I am a member of the Texas Astronomical Society and have
been active in Amateur Astronomy and Astrophotography since
Enjoy the links on this site and take a look at my images.
They are updated frequently so check back often.
Distant Black Hole Yet Discovered.
of astronomers led by Carnegie’s Eduardo Bañados used Carnegie’s
Magellan telescopes to discover the most-distant supermassive black hole
ever observed. It resides in a luminous quasar and its light reaches us
from when the Universe was only 5 percent of its current age — just 690
million years after the Big Bang.
Quasars are tremendously bright objects comprised of enormous black
holes accreting matter at the centers of massive galaxies. This newly
discovered black hole has a mass that is 800 million times the mass of
“Gathering all this mass in fewer than 690 million years is an enormous
challenge for theories of supermassive black hole growth,” Bañados
grow black holes that big so soon after the Big Bang, astronomers have
speculated that the very early Universe might have had conditions
allowing the creation of very large black holes with masses reaching
100,000 times the mass of the Sun. This is very unlike the black holes
that form in the present-day Universe, which rarely exceed a few dozen
Big Bang started the universe as a hot, murky soup of extremely
energetic particles that was rapidly expanding. As it expanded, it
cooled. About 400,000 years later (very quickly on a cosmic scale),
these particles cooled and coalesced into neutral hydrogen gas. The
Universe stayed dark, without any luminous sources, until gravity
condensed matter into the first stars and galaxies. The energy released
by these ancient galaxies caused the neutral hydrogen strewn throughout
the Universe to get excited and ionise, or lose an electron, a state
that the gas has remained in since that time. Once the universe became
reionised, photons could travel freely throughout space, thus the
Universe became transparent to light.
Click on image to enlarge to full resolution
Image of the Month:
The Cosmic Snake
This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image reveals the Cosmic Snake,
a distant galaxy peppered with clumpy regions of intense star
formation that appear warped by the effect of gravitational lensing.
This giant arc-like galaxy is actually behind the huge galaxy
cluster MACSJ1206.2-0847, but thanks to the cluster’s gravity, we
can see it from Earth.
Light from the distant, high-redshift galaxy arrives at Earth,
having been distorted by the gigantic gravitational influence of the
intervening cluster. Fascinatingly, instead of making it more
difficult to perceive cosmological objects, such strong lensing
effects improve the resolution and depth of an image by magnifying
the background object. Sometimes gravitational lensing can even
produce multiple images of the object as light is bent in different
directions around the foreground cluster.
Using Hubble, astronomers recently looked at several such images of
the Cosmic Snake, each with a different level of magnification.
Using this technique, the galaxy and its features could be studied
on different scales. The highest-resolution images revealed that
giant clumps in high-redshift galaxies are made up of a complex
substructure of smaller clumps, which contributes to our
understanding of star formation in distant galaxies.
Click on image to enlarge to full resolution.
New Telescope in Chile Now Searching for
A new alien-planet–hunting telescope has just come online in Chile, and
it could help scientists peer into the atmospheres of relatively small
planets circling nearby stars.
The Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS for short)
— located at the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Paranal
Observatory — is designed to seek out planets two to eight times the
diameter of Earth as they pass in front of their stars. Such a planet
will cause the light of the star to dip ever so slightly when passing in
front of it, allowing the telescope to detect the planet during its
"We are excited to begin our search for small
planets around nearby stars," Peter Wheatley, an NGTS project lead from
the University of Warwick, U.K., said in as statement. "The NGTS
discoveries, and follow-up observations by telescopes on the ground and
in space, will be important steps in our quest to study the atmospheres
and composition of small planets such as the Earth."
The instrument is designed to measure the
brightness of stars more accurately than any other ground-based
wide-field survey, ESO officials said. The NGTS is made up of 12
telescopes that will operate robotically, according to ESO. Astronomers
using the survey hope to find small, bright planets in order to learn
more about the densities of them.
By taking these measurements, scientists might be
able to learn more about what makes up the planets — that is, whether
the planets could be rocky, gaseous, watery or composed of other
materials, ESO officials added.
"It may also be possible to probe the atmospheres
of the exoplanets whilst they are in transit," ESO officials said in the
same statement. "During the transit, some of the star's light passes
through the planet's atmosphere, if it has one, and leaves a tiny, but
detectable, signature. So far, only a few such very delicate
observations have been made, but NGTS should provide many more potential
NGTS' work is only the beginning. Scientists will
use other telescopes to conduct follow-up studies of planet candidates
that the survey finds when looking at the sky.
