Tag Archives: galaxies

The centre of the galaxy

Make no mistake. The galactic centre is a fascinating place. Some of the densest interstellar environments in the galaxy, populated by some of the most massive stars. Supernova remnants, strewn about like streamers after a New Year’s celebration, decorate the … Continue reading

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Pardon me, I’ve got gas.

A galaxy is a huge collection of mass drifting in the otherwise bland and mostly featureless void of intergalactic space. Gravity is a force where like attracts like – mass likes to attract more mass – so, as you’d expect, … Continue reading

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Henrietta Leavitt

This is Henrietta Leavitt. And she is one of astronomy’s great unsung heroes. Working at the Harvard College Observatory in 1893 as a humble assistant, she had been tasked with counting images on photographic plates. But while she was looking … Continue reading

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Galactic orbits

A galaxy is a chaotic place. Sure, they may look silent and motionless, suspended in space, but a galaxy is in constant motion. Hundreds of billions of stars, swirling around at hundreds of metres per second, gravitationally fixed in place … Continue reading

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What’s a galaxy?

Every now and again, in casual conversation, someone asks something which catches me off guard briefly. Earlier today over a coffee, I was asked just such a question. After years of doing what I do and hearing all sorts of … Continue reading

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Waltzing behemoths

A supermassive black hole is rather like a gravitational version of the Incredible Hulk. Massive, mean, able to take on anything thrown at it, and virtually unstoppable. While the smaller black holes may form when a massive but otherwise normal … Continue reading

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Explosions in the dark…?

Picture the scene. You’re drifting in intergalactic space. There are no stars punctuating the darkness, like there are here on Earth. Instead of stars, the points of light you can see are fuzzier looking. Far fewer points of light than … Continue reading

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Whirlpools

Messier 51 is a rather pretty spiral galaxy, sometimes known as the Whirlpool Galaxy. Unfortunately, as a spiral galaxy is basically a big swirly thing, there are a few others which people mis-identify as “whirlpool galaxy” too. The real whirlpool … Continue reading

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Pale Red Dot

Have a look at the very centre of this image, and tell me what you see. A small red dot, perhaps. Nothing wildly exciting. But that would be a horrible underestimation of this particular red dot. You see, this red … Continue reading

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The blackness, the darkness forever

In many ways, we’re quite lucky to be where we are. Our lovely little blue planet circles a nice calm yellow dwarf star, in a suburban spiral arm, in the midst of the disk of a nice massive spiral galaxy. … Continue reading

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