The Most Distant Galaxy in the Observable Universe Discovered –30 Billion Light Years from the Milky Way!

The image above from the Hubble Space Telescope CANDELS survey, highlights the most distant galaxy in the universe with a measured distance, dubbed z8_GND_5296. The most distant spectroscopically confirmed galaxy ever found — one created at about 700 million years after the Big Bang — has been detected by astronomers at Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin.

The researchers suspect they may have zeroed in on the era when the universe made its transition from an opaque state in which most of the hydrogen is neutral to a translucent state in which most of the hydrogen is ionized. So it’s not necessarily that the distant galaxies aren’t there. It could be that they’re hidden from detection behind a wall of neutral hydrogen fog, which blocks the hydrogen emission signal.

The astronomers note that this is one of two major changes in the fundamental essence of the universe since its beginning — the other being a transition from a plasma state to a neutral state. He is leading the effort on a follow-up paper that will use a sophisticated statistical analysis to explore that transition further.

“Everything seems to have changed since then,” said Vithal Tilvi, a Texas A&M postdoctoral research associate and co-author of the paper now available online.“If it was neutral everywhere today, the night sky that we see wouldn’t be as beautiful. What I’m working on is studying exactly why and exactly where this happened. Was this transition sudden, or was it gradual?”

Our home galaxy, the Milky Way, creates about one or two Sun-like stars every year or so. But this newly discovered galaxy forms around 300 a year. It was observed by the researchers as it was 13 billion years ago. Because the universe has been expanding the whole time, the researchers estimate the galaxy’s present distance to be roughly 30 billion light years away. The detected emission line at a wavelength of 1.0343 micrometres is likely to be Lyman α emission, placing this galaxy at a redshift z = 7.51, an epoch 700 million years after the Big Bang.

via The Most Distant Galaxy in the Observable Universe Discovered –30 Billion Light Years from the Milky Way!.

“Other Universes are Pulling on Our Universe” — New Planck Data Triggers Controversy Todays Most Popular

Is our universe merely one of billions? Evidence of the existence of multiverse revealed for the first time by a cosmic map of background radiation data gathered by Planck telescope. The first hard evidence that other universes exist has been claimed to have been found by cosmologists studying new Planck data released this past June. They have concluded that it shows anomalies that can only have been caused by the gravitational pull of other universes.\”Such ideas may sound wacky now, just like the Big Bang theory did three generations ago,\” says George Efstathiou, professor of astrophysics at Cambridge University.\”But then we got evidence and now it has changed the whole way we think about the universe.\”Scientists had predicted that it should be evenly distributed, but the map shows a stronger concentration in the south half of the sky and a cold spot that cannot be explained by current understanding of physics. Laura Mersini-Houghton, theoretical physicist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Richard Holman, professor at Carnegie Mellon University, predicted that anomalies in radiation existed and were caused by the pull from other universes in 2005. Mersini-Houghton will be in Britain soon promoting this theory and, we expect, the hard evidence at the Hay Festival on May 31 and at Oxford on June 11.

via “Other Universes are Pulling on Our Universe” — New Planck Data Triggers Controversy Todays Most Popular.

Double Star Adventure

Since I bought my go-to Skywatcher-102 in April (which is brilliant by the way) I have been having issues with actually getting a really good alignment during the set up process. This was purely down to the issue of having to guess where the centre of the eyepiece was.

I was out with the Well’s & Mendip Astronomers last Friday and my friend Hugh was using an illuminated cross-hair eyepiece to get his Mead perfectly centred. Why had I not thought about this?! So, out I went to the local telescope shop (MC2 in Frome) and acquired myself one. Boy did this make things much easier! Giving 2 red cross-hairs within which you can get a perfectly centred object, and therefore a great alignment. So after I had completed the alignment protocol I decided to have a look at some double stars.

As I am not familiar with double stars, I decided to use the feature in the go-to handset, and started working my way down the list.

ALMACH was my first port of call. Situated at 056°00′ +29°05′ it was in fairly good position, rising just above the end of my garden. Located in the constellation of Andromeda Almach is actually a quadruple star system located some 350 light years from Earth. However, only a double star can be resolved through a small telescope. I was viewing at 86x magnification.

