Tuesday, December 31, 2013

How to Help Science: BOINC and Team FQTQ

Did you know you can help cure diseases, study global warming, discover pulsars, search for extraterrestrials, run particle acceleration simulations, and help construct a 3-D map of the Milky Way without ever leaving your home?

Meet BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing), an open source middleware system for volunteer and grid computing. The intent of BOINC is to make it possible for researchers in science, math, molecular biology, climatology, and astrophysics to tap into the enormous processing power of personal computers around the world.

Learn more about this amazing crowd-computing effort (and how to get the software) here: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/how-to-help-science-boinc-and-team-fqtq/

The 50 Best Pictures of Science in Action - 2013

2013 was a great year for science. It was also a great year for science-related photography. For your viewing pleasure, FQTQ presents some of the best pictures of 2013.

Note: This article contains not only pictures, but gifs and youtube links as well. To avoid them from taking forever to load, we"ve divided them up into several pages.


Public Perception of Evolution: A Reflection of Scientific Literacy in Society

Unfortunately, humans seem to thrive on controversy. Though people may come from diverse economic, social, and cultural backgrounds, there is one thing that we all love: Arguing. In fact, we’ll even argue about things that experts are decidedly *not* arguing about.

Case in point, the Pew Research Center recently conducted a survey (between March 21 and April 8, 2013) among a national sample of 1,983 adults. This survey dealt with individual views regarding evolution. The survey was conducted by professionally trained interviewing staff under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International. According to the analysis, six-in-ten Americans (60%) say that “humans and other living things have evolved over time.” That’s a bit comforting; however, not all of the findings are inspiring.

Discover what the numbers say at:


Understanding Evolution: What is Natural Selection?

“When it was introduced in the 1940s, penicillin was a miracle drug, especially effective at curing infections caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus ("staph"). In 1941, the drug could wipe out every strain of staph in the world. Now, seventy years later, more than 95% of staph strains are resistant to penicillin.” — Dr. Jerry Coyne, "Why Evolution is True"


In "Why Evolution is True", Dr. Coyne used this example in the chapter entitled, “The Engine of Evolution.” The engine he’s referring to is none other than natural selection, and this little insight regarding the adaptability (evolution) of Staphylococcus aureus is excellent evidence for the theory of evolution by natural selection. It’s my go-to “proof,” if you will, when someone asks me to provide proof of evolution because (a) it’s simple and easy to understand, (b) it definitively shows that an organism can adapt to a new environment (in this case, a human body injected with penicillin), (c) it doesn’t require any discourse regarding fossils or the fossil record (which is probably the best evidence for evolution, but it’s very difficult to explain fossil evidence to someone who wants to “see” evolution if you don’t have fossils on hand!), and (d) bacteria are excellent for ‘showing’ evolution in action because they reproduce quickly, meaning that they can potentially evolve much faster than, say, a dog or a dolphin.

Learn all about natural selection at:


Astronomy Picture of the Day: 12/31/13 - Zeta Ophichui

It would be an absolute travesty on all of our parts if we didn"t show you this splendid celestial region, which comes wrapped in its own cosmic bow! This image showcases one of the most massive stars in our celestial neighborhood, which is located about 366 light-years from Earth. Okay, so "neighborhood" might be a little bit too loose of a word given the immense distance a single light-year entails (about 6 trillion miles or ten trillion kilometers), but considering our galaxy alone is about 100,000 light-years in diameter, it"s safe to say, Zeta Ophichui is "near-by."

Interestingly, the star in question SHOULD be one of the brightest stars in our night sky given its mass and spectral classification, but since it is still a young star in the initial phase of stellar evolution, the star (which is 20 times more massive than the sun and emits about 80,000 times more light) is still enshrouded in its stellar cocoon, smothered by thick blankets of interstellar dust, much of the light from the dense, opaque material is absorbed from our line of sight and can only properly be observed in infrared.

In addition, the young star emits large quantities of energetic particles that wrap around the star. Paired with the rapid rate at which the star rotates through the surrounding dust (about 15 miles, or 25 kilometers per second), a wave-like structure is generated (called "bow shock"). Overall, this arc is about four light-years in length, which is equivalent to about 25 TRILLION miles (or 40 TRILLION kilometers).

Sources & Additional Resources: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/apod-zeta-ophichui/

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Monday, December 30, 2013

Your Particle Physics Guide: Part 2

The Standard Model is the theory that describes the interaction of forces affecting subparticles, like electrons and quarks. Although this physics deals with the major forces that govern our universe, it often seems disconnected from us--like it belongs to another reality. In truth, it does deal with matters outside out everyday experience; however, that does not make it any less important. Ultimately, understanding the Standard Model is a necessary part of understanding our universe; it is the best thing that we have at our disposal when trying to make experimental predictions.

So let"s take a moment to get to know the Standard Model, and the universe, a little better.

2011 Keiko Murano

The Incredible 3D Rendering of a Nebula:

Have you ever wondered what a nebula may look like in 3D? Wonder no more! (GIF link can be found below!)

Due to the vast distances that separates objects in interstellar space, it"s very unlikely that any of us will ever get to see these things up close and personal with our own two eyes. Though that doesn"t stop incredibly artistic people from breaking the mold and presenting us with something that is truly spectacular. This is one of those things.

See Here: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/the-incredible-3d-rendering-of-a-nebula/

(Note: It may take a minute or so to load since the filesize is about 7MB, but it"s well worth it)

Image Credit: Sky Candy

Hubble Variable 1: The Star That Changed the Universe

Today we know that the Universe is filled with billions upon billions of galaxies, but in the early 1900s, it was widely accepted that the Milky Way was a single collection of stars with nothing beyond it. Andromeda, and other galaxies, were believed to just be ‘spiral nebulae’ lying within the Milky Way. However, there were telltale clues that astronomers could use to determine the distance between Andromeda and Earth, one of which is Cepheid variable stars. Stars of this type have very predictable patterns of brightness, which we can derive a light curve from -- thus making variable stars reliable distance markers.

This gave way to the discovery of many of the most fundamental concepts in modern astronomy.

Learn about how one star was able to revolutionize how we saw the universe, at

Image Credit: S. Beckwith & the HUDF Working Group (STScI), HST, ESA, NASA

"That" Pluto Controversy (You Know The One)

If you are like me, then when you went to school, you probably learned about the nine planets in our solar system. Then, tragically, in 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) set the official classification of what a planet was; and Pluto didn’t make the cut. Now, we have a controversy surrounding our favorite frozen rock. But why is this a big deal?

See: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/that-pluto-controversy/

Image Credit: NASA

Astronomy Picture of the Day: 12/30/13 - A Cosmic Superbubble

This striking "cosmic superbubble" lies near the star cluster known as NGC 1929, which is located in the Large Magellanic Cloud -- one of the small satellite galaxies of the Milky Way.

Taken using the European Space Observatory"s "Very Large Telescope," here, you can see the many regions in the nebula, officially known as LHA 120-N 44, that are actively producing new stars. Said young stars are beaming intense rays of ultraviolet radiation into the surrounding expanse of space, causing the gas present to glow this brilliant shade of red.

As I briefly mentioned earlier, this region of space is inhabited by a super-bubble. Cosmic phenomena that shape this kind of structure do not actually form conventional bubbles. Instead, they are vast shells of material (such as gas and dust) that are shaped by the destructive forces of the UV radiation emanating from the central stars.

N 44 (the bubble"s formal classification) is actually very large. Its dimensions are estimated to be about 325 light-years by 250 LY. For instance, WASP-10b is a planetary system located about 300 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Pegasus. While our nearest galactic neighbors lie a little more than 4 light-years from Earth in the Alpha Centauri system. This bubble is so large, it could encase all three planetary systems!

Sources & Additional References: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/apod-a-cosmic-superbubble/

Image Credit: Manu Mejias/ESO

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Introduction to the Anti-matter Mystery:

Apart from dark matter, dark energy, black holes, and the missing-baryons of the universe, one of the most captivating mysteries in modern day physics centers on antimatter. Particularly, it focuses on the metaphorical fight between regular matter and antimatter, which were both created in equal proportions during the inception of the universe about 14 billion years ago.

It"s as much of a philosophical question as it is a question of general physics. If antimatter had won out, none of our physical universe (including us) would exist, since both would have annihilated each other in bursts of pure radiation, leaving behind energy and a bright but featureless universe. So, to what exactly do we owe the extended presence of normal matter?

Find out at:

Image via CERN

What is the "Oh My God" Particle?

One of the most entertaining names that I"ve come across in the physics sector is the "Oh My God Particle." Scientists also refer to this particle as the "ermahgerd particle" (kidding, kidding. It"s not really called that, but it is called the "Oh My God Particle"). Now, the first thing that my pop into some of your minds is the Higgs Boson, which was discovered in 2013. This isn"t too surprising as the media went around calling it the "God Particle." However, these two particles are very different.

So what is the Oh My God Particle? Well it is a simple, lowly proton. Why the name? Because the Oh My God Particle is the fastest ever found.

Learn about it, and find how fast it was traveling, at:

Image via NSF

Top 10 Science Discoveries of 2013

It"s been a big year for science. Below is a (very incomplete) list scientific discoveries that hit the news in 2013. These are the top stories in the eyes of From Quarks to Quasars. Undoubtedly though, there are many other worthy discoveries that should also be on this list. We welcome you to comment what you think the top discoveries should be. Perhaps your comments will act as a supplemental list for readers. With that in mind, be sure to include links to your favorites.

See FQtQ"s list at:

Compiled by "EvolutionEvidence.org:" https://www.facebook.com/EvolutionEvidence.org

Your Particle Physics Guide (1/2)

Here at From Quarks To Quasars, we like to cover particle physics topics regularly. The content is abstract and difficult enough to comprehend as it is. But what can further compound the problem for the average science enthusiast is the array of jargon we sometimes use, that is, the unique expressions typically associated with the field of science. Ultimately, showing someone the standard model and then expecting them to understand particle physics is a bit like someone watching a documentary on the pyramids of Giza and then being expected to decipher the cryptic hieroglyphics lining the walls on the inside. Both are things that will take years of study to fully understand (and even then, there is a lot we don"t get).

