Does your camera phone do this? – 46 billion pixels of Milky Way #amacrojot @profmcateer

One of the hardest parts of science is trying to study some parts of it in detail, while not forgetting that any one topic is just part of a much bigger picture. Sometimes we get so stuck on the details of the trees, that we miss the forest.  A team of scientists from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum have came up with a new tool to help us keep this perspective in astrophysics.

Over a series of nights in the last 5 years,  a campaign was carried out by the scientists in an attempt to create a catalogue of objects with variable brightness (e.g., when exoplanets crosses its stellar disk. They used telescopes based in Chile’s Atacama desert to shoot the same patches of the southern sky repeatedly over several days. Now they have taken all these data and compiled the largest astronomical image, ever. About 268 images have been aligned and captures in one image in order to create a vast 194-gigabyte galactic mosaic.

Even if you spend $10,000 on your 4K resolution, 8 million pixel tv, you’ll still be left disappointed. This stunning vista is comprised of an impressive 46 billion pixels. It so large that the researchers have provided a special online tool in order to allow viewers to take in the cosmic scene. Like google maps for the milky way. The online tool allows viewers to observe and zoom in on stunning aspects of the Milky Way in incredible detail. You can also search for objects such as stars and nebulae via the input box on the lower left of the screen.

A big milky way galaxy, finally captured in all glory, and all its detail.


Smile, you’re on camera @profmcateer @algore #DSCOVR

There is nothing that puts life’s little trivialities in perspective quite like seeing yourself. Get outside your own perspective and look at yourself. See your own weakness. Now, that is all very well and good as a personal and psychological idea. But this is hard as a scientific endeavor. Back in 1998, Al Gore proposed a spacecraft that would sit between the Earth and the Sun, constantly sending back live images our blue sphere.

‘Wouldn’t it be nice,’ Gore asked in 1998, ‘to have that image continuous, live, 24 hours a day?'”

And so a mission was proposed to send a probe to a spot a million miles from Earth — a place known as the L1 Lagrange point, where the gravity of the Earth and the sun cancel each other out. The space probe, originally dubbed Triana, would point a telescope with a color camera back at our planet from L1, and send images down to Earth. At the very least, it’s a cool view. At best we would inspire the next generation to see Earth in its fragility and help us to tend to it future. Today, NASA announced that this view will be available every day on a new website dedicated to publishing these images. It took nearly 20 years to make this happen, but now the idea born by Al Gore is alive.

The prime science goal of this Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), is to “maintain the nation’s real-time solar wind monitoring capabilities, which are critical to the accuracy and lead time of space weather alerts and forecasts from NOAA.” This makes it a vital early warning of pending solar storms. But the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) was included as part of the package, and these data may steal the show.

Each daily sequence of images will reveal the whole globe over the course of a day. Image sequences from all previous days will also be archived on the site and can be searched by date and continent.

The new age of seeing ourselves as we really are has begun.


A Tyrannosaurus Wrecks #DeathByComet #DeathByVolcano @profmcateer

There is no doubt that a big rock from space hurtled through the Earth’s atmosphere at the same approximate time that the dinosaurs were eliminated from the species chain 65 million years ago. But despite this common knowledge, there is still an open question as to whether Dinosaurs were on the way out anyway, whether a new spurt of volcanic eruptions finally knocked them off, or whether really was a case of Death By Comet.


New research published in Science suggest it may have been the perfect storm of all three of three reasons.

State shift in Deccan volcanism at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary, possibly induced by impact

As reported on

A team of geologists have uncovered evidence that an asteroid impact on Earth 66 million years ago accelerated huge Indian volcanic eruptions – known as the Deccan Traps – for hundreds of thousands of years. The researchers suggest that, together, these planet-wide catastrophes led to the extinction of many land and marine animals, including the dinosaurs.

The researchers found that the eruptions accelerated within 50,000 years of the asteroid impact and were likely reignited by the impact, which may have generated magnitude 9 earthquakes or stronger everywhere on Earth.

For 35 years, paleontologists and geologists have debated the role that these two global events – the asteroid impact and the Deccan Traps eruptions – played in the last mass extinction. One side claims the eruptions were irrelevant, and the other side claims the impact was a blip in a long-term die-off.

The new evidence includes what the researcher say are the most accurate dates yet for the volcanic eruptions before and after the impact. The new dates show that the Deccan Traps lava flows, which at the time were erupting at a slower pace, doubled in output within 50,000 years of the asteroid or comet impact that is thought to have initiated the last mass extinction on Earth.

Both the impact and the volcanism would have blanketed the planet with dust and noxious fumes, say the scientists, drastically changing the climate and sending many species to an early grave.

Luckily for us humans, looks like the Dinosaurs never stood a chance.