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Please consider supporting my work here at Behind the Black. I keep the website clean from pop-ups and annoying demands. Instead, I depend entirely on my readers to support me. Though this means I am sacrificing some income, it also means that I remain entirely independent from outside pressure. By depending solely on donations and subscriptions from my readers, no one can threaten me with censorship. You don't like what I write, you can simply go elsewhere.


You can support me either by giving a one-time contribution or a regular subscription. There are five ways of doing so:


1. Zelle: This is the only internet method that charges no fees. All you have to do is use the Zelle link at your internet bank and give my name and email address (zimmerman at nasw dot org). What you donate is what I get.


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You can also support me by buying one of my books, as noted in the boxes interspersed throughout the webpage or shown in the menu above. And if you buy the books through the ebookit links, I get a larger cut and I get it sooner.

The spiral dust streams within the Andromeda galaxy

Andromeda in infrared
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The picture above, cropped and reduced to post here, was released yesterday and uses archival infrared data from the now retired Spitzer Space telescope to highlight the dust found within the Andromeda galaxy, about two million light years away.

Spitzer’s infrared view was similar to Webb’s but at a far lower resolution. In the picture above the red indicates cool dust.

By separating these wavelengths and looking at the dust alone, astronomers can see the galaxy’s “skeleton” — places where gas has coalesced and cooled, sometimes forming dust, creating conditions for stars to form. This view of Andromeda revealed a few surprises. For instance, although it is a spiral galaxy like the Milky Way, Andromeda is dominated by a large dust ring rather than distinct arms circling its center. The images also revealed a secondary hole in one portion of the ring where a dwarf galaxy passed through.

The data also suggested that the dust is flowing at a very steady rate into Andromeda’s central black hole. According to computer simulations, this steady rate would explain why the supermassive black holes at the center of both Andromeda and the Milky Way are relative inactive. If the dust fell in clumps rather than a steady flow, both black holes would exhibit bursts of high activity, similar to active galactic centers.

A side note for anyone wishing to star-gaze: Andromeda is actually the largest visible galaxy in the night sky, about six times with width of the full Moon. If you can get to a very dark-sky location, get your eyes very dark-adapted, and you know where to look, you can actually see it with the naked eye. I did this once at a star party, helped by a bunch of amateur astronomers. The galaxy is very faint, and it helps to use binoculars to help locate it, but once identified its size in the sky truly is breath-taking.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

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