Archive

Archive for the ‘Guest Posts’ Category

The latest findings on the star-eating black hole

swift star eater


Phil Evans, an X-ray astronomer in England and frequent guest blogger for Geeked On Goddard, sends us this report on some exciting new findings of the NASA Swift observatory.

Back in March this year the Swift satellite detected a massive explosion in space. That in itself is nothing new. Indeed, it’s what Swift was designed to do. But, as I posted back in April, this one was a bit strange. Whereas Gamma Ray Bursts — Swift’s bread-and-butter (how cool, by the way, to be describing the most powerful explosions known in such an off-hand way) — explode and then fade away, this object flared up again, and again and then a fourth time, and even now is a bright source of X-rays.

So what was it? As I noted in that post, just 3 weeks after the event, a consensus has already formed that this was an extremely rare event: a star being torn apart by a black hole. Two papers have today (August 25) been published in the journal Nature, arguing for this interpretation, one of them led by Prof. David Burrows — the head of the X-ray Telescope (XRT) team on the Swift satellite. Here is a University of Leicester press release on the discovery.

The aftermath of such an event has been seen before (occasionally), but only well after the event, where all that can be seen are the last dregs of material being gobbled up: the black hole licking its lips, if you like. With Swift, for the first time, we’ve now seen the process actually starting, the black hole taking its first bite.

And, in doing so, we found something new: the light we saw can’t be explained by the standard models of a star being torn apart by a black hole. Incidentally, the black hole was a few million times more massive than the Sun!

Instead, the process must have resulted in the light coming out along a narrow ‘jet’ of material. Keen followers of Swift will notice that this is also how Gamma Ray Bursts emit their light.

Setting GRBs aside, jets from black holes at the center of a galaxy are a very common phenomenon, seen in Active Galactic Nucleii for example, but we’ve never seen such a jet actually ‘turn on’, until now. This once again highlights how awesome it is to working on Swift. At any moment I could be interrupted by an SMS from the spacecraft. Maybe it will be ‘only’ a huge explosion from the other side of the universe. Or maybe it will be something completely new.

Follow Phil Evans on twitter: @swift_phil


_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

// < ![CDATA[
//
&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;div&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a href=”http://www.w3counter.com&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.w3counter.com”&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;img src=”https://www.w3counter.com/tracker.php?id=39986&#8243; mce_src=”https://www.w3counter.com/tracker.php?id=39986&#8243; style=”border: 0″ mce_style=”border: 0″ alt=”W3Counter” /&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/div&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;


// < ![CDATA[
//

Time-lapse photography of the partial solar eclipse this morning, photographed from England

January 4, 2011 1 comment




Phil Evans, an X-ray astronomer in England and frequent guest blogger for Geeked On Goddard, sends us this report on the partial solar eclipse this morning. The video above consists of 50 still shots taken by Phil over a 15-minute period. The music is Mars, Bringer of War, by Gustav Holst, brought to you in its copyright-free glory by the U.S. Air Force Band.

Being a Brit and an astronomer is often no fun. The clouds know when something interesting is happening, or you’ve bought a new piece of equipment. Almost every lunar eclipse I’ve tried to watch has been clear until the moon was about 30% covered, and then I was clouded out until the moon was about 30% covered on the way out of eclipse.

So it was with extreme pessimism that I began my first working day of 2011 by trudging my way up to the 5th floor of a tall campus buiding, carrying my brand-new Canon EOS 500D (a Christmas present plus my savings!). Sure enough, as the sky began to glow, two large, banks of cloud were illuminated near the horizon. Typical!

Or not.

Actually, there were two small, sun-size gaps: one between the horizon and the first bank, and one between the two banks. As the Sun rose (surprisingly quickly) we were treated to a fantastic view of the crescent Sun above the trees, distorted by the atmosphere, and actually accentuated by the clouds. They added depth, colour and an extra sense of anticipation as the Sun, rather than baring all, made use of the available cover to dance suggestively, keeping us on the edge of our seats.

108 photos later and the cloud had taken over. But was it worth the climb up 5 floors at 8 a.m.? You bet it was. Nice one, Universe.

— Phil Evans

Follow Phil on Twitter to get updates on hius life and work in X-ray astronomy.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.


//
&amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; &amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;div&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a href=”http://www.w3counter.com&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.w3counter.com”&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;img src=”http://w3counter.com/tracker.php?id=39986&#8243; mce_src=”http://w3counter.com/tracker.php?id=39986&#8243; style=”border: 0″ mce_style=”border: 0″ alt=”W3Counter” /&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/div&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; &amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;p&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;

Listening to the music of volcanoes with Milton Garces

November 5, 2010 Leave a comment

woe_logoCheck out my guest post on NASA’s What On Earth blog. Last week, we posted a spooky Earth sound and asked readers to guess what it was. It was not a bird, a plane, a balrog, or even a humpbacked whale. It was a singing volcano, recorded by University of Hawaii scientist Milton Garces.

To sample the sound and read my posted about volcano monitoring with NASA and Garces, read the What On Earth blog post.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

w3counter(39986);

W3Counter

Goddard's gotchu! Milky J and the Jimmy Fallon posse come to town and talk NASA scientists into gnawing on ribs and rapping

August 3, 2010 10 comments

Here’s a guest post by Rob Garner, a writer and member of the crack Goddard web team. —gogblog


Goddard hosted a special guest last month, and you just may have seen him on television last night talking about it!

