Mapping Galaxies


Oh, that’s a 600-billion-billion-kilometre-wide chunk of the universe – or at least a simulation of it.

Astronomers working on the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) are attempting to map galaxies and hydrogen gas clouds in the universe by looking for the light of super-bright quasars, luminous objects that are thought to be powered by black holes devouring matter. Galaxies and gas clouds leave an imprint on this quasar light as it passes through them, which can be used to deduce their positions.

To make sense of these imprints, the BOSS team create simulations of quasar light passing though cosmos-spanning gas clouds and compare them with the real thing. The picture above shows a simulation of a cube of the universe 65 million light years across. The red blobs are clusters of galaxies, while the blue filaments show regions of low-density filled with clouds of gas.

Source: New Scientist


Photo – Venus In Transit

Bacoli, near Naples, Italy
6 June 2013
Image: ©Adam Allegro

From his blog catchthejiffy – “Here are the first photos (that I have seen anyways) from Europe of Venus transiting the sun. Conditions were very good for shooting this morning, and I had about a 4 minute window before clouds completely covered the sun. I was shooting with a Nikon D800, 28-300mm lens, Slik Pro tripod, and remote release, and all photos were taken from the Bacoli sea wall just outside of Naples, Italy. No filters were even necessary.”

PHOTOS: The Historic Transit of Venus


Source: Discovery News

Space Spots Somma-Vesuvius

This was the view out the International Space Station’s cupola on Jan. 1, 2013, around 09:37 UTC, looking nearly straight down the gullet of Italy’s Mt. Vesuvius.


The. World’s. Most. Dangerous. Volcano.

Vesuvius (“Vesuvio” in Italian) is probably not only the most famous, but also one, if not the most dangerous volcano on Earth. The first eyewitness account of a volcanic eruption that has been preserved has come to us from Vesuvius: In 79 AD, after a century-long slumber, the volcano woke up with terrifying power in an eruption that buried several Roman towns like Pompeii and Herculaneum under several meters of ash. Today, parts of these cities have been excavated and are among the most remarkable archaeological sites of the world, allowing us to have an excellent view on Roman life and culture, where time and life had been frozen in a moment.

Geologically, Mt. Vesuvius, or more correctly the Somma-Vesuvius complex, is about 400,000 years old, as dating of lava sampled drilled from over 1,300 m depth have shown. Present-day Vesuvius is a medium-sized typical stratovolcano volcano reaching a height of 1,281 m a.s.l. It comprises the older volcano, the Somma, whose summit collapsed (likely during the 79 AD eruption), creating a caldera, and the younger volcano, Vesuvius, which since then has re-grown inside this caldera and formed a new cone. Although in a dormant phase at present, Vesuvius is an extremely active volcano and particular for its unusually varied style of activity: it ranges from Hawaiian-style emission of very liquid lava, extreme lava fountains, lava lakes and lava flows, over Strombolian and Vulcanian eruptions to violently explosive, Plinian eruptions that produce large pyroclastic flows.

When one thinks about Vesuvius volcano today, one aspect is eminent: due to the dense population surrounding it, and ever climbing higher and higher up on its slopes, it is certainly among Earth’s most dangerous volcanoes. It is estimated that ore than 500,000 people live in the zone immediately threatened by a future eruption. When this happens is not known; it is possible that Vesuvius has entered into one of its typically century-long lasting phases of dormancy, but volcanoes can be unpredictable. The situation in the Gulf of Naples is further complicated by the presence of another highly active, and potentially as dangerous volcano: the Campi Flegrei, located immediately under a large part of the modern city of Naples.

Europe’s Ticking Time Bomb

Image: NASA via Cmdr Chris Hatfield

What A View! What A Fool!


Felix Baumgartner is more than halfway toward his goal of setting a world record for the highest jump. According to a spokesperson, the skydiving daredevil took a practice jump of 13.6 miles over New Mexico from a pressurized capsule carried by a hot air balloon.


A world record? a. At 13.6 miles isn’t he in space and therefore outside of the American flight zone? B. How do we know that a the Gortwerhubbots from Gurshilop 7 don’t bungee from the top of a small, local waterfall which is the equivalent of an Earthling leaping from the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro? We don’t know!