That being said, we have compiled a beginner"s guide to the basics of the Standard Model terminology, and included some very common misconceptions and descriptions of the more abstract workings.

See the article here: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/your-particle-physics-guide-p1/

Unedited Image (Original Source Unknown): http://ow.ly/s7D7r

Astronomy Picture of the Day: 12/29/13 - PKS 0745-19

Located in a galaxy far, far away in the constellation known as Puppis, lies some of the most massive black holes discovered to date. Some of which, weigh any where from ten to four billion solar masses, effectively reaffirming the long held notion that black holes are strange objects indeed, and there is still much that we don"t understand about them.

PKS 0745 is an elliptical galaxy located approximately 1.3 BILLION light-years from Earth, and it is the central galaxy from a cluster of galaxies known as PKS 0745-19. A survey was conducted with eighteen of the supermassive black holes from PKS 0745, including the black hole at PKS 0745"s galactic center. What they found, is that some of these "ultramassive" black holes are over ten times more massive than previously thought. Interestingly, each "ultramassive" black hole currently discovered lurking at the heart of a galaxy contains an abnormally large quantity of hot gas, which produces diffuse x-ray emissions (pictured here in purple). When these black holes munch on stellar material, cavities are created within the surrounding gas, prohibiting the gas from cooling and collapsing to form new stars.

Optical data (yellow) was provided by the Hubble Space Telescope, with x-rays (purple) coming from the Chandra x-ray observatory. Also used in this composite is radio data from the NSF"s "Very Large Array "(JVLA) and the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA). Infrared data came from the 2 Micron All-Sky Survey (2MASS).

References & Further Reading: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/apod-pks-0745/

Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Stanford/Hlavacek-Larrondo, J. et al; Optical: NASA/STScI; Radio: NSF/NRAO/VLA

Saturday, December 28, 2013

10 Amazing Facts About Life, Planets, Stars, and the Universe:

As we all know, the human race lives on a small blue dot, orbiting a yellow-orange star, in a galaxy that we call the Milky Way. This galaxy is some 100,000 light years across, and our closest neighbor (Andromeda) is about 2.5 million light-years away. And while we have been all over the surface of the Earth, we have never visited our sun, have yet to trek across the vast distances of our galaxy, and we still have quite a ways to go before we make it to Andromeda. In fact, we haven"t even finished exploring our own small planet. Ultimately, there is a lot that we don"t know about the cosmos, but what we do know is pretty awesome.

Check out 10 amazing facts at:

Image via NASA

Making the Moon Habitable

Being the brightest and most prominent feature of the night sky, Earth"s Moon has long been the source of relaxation, inspiration and wonderment. Romanticized through poetry and demonized through Science-Fiction likenesses, it still leaves modern society in awe as much as it did in the primitive stages of human culture as Anthropology study has revealed.

Furthering this fascination, ever since the late Neil Armstrong laid his footprints in the electrically charged and abrasive dust on the lunar surface, humanity has had the desire and ambition to further itself - to be a multi-planetary species. Through very popular movies, such as Aliens, Red Planet and Total Recall, we have the idea of terraformation - that is, turning extraterrestrial worlds into suitable planets for humanity to thrive upon.

But how does the moon fit into the equation? See: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/making-the-moon-habitable/

Larger Image: http://www.infiniteunknown.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/earth_and_moon.jpg

The Sun"s Magnetic Field is Expected to Flip Soon. The End of Earth?

According to NASA, over the course of the next few months, the sun"s magnetic field will flip -- just as it does every 11 years (like clockwork). This event will not be catastrophic but it does sound kind of daunting, so what exactly happens when the sun"s magnetic field flips?

Find out here: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/the-suns-magnetic-field-is-expected-to-flip-soon-the-end-of-earth/

Image Credit: Karen Teramura [UH IfA]

Lake Vostok: Life in one of the most Inhospitable Places on Earth:

Located on the seemingly inhospitable continent of Antarctica (a place with the lowest recorded temperature on the Earth at -89 degrees Celsius), lies a subglacial lake that is 160 miles wide and 30 miles across. This lake has been dubbed Lake Vostok. It is believed that the lake formed some 20 million years ago. Isolated from the rest of the world for at LEAST 100 000 years, Lake Vostok was one of the last untouched places on this globe.

The lake presents itself as an analog for the study of both extremophilic microbial life (and possibly larger organisms) and evolutionary isolation. This inhospitable environment parallels some environments that we think might exist elsewhere in the solar system – either in the subsurface of Mars or on icy moons like Enceladus or even Europa. Ultimately, the search for life on other planets could start here on Earth at Lake Vostok.

Find out how here: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/lake-vostok-life-in-one-of-the-most-inhospitable-places-on-earth/

Image Credit: Nicolle Rager-Fuller / NSF

Astronomy Photo of the Day: 12/28/2013 - The Little Ghost Nebula

This eerie image is of vdB 141, otherwise known as “the Ghost Nebula.” The grasping figures that are stretching out of the dust cloud seem oddly reminiscent of the ghostly terrors that plague people in horror stories. Unsurprisingly, these figures are responsible for giving this structuring its title.

Learn about this amazing structure at:


Friday, December 27, 2013

How and Why did Newton Develop Such a Complicated Math?

To many people, there’s a certain four letter word that strikes great fear into their hearts: math. Mathematics has a reputation for being a subject of the elite--a terrible, confusing, jumbled mess of illogical expressions and rules, which many people just give up trying to decipher at some point. Nevertheless, many students of mathematics (formal and informal), persevere through years of algebra and arithmetic to find themselves facing a very different beast – Calculus.

In truth, mathematics IS complicated and advanced, and it took hundreds of years to develop this language--the language that can accurately describe the universe we live in. Initially, math arose to solve problems and predict outcomes in everyday life, and as humans became more interested in how the world worked, they were faced with limitations of their current mathematical theories – which is why many people throughout history worked to create new and better models of nature, leading to advanced mathematics – here is how Newton (among others) created some of the most dreaded mathematical equations that we know today.

Find out how here: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/how-and-why-did-newton-develop-such-a-complicated-math/

IC 1101 - The Largest Galaxy Ever Found

Galaxies. The Universe is littered with them. They have speckled the vast darkness of intergalactic space with points of light for 13-billion years now, giving birth to numerous twinkly stars and fleeting planets along the way.

Galaxies come in all shapes and sizes. Some are large, some are small, some are inconceivably bright, while others fade into the background.

But one galaxy stands apart from the pack: IC 1101

Find out more about the largest galaxy in the universe, here: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/ic-1101-the-largest-galaxy-ever-found/

Image Credit: NASA

Iapetus: The Lollipop Moon

Saturn’s Moon Iapetus has a unique feature which was, until recently, a complete mystery.

Running along its equator is this weird ridge of mountains. The mountains run exactly along the equator, are perfectly straight, and---so far---haven’t shown up like this on any other planet or moon. They’re also the only such mountains anywhere on Iapetus’ surface (reaching as high as 63,000 feet tall). (Giving this strange moon the propensity for ice avalanches!) Pretty weird!

To learn more about this peculiar feature, see: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/iapetus-the-lollipop-moon/

Image Credit: NASA/JPL

5 Horrifying Organisms you Don"t Want to Meet:

Earth is an amazing place. It is home to a number of different species that have adapted to a plethora of habitats. There are mammals that live in the ocean and breathe through holes in their head; there are a variety of worms that spend their lives underground living as parasites on plants (some even live in other creatures" hearts); there are insects that fly through the air and suck blood, lay eggs in other living organism, or spread terrible diseases. And of course, this is just the start of the list. Ultimately, there are a number of species that we haven"t even discovered yet.

But let"s take a look at some of the more horrifying organisms that we have discovered.

Here are 5 of the Earth"s more amazing (and terrifying) organisms:

Image: Assassin bug using ant corpses as armor

Via http://www.flickr.com/photos/pipoujid/3233134946/in/photostream/

The Benefits of Colonizing Space: Space Habitats and The O"Neill Cylinder

Many argue that the world is in a state of crisis and that the human race is the cause. As a species, we are approaching an important turning point in our history, and if we make the wrong decisions we might be facing a future of deprivation, over population, hunger, and instability. Ultimately, many believe that we will eventually be forced to colonize space. Last year, the 100 Starship Symposium set on course a project to design and build an economical and practical spacecraft for interstellar travel.

But with the very immediate worries about over population, it might not be a good idea to wait for interstellar travel and the colonization of other worlds. Fortunately, there are also many suggestions in place for large space structures designed as places for people to live in their millions, much like a city is on Earth. Of course, building a space habitat comes with thousands of challenges, including: construction in space, recreating a livable atmosphere, recycling waste, producing artificial gravity, transporting food and materials to the habitat, and convincing people such a venture is worth it.

Learn about the benefits of space colonization, and what these habitats may look like, at:

NASA Ames Research Center space colony

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Astronomy Picture of the Day: 12/26/13 - The Celestial Snow Angel

In this awesome image, captured by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, we see a stellar nursery. But this isn"t just any nursery; it seems that these stellar babies are guarded by a colossal celestial angel. Talk about a mind-blowing case of pareidolia, right?

The region, dubbed Sharpless 2-106 (otherwise known as Sh2-106 or S106), is located more than 2,000 light-years away in the constellation of Cygnus. One massive star is responsible for the bulk of the properties seen in the area. The angel shape was created by twin lobes of superheated gas expanding in two separate directions from the central region (where the star remains).

Inside the wings of our angel, we can see the stark contrast between the heat and the motion of the gas, projected with a much colder medium. Through interactions between the gas, dust, and the interstellar medium, we get the hour-glass shape seen surrounding the central star.

