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Ethan Siegel
Works at NASA's The Space Place
Attended University of Florida College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Lived in Bronx, New York
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Ethan Siegel

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"This data will enable scientists to build the most accurate model ever of star-formation, history and evolution within our galaxy, and understand the mechanism behind the origin of practically all the light in our Universe."

From our vantage point within the Milky Way, most of our 200-400 billion stars are obscured by the dust lanes present within. But thanks to its views in infrared light, the Spitzer Space Telescope can glimpse not only all of the stars and the dust simultaneously, it can do it at an alarming resolution. Recently, NASA has put together a 360 panorama of more than 2,000,000 Spitzer images taken from 2003-2014, and one astrophysicist has gone and stitched them together into a single, 180,000-pixel-long viewable experience that shows less than 3% of the sky, but nearly 50% of its stars.
The Spitzer Space Telescope has imaged our entire galactic plane in the infrared, and it’s a 180,000 pixel spectacular.
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really its a 2 ...I do better genetic helicals than that
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"The idea that the Universe could be described by our physical laws, the fundamental particles, and simply knowing the initial conditions and extrapolating forwards in time is at the heart of what cosmology is. From ancient times until perhaps the 1960s, cosmology was more of a hypothesis than a full-blown physical theory, as there were too many uncertainties that were simply too large. But with the discovery of the cosmic microwave background, all of that changed.

For the first time, we knew not only the physical laws governing the Universe (General Relativity was well-established, and the Standard Model was very close to complete), but we learned what the initial state-and-conditions of the Universe were to a reasonably high precision. The idea of a “precision cosmology,” once a pipe dream, has become a reality thanks to the influx of continually superior data. For the first time, we understand the history of the Universe and almost everything in it with errors and uncertainties on almost everything that are no more than a few percent."

A huge number of comments -- and responses -- to dive a little deeper into our Universe. Don't miss our comments of the week!
“True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new.” -Antoine de Saint-Exupery Every week holds an amazing look at the Universe in a unique way here at Starts With A Bang, and this week saw not only a series of new posts from me, but two contributed ones, including…
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This is not just the Golden Age of Science, it is the Golden Age of Science Education thanks to scientists and educators like you Ethan, and Brian, and Jillian and many, many others who so willing share their hard won knowledge, understanding and insights with all.  Wow!  Thank you.
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"So no, we don’t quite have a second moon, but we do finally have a robust discovery of a Trojan asteroid to call our very own. And it isn’t 3753 Cruithne; don’t be fooled. 3,000 years is nothing in the life of our Solar System. When it comes to Trojans, stick with the one that will stick with us, and that’s 2010 TK7!"

Planets can have not only moons, but gravitationally captured bodies co-orbiting the Sun either ahead or behind them in orbit. Jupiter, for example, has not only all the moons that orbit around it, but thousands of gravitationally captured objects in addition: the Trojans (and Greeks). While Earth may have only one true moon orbiting our world, what of these Trojans? Do we have any captured asteroids or comets hanging out around one of our Lagrange points? We absolutely do, but only one of them is here to stay, and it very likely isn’t the one — 3753 Cruithne — you’ve heard of.
Another world orbits the Sun once a year at the same distance as our planet.
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Great subject!
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"When we talk about astrophysics to the general public, we often rely on appealing images and rough analogies to convey the meaning behind the mathematics. It’s a good way to convey our understanding of the universe, but it also gives the impression that the analogies are what science is all about."

No one science can stand wholly on its own. For inquiry about the Universe to give a correct, complete picture, it requires that we bring in a whole slew of evidence, often from tangentially related fields. The interplay between three fields in particular — astronomy, physics, and math (not a science, but the tool used to help understand the relationships arising in the first two) — have given rise to the most successful picture of the Universe of all-time. But to the non-scientists out there, it's often difficult to tell a sciencey-sounding idea from real science. +Brian Koberlein breaks it down for us.
Mathematics, physics, and astronomy depend on one another to get it right.
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+Aaron Guerami Well, I did give you a chance.

