Friday, January 14, 2011
Back in 2007, a Dutch school teacher discovered a very odd celestial object: It looked like a great, green blob floating in space and at the time it was inexplicable. This teacher was part of a vast amateur astronomy group of 250,000 smart people assisting in something called the Galaxy Zoo. These people took images of galaxies from Hubble and classified them into groups: spiral, elliptical, irregular, barred, etc.
The teacher, Hanny van Arkel, found something that was, at the time, inexplicable, although it looked a lot like a space frog. Given the name, "Hanny's Voorwerp," now "Hanny's Object," which I personally do not like as much, the frog is now considered to be a "twisting rope of gas, or tidal tail, about 300,000 light-years long that wraps around [a] galaxy."
In a press release from the University of Alabama, Dr. Bill Keel, professor of astronomy and leader of Hubble's Hanny's Voorep study (just how much would you like to have THAT on your resume?), presented two surprising findings:
"First, that very young stars are forming inside the tidal tail. "The region may have been churning out stars for several million years," said Keel. "They are so dim that they have previously been lost in the brilliant light of the surrounding gas."
Keel told us that this is remarkable because this is not the kind of environment in which you would usually find star formation.
Second, Hanny's Voorwerp was lit up by a powerful beacon of light called a quasar, which formed as a byproduct of the harsh conditions created by a supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy. Keel said the tail likely formed as the result of energy from two merging galaxies. That green light we see is glowing oxygen.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Gabrielle Giffords is fighting for her life after being shot by a lunatic at a political event in Tucson. Her doctors say she is breathing on her own, and they are cautiously optimistic. Gabrielle married astronaut Mark Kelly in 2007. Kelly was the commander of STS-124 and is the prospective commander of the last shuttle, STS-134.
As part of the STS-124 mission, Kelly's crew delivered a repair part for the ISS's malfunctioning toilet system. His first words upon boarding the ISS were, "Anyone looking for a plumber?"
Giffords is the first Jewish woman elected to Congress from Arizona.
Also, please remember those who died in the shooting (below from AP) and those who were injured:
JOHN ROLL, 63
Named Arizona's chief federal judge in 2006, U.S. District Judge John M. Roll won acclaim for a career as a respected jurist and leader who had pushed to beef up the court's strained bench to handle a growing number of border crime-related cases. Roll was appointed to the federal bench in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush. He previously served as a state trial judge and as a judge on the midlevel Arizona Court of appeals, and as a county and state prosecutor. Bishop Gerald Kicanas of the Roman Catholic Church's Tucson Diocese said Roll was an active parishioner. "He lived his faith as a servant of our nation for the cause of justice," Kicanas said. Roll was a Pennsylvania native who got his law degree from the University of Virginia. He is survived by his wife, Maureen, three sons, and five grandchildren.
CHRISTINA TAYLOR GREEN, 9
Christina Taylor Green was only 9, but the third-grader already was an aspiring politician. Her parents say Christina had just been elected to the student council at Mesa Verde Elementary School and had been interested in politics from a young age. She already had told her parents she wanted to attend Penn State and have a career that involved helping those less fortunate than her. The brown-eyed athletic girl loved to swim with her 11-year-old brother Dallas, her lone sibling. Her mother, Roxanna Green, said Christina also loved animals, singing, dancing and gymnastics. She also was the only girl on her Canyon del Oro Little League baseball team. Her grandfather, former major-league pitcher Dallas Green, managed the 1980 world champion Philadelphia Phillies. Christina's father, John Green, is a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Christina was born on the tragic day of Sept. 11, 2001.
GABE ZIMMERMAN, 30
Gabe Zimmerman, the director of community outreach for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, handled thousands of issues raised by constituents out of the congresswoman's offices in Tucson and Sierra Vista. Zimmerman was one of the Giffords staffers who organized many public events where voters could meet Giffords and talk to her about issues. Co-workers say Zimmerman, who had a master's degree in social work, cared passionately about helping people. Zimmerman's mother, Emily Nottingham, said politics was a good fit for him because it combined policy and making a difference for others. "He had a real interest in helping people and had a real caring for social justice," Nottingham said. Zimmerman, who was engaged, had set a wedding date for 2012.
PHYLLIS SCHNECK, 79
When Phyllis Schneck and her husband retired, they spent their winters in Tucson and summers in their native Rutherford, N.J. "They didn't want to ever have to deal with the snow again," said Schneck's daughter, B.J. Offutt of Colorado Springs, Colo. Schneck, who continued to return to Tucson in the winters even after her husband died in 2007, was a homemaker who raised her two daughters and one son and had a talent for cooking. In retirement, Schneck kept herself occupied by volunteering at her church. Her home in Tucson was less than four miles from the supermarket where the shooting took place. Offutt said her mother's appearance at the store was surprising, because she normally shopped at a different store and wasn't very political. Schneck is survived by her three children, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
DORWIN STODDARD, 76
Everyone who knew Dorwin Stoddard thought he might die from one his numerous construction projects at Mountain Avenue Church of Christ. During his latest project, he fell 20 feet when a ladder buckled, said his pastor and friend Michael Nowak. When the shooting started Saturday, he dove to the ground, covering his wife Mavy, who was shot in the leg three times. The couple had been grade school sweethearts growing up in Tucson. After their respective spouses died, they independently moved back to retire, became reacquainted and fell in love all over again. Mavy Stoddard talked to her husband, who was shot in the head, for 10 minutes while he breathed heavily. Then he stopped breathing. He had two sons from his first marriage, and Mavy has three daughters.
DOROTHY MORRIS, 76
Dorothy Morris, known to her friends as "Dot," was a retired homemaker and secretary who lived north of Tucson in Oro Valley, Ariz. Dorothy died in the shooting. Her husband George, a former Marine and retired airline pilot, remains hospitalized after suffering two gunshot wounds. One of the couple's daughters said George Morris tried to protect his wife of 50 years by throwing her to the ground and trying to get on top of her to shield her. The couple both grew up in Reno, Nev., and were high school sweethearts. They settled in Oro Valley around 1995. Sue Blinman, who lives next door in a retirement community, said the couple traveled extensively and escaped Tucson's summer heat by heading up to their home in the eastern Arizona mountain community of Pinetop. "They were always good neighbors," Blinman said.