WBEZ | galaxies http://www.wbez.org/tags/galaxies Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Clever Apes #25: Curveballs from space http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2012-01-31/clever-apes-25-curveballs-space-95995 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2012-January/2012-01-31/three galaxies.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="Clockwise and counterclockwise galaxies from the Hubble Telescope (NASA, ESA, M." class="caption" height="347" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-31/three galaxies.jpg" title="Clockwise and counterclockwise galaxies from the Hubble Telescope (NASA, ESA, M. Livio and the Hubble Heritage Team, STScI/AURA)" width="600"></p><p>Often in science, a new insight doesn’t fit in with the old patterns. That means something, of course, is wrong – either the fresh idea, or everything we thought we knew leading up to it. In the latest installment of Clever Apes, we consider two of these curveballs. One has already rewritten the solar system's history. The other seemed, for a while, like it might mean the universe is either left-handed, or shaped like a small doughnut.</p><p>For starters, many of us learned in school that the solar system formed by a <a href="http://nineplanets.org/origin.html">nice, orderly process</a>. Tiny things gently coalesced into bigger objects, settling into this pleasant little arrangement of planets and moons. But now, scientists think it was <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nice_model">probably a bloodbath</a>, with would-be planets snuffed out in cataclysmic collisions. In some parts of the solar system, as much as 99.9 percent of the material that was once there has been completely ejected from the solar system.</p><p><a href="http://www.adlerplanetarium.org/researchcollections/researchers/#mh">Mark Hammergren</a>, Adler Planetarium astronomer and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/clever-apes-7-apes-space">Friend to the Apes</a>, is trying to recover that lost history. He’s searching for traces of planetesimals, a nearly extinct race of giant asteroids that were the seeds of our planets. Their story shows just how rough of a neighborhood the early solar system was. Jupiter, for example, probably lurched around like a bull in a china shop, its gravity knocking asteroids and planetoids into each other and, in many cases, out of orbit completely.</p><p>The fate of those ejected bodies leads to one of the most evocative consequences of this model of solar system formation: interstellar space could be thick with <a href="http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2072290,00.html">“rogue planets,”</a> whipping through the blackness. Some, says Hammergren, could even still be heated by their molten cores, leading to the speculative, but awesome, possibility that some could harbor life.</p><p>Second, the story of a curveball that threatened to topple some very basic ideas about space and time. Scientists, including the Adler’s <a href="http://www.adlerplanetarium.org/researchcollections/researchers/#chrislintott">Chris Lintott</a>, started several <a href="https://www.zooniverse.org/">“citizen science” initiatives</a>, which enlist the help of tens of thousands of people at their home computers to help sort through data. In this case, they’re <a href="http://www.galaxyzoo.org/">categorizing pictures of galaxies </a>from the Hubble Telescope and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. People log on, look at a galaxy and enter its shape, orientation and, if it’s a spiral, which direction the arms are moving. Before long, Lintott noticed that they were getting significantly more counterclockwise galaxies than clockwise galaxies. This was a little scary.</p><p>There’s no reason there should be a bias toward one or the other, because it all depends, of course, on which way you look at the galaxy. If there is more of one kind than the other, that would have some very spooky implications (for example, the universe might be quite small and doughnut-shaped). It would require scientists to throw out well-established axioms about the universe.</p><p>So Lintott and his team worked to get to the bottom of this crazy observation. I won’t give away the punch line, but let’s just say the answer caused Lintott to invoke <a href="http://www.enotes.com/shakespeare-quotes/fault-dear-brutus-our-stars">this quote </a>from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Click the “listen” button above for the whole story.&nbsp;</p><p>Lintott, by the way, is a fascinating fellow in his own right. Besides his gig at the Adler, he does research at Oxford, hosts a long-running series on the BBC called <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/tv/features/skyatnight/aps/team.shtml"><em>The Sky at Night</em></a>, and even wrote a <a href="http://www.banguniverse.com/">book on cosmology </a>with the guitarist from Queen.</p><p>Anyway, don’t forget to subscribe to our <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CleverApesPodcast" target="_blank" title="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CleverApesPodcast">podcast</a>, follow us on&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/cleverapes" target="_blank" title="http://twitter.com/#!/cleverapes">Twitter</a>, and find us on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412" target="_blank" title="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412">Facebook</a>.</p><p><img alt="Dr. Mark Hammergren, an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium. (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitz" class="caption" height="450" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-31/use this hammergren.JPG" title="Dr. Mark Hammergren, an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium. (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)" width="600"></p></p> Tue, 31 Jan 2012 17:42:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2012-01-31/clever-apes-25-curveballs-space-95995 Milos Stehlik reviews Patricio Guzmán's new film ‘Nostalgia for the Light’ http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-08/milos-stehlik-reviews-patricio-guzm%C3%A1ns-new-film-%E2%80%98nostalgia-light%E2%80%99-88890 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-July/2011-07-08/milos.jpeg" alt="" /><p><p><strong><em>Nostalgia for the Light</em> starts today at the <a href="http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/">Gene Siskel Film Center</a> and runs through July 14th. The film retrospective, <em><a href="http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/guzman">The Probing Eye of Patricio Guzmán</a></em>, begins at the Siskel Center on July 17th and runs through August 3rd.</strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>If you really want to see the stars — go to Chile. Many of the world's best space observatories are situated there. The altitude and quality of light offer the clearest view of the galaxies. <em>Nostalgia for the Light</em>, the new film by Chilean documentarian Patrizio Guzman, explores the cold, awesome beauty of the galaxies as seen from observatories in Chile’s vast Atacama Desert. Known as the driest place on earth, it’s just west of the Andes mountains.</p><p>But secrets revealed to observers by the high-powered telescopes in the Atacama Desert parallel secrets hidden in the dry desert ground: the remains of Pinochet's concentration camps. Mothers, daughters and relatives return, day after day, to sift through the desert in search for their loved-ones’ remains. The harsh desert sun keeps human remains intact -- the desert also preserves intact the remains of pre-Columbian mummies, 19th century explorers, as well as the remains of the political prisoners "disappeared" by the Chilean army after the military coup in September, 1973.</p><p>Patrizio Guzman is 70 years old, and almost all of his films have, as their central theme, the political tragedy of his country which culminated in the death of its president, Salvador Allende, and which was followed by the brutal military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.</p><p>Guzman's film trilogy, <em>The Battle of Chile</em>, was one of the first films to bring to light this grotesque history in a powerful statement. Though clearly the original intent of <em>The Battle of Chile</em> was to mobilize resistance to Pinochet’s reign of terror on Chile, the films still resonate today as a powerful and brave historical testament. Guzman was no more and no less than a witness to his troubled time. <em>The Battle of Chile</em> was followed by films like Salvador Allende, a moving portrait of the late President who was Guzman's friend, and the films <em>Chile: The Obstinate Memory</em> and <em>The Pinochet Case</em>.&nbsp; These films endeavored to keep this collective memory and history alive. Although Guzman now lives in France, the clearly tortured past of Chile, his native land, dominates as a main theme for most of his films.</p><p><em>Nostalgia for the Light</em> might often be categorized as a documentary. But it is more of a cinematic essay. This film articulates and posits definite philosophical and moral points of view — it tries to connect the search of the heavens with the search for history. How can the Atacama Desert’s dry and vast emptiness support both the clear vision of the universe and still hide the recent past?</p><p>The young astronomer Gaspar Galaz, encapsulates this philosophical disconnect, when he says that “the present doesn't exist.” The reason is because light needs time to travel from its origin to the eye of the viewer. Whenever an astronomer looks at the sky through the telescope, he always sees the past, because of the time it took that image to get to the eyes. The contrast is glaring: while Galaz peers through his telescopes to study galaxies, the women return day after day, sometimes for years -- to comb 40,600 square miles of desert for a tiny bone fragment that might connect them to a lost loved one.</p><p>In <em>Nostalgia for the Light</em>, a woman beautifully articulates this piteous, reverent search when she says, “I wish telescopes didn't just look into the sky, but could also see through the earth so that we could find them.”