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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hershel Telescope studying VY Canis Major

I just heard on the news that the astronomers are using the Hershel Telescope to study VY Canis Major. What is VY Canis Major you ask?

VY Canis Major is the largest known star which has ever been found in our universe.

The Hershel Telescope  was constructed by the European Space Agency. It was launched into space and is the World's largest infrared telescope. As stated by Andrea Thompson. senior writer at,:,

"Infrared light is better known to most of us as heat. But heat isn't emitted just by the hottest objects — even an ice cube gives off infrared energy."
"Celestial objects with surface temperatures of about 3600 degrees Fahrenheit (2,000 Celsius) — cold compared to the Sun which has a surface temperature of about 9900 F (5,500 C) — actually radiate most of their energy at infrared wavelengths. Aging stars, planets and dust are all objects in the universe best observed in the infrared, appearing as dark blobs in the visible spectrum, but until Herschel, infrared observations of these objects have been incomplete."

"For one thing, ground-based telescopes are not as effective at these observations because infrared light is largely blocked by water in Earth's atmosphere. Other space-based missions have only looked in particular infrared wavelengths. Herschel will offer a more comprehensive look from the clear window of space."

"With its 11.5-foot (3.5-meter) mirror (the largest ever sent into space and almost 1.5 times larger than the Hubble Space Telescope), Herschel will be able to explore more in the far-infrared than any other mission, both within and outside our own galaxy. Herschel will collect almost 20 times more light than any previous infrared space telescope."
"The telescope (named for the astronomer William Herschel who discovered infrared light 200 years ago) will detect light from objects as cold as minus -440 degrees F (-263 C)."

"Within our solar system, Herschel will examine asteroids, Kuiper belt objects and comets, which are fossils of the early solar system that could hold clues to the raw ingredients that formed the planets, including Earth. One ingredient of particular interest is water."
"One of the most interesting targets for Herschel is the same water that blocks our view of the universe," stated Paul Goldsmith, the NASA project scientist for Herschel at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., which provided some of the key technology for the telescopes."
"Some astronomers think that comets, which are sometimes thought of as "icy snowballs," could have supplied the Earth's water. As comets near the sun in their orbit, their ice melts into water — Herschel can detect the water's signature, Goldsmith explained."
"Herschel will also look for signs of water in interstellar clouds and compare it to the water signatures in our own solar system, to "see how we're connected," Goldsmith said."

 Here is some information about VY Canis Major.
 VY Canis Majoris, a red hypergiant measuring between 1800 to 2100 solar radii.Hypergiant stars have a diameter between about 100 and 2100 times that of the Sun.Hypergiant stars are short-lived, existing for only a couple million years before they go nova. As a result, they are relatively rare and theories about hypergiants are restricted by scarce data. (Source: ).

 VY Canis Majoris a.k.a. VY CMa is about 4,900 light years from the Earth. This value, however, is just a rough estimate because it is too far for parallax  to be used. Parallax is the most common method for measuring star distances.The French astronomer Jerome Lalande is credited to be the first person to have recorded VY CMa.t was once believed that VY CMa was a multiple star system. This was due to six discrete components that were measured by observers during the 19th century. Scientists eventually realized that the said discrete components were actually bright areas of the surrounding nebula.("A nebula (from Latin means "cloud"  pl. nebulae or nebulæ, with ligatureor nebulas) is an interstellar cloud of dust,hydrogen gas, helium gas and plasma." (source:

 Here is an image of VY Canis Major which was taken by the Hubble Telescope:

 Credit: NASA/ESA/R Humphreys/U Minnesota

Here is a  short video from Youtube which discusses the Hershel Telescope and its mission:

Here is a link to video which gives information about VY Canis Major:

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Thoughts worth thinking about

"Our subconscious minds have no sense of humor, play no jokes and cannot tell the difference between reality and an imagined thought or image. What we continually think about eventually will manifest in our lives."-Sidney Madwed

Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every woman and man present their views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.- Albert Einstein Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. - Leo Buscaglia

A person's true wealth is the good he or she does in the world. - Mohammed

Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. -Albert Einstein

The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others. - Ghandi

The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves. - Helen Keller

Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person. - Dr. David M. Burns

Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures. -His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it. -

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That's the essence of inhumanity. -George Bernard Shaw

Ego's trick is to make us lose sight of our interdependence. That kind of ego-thought gives us a perfect justification to look out only for ourselves. But that is far from the truth. In reality we all depend on each other and we have to help each other. The husband has to help his wife, the wife has to help the husband, the mother has to help her children, and the children are supposed to help the parents too, whether they want to or not.-Gehlek Rinpoche Source: "The Best Buddhist Writing 2005 pg. 165

The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events---that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies---and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends.