Daily Archives: October 24, 2011

NASA Telescopes Help Solve Ancient Supernova Mystery

A mystery that began nearly 2,000 years ago, when Chinese astronomers witnessed what would turn out to be an exploding star in the sky, has been solved. New infrared observations from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, reveal how the first supernova ever recorded occurred and how its shattered remains ultimately spread out to great distances.

The findings show that the stellar explosion took place in a hollowed-out cavity, allowing material expelled by the star to travel much faster and farther than it would have otherwise.

“This supernova remnant got really big, really fast,” said Brian J. Williams, an astronomer at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Williams is lead author of a new study detailing the findings online in the Astrophysical Journal. “It’s two to three times bigger than we would expect for a supernova that was witnessed exploding nearly 2,000 years ago. Now, we’ve been able to finally pinpoint the cause.”

Details, images, here.

It’s fall. Time to start hoarding bird books.

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, many of our birds fly away in the fall. Other, very cool birds from even farther north, depending on where you live then arrive. But just about now, where I live, we are at the tail end of the migration out and not quite at the migration in, so this is a good time to take stock of what is important: Which bird books do you want people to give you for Christmas?

Before I make any suggestions, I would like to point out that Princeton, an emerging and major player in the Bird Book world, has a facebook page that, if you “like,” will automatically enter you in a contest to get some signed bird books and stuff. Go here to like that page and you may get a free book. Since I already have all or most of the Princeton books, if I win one I’ll give away my old copy (and keep the signed copy they are giving away …. bwahahahaha!!!!)

Continue reading It’s fall. Time to start hoarding bird books.

Abducted by Aliens…and Dropped Off at the Grand Canyon

North American Geology. It’s complicated.
I’m pretty sure Amanda and I were abducted by aliens this morning. This is not the first time for me. I was abducted with two others about 20 years ago in Southern Maine while looking for antiques, back when you could still get them cheap even in antique stores (inexpensive antiques, not aliens). You can tell you were abducted because one moment it is a certain time and the next moment is it much later in time and you have no memory whatsoever of he ensuing span of minutes or hours. Since that is essentially impossible, alien abduction is pretty much the best possible explanation.

Back in Maine, it caused us to miss a critical turn just by the Big Red Barn antique store. This morning, it caused Amanda to go rushing out of the house only half ready for a day of teaching Life Science and me to sit here wondering, “Why did I just spend 20 minutes reading pages in this creationist web site called Answers in Genesis?”

Well, I’m not sure how Amanda’s day is going to go, but I’m going to make use of this abduction and talk about the Grand Canyon.
Continue reading Abducted by Aliens…and Dropped Off at the Grand Canyon

Interesting sciencey items on the intertubes

The Universe has been simulated more accurately than ever before. There’s a video. More whooping cranes have been shot to death, you can check on the details yourself but I suspect this problem is related to the fact that you can legally hunt some cranes (not whooping cranes) so you accidentally shoot the nearly extinct cranes.

What is your professional responsibility? Physioprof wants to know. What does a science librarian want to read? How are we doing with this malaria vaccine? Scientists were recently lauded at the white house.

What are the most pressing energy related challenges? There’s a poll on that.

Check out this cool brown dwarf, and video asking questions about homeopathy.