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Cosmology and Astronomy
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 9:53 pm    Post subject: Cosmology and Astronomy Reply with quote

Cosmology Exhibit – Museum of Natural History

As you walk through the doors of the Cosmology Exhibit, the visitor is surrounded by a vast sensation of open space. The roof is a high dome, and everything is a velvet black. Seating for the Cosmology Exhibit is in the center of the large space, and small rows of white lights lead along the paths to the center of the room.

The seats are comfortable, plush affairs that are reclining, and will move as the story unfolds. The exhibit plays for approximately one hour, and repeats for 30 days before the exhibit is changed, and new items are substituted into the program.

Given the billions of stars in the night skies, this display will be ever changing as it takes the visitor off to places of unimaginable beauty and violence. The birth of stars, the growth of galaxies, and the ultimate death of a star all play out in compressed time for those fascinated with “What’s Out There”.

What is the Universe? Simply stated, it is everything with which we are physically connected. Even that vast emptiness called ‘space’. It is believed by many that our universe began in an incredibly energetic explosion called The Big Bang somewhere between 10 and 20 billion years ago. In the first milliseconds after the explosion, everything was energy, but matter formed from that energy.

Most of the universe is composed of hydrogen, and most of the remainder is helium. In essence, everything we know is essentially cosmic debris. And although all of this happened billions of years ago, the after effects are still seen today. We believe one of the ongoing effects of the Big Bang is that the universe is expanding, and because of the finite speed of light, what we see today actually is a look back in time, sometimes billions of years in the distant past.

The universe is thought to be rather clumpy. Stars, dust, galaxies, nebula all seem to cluster together and are not homogenously distributed in the universe as we see it.

What are galaxies? They are aggregates of gas, dust, and millions of stars held together by mutual gravitational forces. There are three categories of common galaxies, and several less common ones. These are all based on shape of the galaxy.

Elliptical or Type E galaxies range from E0, which is almost spherical to E7 or highly elongated. Elliptical galaxies contain little or no gas and dust. They are thought to consist almost entirely of old stars. They are more numerous than spiral galaxies, but less conspicuous due to their smaller size.

Spiral galaxies, known as S galaxies are those with a central structure from which extend curving arms. Barred spirals or type SB galaxies have an apparent bar of stars and interstellar matter running through their nuclei plane. They are designated S0 and are nearly spherical and featureless. Sa, Sb and Sc are with spiral arms that are increasingly spread out and the nuclei that are progressively fainter. Spiral galaxies contain a lot of gas and dust as well as old and young stars.

Irregular galaxies are Type I galaxies and lack a defined shape.

Radio galaxies are those galaxies that emit enormous amounts of radio energy. All galaxies emit some radio energy, but some such as Cygnus A (M87) are strong emitters.

Quasars are quasi-stellar radio sources are extremely bright, extremely distant, high energy objects thought to be the energetic cores of young galaxies. The most likely source of a quasar’s power is one or more supermassive black holes. These are regions so dense that not even light can escape their gravitational field. Black holes pull in stars, gas, and dust surrounding the galaxies center, and as these are compressed and heated, they emit the radiation we perceive as a quasar.

Stars are composed of mainly hydrogen gas. Their light comes from the energy produced at their cores by nuclear fusion This energy emerges from the surface of a star as the light we see as well as ultraviolet light, X rays and radio wasve.

Stars range in size from perhaps as much as 100 times the mass of the Sun to only one-tenth its mass. The stars that are many times more massive than the Sun are larger, hotter, brighter, and live much shorter lives, less massive stars are smaller, cooler, dimmer and live much longer. Our Sun is about average in most of its physical properties. It’s mass is about 1.989 x 1010 kg. It has a diameter of 1,392,000 km average. It’s power output is about 3.85 x 1016 watts.

Stellar evolution seems to follow this sequence: Interstellar cloud ->contracts and heats up so that nuclear fusion occurs ->becomes a main sequence star -> surface cools and becomes a red giant -> low mass stars become white dwarfs, very massive stars become supergiants -> supernova -> supernova may become a black hole or a neutron star (pulsar).

Astronomers look at two major properties when studying a star: it’s bright ness and its surface temperature. The bright ness of a star is often referred to as its magnitute, and is given a numberical value. The higher number signifies a dimmer tar. Apparent magnitude is the brightness of a star or other object as seen from Earth. It is denoted by the small letter m.

The absolute brightness of a star is denoted by the capital letter M and is defined as the magnitude of the star if it were exactly 10 parsecs (32.6 light years) from Earth.

A star’s temperature cannot be measured directly, but can be deduced from the star’s color, or spectrum of the light it emits. Red stars are coolest with surface temperatures barely a couple of thousand degrees Kelvin. Yellow stars are mdium hot, about 5,500 Kelvin and white stars are tens of thousands of degrees K. The very hottest blue white stars are more than 50,000 degrees K.

