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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Astronomy
Posted: May 4, 2020 at 10:51 pm
Tuesday, May 5The Eta Aquariid meteor shower, which has been active since late April, peaks this morning. Although this shower tends to put on a strong show in the Southern Hemisphere, its low radiant in the Northern Hemisphere results in a predicted rate of 10 meteors per hour at its peak. But with good weather and a bit of luck, you may still catch some of the showers meteors this morning.
Mars hangs near the Eta Aquariids radiant, low in the sky around 4 A.M. local time. Although its typically best to concentrate on an area opposite the radiant in the sky, a bright waxing Moon is setting in the west, nixing that plan of attack. Instead, scan the other three quadrants of the sky to catch errant shooting stars. These are the debris left behind by the famous Comet 1/P Halley, which last graced our skies in 1986 and will return in the early 2060s.
Tonight, the Moon will reach perigee the closest point in its orbit to Earth at 11:03 P.M. EDT. It will then sit 223,478 miles (359,653 kilometers) from our planet.
Wednesday, May 6Not to be shown up by its fellow Galilean satellites, Jupiters moon Io and its shadow cross the face of the gas giant this morning. The whole thing starts at 2:59 A.M. EDT, as Ios shadow slips into view on Jupiters eastern limb. At 4:13 A.M. EDT, Io begins to cross in front of the same limb, with its shadow more than halfway across the planets face. An hour later, the moons shadow disappears, with the moon slipping off the planets disk beginning at 5:29 A.M. CDT. (East Coast observers will miss this finale as the Sun rises and interrupts the show.)
Thursday, May 7Full Moon occurs at 6:45 A.M. EDT. Rising as the Sun sets tonight, our satellites bright light will wash out much of the dark sky. But that doesnt mean there arent still tempting targets to observe. The Beehive Cluster (M44) is a large open cluster in the constellation Cancer the Crab. Also known as Praesepe, this cluster is one of the closest to Earth at around 600 light-years away. The entire cluster covers an area nearly three Full Moons in size and contains 1,000 or so stars. On a dark night, its visible to the naked eye; even on this bright, moonlit night, youll be able to catch several of the clusters young stars in binoculars or a telescope. More will pop out as you move to larger apertures.
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Scientists keep debunking ‘monster black hole’ discovery. So, what’s the deal with binary system LB1? – Space.com
Posted: at 10:51 pm
Scientists made waves last year after announcing the discovery of a "monster black hole," unlike anything seen before. But, as researchers continue to weigh in, one thing is clear: there is no "monster."
Solar mass black holes, or black holes that form when a star collapses under the influence of its own gravity, are usually about 20-30 times the mass of our sun. So it was breaking news when, in November 2019, scientists led Jifeng Liu of the National Astronomical Observatory of China (NAOC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, reported the discovery of a black hole 70 times as massive as our sun.
This would have been the most massive black hole ever discovered (by far) a groundbreaking find that would have drastically changed our perception of these objects. However, following this work, a number of scientists questioned these findings as they seemed improbable. In fact, there were a handful of studies that found evidence that completely disproved the possibility of such a black hole.
Related: The strangest black holes in the universe
In December 2019, Kareem El-Badry, an astronomy doctoral student at the University of California, Berkeley, co-wrote a paper published online in the preprint server arXiv providing evidence that this wasn't a 70 solar mass black hole. (The paper was later published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.)
Around the same time, two additional papers disproving the discovery were published on arXiv: one from a team led by J.J. Eldridge, a theoretical astronomer at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and another led by Michael Abdul-Masih, a PhD student from the KU Leuven Institute of Astronomy in Belgium.
On Wednesday (April 29), Abdul Masih's paper was published in the journal Nature. In this paper, the team analyzed the system in depth and concluded that there is "no evidence for a massive black hole," they wrote in an accompanying commentary.
That same day, Liu's team responded with their own Nature commentary in which, while they disagree with some points made by other researchers, they do agree that there is no 70 solar mass black hole in the system.
