In an earlier article, Evolving Science wrote about the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) and their mission to scan for signs of life in the farthest reaches of our galaxy. Breakthrough Listen is the newest initiative by SETI to use radio telescopes to listen to our nearest galactic neighbors as well as distant galaxies. What they are listening for are narrow bandwidth signals that stick out from the background radiation of the universe, preferably from a star system that can support life.
One of my favorite movies in the science genre is 1997’s Contact. The novel that it was based off was written by noted astrophysicist Carl Sagan and the movie had a good mix of fact and fantasy that actually seemed credible. Jodie Foster’s portrayal of Dr. Ellie Arroway, a scientist for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), was phenomenal.
A new camera called Mosaic-3 is in place at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, and is now halfway through completing a two-year mission to record images of far-off galaxies and stars. The upgraded camera now includes light sensors developed at the U.S Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, making it one of the best tools we have to study outer space.
Peregrine falcons have inspired the quest for new technologies to make our aircraft faster, safer and more maneuverable. Once you’ve seen a peregrine falcon in flight it’s not hard to see why engineers have been motivated to try and emulate their speed, grace and power. These birds can dive through the air at speeds of over 200mph whilst also performing aerobatics that any pilot would be proud of.
The Fermi bubbles were discovered as recently as 2010, and are comprised of two gamma-ray emitting bubbles expanding 25,000 light-years north and south of the black hole located at the centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Whilst the nature and origin of the bubbles was poorly understood at first, astronomers now believe they are due to the release of gases the last time this black hole consumed a large amount of gas.
Supermassive black holes are located in the centre of large galaxies. These black holes are millions of times larger than our own sun, and sustain their existence by ‘feeding’ off the gases around them. This activity can be observed using space telescopes, and is characterized as bright emissions, including x-rays, emanating from the innermost part of the disc surrounding the black hole.
Much like seismologists use earthquakes to gain a better understanding of Earth, astronomers can also study the interior conditions of stars using an approach called asteroseismology. Using this technique it is possible to gain a better understanding of the evolution and structure of stars through studying their oscillations.
Looking up at the night sky, we can see thousands upon thousands of glittering lights emitted from stars, planets, galaxy clusters, and many other celestial bodies. How brightly the stars glow depends on how far away they are from Earth, as well as their mass, volume, and chemical makeup. Of course, it’s impossible to see stars beyond a certain distance, since their light can’t reach us—at least, not with the naked eye. But using telescopes with specialized optics and sensors, scientists can “see” objects in space that are billions of light years away.