Hubble photographs the farthest-ever view of the universe – it’s amazing

Prepare to be blown away with this short video and the images from Hubble. We are a pale blue dot.

 

 

And the original story from NASA:

Called the eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF, the photo was assembled by combining 10 years of Hubble photographs taken of a patch of sky. The XDF is a small fraction of the angular diameter of the full moon…and contains about 5,500 galaxies. The faintest galaxies are one ten-billionth the brightness of what the human eye can see.

 

The NASA images they reference:

 

Continue reading Hubble photographs the farthest-ever view of the universe – it’s amazing

Astronomers discover a star-creating galaxy that sheds light on the galactic cooling problem

Massive galaxy cluster spawns more than 700 stars a year

A newly discovered cluster of galaxies, more than 5 billion light years from Earth…is among the most massive clusters of galaxies in the universe, and produces X-rays at a rate faster than any other known cluster.

It also creates new stars at an “unmatched” pace of more than 700 per year, said Michael McDonald. “This extreme rate of star formation was unexpected,” he said during a NASA news conference Wednesday, noting that the Milky Way forms just one or two stars a year.

In addition to being massive, unique, and the biggest star-nursery in the universe, this area, called Phoenix, also helps theorists with something, the galactic cooling problem.

 

Phoenix Cluster: a combination of the X-ray, Optical, and Ultraviolet images, left; artists concept of the central galaxy, right. (photo: NASA)

 

For years scientists have been coming up with explanations for how stars are formed. The earliest being a mass of molecules would collapse in on themselves as fusion begins. The mass would then accumulate until its gravity becomes strong enough to spin, turn into a sphere, and pull on everything around it, collecting planets, asteroids, and other debris into its solar system.

But, this doesn’t take into account thermodynamics, specifically why doesn’t the star expand as it heats up. Indeed, several half-stars were observed in the universe stuck in this state of expansion unable to contract into the ultra-compact ball of a star.

That’s where a new theory comes in, the galactic “cooling flow”.

**There appears to be no name for the theory, all references are to a general theory theory of star formation.

This says the creation of stars is a lot like an explosion, with an initial burst of heat which then dissipates bringing cool air back into the explosion zone. In this case, thermonuclear fusion ignites much of the galaxy and begins sucking into the center lots of mass, including the surrounding galaxies.

As the (star) forms, this plasma initially heats up due to the gravitational energy released from the infall of smaller galaxies.

As the gas cools, it should condense and sink inward, a process known as a “cooling flow.” 

In the cluster’s center, this cooling flow can lead to very dense cores of gas, termed “cool cores,” which should fuel bursts of star formation in all clusters that go through this process. Most of these predictions had been confirmed with observations – the X-ray glow, the lower temperatures at the cluster centers – but starbursts accompanying this cooling remain rare. – TG Daily

 

A step forward in our knowledge of star formation, but something tells me we are not there yet.

Continue reading Astronomers discover a star-creating galaxy that sheds light on the galactic cooling problem

Astronomers discover black hole with 140 trillion times more water than Earth

Two teams of astronomers have discovered the largest and farthest reservoir of water ever detected in the universe. The water, equivalent to 140 trillion times all the water in the world’s ocean, surrounds a huge, feeding black hole, called a quasar, more than 12 billion light-years away.

“The environment around this quasar is very unique in that it’s producing this huge mass of water,” said Matt Bradford, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “It’s another demonstration that water is pervasive throughout the universe, even at the very earliest times.”

A quasar is powered by an enormous black hole that steadily consumes a surrounding disk of gas and dust. As it eats, the quasar spews out huge amounts of energy. Both groups of astronomers studied a particular quasar called APM 08279+5255, which harbors a black hole 20 billion times more massive than the sun and produces as much energy as a thousand trillion suns.

Astronomers expected water vapor to be present even in the early, distant universe, but had not detected it this far away before. There’s water vapor in the Milky Way, although the total amount is 4,000 times less than in the quasar, because most of the Milky Way’s water is frozen in ice.

 

And, the instruments they used:

Bradford’s team made their observations starting in 2008, using an instrument called “Z-Spec” at the California Institute of Technology’s Submillimeter Observatory, a 33-foot (10-meter) telescope near the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Follow-up observations were made with the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-Wave Astronomy (CARMA), an array of radio dishes in the Inyo Mountains of Southern California.

The second group, led by Dariusz Lis, senior research associate in physics at Caltech and deputy director of the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, used the Plateau de Bure Interferometer in the French Alps to find water.

 

Source: NASA – Astronomers Find Largest, Most Distant Reservoir of Water

 

 

Continue reading Astronomers discover black hole with 140 trillion times more water than Earth

Astronomers discover a close new planet – covered in oceans of magma

In a surprise find, astronomers have discovered a planet possibly covered with oceans of magma “right around the corner.”

Thirty-three light years away, “we have a sub-Earth-sized planet that’s slightly larger than Mars and essentially right around the corner, at least on a cosmic scale,” said Kevin Stevenson, a planetary scientist now at the University of Chicago

UCF-1.01 is about 5,200 miles (8,400 kilometers) wide, making about a quarter the volume of Earth. And with a year that lasts only 1.4 Earth days, the new planet’s orbit takes UCF-1.01 searingly close to its star.