Liu's team originally found the object in question when they discovered the binary, or two-object system LS V +22 25 (or LB-1 for short), which they described in a peer-reviewed study published Nov. 27, 2019 in Nature. They described a system with a 70 solar mass black hole and an 8 solar mass star orbiting each other. The star, because it was bright and obvious, was easy to spot. But the alleged monster black hole? Not so much.
Usually, in systems with stellar-mass black holes, there is a bright, X-ray emission shooting out of the system that scientists can use to identify it. This emission line is created when a black hole accretes, or pulls material from the other object (in this case a star) in the system. But since LB-1's black hole doesn't accrete material from its partner star, it doesn't create an X-ray emission line, Liu's team found. This made it a little trickier to study.
So, to identify the second object in the system the team had to rely on a more subtle signature known as an H-alpha emission line. This is a spectral line, or a dark line in an object's observed light spectrum that can be used to identify which molecules or atoms make up the material it's coming from.
Liu's team presumed that this H-alpha emission line was coming from an accretion disk, or disk of gas and dust that the black hole pulls in from other objects around the black hole. By observing how this emission line seemed to wobble, they determined the orbital motion and the size of the black hole.
But the interpretation of this subtle wobbling signature, this H-alpha emission line which led Liu's team to determine the existence and massive size of a black hole, is the main finding other researchers have a problem with.
The three papers published initially to the preprint server arXiv in 2019 in response to Liu's alleged discovery found that the movement of this faint H-alpha emission line was actually a kind of optical illusion, and that the orbital motion Liu's team calculated to determine the black hole's size was inaccurate.
"Instead of the wobble coming from the black hole, they found it was more likely a consequence of the orbital motion of the subgiant [its star], thus completely reducing the mass of the black hole," Jackie Faherty, a senior scientist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and a co-host of "StarTalk Radio," who wasn't involved in any of these papers, told Space.com in an email.
In their paper, Abdul-Masih's team used observations they have made using the Flemish Mercator telescope at La Palma in the Canary Islands over the last three months (or since their last paper on this subject) and have "found that that the signal that they use to measure the mass of the black-hole was actually fake," co-author and Hugues Sana, a research associate professor at KU Leuven, told Space.com in an email. Sana added that, in this paper, Abdul-Masih "showed that the same apparent signal is produced by the motion of the spectral line of the visible B-star companion."
So, Sana explained, "once we take into account the motion of the B-type star spectrum, the signal used to calculate the high mass of the (putative) black hole disappears and no indication of a high-mass black hole is left in the data."
To summarize their main finding, "We show that this complicated emission line is contaminated by an absorption line associated to the star, which Liu and his team did not account for," Abdul-Masih told Space.com in an email.
But Abdul-Masih's team didn't just find more evidence to prove that this object isn't a 70 solar mass black hole. They also have a better idea of what may actually be in the LB1 system.
"By analyzing these new high-resolution data, we have come to the conclusion that the LB1 binary system is likely formed by a stripped star and a more massive rapidly rotating Be star," Sana said. (Be stars are types of stars with B-type spectral types and emission lines.) "The strong H-alpha emission is coming from the Be star," Sana said. "The Be star signature was not seen in the original data because the spectral lines are very broad, very shallow, and do not move much (because the Be star is more massive than the stripped B-star)."
"Abdul-Masih's team obtained new high-spectral resolution data which helps with the analysis. Reading the paper, it seems like a sound and robust analysis," Faherty added.
Sana concluded that, while this means that LB1 looks a lot different than Liu's team originally suggested, it's still an extremely interesting system. "Such a stripped star+Be star system is very rare, so we are still very excited about what can be learned from LB1," they said.
Liu's team was quick to respond to Abdul-Masih's new paper, with their own commentary published in Nature on the same day. In their commentary, which is a direct response to Abdul-Masih's team, Liu and his team "re-examine those arguments, in light of more recent spectroscopic observations and further analysis," they wrote in this piece. However, while Liu's team doesn't agree with all aspects of the new analysis of the system, they do agree on a number of points.
They agree that the possibility of a 70 solar mass black hole in LB1 can be completely ruled out. "The response does not disagree with the possibility of the interpretation by the previously noted authors," Faherty said.
