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‘Superflares’ in the Crab Nebula

Just over a week ago the Crab Nebula supernova erupted in an enormous flare far more powerful than any previously seen. NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope detected this, lasting for six days. It is still not entirely sure what happened, but scientists say that it may be caused by sudden rearrangements of the magnetic field near the neutron star. These rearrangements may be a physical process that taps into the energy created by the neutron star’s rapid spin. These changes can accelerate particles to near the speed of light. As these high speed electrons react with the magnetic field, they emit gamma rays. This may be an important discovery because we have only recently began realizing the true power and capability of the Crab Nebula. These interactions are said to produce electrons with energies 100 times greater than can be achieved in any particle accelerator on Earth. This makes them the highest-energy electrons known to be associated with any cosmic source. This may cause interest because scientists may want to learn how these powerful interactions occur so we may someday be able to create them ourselves. Overall, the discovery of these enormous flares in the Crab Nebula supernova is beneficial to our knowledge, and to science.

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Black Holes

According to an article in the New York Times, there has been an increasing amount of evidence showing that black holes can be extroverts that extend out across millions of light years. It appears that they are “controlling the development of galaxies as well as clusters of galaxies.” Researchers have found that the “black holes are regulating other objects’ cosmic growth because of a feedback light and radiation.” There has also been some connection to the clouds of gas lying in the early universe.  The clouds of gas are known to the scientific community as blobs. It has been reported that “these blobs are being blasted and lighted from the inside by the radiation coming from the supermassive black holes, at the center of the developing galaxies.” According to cosmologist, Martin Rees,” there may be some correlation between the masses of black holes and the galaxies in which they are embedded”, which brings some astronomers to believe that there is some kind of feedback mechanism taking place.

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Dark Matter

Dark Matter is the most prominent mass in the universe. It is a mass that does not give off heat or light, so it is very hard to detect. Dark matter is detected by a technique called gravitational lensing, in which light from a distant galaxy is distorted into created mirror images of the distant galaxy. This method is effective because dark matter has a gravitational pull. Dark matter is made up of gas clouds that contain diffuse amounts of helium and hydrogen. There are two sizes that dark matter is classified in, MACHOs (massive compact halo objects) and WIMPs (weakly interacting massive particles).

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Dawn captures first image of nearing asteroid

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft captures an image of the first nearing asteroid. The asteroid was named Vesta; when the spacecraft took the image it was approximately 1.21 kilometers (752,000 miles) away from Vesta. According to the first image the asteroid looks like a small bright star among other stars in its background. As we look closer we can come to the conclusion that the asteroid can be categorized as a protoplanet due to its large body that almost formed as a planet. NASA was extremely happy to finally find its target after a billion mile search. Vesta is 530 kilometers (330 miles) in diameter and the second largest object in the asteroid belt. Mission managers expect Vesta to capture Dawn into its orbit by its gravitational pull on July 16; in order for this to happen Dawn has to match the asteroid’s path around the sun. Science data will collected during the beginning of early August and it will be a collection of images helping scientist produce topographic maps. In 2015, Dawn will reach its second destination, Ceres, an even larger object in the asteroid belt. Secrets of our solar system can be revealed with the information gather from these two asteroids. Dawn’s instruments measure surface composition, topography, texture, and measure the tug of gravity from Vesta to Ceres; this will help us learn more about their internal structures.

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Hubble Space Telescope

Andrea Varnava
General Astronomy001
Blog Post
In the New York Times article the “Hubble Space Telescope” talks about all the wonders the Hubble Space Telescope has given us as well as a few of the costs. For what it’s given us is an abundance of information for us to research and learn more about spaces, and the ability for the telescope “to peer with matchless resolution into the black hole hearts of galaxies and discern glints of stars and galaxies deeper into space-time than any eye had ever seen.” Now as far as the costs the Hubble Space Telescope has cost “NASA an estimated ten billion in the past thirty years.” Including the costs of trips up there and the cost of repairs and that have to be done as well as a few lives that have been lost. According to the article the Hubble Space Telescope is now estimated to “continue functioning until 2014. By then its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope should be in orbit.”

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The Recoiling of Warped Space

Imagine two of the most gigantic and inexplicable forces of the universe.  Imagine them at  the center of galaxies creating orbits past which light itself cannot overcome.  You know what I’m talking about- imagine black-holes.  Now imagine them colliding into each-other. 

This kind of imagining is exactly what many astro-physicists have been doing, both abstractly and with the aid of computer simulations. The combination of the two have first lead to some puzzling results, but then also to advanced understanding. Simulations have shown that if two black holes were to collide they would likely merge.  So far so good (if you think enlarged black holes are a good thing!). Yet under certain circumstances the model also shows how it could occur that after the black holes to merge the  merged black hole would recoil as far as out of its very own galaxy!  For some time this phenomenon was not properly understood; however astrophysicists at Caltech, Cornell University, and the National Institute for Theoretical Physics in South Africa have developed concepts that could in fact explain it. 

