News from the Universe: 12/29/04

Posted by barb on Dec 29, 2004 in Science Musings |

A few more quick notes before the New Year:

  • The Huygen’s probe is on its way to Titan. The probe was released from the Cassini spacecraft on Christmas day, and will encounter the Titan atmosphere on January 14. Go Huygen! has several articles on Cassini and the Huygens probe: Cassini Releases Huygens Probe and Splash, Thud, or Whimper? Cassini’s Huygens Probe Rendezvous with Titan for a couple.

  • Recent results from the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) have found some nearby, massive, and young galaxies.

    Why is this news? Since these galaxies are relatively nearby, that means that they have just recently (in cosmic-terms) formed. Current theory of galactic formation predicts that formation of such massive galaxies would have tapered off by now, and only smaller galaxies should be forming now. As the Universe ages, it expands, pulling material further and further apart. This would indicate that as the Universe ages, it would be more and more difficult for large pockets of material to be available for galaxy formation.

    Galaxy formation is certainly still occuring, but the only young galaxies observed nearby prior to these results were small. This is an exciting step for researchers in galaxy formation and evolution!

  • Perhaps this is old news by now, but Sean O’Keefe is leaving NASA. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not — on the one hand, he did help wrangle NASA’s out-of-control budget problems; on the other hand, he was ready to just abandon the Hubble Space Telescope and trot happily along after Bush’s assinine Moon/Mars exploration plan. Of course, Bush is still in office, so whoever they replace O’Keefe with will certainly have a short leash from Presidential Policy. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what comes next.

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