</p><p>Ultimately, moral and ethical meaning in <em>Nostalgia for the Light</em> comes from the beauty of its images — the starkness of the desert, where the bleached-out bones of those dead but-not-forgotten lay in sharp disparity to the endless depths of the star-laden night sky. In this harsh contrast of perspectives, detail contains the most powerful meaning: the well-oiled gears of an old telescope which enables astronomers to see thousands of light years away with clarity that escapes women who sift through rock and dirt to recover a history — stolen from them by political brutality…</p><p><em>Milos Stehlik’s commentaries&nbsp;reflect his own views and not necessarily those of Facets Multi-Media, Worldview or 91.5 WBEZ. His reviews air on Fridays.</em></p><p><strong>The trailer for <em>Nostalgia for the Light</em>, with English subtitles</strong></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/7FvhsYCkcN8" width="425" frameborder="0" height="349"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 08 Jul 2011 16:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-08/milos-stehlik-reviews-patricio-guzm%C3%A1ns-new-film-%E2%80%98nostalgia-light%E2%80%99-88890 Scientists undeterred by Hubble successor's costs http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-06-07/scientists-undeterred-hubble-successors-costs-87553 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//npr_story/photo/2011-June/2011-06-08/mirror44_wide.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The successor to the Hubble Space Telescope is facing cost overruns and years of delay before it launches, but that hasn't dampened the enthusiasm of scientists who are meeting in Baltimore this week to talk about the amazing research they want to do with the James Webb Space Telescope.</p><p>"What I want to look at with Webb is what we call ice giants in our solar system, the planets Neptune and Uranus," says Heidi Hammel, of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, a consortium that operates large observatories. "I've been studying these planets for 20, 30 years now and we've really pushed the limits of what we can do from the ground and with Hubble."</p><p>The James Webb Space Telescope, named after a NASA administrator during the Apollo days, is designed to push past those limits and others. The telescope, bigger and more powerful than Hubble, will be able to do things like peer at the very first galaxies, search for water on planets that orbit distant stars, and reveal parts of the universe that have never been seen before.</p><p>All that comes with a big price tag. A recent independent review said that the telescope will cost about $1.5 billion more than the $5 billion that NASA had planned to spend. While it was supposed to launch in 2014, it's looking like 2018 at the earliest.</p><p>Hammel seems unfazed by these setbacks.</p><p>"It's clear that it's hard to build," she says. "But you've got to do hard things, because that's where the frontiers are."</p><p>In the two decades it's been orbiting Earth, the Hubble Space Telescope has revolutionized astronomy, probing the mystery of dark matter and showing that the first galaxies formed earlier than any one ever thought. Experts expect the James Webb Space Telescope to have a similar impact.</p><p>But unlike Hubble, which orbits close to Earth, James Webb will be far out in space, about 1 million miles away. This infrared telescope could be blinded by heat, so it needs to be cold — minus-400 degrees Fahrenheit.</p><p>Part of the reason the telescope is so expensive is that a bunch of technologies had to be invented just to make it work, and it was hard to estimate their costs up front. Matt Mountain, head of the Space Telescope Science Institute, points to innovations like its 18 gold-coated mirrors, and its five-layer sunshade the size of a tennis court.</p><p>"There's a whole range of these new technologies which had to be brought in," he says.</p><p>Mountain says the technologies they worry least about are the ones that "scare" people the most. Those are the "unfolding technologies" that make this a collapsible telescope. The James Webb Space Telescope is the size of a Boeing 737, but it has to fold up to fit in a slender rocket — then unfold once it's in space. And the whole thing has to work perfectly, because repair missions won't be an option for an instrument that's so far away.</p><p>About $3 billion has already been spent. NASA officials are now hunting around for the extra money it will take to complete the testing and building. The agency also just shook up the telescope's management and put a new project manager, Rick Howard, in charge. Howard says some scientists do worry that James Webb could become the telescope that ate NASA's entire astronomy budget.</p><p>"There are a lot of people that are concerned about that, there's no doubt about that," he acknowledges.</p><p>Howard says it won't do that and, in his view, it's worth the price. He also notes that it isn't the first telescope to be unexpectedly expensive — all in all, the Hubble program has cost around $10 billion.</p><p>"It's interesting to think about James Webb vs. Hubble," Howard says. "When Hubble was launched, it was about three times the cost of what it was originally estimated at." <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. </p> Tue, 07 Jun 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-06-07/scientists-undeterred-hubble-successors-costs-87553