The concept, really the concepts they’ve described are the processes of tendex lines and vortex lines, and both relate to how gravity shifts according the shifting of space within general relativity.   Tendex lines are those that describe the stretching that gravity enacts, very nicely displayed by the way the moon exerts tendex-lines on the Earth’s tides.  Vortex lines on the other hand describe what occurs when space is twisted, literally a phenomenon that would twist and break a material item through space itself.  The conglomeration of tendex lines into stretching-space is called a tendex, and that of vertex lines is called a vortex.  When Blackholes merge both of these forms of warped space are unleashed into the universe.  In other words with the black holes colliding a warped forms of space are expunged whole sale into the universe. This is the groups conceptual contribution.  

Armed with these two concepts the group was able to contribute directly to understanding the earlier phenomena, explaining how it could be that a merged black hole might recoil out of its galaxy.  The explanation developed is that while on the one side of the merged black hole the tendex and vortex would intercede with one another canceling out the effect of their special gravity, on the other side the tenedex and vortex would exert gravity outward in such a way that the recoil action of the force would knock the black hole straight out of its galaxy!   

Such then is the magnitude of black holes merging, but such also are the powers of a good concept capturing something new and impressive.    

See the article here and enjoy!

-Daniel Vinik

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Newly Found Deposit Changes Mars’ Atmosphere

There has been a discovery that the total amount of atmosphere on Mars has changed drastically. This process can affect the stability of liquid water and increase frequency and severity of dust storms. There is a newly found deposit that has a similar volume to Lake Superior’s and it is in a dissipating phase. The deposit is adding gas to the Mars’ atmosphere which is already at 95 percent carbon dioxide. The additional carbon-dioxide increase in the atmosphere may also amplify some effects caused by the tilt of  Mars’ axis. All these changes result in a greenhouse effect that is trying to warm the surface of Mars, while the polar ice caps are trying to cool it. Mars’ atmosphere is just too thin and dry to be able to create a strong greenhouse such as the one on Earth. This discovery may disappoint many people because the chances of there being a thick enough atmosphere for life to be on Mars has grown slim. The air pressure has increased tremendously and there is double the amount of carbon dioxide now. Some say that it can be possible if factories were placed to produce water vapor on Mars and try to strengthen the atmosphere. If technology continues to develop rapidly, we may actually still be able to create a atmosphere capable of sustaining life.


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Merging Black Holes

The article I chose discusses what would happen to the black holes at the center of two galaxies were these galaxies to collide. As we have studied in class at the center of a galaxy there is a black hole which in a collision would merge with the black hole at the center of the other galaxy creating an even bigger one. Before the two merge however they rotate around each other sending out gravitational waves that not only “stir the galactic center” but also, when the two holes finally merge, sending them in one particular direction thus propelling itself in the opposite one. This sends it into other stars that it can then swallow at a much faster rate than a regular black hole. Scientists can learn many new things from their observations of such a back hole about the expansion of the cosmos and the forces accelerating it.

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New Evidence For Triggers of Original Supernovae

A supernovae is defined as a star’s phenomenon where its brightness increase greatly due to an explosion that ejects most of its mass. The Chandra X-Ray Observatory has found new evidence for what triggered the original supernova explosion. Tycho’s Supernovae was formed by a Type Ia supernova, which has been used in measuring astronomical distances because of their reliable brightness. In the lower left region of Tycho is a blue arc of X-ray emission. According to Chandra evidence gathered concludes that this arc is due to a shock wave created when a white dwarf exploded and blew material off the surface of a nearby companion star. This supports one popular scenario for the trigger of a Type Ia supernova.  It is  important that we understand the origin of Type Ia supernovas being that it is used to determine that the Universe is expanding at an accelerating rate.

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Planets, Planets, Planets!!!

The universe is something SO massive that no matter how much we try or observe, we will never know exactly how many objects of matter and dark matter there are out there. We already know about our Solar System, which revolves around our star, the sun, and the Milky Way Galaxy, a few other galaxies and comets that are out there. That’s common knowledge and can obviously be seen by the naked eye (or when looking through a telescope).

However, the expansion of the universe just seems getting larger and larger–or does it? In 1995 (which is recent in NASA’s standings), astronomers were said to see some Jupiter-sized planets due to their Kepler Satellite. Ever since then, there have been said to be 1,235 potential planets! And hey, that’s just said to be from 1995. It’s 2011 now! Could you imagine the increase in numbers?

It’s clear to see that NASA and scientists are making new discoveries every day. After all, there are new objects approaching us every day. Just because we are first able to see these objects now, doesn’t mean that they weren’t there before. So, what’s so special? It’s said that at some point, the satellite had always pointed to the Milky Way near the Northern Cross constellation. But, the Kepler team leader, William Borucki, at the Ames Research Center in Northern California states that if Kepler could see the whole sky, it would have found 400,000 planets! (Says the article;paragraph 4)

Not only that, but by measuring the light of 156,000 stars and looking at dips, the planets can be validated through telescopes. Of course, that will take years, but could you imagine? It makes a person wonder about what is really out there.

Fifty four Kepler planets are said that they could be seen as another earth. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see once it gets close enough to observe. Who knows? Maybe a new planet is being born as we speak. Not to mention, what about the future? When our sun is gone, will a new solar system be reborn to take its place? And how many planets will there be for us and for us to see–if there is said to even be an ‘us’?

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