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Thread: The Thread about the Universe, Astronomy, and Similar Cool Stuff

  1. #1
    Sam the Sheepdog LA Ute's Avatar
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    The Thread about the Universe, Astronomy, and Similar Cool Stuff

    I am not trained in astronomy but I do love to think about the solar system, the universe, and other such things. So I am starting a thread on all that -- because I can, by golly!

    Here's today's entry, from the NBC News Cosmic Log:

    Will our universe end in a 'big slurp'? Higgs-like particle suggests it might


    “It may be that the universe we live in is inherently unstable. At some point, billions of years from now, it’s all going to be wiped out.”

    He said the parameters for our universe, including the Higgs mass value as well as the mass of another subatomic particle known as the top quark, suggest that we’re just at the edge of stability, in a “metastable” state. Physicists have been contemplating such a possibility for more than 30 years. Back in 1982, physicists Michael Turner and Frank Wilczek wrote in Nature that “without warning, a bubble of true vacuum could nucleate somewhere in the universe and move outwards at the speed of light, and before we realized what swept by us our protons would decay away.”

    Lykken put it slightly differently: “The universe wants to be in a different state, so eventually to realize that, a little bubble of what you might think of as an alternate universe will appear somewhere, and it will spread out and destroy us.”


    That alternate universe would be “much more boring,” Lykken said. Which led him to ask a philosophical question: “Why do we live in a universe that’s just on the edge of stability?” He wondered whether a universe has to be near the danger zone to produce galaxies, stars, planets … and life.


    Even Hill found it interesting that the parameters of particle physics put our universe right along the critical line. “That’s something new, which we didn’t know before, and which leads some of us to that there’s something else coming,” Hill said.

    "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
    --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."
    --Yeats

    “True, we [lawyers] build no bridges. We raise no towers. We construct no engines. We paint no pictures - unless as amateurs for our own principal amusement. There is little of all that we do which the eye of man can see. But we smooth out difficulties; we relieve stress; we correct mistakes; we take up other men's burdens and by our efforts we make possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful state.”

    --John W. Davis, founder of Davis Polk & Wardwell

  2. #2
    I'm in the middle of a twelve-lecture series on the Hubble Space Telescope by a Northwestern astrophysics prof and it's been fascinating. The most recent lecture was on supernovae, and the details are mindboggling. Betelgeuse, the brightest star in the Orion constellation, is expected to blow up imminently (in astronomical terms at least, although that could be anytime in the next 150,000 years). When it does, the resulting supernova will be ten times brighter than the moon and we'll be able to read outside at night.

    Since I'm only 60, I figure I've got a great shot at seeing this. Can't wait.


  3. #3
    Sam the Sheepdog LA Ute's Avatar
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    This is the Sombrero Galaxy, 28 million light years from Earth. I am told this was voted best picture taken by the Hubble telescope. The galaxy is officially called M104, has 800 billion suns and is 50,000 light years across.

    In other words, if you traveled at the speed of light for 50,000 years, you could cross this galaxy from one end to the other. Of course, that would be after the 28 million light years it took you to get to the edge of the galaxy.

    This photo is the skin on my iPhone.
    Last edited by LA Ute; 02-22-2013 at 09:04 AM.

    "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
    --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."
    --Yeats

    “True, we [lawyers] build no bridges. We raise no towers. We construct no engines. We paint no pictures - unless as amateurs for our own principal amusement. There is little of all that we do which the eye of man can see. But we smooth out difficulties; we relieve stress; we correct mistakes; we take up other men's burdens and by our efforts we make possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful state.”

    --John W. Davis, founder of Davis Polk & Wardwell

  4. #4
    Sam the Sheepdog LA Ute's Avatar
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    here are more Hubble photos:



    This is the Cone Nebula. The part pictured here is 2.5 light years in length (the equivalent of 23 million return trips to the Moon).



    From 114 million light years away, these are the swirling cores of two merging galaxies called NGC 2207 and IC 2163 in the distant Canis Major constellation. Merging galaxies - now there is a concept!