"I am very glad that Liu and his team are receptive to our interpretation of the system. This system is indeed very complex and I think that their analysis of the new near-infrared data could be very informative," Abdul-Masih said.
However, unlike Abdul-Masih and the other researchers who have responded to the original paper, Liu's team still asserts that it's possible that the black hole in this system is between 23 and 65 solar masses. "But that comes with all their caveats," Faherty said.
"The most telling statement that they make in the letter is 'We accept that the interpretation of the H-alpha profile is more complex than originally envisaged.'" Faherty said.
She added that while the system is likely what El-Badry and Abdul-Masih's teams described, "as Liu and co-authors state, the jury is still out. More detailed observations are necessary to pin down what this system might include," she said.
Follow Chelsea Gohd on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
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Posted: at 10:51 pm
Click image for full size version. Image: ESO/Francisco Nogueras Lara et al.
Countless stars fill the scene in this revealing infrared view of the central region of our Galaxy, the Milky Way. Its been imaged by the HAWK-I infrared camera on the Very Large Telescope in Chile. Infrared light permeates through the obscuring dust that fills the galaxy, allowing HAWK-I a clear insight into the interior. The bright region in the centre is home to the four-million-solar-mass black hole Sagittarius A*, but thats not what makes this image so special. Its part of a study of the history of the stars in the galactic centre.
Astronomers led by Rainer Schdel, of the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia, in Granada, in Spain, have found that 80 per cent of the stars now in the galactic centre were born between 8 and 13.5 billion years ago. Then, for a period starting eight billion years ago and lasting until just a billion years ago, very few stars at all were born in the galactic centre. Then, something dramatic must have happened, because Schdels team have found evidence for a starburst so intense that more than a hundred stars were being born every year, for a period lasting about 100 million years. These stars would have led to 100,000 supernovae in that period, rivalling the most extreme star-forming regions in the known Universe. Its not known what caused this acceleration in star formation perhaps it resulted from a minor collision with a huge gas cloud or dwarf galaxy, or something else entirely.
Posted: at 10:51 pm
If you went out and were a great teacher, astronomy was probably one of your favorite subjects at school. By studying the moon, galaxies, comets, and everything in between, we call life and the happy universe for this little blue marble. However, the entertainment and excitement surrounding the study of space does not end as a child.
Although astronomy really attracts young people to science and technology, it also leads them on the path to a STEM career. However, there are many ways to study science outside of school as an amateur astronomer. There are also ways you can contribute to astronomy education and research from the comfort of your own home. However, we are moving beyond ourselves.
Astronomy holds a special place in the hearts of many people around the world. For the uninitiated, astronomy is simply the study of the sun, moon, stars, planets, comets, gas, galaxies, gas, dust, and other non-Earth bodies and phenomena.
From the beginning of time, humanity looked to the heavens, searched for patterns in celestial objects, explored the meaning and order of the surrounding universe. Astronomy sees itself while observing, while its closest cousin astrophysics focuses on the behavior, properties, and motion of objects there. However, it is good to mention that there may be an overlap between the two conditions.
The study of planets, galaxies and stars can be an excellent, exciting and imaginative experience, making astronomy a respected subject among children. As the philosopher Socrates once said, Man must move above the earth at the top of the atmosphere and beyond in the same way that he can only understand the world in which he lives.
When separating at home, there are many great resources and projects you can do from your backyard. All you need to do is enter the night sky. And, dont worry, there are some great astronomy projects for adults too. Today we are going to publish some of our favorite astronomy projects for people of all ages, projects that are perfect if you are stuck at home. Lets get started.
Astronomy Project Level: Initial
One of the best things to do is to look at the night sky for a while. For this project, all you need is a notebook, a note-taking pen and a smartphone or tablet. More than that, this is an excellent project of the night for people of all ages. While stargazing is nothing new, there are apps that are full of whats in the night sky, complete with 3D animation and educational content.
