AAS Session 328: Supermassive Black Holes, Kicked or Spun?

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Events are amping up at the AAS conference in Long Beach. Tonight, we were treated to the official US opening of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (plus superb live music by George Hrab, a Second Life IYA2009 ribbon-cutting and the premier of “400 Years of the Telescope“). In the day, I had a stack of presentations to go to including a session on black holes and another on white dwarfs… I never knew white dwarfs were so interesting!

For an exclusive look into the supermassive black hole session this morning, be sure to have a read of AAS Session 328: Black Holes I, January 6th over at the Universe Today

AAS Update: The Story So Far

The galactic centre in unprecidented detail from Hubble (NASA, ESA, and Q.D. Wang)

The galactic centre in unprecidented detail from Hubble (NASA, ESA, and Q.D. Wang)

Day One: Information overload! When Fraser and I turned up in Long Beach, CA yesterday for the 213th American Astronomical Society meeting, I had an overwhelming feeling that I should have done my homework before travelling to the event. Hundreds of participants, hundreds of posters and hundreds of presentations… as an astrophysicist, I feel like a kid in a candy shop, but as a blogger, it’s hard to know where to start!

A shredded asteroid around a white dwarf star (NASA/JPL)

A shredded asteroid around a white dwarf star (NASA/JPL)

Fortunately Team Universe Today has some strong backup in the form of Nancy Atkinson who is operating from home, delivering a huge amount of AAS coverage on the Universe Today. This is good, as the Internet connection at the Long Beach Convention Center is patchy at best. It’s great to meet Pamela and everybody else involved in the Astronomy Cast effort, and everyone seems to be finding articles and lining up the press releases rather nicely.

Also, I echo Scott Miller’s sentiments about “Rock Bottom” pub. Had a couple there last night. The “Mad Lizard” beer. 8.2%. Never again… (well, not till Wednesday in any case!)

I am just about to attend the 10am Session 328 Black Holes I presentations, and I’ll hopefully be adding a long “live blogging” post about each of the speakers. All going well a couple of interviews might come out of the session too. Until then, here’s a brief run-down of the Universe Today coverage of the various press releases, from supermassive black holes, brand new Hubble views of the galactic centre, shredded asteroids around white dwarfs to the heavy Milky Way…

Young Stars Forming Near Galactic Black Hole

The Case of the Disappearing Planetary Disks

Broken-up Asteroids Found Orbiting White Dwarfs

Hubble, Spitzer Collaborate for Stunning Panorama of Galactic Center

Triple Whammy: Milky Way More Massive, Spinning Faster and More Likely to Collide

But ultimately, be sure to keep an eye on Astronomy Cast LIVE, for ALL coverage from us in Long Beach!

Solar Views from SOHO (Wallpapers)

304A SOHO/EIT image of the solar disk (NASA/ESA)

304A SOHO/EIT image of the solar disk (NASA/ESA)

Back in 2006, I was feeling a bit nostalgic about my four years of research at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth Solar Group, so I decided to try to find some high resolution prints of the Sun. After a lot of effort, I didn’t find any prints I could buy or download, but I did find some high resolution images from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) image archive. Although some were a bit noisy, I was able to clean them up with Photoshop and did some layer tweaking/saturation/balance to draw out the fine detail of the chromospheric network–as seen above in the 304A Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Telescope filter–plus a distinct prominence (in the bottom left-hand of the image).

Not stopping there, I decided to give the same treatment to high resolution 171A and 195A images. They came out very well and I kept rotating them as my wallpaper for months. Having just read Phil’s post on today’s perihelion (the time of year when the Earth is at its closest to the Sun during its orbit), I came across a comment asking whether anyone had any wallpapers of the same 304A EIT image. Well, here it is! Plus two more!

If anyone wants to find out how the images were edited, feel free to ask and I’ll let you know. Truth be known, there’s thousands of space images held by NASA, ESA etc. open to the public domain that rarely get the “airtime” they deserve. So it’s about time I dust off these three-year old edits and share the magnetohydrodynamic love.

I miss active regions, I wish the Sun would amp it up a bit so we can see all those lovely flares, CMEs, filaments and coronal loops… ahhhh… coronal loops

AAS Meeting, Long Beach, 4-8 January 2009

The January AAS meeting is being held in Long Beach, CA (Image by Kevin Stanchfield)

The January AAS meeting is being held in Long Beach, CA (Image by Kevin Stanchfield)

I’m currently organizing myself for this week’s AAS meeting down in Long Beach, so expect a feast of breaking news and information from one of the biggest astronomical conferences on the planet! Dictaphone? Check. Pen? Check. Laptop? Check. Camera? Check… Beer money? What do you think?

Who?

I’ll be travelling down to Long Beach tomorrow to join forces with the rest of the New Media crowd, including my Universe Today publisher, Fraser Cain. Joining us will be Pamela Gay (a.k.a. Star Stryder), Chris Lintott, Michael Koppelmann, Georgia Bracey and Jordan Raddick. It will be great to finally put a face to all these names I’ve become so used to in the last year of blogging.

What?

