In September 2015, a team led by Yale University astronomer Tabetha Boyajian announced that a star about 1,500 light-years from Earth called KIC 8462852 had dimmed oddly and dramatically several times over the past few years.These dimming events, which were detected by NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope, were far too substantial to be caused by an orbiting planet, scientists said.13 Ways to Hunt Intelligent Alien Life Boyajian and her colleagues suggested that a cloud of fragmented comets or planetary building blocks might be responsible, but other researchers noted that the signal was also consistent with a possible "alien megastructure" — perhaps a giant swarm of energy-collecting solar panels known as a Dyson sphere.Astronomers around the world soon began studying Tabby's star with a variety of instruments, and reanalyzing old observations of the object, in an attempt to figure out what, exactly, is going on."I'd say we have no good explanation right now for what's going on with Tabby's star," Jason Wright, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University, said earlier this month during a talk at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence SETI Institute in Mountain View, California.
A stunning photograph taken from the ALMA observatory in Chile shows a young star surrounded by a large disk of gas and dust.Like our very own Milky Way, this protoplanetary disk exhibits a spiral structure—a feature that could solve a lingering mystery about how planets start to form.This baby star is called Elias 2-27, and it s located about 450 light-years from Earth.Those spiral arms that you see in the photo extend more than 6 billion miles 10 billion kilometers away from the center of the system, which is further away than our sun is to the Kuiper Belt.Scientists have seen this galaxy-like feature before, but never at the circumstellar disk midplane—the region where planet formation takes place.Left: The Rho Ophiuchi star formation region at a distance of 450 light years left .
About 1,600 light years away, in the constellation Orion, an interstellar cloud of gas and dust called Messier 78 is hiding a stellar nursery of young and unborn stars.As explained by the European Southern Observatory ESO , new stars form inside the nebula out of dust grains in pockets just barely warmer than their extremely cold surroundings, which are shrunken and heated up by gravity.But the gleaming young stars escape telescopes that see in visible light, radio waves, or infrared light because the cosmic dust either blocks or absorbs their bluish light.That s why Messier 78 is called a reflection nebula: it reflects and scatters the light of its hidden stars.Now, ESO s Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope VISTA has sifted through the dust by using near-infrared light, which is why the ESO refers to it as a dustbuster.The result is a spectacular view of the young stars in the heart of the nebula casting a bluish pall over their surroundings, while red fledgling stars peer out from their cocoons of cosmic dust.
The solar system was formed 4.6 billion years ago by the explosion of a star at the end of its life cycle, according to a groundbreaking study of meteorites.Research suggests a low-mass supernova was so powerful it triggered a cloud of gas and dust to collapse, leading to the creation of the Sun and its planets.Günay Mutlu via Getty ImagesThe claims are made in a new study of short-lived nuclei, which were found in meteorites and are believed to have been abundant in the early solar system.The study, published in Nature Communications, argues the nuclear fingerprints of Beryllium-10 back up the supernova theory.This is the forensic evidence we need to help us explain how the solar system was formed, said Yong-Zhong Qian, astronomy professor at the University of Minnesota.
A stunning new image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope shows a galaxy that s being strangled by tentacles of gas and dust.The strange and intricate shape of this celestial object is caused by a supermassive black hole at its core — and it s killing the host.This remarkable galaxy, called NGC 4696, is located within the Centaurus galaxy cluster some 150 million light years away.It s got a fairly standard elliptical shape, but a closer look shows it s not quite like its neighbours.NGC 4696 features spectacular bands of curling filaments, made from dust and ionised hydrogen, that are spiralling out from the main body and into interstellar space.New research suggests a supermassive black hole at the galaxy s core is responsible for these features—and it s also preventing the galaxy from creating new stars.
This artist's illustration shows comet fragments crossing the face of a star, one possible explanation for the strange dimming exhibited by "Boyajian's star."SAN FRANCISCO — Astronomers may have to think a little harder to solve the mystery of Boyajian's star.In September 2015, Yale University's Tabetha Boyajian and her colleagues reported that the star KIC 8462852 has dimmed dramatically multiple times over the past seven years, once by an astounding 22 percent.But the brightness dips of "Boyajian's star," as it has come to be known, were far too significant to be caused by an orbiting planet, so astronomers began thinking of alternative explanations.13 Ways to Hunt Intelligent Alien Life Researchers have come up with many possible causes for the dimming, including a swarm of broken-apart comet fragments, variability in the activity of the star itself, a cloud of some sort in the interstellar medium between Kepler and Boyajian's star, and, most famously, an orbiting "megastructure" built by an alien civilization to collect stellar energy.