    Astronomers call this a 'stellar nursery', 9,000 light years from here, where new stars are being born. Another heavy concept!

    "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
    --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."
    --Yeats

    “True, we [lawyers] build no bridges. We raise no towers. We construct no engines. We paint no pictures - unless as amateurs for our own principal amusement. There is little of all that we do which the eye of man can see. But we smooth out difficulties; we relieve stress; we correct mistakes; we take up other men's burdens and by our efforts we make possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful state.”

    --John W. Davis, founder of Davis Polk & Wardwell

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by LA Ute View Post


    This is the Sombrero Galaxy, 28 million light years from Earth. I am told this was voted best picture taken by the Hubble telescope. The galaxy is officially called M104, has 800 billion suns and is 50,000 light years across.

    In other words, if you traveled at the speed of light for 50,000 years, you could cross this galaxy from one end to the other. Of course, that would be after the 28 million light years it took you to get to the edge of the galaxy.

    This photo is the skin on my iPhone.
    I like to make the numbers seem even bigger by reminding folks that one light year is about 6 trillion miles.

  6. #6
    LA, those are some incredible photos, which makes me wonder if the Hubble telescope is the most impressive piece of technology that has come around in my lifetime. I can't think of anything else as impressive.

  7. #7


    The very, very dim galaxy in this photo is called UDFj-39546284 and is the most distant galaxy ever seen. According to the folks at NASA, the light from that galaxy traveled for 13.2 billion years before it reached Hubble. (The estimated age of the universe is 13.7 billion years.) It's a small galaxy, approximately 1/100th the size of the Milky Way.
    Last edited by GarthUte; 02-20-2013 at 10:01 PM.

  8. #8
    Living in the past ... FMCoug's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GarthUte View Post
    LA, those are some incredible photos, which makes me wonder if the Hubble telescope is the most impressive piece of technology that has come around in my lifetime. I can't think of anything else as impressive.
    I tend to agree. It's pretty incredible what they have done and the images they get. The coolest part is the in place repair to the mirrors they do.

    All this makes me want to weep for the state of our space program right now.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by FMCoug View Post
    I tend to agree. It's pretty incredible what they have done and the images they get. The coolest part is the in place repair to the mirrors they do.

    All this makes me want to weep for the state of our space program right now.
    Agreed about the state of our space program right now. The US has definitely lost it's superiority in that area.
    "Ninety feet between home plate and first base may be the closest man has ever come to perfection." - Red Smith

  10. #10
    I still think there are men on the moon......


    -What would you do
    if you saw spaceships over Glasgow?
    Would you fear them?
    Every aircraft, every camera, is a wish that wasn't granted.

    What was that for?
    Try to be bad.


  11. #11
    If anyone is interested: every Wednesday night at the U they have "star parties" that are free and open to the public. They basically open up the telescopes and point them at stars, planets, galaxies, and the moon. Salt Lake City is doesn't exactly offer optimum light conditions, but it's still worth a visit.

    I don't think they do it during the winter though.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by LA Ute View Post


    This is the Sombrero Galaxy, 28 million light years from Earth. I am told this was voted best picture taken by the Hubble telescope. The galaxy is officially called M104, has 800 billion suns and is 50,000 light years across.

    In other words, if you traveled at the speed of light for 50,000 years, you could cross this galaxy from one end to the other. Of course, that would be after the 28 million light years it took you to get to the edge of the galaxy.

    This photo is the skin on my iPhone.
    Coincidentally, the lecture I watched this evening was about galaxies generally and the Sombrero in particular, with a lengthy discussion of that photo. One interesting tidbit is that the Sombrero, which at 28-29 million light years away from ours, is very close relative to the entire universe. And yet if Earth were equidistant between the two galaxies, the night sky would always be pitch black, as stars or galaxies would be visible only with the aid of a telescope. Facts like these, along with the idea that there are many billions of galaxies (and that's all we're aware of), makes recall Moses' conclusion after he was given a tour of the universe, "Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed."

