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Astronomy, science & society and culture by an astronomy postdoc in Germany

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  • December 17, 2011
  • 10:00 PM

Gas Cloud meets Black Hole: Nature most definitely wants to eat you

by Sarah in One Small Step

Ed Yong recently started a fun new Tumblr blog called Nature Wants To Eat You, showing pictures of scary-looking animal mouths that may or may not be out to gobble us up. But the scariest and most inescapable example of Nature Wanting To Eat Us is the stuff of astrophysics – in the way that astrophysics tends to kill all the sciences, really: black holes. This week, a team of scientists led by the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching posted their Nature paper........ Read more »

S. Gillessen, R. Genzel, T. K. Fritz, E. Quataert, C. Alig, A. Burkert, J. Cuadra, F. Eisenhauer, O. Pfuhl, K. Dodds-Eden.... (2011) A gas cloud on its way towards the super-massive black hole in the Galactic Centre. Nature. arXiv: 1112.3264v1

  • November 17, 2011
  • 12:00 PM

Milky Way Questions: Bok Globules and Herbig-Haro Objects

by Sarah in One Small Step

ResearchBlogging.orgThe Milky Way Project science team are currently busy laying what we hope is the final hand on our first publication. In this paper, we’ll describe the project and why we decided to take the citizen science approach for the task of identifying bubble structures in the Galaxy. We will also present our first results from the hundreds of thousands of classifications we’ve logged on the site, and how our new bubble catalog might be useful for further studies of star f........ Read more »

Reipurth, B., & Bally, J. (2001) Herbig-Haro Flows: Probes of Early Stellar Evolution . Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 39(1), 403-455. DOI: 10.1146/annurev.astro.39.1.403  

  • August 24, 2011
  • 07:14 PM

Astrobiology: Where’s the Bacon?

by sarah in One Small Step

  The presence of life in the Universe has titillated scientists for centuries. The explosion of exoplanet discoveries throughout our Galaxy and beyond in the last 15 years has allowed philosophical exploration to turn into real science. Research in astrobiology, “the study of the origins, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe” by [...]

... Read more »

Chyba, C., & Hand, K. (2005) ASTROBIOLOGY: The Study of the Living Universe. Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 43(1), 31-74. DOI: 10.1146/annurev.astro.43.051804.102202  

Kaltenegger L, Selsis F, Fridlund M, Lammer H, Beichman C, Danchi W, Eiroa C, Henning T, Herbst T, Léger A.... (2010) Deciphering spectral fingerprints of habitable exoplanets. Astrobiology, 10(1), 89-102. PMID: 20307185  

L. Kaltenegger, & D. Sasselov. (2011) Exploring the Habitable Zone for Kepler planetary candidates. ApJ. arXiv: 1105.0861v2

  • June 27, 2011
  • 05:33 PM

Lemaître: Lost in Translation

by sarah in One Small Step

The name of Edwin Hubble is ubiquitous in modern astronomy. Telescopes, constants, laws, galaxy classification schemes are named after the famed astronomer, considered to be the godfather of modern astronomy. If he were alive today, he would have appeared on The Simpsons, Southpark and Saturday Night Live. But a number of recent papers posted to [...]... Read more »

Hubble E. (1929) A RELATION BETWEEN DISTANCE AND RADIAL VELOCITY AMONG EXTRA-GALACTIC NEBULAE. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 15(3), 168-73. PMID: 16577160  

Georges Lemaître. (1931) Expansion of the universe, A homogeneous universe of constant mass and increasing radius accounting for the radial velocity of extra-galactic nebulae. MNRAS, 483-490. info:/

Sidney van den Bergh. (2011) The Curious Case of Lemaitre's Equation No. 24. arxiv. arXiv: 1106.1195v1

David L. Block. (2011) A Hubble Eclipse: Lemaitre and Censorship. arxiv. arXiv: 1106.3928v1

  • June 23, 2011
  • 08:40 PM

Betelgeuse Blows

by sarah in One Small Step

Take a look at Betelgeuse like you’ve never seen it before. Betelgeuse is one of the brightest stars in the sky and the red jewel in the crown of Orion. It’s the prototypical red supergiant star – a cool, bloated star that’s approaching the end of its lifetime. As it runs out of fuels to [...]

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Kervella, P., Verhoelst, T., Ridgway, S., Perrin, G., Lacour, S., Cami, J., & Haubois, X. (2009) The close circumstellar environment of Betelgeuse. Astronomy and Astrophysics, 504(1), 115-125. DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/200912521  

  • May 27, 2011
  • 04:49 AM

A supermassive star, all by its lonesome

by sarah in One Small Step

  The Tarantula Nebula is a gift that keeps on giving – if you’re into really massive stars, that is. It makes for a pretty picture, sure, but Tarantula, in our little galactic sibling the Large Magellanic Cloud at a distance of 170,000 lightyears (50 kpc), is the largest region of ionised hydrogen (HII)  in [...]

... Read more »

Joachim M. Bestenlehner, Jorick S. Vink, G. Gräfener, F. Najarro, C. J. Evans, N. Bastian, A. Z. Bonanos, E. Bressert, P. A. Crowther, E. Doran.... (2011) The VLT-FLAMES Tarantula Survey III: A very massive star in apparent isolation from the massive cluster R136. A. arXiv: 1105.1775v1

  • April 10, 2011
  • 09:00 PM

Modelling comets, kittens and the Universe

by sarah in One Small Step

Some call it the data deluge, others the Fourth Paradigm – whatever your phrase of choice, it’s undeniable that science is increasingly driven by the easy availability of large amounts of data. The web is instrumental in their dissemination around the world. Web service providers such as Amazon enable storage of and access to data in the cloud. Continuing our progress in the exploration of the natural world depends ever more crucially on our ability to curate data and extract informa........ Read more »

  • March 13, 2011
  • 06:35 PM

Bubbles under the microscope

by sarah in One Small Step

  As the data from the Milky Way Project are starting to come in, and Rob is making progress with the data reduction of  many clicks and drawings, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to these gorgeous bubbles we’re seeing. How were they created, why do they appear the way they do, and what [...]... Read more »

  • February 10, 2011
  • 10:00 PM

The Galactic Centre black hole in close-up

by sarah in One Small Step

he research into the nature and properties of the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way galaxy is one of the highlights of astronomical discovery of the last two decades. Using the biggest telescopes on the planet and state of the art observing technology, we’ve been able to track the young massive stars that are whizzing around the black hole in a dense cluster, and shown with a high level of certainty that the galaxy’s central object really is a supermassive black hole, referre........ Read more »

F. H. Vincent, T. Paumard, G. Perrin, L. Mugnier, F. Eisenhauer, & S. Gillessen. (2011) Performance of astrometric detection of a hotspot orbiting on the innermost stable circular orbit of the galactic centre black hole. MNRAS. arXiv: 1011.5439v1

  • January 20, 2011
  • 06:01 PM

What is a galaxy?

by sarah in One Small Step

Science tends to grow organically, branching out in new directions driven by new discoveries and new technology. But every once in a while, scientists feel the need to take stock of where their subject is going, and make some changes to keep things consistent. The most famous example of this is when the International Astronomical [...]

... Read more »

Duncan Forbes, & Pavel Kroupa. (2011) What is a Galaxy? Cast your vote here.. PASA. arXiv: 1101.3309v1

  • January 6, 2011
  • 07:47 AM

Spectroscopic madness

by sarah in One Small Step

The BBC is currently running a 3-part series called BBC Stargazing, hosted by Brian Cox and Dara O Briain. The last episode aired last night, sadly I didn’t have access from here in Germany. There’s lots of discussion and enthusiasm on twitter with the #BBCstargazing hashtag, and not just from the regular crowd of astronomers [...]

... Read more »

Thomas Eversberg. (2011) Spectroscopic madness--A golden age for amateurs. Proc. of "Stellar winds in Interaction", editors T. Eversberg and J.H. Knapen. arXiv: 1101.0680v1

  • December 8, 2010
  • 04:22 AM

Meet the Milky Way

by sarah in One Small Step

Back in July I wrote about my involvement in a new Zooniverse citizen science project, the then unnamed Project IX. In the last few months, Project IX became the Milky Way Project, and today yesterday it went live! A massive congratulations to Rob and the team who did a fabulous job in getting this all [...]

... Read more »

Churchwell, E., Povich, M., Allen, D., Taylor, M., Meade, M., Babler, B., Indebetouw, R., Watson, C., Whitney, B., Wolfire, M.... (2006) The Bubbling Galactic Disk. The Astrophysical Journal, 649(2), 759-778. DOI: 10.1086/507015  

  • November 21, 2010
  • 09:00 PM

Dark Matter Fisticuffs I: The Backdrop

by sarah in One Small Step

On Thursday, two giants of astronomy met in the sleepy German city of Bonn to debate one of the basic tenets of our current cosmological vision: the existence of dark matter. In the blue corner was Simon White aka. the Reigning Champion, Director at the Max Planck Insitute for Astrophysics (MPA) in Garching, and figurehead of the concordance cosmology model we all know and live by. In the red corner, Pavel Kroupa aka. the Challenger, Professor at the Argelander Institute in Bonn and well-known e........ Read more »

P. Kroupa, B. Famaey, K. S. de Boer, J. Dabringhausen, M. S. Pawlowski, C. M. Boily, H. Jerjen, D. Forbes, G. Hensler, & M. Metz. (2010) Local-Group tests of dark-matter Concordance Cosmology: Towards a new paradigm for structure formation. Astronomy . arXiv: 1006.1647v3

Peter V. Pikhitsa. (2010) MOND reveals the thermodynamics of gravity. Arxiv. arXiv: 1010.0318v3

  • October 15, 2010
  • 04:12 PM

Gliese 581 g: The Goldilocks that isn’t?

by sarah in One Small Step

The discovery of planet Gliese 581 g, an exoplanet just 3 times the mass of our Earth  and located in its host star’s Habitable Zone, was one of the biggest science headlines of the year. The news broke, typically, somewhere between my observing proposal deadline and box number 15: “all the crap that didn’t fit [...]... Read more »

Steven S. Vogt, R. Paul Butler, Eugenio J. Rivera, Nader Haghighipour, Gregory W. Henry, & Michael H. Williamson. (2010) The Lick-Carnegie Exoplanet Survey: A 3.1 M_Earth Planet in the Habitable Zone of the Nearby M3V Star Gliese 581. ApJ accepted. arXiv: 1009.5733v1

  • September 13, 2010
  • 04:04 PM

Scientific hubris, or: Everything you thought you knew about straight line fits is wrong

by sarah in One Small Step

Think you’ve got your least squares down to a tee? Think again. In a paper posted to the Arxiv in late August, David Hogg of NYU and his collaborators take us to task on our sloppy data fitting habits. And he’s not in the mood to mince his words. It is conventional to begin any [...]... Read more »

David W. Hogg, Jo Bovy, & Dustin Lang. (2010) Data analysis recipes: Fitting a model to data. Arxiv . arXiv: 1008.4686v1

  • September 7, 2010
  • 08:26 AM

Exoplanets at a discount

by sarah in One Small Step

Astronomers have many ways of spotting exoplanets round far away stars – but getting a direct look at them, especially with ground-based telescopes, remains a difficult job. With a planet emitting very little light of its own, and appearing to us essentially on top of the host star, its radiation is completely drowned in the [...]... Read more »

Sascha P. Quanz, Michael R. Meyer, Matthew Kenworthy, Julien H. V. Girard, Markus Kasper, Anne-Marie Lagrange, Daniel Apai, Anthony Boccaletti, Mickael Bonnefoy, Gael Chauvin.... (2010) First Results From VLT NACO Apodizing Phase Plate: 4-micron Images of the Exoplanet beta Pictoris b. ApJ Letters. arXiv: 1009.0538v1

A.-M. Lagrange, M. Bonnefoy, G. Chauvin, D. Apai, D. Ehrenreich, A. Boccaletti, D. Gratadour, D. Rouan, D. Mouillet, S. Lacour.... (2010) A giant planet imaged in the disk of the young star Beta Pictoris. Science, 329(5987), 57-59. arXiv: 1006.3314v1

Matthew A. Kenworthy, Sascha P. Quanz, Michael R. Meyer, Markus E. Kasper, Rainer Lenzen, Johanan L. Codona, Julien H. V. Girard, & Philip M. Hinz. (2010) An apodizing phase plate coronagraph for VLT/NACO. Proc. SPIE. arXiv: 1007.3448v1

  • August 2, 2010
  • 06:02 AM

Massive star formation not so different after all?

by sarah in One Small Step

In my previous post on the Zooniverse Project IX I’m involved in, I talked about the importance of star formation in the Universe and some of the difficulties we face in studying it. Some big unanswered question particularly remain in our understanding of how massive stars form. Fittingly, the latest edition of Nature has a [...]... Read more »

Kraus S, Hofmann KH, Menten KM, Schertl D, Weigelt G, Wyrowski F, Meilland A, Perraut K, Petrov R, Robbe-Dubois S.... (2010) A hot compact dust disk around a massive young stellar object. Nature, 466(7304), 339-42. PMID: 20631793  

  • June 28, 2010
  • 02:42 AM

AstroInformatics II: From public outreach to public engagement

by sarah in One Small Step

Outreach and education are two areas that stand to gain from developments in semantic astronomy and an increased scientific presence on the web. Big changes have already taken place, driven by a community eager to connect and communicate about the research we do every day. As part of a panel at the AstroInformatics 2010 conference [...]... Read more »

Victoria Stodden. (2010) Open science: policy implications for the evolving phenomenon of user-led scientific innovation. JCOM, 9(1). info:/

  • June 12, 2010
  • 01:16 PM

The Big Bang Debate

by sarah in One Small Step

A few days ago, I posted this poll about the show The Big Bang Theory, asking the question if it was bad for science (and women). I closed the poll last night, the votes are in, you people have spoken.  Here’s the final results from 58 votes – and thanks for voting, polls are fun!
Most [...]... Read more »

Ford, T., Boxer, C., Armstrong, J., & Edel, J. (2007) More Than "Just a Joke": The Prejudice-Releasing Function of Sexist Humor. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(2), 159-170. DOI: 10.1177/0146167207310022  

  • May 21, 2010
  • 02:30 PM

Dear Fuzzies, Why So Green?

by sarah in One Small Step

Amongst all the excitement over the first results from Herschel, it’s easy to forget about its comparatively tiny American cousin Spitzer. Launched in 2003 with its  3 instruments IRAC, IRS and MIPS, Spitzer covers the infrared wavelengths from around 3 to 150 microns – a region that from Earth is either totally inaccessible or severely [...]... Read more »

James M. De Buizer, & William D. Vacca. (2010) Direct Spectroscopic Identification of the Origin of 'Green Fuzzy' Emission in Star Forming Regions. accepted in ApJ. arXiv: 1005.2209v1

C. J. Cyganowski, B. A. Whitney, E. Holden, E. Braden, C. L. Brogan, E. Churchwell, R. Indebetouw, D. F. Watson, B. L. Babler, R. Benjamin.... (2008) A Catalog of Extended Green Objects (EGOs) in the GLIMPSE Survey: A new sample of massive young stellar object outflow candidates. Astronomical Journal, 136(6), 2391-2412. arXiv: 0810.0530v1

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