Sources & Additional Resources: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/apod-sharples-2-106/

Image Credit: NASA/ESA

Know Your Scientist: Nikola Tesla

Once in a century a genius of Nikola Tesla’s magnitude is born who ushers in a new age of consciousness, imagination, and creativity. Sometimes humanity is ready for such genius. Other times it is incapable of absorbing the paradigm shift—the new ideas that appear to be out of sync with established scientific truths.

So, why exactly is Tesla regarded as a trailblazer in science? Find out: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/know-your-scientist-nikola-tesla/

Unedited Image Source: http://wallpapersmap.com/nikola-tesla-hd-wallpaper.html

6 Ancient Human Fossils that Show us What our Ancestors were Like:

We tend to think of "cave men" as violent savages that would club women over the head to drag them back to the cave (at least, that"s how they are always depicted in cartoons). Truthfully, we do have a rather violent past; however, there"s more to the story than just that. Much more. Our ancestors loved. They Cared. They felt empathy. At times, they were compassionate.

In fact, they were very much like us. And we have the fossil evidence to show it.

Learn what our ancestors were like at:

New Research Suggests Our Sun Won"t Form a Planetary Nebula

You have probably heard that the Sun will turn into a red giant in about 5 billion years. And you probably know that this will result in not-so-fun times for any being still on planet Earth. As it transitions from a main sequence star into a red giant, the outer layers of the Sun will expand across the solar system. When this happens, our life-giving star will turn into an object of utter destruction. The Sun will expand beyond Mercury. It will expand beyond Venus. It will sweep across the entirety of the inner solar system in a mere 5 million years. When it finally stops its expansion, the searing tips of the solar surface will rest beyond the bounds of Earth’s orbit. In short: if we aren’t knocked out of the solar system as the Sun expands, or moved into a larger orbit as it loses mass...we will be consumed.

But what happens to the Sun after it becomes a red giant? We have a pretty good handle on the fate of our own world...but what about the Sun itself?

We once thought it would turn into a planetary nebula, but we might be wrong on that one.

Read More: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/new-research-suggests-our-sun-wont-form-a-planetary-nebula/

Image Credit: ESO/S. Steinhöfel

Astronomy Picture of the Day: 12/26/13 - The Snowflake Cluster

And in yet another holiday-themed image, we come across a quaint little cluster of stars - aptly called the Snowflake Cluster - hanging out in the neighborhood of the famous cone nebula. The pair are located approximately 2,500 light-years from Earth in the Monoceros constellation.

The region is populated by a large number of stars that are currently in the process of forming. When viewed at non-optical wavelengths, the protostars appear as pink or red tiny, patchy dots in the sky -- like snow... very deadly snow. In any event, now you know where it got its name! Too bad that when the protostars arise from their cocoon - during the transition into main-sequence mode - their impact on the region will be seen and felt throughout.

References: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/apod-the-snowflake-cluster/

Image Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, P. S. Teixeira (CfA)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

How are stars born? How do they die?

You’ve probably been told that staring directly at the Sun is bad for your eyes. However, we don’t have to have uncomfortable staring contests with the Stars to try and get them to give up their secrets! After years and years of research, scientists have managed to find out quite a bit about the oh-so-secretive stars without losing a staring contest.

Firstly, stars go through the same process that we do in the sense that they are born, live, and then die. The difference is that they do it far more dramatically, and take a much longer time doing it. Depending on the mass of the star, the lifetime can range from a few million years to trillions of years! So let"s take a moment to get to know a little something about the lives of some of the oldest inhabitants of the universe: STARS.

Learn about the lives of stars at:


Sir Isaac Newton: Father of Modern Science

Today, we celebrate the birthday of one of the most important human beings to walk the face of the Earth. On this day, in 1642, Sir Isaac Newton was born. He would be 371.

Newton was a physicist and mathematician from England. His work laid the foundation of classical mechanics (also called Newtonian physics or mechanics in his honor) and is generally credited with jump starting the scientific revolution. Newton was also one of the first people to assume that the natural world is governed by universal laws that can be expressed mathematically. Generally speaking, Newton"s list of accomplishments are long and profound - his influence will be felt for the rest of human history.

To learn more about Newton and his contributions to society, see: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/sir-isaac-newton-father-of-modern-science/

An Ultracold Big Bang: A successful simulation of the evolution of the early universe

In August of 2013, physicists made a major breakthrough in our understanding of the early universe in an experiment that successfully reproduced a pattern resembling the cosmic microwave background radiation. This experiment was conducted at the University of Chicago with the aid of ultracold cesium atoms.

Want to know about this amazing experiment? See:

Alex Mittelmann, Coldcreation

Astronomy Picture of the Day: 12/25/13 - The Christmas Tree Cluster

From all of us here at From Quarks to Quasars, we want to wish you a very merry Christmas (and a happy new yeeearrrr). Following along with the tradition of yesterday"s APOD, we wanted to feature another deep space region that has a festive, Christmas vibe. Alas.. no image is more appropriate than this; The Christmas Tree Cluster (also known as NGC 2264).

It occupies an expanse of space about 2600 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Monoceros. Other than the obvious Christmas Tree Cluster, this "heavenly" area also includes several notable star-forming regions, like the Cone nebula, as well as the Fox Fur nebula.

Along with many other astronomical delights, William Herschel is credited with discovering NGC 2264. Upon his initial observation (when he was putting together his "great sky survey" in the 18th century), he spotted a large, visually stunning star at the top of the nebula -- resembling an angel ornament at the top of a celestial Christmas tree. It wasn"t until years later, when astronomers pointed modern telescopes to the area, that the multiple stars of the cluster emerged from the proverbial night time.

This area is dominated by the color red due to the intense ultraviolet radiation beaming from the stars within, which interacts with the hydrogen, causing it to glow. The small swatches of blue come from the central stars, which are much more massive than our sun is. All of them are metal-poor, which results in the stars burning rapidly and exploding in a supernova in just a fraction of the time it would take for stars of our sun"s caliber. The blue light emitted from these stars is scattered by the dust and gas clouds.

References & Additional Resources: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/apod-christmas-tree-cluster/

Image Credit: ESO

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Magma intrusions: What happens beneath your feet

When you consider plate tectonics we often think of hot magma bubbling up from the Earth’s mantle, and we remember the vast assortment of pictures that we"ve seen--images featuring hundreds of active volcanoes spewing forth smoke and lava, and the devastation that always follows. Gargantuan explosions that blow-off the caps of mountains and lava flooded landscapes dominate our imaginations. So it may surprise you to know that the vast majority of the molten rock that rises up into the Earth’s lithosphere never reaches the surface. Instead, it cools and solidifies to form coarser-grained igneous rocks beneath the ground.

So much of the landscape that we travel through every day is the product of tectonic activity that we almost take for granted the immense forces that formed it! Try think twice next time you’re walking along the road, you have no idea what is going on beneath your feet…

But if you want to find out what processes formed the ground you walk on (and what made that hill behind your apartment), take a look at this:

Scientifically Speaking, Santa Can Exist

One of the most widely known Christmas-stories involve good ol" St. Nick. After keeping tabs on you for a year, Santa decides whether you"ve been good or bad, then proceeds to deliver gifts accordingly. To do that, he zips around on his sleigh, pulled by flying reindeer, and visits a staggering number of children in a single evening and is back home in time for Christmas dinner with Mrs. Claus (not to mention, he needs to finish before the kids wake up so he isn"t seen).

Obviously, the "classic" version of Santa can"t exist, but with an advanced understanding of relativity and physics, Santa could still accomplish all of the same magic on Christmas Eve. There are plenty of places that "debunk" the classic version of Santa, and it is amusing to think about vaporizing reindeer and a disintegrating Santa, but when Science looks to physics, things get more interesting.

To read the full article, see: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/scientifically-speaking-santa-can-exist/

Earthrise: 45 Years Later

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the famous Earthrise picture. This picture was taken by William Anders on the Apollo 8 mission on December 24th, 2968 . Today, we celebrate the 45th anniversary of this humbling image. This is possibly one of the most profound images a human has ever taken; the renowned nature photographer Galen Rowell even went to so far as to say that this is "the most influential environmental photograph ever taken." The Earthrise picture is one of the first images of Earth ever taken where the entire globe is visible, showing the Earth as a small blue ball over the lunar horizon.

To learn more about this iconic image, and see more amazing images and videos, visit: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/earthrise-45-years-later/

The Age of the Universe: Revised

The Plank Space Observatory has recently aided scientists by making the most detailed map ever seen of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). This image shows a ‘baby picture’ of the universe and revises the age of the universe making it a little older than scientists have previously thought.

Learn about this awesome find at:

Astronomy Picture of the Day: 12/24/13 - The Christmas Ornament Nebula

Happy Holidays from those of us here on the FQTQ team. To get in the festive spirit, we thought we would showcase one of the "christmassy" nebulae out there. This particular one, curiously dubbed the "Christmas Ornament nebula" (also known as NGC 5189), is a planetary nebula that can be found approximately 1,780 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Musca.

The planetary nebula stage of stellar evolution is one of the last few transitions a sun-like star experiences as the star begins to die. As the process of death culminates - resulting in the destruction of anything too close by - stars of this type begin "bleeding" out material into the interstellar medium. This material is subsequently shaped by a number of different phenomena (like stellar winds), thus forming a brilliant nebula similar to the one seen here.

Incredibly (and luckily for us), no two planetary nebulae have looked identical visually.

References & Further Reading: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/apod-christmas-ornament-nebula/

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Anatomy of a Tornado

Anyone who has lived through a tornado will tell you that these are the most terrifyingly beautiful things on Earth. The amount of power that a tornado wields is equal parts impressive, mesmerizing, and horrifying. We all love witnessing their raw power through the images and videos captured by storm chasers, and we wait with bated breath to see the cost of their passing. The amount of devastation that just one tornado can cause is hard to comprehend. Since these beasts are so deadly and destructive, we have put an uncharacteristic amount of time and effort into understanding them.

After all, the only way to protect yourself from something is to get to know it…

Learn about these amazing structures at:


On Doomsday and Humanity"s Role in the Destruction of Earth:

Doomsday was supposed to happen in 1999 when we discovered the West Nile virus in the United States. When summer passed and the world didn’t end, we pushed the apocalypse back to 2000 and focused all our fears on the dreaded Y2K. Once we made it through the first days of the new millennium, we quickly convinced ourselves that the Bird Flu epidemic would surely bring an end to civilization. Somehow, we managed to muddle through all of this, only to face the ancient Maya prophecy which claimed that the world would end in 2012.

Now, my throat may be a little scratchy from seasonal allergies, and I might have a burn on the top of my mouth from drinking tea that was a tad too hot, but other than that, it seems that I’ve made it through the end of the world relatively unscathed. In fact, it seems that nearly everyone made it through these doomsday scenarios pretty much intact. So although I hate to make sweeping generalizations, I have to say that we might be just a *little* obsessed with the end of the world.

In some respects, our fascination with the apocalypse is understandable. After all, the end of the world would be one of the most important events in the history of, well, the world. But our obsession is borderline maniacal.

Read about this obsession, and whether humans can really destroy the Earth, at:

NASA/Colum Five Media

Seven Trillion Dwarfs and Billions of Undetected Galaxies

Last year, the European Space Agency"s Herschel Space Telescope unleashed a new revelation, not-yet observed, distant galaxies are, in fact, responsible for the "cosmic fog" of infrared radiation seen on the horizon of the "observable universe." Beyond that haze likely lies millions - perhaps even billions - of uncharted galaxies. Most of which, are some of the earliest galaxies produced post big bang.

How in the world could we miss seeing all of them? Read more: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/seven-trillion-dwarfs-and-billions-of-undetected-galaxies/

Image Credit: Max Planck Institute for Astronomy

The World Contained in a Strawberry:

The internet has increasingly become a large part of our lives, especially in the past decade. It"s hard to deny. At the end of 2012, there were about 17 billion devices connected to the internet (yes, billion). These numbers are staggering, even when compared to other technologies. For starters, it took four years for there to be 50 million devices connected to the internet. If you think that"s a long time, it took TV 13 years to reach the 50 million mark. But don’t feel too bad for the small shrines we have set up in our living rooms and bedrooms, because it took radio *38 years* to hit the same 50 million mark.

Learn more about the internet and what it means to us at:

Astronomy Picture of the Day: 12/23/13 - NGC 1333

This is a beautiful, but chaotic image of the reflection nebula known as NGC 1333, which lies about 1,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Perseus.

In the center of this deep space photo, thousands of baby stars are being born, but their light is obstructed by thick clouds of dust -- thus classifying it as a member of the dark nebula family. In the same token, the clouds that are responsible for blocking the light are also reflecting the optical light we see here. This, in turn, is responsible for the nebula"s predominantly blue glow, which makes NGC 1333 part reflection nebula as well.

Other than the striking blue hue appointed to the region by the newborn stars, this nebula also is also home to red-hued jets that peek into the image from the bottom, center. These jets are made up of ionized gases, which are energized by the ultraviolet radiation blasted out into the interstellar medium through stellar winds from the proto-stars. Overall, the jets give the region characteristics of an emission nebulae as well.

Lastly, astronomers have found around 50 brown-dwarfs within the nebula, which is a larger part of the Perseus molecular cloud. Also nearby is the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex, which contains about 3,000 solar masses of material. One such member of the brown-dwarf family belonging to the nebula is six times more massive than Jupiter, making it one of the smallest free-floating objects currently known of.

References & Further Reading: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/astronomy-picture-of-the-day-122313-ngc-1333/

Image Credit: Adam Block, Sid Leach, Mount Lemmon Observatory

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Of theories and Theories

There are two deeply misunderstood and most unfairly maligned terms in all of science: the words "evolution" and "theory". You should not be surprised why this is so about the former; historically, this word has been used (and oftentimes misused) for good, bad and ugly. About the latter, well, let’s talk about it.

A fundamental ability of anyone who really understands science is the capacity to distinguish between the term "theory" in a conversational sense and the word "Theory" as it is used in science. Many people confuse the two and this shows a fundamental misunderstanding about the scientific process. This confusion appears when a clear distinction is lacking between two of the meanings of the word.

To read the full article, see: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/of-theories-and-theories/

Nebraskan supercell

This is an utterly fantastic image, taken by Jeremy Holmes, of a Nebraskan supercell.

A supercell (also known as a rotating thunderstorm) is a type of thunderstorm that forms in the presents of rotating updraft. Overall, supercells are less common than a classic run-of-the-mill thunderstorm, which is fortunate since supercells have the potential of being very severe. They are most commonly identified by their ominous rotating structure and usually occur in arid climates (such as the Great Plains of the United States), but supercells can form anywhere in the world under the right conditions.

Sources and further reading: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/nebraskan-supercell/

Image credit: Jeremy Holmes

What If Gravity No Longer Existed?

Gravity is one of the primary life forces of the universe. Without it, not only would pretty much everything cease, but the very production of everything would fall apart. No more stars, no more planets, and nothing to keep us tethered to our home planet. Floating about may sound cool for a split second, but let me assure you, that would be a very, very bad thing (space is scary and we would die). Despite gravity being the very essence of our physical universe (it provides the attraction that ultimately allows things to come together and coalesce), our understanding of how it operates is poor at best. It"s believed to be the consequence of the warping of spacetime allotted by objects that have mass. At least, that"s what general relativity postulates, but the jury is still out on that one.

Anyhow, per our theories, gravity on Earth can"t just "turn off" (well, not without the planet and everything on it becoming obsolete). Nevertheless, we can still deal in hypotheticals. So if gravity did turn off (with the three remaining forces of the universe kept in check), what would happen?

Find out at:


The Formation of Stellar Mass Black Holes: Making energetic destroyers

The formation of a stellar mass black hole is a very chaotic and energetic event. Really though, there isn"t much that involves black holes that isn"t chaotic or energetic. Stellar mass black holes have a minimum mass of around 3.2 times that of our sun (3.2 solar masses). I say "around" because, due to our lack of understanding of neutron degeneracy thresholds, we don"t quite know where the boundary is between neutron stars and black holes. At the moment, 3.2 solar masses is a good guesstimate, as it fits snugly in between the most massive neutron star and smallest black hole ever discovered.

There are three processes that can form a stellar mass black hole; each one is amazing in its own right. Today, we are going to look at comic collisions and epic mergers, and how these processes contribute to the birth of the most destructive objects in the known universe.

Let’s take a look:


Is Absolute Zero Absolute?

Right now, as I type this sentence, Earth"s Northern Hemisphere is tilted away from the bright ball of light that is the Sun, and it’s cold here (relatively speaking). Humans have long recorded and measured the temperature of their environment, and for good reason. Keeping constant watch on a thermometer helps us prepare for the potential dangers of cold weather. Take zero degrees Celsius, for instance. At such temperatures, water begins to freeze. In some cases, the pipes that the water runs through malfunction, and then there"s the various life-or-death afflictions that can be brought on by this cold temperature. However, zero degrees Celsius is pretty warm compared to zero degrees on the Fahrenheit scale (after all, water freezes at 32 F).

Yet, neither of these can compare to the temperature known as absolute zero.

Learn about the coldest of the cold, and how scientists surpassed absolute zero, at:

WikiMedia, public domain

Astronomy Photo of the Day: 12/22/2013

This eerie bubble looks like a massive plume of fog rolling across the cosmos, but don’t be fooled, this beast won’t create a nice chill on a warm evening. The smoke-like material is actually rather hot. Amazingly hot, in fact. That’s because the sphere is composed of gas that was cast off from a star that is several hundred thousand times more luminous and around 45 times more massive than our Sun.

Learn about this amazing image at:


Saturday, December 21, 2013

TW Hydrae: The Planet That Shouldn"t Exist

In a physical world that contains phenomena such as pulsars, neutron stars, and black holes, one would think that we have a pretty good grasp on the basics--how our universe evolves and functions; however, you might be surprised to know that some of the basics are actually difficult to discern. One of those problematic areas is planetary formation. That"s right.. .we really have a somewhat-amateur understanding of how planets form, despite actually living (and evolving) on one.

Our current models say that our solar system, and other planetary systems circling other stars, form from a protoplanetary accretion disk encircling a young star. This elliptical disk of material is typically comprised of gas, ice, rock, and grain. These build up slowly before ultimately coalescing into a planet, shaped by gravity. This process is thought to take tens of millions of years to occur from start to finish, and of course the amount of material concentrated around the protoplanetary disk dictates the number of planets a star has (and their size), which means that the planets should all form during a similar time-frame and there should also come a period when planetary formation is no longer possible.

However, we may have to rethink this theory. Find out why at:


Happy December Solstice!

For the folks in the Northern Hemisphere, today is the long awaited Winter Solstice. Though, technically the first day of Winter, the Solstice marks the halfway point of this chilly weather. Today will be the shortest day of the year, and can vary by a few hours depending on your latitude.

For the Southern Hemisphere, today is your Summer Solstice. It marks the first day of Summer, the longest day of the year, and is the embodiment of "things will only get worse from here." The hot Summer days are going to fade into a distant memory until temperate fall and irritating winter clutch your region in it"s sadistic grasp.