Almach(Image from

The second object of the night was ALBIREO located at 188°07′ +66°37′ in the constellation of Cygnus and located approximately 430 light years from Earth. This was one that was recommended to me as a great double star, and it did not fail to impress. The pair are another great example of colour, where one is a very bright blue and the other yellow. A very nice contrast between the pair.

NewAlbireo(Image from

Targets number three and four were DABIH & ηCASS. Target number five was Mizar in the constellation Ursa Major. Located at 314°34′ +36°38′ At a distance of 82 light years, they are relatively close, in astronomical terms. They are by far my favorite double stars so far. They have a very clear bright blue colour even in the fairly light polluted surroundings of my house. Both Mizar and Alcor its companion are spectral type A.Mizar

(Image from

The last two objects on my double star viewing adventure for that night was Polaris (yes, a double star, though the companion was very faint, it was still visible) and Rasalgthi in the constellation of Hercules. This view was very interesting, as both stars were clearly red. Its always nice to be able to see colour, and from that we can determine so many physical parameters of the star.

ras-alg(Image from

By this time, the mist was starting to roll in, and the temperature was rapidly dropping. So I decided to push the scope, and try and view the ice giants Neptune and Uranus. I had written in the last two editions of the OAS Magazine ( about where to find Neptune and Uranus, so decided to use the go-to and see what I could see.

Once the scope had finished slewing, I peered into the eyepiece. There it was, Neptune. A tiny blue disc set against a backdrop of stars. It was exceptionally small, but clearly disc shaped. I was now viewing at 130x magnification. Next stop, Uranus. Waited for the beep, and took a look. There it was. A yellowing tiny disc. The rings were not visible, but it could clearly be differentiated from the stars behind. This was the first time I had ever seen any of the ice giants through my own kit. A very impressive way to finish a successful but brief viewing session.

Cooperation is the key!

I was reading my latest copy of Nature, and in it, there is an article on ESO’s VLT.  This revolutionary land based telescope will have a mirror that is 38 meters in diameter. It is an unprecedented piece of equipment. Or at least it would be, if it were under construction.

The article reads that Brazil had signed an agreement with ESO as the first non European country to be involved in the group. Its contribution (some 1.1 billion euros) would allow for the construction of the telescope, high in the Atacama desert. Some of the best possible skies that can be achieved on Earth. The project has now stalled, because Brazil now feels that its contribution (the same figure as the UK and France) is too high, as they have less astronomers than those countries. They should either pay less, or have more telescope time.

Where I agree that perhaps a financial reduction could be considered by ESO due to Brazil’s lesser number of astronomers, I think that Brazil is being very short sighted here. Perhaps they should consider that people might be interested in becoming astronomers if they knew there was such a wonderful scope right on the door step.

I feel that the astronomy community has become far too revolved around rivalry and competition, and forgotten how to work together. We are one race, one people on one planet in a universe of billions. The only way humanity will progress, is if we learn to work together. Especially in the field of astronomy. Why bother constructing larger and larger solo scopes, collaborate. Work together. Many hands, many eyes. Scientists from all over the world, working as one unit. To advance science. To advance knowledge.

Money will only last as long as it lasts, knowledge will last forever!


The Nature article & Image –

Brown dwarfs: From zeroes to astronomical heroes.

“The most unloved, drab objects in all of space are fast becoming the new cosmic “it” objects, providing insights into exoplanets and a lot more besides

AS IF space wasn’t lonely enough, pity the brown dwarf. Compared with their stellar siblings, these astronomical objects are something of a failure. And while they have much in common with planets, they don’t seem to fit in there either.

This awkward status as cosmic in-betweener means brown dwarfs are often overshadowed by their flashier counterparts, such as alien worlds or fiery supernovae. Yet not fitting in is precisely what makes brown dwarfs far more interesting and useful than we once thought.

As new evidence of these celestial outcasts emerges, they are challenging our ideas about the differences between planets and stars. Some have weather unlike anything seen before, from molten iron falling as rain to silicate snow. And the traits they share with exoplanets means that we can learn things that telescopes pointed at alien worlds cannot reveal. The most unloved destinations in space are fast becoming the new cosmic “it” objects.”

via Brown dwarfs: From zeroes to astronomical heroes – space – 26 August 2013 – New Scientist.

