Thursday, April 23, 2009

Space News: The Quiet Sun And The Space Blob

Two astronomical stories caught my beautiful greenish-blue eye this week (or is it more blueish-green? Oh well...)  

First, the Sun is quieter than it has been in a long time. It is at a 50-year low in solar wind pressure, a 55-year low in radio emissions, and a 100-year low in sunspot activity. All this inactivity is drawing concerns that an extended period of repose could result in a mini ice age, much like the one that took place in the mid-17th Century, during a 70-year span of solar sedation. The phenomenon known as Maunder Minimum (excellent name for a black-metal band) was brought on by an exceedingly rare occurance of sunspots.

Others think that this anomaly is just a temporary phenomenon and soon the Sun will return to its natural and predictable 11-year cycle of activity. 

Here's what Professor Mike Lockwood of the University of Southampton and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory said in an interview to Astronomy Now editor Keith Cooper about the subject:

The second thing that caught my eye (still greenish-blue/blueish-green, still beautiful...) was the finding of one of the most distant objects ever seen by humans, at an unfathomable distance of 12.9 billion light years away; it has been denominated a "Lyman-alpha blob" (pictured at left in all its pixelated glory.)

What is unsual about this object is the sheer size—it's 55,000 light years across—the size of most modern-day galaxies. And since the basis for formation of galaxies lies within the concept of smaller objects merging to form greater ones, the emergence of such a massive object existing 12.9 billion years ago forced scientists to rethink some important established theories. 

As exciting as these findings are, current technology can only foster further speculation since these objects are just too far away to be studied thoroughly. But the mere existence and documentation of them should advance the understanding of how the universe was created and how it developed through time.  

Why is this interesting to me, you ask? Because it has nothing to do with The Hills. And yet, it has *everything* to do with The Hills

Think about it. 

[Via BBC News: here and here]

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