WSU professor shows Hubble Space Telescope’s greatest images, details history
About 50 people tilted their heads back, gazed up at the Washington State University Planetarium dome and took in images from space Sunday at Sloan Hall on the WSU campus in Pullman.
Long before Sunday’s sunset, viewers sat in the dark room looking up at sharply-focused images of planets, stars and galaxies. One image showed a detailed shot of a purple ring at the top and bottom of Jupiter.
Guy Worthey, WSU associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, displayed the images taken from the Hubble Space Telescope.
Worthey discussed the history of the telescope, named after the late American astronomer Edwin Hubble, and how it revolutionized astronomy.
He said American physicist Lyman Spitzer developed the idea in 1946 of a telescope beyond the atmosphere rather than on the ground, as turbulence and air currents make telescope views from the ground blurry.
“If you were to go above the atmosphere, you could defeat that completely,” Worthey said.
Three billion years ago in a distant galaxy, two massive black holes slammed together, merged into one and sent space–time vibrations, known as gravitational waves, shooting out into the universe.
The waves passed through Earth and were detected early this year by an international team of scientists, including WSU physicists Sukanta Bose, Bernard Hall and Nairwita Mazumder.
The newfound black hole, first reported in the journal Physical Review Letters in June, has a mass about 49 times that of the sun. The collision that produced it released more power in an instant than is radiated by all the stars and galaxies in the universe at any moment.
Parts of Washington state will be treated to an extraordinary show during what NASA is calling the “Great American Eclipse” on Aug. 21, even though the sun won’t completely disappear. As the total eclipse cuts a swath across neighboring Oregon and Idaho, some locations in the state will enjoy a “deep partial eclipse,” said astronomer Michael Allen of Washington State University.
“With most of the sun obscured by the moon, it will get partially dark,” he said, similar to very early in the morning. “The stars won’t come out, but for about two minutes, daylight will definitely be dimmer.”
Mars is not a very welcoming place. It’s cold, there’s hardly any atmosphere, and its bombarded with deep space radiation. Even the soil wants to kill you; as the Phoenix lander confirmed in 2009, the Martian regolith is laced with perchlorates—chlorine-based compounds that, when heated up, can rip apart organic materials, like cells and their building blocks.
To try to find out exactly what those perchlorates might do to Martian microorganisms, researchers at the University of Edinburgh pitted bacteria against this compound in a battery of tests. What they found does not bode well for the search for life on Mars: Under Mars-like conditions, the perchlorates were indeed toxic to the microbes.
“We knew before that any life would have an incredibly hard time to survive on the surface, and this study experimentally confirms that,” says Dirk Schulze-Makuch, an astrobiologist at Washington State University, who wasn’t involved in the new study.
Washington State University researchers and adjunct faculty were part of the international research team that discovered gravitational waves in 2016. Science Magazine recently named the discovery its 2016 Breakthrough of the Year. The achievement fulfilled a prediction made 100 years ago by Albert Einstein and capped a 40-year quest to spot the ripples in spacetime.