All the way down into a black hole

There’s been just a little excitement about the latest findings of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) not the least of which is that they’ve actually got a picture of a black hole. And, to quote my wife, “When I check Facebook and all of my theatre friends are posting about black holes I know it’s an exciting day in science.”

Now, while I work on black holes, the photons that I use to study them are carry about a million times more energy per photon than the ~mm radio photons that are used by the EHT. Even so, let’s try to break out what’s cool and exciting about this new result.

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2018 in Review, Travel Log

As you probably know, the life of an astronomer is usually one filled with travel. If you’re an optical astronomer (I’m not), then this also includes jetting off around the globe to observe at a variety of observatories that are usually located in the middle of nowhere. This year was no different for me, but I think it’s worth looking back at the travel that came about this year (if for no other reason than for me to remember all of the places I’ve been and why I feel tired all of the time).

This draft has been hiding in my “To finish” folder since mid-December, so I’m pushing out Part I here.

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Gravitational Waves and Gamma-ray Bursts

There are (at least) three paths that lead to excitement in the LIGO data, so understanding why all of the scientists all over the world are so excited can be a little confusing. I’m going to try to walk through them (briefly) at the request of a friend.

Just to put this in perspective, nearly everyone who works in any kind of astronomy on the planet is working on this right now, and the nuances of what’s interesting and/or important won’t become clear for another few years.

That being said, no one has ever accused me of not liking to talk (at length) about something that’s interesting (and that I know a little about), so here we go.

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Shooting Jupiter

This enhanced color view of Jupiter’s south pole was created by citizen scientist Gabriel Fiset using data from the JunoCam instrument on NASA’s Juno spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/Juno Image GalleryOkay, this qualifies as an exciting week for me. NuSTAR is pointing at Jupiter at the same time as Juno (which took the amazing image above) is at it’s closest approach to Jupiter (also known as a “perijove”). Part of my job is figuring out how to target objects that move in the sky (Jupiter, the Sun, the Moon, etc), so this week is a bit of a test.

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Solar Eclipse Totality

If you’ve been paying attention this year, you may know that there’s a total Solar eclipse crossing the lower 48 this August. This will be a total solar eclipse, meaning that the Moon will be close enough to the Earth so that it will completely block out the Sun (unlike during an annular eclipse, when the Moon is just a little farther away and only covers most of the solar disk).

This is also the first total eclipse visible from the Lower 48 in the last century.

In one of my meetings this morning someone mentioned that there are a bunch of awesome interactive Google Maps that have been generated to show the track of the eclipse.

Go play, it’s fun.

Water, water, everywhere?

Image of a crater on Ceres from the Dawn mission. Image NASA/JPL.

Water in the shadows, from a new source

This paper is making the rounds today and describes new observations of the Ceres asteroid/dwarf planet (take your pick) located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The Dawn Mission has been orbiting Ceres (the second of two asteroids the mission is visiting) for the last year, staring down at the surface. What it’s found is water literally in the place where the Sun don’t shine.

The paper comes courtesy of Nature Astronomy, which is a newly formed journal from the Nature publishing group. And, in a nice turn of events, it comes along with this video that gives you a nice background in why the result is exciting and what the impact is. This is one of the better press release videos that I’ve seen in the last few years and I hope it’s an indication of a higher level of production quality than we’ve had to go on before.

Unfortunately, the video is a little difficult to embed here, so you’ll have to click through to their site above to check it out. Go watch.