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by PaloAltoCougar View Post
    Coincidentally, the lecture I watched this evening was about galaxies generally and the Sombrero in particular, with a lengthy discussion of that photo. One interesting tidbit is that the Sombrero, which at 28-29 million light years away from ours, is very close relative to the entire universe. And yet if Earth were equidistant between the two galaxies, the night sky would always be pitch black, as stars or galaxies would be visible only with the aid of a telescope. Facts like these, along with the idea that there are many billions of galaxies (and that's all we're aware of), makes recall Moses' conclusion after he was given a tour of the universe, "Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed."
    PAC - is this a podcast? It sounds fascinating!

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by LA Ute View Post


    This is the Sombrero Galaxy, 28 million light years from Earth. I am told this was voted best picture taken by the Hubble telescope. The galaxy is officially called M104, has 800 billion suns and is 50,000 light years across.

    In other words, if you traveled at the speed of light for 50,000 years, you could cross this galaxy from one end to the other. Of course, that would be after the 28 million light years it took you to get to the edge of the galaxy.

    This photo is the skin on my iPhone.
    I have to keep reminding myself that the Hubble is capturing images of what these galaxies and formations looked like millions of years ago. The supernova PAC referred to actually happened thousands or millions or years ago, we are just waiting for the light particles of the event to reach the earth.
    Dyslexics of the world, untie!

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by GarthUte View Post
    LA, those are some incredible photos, which makes me wonder if the Hubble telescope is the most impressive piece of technology that has come around in my lifetime. I can't think of anything else as impressive.
    Absolutely stunning images from Hubble. The fact it was almost the most impressive blunder of all time is equally impressive.

    The only things I can think of that are as impressive as the Hubble Telescope would be the Kepler Telescope, out there finding all these new planetary bodies and trying to find the ones in the habitable zones (http://kepler.nasa.gov/), the Large Hadron Collider which has lead to the discovery of the Higgs-Boson, and the 2 Voyger missions which both are now outside our solar system (http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/)

    I'll be sad when we stop getting images from Hubble.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by OrangeUte View Post
    PAC - is this a podcast? It sounds fascinating!
    It's a two-DVD series (Experiencing Hubble: Understanding the Greatest Images of the Universe) from The Great Courses. It was a special offer ($9.95), and it's certainly worth every penny. But now I get near-daily emails suggesting other courses. I may get really smart.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Hadrian View Post
    If anyone is interested: every Wednesday night at the U they have "star parties" that are free and open to the public. They basically open up the telescopes and point them at stars, planets, galaxies, and the moon. Salt Lake City is doesn't exactly offer optimum light conditions, but it's still worth a visit.

    I don't think they do it during the winter though.
    You remind me that there used to be an observatory on the corner of University St./Virginia St. and 1st south when I was a kid. It was around the corner from my grandmother's house on Butler Ave. Or am I hallucinating?

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by concerned View Post
    You remind me that there used to be an observatory on the corner of University St./Virginia St. and 1st south when I was a kid. It was around the corner from my grandmother's house on Butler Ave. Or am I hallucinating?
    I don't know about any former observatory directly on the corner of University and 1st, but the physics building with the current observatory is very near to it. The physics building is probably close to a hundred years old, so it might be the same building you're thinking of.

  19. #19
    Administrator U-Ute's Avatar
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    http://htwins.net/scale2/

    I don't know what's freakier, the size of the universe, or the size of the Japanese Spider Crab.

    eek.jpg

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by PaloAltoCougar View Post
    It's a two-DVD series (Experiencing Hubble: Understanding the Greatest Images of the Universe) from The Great Courses. It was a special offer ($9.95), and it's certainly worth every penny. But now I get near-daily emails suggesting other courses. I may get really smart.

    You interested in making your money back after you finish them?

    On a side note, are there any astro-photographers here? I'm just getting started in that. I'll try to dig up some milky way photos I took in the Uintas last summer

  21. #21
    Best non-sports thread ever! I love this stuff!