All you have to do is display your phone in the night sky and interact with space objects on your mobile device. When looking for whats in your backyard, take the time to track objects for months, keeping track of how their position changes. We recommend downloading the apps Skyview And Star Walk To get started. During your exploration, you may also come across a few planets and galaxies.
Astronomy Project Level: Initial
Another easy project for people of all ages. For this project you have all the modest binoculars, a clear night sky and a pair of visible moons. With just this telescope, you can see the incredible surface of the moon in more detail than you expected, revealing some of its spectacular craters and lunar seas.
More than that, take the time to record your observations, analyze how the moon changes over time. It is also good to note that the positions of the moon will change over time. Many people observe the moon, take observations and sketch it; Thus, creating beautiful artwork.
Astronomy Project Level: Early-Intermediate
After observing the moon and a few planets, why not take a shot to get a glimpse of the International Space Station? The ISS is almost traveling 27,600 km Per hour above the Earth, which allows it to orbit the Earth 16 times Every day. Approximately 400 kilometers On the planet, can be seen above the space station Held at 6,700 Worldwide destinations. It is not so difficult to see because it is one of the third brightest things in the sky. If you want to know more about how to find ISS, dont forget to stop by its NASA website.
Astronomy Project Level: Intermediate-Advanced
As mentioned above, the stars always move their positions. This is partly due to the fact that the earth rotates continuously as it orbits the sun, causing the position of the stars to move beyond our point of view. When photographs are taken over time, these movements create beautiful light paths in the sky, properly dubbing the star drabs. This project will take a little more planning and commitment than the other projects on this list, but the end result can be surprising.
Youll need a camera capable of shooting in bulb mode, a rigid tripod and cable release. And if youre thinking of doing this when its cold, make sure you pack a suitable flashlight and extra warm clothing. To get the full DYY process for Star Trail photography, dont forget to stop here.
Astronomy Project Level: Intermediate-Advanced
Source: Richard Payne / NASA
Okay, so youve mastered star trail photography, and now youre looking forward to capturing other major celestial bodies enter the world of astrophotography. For this project, youll need a DSLR or mirrorless camera marrow on a tripod-mounted tracker to get started. Astrophotography is just taking pictures of things in space. Whats more, with the right tools to access, you can capture stunning shots of the Galaxy and even star clusters.
There are many ways to get started with astrophotography, and there is also a fantastic project to complete during the summer months. Heres what you need to know about astrophotography if you want to get started ASAP.
Astronomy Project Level: Initial
(Embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BG-ukUB_sQU (/ embed)
This project is great to do with kids, teaching them about the life cycle of the star while getting a little dirty with the arts and crafts in their hands. As a child, it is difficult to process how long stars can exist. This project will help put things in perspective.
Equipped with simple household items like black construction paper, cotton balls and markers, you can create a compelling poster depicting the life cycle of a star. This project is a great way to teach children interactively about the celestial bodies they see every day. If you want to complete a project, dont forget to stop here.
Astronomy Project Level: Early-Intermediate
(Embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIV-k39Kukw (/ embed)
Stardust is made up of particles left over from a supernova explosion. Stardust gives researchers an understanding of the history of our universe. Yet, have you ever wondered how they would collect it?
Other projects suitable for children. This project allows them to build their own small satellites, analyzing whether the number of particles collected during a satellite mission is related to the orbital period of the object from the satellite. Projects like this are great because they also teach children about the scientific method. Check it out here.
Astronomy Project Level: Initial
To travel wide distances, ancient navigators used stars to get from point A to point B. Still, how do you know which stars to use? And how do you use it? In this project, you will teach your children (and yourself) how to identify navigational stars in every hemisphere of the world.
You can combine this project with a camping trip or any of the outdoor projects on the list, as this is a valuable skill to keep if you ever get lost. For more on this project, dont forget to stop by Science Buddies.
Astronomy Project Level: Initial
This project is another great way to expose children to the scientific method. For this project, you will test whether the moon affects your stargazing. Let your children write down their hypotheses for the experiment and test them over time as they observe the phases of the moon during the month. Check out the project here.
If kids are stuck in your home right now, use this opportunity to show how exciting astronomy and science can be.