That was a bunch of pure pissing word salad, and nothing of scientific substance. You have no grasp of physics at all, and you have no intention of learning from people who understand it well enough to teach it to those who don't. That makes you a pretentious bell-end.

I have had this conversation before. The problem is Applied Physicists always see something different than Physics Teachers teach. Physics changes.

1- If you've had this conversation before, you're showing no signs of having learned anything for having had it. You seem to be rationalising your belief in a faulty understanding of physics.

2- What you said about applied physicists and physics teachers is entirely wrong, and without foundation ... and, yes, physics does change. But that does not mean that you can redefine words just how you bloody-well please.

A Baryon contains 3 gluons, excess lengths of gluons balls up as quarks. Any three points in space is a triangle (trig is now covered).

That's not even wrong! I'm going to show my friends this ... they need a laugh.
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Ethan Siegel

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"While craters young and old litter its surface, large numbers of catenae, or crater chains, can be found as well on both the near and far sides. While about 20 have been known since the 1990s, often extending for hundreds of kilometers, many more have been discovered with the advent of LROC and citizen science projects like Moon Zoo."

You might think that your odds of getting 3, 5, or even 10 or more craters all next to each other and in a row on an object like the Moon are astronomically small. Yet, we've identified dozens of features that show exactly this! Here are some of the most spectacular, along with the redux of the leading ideas of where they came from, including secondary impacts, tidally disrupted impactors and volcanic and geologic explanations.
Do craters only come in isolation? These images will make you think again!
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+Bruno Suric
yes it does. how astronomically rare would it be for meteor to fall in a chain ? on a body with no atmosphere to break it apart while falling.
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Ethan Siegel

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""I think Edmond Halley must have been the first scientist to successfully predict the future!"

When it comes to comets, there's no doubt of that. But before Halley, Kepler predicted transits of Venus and Mercury, Ptolemy predicted the orbits of the planets, and pre-historic Babylonians (among others) were able to predict lunar and solar eclipses. Halley's prediction was spectacular, and his precise prediction of the return of the comet which bears his name in 1758 was a tremendous achievement, but let's not take credit away from all the incredible scientists who preceded him!"

From history to the cutting edge, this edition of the comments of the week has something for everyone!
“In this land of ours, there are many great pits. But none more bottomless than the bottomless pit. Which, as you can see here, is bottomless.” -Grunkle Stan, Gravity Falls After another week of fun-filled stories about the Universe here at Starts With A Bang, it’s time to take a look back at everything we’ve said,…
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"An ancestor of mine maintained that when you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

While the world mourns the death of Leonard Nimoy in its own way, it's important to remember the legacy that Star Trek — and that Spock and alien characters like him — left on our world. Unlike any other series, Star Trek used a futuristic, nearly utopian world to explore our own moral battles and failings, and yet somehow always managed to weave in an optimism about humanity and our future. That's something, I argue, that is sorely missing from the new J.J. Abrams movies.
Whether you loved the original series or never saw it, it changed our world.
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Spocklock Holmes
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Ethan Siegel

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"[W]ill you explode if exposed to the vacuum of space? I’ve gone down the “water boils in a vacuum then freezes” road, others have gone down the “tried it on a dog and it lived” approach. The movie Gravity shows buddy lifting his helmet and instantly freezing so… how does it work, Ethan?"

In films like Gravity, Mission to Mars and Total Recall, humans are often shown dying rapidly and catastrophically from exposure to the vacuum of space. But are these deaths scientifically accurate? Would you freeze, boil, explode, swell-to-incapacitation or something else? Thanks to a great question from Kerrie Pinkney, we've got a fabulous Ask Ethan for you this week!
Will you explode, freeze, or boil? Advice on how to maximize your life.
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Pfft, Event Horizon is a classic. :)
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Ethan Siegel

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"In every case, death is not the ultimate end, but merely a single step along a journey that began long before any of what we know today existed, and will continue long after the Universe as we know it becomes unrecognizable to those of us viewing it today.

Whenever a light goes out, remember this story. For everything will have its moment to shine again."