  22. #22
    I've always been a fan of space exploration and astronomy. Here's a very short video that gives some perspective on things. I'm sure many of you have seen this or something similar to it, but if you haven't seen it... Definitely worth two minutes:

    Desse jeito, não tem jeito.

  23. #23
    Just dug up my favorite photo I've taken. This was up in the Uintas last summer. My understanding of it all and knowledge of my equipment is getting much better, so I'm hoping to get improved results this summer.

    For now:


    Camera: Sony A65
    Lens: Minolta AF 28 2.8 @ 2.8
    13 sec
    12800 ISO

  24. #24
    Sam the Sheepdog LA Ute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by San Diego Ute Fan View Post
    I've always been a fan of space exploration and astronomy. Here's a very short video that gives some perspective on things. I'm sure many of you have seen this or something similar to it, but if you haven't seen it... Definitely worth two minutes:
    Wow. Thanks for that.

    "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
    --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."
    --Yeats

    “True, we [lawyers] build no bridges. We raise no towers. We construct no engines. We paint no pictures - unless as amateurs for our own principal amusement. There is little of all that we do which the eye of man can see. But we smooth out difficulties; we relieve stress; we correct mistakes; we take up other men's burdens and by our efforts we make possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful state.”

    --John W. Davis, founder of Davis Polk & Wardwell

  25. #25
    Too old to care... Expat's Avatar
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    If you like these, I suggest that you download the Star Walk app for your smart phone. Amazing photos like those below, and a really cool "live" guide to the night sky, as well as astrology data. I've gotten a lot more use out of it that I thought I would.
    Life is not a zero-sum game - we can all succeed together, and we can all be better off for it

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by SavaUte View Post
    Just dug up my favorite photo I've taken. This was up in the Uintas last summer. My understanding of it all and knowledge of my equipment is getting much better, so I'm hoping to get improved results this summer.

    For now:


    Camera: Sony A65
    Lens: Minolta AF 28 2.8 @ 2.8
    13 sec
    12800 ISO
    Nice photo. There's nothing like getting a clear view of the night sky while camping in wilderness areas. Beautiful.
    Desse jeito, não tem jeito.

  27. #27
    Administrator U-Ute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SavaUte View Post
    Just dug up my favorite photo I've taken. This was up in the Uintas last summer. My understanding of it all and knowledge of my equipment is getting much better, so I'm hoping to get improved results this summer.

    Camera: Sony A65
    Lens: Minolta AF 28 2.8 @ 2.8
    13 sec
    12800 ISO
    Fantastic shot.

    We upgraded from the Canon Rebel XTi to the T4i for Christmas. Looking forward to testing it out this summer.

  28. #28

    Here's a very nice look at earth from the ISS done with time lapse photography:

    Go full screen HD for this if you can. Note the lightning storms and Aurora Borealis. At 1:00, watch for Orion rising in the sky. Am I a nerd if I love this stuff?

    Desse jeito, não tem jeito.

  29. #29
    Sam the Sheepdog LA Ute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by San Diego Ute Fan View Post
    Go full screen HD for this if you can. Note the lightning storms and Aurora Borealis. At 1:00, watch for Orion rising in the sky. Am I a nerd if I love this stuff?

    If so, you have lots of company, including me.

    "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
    --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."
    --Yeats

    “True, we [lawyers] build no bridges. We raise no towers. We construct no engines. We paint no pictures - unless as amateurs for our own principal amusement. There is little of all that we do which the eye of man can see. But we smooth out difficulties; we relieve stress; we correct mistakes; we take up other men's burdens and by our efforts we make possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful state.”

    --John W. Davis, founder of Davis Polk & Wardwell

  30. #30
    Interesting subject. I recently learned if the size of our solar system were equal to a US quarter- and that means Neptune's orbit, not the Kuiper belt or any dwarf planets- than the Milky Way's diameter would be roughly 1200 miles. Also, if the center of the Milky Way were downtown SLC, our solar system would be roughly located in Reno.

    It's mind-boggling how far the Hubble can capture.

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