January 2009

Hubble's Next Discovery: You Decide

As part of the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Galileo's astronomical discoveries 400 years ago, scientists and enthusiasts all over the world are celebrating 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy. NASA is offering everyone a chance to vote on which of six possible astronomical objects should be studied by the "new and improved" Hubble later this year. The six objects include:

Hubble Mystery Flasher

On February 21, 2006 astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope as part of a Supernova Cosmology Project at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) hoping to discover supernovae noticed an odd flash of light. The light increased steadily, becoming brighter, for 100 days, and then became increasingly dim for another 100 days, before disappearing. The image linked in this post shows the same area before the flash, and during the flash.

The steady increase and decrease in brightness doesn't match any known celestial event. The rise and fall in brightness has a signature that simply has never been recorded for any other type of celestial event. Kyle Barbary of LBNL presented a paper regarding the odd flash this week at the American Astronomical Society. Barbary says "We have never seen anything like it."