Podcaster: Pamela Quevillon
Title: Space Scoop: Cosmic Dragon Breathes New Life into the Night Sky
Organization: Speak Easy Narration
Description: Space scoop, news for children.
Bio: Pamela Quevillon is a voice actress who most often lends her voice to science and science fiction content. You can find her work on the “Escape Pod” and “365 Days of Astronomy”, as well as on her site
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The distances between stars are so immense that we can’t use miles or kilometres to measure them, the numbers would become too large. For example, the closest star to our Solar System, is a whopping 38,000,000,000,000 kilometres away! And that’s the closest star. There are stars that are billions of times farther away than that. No one wants to write or talk about numbers that have 20 digits in them!
So, for distances in space we use a different measurement: the time taken for a light beam to travel. When travelling through space, light moves at a set speed of nearly 300,000 kilometres per second. Nothing in the known universe travels faster than the speed of light.
If you somehow managed to cheat the laws of physics and travel as fast as a ray of light, it would still take 160 000 years to reach the object in this photograph! And this cloud is inside one of the Milky Way’s closest neighbours, a nearby galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud. This new image explores colourful clouds of gas and dust called NGC 2035 (seen on the right), sometimes nicknamed the Dragon’s Head Nebula.
The colourful clouds of gas and dust are filled with hot new-born stars which make these clouds glow. They’re also regions where stars have ended their lives in terrific blazes of glory as supernova explosions.
Looking at this image, it may be difficult to grasp the sheer size of these clouds — we call the distance light can travel in a year a “light-year” and each one is several hundred light-years across! The Large Magellanic Cloud is enormous, but when compared to our own galaxy it seems very humble indeed, stretching just 14 000 light-years, which is about ten times smaller than the Milky Way!
Cool Fact: If you look up into a starry night sky, the most distant object you can see with your naked eye is the Andromeda Galaxy, which is over two and a half million light-years away! Think how big it must be, to be so far away and still be bright enough for you to see it without a telescope!
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365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by the New Media Working Group of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. Audio post-production by Preston Gibson. Bandwidth donated by libsyn.com and wizzard media. Web design by Clockwork Active Media Systems. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at 365DaysOfAstronomy.org or email us at info@365DaysOfAstronomy.org. In the new year the 365 Days of Astronomy project will be something different than before….Until then…goodbye.