Do you have any favorite astronomy projects? If so, drop your comments below.
. (TSG translate) Astronomy (T) Astronomy Projects (T) Astronomy Science projects Science Projects (T) Astronomy Project Ideas (T) Astronomy for Kids
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Posted: at 10:51 pm
Astronomers have the privilege of watching things happen in the past which they call the lookback time. Our best measurement of the age of the universe is 13.7 billion years. The distance that light travels in one year is called a light year. The most distant galaxies observed by NICMOS were at a distance of almost 13 billion light years. This meant that the light that NICMOS detected had been traveling for 13 billion years and showed what the galaxies looked like 13 billion years ago, a time when the universe was only about 5% of its current age. These were some of the first galaxies ever created and were forming new stars at rates that were more than a thousand times the rate at which most galaxies form stars in the current universe.
Although astronomers have studied star formation for decades, many questions remain. Part of the problem is that most stars are formed in clouds of molecules and dust. The dust absorbs the ultraviolet and most of the optical light emitted by forming stars, making it difficult for Hubbles ultraviolet and optical instruments to study the process.
The longer, or redder, the wavelength of the light, the less is absorbed. That is why sunsets, where the light must pass through long lengths of dusty air, appear red.
The near infrared, however, has an even easier time passing through dust than the red optical light. NICMOS can look into star formation regions with the superior image quality of Hubble to determine the details of where the star formation occurs. A good example is the iconic Hubble image of the Eagle Nebula, also known as the pillars of creation.
The optical image shows majestic pillars which appear to show star formation over a large volume of space. The NICMOS image, however, shows a different picture. In the NICMOS image, most of the pillars are transparent with no star formation. Stars are only being formed at the tip of the pillars. The optical pillars are just empty dust reflecting the light of a group of nearby stars.
Posted: at 10:50 pm
Come "Blast Off With the Bishop" atan interactive, day-long event hosted by the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature this Saturday, May 2.
While the museum is closed due to the pandemic, staff are still providing opportunities for guests to learn and have a good time. So, in celebration of National Astronomy Day, the museum is offering free virtual sessions over Zoom, where guests can learn and ask questions about outer space. Planetarium manager Howard Hochhalter will discuss everything from the wonders of our galaxy to proper stargazing equipment and whatyou mightsee in Saturday night's sky.
"We have three exciting programs to celebrate the day," says Hochhalter. At 1o a.m., he will give a beginner's course called the "ABCs of Astronomy," followed by a Q&A session called "AHA! (Ask Howard Anything)" at 1 p.m. A virtual story hour will also be available for kids at 3 p.m. Then Hochhalter will return for "Star Talk" at 4 p.m., where members of the astronomy club will share photographs of the moon, stars, galaxies and more of what you'll see in that night's sky.
We want people to learn about the night sky, and connect with each other in some way, says Hochhalter. We also want to develop realistic expectations for what they will see.
National Astronomy Day is celebrated twice a year in the United States, during the fall and spring seasons, but Hochhalter says that every clear night is a celebration for stargazers. He hopes experts and amateurs alike step outside and take a closer look, whether they own a telescope or not.
This is also the planetarium's first time conducting virtual sessions, and while museum staff would have preferred a physical gathering, the virtual option will suffice.
"We could reach a larger audience this way," says Hochhalter.
"Blast Off With The Bishop" is on Saturday, May 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. over Zoom. To register and learn more, click here or call (941) 746-4131.Registration is free.
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Posted: at 10:50 pm
To begin looking for objects in the heavens, youll need to know where north, south, east and west are. Make a note of where the sun rises (east) and sets (west), use Google maps or use the compass on your phone. Now, download a free astronomy app to your phone AND computer. My favourite, for ease of use and features, is Stellarium .
Once the app is installed, set your location. This ensures that, when opened, the app indicates what is in the sky above you wherever you live in the world. Stellarium automatically sets the time and date but also has a function that speeds up time, so you can fast forward to night-time and explore the sky from your sofa. Its even possible to set it to show the sky on the night you were born.
