Even though sound cannot propagate through the vacuum of space, that doesn’t mean we don’t know what space sounds like. Audio recordings have provided a wealth of information for space scientists almost since the beginning of the space era. Because of their simple and robust operation, microphones have been included on many past and recent space missions, on which they have recorded wind sounds and dust sounds. They will even accompany NASA’s return mission to Saturn’s moon Titan in the 2030s. Audio recordings allow us to reach far across space but also back and forth through time, and probably the last, soulful vestiges of human civilization will persist in the form of audio long after we’re gone.Continue Reading
First Friday Astronomy
Hidden within the depths of a distant galaxy, a luminous behemoth lurks. As it greedily devours whole star systems, the leviathan unlooses a blistering spurt of flame light years long and crackling so loudly it can be heard across the Universe. Astronomers first discovered these cosmic monsters, called active galactic nuclei or AGN, during World War II. Even though they are some of the brightest objects in the Universe, clouds of dust and gas within their host galaxies obscure their machinations. Understanding the evolution of galaxies and the formation of planetary systems requires unveiling these cosmic monsters, and computer simulations coupled with JWST observations are helping unveil these cosmic monsters.Continue Reading
On a clear night in central Idaho, you can see the sweep of our own Milky Way galaxy split the velvet sky. Although we now know the observable Universe spans 13 billion light years, in the 1920s, astronomers didn’t even know how big the Milky Way was. In fact, many astronomers believed our galaxy comprised the entire universe and that what we now know as different galaxies were just strange nebulae within the Milky Way. The story of how astronomers finally took the true measure of the Universe as a result of the the tireless efforts of a human computer.Continue Reading
The dramatic growth of the Treasure Valley impacts more than just commute times. The glare from our shining cities also obscures the night sky. And, like other forms of pollution, light pollution respects no municipal boundaries. Treasure Valley’s bright lights and big cities are starting to affect the night skies in the nearby Central Idaho Dark Reserve (CIDSR). Here are some of the details of our local light pollution and ways we can help mitigate its effects.
Much of the information here comes from this report written by the students from the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.Continue Reading
(This post previously ran in 2021 May but has been updated.)
Summer is the prime stargazing season. Venture out under the crystal Moon to watch Scorpius chase Orion from the sky. But if you stay within Boise’s city limits, you may find it harder to see some of your favorites. As Boise grows, so too does its footprint in the sky. However, there are many places in Idaho largely unmarred by the glare of municipal growth.Continue Reading
In 1986, superstars Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson won a Grammy for “Best Song of the Year” for “We are the World“, a single recorded to support the African charity USA for Africa (https://usaforafrica.org/) to provide food and relief aid to starving people in Africa, specifically Ethiopia where a famine raged. With sales in excess of 20 million copies, it is the eighth-bestselling physical single of all time, and it immediately generated 60 million dollars.
But 1986 also marked the 300th anniversary of one of the most popular science books of all time, Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds. And a NASA mission just over the horizon may turn the sci-fi conversations about alien life from this classic pop-sci book into science fact.Continue Reading
Want to learn more about life’s chemical story? Join Boise State Physics for our First Friday Astronomy event on Fri, Sep 2 at 7:30p MT when we will host University of South Florida’s Prof. Matthew Pasek. Attend in-person (https://maps.boisestate.edu/?id=715#!m/89075) or virtually (boi.st/astrobroncoslive).
Like the musical “Hamilton”, the James Webb Space Telescope lives up to the hype. Already, astronomers have used it to discover galaxies older and more distant than ever before, and it’s only getting started. One of the astronomical processes JWST will elucidate is the formation of stars. Understanding star formation is critical if we want to answer questions about the origin of life on Earth and the possibility for life elsewhere in the universe. But even though scientists have been thinking about star formation since before the word “scientist” existed, some of the most basic questions about the process remain unanswered.Continue Reading
Join Boise State Physics on Friday, July 1st at 7:30p MT for our First Friday Astronomy event to hear Dr. Alejandro Soto of SwRI discuss the science of “Dust Storms on Mars”.
The presentation will be live-streamed and recorded at boi.st/astrobroncoslive.