Space

An obese oddball of a star has left astronomers wondering how it could have formed.

Found with the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, the star is a pulsar – a compact, rapidly spinning star – called J1903+0327. It lies 20,000 light-years away spinning at a rate of 465 revolutions per second – the fifth fastest-spinning pulsar known in our Galaxy.

Astronomers believe such super-fast pulsars started life as the more common, sedate pulsars that spin only a few times a second, but were later ’reborn‘ in their present hyperactive state. This re-birthing or recycling can take place, astronomers think, if the pulsar has a nearby companion that it orbits. At a certain point in its life cycle, the companion pours its own matter onto the pulsar and this extra material ‘spins-up‘ the pulsar.

Hydroxyl is made up of a hydrogen and oxygen atom each. It has been found on another planet for the first time - in the upper reaches of the atmosphere of Venus, some 100 km above the surface - by Venus Express’s Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer, VIRTIS. It is thought to be important for any planet’s atmosphere because it is highly reactive. On Earth it has a key role in purging pollutants from the atmosphere.

The OH “radical” is a very special and reactive molecule, which is unusual in conventional chemistry because of its reactivity. This detection gives scientists an important new tool to unlock the workings of Venus’s dense atmosphere.

The elusive molecule was detected by turning the spacecraft away from the planet and looking along the faintly visible layer of atmosphere surrounding the planet’s disc. The instrument detected the hydroxyl molecules by measuring the amount of infrared light that they give off.


New observations from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter indicate that the crust and upper mantle of Mars are stiffer and colder than previously thought.

The findings suggest any liquid water that might exist below the planet's surface and any possible organisms living in that water, would be located deeper than scientists had suspected.

"We found that the rocky surface of Mars is not bending under the load of the north polar ice cap," said Roger Phillips of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. Phillips is the lead author of a new report appearing in this week's online version of Science. "This implies that the planet's interior is more rigid, and thus colder, than we thought before."

They all relate to Cepheid variables! Before you tune out because it sounds like a hard concept to understand, bear with me. I’ll start with a story from Greek mythology. (Notice how a lot of the constellations have stories from myths?)


NASA held a press conference today to announce the discovery of a discovery of the most recent supernova in our galaxy. The discovery was made by tracking the rapid expansion of its remains.

The supernova explosion occurred about 140 years ago, making it the most recent supernova in the Milky Way as measured in Earth's time frame. Previously, the last known galactic supernova occurred around 1680, based on studying the expansion of its remnant Cassiopeia A.

The tracking of this source began in 1985 when astronomers, led by David Green of the University of Cambridge, used the VLA to identify G1.9+0.3 as the remnant of a supernova explosion near the center of our galaxy. Based on its small size, it was thought to have resulted from a supernova that exploded about 400 to 1000 years ago.


A goal that remained elusive for 25 years has now allowed astronomers to obtain the most precise measurement of the cosmic temperature at an incredible distance; in a well-hidden galaxy whose light has taken almost 11 billion years to reach us - about 80% of the age of the universe.

The only way this galaxy can be seen is through the imprint its interstellar gas leaves on the spectrum of an even more remote quasar [1]. “Quasars are here only used as a beacon in the very distant Universe. Interstellar clouds of gas in galaxies, located between the quasars and us on the same line of sight, absorb parts of the light emitted by the quasars. The resulting spectrum consequently presents dark ‘valleys’ that can be attributed to well-known elements and possibly molecules,” explains Raghunathan Srianand (Pune, India), who led the team making the observations.

Here's a fun experiment, one you've probably done already a million times: stick your arm out in front of you. Stick up your left thumb, like you're giving the thumbs up. Close one eye - see where your thumb is? Okay, now switch eyes and close the other one. Did your thumb move? The next step - move your thumb a little closer. Now do it all over again. Did it seem like your thumb was moving even more than before?

 

Hello, Ms. Nufer's class, and welcome to your very own blog about science! Since you're learning about astronomy right now, I'll keep you updated on news from the astronomy field. If you have questions or comments, be sure to submit them and I'll get back to you on this site. Sound good? Let's get started!

The Antennae Galaxies, located in the constellation of Corvus (the Crow), are among the closest known merging galaxies. The two galaxies, also known as NGC 4038 and NGC 4039, began interacting a few hundred million years ago, creating one of the most impressive sights in the night sky. They are considered by scientists as the archetypal merging galaxy system and are used as a standard against which to validate theories about galaxy evolution.

Scientists using Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 to observe individual stars spawned by the colossal cosmic collision in the Antennae Galaxies have reached a surprising conclusion - the Antennae are much closer than previously believed, 45 million light-years instead of the previous best estimate of 65 million light-years.


A team of Dutch and German astronomers have discovered part of the missing matter in the Universe using the European X-ray satellite XMM-Newton. They observed a filament of hot gas connecting two clusters of galaxies. This tenuous hot gas could be part of the missing “baryonic” matter.

The existence of this hot gas (with a temperature of 100 000 - 10 000 000 degrees), known as a warm-hot intergalactic medium, was predicted 10 years ago as a possible source for the missing dark matter. Gas at such high temperature and low density is very difficult to detect and many attempts have failed in past years.

The team observed a pair of clusters of galaxies (Abell 222 and Abell 223) using the European X-ray satellite XMM-Newton. Their observations (see Fig. 1) clearly show a bridge connecting both clusters. The gas they observed there is probably the hottest and densest part of the diffuse gas in the cosmic web, which would be part of the missing “baryonic” dark matter.