This is a brilliant article from New Scientist. It wasn’t until I read this, that I truly began to appreciate the strange world that is Brown Dwarfs. They are fusing stars, and yet have atmospheres. They have weather including rain and clouds (rain of liquid iron, and clouds of silicon, which I admit is pretty extreme weather, but none the less!)  and have temperatures that range from anywhere around 2100 degrees, right down to 27 degrees….YES 27 degrees! thats about as hot as an average Mediterranean holiday, AND ITS A STAR! The masses of brown dwarfs range from 13-75 times the mass of Jupiter, so we are still talking pretty darn big objects.

Also, the name is quite the misnomer. Brown dwarfs are NOT brown. If you could observe one up close and personal, you would see that, in fact, they are a dark orange. The burn so dimly that they are extremely hard to detect from Earth.


This leaves open the possibilities for strange forms of life. We know life exists around the deep underwater thermal vents, where temperatures and pressures are EXTREME. So, this could be an excellent location for life to form. All hypothetical of course. But an interesting thing to think about.

“Did Our Solar System Evolve in a More Oxygen-Rich Region of the Milky Way?”

In February 2012, NASAs Interstellar Boundary Explorer, the centerpiece of a $169 million mission mapping the frontier of the suns influence, detected atoms from interstellar space streaming by Earth, that are different from the chemical make-up of the solar system.”Our solar system is different than the space right outside it, suggesting two possibilities,” said David McComas, IBEX principal investigator, at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “Either the solar system evolved in a separate, more oxygen-rich part of the galaxy than where we currently reside, or a great deal of critical, life-giving oxygen lies trapped in interstellar dust grains or ices, unable to move freely throughout space.””Weve directly measured four separate types of atoms from interstellar space and the composition just doesnt match up with what we see in the solar system,” said Eric Christian, IBEX mission scientist at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “IBEXs observations shed a whole new light on the mysterious zone where the solar system ends and interstellar space begins.”

via “Did Our Solar System Evolve in a More Oxygen-Rich Region of the Milky Way?” Space-Mission Findings Baffle Scientists.

Galaxy Clusters Reveal Distribution of Dark Matter

“Each bright city light is a galaxy, and the dark areas between the lights that appear to be empty during the night are actually full of dark matter. You can think of the dark matter in a galaxy cluster as being the infrastructure within which the galaxies live,” say an international team of astronomers from Taiwan, UK, Japan, and the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics ASIAA. The researchers used a large sample of galaxy clusters to find out how the density of dark matter changes from the center of a typical galaxy cluster to its outskirts.has used the Subaru Telescope to measure the density of dark matter in fifty galaxy clusters and found that its density gradually decreases from the center of these cosmic giants to their diffuse outskirts. This new evidence about the mysterious dark matter that pervades our Universe conforms to the predictions of cold dark matter theory, known as “CDM”.Almost all of the bright objects in the Hubble Space Telescope image above are galaxies in the cluster known as Abell 2218. The cluster is so massive and so compact that its gravity bends and focuses the light from galaxies that lie behind it. As a result, multiple images of these background galaxies are distorted into long faint arcs – a simple lensing effect analogous to viewing distant street lamps through a glass of wine. The cluster of galaxies Abell 2218 is itself about two billion light-years away in the northern constellation Draco. Three images of this young, still-maturing galaxy are faintly visible in the white contours near the image top and the lower right. The recorded light, further analyzed with a Keck Telescope, left this galaxy when the universe was only about five percent of its current age.

via Galaxy Clusters Reveal Distribution of Dark Matter.

New Unknown Type of Star Discovered

A Swiss team from the famous Geneva Observatory has achieved extraordinary precision using a comparatively small 1.2-metre telescope for an observing programme stretching over many years. They have discovered a new class of variable stars by measuring minute variations in stellar brightness in the open star cluster NGC 3766 in the constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur), and is estimated to be about 20 million years old.

via New Unknown Type of Star Discovered.