“It could be a thousand degrees Fahrenheit [540 degrees Celsius]. That may be hot enough to make an ocean of molten rock.”

Researchers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope essentially stumbled upon the new planet while studying a hot, Neptune-size planet called GJ 436b.

 

Learn more: National Geographic – New Planet Found: Molten “Mars” Is “Right Around the Corner”

 

 

Continue reading Astronomers discover a close new planet – covered in oceans of magma

All 786 known planets, to scale

All 786 known planets, to scale.

“This” (tiny gray box) is our solar system. The rest of these orbit other stars and were only discovered recently. Most of them are huge because these are the kind we learned to detect first, but now we’re finding that small ones are actually more common.

We know nothing about what’s on any of them. With better telescopes that would change.

This is an exciting time.

 

 

Find the original graphic on XKCD.

Scientists watch a black hole devour a star

Back when single-celled organisms ruled Earth, a gigantic black hole lurking quietly at the center of a distant galaxy dismantled and devoured a star.

On Wednesday, astronomers reported that they watched the whole thing unfold over a period of 15 months starting in 2010, the first time such an event had been witnessed in great detail from start to finish.

“The star got so close that it was ripped apart by the gravitational force of the black hole,” said Johns Hopkins University astronomer Suvi Gezari, lead author of a paper about the observations that was published online by the journal Nature.

***

Veering close to the black hole — about the same distance as Mercury lies from the sun — the gaseous star was stretched out and torn asunder by the black hole’s intense gravity.

“It turned into this really thin piece of spaghetti,” Gezari said.

About 76 days after the star was ripped apart, the black hole began devouring its remains, taking at least a year to finish off the meal.

***

Astronomers call these star-obliterating events tidal disruptions. The process is similar to….keep readingGiant black hole is seen gobbling up a star

Do galaxies form like snowflakes? Winner of Space Lab competition to find out

I'd love to be an Astrophysicist or specifically a Theoretical Cosmologist.

The Space Lab competition from YouTube invited young scientists to submit an experiment for the chance to have it performed by NASA aboard the International Space Station.

From among thousands of entrants, six regional winners have been chosen. In North America, Emerald Bresnahan of Plainville, Massachusetts, was chosen for her Snowflakes in Space experiment.

Emerald suggests that galaxies might form in a similar way to snowflakes. She wants to test how snowflakes form in the absence of gravity to better understand the link between them and other complex shapes like galaxies. Will these tiny structures give us the answers to some of our biggest questions about the Universe?

You can also view her entry video on YouTube.

The possible Galactic Core of our Universe (photo)

A globular cluster is a spherical collection of stars (like our Sun) that orbits a galactic core as a satellite. Globular clusters are very tightly bound by gravity, which gives them their spherical shapes and relatively high stellar densities toward their centers.

Here is one of those globular clusters:

Messier 9, seen here in a recent image from the Hubble Space Telescope, is twice as old as our Sun, and made up of stars that are among the oldest in our galaxy.

About 8 Billion years old, the more than 250,000 stars of Messier 9 are enriched with far fewer heavier elements than the Sun. Elements crucial to life on Earth, like oxygen and carbon, and the iron at Earth’s core are rare in Messier 9.

via C|Net

 

Thx to Dave Shroeder

A new energy form unknown to science, Dark Energy, is expanding the Universe

The year was 1998 and two highly competitive groups of astronomers were each rushing toward the same goal: they hoped to hunt down the effects of gravitational braking in the universe. Ever since astronomers had accepted the idea of the Big Bang, they had been out hunting for its subsequent cosmic deceleration.

While the Big Bang blows space apart (it literally stretches all points of space-time away from each other), the gravitational pull of matter should, over time, slow down that initial burst of cosmic expansion.

As data was gathered and analyzed, both the Harvard and Berkeley groups were stunned to find no evidence for deceleration. Instead, everything pointed in the opposite direction.

According to observations, the expansion of the universe was speeding up — it was accelerating. Cosmic acceleration became big news.

Which means there exists a Dark Energy pushing the universe outwards:

In 1999, the newly discovered cosmic acceleration made it clear that some form of anti-gravitational energy had to exist. As nothing was known about this energy…it was called Dark Energy

The discovery of cosmic acceleration and Dark Energy upended cosmology almost overnight.

keep reading at Cosmos and Culture

 

(thx Joseph Armstrong)

The stars as viewed from the International Space Station

Multitudinous stars but what is really awesome are the shots or Earth. The atmosphere glows faintly while the surface is lined with an array of lights, lightning storms, and mountains.

Makes me feel like we are an advanced civilization, even a planet in a Star Wars movie (that’s Coruscant for you geeks).

Timelapse videos depicting the stars from low earth orbit, as viewed from the International Space Station. Images edited using Adobe Lightroom with some cropping to make the stars the focal point of each shot, and with manipulation of the contrast to bring out the stars a bit more.

The video plays best if you let it load a bit first.

Via interesting, video at Vimeo