Posted on October 6th, 2015

Out of This World – Views from Space

Last Minute Mars Discovery

I couldn’t help but to squeeze in this last minute update on Mars. On September 28, 2015, NASA announced strong evidence that liquid water exists on Mars today. This exciting discovery opens up endless possibilities and new questions of the possibility of organismic life on Mars. This discovery sets the tone for future rover and manned missions to Mars. So keep an eye out and stay abreast of all the thrilling new discoveries and future missions.

Not-So-Supermassive Black Hole

blackholeThe European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope snapped this image of galaxy NGC1313, believed to be the home of an intermediate-mass black hole. (Image Credit: ESO)

Black holes are fascinating and illusive foreign bodies that have garnered much attention and in-depth research for decades. For the longest time, black holes have fit into two categories: supermassive black holes and stellar mass black holes. Supermassive black holes are aptly named, they vary in size from a million to billions times our Sun’s mass, a size I can’t even begin to comprehend. Stellar mass black holes are a little more manageable at a couple dozen times the size of the Sun’s mass. We have sufficient evidence of these two very different types of black holes that vary vastly in size, which leads us to the obvious conclusion that there must be an in-between size, however few candidates have been discovered. A recently published study by researchers at the University of Maryland and NASA have found evidence of a black hole that is 400 times the mass of the sun, bolstering the sparse number of viable mid-range candidates. This intermediate-mass black hole was found in galaxy NGC1313 and given the name NGC1313X-1.

moonThe supermoon eclipse over the Washington Monument (Photo Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

While the discovery of this hard-to-find black hole is intriguing, it also helps researchers identify key signatures of the object to make it easier to find similar candidates moving forward. NGC-1313X-1 is an ultraluminous X-ray source and has two sets of flashes that occur at a steady 3:2 ratio. This flash characteristic is also common with its smaller sibling, the stellar mass black hole, as smaller black holes will flash faster and then larger ones slower. These unique characteristics will hopefully aid in the identification of even more intermediate-mass black holes as a solid methodology is established.

Super Blood Moon

It’s been 30 years since the stars aligned, or should I say the Earth aligned with the Moon and our Sun, and created a lunar eclipse during a full moon. On Saturday night, if you looked up at the Moon around 10pm EDT and the sky was clear, you would have seen the rare blood moon. While the Earth was happily situated between the Sun and the Moon, keeping the Sun’s rays from reflecting off the Moon’s surface, some of the rays were refracted around the Earth and the only color wavelength that we can see is red. The moon looked especially red due to the many fires this year and this is the only positive thing that has come from such devastation.

Katie Nelson
Geospatial Ninja
(303) 718-7163

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