Happy Black Hole Week!

Image (Credit): NGC 5283, as captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, with its active galactic nucleus, which is at the heart of a galaxy where a supermassive black hole exists. (NASA, ESA, A. Barth (University of California – Irvine), and M. Revalski (STScI); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Yes, I know. This is too many celebrations over an eight-day period, starting with Astronomy Day last Saturday. But who cannot be excited by Black Hole Week?

If you missed the various NASA-sponsored events over the past week, you can find them here.

Check out the presentation of the largest black holes from Monday’s presentation. It puts it all into very scary perspective.

And you can learn plenty more about black holes by visiting this NASA page.

Space Quote: Russia Has Been a Good Space Partner, China Not so Much

Image (Credit): The Russian Segment of the International Space Station (ISS) (http://www.russianspaceweb.com/)

“We built the International Space Station with the Russians. What a contrast, with the Chinese government,…They are secretive, they are non-transparent. They will not share when Earth is threatened by one of their tumbling rockets coming back in, they will not share their trajectories, so it’s a huge difference in the way we approach our civilian space program with the Russians visa vie the Chinese.”

-Statement by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson during a recent interview with the Canadian CTV ‘s  Power Play. Of course, NASA has been prohibited from coordinating with China on space issues since 2011, so it should be no surprise that the Chinese have gone their own way.

A Day in Astronomy: The Hubble Space Telescope is Launched

Image (Credit): The Hubble Space Telescope orbits with Earth in the background. (NASA)

On this day in 1990, NASA’s Space Shuttle Discovery launched the Hubble Space Telescope. We do not think of the shuttles anymore as we discuss reusable rockets, but the shuttles were the first reusable spacecraft-launching vehicles.

After some initial problems, the Hubble became a critical component in the exploration of the universe. Some of the telescope’s amazing images are shown below.

It is still going strong, even though its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), is the more powerful of the two. Launched in late 2021, the JWST has expanded on some of Hubble’s earlier work. The pair are a powerful team.

Here are a few interesting facts about Hubble:

  • Hubble has made more than 1.5 million observations since its mission began in 1990.
  • Astronomers using Hubble data have published more than 19,000 scientific papers, making it one of the most productive scientific instruments ever built. Those papers have been cited in other papers over 1.1 million times.
  • Hubble has no thrusters. To change angles, it uses Newton’s third law by spinning its wheels in the opposite direction. It turns at about the speed of a minute hand on a clock, taking 15 minutes to turn 90 degrees.
  • Hubble has peered back into the very distant past, to locations more than 13.4 billion light-years from Earth.
  • Hubble’s mirror is about 7.9 feet (2.4 m) across. It was so finely polished that if you scaled it to be the diameter of the Earth, you would not find a bump more than 6 inches (15 cm) tall.
Image (Credit): The Carina Nebula. (NASA, ESA, N. Smith (University of California, Berkeley), and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Image (Credit): NGC 3603. (NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration)
Image (Credit): The Horsehead Nebula, otherwise known as Barnard 33. (NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI))

Space Stories: Merging Galaxies, Anniversary for TESS, and Helicopter Flights on Mars

Image (Credit): Arp 220 as captured by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. (NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Alyssa Pagan)

Here are some recent stories of interest.

PetaPixel:Webb Captures Star-Forming Galactic Merger Brighter Than 1 Trillion Suns’”

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has captured a stunning “smash-up” of two spiral galaxies. Collectively called Arp 220, the collision of the pair of galaxies has facilitated massive star formation. Arp 220 is located within the constellation Serpens, about 250 million light-years from Earth. Arp 220 gets its namesake because it is the 220th object in Hallton Art’s Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies. Arp 220 is “peculiar” because it’s an ultra-luminous infrared galaxy (ULIRG), and the nearest ULIRG to Earth.

Phys.org:NASA’s TESS Celebrates Fifth Year Scanning the Sky for New Worlds’”

Now in its fifth year in space, NASA’s TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) remains a rousing success. TESS’s cameras have mapped more than 93% of the entire sky, discovered 329 new worlds and thousands more candidates, and provided new insights into a wide array of cosmic phenomena, from stellar pulsations and exploding stars to supermassive black holes.

NASA:NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Completes 50th Flight’”

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter has completed its 50th flight on Mars. The first aircraft on another world reached the half-century mark on April 13, traveling over 1,057.09 feet (322.2 meters) in 145.7 seconds. The helicopter also achieved a new altitude record of 59 feet (18 meters) before alighting near the half-mile-wide (800-meter-wide) “Belva Crater.”

Space Stories: Sagan as Scripture, Chinese Lunar Plans, and Outer Space in NYC

Credit: Ballantine Books

Here are some recent stories of interest.

Gizmodo.com: “New NASA Official Took Her Oath of Office on Carl Sagan’s ‘Pale Blue Dot’”

When Dr. Makenzie Lystrup was sworn in as the new director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center last week, she didn’t take her oath of office on the Bible or the U.S. Constitution, but rather on a tome revered by space enthusiasts everywhere: Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot. The book, published in 1994, is named after an iconic image of Earth, snapped by the Voyager I probe, that depicts the planet as a small speck smothered by the emptiness of space. That photo inspired astronomer Carl Sagan to write: “Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.” For many, the book serves as a reminder of humanity’s place in the universe and the need to preserve our home planet, which makes it similar to holy scripture for a newly appointed NASA director.

Time: “In Five Years, China Will Start Building a Lunar Base With Bricks Made From Moon Soil

China plans to start building a lunar base in about five years, kicking off with bricks made of moon soil, according to scientists with ties to the project, the South China Morning Post reported. Ding Lieyun, a top scientist at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, told local media that the first brick would be made from moon soil during the Chang’e 8 mission around 2028.

AFAR: “NASA Teams With NYC Museum on New Immersive Outer Space Exhibit

With its blazing city lights, New York is one of the worst places to go stargazing. But space aficionados will want to visit lower Manhattan this spring—dark skies or not—thanks to a new digital art exhibit created with participation from NASA and CNES (the French space agency) that opened April 7 at Hall des Lumières, the city’s first permanent immersive art center. An earlier iteration of this show premiered at Hall des Lumières’ sister museum in Paris, Atelier des Lumières, in 2021. Destination Cosmos: The Immersive Space Experiencewill run for eight weeks through June 4, 2023, at Hall des Lumières, which opened in 2022 in the former Emigrant Savings Bank across from City Hall.