Finding an image for this week’s show was a bit challenging. But, it’s hard to resist some of the work coming out of NASA and JPL when talking with a physicist and a novelist about "the mystery we are":
This artist’s concept illustrates a supermassive black hole with millions to billions times the mass of our sun. Supermassive black holes are enormously dense objects buried at the hearts of galaxies. (Smaller black holes also exist throughout galaxies.) In this illustration, the supermassive black hole at the center is surrounded by matter flowing onto the black hole in what is termed an accretion disk. This disk forms as the dust and gas in the galaxy falls onto the hole, attracted by its gravity.
Also shown is an outflowing jet of energetic particles, believed to be powered by the black hole’s spin. The regions near black holes contain compact sources of high energy X-ray radiation thought, in some scenarios, to originate from the base of these jets. This high energy X-radiation lights up the disk, which reflects it, making the disk a source of X-rays. The reflected light enables astronomers to see how fast matter is swirling in the inner region of the disk, and ultimately to measure the black hole’s spin rate.
Oftentimes, for many of us, our way into the world of science is through gazing at the night skies, through astronomy, through NASA. We’re drawn to space and frontiers only limited by our imaginations. Natalie Batalha, a mission scientist on NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, brings this same sense of childhood astonishment and wonder to us in our show, "On Exoplanets and Love."
This week’s sketchnotes by Doug Neill captures moments of her insights that, we hope, will lure you into listen and read. Quotations from Carl Sagan and rainbows in oil puddles are only the tip of the iceberg with this show. I encourage you to print it out, hang it on your door or in your office. Share with others. Listen and talk about what you see and what you heard.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor
A mission scientist with NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, Natalie Batalha hunts for exoplanets (yes, she’s a planet hunter!) — Earth-sized planets beyond our solar system that might harbor life. She speaks about unexpected connections between things like love and dark energy, science and gratitude, and how “exploring the heavens” brings the beauty of the cosmos and the exuberance of scientific discovery closer to us all.
We’re putting the final touches on our show with Natalie Batalha, a research astronomer and mission scientist with NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. What is she searching for? Exoplanets: terrestrial planets with liquid water approximately the size of Earth that exist outside of our solar system.
But, we may not have to look that far. NASA’s Curiosity Rover transmitted back this incredible panorama (well, actually stitched-together images) of the Mars surface. Adam Mann reports on Wired:
Nevertheless, it’s edifying to know that parallel efforts are taking place to discover more about the strata of deep time and our place in this sacred universe.
NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity captured this image looking eastward over the Endeavour Crater late in the afternoon of Opportunity’s 2,888th Martian sol (day) which corresponded with March 9, 2012 here on Earth. In the foreground, Opportunity’s own shadow appears, in a sort of one-step-removed self-portrait. […] The image is a mosaic of about a dozen images and presented in false color to draw out certain features of the topography.
Apropos to our upcoming show with deep sea explorer Sylvia Earle, who reminds us that we ought to explore the depths of our oceans and selves as much as we do outer space. She’s right; nevertheless, this is marvelous.
At lectures there are always some who raise their hands. But I think it’s unethical to send young people, since there are serious health risks. You need highly trained scientists with a life expectancy of less than 20 years.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor
From Being Visual:
This Crab Nebula is a remnant of a star’s supernova explosion. It’s six light-years wide and expanding! Congratulations to the three astrophysicists who won this year’s Nobel Prize in physics for discovering that the fading lights of supernovas tell us that our universe is expanding into a cold, dark place.
(Photo by NASA via Getty Images)
Earth and Moon as Stars in the Night Sky
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Twenty-one days into its journey to Jupiter, NASA’s Juno space probe captured this remarkable sight on August 26th: our planet and its moon (Earth’s on the left) from approximately six million miles, nearly ten million kilometers, away. Seeing Earth from the outside, Scott Bolton, Juno’s principal investigator, put it best, “We see a humbling yet beautiful view of ourselves.”