Decide what you want to search for in the sky (such as star clusters, constellations, planets) and use Stellarium to find them virtually: this will tell you which direction they lie in, and how high up in the sky to look. Sky Map (Android) and Star Walk (iPhone) are free stargazing apps and provide the names of stars, constellations and planets if you point your phone at the sky. Both have a night view or red light option, which is useful once your eyes adjust to the dark.
Stargazing from home doesnt always mean apps and laptops: you can see plenty with binoculars even a cheap pair. Sir Patrick Moore recommended 10x50 binoculars for astronomy as a good starting point and Ive been using a pair of these at Battlesteads Observatory for five years.
Ensure your eyes are dark adapted by turning off lights. Your eyes will start adapting immediately and that will improve over the next 30 minutes. If stargazing from inside through a window, ensure the area is free from clutter, turn off your lights and get comfortable. If in a yard or garden, turn off all the lights on that side of your house and turn off any outside lights too, being careful to make sure there are no trip hazards first. Whether you live in the light-polluted city or are blessed with dark skies youre ready.
The moon is visible day and the night over the course of a month and on 7 May it will be a supermoon a little closer to us than normal and appearing around 10% bigger. Look at the moon with your naked eyes and notice the dark and light-grey patches. Light-grey areas are mountainous highlands; the dark grey are long-dried-up lava beds called seas because early astronomers took them for actual seas. If you look closely you can see a white circle (where the seven would be if the moon were a clock face) with rays of white pointing out from it. This is Tycho; a crater about as big as East Anglia. If you have any kind of binoculars old or even toy ones grab them and have a closer look at the moon. Youll see more detail around the craters and seas but have a look around the edge of the moon, too, and see its not a perfect circle. The rough, jagged outline is because of lunar mountain ranges.
The phase of the moon changes daily. The phase is how much of the moon is visible from Earth full, half and crescent, for example. The line between the light and dark side of the moon is called the terminator. Each night, look closely at the terminator and youll see different craters, valleys and mountain ranges as the line slowly moves across the surface.
In the evening, Venus is a bright dot in the west. It shines brightly because the thick clouds that shroud it are reflecting sunlight towards us. If youve got binoculars to hand, or a small telescope, notice that Venus isnt a perfect circle either it has phases just like the moon.
In the east on pre-dawn mornings throughout April and May, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars line up as three incredibly bright colourful dots. Theyre all visible with the naked eye, though with binoculars Mars will look salmon pink, Saturn oval-shaped (because of the rings) and you may even see some of Jupiters moons.
On 4 July after 9.30pm, the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn will all be very close together in the sky, forming a conjunction, which is a rare event.
Constellations are official patterns of stars, and youll be familiar with some names and patterns. During April, Orion will be visible in the west after sunset. Recognisable by the three stars in a row that form his belt, this is one of my favourites because hanging from his belt is a sword containing another three stars and the middle star is a naked-eye visible nebula where baby stars are being born. Look at this with binoculars and you may spot a blurry smudge that some see as coloured turquoise.
Look north for the Plough (often called the Big Dipper). The second star on the handle of the Plough is a naked-eye double star. Look closely or use binoculars and youll be able to see them clearly even with high light pollution.
Orbiting the Earth, 250 miles up, is the International Space Station (ISS), home to (usually) six astronauts from around the world. You can easily spot it with the naked eye as it flies from west to east. Go to spotthestation.nasa.gov and enter your location to see when its due to fly over you.
Astronomers hate clouds, but from May to July an eerie phenomenon, often mistaken for the aurora borealis, graces our skies. Noctilucent clouds are white/electric blue ice crystal clouds that form only in the summer, 50 miles up at the very edge of space. Sometimes seen about an hour after sunset, or an hour before sunrise, looking north, they are hauntingly beautiful and best observed with the naked eye.
Even when its cloudy you can explore the universe. Here are some useful links: Aurora Borealis: liveauroranetwork.com ISS Live Stream: ustream.tv/channel/live-iss-stream+ Robotic telescope service Slooh does live streams and has a back catalogue of videos to watch on YouTube. For a small fee you can take control of one of its remote telescopes.
