General

Finding Patterns

Jan
17

Clouds

Image: Frank Kovalchek, Wikimedia Commons

One of our favorite games to play with our kids is trying to find recognizable objects in clouds as they pass by on a sunny day. One cloud might look like an elephant, the next, a pirate ship.

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Carnival of Space #328

Nov
18

Welcome to this week's Carnival of Space. It's been a busy Universe out there so let's jump right into it.

The Urban Astronomer has an excellent recap of Hubble's observations of a very unusual asteroid. This asteroid not only has a comet-like tail, it has six of them. Oh yeah, and they apparently change.

Over at the Smithsonian's Air & Space blog, they discuss a very provocative issue: if we go back to the Moon, where should we go and, maybe more importantly, where shouldn't we?

In advance of the recent Maven launch to Mars, the good folks over at Universe Today feature an excellent video that summarizes where the Curiosity rover has been and also where it will be heading in the future.

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Getting a Sense of Place in our Universe

Nov
06

The biggest science news this week, by far, has been a new study suggesting that Earth-sized planets in habitable zones may be very common. This is exciting news – who wouldn't want to have more cosmic planetary friends out there that maybe one day we'll be able to explore? By the latest accounts, there could be billions of Earth-like planets out there in our Milky Way galaxy.

Solar System

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Preserving the Legacy of the X-ray Universe

Oct
28

Chandra Archive Collection

Every year, October is designated as American Archive Month. While many people may think "archive" means only dusty books and letters, there are, in fact, many other types of important archives. This includes the use of archives for major telescopes and observatories like NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.

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Mirror Man

Sep
27

Less than 50 years after the first detection of an extrasolar X-ray source, the Chandra X-ray Observatory has achieved an increase in sensitivity comparable to going from naked-eye observations to the most powerful optical telescopes over the past 400 years. Many individuals have been involved in this phenomenal accomplishment, but in this contribution, we focus on one: Leon Van Speybroeck.

Leon Van
Leon Van Speybroeck (Credit: NASA/MSFC/K. Stephens)

Leon was one of a number of newly minted MIT physics Ph.D.'s (including Paul Gorenstein, Martin Zombeck, Ethan Schreier, and one of us (HT)) who in the mid-late1960's made the short move from the MIT campus to the revamped milk-truck garage a few blocks away that was the site of American Science & Engineering. It was there that Riccardo Giacconi had assembled an X-ray astronomy group that had discovered the first cosmic X-ray source during a short rocket flight.

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Chandra’s 14th Anniversary: Looking Back and Looking Ahead

Jul
25

Fourteen years ago this week, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory was launched into space on the space shuttle Columbia. I didn't witness this spectacular event, but I know many who did. Those who had worked on Chandra's development for many years must have experienced a powerful mixture of nerves, excitement and satisfaction.

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Transforming Science into Sound

Jun
04

A new recently announced project is showing how science and art are not so far apart. In this case, the science in question is data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. The art that is involved is music.

Star Songs

This project is called "Star Songs" and was started by Wanda Diaz Merced who came to visit the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in 2011, where Chandra's Science Center is located, to work on her doctoral dissertation. Diaz Merced, who lost her sight while studying physics in her early 20s, had been using sonification - a technique to display data as sound - to continue her astrophysical research.

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Heads Up! Avoiding Collisions in Space

May
07

Recently, the Fermi team announced that the spacecraft dodged a very large bullet in the form of a defunct Soviet spy satellite: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/GLAST/news/bullet-dodge.html. The close encounter with Cosmos 1805 was reminder that even though space is very large, there are some real threats to our invaluable telescopes that are in orbit.

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Wonder and Sublime in Space Imagery

Apr
01

An interdisciplinary and international group from Chandra, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and experts in the field of aesthetics from the University of Otago, New Zealand, formed the Aesthetics and Astronomy group - known as the A&A project -- back in 2008 to explore how astronomy images are perceived.

Amanda Berry, an MFA graduate student at Kendall College of Art and Design in Michigan, is researching "space" as a visual knowledge field. She asked some great questions to the Aesthetics & Astronomy project, which Jeffrey Smith kindly answered. We thought you might enjoy the read:

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