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Our Galaxy Isn’t As Big As You Think It Is

Galaxy size comparison chart (Rhys Taylor)

Galaxy size comparison chart (Rhys Taylor)

Think the Milky Way is a big place? Think again — check out this graphic by Arecibo astrophysicist Rhys Taylor, which neatly illustrates the relative sizes of 25 randomly-selected galaxies using images made from NASA and ESA observation missions. It even includes a rendering of our own remarkably mundane galaxy at the center for comparison.

(Warning: this chart may adversely affect any feelings of galactic superiority you may have once held dear.)

Read the rest of this article here.

Earth-Sized Alien Planet Found Around the Stars Next Door

Artist’s impression of a planet discovered orbiting Alpha Centauri B, a member of the triple star system that is the closest to Earth. Our Sun is visible to the upper right. (ESO/L. Calçada)

These days it seems exoplanets are being discovered nearly every week, with “super-Earths”, “hot Jupiters” and “cold Neptunes” being identified (or at least announced as solid candidates) within star systems all around our neck of the galaxy. To top it all off, today the European Southern Observatory announced that an Earth-mass world has now been found orbiting Alpha Centauri B — quite literally the “star next door.”

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From the LITD Archives – VLT: A Space Opera

Can’t see the movie below? Watch on YouTube here.

Here’s an enchanting video by the European Southern Observatory highlighting the discoveries of their Very Large Telescope (VLT) array, high in the mountains of the Atacama Desert in Chile. The Atacama is the driest place on Earth, far from the light pollution of major cities, and thus provides the clearest, darkest skies allowing these massive telescopes to peer deep into the universe. The discoveries they have made have been nothing short of groundbreaking.

The skies over the ESO sites in Chile are so dark that on a clear moonless night it is possible to see your shadow cast by the light of the Milky Way alone.

The images are beautiful, the music – James Newton Howard’s score from Lady in the Water – is beautiful, even the telescopes themselves are beautiful, with their futuristic, spartan geometries and perfectly engineered forms. They look like another generation’s science fiction but they’re very much science fact, for this generation and hopefully many more to come.

Credit: ESO/Hubblecast

Also check out ESO’s recent video from their VISTA telescope, zooming into the Sculptor Galaxy…read more on Universe Today.

Originally posted on June 19, 2010.

VLT: A Space Opera

Here’s an enchanting video by the European Southern Observatory highlighting the discoveries of their Very Large Telescope (VLT) array, high in the mountains of the Atacama Desert in Chile. The Atacama is the driest place on Earth, far from the light pollution of major cities, and thus provides the clearest, darkest skies allowing these massive telescopes to peer deep into the universe. The discoveries they have made have been nothing short of groundbreaking.

The skies over the ESO sites in Chile are so dark that on a clear moonless night it is possible to see your shadow cast by the light of the Milky Way alone.

The images are beautiful, the music – James Newton Howard’s score from Lady in the Water – is beautiful, even the telescopes themselves are beautiful, with their futuristic, spartan geometries and perfectly engineered forms. They look like another generation’s science fiction but they’re very much science fact, for this generation and hopefully many more to come.

Credit: ESO/Hubblecast

Can’t see the movie above? Watch on YouTube here. Also check out ESO’s recent video from their VISTA telescope, zooming into the Sculptor Galaxy…read more on Universe Today.

Billions and Billions

Axel Mellinger's All-Sky Milky Way Panorama 2.0

Axel Mellinger's All-Sky Panorama

Talk about lights in the dark!

The image above is a low-res version of what amounts to 22 months of dedicated work by Central Michigan University astronomer Axel Mellinger, traveling across the United States and South Africa and assembling over 3,000 individual images to create the most extensive and detailed – and zoomable – portrait of our Milky Way galaxy as seen from our vantage point here on Earth.

Click the image to visit his site; click here to see the zoomable high-res version. Absolutely incredible.

“This panorama image shows stars 1000 times fainter than the human eye can see, as well as hundreds of galaxies, star clusters and nebulae.”    – Axel Mellinger

Due to the huge amount of processing needed to adjust the photos for color, distortion and ambient lighting differences to make a single seamless and accurate image, a dedicated processing pipeline had to be created. Mellinger used a Linux PC with an Intel Core2 Quad (Q9400) CPU and 16 GB of RAM to process the final image. He intends to make the full-resolution 648-megapixel version available to planetariums.

Read the official press release here.

Image © 2009 Axel Mellinger

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