Thursday, May 24, 2018

Photo of the Week

 This week for Photo of the Week, we would like to feature an amazing shot of the Milky Way with the Northern Lights adorning the background. Taken in Finland in subzero temperatures by talented photographer Petri Kangasniemi, this amazing photo took a patient amount of waiting to capture, after many cloudy skies. But in the end, the skies opened up, revealing the majestic Milky Way over the cold lands of Scandinavia.

 For more fantastic photos, be sure to check out Kangasniemi's Instagram @petrigraphy at

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

NASA's New Exoplanet Telescope Captures Its 1st Photo to Celebrate Moon Flyby

 NASA's newly launched Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has made a close flyby with the moon, using the celestial body to make a 'gravity assist' manoeuvre to help the probe reach its final orbit. TESS will be used to monitor stars' brightness, searching for tiny dips that could be signs of alien planets crossing the stars' faces.
 TESS snapped its first image with one of its scientific cameras on April 26. This photo centred on the southern constellation Centaurus and showed over 200,000 stars.
 "The edge of the Coalsack Nebula is in the right upper corner, and the bright star Beta Centauri is visible at the lower left edge," NASA officials wrote in a statement. "TESS is expected to cover more than 400 times as much sky as shown in this image with its four cameras during its initial two-year search for exoplanets. A science-quality image, also referred to as a 'first light' image, is expected to be released in June."

Read more about this fascinating story at:
Or read the official statement at:

Monday, May 21, 2018

RoboFly Prepares for Take-off!

Photo: University of Washington

Taking inspiration from the Harvard RoboBee microbot design, RoboFly is comparable to the size of a bumblebee with a weight of only 190 milligrams (nearly the weight of a toothpick). When an infrared laser is directed at a tiny photovoltaic cell, 250 mW of power allows the robotic insect to take flight.

Powering small-scale robots has been a fundamental problem in development. To combat this issue, most tiny robots rely on tethers; RoboFly instead explores the use of lasers. Due to the innovative problem-solving of roboticists from the University of Washington, in Seattle, RoboFly is now the first insect-sized robot to perform untethered flight at its small scale.

Currently, the UW team has achieved a range of control of up to 1.23m indoors. However, future developments are looking into increasing this range through the implementation of more powerful lasers. Robofly developers are also looking into the use of lasers that track and indefinitely power the continuous flight of the microbot.


This Week in Science History: Halley’s Comet

On May 19, 1910, the Earth passed through the tail of Halley's Comet. This is one of the closest contacts between the Earth and any comet in recorded history. As a result of expansive newspaper coverage, the pass of the comet was anticipated by the public. Aside from the facts, the event was anticipated with dire predictions and seen as a sign of “impending doom”. Some of the fears relating to the comet’s passing included that the comet’s tail contained poisonous gas and that there would be a celestial collision. Halley’s comet was named for the British astronomer Edmond Halley who was the first to determine its orbit and accurately predict its return to the Earth's night sky. He published "A Synopsis of the Astronomy of Comets" in 1705, which cataloged 24 comets that appeared near Earth between 1337 and 1698. His observations based off of historical records led Halley to propose that the comet may continue to visit Earth. The comet appeared in 1531, 1607 and 1682 and as of such, Halley suggested the same comet could return in 1758. Halley died in 1742 before the comet returned.

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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Whirlpool Galaxy Gives Insight into Black Hole Behaviour

Recently, a team of researchers led by Case Western Reserve University astronomers have found a brand-new cloud of ionized gas associated with the Whirlpool Galaxy, also known as Messier 51a, M51a and NGC 5194.

The cloud is about 26 million light-years away, and may give insight into the behavior of a supermassive black hole and how it consumes and ‘recycles’ hydrogen gas.

The cloud itself is around 81,500 by 24,460 light-years in size and is located 104,370 light-years north of Whirlpool Galaxy’s center. It was seen using the Burrell Schmidt Telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory.

Quote from Professor Chris Mihos, Case Western Reserve University, “The discovery’s role in more clearly understanding how galaxies eject and ‘recycle’ their gas and stars will be determined in the coming years as more researchers dig into information that had been there all along — even if unseen until now.”

Read more about this fascinating story at:

Friday, May 18, 2018

Photo of the Week

 This week for Photo of the Week, we would like to feature a stunning photo of the Milky Way over Glacier National Park in Montana. Taken last summer over Lake McDonald, this lovely composition is unique in that not only does it feature the faint Milky Way, but it is also accompanied with the shining lights of the Northern Lights.

 For more fantastic photos, be sure to check out Diana Robinson on Flickr at:

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Astronomers Spot Fastest-Growing Black Hole Ever Found

 Astronomers using recently released data from the European Space Agency's Gaia spacecraft have discovered the fastest-growing black hole ever found. At the time, the black hole was seen devouring a mass equivalent to Earth's sun every two days.
 The brightly shining object was identified as a black hole. This black hole appeared to have a mass of about 20 billions suns when light was released and was found to be growing by 1 percent every million years.
 In the end though, the black hole is far enough away that it likely released its light over 12 billion years ago. Although the light began in ultraviolet light and x-rays, this light has shifted into the near-infrared during its long journey to Earth. This light was detected by researchers using the SkyMapper telescope at the Australian National University. They then used data collected by Gaia to confirm that the wavelengths being detected were truly the composition of a black hole.
 "This black hole is growing so rapidly that it's shining thousands of times more brightly than an entire galaxy, due to all the gases it sucks in daily that cause lots of friction and heat," said Christian Wolf, an astronomer at the Australian National University and first author on the new research.

Read more about this fascinating story at:
Or read the full study at: