Here's a piece of high-energy astrophysics trivia (you never know when you might need to know these things). Where does the "X" in "X-ray" come from?
Speaking in broad generalities, there are two main classes of physicist: those who generate new hypotheses and those who generate new data. The former are called "theorists" and the latter, in most of physics, are called "experimentalists." In astrophysics, we're called "observers" because we can't do experiments in the traditional sense. We have no knobs to turn, no switches to flip; we can't turn the dial to a maximally spinning black hole just to see what happens (oh, what fun that would be!).
This week, the High Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD) meeting is taking place at the Omni Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, California. What exactly is HEAD?
Dr. Carles Badenes is a Chandra postdoctoral fellow at Princeton, having spent the previous few years at Rutgers University. His main research focus is on supernova explosions and supernova remnants, particularly the class known as Type Ia.
The Chandra X-ray Observatory is now in its ninth year in orbit around the Earth, and things are sometimes lonely out there. So we've been helping Chandra to use the web to reach out to others who like to network online. Here are a few ways to get in touch with Chandra.
Just as astronomers were getting used to the idea of not knowing what dark matter is, they got a completely different surprise at the end of the 20th century. Instead of slowing down after the Big Bang, the expansion of the Universe was found to be accelerating. Astronomers quickly did what they always do when they come up with something mysterious: they gave it a name. Now, we call whatever it is pushing the Universe apart "dark energy", but the truth is no one knows what it is.
When you look up at the night sky, you see a lot of things glowing like stars, planets, and galaxies. So it might sound strange to hear that most of the Universe is actually dark. The truth is the protons, neutrons and electrons that make up everything we can see - and that means with every telescopes we've got -- accounts for only about 4% of the mass and energy of the Universe. The rest is dark and mysterious. More specifically, about 70% of the Universe is what is known as dark energy; about 26% is so-called dark matter.
Dr. Dan Evans from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA, shares some information on 3c321, as of December 2007 now known as the Death Star Galaxy. Dan Evans has never seen Star Wars, so who came up with the nickname? Read on.
The press and image releases from the Chandra X-ray Center cover only a small fraction of the science results produced by Chandra each year. Some results are clearly not good candidates for publicity because they're obviously incremental - I've written papers like that myself. Or they can be highly esoteric, addressing questions that only the authors knew enough about the subject to ask! It also doesn't help if the results are completely unsurprising or if there isn't a decent image.
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