Eta Carinae is about 7,500 light years away, and its going to explode any time now. Mind you, “any time now” means sometime over the next ten to twenty thousand years or so. But recently the star been in the news again as an existential threat to our planet. It must be that time of year again. Read more…
One Universe at a Time
This month I’ve upgraded my home computer. My new desktop has faster processor, double the storage space, and quadruple the RAM as my venerable old laptop. I don’t upgrade very often, so when it happens there’s a very noticeable uptick in computing power. It’s something we’ve become rather accustomed to. With each new phone, computer or tablet we have more power at our fingertips. This consequence of Moore’s law has also revolutionized the way we do astronomy.
One of the popular astronomy facts that gets passed around every so often is how small our Sun is compared to other stars. The Sun appears large to us, but it’s tiny compared to giant stars like Betelgeuse. While this is true, it isn’t the best metric for comparing stars. While Betelgeuse has a diameter 1,000 times that of the Sun, it only has 10 – 20 times the mass. Betelgeuse is much larger than our Sun, but also much less dense.
The image above features a neuron on the left, and a simulation of large scale galaxy clusters on the right. They look somewhat similar in structure, and if the internet is to be believe, this means something. And it does. Not that the universe is alive, or the cosmos is like a giant brain, but simply that sometimes two radically different things can have similarities in structure.
The image shows two colliding galaxies known as NGC 2207 and IC 2163. It’s a false-color image, where infrared is shown as dark red, visible is shown as normal, and x-ray is shown as purple. The first impression you might have is that the image looks awfully purple, and that means there are lots of x-ray sources in these two galaxies.