Cosmic Connections: The Sadr Region, Explosive Outbursts of people and stars, and that time chaos returned to Rome

The Sadr Region, oddly connected to the Brady Bunch. Almost. Image credit: The Cosmic Companion

On New Years Eve 192 CE, Rome had experienced two centuries of relative peace and security known as the Pax Romana. Within hours, the greatest empire of the ancient world — and its longest era of stability — would fall apart.

The Roman emperor Commodus had recently developed a cult of personality around him, which he fed on by dressing as a gladiator, and “battling” in public arenas (oddly winning every contest *cough*fixed*cough*).

On 31 December, Commodus arrived at the Senate, to…


What does an ancient star cluster have to do with Yogi Bear and the Olympics games? Here’s the cosmic connection!

The star cluster M5 — always a gold winner in our book! Image credit: The Cosmic Companion

As we watch the 2020 Olympics a year late, let us reflect back to September 1977, when the Laff-A-Lympics first appeared on television (another show inexplicably cancelled after a single season).

In the show, three teams of Hannah-Barbera characters — two “good” and one “evil” faced off against each other in humorous sporting events. (Yes, this ties in with astronomy. Stay with me here).

The team of evildoers, The Really Rottens, was supposed to be led by Muttley Mutt and…


Centaurus A — the fifth-brightest galaxy as seen from Earth, is seen in unprecedented detail by astronomers using the Event Horizon Telescope

Zooming into Centaurus A for the most-detailed views yet of this massive galaxy. Image credit: Radboud University; ESO/WFI; MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A. Weiß et al.; NASA/CXC/CfA/R. Kraft et al.; EHT/M. Janßen et al.

Near the core of nearly every galaxy lies a supermassive black hole (SMBH), containing millions or billions as much mass as our Sun.

On 10 April 2019, the first detailed image ever of a black hole was released by astronomers using the Event Horizon Telescope — a global network of radio telescopes. This image revealed details of the supermassive black hole at the center of M87 — a supergiant elliptical galaxy 54 million light years from Earth.


Is clay on Mars responsible for signs of lakes beneath the surface at the polar regions of Mars?

The South Polar Layered Deposits at the polar caps of Mars may be home to clays — not underground lakes — a trio of new studies suggested (simulated terrain). Image credit: NASA/JPL/ASU/R. Luk

In 2018, researchers led by Roberto Orosei of ’ Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica in Italy released their findings of data from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter.

Radar waves are capable of passing through rock and ice, and by studying how the waves change as they do so, researchers can learn about geology under a planetary surface.

These radar images of Mars suggested an intriguing possibility — that Mars, the most Earth-like of all worlds in our solar system, might hold…


Why you should view Saturn on 2 August — the Ringed Planet is lining up for a show.

Amateur astronomers will get a chance to see Saturn at its closest and brightest on 2 August. Image credit: NASA

Saturn and Jupiter have been chasing each other around the sky this year, and on Monday, 2 August, at 11:06 PDT/AZ Saturn will reach opposition — the point in its orbit when the Sun, Earth, and Saturn line up in a perfect line, with our world in the middle.

Saturn also makes its closest approach to Earth about the same time, an event when that second-largest planet in our solar system appears at its brightest and largest — a perfect time to…


The InSight lander on Mars reveals an unprecedented look into the structure of the Red Planet.

InSight functions like a geologist on Mars, allowing us to understand the nature and history of the Red Planet. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The InSight lander touched down on Mars in 2018, seeking to understand the climate and geology of the Red Planet.

Researchers now report the seismometer onboard the vehicle has reveled details of the deep interior of the planet for the first time, including evidence for a molten core. This investigation produced a trio of studies, published this week in Nature.

“When we first started putting together the concept of the mission more than a decade ago, the information in these papers is what we…


The PDS 70 star system is home to at least one moon, the first exomoon conclusively found in another solar system.

ALMA observations of the first moon definitely found in another solar system. Image credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/Benisty et al.

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimeter Array (ALMA) report finding disks of dust and gas surrounding an exoplanet for the first time. This finding provides the first clear evidence for a moon forming around a planet in an alien star system.

Almost 400 light years from Earth, the PDS 70 star system is home to at least two massive Jupiter-like planets.

Earlier examination of one of these exoplanets, PDS 70c, showed hints of a moon-forming disk surrounding this world…


SuperBIT — a new concept to fly a telescope on balloons, could soon rival the Hubble Space Telescope.

SuperBIT could soon rival the Hubble Space Telescope at a fraction of the cost, potentially offering astronomers world wide unprecedented access to telescopes free of (most) atmospheric disturbance. Image credit: See article.

Carried on a helium balloon the size of a football stadium, a revolutionary new telescope could forever change the way we carry out our explorations of the Cosmos.

Flying at an altitude of 40 km (25 miles) over the ground, above 99.7 percent of the atmosphere of Earth, SuperBIT would carry out observations free of the vast majority of the atmosphere which can affect astronomical observations.


Hubble is back, repaired and readying to resume its quest to study the Universe. Here’s NASA’s latest success story.

Hubble is back, in the latest success story for NASA. Image credit: NASA

Following a month of problems, the Hubble Space Telescope is now repaired, following a successful switchover to a backup payload computer.

Should everything go as expected, the 30-year-old orbiting observatory should soon return to its historic mission, answering some of the most fundamental questions of the Cosmos. (And we will get more pretty pictures! Yay!)

The official announcement of the successful repair of the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA / STSci

“The switch included bringing online the backup Power Control Unit…


A great mystery of Jupiter — the cause of regular flashes near the poles of the mighty planet — may be solved.

The magnetic field of Jupiter interacts with charged particles from Io, producing polar lights around Jupiter, a new study explains. Image credit: Screenshot from video by University College London.

Just like Earth, Jupiter is home to polar lights, driven by charged particles racing through the planet’s magnetic field. When these charged particles hit the atmosphere, they release electromagnetic radiation.

However, the aurorae of Jupiter are (as might be expected) far more powerful than the iridescent displays we see at home. Hundreds of gigawatts of X-ray energy released in the auroral displays of Jupiter would be powerful energy to (momentarily) feed all human energy needs.

And, oddly, there…

James Maynard

Writing about space since I was 10, still not Carl Sagan. Weekly video show, podcast, comics, more: www.thecosmiccompanion.net

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