Zooming in on NASA's Giant Andromeda Galaxy Image


NASA recently released a gigantic panoramic photo detailing a portion of the Andromeda galaxy. Assembled from 7,398 Hubble Space Telescope images, the panorama shows more than 100 million stars.

The image is gigantic (you can download various versions from HubbleSite), and on first glance it's hard to understand what we're seeing, and just how dense the image is. Various YouTubers have opened the image and zoomed in, showing what's there when you view it close-up. Here are a few of my favorite videos of the new image.

Opening in Photoshop and Hitting "Zoom"

In this simple video, documentary director Adam Cornelius opens the file in Photoshop and simply hits the Zoom button repeatedly, then zooms out. (You can view the percent zoom in the top menu bar; it starts around 5% in an attempt to fit it on the screen.) You must watch this in 1080p HD (use the "gear" icon in the bottom right of the YouTube player) or it will be too blurry to make sense of.

I like this one because it shows the computer struggling to zoom in on such a large file—and at high zoom levels it reveals that every pixel contains some sort of light.

Smooth 4K Resolution Zoom and Pan

In this video, YouTuber "daveachuk" puts the image in context, and produces a smooth zoom and pan around the image. You'll want to set this to 4K (even if you don't have a 4K monitor), because YouTube's video compression blurs the image quite a bit otherwise. This is cool:

Narrated Zoom

HubbleSite released a 45-second zoom video narrating what we're seeing. The video quality isn't great, but the narration helps to explain some of what we're seeing:

How Often Is 'Once in a Blue Moon'? Let Neil deGrasse Tyson Explain

From “lit” to “I can’t even,” lots of colloquialisms make no sense. But not all confusing phrases stem from Millennial mouths. Take, for example, “once in a blue moon”—an expression you’ve likely heard uttered by teachers, parents, newscasters, and even scientists. This term is often used to describe a rare phenomenon—but why?

Even StarTalk Radio host Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn’t know for sure. “I have no idea why a blue moon is called a blue moon,” he tells Mashable. “There is nothing blue about it at all.”

A blue moon is the second full moon to appear in a single calendar month. Astronomy dictates that two full moons can technically occur in one month, so long as the first moon rises early in the month and the second appears around the 30th or 31st. This type of phenomenon occurs every couple years or so. So taken literally, “Once in a blue moon” must mean "every few years"—even if the term itself is often used to describe something that’s even more rare.

[h/t Mashable]

Neutron Star Collision Sheds Light on the Strange Matter That Weighs a Billion Tons Per Teaspoon
Two neutron stars collide.
Two neutron stars collide.

Neutron stars are among the many mysteries of the universe scientists are working to unravel. The celestial bodies are incredibly dense, and their dramatic deaths are one of the main sources of the universe’s gold. But beyond that, not much is known about neutron stars, not even their size or what they’re made of. A new stellar collision reported earlier this year may shed light on the physics of these unusual objects.

As Science News reports, the collision of two neutron stars—the remaining cores of massive stars that have collapsed—were observed via light from gravitational waves. When the two small stars crossed paths, they merged to create one large object. The new star collapsed shortly after it formed, but exactly how long it took to perish reveals keys details of its size and makeup.

One thing scientists know about neutron stars is that they’re really, really dense. When stars become too big to support their own mass, they collapse, compressing their electrons and protons together into neutrons. The resulting neutron star fits all that matter into a tight space—scientists estimate that one teaspoon of the stuff inside a neutron star would weigh a billion tons.

This type of matter is impossible to recreate and study on Earth, but scientists have come up with a few theories as to its specific properties. One is that neutron stars are soft and yielding like stellar Play-Doh. Another school of thought posits that the stars are rigid and equipped to stand up to extreme pressure.

According to simulations, a soft neutron star would take less time to collapse than a hard star because they’re smaller. During the recently recorded event, astronomers observed a brief flash of light between the neutron stars’ collision and collapse. This indicates that a new spinning star, held together by the speed of its rotation, existed for a few milliseconds rather than collapsing immediately and vanishing into a black hole. This supports the hard neutron star theory.

Armed with a clearer idea of the star’s composition, scientists can now put constraints on their size range. One group of researchers pegged the smallest possible size for a neutron star with 60 percent more mass than our sun at 13.3 miles across. At the other end of the spectrum, scientists are determining that the biggest neutron stars become smaller rather than larger. In the collision, a larger star would have survived hours or potentially days, supported by its own heft, before collapsing. Its short existence suggests it wasn’t so huge.

Astronomers now know more about neutron stars than ever before, but their mysterious nature is still far from being fully understood. The matter at their core, whether free-floating quarks or subatomic particles made from heavier quarks, could change all of the equations that have been written up to this point. Astronomers will continue to search the skies for clues that demystify the strange objects.

[h/t Science News]


More from mental floss studios