Monday, January 24, 2011

Oh Hubble, Where Art Thou?


So on Friday NASA announced that they're holding a press conference on Wednesday January 26th about…something. As with most press conference announcements NASA's keeping the details pretty closely guarded. The hints they’ve dropped are that it's a discovery by the Hubble Space Telescope and that "[a]stronomers have pushed the Hubble Space Telescope to its limits and have seen further back in time than ever before." Beyond that, it’s a mystery for now. So, in true journalistic from, I will now engage in wild and unfounded speculation as to what could possibly be announced on Wednesday, complete with the odds they're taking in Vegas.

1 in 3: Just what the announcement said, that the Hubble has looked farther back into the past than ever before. Light travels fast, but it still takes time to travel from its source to an observer. Space is so big that it can take a long time, an estimated 100,000 years to travel from one side of our galaxy to the other. So the farther away you look the farther back in time you see. Hubble recently had its cameras upgraded, so my guess is they saw farther back in time than ever before.


1 in 5: In looking farther back, they may have discovered some new unexpected thing about the formation of galaxies. Already the telescope's been able to peer as far back as 400 million years after the Big Bang. It's entirely possible that if the Hubble looked that far back it would uncover something totally unexpected, maybe about how supermassive black holes form in conjunction with galaxies.

1 in 25: The Hubble was able to image a gamma-ray burst AS IT HAPPENED!

1 in 42: The answer to life, the universe and everything.

1 in 400: The cat's eye nebula is actually made of kitty cats!


1 in 6,000: Out of pure luck, a Higgs boson drifts in front of the lens of the Hubble. The team at NASA was able to identify it, beating the Large Hadron Collider to the punch. Take that CERN!

1 in 35,000: What was originally thought of as a planet orbiting a distant star turns out to be a giant black rectangular monolith.

1 in 456,000: Jefferson Starship.

1 in 2,970,000: A new constellation that unfortunately spells a dirty word. Because of FCC regulations, actual images of the constellation won't be permitted to be broadcast in the news, leaving the entire world to wonder what could possibly be up there. At the press conference, NASA will announce its first joint venture with the FCC to launch a gigantic geosynchronous satellite to block out the part of the sky where the offending constellation is located.

1 in 3,970,000: Basically the same as above, except the constellation spells out the secret ingredient of Coca-Cola, and they'll announce the first joint NASA / Coca-Cola mission to space to block it out.

1 in 200,000,000: Nothing but a sign that reads, "Ha ha! Made you look!"

1 in 59,420,990,300: Turtles all the way down.


1 in 859,849,679,000,000: Testable evidence of string theory.

Any other ideas? Post 'em!

UPDATE: Yesterday NASA announced what the discovery was... AND I WAS RIGHT! Hubble set a new personal record for farthest away object seen; a galaxy 13.2 billion light years away, about 150 million light years farther away than its previous record.

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