150 Billion Pixels, 1 Billion Stars

Ok, have a look at this image — if you click on it, it gets really, really big:

That’s our Milky Way.  The image below here represents the material within the white square on the left — a star-forming region called G305 to astronomers and astrophysicists — again, a click makes it bigger:

That cutaway image above?  Only ten thousand stars.  SLACKERS!  (Of course I jest)

Scientists from the UK, Chile, and Europe have created the initial 150 billion pixel image by combining ten years’ worth of data into a monster survey of the Milky Way region.  From the University of Edinburgh website:

Astronomers have today released a picture containing more than one billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy. It combines data from two near-infrared1 telescopes – the UK Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) in Hawaii and the VISTA telescope in Chile –  and is the result of a decade-long collaboration by astronomers at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Cambridge to process, archive and publish the prodigious quantities of sky survey data generated by these two telescopes.

Dr Phil Lucas from the University of Hertfordshire leads the UKIRT study of the Milky Way, and co-leads the VISTA study. He said: “The combined data on over a billion stars represent a scientific legacy that will be exploited for decades in many different ways. They provide a three-dimensional view of the structure of our spiral galaxy, the Milky Way, while also mapping several hundred nebulae where stars are being born. The VISTA data, in particular, is breaking new ground by showing how several hundred million stars vary in brightness over time.”

The full image contains 150 billion pixels, and the detail it contains is only revealed by the three zoom levels, centred on G305, a large and complex star-formation region: the innermost zoom covers a tiny fraction of the full image, but still contains more than ten thousand stars.

Presenting the image at the UK-German National Astronomy Meeting in Manchester, Dr Nick Cross of the University of Edinburgh said: “This remarkable image is only one of the many outputs from the VISTA Data Flow System (VDFS) project2. VDFS data is being used by astronomers around the world and has led to great discoveries in many fields of astronomy, from the coolest known stars to the most distant quasars.”

Something pretty cool:  you can view the monster image with a custom viewer at the University of Edinburgh’s website.  You have to check this out, it is  amazing.

Thanks, Space, HuffPo, PhysOrg, and Science Daily

Amazing Video of the Birth of the Universe

Physicists at Stanford’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, CA have created some pretty cool videos of how they think the universe was created — things like the birth of stars, the universe expanding, and other things that happen to be so beautiful that not showing them is a crime.  Check this out:

Way too cool.  From the press release by Stanford University:

The mysteries of the universe – from the first stars and supernovas to galaxy clusters and dark matter – are being revealed in stunningly beautiful full-color, high-definition 3-D videos played on a huge screen in an intimate theater on the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory campus.

Diaphanous veils of semi-transparent fluorescing gas and dust swirl hypnotically among exploding stars; colliding galaxies dance a cosmic do-si-do before they coalesce. These are some of the compelling scenes shown in the second-floor Visualization Lab of SLAC’s Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC.)

In addition, KIPAC’s newly redesigned websitefeatures an elegant gallery for the movies and images.

Each animation lasts just a minute or three. But whether it depicts only the few milliseconds of a supernova explosion or nearly 14 billion years of cosmic evolution, each KIPAC video shows the results of calculations involving trillions of bytes of data, and marries the latest physics theories with groundbreaking visualization techniques. The videos give scientists insights into their research that cannot be gleaned from old-school data-dump printouts. And they’re as entertaining as they are educational: the videos are featured in planetarium shows now playing to the general public in New York City and San Francisco.

As beautiful as the 3-D videos are, though, they are first and foremost scientific tools.

“I’m trying to predict the past – how the universe came to be the way that it is today,” said Tom Abel, an associate professor of physics at Stanford University and head of KIPAC’s computational physics department, who specializes in using computer calculations and visualizations to understand how the universe may have evolved after the Big Bang.

Thanks to Space.com for the image!

DISCO BALL HELMET!

