Archive for the Outer Space Category

It’s possible to travel to the edge of the universe in a human lifetime

Posted in Math & Physics, Outer Space on September 24, 2009 by Gustav

According to calculations, most of the way to the very edge of the universe could be traveled in a human lifetime.

All you need is a rocket capable of accelerating at 9 metres per second per second. You would be traveling at speeds close to the speed of light, so time would be slower for you due to relativity.

Because the universe is expanding, and because that expansion is accelerating, the expansion horizon could never be reached, but you could get 99 percent of the way in 50 years.

Or, as it turns out, in even less time:

[Juliana Kwan at the University of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia] and her colleagues have found the trip could take even less time.

Based on the latest cosmological values for dark energy and other parameters, they showed an astronaut could make the journey in only 30 years.

But their calculations also suggest that returning home presents its own challenges. Even slight uncertainties in the strength of dark energy or the total density of matter in the universe could cause a spacecraft to miss Earth by millions of light years.

Beginning the deceleration just a second too late could cause you to overshoot the Milky Way, Kwan says. “You would effectively be lost in space.” [New Scientist]

Not that it matters. Even if you made it back, 70 billion years would have passed on Earth and nothing you remember would remain- even the Sun would be gone.


A bunch of things: music, evolution, space-travel, astronomy and astronomy

Posted in Images & Videos, Outer Space, The Ancient World on September 10, 2009 by Gustav

Music: They Might Be Giants have released a new album, Here Comes Science. Here’s a taste:

Evolution: “Ancient skeletons discovered in Georgia Threaten to overturn the theory of human evolution“, according to the headline-writers of the Daily Mail. While the headline is atrocious, the article itself isn’t half bad, it’s about a recent archeological discovery that suggests our ancestors left Africa much earlier than previously thought.

Space-travel: Lawrence Krauss over at The X-change Files argues that any human sent to Mars should be on a one-way trip. It would be much easier to do it that way and apparently there’s a lot of astronauts who would go for it.

Astronomy: Martin Pugh’s image of the Horsehead Nebula won the grand prize of the 2009 Royal Observatory Greenwich’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition. Here it is:

Horsehead Nebula

io9 has a gallery of all the winners.

More astronomy: Hubble is up-and-running again after some downtime for repairs and the images it’s returning are simply gorgeous:

Celestial Butterfly

The picture above is of Nebula NGC 6302, a dying star ejecting vast clouds of gas light.years across. 80beats have a gallery of some of the returned photos.

Parasitic black holes may explain cosmic flashes

Posted in Math & Physics, Outer Space on August 17, 2009 by Gustav

Gamma-ray bursts are very powerful and very bright events. They release in a momentary flash of gamma-rays and X-rays more energy than the sun does in its entire lifetime.

(Luckily, their are no sources of these bursts in our galaxy, otherwise we would be toast).

Gamma-ray bursts have been thought to occur because of massive dying stars collapsing into a black hole and bursting with radiation in the process. However, the bursts also have an afterglow of X-ray radiation that this theory can’t explain.

A new theory can. According to the new theory, a gamma-ray burst is the result of a black hole burrowing into a star and eating it from the inside like a gigantic light-devouring parasite.

It remains to be seen if the new theory can also account for other aspects of gamma-ray bursts. Did anyone say paradigm shift?

Via New Scientist.

“Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is”

Posted in Images & Videos, Math & Physics, Outer Space on August 14, 2009 by Gustav

The Ultra Deep Field in 3D ” from YouTube-user tdarnell show off some of the vastness and beauty of the universe:

Simply gorgeous.

Via Pharyngula.

These are the moonbots that are racing for outer space, who will win $20 million?

Posted in Outer Space, Robots & Cyborgs, Technology Attacks! on August 11, 2009 by Gustav

The Google Lunar X Prize is a contest that offers $20 million to the first private enterprise to “safely land a robot on the surface of the Moon, travel 500 meters over the lunar surface, and send images and data back to the Earth”, before the end of 2012. Quoting New Scientist:

Like the Ansari X Prize for sending a human into space, the lunar contest is meant to stimulate commercial space exploration.


The Google Lunar X Prize teams span more than 12 countries on three continents. They’re led by students, engineers, CEOs and entrepreneurs. Each has different strategies for flying to the moon, driving around once they get there and paying for it all.

The robots trying to get to the moon range includes traditional rovers on wheels, a less traditional rover in wheels on spider-legs, untraditional hopping robots and an anti-traditional surface-skidding rocket-robot that will set of fireworks in celebration of the Year of the Dragon when it lands.

What, no giant, bipedal, metal-claw handed, death-ray shooting robots? One of those would totally win!

New Scientist has a gallery of the moonbots.

Galaxies colliding is a beautiful sight

Posted in Images & Videos, Math & Physics, Outer Space on August 8, 2009 by Gustav

Using some seriously complicated math and physics, the merging of two spiral galaxies has been simulated with striking detail. The result is simply gorgeous:

This is how it looks inside an exploding star

Posted in Images & Videos, Math & Physics, Outer Space on August 2, 2009 by Gustav

Using the IBM Blue Gene/P supercomputer, physicists at the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago has simulated the extreme physics that goes on inside a supernova. The resulting images are quite beautiful, here’s one:



This image is a snapshot of a moment shortly after detonation of a type Ia supernova. The energy of the blast is equivalent to 1, 027  hydrogen bombs of 100 megaton each.

Via New Scientist.