An anomalous solid object seen of the Sun’s “western” side, 12/30/2012, caught by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory’ aia 304 Wavelength.
(via: Mr. Skywatcher)
BURN WITH ME…
Expo, 32, freelance film and video editor and professional nerd living in the Pacific northwest.
What lies outside the universe?
Physicists have long studied the nature of the universe. But some go a step further into the unknown (and probably unknowable), contemplating what lies outside the boundaries of our universe.
Is it possible that something else exists beyond existence? Yes. Here are five theories about what that “something” might be.
The “outside the universe” question gets tricky right off the bat, because first you have to define the universe. One common answer is called the observable universe, and it’s defined by the speed of light. Since we can only see things when the light they emit or reflect reaches us, we can never see farther than the farthest distance light can travel in the time the universe has existed. That means the observable universe keeps getting bigger, but it is finite – the amount is sometimes referred to as the Hubble Volume, after the telescope that has given us our most distant views of the universe. We’ll never be able to see beyond that boundary, so for all intents and purposes, it’s the only universe we’ll ever interact with.
Beyond the Hubble Volume. We know with some certainty that there’s “more universe” out there beyond that boundary, though. Astronomers think space might be infinite, with “stuff” (energy, galaxies, etc.) distributed pretty much the same as it is in the observable universe. If it is, that has some seriously weird implications for what lies out there. Beyond the Hubble Volume you won’t just find more, different planets. You will eventually find every possible thing. In fact, cosmologists think that if you go far enough, you will find another Hubble Volume that is perfectly identical to ours. There’s another version of you out there mirroring your every action 10 to the 10^188 meters away. That may seem unlikely, but then, infinity is awfully infinite.
Dark Flow. In 2008, astronomers discovered something very strange and unexpected – galactic clusters were all streaming in the same direction at immense speed, over two million miles per hour. New observations in 2010 confirmed this phenomenon, known as Dark Flow. The movement defies all predictions about the distribution of mass throughout the universe after the Big Bang. One possible cause: massive structures outside the Hubble Volume exerting gravitational influence. This would mean that the structure of the infinite universe beyond our view is not uniform. As for the structures themselves, they could be literally anything, from aggregations of matter and energy on scales we can barely imagine to bizarre warps funneling gravitational forces from other universes.
Infinite Bubbles. Talking about things outside the Hubble Volume might be a bit of a cheat, since it’s still really the same universe, just a part of it we can’t see. It would have all the same physical laws and constants. In another version of the story, the post-Big Bang expansion of the universe caused “bubbles” to form in the structure of space. Each bubble is an area that stopped stretching along with the rest of space and formed its own universe, with its own laws. In this scenario, space is infinite, and each bubble is also infinite (because you can store an infinite number of infinities inside a single infinity). Even if you could somehow breach the boundary of our bubble, the space in between the bubbles is still expanding, so you’d never get to the next bubble no matter how fast you went.
Black Hole Spawning. A theory proposed by physicist Lee Smolin, known as the fecund universes theory, suggests that every black hole in our universe causes the formation of a new universe. Each universe will have slightly different physical laws than the forerunner universe. In this way, Smolin suggests a sort of natural selection for universes, as laws that lead to the frequent formation of black holes lead to the creation of more universes, while non-black hole forming universes “die out.” This theory has since been discounted (by Smolin himself and others).
Many Parallel Universes. There are tons of theories about parallel universes, but the most accepted one these days involves an evolution of the ideas of string theory to involve membranes that vibrate in other dimensions. It’s beyond the scope of this article to get too detailed about string or membrane theory, but the upshot of the whole thing is that these rippling membranes in the 11th dimension are whole other universes, and when the ripples slam into each other they form a new universe. The effects of the rippling motion help explain the observed distribution of matter in our universe. One of the weirdest elements of the theory is the idea that all the gravity we experience in our universe is actually leaking into it from another universe in another dimension (which explains why gravity here seems so weak compared to the other fundamental forces).