In August 2012, Voyager 1 went where no human-made object has gone before: it crossed the heliopause, the outermost edge of the Sun s heliosphere, and entered interstellar space.Before Voyager 1 left the bubble of territory dominated by the Sun, it collected our very first data on the cold, dark borderlands marking the interstellar boundary.But five years later, that journey is shaping up to be remarkably different.Having worked on the Voyager 1 mission since 1972, he knows better than most just how precious and unique this data is.As it disseminates into the vacuum of space, the solar wind forms something a bit like a planetary atmosphere, only much larger.Like Earth s atmosphere, the stuff inside the heliosphere is separated from the stuff outside — in this case, an interstellar wind made up of different particles left over from long dead stars — by a magnetic field.
Launched in 1977, the Voyager space probes are further from Earth than any human-made object ever built.Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have charted a roadmap for the probes, revealing surprising details about their ongoing journey through interstellar space.Incredible as it may seem, both Voyager probes are still collecting data and transmitting their findings back to Earth.They ve got about a few decades of electrical power left, after which time they ll go dark.But even after Voyager 1 and 2 expire, astronomers can still use Hubble to study the environment through which these dead probes are expected to sail.Astronomers from Wesleyan University recently used the Hubble Space Telescope to scan the regions of space within which the probes are expected to travel in the coming years.
A link between the amount of material that can be seen spewing out of a black hole, and the brightness of the black hole itself has been identified for the first time.Michael Parker from Cambridge University was studying distant galaxies to learn about a poorly understood phenomenon of black holes when he stumbled across this unique feature around the active galactic nuclei AGN IRAS 13224 3809.AGN is a term used for the supermassive black hole found at the centre of a galaxy.Black holes are famous for pulling in anything around them, with gravity so strong that not even light can escape.AGN IRAS 13224 3809 is the most X-ray variable AGN - it can change in brightness by a factor of 50 or more in around an hour, so it's a very exciting black hole to look at, Parker told WIRED.It's a particularly good source for looking at the outflow, as it has no other absorption in the system - often there's other warm or cold gas floating around that gets in the way and confuses the detections.
We don’t understand quasars all that well, but are pretty certain that these incredibly bright lights belong in the centres of galaxies.So it looked a little weird when astronomers spotted quasar 3C 186 thirty six thousand light years away from the centre of its galaxy, seemingly trying to escape.Given their brightness and location in galactic centres, it’s likely that quasars are supermassive black holes, and that the bright light comes from the friction of gas and dust orbiting the central mass at incredibly high speeds.An international team of astronomers spotted this strange galactic escape eight billion light years away with the Hubble Space Telescope, Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and Chandra X-Ray Observatory.But that explanation didn’t sit quite right with Grant Tremblay, astrophysicist at Yale and one of the paper’s authors.At first, Tremblay and his colleagues thought the galaxy and its quasar had just recently merged with another one.
We don’t understand quasars all that well, but are pretty certain that these incredibly bright lights belong in the centres of galaxies.So it looked a little weird when astronomers spotted quasar 3C 186 thirty six thousand light years away from the centre of its galaxy, seemingly trying to escape.Given their brightness and location in galactic centres, it’s likely that quasars are supermassive black holes, and that the bright light comes from the friction of gas and dust orbiting the central mass at incredibly high speeds.An international team of astronomers spotted this strange galactic escape eight billion light years away with the Hubble Space Telescope, Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and Chandra X-Ray Observatory.But that explanation didn’t sit quite right with Grant Tremblay, astrophysicist at Yale and one of the paper’s authors.At first, Tremblay and his colleagues thought the galaxy and its quasar had just recently merged with another one.
p The rules for a stellar death seem pretty simple.But a number of simulations have suggested that there's another option: big stars that go out not with a bang but a whimper.While some of the outer layers of the star are shed and it brightens briefly, there's no catastrophic explosion.Now, researchers about to publish in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society have identified one of these collapses in the form of a star that seems to have vanished.Deep within the soon-to-be supernova, all the lighter elements have been fused, leaving the core to undergo reactions that absorb energy.When we can identify the star that gave rise to a supernova, we've found that most of them are below 18 times the mass of the Sun, even though we know that the relevant type of star (a red supergiant, in this case) can get far more massive.
NASA plans to probe the seemingly empty space that lies between stars via its new CHESS mission, helping researchers understand the earliest parts of a star’s slow formation.CHESS, in this case, is short for Colorado High-resolution Echelle Stellar Spectrograph, a special payload that will be sent into space on the suborbital sounding rocket called Black Brant IX.The launch will take place next week.The CHESS mission ultimately aims to investigate the space between stars; though it appears empty to the naked eye, NASA assures us that is isn’t, saying instead that it is home to charged plasma particles, neutral molecules and atoms, and more.Scientists call these clouds of particles, atoms and molecules the ‘interstellar medium,’ and they float around in reservoirs that researchers want to explore.Studying these molecules and atoms involves using the CHESS tool to measure the light making its way through them.
