Astronomy can generate a large amount of attention from the public, but the number of working astronomers is smaller than the number of researchers in many other academic fields. So, when people get over their surprise at meeting a real astronomer, they often ask "How did you end up working in this field?". There are many different answers, but an interesting one is provided here by Will Dawson from the University of California, Davis, who kindly explains his career change from engineering to astronomy. We were very satisfied to hear that part of his motivation for this big change came from the publicity generated by the Bullet Cluster in 2006.
Will is the first author of a recent paper describing the discovery of the Musket Ball Cluster.
What field did you work in before astronomy?
After graduating with my bachelor of science degree in Maritime Systems Engineering from Texas A&M at Galveston in 2002, I went to work in the offshore engineering industry at Technip. During my four years with Technip I was primarily involved with the design and analysis of Spars, which are floating offshore oil production platforms (essentially stiffened steel cylinders roughly 90 feet in diameter, 550 feet long and 25,000 tons).
What inspired you to change fields?
Using a combination of powerful observatories in space and on the ground, astronomers have observed a violent collision between two galaxy clusters in which so-called normal matter has been wrenched apart from dark matter through a violent collision between two galaxy clusters.
The newly discovered galaxy cluster is called DLSCL J0916.2+2951. It is similar to the Bullet Cluster, the first system in which the separation of dark and normal matter was observed, but with some important differences. The newly discovered system has been nicknamed the "Musket Ball Cluster" because the cluster collision is older and slower than the Bullet Cluster.
Continuing our interest in poetry, here is a poem inspired by Chandra's image from August 11th 2011 of VV340 , in which two colliding galaxies look like a 'Cosmic Exclamation Point.' The author was fascinated by the image and the metaphor used to encapsulate it – by, that is, the whole notion of 'cosmic punctuation' – so he decided to explore these ideas further in a poem.
Every two years or so, NASA's Astrophysics Division (part of NASA's Science Mission Directorate) conducts what is called its Senior Review. During this process, an outside panel of experts looks at a variety of things about operating missions in astrophysics that are in their "extended phase." This includes Chandra.
Most of us appreciate a bit of a break in our day. Even a brief moment away can help us stay focused on the usual tasks of work, home life, or whatever occupies our time.
Sometimes, astronomy can supply that step away from the every day. It can provide an opportunity to consider big picture questions about our place in the Universe, think about exotic and fascinating phenomena, or even just relax and enjoy beautiful imagery.
We can only imagine how much more important it is to have that chance for a momentary escape if you have a dangerous and important job such as being a soldier.
A new X-ray study of the remains of an exploded star indicates that the supernova that disrupted the massive star may have turned it inside out in the process. Using very long observations of Cassiopeia A (or Cas A), a team of scientists has mapped the distribution of elements in the supernova remnant in unprecedented detail. This information shows where the different layers of the pre-supernova star are located three hundred years after the explosion, and provides insight into the nature of the supernova.
April Jubett creates animations and videos to help explain Chandra’s discoveries in a visual way. Her work shows up most frequently as podcasts and short animations on the Chandra website.
I have always been interested in art and science, and the many connections between them. It started unconsciously, with a curiosity about the natural world around me and a fondness for drawing and trying to capture that world while learning more about it. When I found out that there are whole careers built on exploring the beauty and mystery of the universe, I thought, "Yeah, I can do that".
Since we've had a couple of stories on dark matter recently, we wanted to feature some Q and A's we've received on the topic over the years.
Q: Is it possible for the existence of an 'anti-dark matter?' It was long predicted for the existence of anti-matter in theory so it seems plausible to me.
All this week, Venus and Jupiter have appeared very close to each other in the night sky. Most people in the Northern Hemisphere have been able to spot the planetary duo in the western skies about four hours after sunset.
This close pairing is a nice treat for skywatchers on Earth, but it really is an optical illusion of sorts. The planets are, of course, nowhere near each other. Venus is about 75 million miles away in one direction and Jupiter is over 500 million miles away in the other. Venus and Jupiter simply appear to come close to another from our vantage point on Earth as they travel in their usual orbits around the Sun.
Two teams of astronomers have used data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes to map the distribution of dark matter in a galaxy cluster known as Abell 383, which is located about 2.3 billion light years from Earth. Not only were the researchers able to find where the dark matter lies in the two dimensions across the sky, they were also able to determine how the dark matter is distributed along the line of sight.
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