To learn more about the Solstice (and to see a cool gif), see: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/happy-december-solstice/

Life and Moons in our Solar System: Europa

Most of us know about the 8 planets in our solar system (formerly 9 planets…poor Pluto). But you may not know too much about these planet’s moons. Some of these moons are strikingly similar to our own moon, but there are many that are vastly different and incredibly diverse. One such moon is Europa…

Learn about the possibility of life on Europa at:


Alien Stars in Our Solar System: Threats That are Out of This World (literally)

Our solar system is located about 2/3rds of the way from our galactic center, in the Orion spur (of the Perseus spiral arm), which is relatively empty compared to the more cluttered area surrounding the super-massive black hole situated at the center of the Milky Way. However, that"s not to say that no stars or celestial objects pose a danger to us here on Earth. In fact, one particular star may actually pose a significant danger to us. New models uncovered in 2010 say the rogue star could seriously upset the icy comets in the Oort cloud, a theoretical region located on the edges of our solar system.

Read about this cosmic wanderer at:


Astronomy Picture of the Day: 12/21/13 - Elephant"s Trunk Nebula

This beauty is IC 13961 (more commonly known as the Elephant"s Trunk Nebula); a region that lies about 2,400 light-years from Earth in the quaint constellation of Cepheus. Also within the vicinity of IC 13961 is the larger emission nebula called IC 1396, where extremely hot, glowing clouds of gas and dust reside. These clouds are known to absorb the light emitted in optical wavelengths from the baby stars buried within the nebula. They would remain hidden from our sensitive telescopes without special filters that can detect light in infrared or ultraviolet, alluding to the presence of younger, still cool protostars that are just beginning to emerge from their stellar cocoons.

Most emission nebulae such as this one, are often found in regions of space where new stars are furiously being created from collapsing clouds of hydrogen gas. All emission nebulae are responsible for absorbing the optical light and energy from neighboring stars, until the clouds become ionized, causing them to brilliantly glow until they can be seen using special telescope tools. Astronomers subsequently use the information to put together nebulae as they are seen at multiple wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum.

One pair of young stars in the cluster, known as LkHa 349 and LkHa 349c (catchy, right?), can be seen both at optical and infrared wavelengths through a spherical opening near the elongated dark globule of the Elephant"s "trunk," with one of the stars being much fainter optically than its partner. Interestingly, both of them look roughly the same magnitude when seen in infrared, which suggests that there"s some sort of a circumstellar disk around LkHa 349c. It"s quite likely that this circumstellar disk will eventually give birth to a planetary system in the next few millions of years, as the material collects and coalesces into planets and moons.

References & Further Reading: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/apod-elephants-trunk-nebula/

Image Credit: Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope / Coelum

Friday, December 20, 2013

Estimations: Your Breath and Julius Caesar"s

Not all of physics consists of pin-point accurate mathematics. In certain situations, using assumptions and rough values to come to a workable value is very important. Other times, we may not have the time to run through a very precise set of calculations, and we need a quick estimation. Now please be aware that estimations and educated guesses are NOT the same thing.

An educated guess is throwing out a (seemingly) random number using some vague thought process based on prior knowledge. In an estimation, you use generalised values and rounded figures to work out your final answer. This will, of course, make the final solution fundamentally inaccurate, but it won’t be totally unreliable - and that is why estimations are incredibly useful. One of the most popular estimations involves choosing a famous historical figure and calculating how many molecules you’re breathing in -- right now -- that were in their last breath.

So let’s have a go with Julius Ceasar...

Image: Andrew Bossi via WikiMedia

Earth"s Magentic Shield and the Van Allen Radiation Belts:

Some of you may not be aware of this, but the Earth is shrouded in a doughnut shaped, magnetic force field! Okay, that aforementioned statement is *a bit* sensationalist, but it is more or less true. The Earth is protected by a "shield" of magnetism. This magnetic shield is generated from the rotating, metallic, liquid iron core at the center of the Earth -- a dynamo.

And as many of us already know, the Sun can be temperamental and cruel. It is the giver of life, but it can also be the harbinger of death. The chaotic sphere of rotating plasma in the Sun emanate charged particles in all directions; occasionally producing violent flares. If powerful enough, these flares can release energy that can soar through our magnetic shield and cripple modern infrastructure.

Learn how the Earth is able to protect us at:


Astronomy Picture of the Day: 12/20/13 - Dust Devil Trails on Mars

When most of us think of the Red Planet, we picture a dead planet, home to a seemingly endless red horizon, chock-full of rock and dust, with the sun appearing as a much smaller point in the sky than the huge, blindingly bright orb we are used to. All of those are true, but Mars is actually much more than that. Images such as this help showcase its true marvels.

The image, taken by the HiRISE camera (belonging to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter) at around noon (Martian-time), captures one of the most magnificent dust devil trails ever seen on Mars. These storms tend to be unpredictable and can quickly grow from a contained storm, to almost engulf the entire planet in howling wind. (some of the "dust devils," which are essentially miniature tornadoes, can become up to 8 kilometers in height.)

The storms generally occur when warm air rises and cool air sinks, creating horizontal winds that began spinning until they form a vortex. On Mars, we can clearly see the color of the sand (which is actually dark grey beneath the thin film of iron oxide, due to the presence of basalt). The dust devils are known to disrupt the outermost layer, revealing the colorful landscape pictured here.

Sources and Further Reading: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/astronomy-picture-of-the-day-122013-dust-devil-trails-on-mars/

Image Credit: HiRISE, MRO, LPL (U. Arizona), NASA

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Center of a Black Hole: Infinitely Massive Singularity or Portal into another Universe?

Black holes are one of the most naggingly peculiar objects in the universe. Beyond the event horizon of a black hole, our equations are turned upside down; they also get turned inside out when we attempt to fathom the singularity at its center when using the equations given to us by Einstein. To make life simpler, what if we removed the singularity all together? There is some math for that.

Coming full circle, it suggests that black holes do not hold singularities in their interior, but portals to another universe.

Say what?: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/the-center-of-a-black-hole-infinitely-massive-singularity-or-portal-into-another-universe/

Image Credit: mondolithic.com

Dark Lightning - Fact or Fiction?

We all know the terrifying signs of a thunderstorm – blinding lightning, thunderous rumbling, and the torrent of rain that soon follows.

But is that all there is to it? http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/dark-lightning-fact-or-fiction/

Image Source: http://tinyurl.com/crueo4x

Sci-fi Becomes Sci-fact: Star Wars-style Holograms on the Proverbial Horizon

Announcements about technological strides like this make me very happy to be alive at this moment in time. According to scientists, who hail from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, holograms similar in many ways to the those featured in the Star Wars movies (with Princess Leia) have been developed that can be produced inexpensively. Hopefully soon, gone will be the days of conventional 3D movies (the kind that give us awful headaches, or make us want to puke).

But how do they work? http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/sci-fi-becomes-sci-fact-star-wars-style-holograms-on-the-proverbial-horizon/

Image Credit: gamma097 on deviant art (Unedited: http://ow.ly/rU8qj)

Astronomy Picture of the Day: 12/19/13 - New Look at Old Vesta Images

The Dawn Spacecraft is a trailblazer in every sense of the term. Over the course of the last few years, it has offered us valuable insight into the inner workings of several non-planetary bodies in our solar system (proving that size doesn"t necessarily always matter). Now, as it makes its way toward Ceres - a dwarf planet that can be found in the asteroid belt (between Mars and Jupiter) - scientists decided to take another look at some of the images it beamed back to Earth during its foray with a large asteroid from 2011 to 2012.

The new look at the original images of Vesta was led by a team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research. Using the images that were gathered by Dawn"s framing camera, the team analyzed the surface features in unprecedented detail by ascribing specific colors to wavelengths of light noted on Vesta. This granted them with the opportunity to make out details that would not be discernible to the naked eye (In the images, each pixel is representative of 200 feet [60 meters]).

References & Further Reading: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/apod-vesta/

Larger Image: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/vesta.jpg

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Crows Could be the Key to Helping Humanity Understand Alien Intelligence

Yes, you read that right, understanding how a crow"s brain works could lay the foundation to helping us understand how an alien mind might work. In case you don"t know, crows are some of the most intelligent animals on Earth. They use tools and pass this knowledge onto their children, they will unite to fight a common enemy or intruder, and their ability to remember is almost unmatched. Recently, a study was conducted to see just how reasoning inside the bird"s brain works, because a avialan brain is very different from a mammalian brain. Here, the rabbit hole goes deeper than we could have possibly imagined.

Learn more about how crows are helping us understand aliens here: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/crows-could-be-the-key-to-helping-humanity-understand-alien-intelligence/

The Physics of Death:

Attached to this article, we have included one of the most profound poems we know of about death. It"s one of my favorites, as it doesn"t necessarily touch base on the many disturbing things that happen to the body during the decomposition phase, when the cells and tissues begin to break down, ravishing one of the last physical remnants of a person"s life. Instead, it looks at the subject from a physics standpoint.. the redistribution of energy that occurs during the decomposition process.

So.. where does that energy go? Well.. back into the universe.

See more: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/the-physics-of-death/

Larger Image: http://imgur.com/gallery/cC8sAOw (via All Science, All the Time)

Death & Decomposition in Space

To read the full article, see: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/death-decomposition-in-space/

Image Credit; TheCharles on deviantart.com

Larger Image: http://thecharles.deviantart.com/art/Space-Death-212736240

Gravitational Lensing, Refraction & Diffraction: Three Sides to the Same Coin?

Here, we thought we would explain the difference between the terms and how they interact with light (from both a wave and particle point of view): http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/gravitational-lensing-refraction-diffraction-three-sides-to-the-same-coin/

Original Image Credit: Unknown (But if you do, please let us know)

Astronomy Photo of the Day: 12/18/13 - The Circinus Galaxy

Chandra - along with ESO"s Very Large Telescope Array - spied a bright, variable supernova blast located in a galaxy 12 million light-years away. This image is a composite showing the central region of the galaxy in question, which is typically referred to as the Circinus galaxy.

