December 2016: Picture of the Month

filaments_black_hole

This recently released image of the elliptical galaxy NGC 4696 from the Hubble Space Telescope shows long filaments of dust and gas appearing to connect to a central region. The region is thought to contain a supermassive black hole, which is pumping out energy. The heating of the surrounding region is pushing out cooler dust and gas and shutting down star formation. Balanced by the magnetic field, these filaments appear to spiral in and circle the black hole.

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November 2016: Picture of the Month

triplet_system

Imaged at the millimeter wavelengths with the Atacama Large Millimeter Array in Chile, a triple star system is forming within the dusty disk some 750 light years away in the Perseus molecular cloud. The system consists of two protostars separated by a distance of 61 astronomical units and a third protostar at a distance of 183 astronomical units from the central protostar. The star system also has a spiral structure, indicating instability and fragmentation which can lead to multiple protostellar objects within the disk. This star-forming scenario is likely common, as almost half of all sun-like stars have at least one companion star.

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Star Talk: The quest for 1% – the past, present and future for measuring the Hubble Constant and the expansion of the Universe

star_talk_oct “The quest for 1%: the past, present and future for measuring the Hubble Constant and the expansion of the Universe”, presented by Professor Hilding Neilson

Abstract: Almost a century ago, Edwin Hubble discovered that galaxies appear to be moving away from us and that farther galaxies moved at faster rates. This discovery revolutionized our view of the Universe and started the field of modern cosmology. Ever since, astronomers have been trying to better measure the expansion of the Universe, the Hubble constant, using numerous standard candles. In this talk, Professor Neilson will talk about the rich history of measuring the Hubble constant from some of the great arguments to the paradigm shift initiated by the results of the Hubble Space Telescope Key Project. He will conclude by discussing the future for measuring the Hubble constant to 1% precision to shed new insights into the dark matter and dark energy content of the Universe.

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October 2016: Picture of the Month

hydrogen_sky

This is the new and highest resolution map of the universe’s most abundant gas, hydrogen. The all-sky map of hydrogen’s 21-cm emission shows the abundance of the gas with brightness and the speed with color. The color in this map has been artificially set as blue to describe the radial motion toward us and green to describe the radial motion away. The band across the center of map is the plane of our own Milky Way, while the bright spots on the lower right is our neighboring Magellanic Clouds. The map collects data from over one million observations from both the northern Effelsberg 100-Meter Radio Telescope in Germany and the southern Parkes 64-Meter Radio Telescope in Australia. It should be noted that still many details are not yet well understood in this map.

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Star Talk: Variable Stars – Action in the Sky

var_stars “Variable Stars: Action in the Sky”, presented by John Percy, Professor Emeritus of the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, and Dunlap Institute

Abstract: Stars aren’t changeless and boring. They may eclipse, pulsate (vibrate), flare, erupt, or even explode. These processes cause the stars to vary in brightness over time and, by studying these variations, we can learn about the nature, evolution, birth and death of the stars, and about the physical processes that occur within them. Variable stars help us to understand some of the most exciting and bizarre objects in the sky: exoplanets, supernovas, pulsars, quasars, gamma-ray bursts, and even black holes. I will also explain some of the ways in which Canadian astronomers, and skilled amateur astronomers, and my undergraduate research students are contributing to this research.

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