There are also several live all-sky cameras and telescopes. Some are more reliable than others: allskycam.com; eso.org; telescope.org
Roy Alexander is director of learning and lead astronomer at Astro Ventures as well as teaching classes and workshops at Battlesteads Observatory
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Posted: at 10:50 pm
By Leah Crane
Credit: M. Weiss
This explosion puts the super in supernova. A blast about 4.5 million light-years away has released about 10 times more energy than the sun will emit in its entire lifetime, making it the most powerful supernova ever spotted.
Until now it wasnt clear that explosions this powerful were even possible, says Edo Berger at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He and his colleagues found the supernova, called SN2016aps, using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System in Hawaii.
Not only is SN2016aps the most powerful supernova ever spotted, it is the longest one we have found. We found this more than three years ago, and were still observing it usually we only can track a supernova for maybe a few months, says Berger.
To create a supernova this bright and long-lasting, the star that exploded must have shed a shell of material making up about half of its mass before it blew up. When the explosion smashed through the shell like a wrecking ball at a speed of about 4600 kilometres per second, it would have created an extreme blast of radiation.
The big question mark is, how did a star, about a decade before it exploded, lose half of its mass? Its not something we see in the models, says Berger.
Models of this type of supernova predict that it should shed a shell of mass thousands of years before exploding, but the observations show that the shell was still so dense and close to the central blast that it must have been ejected within a few decades of the supernova.
Explosions like this one could help us learn about the supermassive stars that may have existed in the early universe.
We dont have stars like this in our own galaxy, so the only way we can find out about these stars is by looking for these really exotic explosions and then sort of recreate the crime scene to figure out what it was up to before it exploded, says Berger.
The fact that this explosion was so bright means we may be able to find more scenes of huge stars demises even further away.
Journal reference: Nature Astronomy, DOI: 10.1038/s41550-020-1066-7
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Posted: at 10:50 pm
Representative Image. (Photo: AFP)
International Astronomy Day is celebrated twice a year -- one in autumn and another in spring. The Astronomy Day 2020 is celebrated on May 2. The world will celebrate the next Astronomy Day on September 26.
On this day, museums, societies, astronomical institutions and planetariums organise seminars, workshops and other fun-filled activities to spread awareness about the world of astronomy.
According to starwalk.space, in 1973, Doug Berger, president of the Astronomical Association of Northern California, had organised the celebration of first Astronomy Day. The idea behind observing the day is to create awareness and educate people about the beautiful universe.
On International Astronomy Day, lets have a look at some of the quotes by famous astronauts.
1. Neil Amstrong about the moon: Its a brilliant surface in that sunlight. The horizon seems quite close to you because the curvature is so much more pronounced than here on earth. Its an interesting place to be. I recommend it.
2. Kalpana Chawla on achieving goals: Do something because you really want to do it. If youre doing it just for the goal and dont enjoy the path, then I think youre cheating yourself.
3. Sunita Williams on teamwork: You don't look at the big problem altogether, because I think it's a little intimidating. So you just take it one day at a time, meet the people who are going to meet with you, for you, and who you're going to work for, and really try to do the best job that you can. That's all teamwork, and that's what space travel is about.
4. Rakesh Sharma about his space experience: As anyone can imagine, going up into space was a very rich and memorable experience and yes, it was unforgettable too.
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Posted: at 10:50 pm
Astronomers have determined that, on average, the Sun is quieter than other stars magnetically, and it's not clear why. The long-term meaning of this finding isn't clear either, but it implies the Sun could get even more active than it is now.
Our Sun is magnetically active, meaning it has a magnetic field that sometimes strengthens enough to spit out huge and powerful storms, as well as create dark regions on the surface called sunspots. This activity directly affects us on Earth, endangering satellites in orbit, humans in space, and even our power grid on the ground. This magnetic activity is cyclical, waxing and waning every 11 years.
The motivation behind the new work is that, while we understand a lot about the Sun's magnetic field, it's important to have an idea of how it behaves compared to other stars. For example, is it more or less active compared to other stars?