In the lower right hand corner of the image, the blue source of light is the supernova blast itself (designated "SN 1996cr"). It was originally discovered back in 2001 (though the light from the actual explosion arrived more than a decade before it was even discovered). Despite there being so many stars in the night sky, it"s pretty infrequent that we observe these celestial events in independent galaxies. By some estimations, one should expect to see one supernova explosion once every 50 years per galaxy! The last verified explosion in the Milky Way was observed back in 1604 by the famed astronomer, Johannes Kepler (many other contenders have been noted in recent years though).

Furthermore, some of you may recall the famous supernova SN 1987A, which occurred in a galaxy approximately 160,000 light-years away -- It"s quite similar to supernova SN 1996cr in many ways, but SN 1996cr spits out almost 1000 times more radio and x-ray emissions.

References & Additional Reading: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/astronomy-photo-of-the-day-121813-the-circinus-galaxy/

Image Credit: X-ray (NASA/CXC/Columbia/F.Bauer et al); Optical (NASA/STScI/ UMD/A.Wilson et al.)

The Difference Between Black & White Holes:

People like to think of black holes and white holes as gateways through the universe. it would be rather convenient if we could enter a black hole, zip across the universe, and come out at some distant point in space (and maybe even time). Sure, figuring out the exact mechanics would be tricky, but once we had the pattern down, it would make interstellar travel, and probably intergalactic travel, a breeze. However, this view of white holes isn"t exactly accurate.

To learn what white holes really are, see:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Black Holes and You: Schwarzschild Radius

It can be easy for one to feel insignificant in this universe. After all, we are small creatures on a relatively small rock that orbits one of many billion stars within one of many billion galaxies. However, the next time you find yourself experiencing this dilemma, try to take a moment and think about this one simple-but-astounding fact: You are made of matter. To be more specific, you are made of atoms.

While many writers, such as Carl Sagan, have elaborated on the deep connection between our atoms and the stars, I’d like to talk instead about a different astronomical feature, one that is less-obvious but a no less-real connection to celestial objects: black holes.

Find out what you have in common with black holes at:

Image before editing:

Are Atoms Mostly Empty?

The emptiness of the universe: This is the kind of stuff that the early pioneers of quantum mechanics believed in. In the 1920s, researchers thought that emptiness--an absence of stuff--is what quantum mechanics was talking about. Arthur Eddington"s "The Two Tables" is a really nice treatment of the subject. In this piece, Eddington essentially argues that there are two tables: First, there is the table of everyday experience. It is comparatively permanent, it is coloured, and (above all) it is substantial. Second, there is the table of science: it is mostly emptiness with numerous, sparsely-scattered electric charges rushing about with great speed.

Is this really the way of things? The is universe that we see and interact with made of a great emptiness? Find out at:


Astronomy Picture of the Day: 12/17/13 - The Helix Nebula

While the most stunning deep space image that has ever been taken is debatable (*cough* sh2–239 *cough*), in my not-so-humble opinion, this image of NGC 7293 (also known as the Helix nebula, or the Eye of God) is by far one of the creepiest. Its resemblance to a human eye is so uncanny, I can"t resist making a silly joke about how Santa Claus is a 4 dimensional creature that obviously lives here on his off-time ("He sees you when you"re sleeping. He knows when you"re awake. He knows if you"ve been bad or good. So be good for goodness sake.")

On a more serious note, The Helix Nebula is located approximately 700 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Aquarius. It"s a planetary nebula by designation, which means the nebula was born following the death of a medium-mass, or sun-like star. Before the star died, leaving behind a dense core called a white dwarf, the star shed the remainder of its outer envelope of gasses off into space, thus forming a nebula. As the material continues to expand outward from the central star, it will eventually disperse, rendering the likeness to the human eye obsolete.

Overall, the nebula extends about 2.5 light-years across. Meaning, it"s larger in size than our entire solar system. In fact, light could make it half of the way from the sun to the sun"s nearest neighbor (in the Alpha Centauri star system) before it could travel from one side of the Helix nebula to the other one.

Sources, Further Reading & Additional Resources: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/astronomy-picture-of-the-day-121713-the-helix-nebula/

Image Credit: Optical: NASA, WIYN, NOAO, ESA, Hubble Helix Nebula Team, M. Meixner (STScI), & T. A. Rector (NRAO) Infrared: ESO/VISTA/J. Emerson (Acknowledgment: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit) Ultraviolet: NASA/AP

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Progenitors of Gamma-Ray Bursts:

As we"ve discussed a lot recently, gamma ray bursts have the tendency to be just as spectacular as supernova blasts, with none of the glory. Yet comparatively, our amount of knowledge about them remains decidedly small. Especially so when dealing with how they form. The firsts of these high energy events were brought to our attention by the Vela-5B Satellite in the early 1970"s. At the time of their discovery, we had a difficult time pinpointing their origin, but over the course of the next few years, we were successful in determining that the events were non-local (meaning, they didn"t originated in, or around the sun). Eventually, it was thought that the detected gamma ray-bursts, or GRBs (what these events were eventually called) had a luminosity of about 10^39 ergs, we now know that this is ~13 magnitudes smaller than the actual intensity. Due to the much lower assumed intensity value, astronomers came to the conclusion that the GRB"s may take place in the accretion disk around a collapsing star.

It"s never THAT easy though. Is it? See how our views have changed over the years: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/the-progenitors-of-gamma-ray-bursts/

Image Credit: NASA (Unedited Version: http://ow.ly/rP9EY)

The Fearsome Komodo Dragon

Have you ever woke up one day and decided "I want a cool new pet," but you aren"t a cat or a dog person? You want something much, much more epic. Upon the realization of this, you take a short trip to the local pet store to scope out your options. Reptiles captivate your attention for one reason or another, thus you decide to take a closer look at the selection of lizards. Monitor lizards, in particular, are rather exuberant little critters. ESPECIALLY the Komodo dragon..

But this pet is one that should definitely stay in the wild. Why, you may ask? Well: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/the-fearsome-komodo-dragon/

Image Credit: (Top) Adam Riley, (Center) BBC News, (Bottom) Barry Sweet/AP

The Progenitors of Gamma-Ray Bursts:

As we"ve discussed a lot recently, gamma ray bursts have the tendency to be just as spectacular as supernova blasts, with none of the glory. Yet comparatively, our amount of knowledge about them remains decidedly small. Especially so when dealing with how they form. The firsts of these high energy events were brought to our attention by the Vela-5B Satellite in the early 1970"s. At the time of their discovery, we had a difficult time pinpointing their origin, but over the course of the next few years, we were successful in determining that the events were non-local (meaning, they didn"t originated in, or around the sun). Eventually, it was thought that the detected gamma ray-bursts, or GRBs (what these events were eventually called) had a luminosity of about 10^39 ergs, we now know that this is ~13 magnitudes smaller than the actual intensity. Due to the much lower assumed intensity value, astronomers came to the conclusion that the GRB"s may take place in the accretion disk around a collapsing star.

It"s never THAT easy though. Is it? See how our views have changed over the years: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/?p=11511

Image Credit: NASA (Unedited Version: http://ow.ly/rP9EY)

The Progenitors of Gamma-Ray Bursts:

As we"ve discussed a lot recently, gamma ray bursts have the tendency to be just as spectacular as supernova blasts, with none of the glory. Yet comparatively, our amount of knowledge about them remains decidedly small. Especially so when dealing with how they form. The firsts of these high energy events were brought to our attention by the Vela-5B Satellite in the early 1970"s. At the time of their discovery, we had a difficult time pinpointing their origin, but over the course of the next few years, we were successful in determining that the events were non-local (meaning, they didn"t originated in, or around the sun). Eventually, it was thought that the detected gamma ray-bursts, or GRBs (what these events were eventually called) had a luminosity of about 10^39 ergs, we now know that this is ~13 magnitudes smaller than the actual intensity. Due to the much lower assumed intensity value, astronomers came to the conclusion that the GRB"s may take place in the accretion disk around a collapsing star.

It"s never THAT easy though. Is it? See how our views have changed over the years: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/?p=11511

Image Credit: NASA (Unedited Version: http://ow.ly/rP9EY)

The Progenitors of Gamma-Ray Bursts:

As we"ve discussed a lot recently, gamma ray bursts have the tendency to be just as spectacular as supernova blasts, with none of the glory. Yet comparatively, our amount of knowledge about them remains decidedly small. Especially so when dealing with how they form. The firsts of these high energy events were brought to our attention by the Vela-5B Satellite in the early 1970"s. At the time of their discovery, we had a difficult time pinpointing their origin, but over the course of the next few years, we were successful in determining that the events were non-local (meaning, they didn"t originated in, or around the sun). Eventually, it was thought that the detected gamma ray-bursts, or GRBs (what these events were eventually called) had a luminosity of about 10^39 ergs, we now know that this is ~13 magnitudes smaller than the actual intensity. Due to the much lower assumed intensity value, astronomers came to the conclusion that the GRB"s may take place in the accretion disk around a collapsing star.

It"s never THAT easy though. Is it? See how our views have changed over the years: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/?p=11511

Image Credit: NASA (Unedited Version: http://ow.ly/rP9EY)

The Search for a Habitable Planet: Gliese 667Cc

As far as extra-solar planet hunting goes, we"ve found quite a few of them. Most, however, haven"t been remotely discussed as being potential candidates to host life as we know it. In fact, hardly any have been discovered inside the Goldilocks region of their star (the area where liquid water could theoretically exist). However, scientists know of one planet that could potentially host life. It has been dubbed the "holy grail" of extrasolar planets, and it"s only 22 light-years away!

To learn about this amazing planet, see:


Explaining Dark Matter: Axions

Many of you probably understand the basics of an elusive type of matter called dark matter, something that is required to explain numerous anomalous characteristics of the universe. The most prominent features that dark matter explains are the observed gravitational lensing from low visible matter galaxies and the large structure formation observable in the cosmic microwave background radiation. If you need a refresher course, you can read about dark matter here: http://tinyurl.com/darkFQTQ

The ambiguous name "dark" matter, reflects our inability to figure out what this matter is; however, we do have a few ideas about what this form of matter could be made of. One of these hypothetical particles is called axions. Sometimes called sterile neutrinos, they are certainly not a new idea in the field of particle physics. It was first proposed in 1977. These particles are described as having no spin and no charge; in addition, they are described as interacting noticeably with the strong and weak force and having meager mass (considerably less than an electron).

