In this stunning vista, based on image data from the Hubble Legacy Archive, distant galaxies form a dramatic backdrop for disrupted spiral galaxy Arp 188, the Tadpole Galaxy.
The cosmic tadpole is a mere 420 million light-years distant toward the northern constellation Draco. Its eye-catching tail is about 280 thousand light-years long and features massive, bright blue star clusters. One story goes that a more compact intruder galaxy crossed in front of Arp 188 - from right to left in this view - and was slung around behind the Tadpole by their gravitational attraction.
During the close encounter, tidal forces drew out the spiral galaxy’s stars, gas, and dust forming the spectacular tail. The intruder galaxy itself, estimated to lie about 300 thousand light-years behind the Tadpole, can be seen through foreground spiral arms at the upper left. Following its terrestrial namesake, the Tadpole Galaxy will likely lose its tail as it grows older, the tail’s star clusters forming smaller satellites of the large spiral galaxy.
Image: An artist conception of a newly formed star surrounded by a swirling protoplanetary disk of dust and gas, where debris coalesces to create rocky ‘planetesimals’ that collide and grow to eventually form planets. A new study suggests small rocky planet may actually be widespread in our Milky Way galaxy. Credit: University of Copenhagen, Lars A. Buchhave
Planets may not be able to form without a heaping helping of heavy elements such as silicon, titanium and magnesium, a new study suggests.
Stars that host planets have higher concentrations of such “metals” — astronomer-speak for elements heavier than hydrogen and helium — compared to iron than do planetless stars, the study found.
“To form planets, one needs heavy elements,” said lead author Vardan Adibekyan, of the Centre for Astrophysics of the University of Porto in Portugal.
Connected at birth
Planets coalesce from the disk of dust and gas left over after the birth of their parent star. According to the leading theory of planet formation, the core accretion model, small particles clump together, growing larger and larger until they produce protoplanets.
Scientists have long suspected that stars with higher metallicities are more likely to have planets orbiting them. Iron has long been a primary indicator.
“Usually, in stellar physics, people use the iron content as a proxy of overall metallicity,”
Visualizing Prime Numbers
Jason Davies has created a way to visualize prime numbers as periodic curves (curves that repeat every n points). Wherever only two curves intersect (for 1 and the number), that’s a prime.
Play with the interactive, zoomable version here. Awesome stuff!
The June Solstice Approacheth!
There’s no mystical occurrences happening on June 20 (at 23:09 UTC, to be exact), but this is a key point in the Earth’s path around the Sun. It’s also the best day to mount your solargraphs to get solstice-to-solstice images. Don’t worry if you don’t get them up by Wednesday, you’ll still get great pictures no matter what.
What is the June Solstice?
Due to the axial tilt of the Earth, the June solstice marks the point in Earth’s orbit when the Sun reaches its highest maximum point in the sky in the Northern Hemisphere, and the opposite in the Southern Hemisphere. The sun will appear straight overhead along the Tropic of Cancer, but nowhere else (despite some commonly held beliefs). Ancient cultures gave the day much spiritual significance, but today it’s just the beginning of summer (or winter, if you live in the Southern Hemisphere).
Good luck getting those cameras up this week! Keep spreading the word so we can get every continent represented, and here’s our how-to video on building a pinhole cam.
Traditionally, for-profit colleges have operated on the lowest rungs of America’s educational ladder, catering to poor and lower-middle-class students looking for a basic, convenient degree or technical training. Aspiring Ivy Leaguers have remained far out of the industry’s sites.
That is, until now.
This week, the Minerva Project, a startup online university, announced that it had received $25 million in seed financing from Benchmark Capital, a major Silicon Valley venture capital firm known for its early investments in eBay, among other successful web companies. Minerva bills itself as “the first elite American university to be launched in a century,” and promises to re-envision higher education for the information age. The chairman of its advisory board: Larry Summers, the former treasury secretary and Harvard president. Among others, he’s joined on the board by Bob Kerry, the former United States senator and president of The New School.
