The Galactic Inquirer

Galactic and Extragalactic Astronomy

Earth & Space Report No 6, with AAVSO Director Stella Kafka

Guest Presenter and AAVSO Director Stella Kafka reviews her tenure as Director, and discusses the role of the AAVSO in current stellar research.

GAAC Meeting September 11 2020: Jeremy Parker and The Comet Chronicles

A photo/video account of comet NEOWISE by Gloucester Area Astronomy Club astrophotographer Jeremy Parker, and a review of some of the more recent Great Comets.

Astrophotography: Summer 2020 Update

I just finished a little project to put some of my recent images to music in a slideshow video, most of which I showed at our recent GAAC astrophotography virtual meeting. This is my first attempt at such a video, but I think I will make them periodically, moving forward. I figured I would share it here, as you might find it entertaining or relaxing. Enjoy!

Earth & Space Report #4: Galactic Blowhards

Galaxies comprise the largest self-gravitating systems of luminous matter in the universe, swirling masses of matter and energy just looking for trouble. Over the past few decades, astronomers have come to appreciate how fervently active galaxies can be. Besides hosting roiling clouds of intense starburst activity, they often also sport supermassive black holes in their centers that can pack a powerful punch. These myriad histrionics can affect the host galaxy's subsequent evolution and even the destinies of neighboring galaxies.

Book Review: Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

In Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, popular science author Neil DeGrasse Tyson summarizes the most frequently-asked questions about the universe and how we fit into the overall cosmos. Tyson is an American astrophysicist and science communicator who was born on October 5, 1958 in Manhattan, New York.

Book Review: Dava Sobel’s The Glass Universe

Sobel’s most recent novel The Glass Universe (2016) is split into three parts, “The Colors of Starlight,” “Oh, Be A Fine Girl, Kiss Me,” and “In the Depths Above.” Each part is further structured quite nicely into titled chapters that relate to the subject or person of interest. The book’s sweep is chronological, starting with Mary Anna Palmer Draper – the wife of astronomer Henry Draper.

The Multi-armed Milky Way

According to recent popular science articles, there has been something of a revival of the traditional idea that our Milky Way is a 4-armed spiral galaxy, as opposed to having two spiral arms, as seen in the currently most popular rendition of our home Galaxy.

Latest news

Dispatches from the Cosmos (2022-2023)

Each year, the American Astronomical Society (AAS) hosts two big meetings in January and June that span all of astronomy and its subfields of cosmology, helioastronomy, and planetary science. The COVID-19 pandemic took its toll, beginning in June 2020, when the meeting format pivoted to online presentations. The January 2022 meeting was canceled outright, but by June 2022, the society pivoted again, offering a hybrid mix of in-person and online formats. These two meetings underscored the unquenchable thirst for astronomical questing among our veteran and rising scientists. Here are a few highlights from these meetings.

Surfing The Auroral Cascade: Quantitative Constraints on Oxygen Forbidden-line Emissions and Exciting Electron Velocities

The formula for collisional excitation of the atoms responsible for auroral emission can explain why green auroras from excited oxygen atoms can occur at relatively low altitudes, but red auroras from these same atoms are constrained to higher altitudes of lower density. The same formula also suggests much lower electron velocities (~100 km/s) than are required to excite the oxygen atoms to the required metastable levels for subsequent emission (~1000 km/s).

Statistical Properties of Fast Radio Bursts from the CHIME/FRB Catalog 1: The Case for Magnetar Wind Nebulae as Likely Sources

Fast Radio Bursts are flashes of radio emission lasting for several milliseconds. The time of arrival of signals depends on the radio frequency, called the dispersion measure (DM), which depends on the environment through which the signals travel, specifically the number of free electrons in their path. Very few FRBs have matches with sources observed at other wavelengths (Wikipedia - Fast Radio Burst).

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