That's a good question, because we don't know much about the long-term behavior of the Sun. Astronomers started counting sunspots around the first time a telescope was used to look skyward, but it wasn't until 1878 that images were good enough to start looking at their total area and position on the Suns face, giving us an idea of how they changed the Sun's brightness. We can do better, though; ice cores on Earth show the presence of elemental isotopes that are affected by subatomic particles zipping through space, and these particles are affected by the Sun's magnetic field. So we can use them as a proxy for solar magnetic activity going back about 9,000 years.
But that's a paltry amount compared to the billions of years a star lives. And that's why new research looked to other stars to see how they behave, to compare them to the Sun. The idea is that by looking at their brightness over long periods of time they can see the stars dimming and brightening as sunspots (well, starspots) rotate into and out of view. More magnetically active stars will change more because they have more sunspots, while quiet stars will have a more stable brightness. And the more stars they can observe the better.
For this, the scientists who did the new research turned to the Kepler observatory, which for three years stared at a single spot in space to look for exoplanets, planets orbiting other stars. It did this by taking frequent brightness measurements of 150,000 stars, looking for dips in brightness when planets passed in front of them, making mini-eclipses. And that means Kepler got a lot of brightness measurements of the stars, which is perfect for this study.
Now, stars come in many different flavors: high mass, low mass, young, old, hot, cool so the astronomers had to cull the list to leave only stars as much like the Sun as possible, to make the comparison fair. To do this they picked stars close to the Sun's surface temperature of 5780K, chemical composition (heavy elements affect the way a star behaves), surface gravity (some stars are giants and have much lower gravity; these are inactive magnetically), and most importantlyrotation.
Why rotation? The spin of a star is what powers the magnetic field. It creates what's called a dynamo inside the star, a self-powered magnetic generator. A star that spins rapidly is likely to have a much stronger magnetic field, and therefore a more aggressive sunspot cycle, so the astronomers did what they could to limit their sample to stars with rotation periods close to the Sun's of about 24.5 days.
In the end they wound up with long-term Kepler data for 365 solar-type stars. They also had a group of over 3,500 stars that were very much like the Sun but for which no rotation period was known. Then they compared the changes in those stars' brightness with the Sun's.
What they found is surprising: The Sun is much quieter than other stars like it! While the Sun's median brightness variation is 0.07%, the other stars had a median of 0.36%, five times higher! That's even twice as much as the Sun's maximum variation of 0.2%.
Why? It's not clear. There's an idea that the Sun is reaching an age where it's going through a transition to a quieter magnetic cycle as its rotation slows over the eons. The other stars like the Sun may not be quite that old yet, so are still active.
Interestingly, when they looked at the group of stars for which no rotation had been measured, they tended to be quieter, too, like the Sun. Again, it's not clear why. Remember, these are all stars very much like the Sun, but we just don't know how rapidly they spin. If the Sun were a star a few dozen light years away, we'd have a hard time measuring its rotation rate, and it would be in this sample of stars. In that case these stars may represent the kind of activity the Sun is still capable of.
That's intriguing. It's entirely possible the Sun is very active on timescales longer than 9,000 years, which is far back as we can reliably measure. Perhaps over tens or hundreds of thousands of years the Sun's activity increases quite a bit, but we have no records of it.
That's concerning. While the timescale is long, and is probably not anything we need worry about for quite some time, it's still not comforting to think the Sun can be more active. The magnetic cycle is responsible not just for sunspots, but also for solar storms, cataclysmic eruptions of solar flares and coronal mass ejections. These have a big effect on satellites, humans in space, and even our power grid on the ground. It's very much in our interest to understand these cycles better!
This work is a great first step in understanding the Sun's long-term behavior. In the future, other space-based observatories are planned to look at stars like Kepler did, so the research can be extended, too. It's interesting to me that the observations Kepler made can be used for other kinds of science than what was originally intended, too. So much of astronomy just depends on looking up, and doing so in as many ways possible. That means there's a lot of overlap there. What else will learn as we plumb the depths of the data we collect?
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