The name “Bashir Salahuddin” may not ring any bells with you (nope, it’s not the doctor from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”), but fans of “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” will recognize him as “Milky J,” whose “Hubble Gotchu!” sketches have showcased the famous telescope’s magnificent images.

What’s that you say? You haven’t seen the clips? Then enjoy the sampling below!

http://widget.nbc.com/videos/nbcshort_at.swf?CXNID=1000004.10045NXC&widID=4727a250e66f9723&clipID=1222742&showID=243&configXML=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbc.com%2Fservice%2Fvideowidget%2Fparams%2FdmlkZW9faWQ9MTIyMjc0Mg%3D%3D%2F&initXML=http://www.latenightwithjimmyfallon.com%2Fvideo%2Fepisodes%2Finit.xml?videoId=1222742

http://widget.nbc.com/videos/nbcshort_at.swf?CXNID=1000004.10045NXC&widID=4727a250e66f9723&clipID=1229258&showID=243


After the videos aired Lynn Chandler gave the Jimmy Fallon crew a call. Lynn works here at Goddard as the public affairs officer for the James Webb Space Telescope, NASA’s successor to the Hubble.

When the full-size Webb model traveled to New York at the beginning of June, she suggested Bashir meet up there with NASA’s first civil servant Nobel Prize laureate Dr. John Mather to discuss Hubble and Webb, of which Dr. Mather happens to be the senior project scientist. The visit there went so well that Bashir (as Milky J) decided to take a trip to Goddard’s Greenbelt, Md., campus.

The video resulting from that trip in late July aired last night — but in case you missed it …

http://widget.nbc.com/videos/nbcshort_at.swf?CXNID=1000004.10045NXC&widID=4727a250e66f9723&clipID=1242077&showID=243&configXML=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbc.com%2Fservice%2Fvideowidget%2Fparams%2FdmlkZW9faWQ9MTI0MjA3Nw%3D%3D%2F&initXML=http://www.latenightwithjimmyfallon.com%2Fvideo%2Fepisodes%2Finit.xml?videoId=1242077

Brent Bos poses with Milky J's letters, now flavored with tangy rib sauce. (Image by Maggie Masetti)

Brent Bos poses with Milky J's letters, now flavored with tangy rib sauce. (Image by Maggie Masetti)

Let it not be said that NASA folks lack a sense of humor! Milky J’s Hubble fanaticism may be mostly just for laughs, but Bashir, who also writes for “Late Night,” has a genuine interest in space science. “Hubble Gotchu!” carries that science to new audiences, which is one reason why we loved helping put this video together.

And putting it together took a mountain of effort, both from the Goddard family and from the “Late Night” team. On our end, weeks of preparations and permissions went into making sure Bashir could film in all the “cool” spots. (Lynn and Mike McClare, Goddard’s Hubble and Webb video producer extraordinaire, deserve some serious high-fives for getting that all taken care of.)

Some of the “Late Night” crew, headed by director Michael Blieden, took the train down from New York on July 21 to scope Goddard for places to shoot. Andy Freeberg, a Goddard producer who helped guide the team, said they were just blown away by all the stuff going on here.

Milky J poses in his homemade spacesuit. (Image by Maggie Masetti)

Milky J poses in his homemade spacesuit. (Image by Maggie Masetti)

The morning of the 22nd came, and the rest of the crew arrived for a full day of shooting. The schedule was jam-packed, moving from the testing chambers to the NASA Communications center (Nascom), to the clean room, to the Goddard TV studio. Goddard never seems quite as big as it does when you’re lugging video equipment on a hot day!

The Jimmy Fallon crew was a pleasure to work with. Despite the fast-paced schedule Bashir, Michael and the rest of the team took the time to chat with the Goddard spectators who stopped by to see what was going on. Bashir is soft-spoken in comparison to his Milky J alter ego, and a true professional; he had all his dialogue memorized ahead of time.

Filming became a special treat for a school tour group that happened to meander by as the team shot in Nascom. They likely thought it strange that a telescope operator could be such a messy eater. Optical Physicist and “rib-eater” Brent Bos deserves special praise for that performance.

Brent had just completed media training the day before — and slathering on barbecue sauce before the big interview was definitely not one of the topics covered! Brent managed to keep the sauce confined to his face and fingers through multiple takes, a miraculous feat, as any rib fan knows. (The ribs appeared courtesy of Lynn Chandler’s kitchen.)

Milky J interviewed Paul Geithner, Webb’s observatory manager, at the end of the day. (Image by Andy Freeberg)

Milky J interviewed Paul Geithner, Webb’s observatory manager, at the end of the day. (Image by Andy Freeberg)

As Milky J would put it, “Whatever celestial images you need, Hubble gotchu!” When it comes to Hubble and James Webb, Goddard gotchu, too.

(Thanks to Webb blogger Maggie Masetti for filling in some of the details of the day!)

PS! If you want to learn more about superheated exoplanet HD 209458b, take a look at NASA’s Hubble website.

***ALSO make sure to check out Maggie Masetti’s blog post about the Hubble Gotchu Guy visit on NASA Blueshift. It has more great backstage photos.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

//
&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;div&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a href=”http://www.w3counter.com&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.w3counter.com”&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;img src=”http://w3counter.com/tracker.php?id=39986&#8243; mce_src=”http://w3counter.com/tracker.php?id=39986&#8243; style=”border: 0″ mce_style=”border: 0″ alt=”W3Counter” /&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/div&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;