Field of Science

Galaxy Formation in the Cosmic Web

The research group I work with has made a fantastic poster about how galaxies form in the cosmic web and how we use computer simulations to understand such a complex process. We made the poster as a form of outreach and in particular for students who may be interested in astronomy research. Please feel free share or print the poster and if there is interest we may consider printing and sending out full size version of the poster for public display. Here is a large pdf version of the poster "Galaxy formation in the Cosmic Web". GalaxyFormation_LrgPoster_PressReady See a bit more over at Common Observer...

A Comet Unnoticed

Comet ISON. NASA/HSTComets have long been portents of change. They challenge the rote repetition of our skies. An astute observer of the sky will perhaps have recently noticed a new object in the sky, a comet, present for the last few weeks (you would have had to look east just before sunrise near the star Spica). This was the comet ISON. But comet ISON, having strayed too close to the Sun, has been mostly annihilated. If there is a comet in the sky and no one sees it, was it ever really there?  

William Carlos William's poem, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, captures the essence of comet ISON's elusive journey around the Sun. Brueghel, the Felmish Renaissance painter, carefully recorded the event like a faithful astronomer, but the worker is not keen on the sky and Icarus goes wholly unnoticed. It is just the same to the worker, for had they noticed Icarus or not it would likely make no difference to their toils in the field. And similarly ISON went largely unnoticed.
According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings' wax

off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning
ISON made a brief appearance to the unaided eye for a few days before it grazed the sun and then uncoiled itself. But to the learned astronomer ISON is still interesting. Comets are rare objects in the inner solar system so even a dead comet is a chance to learn something, in fact, further spectroscopic observations of this dead comet's remains will continue to tell us exactly what it was made of. There is a legacy here.

I am a contributor over at 3 Quarks Daily now so you can read the rest of the story of this lost comet over there...