This will be a new experience for me, as although I’ve been to many conferences, this will be the first time I’ll be reporting on other people’s research. So, the pressure is off and I can enjoy the vast ocean of knowledge being shared with the world. However, this isn’t going to be your normal reporting gig. Pamela and Fraser have been organizing this New Media venture to distribute information accurately and rapidly. This is the power of blogging; we are on the ground publishing articles as the news becomes available. This means you don’t have to wait to get your conference news fix, it will appear on the blogs as soon as we hear it.

Astroengine Live!

Internet connections permitting, I’ll be running my Wednesday Astroengine Live from the scene at the Long Beach Convention Center. I’ll see if I can get some interviews in, and a lot of the reporting will be done on-the-fly, but it should make for an interesting show! That’s 4pm PST, Wednesday January 7th, Astroengine Live via WPRT Radio!

When?

So, from Monday Jan. 5th, to Thursday Jan. 8th, I hope to stack Astroengine.com full with breaking news articles from the frontier of astrophysics, astronomy and space exploration.

How?

I will also be dumping as much information onto the Universe Today as possible. Plus, ace Universe Today writer Nancy Atkinson will be back at UT Mission Control overseeing the whole event. This way, you don’t only get your regular news updates, you also get the best the AAS has to offer!

All blog posts on every space news website will be linked to via Astronomy Cast LIVE, so be sure to check on that regularly for your up-to-the-minute news.

Don’t forget Twitter! I will be firing microblog posts out every time I get a new piece of news, so be sure to follow Astroengine.com’s Twitter Feed. I might even activate the Twitter feed though my main blog on Astroengine.com, but we’ll see how quickly the news breaks before I do this (I don’t want to create a bottleneck of news overflow!).

Meet Us!

Rock Bottom Brewery... Location for the Wednesday meetup!

Rock Bottom Brewery... Location for the Wednesday meetup!

If you just happen to be in the Long Beach area on Wednesday, drop by the Rock Bottom bar and restaurant from 6pm-9pm to meet me, Fraser and the whole New Media/Astronomy Cast LIVE team!

Rock Bottom is located at 1 Pine Ave, at the E Ocean Blvd./Pine Ave. cross street. This place is big, in a prominent location on the corner of Pine, so you shouldn’t miss it. Check out Google Maps for the location.

So, keep an eye on Astronengine.com, Universe Today, Astronomy Cast LIVE and my Twitter feed for the full spectrum of the conference… it’s going to be awesome.

Astroengine Live #6: Happy New Year!

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First of all, apologies for having to cancel last week’s Christmas show, but you’ll be glad to hear that today’s New Years Eve Astroengine Live is ready to go! Actually, this was going to be a recording as we were hoping to be partying in San Diego, but like all great New Years plans, we couldn’t make the trip down there due to other commitments. So, bad news for me, good news for you, at least Astroengine Live will be on the air.

Astroengine Live airs at 4pm Pacific, 5pm Mountain, 6pm Central, 7pm Eastern or Midnight GMT!

2008 has been an incredible year for astronomy and space exploration, and 2009 promises to be even bigger. The International Year of Astronomy is upon us, with a vast number of space exploration projects planned worldwide. If you’re a space enthusiast, and you are not involved, something is terribly wrong! I’ll be detailing some of the ways in which you can become involved in today’s show. Naturally, I’ll also be giving a brief rundown of what’s fresh and new in the space blogosphere, plus a few other topics you’ll certainly find interesting. If I have time I’ll also give you an exclusive peek into the Top 10 Space Science Endeavours according to the readers and writers of the Universe Today. In short, there will be a lot to listen in to!

Get Involved!

Have any articles or stories you want to contribute? Have an opinion on anything in the world of space? Email me on astro@wprtradio.com and I’ll be sure to give it a mention. Eventually, I hope to have telephone call-ins, but for now, email will do.

Listen to Astroengine Live using your default streaming audio player.

Check out Paranormal Radio’s live streaming vidcast too, Captain Jack will be airing my show on his website too.

My Social Universe

My Facebook Universe

My Facebook Universe

It might seem a little egocentric, but I thought this was rather cool. After wading knee-deep in Facebook code for the last few days, I came across some nice little tools. As with 90% of Facebook apps, it is debatable as to whether they are considered “useful” or not, but the power of this social media platform is abundant.

Take this application for example. Using an easy to use Java interface, you can get a visual snapshot of your online social network. I’ve only got as far as displaying all my friends according to location; in my case, predominantly from my hometown of Bristol, England and university town of Aberystwyth, Wales. There is also a strengthening contingent from the US (in the bottom left of the image, above).

So, this is my very own social universe. All they need to do is to make this 3D and rotate dynamically and it really will be like having my very own planetarium of Facebook friends :-)

Ok, ok, I’m getting back to the space science writing now

I Wish Office Work Was This Interesting

Having just stumbled around the space blogs, I was enthusiastic that I would find some inspiration toward my next Astroengine.com article. Along the way, I found this rather entertaining short film on Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy website. As Phil points out, “black holes don’t work this way.” Although, that is a shame.

There’s a strong moral to this story: don’t photocopy alone, as you never know when your Xerox machine will print out a singularity. Well, not really, perhaps the guy should have stopped at stealing a snickers bar, a lesson we could all learn from. Actually, I might have walked off with just one wad of cash… actually, maybe two… you get the picture.

Needless to say, this isn’t actually how a black hole works… it’s not even how a wormhole would work. But take the short film at face value and get some entertainment from it, I thought it was quite good fun.