April 14th, 2010

President Obama

Kathleen Sebelius, my new girlfriend.

I neglected to mention that I shared a romantic, candle-lit dinner last Friday with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. Also with her Secret Service agents (one of whom frowned at me), SF Grand Master James Gunn, KCUR's Stephen Steigman, his wife and Chair of KU Film & Media Studies Tamara Falicov, a hundred other KU Dean's Club members, and other folks being honored with the KU Distinguished Alumni Award: Bill James, Ann Hamilton, and Steve Mills. (Gunn was honored with the award in 2008.)

It was our first date, but Kathleen's not returning my calls ;-)

palomar telescope

Astro-Porn of the Day: Eta Carinae, supernova-to-be.

This gorgeous photo shows Eta Carinae, the brightest star in our galaxy - five million times brighter than the Sun. It's so bright and so active that astronomers believe it will go supernova at any moment now!

Click the image to see the Chandra spacecraft story.

Eta Carinae is the bright spot in the center of this larger nebula, called the Carina Nebula. The energy it blasts out into the gas and dust is responsible for forming the baby stars scattered across the nebula (the clumps at the tops of the pillars). Notice how the babies all seem to be reaching toward Momma star. What an amazing shot:

Click the image to see the Spitzer Telescope story.

Of course, no post about this star-birthing region would be complete without showing you how it looks through the Hubble Space Telescope:

Click the image to see the story.

Over the past few years, photos like these appear every day... perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea: Do a quick search on any astronomical object and you'll not only find pretty photos but also great stories. It's a wonderful time to be alive.