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Awesomeness Round-up – 1/24/11

January Snowstorm at Goddard
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Debbie Mccallum

It’s been a cold and wintery January here at NASA Goddard – not much accumulation yet (certainly nothing like last year’s snowpocalypse), but plenty of ice and sleet! We’re hearing predictions of another storm this week, so we’ll see how things look in a few days. A light dusting is lovely outside our cleanroom building, though, isn’t it?

It was a pretty quiet week in space news, but we’ve got a few things to share!

NASA and OPTIMUS PRIME Collaborate to Educate Youth
Credit: OPTIMUS PRIME image courtesy Hasbro

I couldn’t resist using this fantastic image again – it’s time to vote in the NASA Optimus Prime Video Contest! I never thought that working at NASA would provide me opportunities to talk about Optimus Prime, or – even better – receive press releases in my inbox about Optimus Prime and NASA education. It’s definitely an unexpected perk. And the contest videos are pretty fun, too!

A new release from the folks working with data from the Swift satellite has confirmed what astronomers have long suspected – much of the steady glow of X-rays originating from beyond our galaxy is coming from hard-to-see large galaxies with giant central black holes. Swift mapped the sky and spotted a bunch of these “active galaxies,” whose black holes are usually obscured by clouds of dust and gas, and they’re sure there are many more out there.

Mainstream media picked up an astronomy story last week that sounded like something out of a Hollywood movie – that the star Betelgeuse (in the constellation Orion) would end its life in 2012 with a brilliant supernova explosion, giving us a “second sun” in the sky. Doomsday theorists and Star Wars fans rejoiced… but the debate quickly picked up online, discussing the fact and fiction of the story. While Betelgeuse is a candidate for a spectacular supernova ending… it can’t be predicted to occur in a specific year. And Phil Plait has some interesting things to say about what it would look like, and how (not) dangerous it should be. Note that Phil’s post was made several months ago!


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