There is also a classification system called “spectral type” that groups stars by the strengths and positions of absorption lines in their spectra.

Luminosity:
Supergiants Ia, Iab, Ib
Bright giant II
Giant III
Subgiant IV
Main sequence V
White dwarf Vi, VII

Spectral types:
Type Color Temperature Example
O Blue 25,000-50,000 δ Orionis
B Blue 11,000-25,000 Rigel (β Orionis)
A Blue-White 11,000-75,000 Sirius (α Canis majoris)
F White 6,000-7500 Procyon (α Canis minoris)
G Yellow-White 5000-6000 The Sun
K Orange 3500-5000 Arturus (α Bootis)
M Red 3000-3500 Antares (α Scorpii)



Tonight’s show will take visitors off first to visit the unusual structure called the Double Helix Nebula. It lies about 300 light years from a large black hole designated Sagittarius A at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. When viewed in the infra-red, this unusual reddish-orange cloud appears as a double Helix strand of DNA, and has been called “Cosmic DNA”. Seen through the image are several very large giant stars.




(Photo: NASA/JPL Caltech/ M. Morris (UCLA))
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 9:57 pm    Post subject: ARP 220 Reply with quote

The chairs shift and another section of sky comes to life. This time, instead of the warmth of the orange cloud of the Double Helix, we see a combination of cold blue, and fiery red as we witness a star factory. At the heart of galaxy Arp 220, located 250 million light years away in the direction of the constellation Serpens is a huge cluster of stars. These clusters of stars are twice the size of the largest known clusters in our own Milky Way, and tip the scales at more than 10 million solar masses. These are star nurseries and here the stars burn blue-white with vast amounts of energy. This area of space is a violent birthing ground for millions of stars.




(Photo: NASA, ESA, and C. Wilson (McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada)
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 9:58 pm    Post subject: NGC 5746 Reply with quote

The chairs slowly turn as the skies overhead seem to wheel to a new view. Out of the blackness lights up a spiral galaxy, viewed nearly edge on, with the central disk glowing hotly, and a royal purple halo nearly reaches to the far edge of the spiral arms. Just to the left in the quadrant is a huge white star. We are introduced to NGC 5746. This massive spiral galaxy is in the constellation known as Virgo. The blue image is from the Chandra X-ray image overlaid onto an optical image of the galaxy, which reveals the superheated gas extending 60,000 light years on either size of the galactic disk. Data suggests the halo is actually matter left over from the formation of the galaxy that is gradually falling inward, and heating up in the process.



(Photo: NASA/CXCIU Copenhagen/Palomar DSS. K Pedersen et al)
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 10:24 pm    Post subject: NGC 4038 Reply with quote

The sky darkens and guests are laid back nearly flat as an eruption of color blooms overhead. The complex beauty of two galaxies, NGC 4038 and 4039, bloom into view overhead. These are called “Antennae” previously called “The Ring Tail Galaxy”. They are two interacting galaxies that are 62 million light years away in the constellation Corvus. Shades of glowing yellow, palest lavender pink, rich reds and stunning white create a dance of exquisite color in this image, The HST/ACS image is the sharpest yet captured and shows number “super” star clusters. The pink glow is ionized hydrogen, and spanning the bright yellow cores of the twisted galaxies are dark lanes of dust billowing through the maelstrom. This huge burst of stellar formation was triggered by tidal forces and is estimated to have begun 200 to 300 million years ago. (Photo: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) ESA/Hubble Collaboration) NGC 4038 is an 11th magnitude galaxy located near Corvus’s western edge. Right assention 11593s. Declination 1835. The nebula is red-shifted about 910 miles per second, and is computed to be approximately 62 million light years away. The main body of this nebula is estimated at 100,000 light years, and the total luminosity appears to be about 20 billion times that of the Sun.



(Photo: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) ESA/Hubble Collaboration)
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 10:27 pm    Post subject: SN 2003g Reply with quote

The glowing shades diminish and blackness once more reigns as visitors are moved to a new direction where a lavender spiral galaxy slowly illuminates. The outer arms of the galaxy are a vibrant lavender purple of glowing hydrogen in great quantities surround a white disk at the center. The infra-red eyes of the Spitzer Space Telescope see into the clouds surrounding these stars in the galaxy known as M74, which contains a supernova designated SN2003gd. The supernova is a dot of bright yellow-green amidst the lavender and white. Here, the infrared radiation of the dust created by the explosion is captured and demonstrates that interstellar dust is the by-product of the cataclysmic death of a star. (Photo: SASA/JPL – Caltech/BEK Sugarman STScI) This galaxy is one of the finest examples of a large face-on spiral. Located at RA 01340n1532, about 1.5 degrees ENE from Eta Piscium. It has a total integrated magnitude of 9.74. The integrated spectral type is F5. It lies approximately 30 million light years away. The total absolute magnitured is about -20.5 or about 13 billion times the light of the Sun. It has a total mass of about 40 billion suns. The measured red shift is 426 miles per second.



