universe was produced during the Big Bang, along with hydrogen and helium, but in much smaller quantities. Astronomers can calculate quite accurately how much lithium they expect to find in the early Universe, and from this work out how much they should see in old stars. But the numbers don’t match — there is about three times less lithium in stars than expected. This mystery remains, despite several decades of work .
Up to now it has only been possible to measure lithium in stars in the Milky Way. But now a team of astronomers led by Alessio Mucciarelli (University of Bologna, Italy) has used the VLT to measure how much lithium there is in a selection of stars in Messier 54. They find that the levels are close to those in the Milky Way. So, whatever it is that got rid of the lithium seems not to be specific to the Milky Way.
This new image of the cluster was created from data taken with the VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at the Paranal Observatory. As well as showing the cluster itself it reveals the extraordinarily dense forest of much closer Milky Way stars that lie in the foreground.
 There are several possible proposed solutions to the riddle. The first is that the calculations of the amounts of lithium produced in the Big Bang are wrong — but very recent tests suggest that this is not the case. The second is that the lithium was somehow destroyed in the earliest stars, before the formation of the Milky Way. The third is that some process in the stars has gradually destroyed lithium during their lives.