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.
ATTENTION folks, there is currently an astronaut posting to Tumblr from space. I repeat, there is a human being, that is currently in freakin’ SPACE, posting pictures (from said SPACE) to their Tumblr blog.
There are things, called words, that are failing me, about the other things, that I am feeling.
Expedition 35 Commander Chris Hadfield: You sir, are cooler than a polar bear’s toenails.
(He’s also on Twitter)
A different vantage point truly can change one’s perspective on things. Thanks, Science:
Astronaut Ron Garan did an AMA on reddit. This photo was his reply when asked, “Have you seen anything when looking down on earth or into space that has you completely awed that is captured in your memory for the rest of your life?” It’s the illuminated border between India and Pakistan, as seen from the International Space Station.
Realizing what this picture depicted had a big impact on me. When viewed from space, Earth almost always looks beautiful and peaceful. However, this picture is an example of man-made changes to the landscape in response to a threat, clearly visible from space. This was a big surprise to me. (…)
The point is not that we can look down at the Earth and see a man-made border between India and Pakistan. The point is that we can look down at that same area and feel empathy for the struggles that all people face. We can look down and realize that we are all riding through the Universe together on this spaceship we call Earth, that we are all interconnected, that we are all in this together, that we are all family.
~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Celebrate the New Year Cosmically
by Susan Leem, associate producer
The Quadrantids are coming! The Quadrantids are coming!
This meteor shower is named after a constellation that no longer exists, but you can get a peek of these gorgeous comets streaking across the sky in the new year on the early morning of January 4th in North America.
According to NASA, the fragments you see come from an asteroid, which could be a piece of a comet that broke up centuries ago. They will “enter our atmosphere at 90,000 mph, burning up 50 miles above Earth’s surface.”
It’s the first major meteor shower of the new year. And one of the strongest of the year if conditions are right.
Photo by Ed Sweeney/Flickr, CC BY 2.0