(Photo: SASA/JPL – Caltech/BEK Sugarman STScI)


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 10:51 pm    Post subject: Merope - Pleiades Reply with quote

The room abruptly illuminates with a single huge star glowing overhead. A faint blue halo surrounds it and off to the left a small reddish star provides the only other color. This is Merope (Tauri 23); one of the brightest members of the Pleiades star cluster (M45) in the constellation Taurus. The bluish halo surrounding it results from the starlight reflecting from a cloud of carbon-rich dust surrounding the stars. Merope is a 4.17 magnitude star and a B6 IV spectral class. The region surrounding Meriope is separately designated NGC 1435, and is more commonly called the Merope Nebula, or Tempei’s Nebula. This nebula was discovered by Wilhelm Tempei in 1859. (Photo: Wolfgang Prompter (www.astro-pics.com) The Pleiades group is one of the nearest of the open or “galactic” star clusters, and appeara to be slightly over 3 times the distance of the nearby Hyades. It is 410 light years distant, and the 9 brightest stars are all B-type giants. The Pleiades are estimated to be very young, at approximately 20 million years. The Pleiades Cluster is drifting through space in a SSE direction at an apparent rate of about 5.5” per century, which corresponds to about 25 miles per second.




(Photo: Wolfgang Promper (www.astro-pics.com)
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 10:57 pm    Post subject: Abell 21 Medusa Nebula Reply with quote

The brilliant star fades, and a reddish glow develops out of the blackness in a faint star field. None of the stars appear close, and time seems to stand still as the Medusa Nebula resolves. Also called Abell 21, this faint glowing nebula is in the constellation known as Gemini. It is the dissipating remains of a once Sun sized star called a Planetary Nebula. Abell 21 is one of the larger known objects of this kind at this time, but it is faint and cannot be seen without a telescope, which suggests that it is very, very old.




(Photo: Johannes Schedler, http://panther-observatory.com)
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 11:09 pm    Post subject: Flaming Cigar M82 Reply with quote

The chairs lean forward and the faint red glow is abruptly scattered and splashed across the blackness as a brilliant white disk resolves behind the splash of crimson. The Flaming Cigar (M82) streaks across the heavens. The stars being born here are born at a rate ten times faster than within our own Milky Way Galaxy. M82 is located 11 million light years away in the constellation Ursa Major, and is classified as a “starburst” or peculiar galaxy. This image shows the galactic disk edge on, with huge plumes of hydrogen gas spraying from the galaxy’s center due to the vigorous stellar winds blasting from its many hot, newborn stars. This stellar baby boom was caused by a past interaction with another spiral galaxy, M81, which lies only 150,000 light years from M82. It is about a 9th magnitude galaxy, making it one of the brightest in the night sky. Located at Ra 09510n6908. Spectral class F5, but one of the striking features of this galaxy is that it has strongly polarized light indicating a strong magnetic field. It is also a very strong radio source. The filamentous material is expanding outward from the center of M82 at a velocity of about 600 miles per second. The total mass of the expanding material is computed to be about 5 million times the mass of the Sun. These findings suggest that a violent outburst occurred in the central region of M82 approximately 1.5 million years ago. It has a diameter of about 16,000 light years, and a total mass of about 50 billion solar masses, with a red shift about 240 miles per second. (Photo: NASA, ESA, The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) J. Gallagher (University of Wisconsin) M. Mountain and P Puxley (National Science Foundation)




(Photo: NASA, ESA, The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) J. Gallagher (University of Wisconsin) M. Mountain and P Puxley (National Science Foundation)
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 11:28 pm    Post subject: Fornax Reply with quote

The brilliant flare of the Cigar fades and the chairs swivel toward the southern hemisphere. A soft swirls of ivory and blue resolves into a Splendid Spiral of magnificent symmetry and majestic beauty. NGC 1350 is located 85 million light years away in the southern constellation known as Fornax (The Furnace). Right ascension 03291s3347 The blue-white regions dusting the galaxy’s inner ring, and into the sweeping spiral arms show populations of new stars, while the older, redder stars fill out the central disk. This galaxy is one of the best examples of symmetry. (Photo: European Southern Observatory)




(Photo: European Southern Observatory)
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 9:18 pm    Post subject: Herbig Haro 49 50 Reply with quote

The gentle symmetry and beauty of the Splendid Spiral fade and are replaced by a crisp star field and the gaudy ribbon of blue to green to yellow to orange to red material blasting from a star that is still in the process of forming. Herbig-Haro 49/50 is blasting material into interstellar gas and dust at 100 miles per second, causing it to glow in infrared light. This Spitzer infrared image reveals the shock front of the outflow jet, which leaves a conical wake behind it. Scientists are as yet uncertain what is causing the tornado like swirls in the shock front, but suggestions include local magnetic fields may be shaping it, or eddies caused by variations in the density of the interstellar medium.



