Tag Archives: universe

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:

 

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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.

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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

 

 

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International Space Station has a Large Hadron Collider – and it’s collected 18 billion cosmic rays

The largest-ever experiment in space has reported the collection of some 18 billion “cosmic ray” events that may help unravel the Universe’s mysteries.

Run from a centre at Cern, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) aims to spot dark matter and exotic antimatter.

At the heart of the seven-tonne, $2bn machine is a giant, specially designed magnet which bends the paths of extraordinarily high-energy charged particles called cosmic rays onto a series of detectors, giving hints of what the particles are.

A series of ever-larger particle accelerators built here on Earth aim to drive particles to ever-higher energies, smashing them into one another to simulate the same processes that create them elsewhere in the cosmos.

But no Earth-bound experiment can match nature’s power as a particle accelerator – and Earth’s atmosphere absorbs incoming cosmic rays – so the AMS will catch some of these high-energy particles “from the source”, as a kind of complement to the likes of the Large Hadron Collider.

 

Learn more: BBC - Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer claims huge cosmic ray haul

 

 

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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”

 

 

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New sci-fi movie from M. Night Shyamalan starring Will Smith and son – After Earth

It wasn’t enough for M. Night Shyamalan and Will Smith to create a sci-fi film. For After Earth, they patterned an entirely new world history (or at least paid some really geeky people to do it for them).

The film is set 1,000 years in the future, and most of mankind has moved on to another planet light-years away. “Nova Prime has been colonized by humans for about 200 years,” said After Earth screenwriter Gary Whitta during a Comic-Con panel for the film, which is scheduled for release next year. “Earth is just kind of a memory that is taught in history classes.”

Nova Prime looks a lot like Utah (because it’s filmed in Utah), and that’s where the story starts. Smith plays Cypher Rage, a general in a military unit called the Rangers, while his real-life son Jaden plays his fictional son Kitai. The younger Rage aspires to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the Rangers. When an errant asteroid damages their ship, it causes them to crash-land on the most inhospitable planet in the universe — Earth.

Separated during the crash, Kitai must battle his way across an aggressive and deadly planet to reach his injured father, who is in bad shape. The journey will take Kitai through jungle, desert, forest and probably a few Shyamalanesque plot twists.

 

Learn more details: Wired – Universe-Building With Your After Earth Hosts, Will Smith and M. Night Shyamalan

 

 

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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

The Scale of the Universe – a fun, educational animation

An interactive Flash animation titled “Scale Of The Universe 2“, covering everything in the universe from the fabric of space-time to the estimated size of the universe, was posted earlier this year, and it is awesome. A month or so later, it went viral, but why…so popular?

First, the actual scale of the universe is mind blowing as it spans 62 orders of magnitude (that’s multiplying 62 10′s together).

Second, the animation is very well produced and packed with information.

Third, it was created by a 14-year-old, Cary Huang, and his twin brother, Michael, who worked on it for a year and a half as a fun project…

via The Singularity Hub

 

It’s true, it is really fun to play with, especially with all the weird objects they use for comparisons. I snapped a few screenshots below to show you some of them.

The first one is where the animation starts and the second is after scrolling out a bit. In both, you can see the size of a human in comparison to many objects (in the second one, there is a tiny human in the center).

In the last screenshot, you can see how California, Texas, and Italy are about the size of many moons and Pluto!

The Scale of the Universe 2