Back in my undergrad days, I used to front a band…  Oh, it was glorious, we had a blast, and the guys are all pro musicians now.  Another crazy picture of me with hair:

Jim and Chet Atkins, rocking the Suburbs

We had so much fun!!!  I used to wear those crazy shirts at gigs at the bars in town that were all Japanese and silky and dragony and such, and of COURSE the silver mirror shirt!  I have been looking all over the place today looking for a picture of that great shirt, but I can’t find one anywhere!  Oh it was shiny, I bet the house lighting guys hated me… I was surfing some design blogs and found this lovely light catcher, reminded me of the old days!

(ok, now imagine a guy singing blues and wearing a shirt made out of the same material as her hoodie…)

LOOK AT THAT HELMET!  This is Natalie Walsh‘s creation (Natalina on Instructables), and this Disco Ball Helmet comes from her Instructable.  I highly recommend checking it out, especially if you used to be in a band, you’re Brandon Flowers, you’re a fabulous narcoleptic, or you’re fabulousness is equal to or greater than that of our own Daphne Mir — although I’m not sure how MORE fabulousness is possible…

WAY too freaking cool, Natalie!  JimOnLight.com thinks you rock!  Check out Natalie Walsh’s design portfolio, she’s got the skills.

Thanks, PSFK!

Awesome Glo NightLight from ThinkGeek!

Our master safety ninja Erich Friend sent a link to this great toy from ThinkGeek’s Geek Kids section – the Glo Nightlight with Glowing Balls!  Ok, I’m not 3-7 years old (well, perhaps mentally most days) but I want one of these!  Daphne, when are we getting matching Glo NightLights?!?!?!

Check out this video – the Glo NightLight is about $80 bucks:

GAH!  I’m not supposed to like stuff like this as a 34 year old man, right?!  CRAP!  I want a whole forest floor full of these!!!

From the ThinkGeek product specs:

  • For Ages 2 and Up [SWEET FOR ME!  WOOHOO!]
  • Multi-colored interactive night light
  • Base charges up the balls, which can be removed and placed anywhere
  • No electronics in balls means they don’t get warm and they won’t break
  • Select your favorite color or let the colors circulate
  • Phosphorescent balls glow for up to 30 minutes when out of base
  • Low energy LED base
  • 9v power adapter included
  • BPA-free, Phthalate-free, PVC-free
  • Dimensions: 8.2″ x 8.5″ x 9.8″

ThinkGeek didn’t send me one of these or ask me to write this post.

Luminous Field – A Projected Reality in Chicago

You might have been to Chicago, and you might have seen Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate.  But you’ve never seen Cloud Gate in Chicago like this before…

Luftwerk is the firm who designed and coordinated this work — a husband/wife team of Sean Gallero and Petra Bachmaier.  From Frame Mag’s website:

Luminous Field comprises of 10 video projectors mounted on four towers; the projectors are pointed onto and below Cloud Gate, a giant bean-shaped sculpture built by Anish Kapoor in 2006. 

A series of 5-minute-long video shows play on a loop, covering the sculpture and its surrounding territory (about 25-by-9m). Videos range from a funky disco dance floor to colourful geometric patterns.

‘We really perceive it as something that people can interact with,’ says Petra Bachmaier, who forms Luftwerk alongside husband Sean Gallero. ‘We really want people to go in and play with it. Like the whole concept of the video, we built it for people to move with the light.’

The result is a virtual ‘playground’ for people to follow and engage with light. Meanwhile, a special music soundtrack plays, as composed by Owen Clayton Condon of Chicago’s Third Coast Percussion.

From Luftwerk’s website:

Inspired and informed by Italian floor mosaics, the urban grid, pedestrian crosswalks and geometric tessellations.

“If anything could possibly top the interactive experience of Anish Kapoor’s monumental Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park – then this could be it. This stunning site-specific video and sound installation brought more than 65,000 Chicagoans and out-of-town visitors to the Park over a ten day period in the middle of the winter. Luminous Field by Luftwerk became a viral sensation and photos of the beautiful lights and geometrical forms that enveloped ‘the Bean’ were seen throughout the world.” – Dorothy Coyle, Executive Director – Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture

“Playground” projection field dimension 80′ by 30′ consisting of 384 tiles, underneath projection reflecting within the sculpture.

This piece of mastery of light closed February 20 — but if you saw it, please drop a comment below and give me the skinny!

