Tag: space

Hopkins Astrophysicist Draws a Pretty Picture of the Universe

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What does the universe look like? It’s a question that obsesses stoners and astrophysicists alike, though the astrophysicists probably have the most accurate answer.

For a gorgeous — and award-winning — take on 240 million light years of galaxies and dark matter, check out Miguel Aragon’s visualization of “The Cosmic Web,” which won the National Science Foundation’s Science and Engineering Visualization  Challenge, and graces the cover of Science this week. “Underneath the galaxies, there is a complex network of invisible dark matter. Our poster shows the structure and dynamics of the universe in a unifying way,” says Aragon, an associate research scientist in astrophysics at Johns Hopkins.

I don’t know much about dark matter (I’m no Adam Riess), but Aragon’s is an image I could spend some time staring at. The universe apparently looks like tissue paper, or lava, or sunset-hued jellyfish. Or I guess you could just say it looks astronomical.

Giant Asteroid Skims By Earth Tonight

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Good thing it’s lovely weather out there today, Baltimore, because in a few short hours, a giant asteroid will zoom by Earth, and we all know how those movies usually end.

Of course, “close” is a relative term in these situations. Asteroid 2005 YU 55 (who could use a catchier name) is projected to sail by us around 201,000 miles away. But don’t get too comfy — that’s closer than the moon passes in its orbit. And though NASA scientists are saying reassuring things (“There is no chance that this object will collide with  Earth or moon”), isn’t that what they always do before the handsome renegade steps in to save us all?

But some among us are welcoming the near appearance of this space rock. As per the directions of President Obama, NASA has recently shifted its focus to try to land a human on one of these near-Earth asteroids. According to scientists at Johns Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory, the plan is to land a robot on an asteroid by 2015. If we make it until then, that is.

Space Shuttle Astronauts to Speak at Johns Hopkins This Thursday

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One sad consequence of these budget-crunched times is that kids can’t really dream of being astronauts anymore. This Thursday at Johns Hopkins, the crew of the second-to-last NASA space shuttle can let you know how it feels to spacewalk — and to be the last shuttle crew members to get that chance.

If it’s the science that compels you, you’ll be pleased to hear that the Endeavour’s mission was “to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2  — a particle physics detector that searches for various types of unusual matter by measuring cosmic rays” to the International Space Station. The ultimate goal:  evidence of the universe’s most elusive stuff (dark matter, antimatter, and strange matter).  Or maybe you just want to hear about how it feels to eat in space. Either way, the crew will be on hand to show a video presentation about the mission, and to answer questions from the audience.

For additional poignancy, the astronauts include Mark Kelly, husband of Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

Come see these final few spacewalkers this Thursday, August 4 at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg Center for Physics and Astronomy from 6:30 to 9 PM. The event is free and open to the public, and free parking is available in the Muller parking deck (off San Martin Drive).

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