A for-profit school trying to elbow its way into the top tier of American universities could certainly do worse for a pedigree. (Could the fact that both Summers and Kerry had rocky tenures as university presidents have anything to do with their enthusiasm for this project? I dare not speculate.) But what makes Minerva interesting isn’t the possibility that one day it might displace Harvard, Yale, or even Cornell in the hearts of American undergraduates. It probably won’t. Rather, it’s what the school might show us about the state of the global education market, and how the United States might be able to turn its reputation for pedagogical excellence into a high-tech export industry.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
If you live in a rich country, the Internet has probably changed the way you consume (and produce) information. But when you look at global-scale knowledge production, things are as they ever were: the Anglophone world dominates with the United States doing the lion’s share of academic and user-generated publishing.
Those are the messages of the Oxford Internet Institute’s new e-book, Geographies of the World’s Knowledge, from which the above graphics were drawn. The book’s authors, Corinne Flick of the Convoco Foundation and the Institute’s Mark Graham and Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, reluctantly conclude that the Internet has not delivered on the hopes that it would make knowledge “more accessible.”
“Many commentators speculated that [the Internet] would allow people outside of industrialised nations to gain access to all networked and codified knowledge, thus mitigating the traditionally concentrated nature of information production and consumption,” they write. “These early expectations remain largely unrealised.”We’re not only talking about publishing in academic journals or Wikipedia. The researchers also sampled user-generated content on Google and found that rich countries, especially the United States, dominate the production of user content.
The fact of the matter is that people without money can’t afford to get the education necessary to publish in academic journals, Internet-enabled or not. The other fact of the matter is that the vast majority of people in very poor countries don’t spend their time producing content for free. Hope as we might, the Internet isn’t a magic wand that makes the world more equal.
Read more. [Image: Oxford Internet Institute]
The scientists by large know more liberal arts, than the science known by liberal artists and that needs to change. If you go to a science cocktail party and someone talks about Shakespeare no one is gonna say “Oh I was never good at Shakespeare! I was terrible in nouns and verbs!” No, you’ll never hear that. But if you go to a liberal art party, an artists party, and someone start talking about math it’s all “Oh I was never good at math, I hated math” and they all chuckle and all agree, and all like sip the next sip of champagne and go on talking about the art and that’s somehow ok. No that’s not ok.
--Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
Online Math, Science, and Tech Classes
Khan Academy - With a library of over 2,700 videos covering everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history and 280 practice exercises, we’re on a mission to help you learn what you want, when you want, at your own pace.
University of the People - The University embraces the worldwide presence of the Internet and dropping technology costs to bring tuition-free academic programs within reach of qualified individuals around the world.
Stanford CS101 - We are committed to making the best education in the world freely available to any person who seeks it. We envision people throughout the world, in both developed and developing countries, using our platform to get access to world-leading education that has so far been available only to a tiny few.
Udacity - Learn programming in seven weeks. We’ll teach you enough about computer science that you can build a web search engine like Google or Yahoo!
MIT Open Courseware - MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) is a web-based publication of virtually all MIT course content. OCW is open and available to the world and is a permanent MIT activity.
Open Yale Courses - Open Yale Courses provides free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University. The aim of the project is to expand access to educational materials for all who wish to learn.
What Is Hydrogen Alpha?
Imaged Above: Combination of 3 surveys (image compilations of data) in Ha - Hydrogen Alpha. Credit: Harvard.Edu
So some of you might have noticed I started posting more Ha images than I normally would, aside from showing more activity in space than you normally would with your unaided eyes, this way of seeing images is essentially good to highlight just how much hydrogen a star or a cosmic environment contains since it is the most abundant thus shows activity very clearly when possible. Here’s a nice explanation courtesy of AstronomyKnow-How on what Ha actually is and what it’s used for:
The sun contains many elements but the most abundant by far is hydrogen. The visible layers (the photosphere and the chromosphere) is the only part of the sun that is cool enough for hydrogen to exist in it’s atomic form and it is here that we can see the absorption and emission spectra (colors) for hydrogen.