Knowing what exactly constitutes dark matter is fairly important to cosmology, considering over 80% of the matter in the universe makes up it.

So let"s take a closer look at axions:

A Ring System of our Own:

When the moon was formed after a collision between Earth and another a celestial body, it should have left lot of debris around Earth. The debris within the Roche"s limit *should* have formed rings around Earth.

In truth, it"s quite likely that Earth *did* have a ring (or a system of rings) sometime in the VERY distant past; however, any such rings would have only been possible for a short period of time after the collision between Earth and Theia (the hypothetical planet that struck Earth to form our moon). Unlike the rings that belong to Saturn, Earth"s rings would have dissipated pretty quickly.

Find out why, and learn what our planet would be like with rings at:

Image source:

Astronomy Picture of the Day: 12/16/13 - The Pinwheel Galaxy

The Pinwheel Galaxy, which can be found more than 21 million light-years from Earth in the constellation of Ursa Major, is one of the most majestic galaxies in the observable universe. The only thing more impressive than the galaxy"s beauty is its size. It comes in with a staggering diameter of 170,000 light-years, making it about 70% larger than our home galaxy, the Milky Way (it, in contrast, is about 100,000 light-years across).

You may not know this, but capturing a detailed image of distant galaxies isn"t as easy as clicking a button on a camera. For instance, take the beautiful photograph of the Pinwheel Galaxy seen here. Instead of it being one shot, it"s actually a composite of four shots taken in infrared, visible light, ultraviolet and x-ray. Optical data was collected by the Hubble Space Telescope (in yellow). The Chandra X-ray Observatory captured the galaxy at x-ray wavelengths (seen in purple), while the Spitzer Space Telescope viewed it at infrared wavelengths (seen in red). Ultraviolet data was taken by GALEX - the Galaxy Evolution Explorer - in blue.

Sources & Further Reading: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/astronomy-picture-of-the-day-121613-the-pinwheel-galaxy/

Image Credit: Chandra X-ray Observatory, Spitzer Satellite, Hubble Space Telescope, and GALEX Satellite

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Oort Cloud: Home of the Icy Giants

Humans generally like stability. We are used to our small, predictable world: Every 24 hours, we rotate on our axis; every 365 days, we revolve around the Sun. We have followed this pattern for millennia, and we will continue to follow this pattern for ages henceforth. For the most part, when we are thinking in cosmic terms, the Earth is steady and unchanging…but the same cannot be said for the rest of the solar system.

The Oort cloud is no exception. Find out why: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/the-oort-cloud-home-of-the-icy-giants/

Larger Image: http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/images/ZankSolarSystem-big.jpg

Credit: R Mewaldt & P. Liewer, JPL/NASA/FQTQ

The Oort Cloud: Home of the Icy Giants

Humans generally like stability. We are used to our small, predictable world: Every 24 hours, we rotate on our axis; every 365 days, we revolve around the Sun. We have followed this pattern for millennia, and we will continue to follow this pattern for ages henceforth. For the most part, when we are thinking in cosmic terms, the Earth is steady and unchanging…but the same cannot be said for the rest of the solar system.

The Oort cloud is no exception. Find out why: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/the-oort-cloud-home-of-the-icy-giants/

Larger Image: http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/images/ZankSolarSystem-big.jpg

Credit: R Mewaldt & P. Liewer, JPL/NASA/FQTQ

The Oort Cloud: Home of the Icy Giants

Humans generally like stability. We are used to our small, predictable world: Every 24 hours, we rotate on our axis; every 365 days, we revolve around the Sun. We have followed this pattern for millennia, and we will continue to follow this pattern for ages henceforth. For the most part, when we are thinking in cosmic terms, the Earth is steady and unchanging…but the same cannot be said for the rest of the solar system.

The Oort cloud is no exception. Find out why: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/the-oort-cloud-home-of-the-icy-giants/

Larger Image: http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/images/ZankSolarSystem-big.jpg

Credit: R Mewaldt & P. Liewer, JPL/NASA/FQTQ

The Oort Cloud: Home of the Icy Giants

Humans generally like stability. We are used to our small, predictable world: Every 24 hours, we rotate on our axis; every 365 days, we revolve around the Sun. We have followed this pattern for millennia, and we will continue to follow this pattern for ages henceforth. For the most part, when we are thinking in cosmic terms, the Earth is steady and unchanging…but the same cannot be said for the rest of the solar system.

The Oort cloud is no exception. Find out why: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/the-oort-cloud-home-of-the-icy-giants/

Larger Image: http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/images/ZankSolarSystem-big.jpg

Credit: R Mewaldt & P. Liewer, JPL/NASA/FQTQ

Hot Spots and Olympus Mons:

All around us, the forces of nature are at work, constantly shaping and reshaping the entirety of our landscape. Said changes dictate our daily lives, yet it has only been in the last couple of centuries that man has advanced enough to begin to ‘control’ nature (in the loosest sense of the word). We have built sprawling urban conurbations; designed drugs to cure diseases and we"ve even developed methods of taming the largest, fastest moving rivers on the planet. However, there is one force of nature that we (currently) have no control over, and it’s the greatest force on planet Earth – plate tectonics.

So.. what do they do? As it turns out, plate tectonics are responsible for the shape of our local environment. In fact, they have been re-sculpting the whole surface of the Earth in a continuous cycle for eons now. We see the effects all across the planet; from the majesty of the various mountain ranges, to the devastation of earthquakes and tsunamis. Continental drift has the power to shift climates, split up landmasses and isolate species; therefore it must play an important role in evolution and our own history. Therefore, it stands to reason that their full impact needs to be discerned to better plan for the future (and for our survival)

So.. how do they tie into Olympus Mons; the most spectacular volcano in our solar system? Find out: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/hot-spots-and-olympus-mons/

Larger Image: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/forces-of-nature2.jpg

Using a Light Barrier To Repel Mosquitoes:

We all love light. It allows us to drive in the dark and read at night; it allows food to grow and helps us measure the vast distances found in the cosmos. It is a key factor in a number of different processes. Quite literally, light is life. Over the past century, scientists and researchers have used light to conduct a number of experiments and develop new technologies to assist us in day to day life. It seems that light might be used to assist us in a more unconventional way…

Learn about this amazing research at:


Eye Lash Mites:

If you are a woman, chances are, you had a “makeover party” at some point during your childhood. If you are fortunate enough to be an open-minded gentleman, then you probably had one as well. But even if you’ve never attended such a get together, you most likely know the kind of party that I am talking about—the one where you apply a gallon of lipstick, slather on a bucket of hair gel, paint yourself with three bottles of mascara, and flounce about like the fabulous debutante that you are. But as it turns out, there is one seriously unfabulous thing about makeover parties: Eye Lash Mites.

To learn all about these little guys, see:


Activity from Ancient, Invisible Galaxy Observed

Behold, the light of a gamma-ray burst that took place more than 13 billion years ago!

As most of you are aware, the universe is expanding at an ever-increasing speed, which in turn, pushes all galaxies farther away from us. Ultimately, this will result in these galaxies receding so far away, to the point that some of them eventually disappear forever, traveling too fast (located too far away) for their light to ever reach us. However, many of the galaxies that are now too far away were once much closer, offering us an opportunity to study distant, ancient galaxies as they appeared long before our planet was conceived.

s such, astronomers were recently able to detect a destructive event from one such galaxy, located 12.7 billion light-years away. Meaning we are observing the galaxy as it appeared almost 13 billion years ago; basically when the universe was still in diapers, more or less. The galaxy is generally too far away (and too red-shifted as a result of the universe"s expansion) for us to be capable of observing closely

So.. how was this galaxy detected? Find out: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/light-from-an-invisible-galaxy-appears/

Image Credit: Gemini Observatory / AURA / Lynette Cook

A Day at Valles Marineris: One of the Largest Canyons in the Solar System

If you’ve been to the Grand Canyon, then you probably know what it’s like to feel rather fleeting and smallish. When you stand next to this vast trench, you see an immense structure that’s been some 70 million years in the making (which is a bit longer than the 7 decades most humans are allotted). The canyon snakes across Northern Arizona, stretching more than 270 miles (434km). At points, the chasm is more than a mile deep (1.5km). However, impressive as the Grand Canyon is, it doesn’t come close to measuring up to Mars’ largest canyon, Valles Marineris.

To learn more about this amazing structure see:


Astronomy Picture of the Day: 12/15/13 - The Dunes of Noachis Terra

Mars is a treasure trove of beautiful - albeit alien - scenery. The dunes of Noachis Terra, which are found inside an impact crater in the southern landmass, are no exception. This enhanced-color image was taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera – the image itself spans about six-tenths of a mile (or about 1 kilometer).

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) arrived at the Red Planet on March 10, 2006 and immediately began preparations for its primary mission; to survey the Martian surface and locate landing sites for future missions. The MRO has been instrumental in helping scientists choose these landing sites, as is the case with the Phoenix and Curiosity missions. The orbiter was originally scheduled to operate for two Earth years. However, even after nearly 7 years, this spacecraft is returning amazing data (not to mention, some awesome pictures) of our little red friend.

References & Further Reading: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/astronomy-picture-of-the-day-121513-the-dunes-of-noachis-terra/

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Saturday, December 14, 2013

If One of Jupiter"s Moons Replaced Our Own...

Life is messy. It is turbulent and chaotic. However, in a world that is constantly evolving, there are a few things that we can rely on -- things that help keep life stable and keep us all sane. First, there is the Sun. It rises each day, giving us the light and energy that we need to survive, and then slowly slips behind the horizon (like clockwork).

