Thursday, January 31, 2019

Welcome to the ABYSS - (May 26, 2019 Update)


A tiny region of space in the Fornax constellation
via an imaging technique known as ABYSS.
(Click to  enlarge.)

"A few years ago, the Hubble Space Telescope did something amazing: over the course of 841 orbits and hundreds of exposures, it imaged a tiny region of space in the constellation of Fornax, peeling back the layers of time by 13 billion years, to just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.

It's called the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field 2014 (HUDF), and it's one of the most breathtaking mosaics the telescope has produced. In it, around 10,000 galaxies gleam - a feast for astronomers exploring the early Universe.

Now a team of astronomers has made the image even better. Over the course of three years, scientists at the Instituto de Astrof√≠sica de Canarias (IAC) developed and applied an image processing technique designed to draw out the unseen light in the HUDF.

They called this complex technique ABYSS, and with it they have recovered the dim light from the outer edges of the largest galaxies in the image."

- Image and quote from the January 25th, 2019  Science Alert article by Michelle Starr: Astronomers Have Made a Breathtaking Image Staring Deeper Into Space Than Ever Before. (Hat-tip to Graham Hancock.)

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(Update, May 26, 2019)

Oddly enough, I never did make this a formal posting... as if I was unconsciously waiting for the precise moment to finish it. And, I guess that moment is now.

As it worked out, I was recently looking through an old stargazing book when I found that the constellation of Fornax was originally named (by the French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaillele Fourneau Chymique (the Chemical Furnace), and graphically described as an alembic - an alchemical still - in his early catalogue. Of course, had I had the time to really read the Wiki entry, I would have known this... in other words I didn't do my homework! Below is an illustration of the original constellation, a portion of a graphic found in the Wiki article.


le Fourneau Chymique (the Chemical Furnace)

Cool! A tribute to alchemy... high up in the starry, starry sky.

The article also tells us that Chinese astronomers located Fornax in the area of the firmament they referred to as the White Tiger of the West. They referred to the constellation itself as the "heaven furnace" constellation.

And, this is all very interesting... especially as modern astronomers have located 6 star-systems which have planets in Fornax... and it makes this blogger wonder what Lacaille and his predecessors may have intuited was cooking up there in the Heavenly Alembic they both created and described.


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The First Plant on the Moon

A cotton plant sprout on the "dark side" of the moon.

"Seeds Just Sprouted On The Moon For The First Time In History

In a development that will likely have huge implications for the future of space travel, China’s Chang’e 4 lunar lander successfully managed to plant and sprout cotton seeds on the Moon. This of course marks the first time that a plant has ever grown on the Moon, with the seeds naturally sprouting in a specially designed and concealed container. Incidentally, the Chang’e 4 lander first touched down on the far side of the Moon earlier this month, an impressive achievement in and of itself."

In making the announcement Tuesday, Chinese researchers released pictures from the probe showing the tiny plant growing in a small pot inside the spacecraft, hundreds of thousands of kilometers away from the Earth."

-  Excerpt from a Yahoo article found today which has since disappeared (?), but for other news sources see: The Daily Mail's: One giant leaf for mankind!, the BBC's China's Moon mission sees first seeds sprout, Space.com's Cotton Seed Sprouts on the Moon's Far Side in Historic First by China's Chang'e 4, or CNN's China might just have grown the first plant ever on the moon.

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Chang'e, the Moon Goddess.

Well, thus far, I haven't been able to say that 2019 has kicked off too encouragingly... that is, until I found the above article this morning which actually brought a smile to my grim and half-conscious face. But then, I sort of love everything about China's recent moon mission, because it ties in so enchantingly with Chinese mythology and folklore.

The lunar mission's name Chang'e is the name of their Moon Goddess (above), the immortal maiden who lives on the moon. The lunar rover, on the other hand, is named Yotu, the Jade Rabbit who lives on the moon as a companion to Chang'e, mixing her an elixir of mortality (inset right, sourced here) under an osmanthus tree; a symbol of good luck to humans on earth. As it stands, while we interpret the markings on the moon to represent a "Man," the Chinese see those same markings as a rabbit, the Rabbit on the Moon.

I note, in an earlier article about the mission, Chinese scientists had intended to send some silkworm eggs. I don't know how I feel about that. In ways, plants and silkmoths alone on the moon seems eerily romantic. in other ways it seems cruel.

BTW, apparently, in 2013, NASA had plans for Moon plants (see here).