Welcome to the weekend edition of your open thread. It’s looking like a beautiful weekend. Perfect for raking leaves! Right?
This is pretty cool. It’s a photo of dark matter – or rather the effects of dark matter. I wonder what scientific expert Christine O’Donnell says about the existence of dark matter?
That ghostly haze is dark matter — or at least, an impression of the gravitational field created by the dark matter. This is galaxy cluster Abell 1689, in the constellation Virgo. (We feel compelled to add that information, in case you’re going to go looking for it in the night sky tonight or something.) It’s easy to see that the images of many of the galaxies have been noticeably warped by passing through the gravitational field of the cluster, a phenomenon known as strong gravitational lensing. This cluster has been studied for a while using strong lensing. The idea is that the detailed distribution of dark matter affects the specific ways in which different background images are distorted (similar to what was used to analyze the Bullet Cluster). Astronomers use up massive amounts of computer time constructing different models and determining where the dark matter has to be to distort the galaxies in just the right way. Now Dan Coe and collaborators have made an unprecedentedly high-precision map of where the dark matter is (paper here).
That picture was taken by the Hubble telescope, which the Bush administration kept trying to kill. What an amazing scientific instrument. We have certainly gotten our money out of it.
Here is some good news – Myanmar’s military dictatorship has released Aung San Suu Kyi from custody after 15 years of house arrest:
Opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was freed Saturday in Myanmar after years in detention as a huge crowd presented flowers and chanted “Long Live Suu Kyi.”
Soldiers armed with rifles and tear gas launchers pushed aside the barbed-wire barriers blocking her street at 5:15 p.m., leading to a gleeful dash the final 100 yards to her gate. Twenty minutes later, the slight pro-democracy opposition figure known here simply as “the lady” popped her head over her red spiked fence to a roar from jubilant supporters.
“It’s very happy to see the people,” she said, barely audible over the chanting. “It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen you.”
Suu Kyi is the democratically-elected leader of the country but has never been allowed to take power. She has said that she will speak tomorrow. This should be interesting – I wonder what the conditions of her release were.
Tags: Open Thread