It is helpful to think of a hydrogen atom as a small ‘solar system’ with the heavy nucleus as the ‘sun’ in the middle. This particular solar system has only one planet orbiting - ie a single electron. Due to the laws of quantum physics, this electron can only orbit the nucleus in specific orbits which are given a number n.
When electrons jump from the lower to the higher number orbits, they absorb a particular amount of energy and we can observe the absorption spectrum. When they fall back again they release the same amount of energy and we can observe the emission spectrum. The amount of energy absorbed or released in this way can be mathematically directly related to the wavelength at which we see the absorption and emission lines on the spectrum. [Side note: Essentially, you’re viewing the action of these movements of energy as emissions on the full spectrum of colors. Red typically highlighting hydrogen emissions.]
Hydrogen can absorb and emit in the ultraviolet region of the spectrum (the Lyman series) but the emissions and absorptions we see in the visible part of the spectrum are the Balmer series and occur when electrons jump from and fall to the n=2 orbit.
The Balmer series lines that we see are imaginatively called alpha, beta, gamma…. and so looking at the diagram below you can see the whole picture:
The line that appears in the red part of the spectrum is created when an electron moves between the second and third orbit (N=2 and N=3) and the wavelength at which this occurs is 656nm. It is this line that is called the Hydrogen alpha line and hydrogen alpha filters are designed to block out as much of the spectrum as possible leaving only a very small bandwidth through which light can pass at the H-alpha frequency.
Hydrogen Alpha filters typically have a bandpass in the region of 0.5Å to 1Å (Å = Angstrom) where 1Å is 0.1nm.
For more than 50 years, NASA’s robotic deep space probes have carried nuclear batteries provided by the U.S. Department of Energy. Even the crewed Apollo moon landings carried nuclear powered equipment.
However, the United States’ supply of plutonium-238, which fuels these batteries, called radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs), is running low. Experts worry that ambitious planetary science missions in the future may have to be put on hold until more of the radioactive substance is available.
Side Note: .. Or just apply more research into a new type of energy we can harness for space travel that can be implemented down here on Earth as well (easier said than done I know, but it’s worth the try given the results you could potentially yield from more efficient, abundant energy)..
The GOP-led Michigan state senate really knows how to screw up an anti-bullying initiative. From Swampland:
On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled state senate passed an anti-bullying bill that manages to protect school bullies instead of those they victimize. It accomplishes this impressive feat by allowing students, teachers, and other school employees to claim that “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” justifies their harassment.
Michigan is already one of only three states in the country that have not enacted any form of anti-bullying legislation. For more than a decade, Democrats in the state legislature have fought their Republican colleagues and social conservatives such as Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, who referred to anti-bullying measures as “a Trojan horse for the homosexual agenda.” In that time, at least ten Michigan students who were victims of bullying have killed themselves.
This year, Republicans only agreed to consider an anti-bullying measure that did not require school districts to report bullying incidents, did not include any provisions for enforcement or teacher training, and did not hold administrators accountable if they fail to act. And they fought back Democratic attempts to enumerate particular types of students who are prone to being bullied, such as religious and racial minorities, and gay students. But it was the addition of special protections for religiously-motivated bullying that led all 11 Democratic senators to vote against the legislation they had long championed. [read more]
California lawmakers have passed a bill that would require public schools to include lessons about the historical contributions of gays and lesbians in their curriculum. | TPM
SB48 would broadly require schools to provide general instruction and textbooks that include information on the contributions of “Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and other ethnic and cultural groups.”
It would also prohibit lessons from containing any material that “reflects adversely upon persons because of their race, sex, color, creed, handicap, national origin, or ancestry.” [read more]