Thanks, science, just…push ALL my buttons, why don’t you.
A photograph of the Saturn and its rings, taken by the Cassini spacecraft from inside the planet’s shadow. Earth is visible in the upper right as a small dot between rings.
This is my absolute favorite Cassini image, and it has been my default desktop background for the last four years or so.
And around that north pole is a jet stream that is HEXAGONAL. 4 earths can fit within it- that’s how huge it is.
A GIANT HEX OF STREAMING AIR.
SCIENCE. Fucking awesome.
It is NEVER a bad time for Cassini porn on my dash <3
Via my main man Phil Plait, of Bad Astronomy fame:
“Among our greatest assets are human curiosity and our hard-won ability to reason things out. Sharing what comes out of these is a true pleasure.
The most amazing things about the Universe are that we are a part of it, and that we can understand it at all.”
This may well be the greatest Thanksgiving post I’ve seen all day.
The Red Spider (NGC 6537), a planetary nebula surrounding a white dwarf star in Sagittarius.
Saturn in Blue and Gold
Why is Saturn partly blue? The above picture of Saturn approximates what a human would see if hovering close to the giant ringed world. The above picture was taken in mid-March by the robot Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn. Here Saturn’s majestic rings appear directly only as a thin vertical line. The rings show their complex structure in the dark shadows they create on the image left. Saturn’s fountain moon Enceladus, only about 500 kilometers across, is seen as the bump in the plane of the rings. The northern hemisphere of Saturn can appear partly blue for the same reason that Earth’s skies can appear blue — molecules in the cloudless portions of both planet’s atmospheres are better at scattering blue light than red. When looking deep into Saturn’s clouds, however, the natural gold hue of Saturn’s clouds becomes dominant. It is not known why southern Saturn does not show the same blue hue — one hypothesis holds that clouds are higher there. It is also not known why Saturn’s clouds are colored gold.
No better way to start the day than with some Cassini Porn on my dash. It’s been far too long.
Jupiter may have “saved Earth from a devastating cosmic collision” on Monday when it took a hit from what may have been a massive asteroid, resulting in a 100-mile-wide fireball large enough to be caught on film from Earth.
This is the third time since 2009 observers have seen an impact flash on Jupiter’s surface, and some astronomers think the big planet’s gravitational pull serves as a sort of “cosmic shield” for the inner rings of planets — including Earth — “sweeping up incoming objects that would have a deadlier effect” if they were to crash into us. A few scientists think that without Jupiter’s protection, life on Earth wouldn’t have been able to develop.
Watch the collision on Jupiter
Oh whoa another Jupiter collision like Shoemaker-Levy 9!
Man I cannot WAAAAAAAIT until Juno finally makes it to the Jovian System. Cassini: Jupiter, guys. It’s going to be rad.
Hubble has spotted an ancient galaxy that shouldn’t exist
This galaxy is so large, so fully-formed, astronomers say it shouldn’t exist at all. It’s called a “grand-design” spiral galaxy, and unlike most galaxies of its kind, this one is old. Like, really, really old. According to a new study conducted by researchers using NASA’s Hubble Telescope, it dates back roughly 10.7-billion years — and that makes it the most ancient spiral galaxy we’ve ever discovered.
“The vast majority of old galaxies look like train wrecks,” said UCLA astrophysicist Alice Shapley in a press release. “Our first thought was, why is this one so different, and so beautiful?”
Read more: here
“…unlike most galaxies of its kind, this one is old. Like, really, really old.”
Look at how gorgeous it is.
BURN WITH ME…
Spacedirt strewn from the Pleiades to Aldebaran.
(NGC-7635, commonly known as the Bubble Nebula, in the constellation Casseiopeia)
Wheatley, is that you?
This is NGC-7129, a “stellar nursery” in the constellation Cepheus. The photos don’t do the scale here justice—this dusty star-forming region is actually something to the effect of 40 light years across.