Interactive Light at Miami-Dade Government Center

Ivan Toth Depeña has made some pretty incredible displays in his career thus far.  One beautiful and fun example would be the Miami-Dade Art in Public Places commission that Ivan did for the Miami0Dade Government Center.  Check this out:

From Ivan’s Vimeo page on the installation:

MIAMI, FL – Ivan Toth Depeña’s light-based installation “Reflect” was permanently installed in the Stephen Clark Government Center Lobby in Miami on November 18, 2011. Commissioned by the Miami-Dade Art in Public Places initiative, the work illuminates the dynamism of the lobby space and encourages a sense of discovery in the visitors.

This dynamic art work is designed by the artist with the idea of welcoming visitors and employees to Government Center in a fun and interactive way,” said Michael Spring, Director of the Department of Cultural Affairs. “It will energize the lobby and symbolize the County’s commitment to be informative and responsive to our citizens.”

As a main stop in Miami’s MetroRail system, the space serves as a hub for commuters; incorporating the notion of daily circulation into his piece, Depeña uses sensors and light to focus on the communal nature and circulatory qualities of the lobby. The project engages the building’s visitors and references the idea of community through various means of reflection, group interactivity and high-tech playfulness.

For more information please visit: ivandepena.com

Commissioned by: Miami-Dade Art in Public Places:

Additional Project Support:

Lighting Consultant and Programming Support: Focus Lighting

With generous support by: Color Kinetics

Music: Duster

Isn’t it amazing that this kind of art can be made in the same place that bands of neo-Nazis are patrolling the streets?  Blows the mind.

Remember That Huge Solar Storm We Just Had?

At the beginning of March 2012, we had a few days’ worth of pretty major solar activity — does anyone remember this?

This storm produced some pretty incredible Auroras Borealis and Australis for days before and after the big CME from the Sun.  CME means coronal mass ejection, which is a huge burst of solar wind that is powerful enough to push the bits of solar wind our direction.  Solar wind is a big gust of protons and electrons with very, very strong electrical charges.  Solar wind and coronal mass ejections are the things that the news and scientists talk about that might disrupt our power grids and kill our electronics.  All of these phenomena are called space weather — which tickles me silly and makes me giggle:

These massive bursts (CMEs) of charged particles plays hell on the Earth’s magnetosphere, which is a protective magnetic field that basically wind blocks the Earth from solar wind.  When the CMEs are very, very strong, the magnetosphere just gets sort of magnetically bent out of the way, causing havoc at the planet’s surface.  In the scary event of something like a nuclear war, a similar tactic is utilized to disable an enemy’s defenses and communication electronics — a nuclear weapon is detonated above the target country somewhere in the upper atmosphere, and the huge electromagnetic pulse fries anything that has a circuit board.  After that, the bombardment begins pretty much whenever chosen; the enemy can no longer see, hear, or talk electronically.

This is an excellent GIF of this phenomenon taken using the LASCO telescope — watch the bottom right quadrant of the image:

There are so many theories on why we’re seeing this activity in such magnitudes.  *deep breath* Could it be a coincidence of some kind of Mayan calendar thing, where the dark rift of the Milky Way is going to unleash a solar storm of magnitudes only seen by Nicolas Cage in Knowing?!  Who knows, probably not.  But I was so disappointed in that movie about this very same thing when the damned aliens showed up to “save the planet’s children.”  COME ON.  ALIENS?!  COME ON, NICK!

This is a video of the big X5.4 class solar flare that happened on March 7, 2012:

The beautiful thing is that if I’m wrong, who gives a poo, we’re all completely dead and vaporized from this world anyway, and probably with a quickness.  Really, is there anything to be afraid of?  it’s not like we’re going to know once it happens!  There are lots of websites out there that talk about all of our electrical grid being knocked out; now granted if that were to happen, we’re in quite a lot of trouble fo sho, but anything along the line of a super-mega-ultra-duper X-class flare that brought the heat and torched up our planet would just make us go away.  Solar wind travels somewhere in the neighborhood of hundreds of billions of miles per hour.  Do you think there’s anything that man can make that can protect us from something of that scale?

There is a theory about this thing called the Milky Way dark rift, too — the dark rift is the middle bit of the Milky Way that the earth passes through once every “age,” as it’s known to those who take stock in the study of Astrology.  Not tied to Astrology is what the dark rift actually is, which is a dense mass of charged particles and clouds that are very thick and full of stellar stuffs.  if you were to do some google searching on this phenomenon, you would come across some very end of the world websites and some “nah, calm the eff down” websites.  Really, everything we can track is speculation at this point, regardless of the fact that some of the smartest brains on Earth are studying this very phenomenon and that we have some very high tech but relatively primitive looking glasses in the skies above Earth.

From NASA on the subject of the Dark Rift, 2012 Alignment and Doomsday predictions:

One of the most bizarre theories about 2012 has built up with very little attention to facts. This idea holds that a cosmic alignment of the sun, Earth, the center of our galaxy — or perhaps the galaxy’s thick dust clouds — on the winter solstice could for some unknown reason lead to destruction. Such alignments can occur but these are a regular occurrence and can cause no harm (and, indeed, will not even be at its closest alignment during the 2012 solstice.)

The details are as follows: Viewed far from city lights, a glowing path called the Milky Way can be seen arching across the starry sky. This path is formed from the light of millions of stars we cannot see individually. It coincides with the mid plane of our galaxy, which is why our galaxy is also named the Milky Way.

Thick dust clouds also populate the galaxy. And while infrared telescopes can see them clearly, our eyes detect these dark clouds only as irregular patches where they dim or block the Milky Way’s faint glow. The most prominent dark lane stretches from the constellations Cygnus to Sagittarius and is often called the Great Rift, sometimes the Dark Rift.

Another impressive feature of our galaxy lies unseen in Sagittarius: the galactic center, about 28,000 light-years away, which hosts a black hole weighing some four million times the sun’s mass.

The claim for 2012 links these two pieces of astronomical fact with a third — the position of the sun near the galactic center on Dec. 21, the winter solstice for the Northern Hemisphere — to produce something that makes no astronomical sense at all.

On the bright side (get it?), the images and video that have been captured from places like the International Space Station and in extreme latitudes of the Aurora Borealis (northern) and Aurora Australis (southern) have been absolutely unbelievable.  Seeing them on video just blows my mind, I cannot imagine how I’d feel if I could see one in real time!  Check some of these out, this stuff is absolutely amazing:

Aurora Borealis:

Aurora Australis:

Seriously, it is almost unexplainably beautiful:

Photo credit Giles Boutin

Photo credit Yuichi Takasawa

So who’s right and who’s wrong, here?  Who cares?!  This stuff is amazing and beautiful!

Thanks to HD Wallpapers, Wikipedia, Policy Mic, the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center, and Nicolas Cage, even though the end of Knowing sucked (but I still love you, Nick!)

A NEW JOL?! That’s CRAZY TALK!

SAY WHAAAAT?!  That’s right, it’s coming soon, a fresh re-design of the JimOnLight.com website!

Fox and I have decided that it’s time for a new backend build and a fresh face to the JOL site, so we’re planning a roll out once the Fox Family returns to the Fox Den!  Stay tuned, we’re going to have to pull the site down for one day coming up soon, but we’ll announce ahead of time.  It’s time for some fresh code to go with all of the traffic increases we keep experiencing!  The JimOnLight Community kicks some serious ass!

We’ve had all kinds of interest in advertising on the website, and we welcome your company to send us an email to see if you’re the right fit for the JimOnLight readership base.  We’re also rolling out an RSS Feed Sponsorship program, and this week’s RSS Feed Sponsor is the ever-glorious Source Four LED!  I can’t wait to actually get my hands on one, the last few trade shows I have been too busy to really get away from the booth for specifics, just general floor coverage.

Check this out:

We’d also like to shout a HUGE THANK YOU to our current advertisers – InLight Gobos, SeaChanger from Ocean Thin FilmsProduction Resource Group (PRG), and Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC)!  You guys make this all possible, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts!