Touching the Cosmos

We held and examined objects that had formed in outer space more than 4 billion years ago, that had clumped together back when the solar system itself was condensing out of dust and gas, and then eons later had blazed through Earth’s atmosphere. While many of the meteorites were not impressive looking, they were fascinating to those present at the Salt Lake Astronomical Society meeting, held May 17 … Continue reading»

Merging Galaxies

They make me think of two chambered nautiluses fighting in a dark sea, these space oddities. Actually, they are galaxies NGC 5426 and NGC 5427 in the Virgo constellation, which gravity has drawn so close together that they are interacting. Instead of nautilus tentacles, they are connected by a bridge of stars and gas, material pulled out from both.I photographed them on the night of May 4-5 at … Continue reading»

A Star Is Born

The computer-graphics movie was spellbinding. Members of the Salt Lake Astronomical Society watched intently as regions of denser material swirled, condensed and slid around, representing events inside a vast molecular cloud in space happening over a period of 250,000 years.“Notice it’s a very random kind of process,” said the speaker, Wayne Sumner. “Things crash together, things fly apart. It’s not linear.” [Wayne Sumner discusses star formation, April 19 … Continue reading»

Photographing the Dragon's Flame

The monster in Messier 87 is even more hideous than we had believed.M87, a giant galaxy in the constellation Virgo, was featured in Nightly News in April 2009. At the time, it was described as harboring a black hole with a mass 2.6 billion times that of the sun. All of a black hole’s mass is compressed into a singularity — a single point. The black hole’s gravity … Continue reading»

Beauty and Drama at 480 Million Light-Years

I set a personal record the morning of April 2: the farthest named object that I have photographed, at an estimated distance of 480 million light-years.From an Emery County site, I made a black-and-white view of Copeland’s Septet, a small and faint group of galaxies in the constellation Leo. This is the best season for galaxy-photography, as many beautiful individuals and clusters of galaxies become visible in spring.My … Continue reading»

The Galaxies that Bloom in the Spring

I set up my telescope at a favorite spot in Emery County on Friday; the finder scope was attached and aimed accurately; the guide scope was firmly in place; I leveled, balanced and aligned the whole contraption. But a few minutes before midnight I noted in my journal, “I’m having a real April Fool of a night — the telescope is on M87 but I’m being tortured by … Continue reading»

The Need to Explore

Former astronaut Capt. Kent Rominger had a not-so-rosy view of America’s crewed space program as it now stands: “The truth is, as a nation we’re in limbo.”Speaking in Clark Planetarium before hundreds, most of them youngsters, Rominger was answering a question from the audience about what will replace the space shuttle. “We really don’t know,” he added. “Up until a year ago there was a program called Constellation,” … Continue reading»

Examining Exoplanet Data

As many of 15 percent of all stars might host Earth-like planets, John Armstrong, assistant professor of physics at Weber State University, Ogden, told members of the Salt Lake Astronomical Society Tuesday evening. By Earth-like, that doesn’t mean all will be in a star’s habitable zone; it means Earth-like in size. But planets that are larger than Earth also may be capable of hosting aquatic life, he said … Continue reading»

Alien Fossils?

A sometimes-harsh scientific debate has erupted over a new claim that alien fossil bacteria have been discovered within meteorites. This is not connected to NASA’s 1996 announcement that microfossils were found in a meteorite from Mars; that assertion remains highly controversial. The latest study was published this month in the Journal of Cosmology, whose editor-in-chief is listed as Rudolph Schild of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass. … Continue reading»

Cosmic Ray Observatory Nearly Ready

The world’s first observatory to detect cosmic rays by radar has begun experimental transmissions in Delta. WF2XHR, the callsign provided by the Federal Communications Commission, is broadcasting at only 2 kilowatts now, but scientists plan to step up the transmitter to 20 kW when more funding is available.About a dozen researchers from the University of Utah Department of Physics & Astronomy, the U. Department of Electrical Engineering, Brookhaven … Continue reading»