The same is true of the Moon. Each night, it silently creeps through the sky; acting as a beacon of light in an increasingly dark world. Then, the sun peeks back up on the horizon, causing the moon"s presence to become less apparent for several hours -- until the cycle starts anew. One thing is for sure.. the moon is much more than a hunk of rock.. it"s a familiar, friendly figure. But what if the Moon wasn"t our moon? Furthermore, what would it be like if the Moon was replaced by another celestial body?

Like, one of Jupiter"s moons: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/if-jupiters-moon-replaced-our-own/

Image Credit: Lights in the Dark: https://www.facebook.com/LightsInTheDark

Starry Night (By Alex Ruiz)

Now, isn"t this a brilliant image? This image was created by Alex Ruiz, a digital artists who creates his masterpieces in Photoshop. This picture is particularly special because it"s a remake of the famous "Starry Night" painting by Van Gogh - a painting Neil deGrasse Tyson argues is one of the most influential paintings of all time.

You REALLY need to look at the original Van Gogh painting and Alex"s painting side-by-side. The resemblance is fantastic.

See a comparison and learn where you can get this print at:

Kilonova: A New Type of Stellar Explosion

Pretty much everyone (myself included) loves supernovae. After all, they are some of the most beautiful and destructive cosmological events that we know of. Moreover, they are partly responsible for our existence (as most heavy elements are created and distributed throughout the cosmos during this process). In addition to creating the elements necessary for our survival, these events give life to several bizarre objects (like neutron stars, pulsars, and stellar-mass black holes). However, many people are unaware of the fact that supernovae are just one particular type of nova.

In fact, supernovae can be created through different methods. Recently, astronomers discovered tangible evidence of a previously unseen-brand-spanking new type, which was tentatively dubbed the "kilonova." Novae of this type are likely created when two ultra compact objects collide. Consequently, these collisions give us insight into a celestial mystery called "short-term gamma-ray bursts".

Learn all about these amazing events at:


Starry Night (By Alex Ruiz)

To read the full article, see: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/starry-night-by-alex-ruiz/

A Day on -- The ISS Edition

Let’s talk about what it would be like to live on the International Space Station (ISS). First off, we need to debunk a common myth: Astronauts on the ISS don’t float because there is no gravity. There IS gravity--it just doesn’t really affect those in the ISS. Confusing? Let me explain...

See for more: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/a-day-on-the-iss-edition/

Astronomy Picture of the Day: 12/14/13 - Close Encounters of the Moon Kind

As Jupiter danced with the Moon on July 15 of last year, European observers had the spectacular chance to watch Jupiter pass behind the lunar disk. Cristian Fattinnanzi managed to capture this beautiful picture -- taken through light cloud cover over Montecassiano, Italy -- as the gas giant reemerged (with its four Galilean moons in tow).

The Galilean moons are names as such because Galileo discovered them while making his observations of our largest planet. The moons, pictured left to right, are Callisto, Ganymede, Io, and Europa; with Jupiter as the centerpiece.

References & Further Reading: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/astronomy-picture-of-the-day-121413-close-encounters-of-the-moon-kind/

Photo credit: Cristian Fattinnanzi

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Age of Light (New Video)

Check out our new video, The Age of Light. Light is unique in its own way. It transcends space and time as we know it.


Source http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/the-age-of-light-new-video/

What is a True Blue Planet Like? Apparently, Pain and Horribleness...

Anyone with a true fondness for space and astronomy will eventually stumble across Carl Sagan"s discussion of the Pale Blue Dot. This is a fond name that Sagan had for Earth which, given all of its water, looks a little blue. However, there is a true blue dot drifting out in the cosmos, and it"s not the Earth. It is HD 189733b, a cobalt-blue planet approximately 63 light-years from our solar system.

This planet reflects blue light a lot more than the Earth or the other planets in our solar system. So will we be able to make this planet into Earth 2.0? Not quite. In fact, saying that this planet is inhospitable is a bit like saying that the center of a volcano is inhospitable.

To discover just how deadly this planet is, see:


Magellanic Clouds (Ready for editing)

For all of you southerners (people who live in the southern hemisphere), this is a sight that you might recognise when looking towards the night sky. Can you guess what these white blips are? There are actually three objects in this image that you can see, one on the left and two on the right. Truth be told, there are actually three on the right, but the third isn’t visible unless you’re looking at the original 73mb image (which you are not). So what do you think we are looking at here?

Find out at:

Colin Robson

Astronomy Picture of the Day: 12/13/13 - Saturn in Infrared

This is a picture of Saturn - the iconic ringed planet - as you"ve never seen before. For those of you familiar with astronomy, you’ve already figured out that this picture of Saturn is taken in infrared (we look at objects at this wavelength to discern the heat signature of said objects) by the Keck telescope, which can be found in Hawaii (on Mauna Kea)

The brighter the area, the hotter it is. You’ll notice Saturn’s south pole has a very bright dot (which means the south polar region is hotter than the equator). This is likely due to convection processes at work inside the planet’s immense atmosphere.

References & Additional Images: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/astronomy-picture-of-the-day-121313-saturn-in-infrared/

Image Credit: NASA/JPL.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Holographc Universe Principle: What is & What Should Never be

Given all of the recent coverage on the radical idea that the universe is one massive hologram, we thought we would take a few minutes to delve into what that really means for us. Basically, to put it simply, the holographic universe principle suggests that we"re living in a simulated reality (different from the hypothesis that states we live in a computer simulation), where our physical world is nothing more than a detailed illusion. This illusion is actually projected by our brains, as energy fields are being decoded into the seemingly 3 dimensional universe we see around us. In a more speculative sense, the theory suggests that the entire universe can be seen as a two-dimensional information structure, which is "painted" on the cosmological horizon, such that the three dimensions (four, if you include time) we observe are only an effective description at macroscopic scales and at low energies.

Believe it or not, it gets weirder (and it"s not totally unfounded): http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/the-holographc-universe-principle-what-is-what-should-never-be/

Image: Hubble Deep Field (NASA/HST). Edited by Ian O"Neill/Discovery News.

Cosmic Jewelry: Did the Gold around your Neck Come from Colliding Dead Stars?

Most of us spend our lives chasing gold. For better or worse, this element determines many things over the course of our lives: where we can go to school, where we live, what kind of car we drive, who we marry, and even whether or not we eat. There are two rather simple reasons that we value gold so highly—it is beautiful, and it is rare.

And it’s not just rare on Earth; gold is also rare in the universe.

Find out where we get it at:

Image before editing:

How long will take humans to evolve? What will we evolve into?

Generally speaking, when talking about the evolution of our species, there are two modes of thought. Some people go on and on about how we will transition into super human-humans that have brains the size of small cars, amazing psychic capabilities, and Superman-like physical prowess. Others claim that humans are no longer evolving physically—that technology has put an end to the brutal logic of natural selection and that evolution is now (essentially) dead.

So, what"s the real answer? Find out at:


Astronomy Picture of the Day: 12/12/13 - War and Peace Nebula

This stunning picture shows the War and Peace Nebula, otherwise known as NGC 6357. This nebula is located in the constellation Scorpius and is located some 8,000 years from Earth.

The Nebula gets its name because, in infrared, the western section resembles a dove and the eastern section has the shape of a skull. NGC 6357 is a diffuse nebula and contains many proto-stars.

The open cluster Pismis 24 is located within the nebula; this cluster contains several massive stars. Originally, scientists thought the brightest object in the cluster – called Pismis 24-1 – was the most massive star on record as it was thought to be between 200-300 solar masses. Later surveys showed Primis 24-1 to be a binary system containing two stars, each between 100-150 solar masses.

Sources and further reading can be found here: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/astronomy-picture-of-the-day-121213-war-and-peace-nebula/

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Day in Space…without a Spacesuit

Today, I want to talk to you about what it would be like to spend a day in space without a spacesuit. Spending a day in the cosmic vacuum—sans spacesuit—might seem like a questionable life choice. After all, in the movies, whenever people end up in the intergalactic void without proper protection either their heads explode or they instantaneously freeze solid...neither outcome is particularly appealing.

However, your death in space won’t be nearly as spectacular as Hollywood would have you believe.

To find out what would really happen to you, see:

Space is Big. You just won"t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big

When the Hubble Space Telescope celebrated its twentieth anniversary of scouring the stars, this image was released to celebrate the millions of observations Hubble has made. These images provided us with a plethora of information that wasn"t available beforehand. Hubble has literally revolutionized many aspects of astronomy and physics; however, one thing it cannot do is help us wrap our minds around the sheer size of some of these deep-space regions. But let’s try!

Give it a go at:


Guess The Planet - Answer and Explanation

Can you identify which planet was photographed in this image?

To find out, see:


Behemoths of the Universe: Hypergiant Stars

We’ve told you about all about VY Canis Majoris, the most sizable star in the known universe. Lurking in the cosmos some 4,900 light-years from earth (about 28.8 quadrillion miles from our home), Canis Majoris is a mammoth without compare. If this star were in the center of our solar system, it would extend far beyond the orbit of Saturn (so let’s be glad that it’s a few quadrillion miles away).

To give you some hard figures, the circumference of our Sun is approximate 2.7 million miles (4.3 million km), while Canis Majoris is approximately 1.9 billion miles (3 billion km). This means that, when circling around the sun, light clocks in at about 14.58 seconds. However, it takes almost 8 hours for photons to travel around Canis Majoris.

Learn about the biggest known stars at:

Image via NASA/wikimedia

The Largest Known Spiral Galaxies:

212 million light-years from Earth, NGC 6872 drifts silently through the cosmos. At first glance, NGC 6872 seems like any other spiral galaxy. And in truth, it is like any other spiral galaxy, except that NGC 6872 is amazingly massive. In fact, NGC 6872 is one of the largest known spiral galaxies.

To learn about this amazing galaxy, see: