Sunday, December 23, 2007

Billions and Billions

I have been having great fun with Google Sky. It's amazing, some of the views of deep sky objects, particularly galaxies and clusters, that are there. I have been going through the nearest objects in the Abell catalog of clusters, sometimes the detail as you zoom in is breathtaking. But you also find that Abell is definitely not the greatest. It came out in 1957. The distance class I think was determined based on brightness, not redshift, and some of them definitely seem off. Also, I've run across some clusters you would think should be there are but not. I need to start noting those. You can query the Abell catalog here. You can also query the Zwicky catalog online here. I've also been putting in galaxies, groups, globular clusters, and supernova remnants (only 3). I then started on the Arp Atlas of Pecular Galaxies. These have a lot of interacting and otherwise interesting galaxies. (Halton Arp was somewhat of a heretic in the 1970's, positing that some large galaxy redshifts were non-cosmological in origin -- the result of a galaxy being spit out by another galaxy, rather than reflecting the expansion of the universe. He wound up moving to Europe.)

So, I was looking at Arp 280 (NGC 3769) and noticed the beautiful spiral NGC 3726 nearby -- with a comet headed straight for it (joke)!!! So I went to the Google Sky forums to see if anyone else had noticed it -- maybe I'd discovered a comet! But, others in the forums had seen it, but no one had identified it. So, I googled "NGC 3726 comet" and this was the 1st link. This says that the comet is Comet C/2001 RX14 (LINEAR) -- it was only discovered in 2001, pretty cool. The comet is here: 11:31:54.06 47:07:51.11

So I posted that to the forum and got kudoed by the moderator. Ooh, ahh, praise. I then answered another post about a Herbig-Haro object, and then posted the following to someone asking about clusters of galaxies:

Clusters of galaxies are the brightest extragalactic objects in X-ray astronomy. Here's a few of my favorites that google sky gives a wonderful view of:
  • Abell 426, the Perseus cluster, at 3:19:48 41.5117. This is the brightest extragalactic X-ray source in the sky. It's fairly close to us ( 76 Mpc; Mpc = megaparsec = 3.262 million light years -- this (and kpc Kiloparsecs) is the unit astronomers use for extragalactic distances). The central galaxy NGC 1275, radio source Perseus A, is crazy energetic. It looks like there's a spiral in there tearing into something else. Unfortunately, google sky's picture of the whole cluster is not the best. Note also, it's somewhat near the plane of our galaxy (the Milky Way), so there's a fair number of foreground stars obscuring the galaxies.
  • Abell 1656, the Coma cluster, at 13:00:08 27.9765 -- the richest cluster close to us (97 Mpc). The google sky view is beautiful, two giant cD galaxies (100 times as big as a normal large galaxy) in the middle. The bright spots in them are smaller galaxies in the process of being digested -- that's how the cD's get so big.
  • Abell 2151, the Hercules cluster, at 16:05:08 17.7293. This almost looks like 2 or 3 clusters merging. There are several galaxies that look like they are trying to be cD's. There are 3 pairs of interacting spirals. The google sky picture is wonderful.
  • Abell 2199, at 16:28:38 39.5513. This has a single central cD galaxy busily gobbling up smaller galaxies. The google sky picture has wonderful detail.
A426 is kind of disappointing -- in some parts of the sky the galaxies are detailed and full colored, others they are just blobs -- A426 is the latter. But the inlaid Hubble picture of NGC 1275, when I first saw it, blew me away. I spent over a year studying on this galaxy back in the day, suddenly you get to see a close-up!

I think I am going to donate some of my cycles to this particular group mind. The forums seem to have a fair amount of interest in astronomy and not a lot of knowledge.

Read the 4th book of Charles Stross' "Merchant Prince" series, "The Merchants' War. This was a very enjoyable read. This series now has several interesting threads running, I think he would write a dozen of these if he wanted to. The 330 pages doesn't seem like enough for the increasing number of threads tho.

Then read his latest near future novel "Halting State". This has some of the elements of the "Atrocity Archives" world stories -- geeky hero, spy thriller stuff, but only a passing reference to H.P. Lovecraft. This novel has some great concepts and bon mots, but for some reason didn't suck me in as it should have -- I put it down for several days twice.

Music goes well. Wednesdays at O'Neill's I've been getting to sing a few, play and sing backup on a few more. "Let the Good Times Roll" by B.B.King is working out, as is my reggae version of "All Along The Watchtower". I got drafted to sing the lead on "Roadhouse Blues" by the Doors. No one knew any more words than I did (the 3rd verse), so I did the 3rd verse, made up a verse, the 3rd and 4th lines of the bridge (that someone shouted at me -- "Save our city", "Right now"), then the 3rd verse. It was fun to do, I've got the words now, have to try it again.

Listening to Albert King live at Montreaux Jazz in 1973 now. After wanting to track down "Where or When" (Rodgers & Hart 1937), I wound up downloading Frank Sinatra "The Best of the Columbia Years 1943-1952" from iTunes. 97 tracks for $9.95, quelle bargain.

Last weekend went to Cornell for the graduation of my last child from college, woo-hoo!!!!! No more tuition payments!!!!! Drove back from Ithaca NY to Columbus OH in a nice snowstorm, but it only took 2 extra hours. It could have been much worse. Only saw 5 cars, 0 semis in the ditch.

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