(Photo: NASA/JPL Caltech J. Bailly, University of Colo.)
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 9:22 pm    Post subject: Lagoon Nebula Reply with quote

The shocking ribbon of color blinks out as the sky overhead wheels into a new location. A swirling miasma of red and brown is punctuated by spots of stark white. The Lagoon Nebula (M Cool resolves overhead. Messier 8 is a diffuse cloud of ionized hydrogen surrounding an open cluster of hot, relatively young stars. This nebula is located approximately 5,200 light years away toward the constellation Sagittarius. This nebula displays numerous dark globules of highly condensed gas and dust that appear to be collapsing into proto-stars, and will eventually evolve into new suns. Overall magnitude of about 6.0 and requires a very clear, dark night to view. Located at Ra 18016s2420. Visually about 4.7 degrees west and slightly north from Lambda Sagittarii in the handle of the “Milk Dipper”. It has a diameter of over ˝ degree. It is a splendid example with a wealth of intricate detail in mixed bright and dark nebulosity. The west half is dominated by two bright stars just 3 minutes apart. The southern star is 9 Sagittarii, spectrum O5 and magnitude 5.97. It is the chief illuminating star of the nebula. The eastern half of M8 contains the loose star cluster NGC 6530, about 10 minutes in diameter. The brightest members are subgiants of type B0 IV, and 18 erratic variable stars in the cluster. One of the most remarkable features of the Lagoon Nebula are the very tiny circular dark nebulae known as ‘globules’ thought to be protostars. (Photo: Wolfgang Promper, www.astro-pics.com)




(Photo: Wolfgang Promper, www.astro-pics.com)
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 9:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chairs tilt back and spin toward a new quadrant where the star field seems to contain a black space limned in blue and red where stars are missing. This is the Cave Nebula, (Sh2-155) It is a clutch of baby stars incubating within the nebula, which is a faint emission nebula and star forming region in the constellation Cepheus. This star forming region is one of the nearest OB associations to RhyDin, so named for the prevalence of young stars of spectral type O and B. These are hot, blue-white stars from three to twenty times (B) and twenty to 100 times (O) the mass of the Sun, many of which will end up as supernovae, neutron stars, and black holes.



(Photo: Robert Grendler, www.robgendlerastropics.com ) All images by Robert Grendler are copyright intellectual property.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 10:05 pm    Post subject: Cassiopeia A Reply with quote

The sphere goes utterly black before the most colorful image yet explodes into the darkness with the intensity of a fireworks display. This is a detailed X-ray image of the supernova remnant named Cassiopeia A. This image captures the amazing structural detail and element concentrations within the expanding maelstrom of an exploded star. A circular shock front is seen in Green surrounds CasA, while silicon rich jets in Red erupt past the shock front. Blue strands below the jet are fingers of gaseous iron, forged within the thermonuclear furnace of a once massive star.




(Photo: NASA/CXC/GSFC/U Hwang et al.)




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PostPosted: Wed Mar 26, 2008 9:04 pm    Post subject: Pipe Nebula Reply with quote

The chairs move again in the direction of Sagittarius and Ophiuchus, near the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Residing here are scores of notable deep sky objects, including thee beautiful Pipe Nebula. It was cataloged by astronomer Edward E. Barnard as B78. It is located about 10 degrees angular distance due east of Rho Ophiuchi complex, which is one of the brightest and most colorful regions in the entire heavens.



(Photo: Johannes Schedler, http://panther-observatory.com )
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 26, 2008 9:57 pm    Post subject: Black Widow Nebula Reply with quote

With very little movement, the Pipe Nebula fades and is replaced by a glowing, red “spider”. What is to the naked eye only a modest looking smudge in the starry background becomes a glowing red “spider” when viewed in the infrared spectrum. This brilliant celestial arachnid is called The Black Widow Nebula and is found in the constellation Circinus. It is a cloud of gas and dust where active star formation is occurring. There are several clusters of huge stars deep within the nebula and are blasting out spherical cavities with their intense radiation and stellar winds. These boundaries overlap at the center to give the Black Widow its leggy shape.



(Photo: NASA/JPL – Caltech E. Churchwell, University of Wisconsin, Madison)
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