It may look like an abstract shape from a fuzzy space photograph, but a graph published today reveals a fresh insight into a process necessary for life to ever exist.Stars are created when incredibly huge clouds of gas and dust in the vast spaces in between galaxies, come together under their own weight.A dense clump is eventually formed, known as a protostar, which eventually heats up enough for molecules to bind together.Now for the first time, the way gravity controls swirling clouds of gas and dust in a kind of interstellar dance has been studied and presented."We've known for some time that dusty, filamentary cloud structures are ubiquitous in the Milky Way's interstellar medium," says Gwen Williams, from the University of Cardiff."We also know that the densest of these filaments fragment into compact pockets of cold gas that then collapse under their own gravity to form individual stars.
Nearly 40 years after lifting off, NASA's historic Voyager mission is still exploring the cosmos.The twin spacecraft launched several weeks apart in 1977 — Voyager 2 on Aug. 20 and Voyager 1 on Sept. 5 — with an initial goal to explore the outer solar system.Voyager 1 flew by Jupiter and Saturn, while its twin took advantage of an unusual planetary alignment to visit Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.And then the spacecraft kept on flying, for billions and billions of miles.Indeed, in August 2012, Voyager 1 became the first human-made object ever to reach interstellar space.[Photos from Voyager 1 and 2's Grand Tour]
On the night of 11 March 1437, Korean astronomers recorded a strange light low in the sky, in the tail of the constellation Scorpius.It must have been at least as bright as the North Star, Polaris, maybe even as bright as the stars of the Big Dipper.The team’s hunt has yielded an important new kind of accurate astronomical clock to measure the ages of certain stars.“You usually consider yourself lucky if you can age anything to 10 or 20 per cent,” Michael Shara, Curator in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History told Gizmodo.“Here we have it to the day, which is unprecedented accuracy.”Shara’s team began looking for the source of this nova 30 years ago to support whether or not these pairs of stars go into hibernation after letting off their bright explosions.
Two NASA teams want to deploy a highly compact, sensitive thermometer that could characterize comets and even assist in the redirection or possible destruction of an asteroid on a collision course with Earth.In two technology-development efforts, researchers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, are baselining the use of a Goddard-designed infrared microbolometer camera -- whose cross section is just slightly larger than a quarter -- to study near primitive objects formed during the solar system's origin 4.5 billion years ago.He worked closely with the device's manufacturer, the Canadian-based National Optics Institute, to design the compact optics and integrated filters that make the device sensitive to chemical compounds, like water and carbon dioxide, which are of interest to cometary scientists.When radiation strikes an absorptive element, the element heats and experiences a change in the electrical resistance, which is proportional to and can be used to derive the temperature.Microbolometers used to study galaxies and the interstellar medium in the far-infrared and submillimeter wavelength bands require super cooling, which typically is done by placing the sensor inside a cryogenically cooled canister.As a result, these cameras are lighter weight, smaller, yet still capable of sensing and recording infrared heat emanating from objects in the solar system.
If creepy organ music and "Thriller" are no longer spooky enough for you, you may need to go a little further to find just the right soundtrack for Halloween.Fortunately, NASA has compiled some of the most far-out and eerie sounds from space over the years to provide just the right All Hallows' Eve ambience.The 22 tracks posted on SoundCloud kick off with the otherworldly aural landscape created by taking data from the Juno spacecraft's approach of Jupiter and converting it into some totally spooky audio.There's also the unsettling whine of the interstellar medium as captured by Voyager 1, some of the late Cassini's most eerie hits, and the truly freaky sounds of Jupiter's largest moon, Ganymede, from the Galileo spacecraft's fly-by in 1996.So if you want to have a nerdy, hipster Halloween bash, forget the "Monster Mash" and put your guests on edge with the sounds of plasma and other bits of creepiness from across the galaxy.Then you can really turn up the scare factor by sharing some of the horrors of life on Mars, if you dare.
There’s an unidentified source of infrared throughout the universe.By looking at the specific wavelengths of the light, scientists think that it comes from carbon—but not just any carbon, a special kind where the atoms are arranged in multiple hexagonal rings.No one has been able to spot one of these multi-ring “polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons,” or PAHs in space—even though the infrared emissions imply that these PAHs should make up 10 per cent of the universe’s carbon.Now, scientists have found a new hint.A team of researchers in the United States and Russia are now reporting spotting a special single-carbon-ring-containing molecule, called benzonitrile with a radio telescope in a part of space called the Taurus Molecular Cloud-1.But it could be a potential precursor and could help explain the mysterious radiation.
Fullerenes were first discovered by Harry Kroto in the 1970s, a feat for which he and his colleagues received a Nobel Prize in Chemistry.Recently, they have been found in winds emitted by red giants and in interstellar medium.Apart from that, they are also used as semiconductors and even high temperature superconductors (if decorated with alkali metal atoms).Their sphere of use is constantly growing, and research is ongoing to find ways of mass production.It is hypothesized that in deep vacuum conditions with low density fullerenes can by synthesized in other yet unknown ways.A group of astronomers is currently engaged in studies of fullerenes in interstellar medium.
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