An artist’s impression shows the disk of gas and cosmic dust around the young star HD 142527, as observed by astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile. They have witnessed vast streams of gas flowing across the gap in the disc, the first time we’ve seen the stages of a star being born. Click the photo to learn more.
A high resolution image of Earth taken from a Russian weather satellite. While watching this, it’s hard to image that I’m somewhere on that planet, sharing it with 7 billion other people who are going about their little lives. It makes me feel so insignificant, yet I hardly mind. There is something beautiful, even liberating, about realizing and accepting that fact.
See more breathtaking videos from this satellite here.
On this day in 1971, Soviet Russia launched the world’s first space station, the Salyut 1. Unfortunately, it was followed shortly after by one of space exploration’s worst tragedies: the three cosmonauts pictured above died during re-entry, after having completed the first successful space docking. Salyut I was scrapped shortly after, though it would be followed by many others.
Read more about it here. I would’ve put a picture of the station, but there weren’t any good ones worth posting.
Orbiting Earth in the spaceship, I saw how beautiful our planet is. People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it! – Yuri Gagarin
On this day in 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. Imagine being able put your thumb up in front of you and see the planet as small as your fingernail. It’s something very few of us could ever imagine.
He was like a sound amplified by a mountain echo. The traveler is small, but the mountains are great, and suddenly they merge into a single whole. Such was Yuri Gagarin.To accomplish a heroic exploit means to step beyond one’s own sense of self-preservation, to have the courage to dare what today seems unthinkable for the majority. And to be ready to pay for it. For the hero himself, his feat is the limit of all possibilities. If he leaves something “in reserve”, then the most courageous deed thereby moves into the category of work: hard, worthy of all glorification, but — work. An act of heroism is always a breakthrough into the Great Unknown. Even given most accurate preliminary calculations, man enters into that enterprise as if blindfold, full of inner tension and ready for any outcome.
-Valentina Malmy, in Star Peace
The following images are courtesy of National Geographic, though they represent just a handful of the gallery. Click the hyperlink to see the rest – it’s well worth it.
This is probably one of the coolest videos I’ve seen in some time: space as seen from a launching shuttle. On top of the unique vantage point, it’s also in high-definition, which adds to the breath-taking experience. I hope you enjoy.
On this day, in 1769, French astronomer Charles Messier first identified the Orion Nebula, a bright nebula visible to the naked eye during nighttime, located south of Orion’s Belt. Below is a picture from the Hubble Space Telescope.
Messier identified over a hundred such cosmic objects, ranging from nebulae like these, to massive clusters of stars. In fact, he published a well-regarded astronomical catalogue that was intended to help fellow space observers like him distinguish between permanent and transient objects in the sky (he was a comet hunter). His spectacular collection is made up of all the grandest examples deep sky objects – astronomical objects other than celestial bodies – such as diffuse nebulae, planetary nebulae, open clusters, globular clusters and galaxies. That’s quite a legacy to leave.
Brought to you by National Geographic, here is just a small but breathtaking sample of the expansive work of art we call the universe.
While I’m at it, here’s another image from Astronomy Pictures of the Day that I’ve selected as my favorite for this week (click it for a larger image).
The first identified compact galaxy group, Stephan’s Quintet is featured in this eye-catching image constructed with data drawn from the extensive Hubble Legacy Archive. About 300 million light-years away, only four of these five galaxies are actually locked in a cosmic dance of repeated close encounters. The odd man out is easy to spot, though. The interacting galaxies, NGC 7319, 7318A, 7318B, and 7317 have an overall yellowish cast. They also tend to have distorted loops and tails, grown under the influence of disruptive gravitational tides. But the predominantly bluish galaxy, NGC 7320, is closer, just 40 million light-years distant, and isn’t part of the interacting group. Stephan’s Quintet lies within the boundaries of the high flying constellation Pegasus. At the estimated distance of the quartet of interacting galaxies, this field of view spans about 500,000 light-years. However, moving just beyond this field, above and to the left, astronomers can identify another galaxy, NGC 7320C, that is also 300 million light-years distant. Of course, including it would bring the interacting quartet back up to quintet status.
I hope I live to see the day that human beings can traverse through space with relative ease and accessibility.
For a much larger and more stunning display, click here (I highly recommend it). I originally discovered this image by accident on Wikimedia.org, which is apparently a great resource for all sorts of photos – it’s amazing where a minor typo will take you!
This gorgeous image – which is the first planet that I’ve ever seen in UV – was taken by the Hubble Telescope, which has it’s own very own NASA-sponsored website. It’s a pretty great site, and it includes an amazing gallery of photos that are available for download as wallpaper.
Take the time to explore it and marvel at the wonders of space – and our amazing ability to get a glimpse of it like never before.
The following video is a computer simulation that depicts the evolution of a galaxy. It’s based off our own Milky Way, and begins from the Big Bang to the the present, spanning a period of 13 billion of years (give or take a few billion, since we don’t know for sure). It comes from the science blog Starts with a Bang.
The video is credited to Fabio Governato et al, the University of Washington, and NASA Advanced Supercomputing. The caption reads:
Mergers of galaxies are common in their evolution. This movie shows the evolution of a galaxy with similar mass to our own Milky Way, commencing shortly after the Big Bang. The simulation is in a fully cosmological setting, according to our knowledge of Big Bang cosmology. This particular galaxy has a rich merging history, including a major merger at redshift of ~1, i.e. at a time when the Universe was almost half its current age. A large disk reforms from gas left over after the merger, and from subsequent gaseous accretion.
On another note, the creator of Starts with a Bang, Ethan Siegel, is using this video to bring attention to an interesting project, The Charity Engine; basically, you can contribute your computer’s time and processing power to help with scientific calculations like those involved in this simulation, while also giving to charities at the same time. It’s a worthy cause to look into, especially if you want more videos like this.
It’s amazing to imagine that this sort of thing is happening all over the universe, at this very moment. It’s on a scale of time, size, and power that is literally incomprehensible to our own minds and lifespans. It’s breathtaking how small we are in this universe.
Hat tip to Jerry Coyne of Why Evolution is True for raising this to my attention.