Monday, 1 October 2012

Hubble Goes to the eXtreme to Assemble Farthest Ever View of the Universe

Like photographers assembling a portfolio of best shots, astronomers have assembled a new, improved portrait of mankind's deepest-ever view of the universe. Called the eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF, the photo was assembled by combining 10 years of NASA Hubble Space Telescope photographs taken of a patch of sky at the center of the original Hubble Ultra Deep Field.

The XDF is a small fraction of the angular diameter of the full Moon. The Hubble Ultra Deep Field is an image of a small area of space in the constellation Fornax, created using Hubble Space Telescope data from 2003 and 2004.

By collecting faint light over many hours of observation, it revealed thousands of galaxies, both nearby and very distant, making it the deepest image of the universe ever taken at that time.

The new full-color XDF image reaches much fainter galaxies and includes very deep exposures in red light from Hubble's new infrared camera, enabling new studies of the earliest galaxies in the universe. The XDF contains about 5,500 galaxies even within its smaller field of view.

The faintest galaxies are one ten-billionth the brightness of what the human eye can see.

More:  HubbleSite

All systems go for Felix Baumgartner's 23-mile-high freefall toward sound barrier

His blood could boil. His lungs could overinflate. The vessels in his brain could burst. His eyes could hemorrhage.

And, yes, he could break his neck while jumping from a mind-boggling altitude of 23 miles (37 kilometers).

But the risk of a gruesome death has never stopped "Fearless Felix" Baumgartner in all his years of skydiving and skyscraper leaping, and it's not about to now.

Next Monday over New Mexico, he will attempt the highest, fastest free fall in history and try to become the first skydiver to break the sound barrier.

"So many unknowns," Baumgartner says, "but we have solutions to survive."

The 43-year-old former military parachutist from Austria is hoping to reach 690 mph (1,110 kph), or Mach 1, after leaping from his balloon-hoisted capsule over the desert near Roswell.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

The astronomical unit (AU) gets fixed

Earth–Sun distance changes from slippery equation to single number.

149,597,870,700 metres

Without fanfare, astronomers have redefined one of the most important distances in the Solar System. The astronomical unit (au) — the rough distance from the Earth to the Sun — has been transformed from a confusing calculation into a single number. The new standard, adopted in August by unanimous vote at the International Astronomical Union's meeting in Beijing, China, is now 149,597,870,700 metres — no more, no less.

More information: Nature