29 October 2009

His Star Picture is Better Than Your Star picture!

Posted by Dan Satterfield


Full Sky Panorama by Axel Mellinger : Axel Mellinger, "A Color All-Sky Panorama Image of the Milky Way." PASP 121:855 (Nov. 2009).

Axel Mellinger is a professor and physicist at Central Michigan University, but at night he is an amateur astronomer.

He has compiled an incredible photo of our Milky Way Galaxy and the ENTIRE night sky using over 3000 high resolution photographs. The picture above is a VERY LOW resolution image of his big picture. The new image is the highest resolution

It took him almost two years and travel from South Texas to South Africa and back home to Michigan to get images of every part of the sky visible from the Earth. He then had to map it into a panoramic image and remove distortion, along with filtering out artificial light sources. Not something you really want to start unless you know a lot of  physics first.

Fortunately he did!

The image shows stars that are 1000 times fainter than can be seen with the human eye. He will be making a 648 mega pixel image available to planetariums to show on their domes to thousands of students from age 6 to 90! What a great contribution to science!

Thanks to Eureka alert from SCIENCE and here for the heads up.

This comes on the same day of another big announcement in the astronomical world. The most distant Gamma Ray Burst ever detected was announced in NATURE.

Screen shot 2009-10-29 at 03.02.01Gamma ray bursts are such stupendously gigantic explosions that their light can travel across the entire visible universe. They are now thought to be the death throws of giant stars, on their way to black hole oblivion.

The image on the left is of a gamma ray burst that is 13.1 Billion light years away. The Universe itself is 13.7 billion years old, so this explosion happened when the universe was a tiny baby. (Well not that tiny, but you know what I mean!).

Now think about something. If an object is 14 billion light years from Earth, can we possibly see it? NO! The universe has only been around for 13.7 billion years. The light has not had time since the universe began to reach us! (Yeah you have to think about that for awhile!)

We are looking back now to the very edge of time itself now.

You gotta know that Alex Filippenko is excited about this!

Who is Alex Filippenko you ask??

Go here and read about RAINDROPS and MISLABELLED FAUCETS