Death never saw the rebirth coming. The future of stellar corpses are fascinating, and the philosophical implications are even more spectacular.
Lessons from the Universe whenever a light goes out.
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"If Betelgeuse explodes right now, could we see it with naked eye?"

One of the great, catastrophic truths of the Universe is that everything has an expiration date. And this includes every single point of light in the entire sky. The most massive stars will die in a spectacular supernova explosion when their final stage of core fuel runs out. At only an estimated 600 light years distant, Betelgeuse is one (along with Antares) of the closest red supergiants to us, and it’s estimated to have only perhaps 100,000 years until it reaches the end of its life. Here's the story on what we can expect to see (and feel) on Earth when Betelgeuse explodes!
It’s one of the nearest red supergiants to us, and a supernova is only a matter of time. What are we in for when it happ…
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Something similar to the Crab Nebula, I suppose.
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"Soap bubbles, of course, start out as a mix of soap, water, and sometimes a sugary or gelatinous additive to thicken the bubble walls and make them more robust. But if you drop the temperature to a low enough amount below freezing, the tiny imperfections in the bubble’s structure will result in the formation of ice crystals."

When life gives you freezing cold... make frozen soap bubbles? I guess that's one way to beat the Christmas ornament rush!
Amazing, fun and beautiful. So long as the cold doesn’t bother you, anyway.
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"The higher your energy, the heavier the pairs of particles are that you can spontaneously create. If we go back to early enough times — when the average energies of the Universe were high enough to create pairs of top-antitop quarks (the heaviest known particle) — we find that there were far fewer photons around at that time than there are today!

Why’s this?

Because just as a particle-antiparticle pair can annihilate to form two photons today, at high enough energies, two photons can interact to form particle-antiparticle pairs!"

Our observable Universe got its start at the hot Big Bang, where every single known particle and antiparticle of matter or radiation existed in great abundance. Normally, the story of what happened to everything as the Universe expanded and cooled is glossed over, picking up with the leftover matter forming nuclei and atoms. Here is a terrific and accessible treatment of all the details that happen in between. Required reading for aficionados of how our Universe came to be the way it is.
What happened when things were hot enough to spontaneously create matter and antimatter?
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+Sharon S Libby Wesley But only if you are referring to time without movement at very high speed or in huge gravitation.  It has been demonstrated that time runs at different speeds in those environments.
Einstein's relativity theories seems to describe those situations very accurately and we can measure the effects,
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Work
Occupation
Theoretical Astrophysicist / Writer / Educator
Employment
  • NASA's The Space Place
    Columnist, 2013 - present
  • Trap!t
    Head Editor: Science/Health, 2011 - present
  • Starts With A Bang!
    Science Writer, 2008 - present
  • Lewis & Clark College
    Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics, 2009 - 2011
  • University of Portland
    Professor/Lab Coordinator, 2008 - 2009
  • Steward Observatory/University of Arizona
    Postdoctoral Research Associate, 2007 - 2008
  • University of Wisconsin
    Faculty Assistant, 2006 - 2007
  • University of Florida
    Teaching/Research Assistant, Fellow, 2001 - 2006
  • King/Drew Medical Magnet High School
    Teacher, 2000 - 2001
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Bronx, New York - Yonkers, New York - Evanston, Illinois - Torrance, California - Gainesville, Florida - Madison, Wisconsin - Tucson, Arizona - Portland, Oregon - Houston, Texas - Rome, Italy
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Science writer, professor and theoretical astrophysicist
Introduction
Theoretical Astrophysicist, Science Writer and Communicator, expert in (some aspects of) dark matter and dark energy, physical cosmology, and sometimes professor, teacher and educator.

Creator and writer of Starts With A Bang!, the 2010 Physics Blog of the Year! Author of over 1,000 articles, featured in Esquire, the St. Petersburg Times, ESPN.com's Page 2, and many others.

Competitive beardsman and amateur acrobat / halloween-costumer extraordinaire.
Education
  • University of Florida College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
    Physics, 2001 - 2006
  • Northwestern University
    Physics, Classics, Integrated Science Program, 1996 - 2000
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