A consortium from the United Kingdom, Sweden and
Germany built the NGTS. ESO is an astronomy organization supported by 15
different countries. The organization operates three observing sites,
including Paranal, around Chile.
"We needed a site where there were many clear
nights and the air was clear and dry so that we could make very accurate
measurements as often as possible — Paranal was the best choice by far,"
Don Pollacco of the University of Warwick and an NGTS project lead, said
in a statement.
International Space Station
High Definition Earth Viewing
High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment places four commercially
available HD cameras on the exterior of the space station and uses them
to stream live video of Earth for viewing online. The cameras are
enclosed in a temperature specific housing and are exposed to the harsh
radiation of space. Analysis of the effect of space on the video
quality, over the time HDEV is operational, may help engineers decide
which cameras are the best types to use on future missions. High school
students helped design some of the cameras' components, through the High
Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) program, and student
teams operate the experiment.
Black Image = ISS is on the night side of the
Earth. Gray Image = Switching between cameras, or communications with
the ISS is not available.
The Hubble Deep Field: The most important image ever taken.
It is the farthest we have ever seen into space using the most
advanced telescope we have.
Weather / Sky
The Clear Sky Clocks below are the
astronomers forecast. They show at a glance when, in the next 48
hours, we might expect clear and dark skies for one specific
observing site. The site is specifically intended for amateur
astronomers. The forecast data comes from a numerical weather model
run by The Canadian Meteorological Center.
Clear Sky Clocks
Cerro Paranal is an
astronomers paradise with its stunningly dark, steady and transparent
sky. Located in the barren Atacama Desert of Chile it is home to some of
the world’s leading telescopes.
Operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) the Very Large Telescope (VLT) is located on the Paranal mountain,
composed of four 8 m telescopes which can combine their light to make a
giant telescope by interferometry. This film
is made with footage from the November 2011 TWAN imaging expedition to
Paranal assigned by the European Southern Observatory (ESO). Photographed 14 nights in a row from usually 05:30 pm to 08:00 a.m.
If nothing is faster
than the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) then we are crawling
when trying to even break free of our own galaxy. This video puts
the distance of the universe into perspective.
**Click on Arrows icon in lower
right of the frame to view the video in full screen mode. **
JWST: Hubble's Successor
The James Webb Space Telescope (sometimes called
JWST) is a large, infrared-optimized space telescope, scheduled for
launch in 2014. Webb will find the first galaxies that formed in the
early Universe, connecting the Big Bang to our own Milky Way Galaxy.
Webb will peer through dusty clouds to see stars forming planetary
systems, connecting the Milky Way to our own Solar System. Webb's
instruments will be designed to work primarily in the infrared range of
the electromagnetic spectrum, with some capability in the visible range.
Webb will have a large mirror, 6.5
meters (21.3 feet) in diameter and a sunshield the size of a tennis
court. Both the mirror and sunshade won't fit onto the rocket fully
open, so both will fold up and open once Webb is in outer space. Webb
will reside in an orbit about 1.5 million km (1 million miles) from the
**Click on Arrows icon in lower
right of the frame to view the video in full screen mode. **
A lunar phase or phase of the moon
refers to the appearance of the illuminated portion of the Moon as
seen by an observer. The lunar phases vary cyclically as the Moon
orbits the Earth, according to the changing relative positions of
the Earth, Moon and Sun. Click on each button to view the
various phases or click on the 'Run Animation' button to view
the entire lunar cycle.
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or
LRO, has returned its first
imagery of the Apollo moon
landing sites. The pictures show
the Apollo missions' lunar
module descent stages sitting on
the moon's surface, as long
shadows from a low sun angle
make the modules' locations
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
Camera, or LROC, was able to
image all six Apollo sites.
The satellite reached lunar
orbit June 23, 2009 and captured the
Apollo sites between July 11 and
15. Though it had been expected
that LRO would be able to
resolve the remnants of the
Apollo mission, these first
images came before the
spacecraft reached its final
As of 09/06/11, NASA has now
released improved images for
Apollo's 12, 14, and 17. These
images have been added below.
thumbnail image to enlarge
Lunar map of Apollo landing sites
Image width: 282 meters
Right Image width: 50 meters