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More success for Herschel July 11, 2009

Posted by Sarah in new astronomy, pics, science, space.
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After the early sneak preview from the PACS instrument on board the recently launched Herschel infrared space telescope, more images have now been released from its other instruments, SPIRE and HIFI. The above image shows images taken with the IR imager and spectrometer SPIRE of nearby galaxy M74 at 250 micron. The amount of detail visible in the images is really great, particularly as all the image reconstruction software hasn’t even been optimised yet. We may be very used to seeing spectacularly detailed images from Hubble, but achieving these resolutions at Herschel’s far-infrared wavelengths is very new. (more…)

NTT snaps the Omega Nebula July 7, 2009

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This beautiful picture of the Omega Nebula (M17) was release today by ESO. It’s a three-colour composite image taken with the 3.6-m New Technology Telescope at ESO’s La Silla site in Chile. The nebula is a region of active star formation, one of the youngest and nearest to our solar system. A recent paper by Matthew Povich and collaborators reported over 90 candidate newborn stars in the region at varying stages of starbirth. Energetic radiation from hot young stars is exciting and lighting up the gas in the nebula.

The Povich paper contains a complete description of this hotbed of star formation at wavelengths from the radio to X-ray and is an excellent reference if you wold like to learn more.

Image credit: ESO

APOD: Earth’s changing distance to the Sun July 4, 2009

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Today, the 4th of July, the Earth’s elliptical orbit takes our planet to its farthest point from the Sun (‘aphelion‘). This composite image demonstrates nicely how this causes the Sun to appear just a tad smaller in the sky compared with the perihelion size, at the closest approach.

Image credit: E.L. Cervigon

… and you can watch the ISS! June 27, 2009

Posted by Sarah in astro 2.0.
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Don’t freak out that the ISS is watching you – just wave back! A new service called Twisst has just been launched on Twitter to send users alerts of ISS passes at their location, based on the location information they have listed on their profile*. ISS twitter feeds already existed of course, from the OverTwitter project, which has twitter feeds for satellite passes over many world cities. An aside to OverTwitter is OverRSS, which allows users to sign up to an RSS feed of satellite passes for any location of your choice. Twisst combines the two by converting the location registered to the Twitter profile to co-ordinates, and automatically sends the alert at the right time for the right place. All you need to do is follow @twisst. (more…)

The ISS is watching you June 27, 2009

Posted by Sarah in pics, science.
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This week the Big Picture ran a series of pictures taken from the ISS looking down at Earth. It’s a great reminder that the Earth is in fact a very beautiful place and we should be honoured to be able to live here and experience it. Seeing the variety of colours and landscapes from the sky is a solitary consolation prize for spending so much time in airplanes. Being a total volcano nut, of course the pictures of the recent eruption of the Sarychev Peak volcano in the Russian Kuril Islands are my favourites. (more…)