Mapping the Mass of an Enormous Galaxy Cluster

  You are looking at the most precise gravity map ever made of a distant galaxy cluster. Using the map, astronomers have determined that the cluster is roughly 650,000 light-years across and contains enough matter to make 160 trillion suns.
  Image: ESA/Hubble, NASA, HST Frontier Fields Acknowledgement: Mathilde Jauzac (Durham University, UK and Astrophysics & Cosmology Research Unit, South Africa) and Jean-Paul Kneib (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland)
  The cluster, known as MCS J0416.1–2403, is located about 4 billion light-years away and consists of hundreds of galaxies all orbiting one another. Newton’s gravitational equations can tell you the mass of two objects orbiting one another, provided you already know the mass of one of them. However, because these galaxies are all so distant, there is no way for scientists to determine any of their individual masses.
  But there is another way. Einstein’s theory of general relativity tells us that heavy objects warp the fabric of space-time around them. As light travels through these warped regions it will become distorted, and we see that as smeared out rings and arcs in our telescopes, an effect known as gravitational lensing. Using the Hubble space telescope, astronomers identified smudges in the light seen around MCS J0416.1–2403. These distortions are images of even more distant galaxies sitting behind the cluster; their light has been lensed by its enormous mass. By carefully determining just how much the light is smeared out, researchers can calculate the amount of matter sitting within the galaxy cluster.
  The 160 trillion solar masses includes both visible matter and dark matter, which gives off no light but makes up the bulk of the cluster’s mass. By studying the dynamics of all the galaxies within the cluster, astronomers can better understand this mysterious substance. Researchers will also continue mapping the smeared out images to increase the precision of their mass calculations, learning about the cluster’s finer details to figure out its history and evolution.

Crescent Moon (NASA, International Space Station Science, 11/03/07) | NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

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My blog turned 2 today (: 9 notes

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SN 1006 supernova remnant

A new star, likely the brightest supernova in recorded human history, lit up planet Earth’s sky in the year 1006 AD. The expanding debris cloud from the stellar explosion, found in the southerly constellation of Lupus, still puts on a cosmic light show across the electromagnetic spectrum. In fact, this composite view includes X-ray data in blue from the Chandra Observatory, optical data in yellowish hues, and radio image data in red. Now known as the SN 1006 supernova remnant, the debris cloud appears to be about 60 light-years across and is understood to represent the remains of a white dwarf star. Part of a binary star system, the compact white dwarf gradually captured material from its companion star. The buildup in mass finally triggered a thermonuclear explosion that destroyed the dwarf star. Because the distance to the supernova remnant is about 7,000 light-years, that explosion actually happened 7,000 years before the light reached Earth in 1006. Shockwaves in the remnant accelerate particles to extreme energies and are thought to be a source of the mysterious cosmic rays.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, Zolt Levay (STScI)

tim white - a jungle of stars by Myriac Acia on Flickr.
Anonymous: hey you're really pretty


sinkingshits: would you ever go in the streets with a "free hugs" sign?

Probably, not on my own though I’d take some friends xd