BAN #81: NASA’s Administrator on Twitter, A tiny lovely spiral

January 21, 2019 Issue #81

Subscribers accrete hope in the gravity well of my heart.


Space news

Space is big. That’s why we call it “space”

So, this happened.

[Credit: Twitter]

Um, wow.

Under normal circumstances I’d be thrilled, but mitigating this a little bit is that I have had issues with actions taken by Administrator Bridenstine in the past, where he was a full-bore climate change denier. By the time he was nominated for NASA Administrator he hadn’t backed down from that opinion, at least not publicly, so I was against his nomination.

However, since then, he has made statements on several occasions that he now agrees with the scientific consensus. Because of this I am giving him the benefit of a doubt, but I’m still somewhat wary. If he’s being honest, then good on him, and I mean that very sincerely. But if this is lip service, then I’ll be ready to make a lot of noise when that becomes clear. Until that time: doubt benefit.

Still, I’ll note he supports SLS and Orion, which isn’t surprising, given that’s his job as well, and I most certainly do not. But I don’t think there’s much any of us can do to stem the tide of billions being poured into that project, wasteful as I think it may be.

So, no matter, I will try to use this wisely. I won’t shrink when he does something that deviates from what I think is right, nor will I hesitate to support him when he does do what I think is right. And I most certainly hope that the decisions he makes are ones I can support.


Pic o’ the Letter

A cool or lovely or mind-bending astronomical image/video with a short description so you can grok it

I normally post big, splashy images of galaxies in this space, but I found one that I just love even though it’s neither big nor splashy.

This is 2XMM J143450.5+033843:

[Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA]

It’s a face-on spiral about 400 million light years away, a considerable distance, so it’s not as full-frame as many spirals you see in Hubble images like this one. It’s an active galaxy, one with a black hole in its center that’s actively gobbling down material and blasting out vast amounts of energy — the accreting material swirls around the black hole, heats up, and gets very bright. Astronomers think the black hole in this galaxy may be smaller than usual; there’s a trend that galaxies with smaller central bulges (the roughly spherical ball of stars around the center of spirals) have smaller black holes. 2XMM J143450.5+033843 has a small bulge, so they’re hoping the black hole in its core is an elusive intermediate mass black hole, with less than a million times the mass of the Sun.

If you’re wondering about the name, it indicates it was seen in the second sky survey done by the XMM-Newton X-ray observatory, and the J and numbers represent its coordinates on the sky. It has been seen in other observations as well and, like many objects, has multiple designations.

But a rose by any other name, eh? It still looks as pretty.


Blog Jam

What I’ve recently written on the blog, ICYMI

Monday Jan. 14, 2019: Amazing video: Chinese lander and rover descend to the Moon’s far side!

Tuesday Jan. 15, 2019: Huge asymmetric exploding space cow!

Wednesday Jan. 16, 2019: Rocky worlds around red dwarfs may get blasted clean of water

Thursday Jan. 17, 2019: How to watch this weekend’s total lunar eclipse — the last one for two years!

Friday Jan. 18, 2019: A quasar at the edge of the observable Universe shines with the light of 10 trillion Suns!


Et alia

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