Space

A team of European scientists working with COROT have discovered an exoplanet orbiting a star slightly more massive than the Sun. After just 555 days in orbit, the mission has now observed more than 50 000 stars and is adding significantly to our knowledge of the fundamental workings of stars.

The latest discovery, COROT-exo-4b is an exoplanet of about the same size as Jupiter. It takes 9.2 days to orbit its star, the longest period for any transiting exoplanet ever found.

Using ESO's Very Large Telescope Interferometer, astronomers were able to witness for the first time the appearance of a shell of dusty gas around a star that had just erupted and follow its evolution for more than 100 days. This provided the astronomers with a new way to estimate the distance of this object and obtain invaluable information on the operating mode of stellar vampires, dense stars that suck material from a companion.

Although novae were first thought to be new stars appearing in the sky, hence their Latin name, they are now understood as signaling the brightening of a small, dense star. Novae occur in double star systems comprising a white dwarf - the end product of a solar-like star - and, generally, a low-mass normal star - a red dwarf. The two stars are so close together that the red dwarf cannot hold itself together and loses mass to its companion. Occasionally, the shell of matter that has fallen onto the ingesting star becomes unstable, leading to a thermonuclear explosion which makes the system brighter.


Themis was the blindfolded Greek goddess of order and justice. It's also a NASA-funded mission which stands for Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms - and, using it, UCLA space scientists and colleagues have identified the mechanism that triggers substorms in space; wreaks havoc on satellites, power grids and communications systems; and leads to the explosive release of energy that causes the spectacular brightening of the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights.

For 30 years, there have been two competing theories to explain the onset of these substorms, which are energy releases in the Earth's magnetosphere, said Vassilis Angelopoulos, a UCLA professor of Earth and space sciences and principal investigator of THEMIS.


By using the gravitational magnification from six massive lensing galaxy clusters, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has provided scientists with the largest sample of very distant galaxies seen to date. Some of the newly found magnified objects are dimmer than the faintest ones seen in the legendary Hubble Ultra Deep Field, which is usually considered the deepest image of the Universe.


For the first time, a team of international researchers has found a way to view the accretion disks surrounding black holes and verify that their true electromagnetic spectra match what astronomers have long predicted they would be.

A black hole and its bright accretion disk have been thought to form a quasar, the powerful light source at the center of some distant galaxies. Using a polarizing filter, the research team, which included Robert Antonucci and Omer Blaes, professors of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, isolated the light emitted by the accretion disk from that produced by other matter in the vicinity of the black hole.


Imagine having three clocks in your house, each chiming at a different time.

Astronomers have found the equivalent of three out-of-sync "clocks" in the ancient open star cluster NGC 6791. The dilemma may fundamentally challenge the way astronomers estimate cluster ages, researchers said.

Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to study the dimmest stars in the cluster, astronomers uncovered three different age groups. Two of the populations are burned-out stars called white dwarfs. One group of these low-wattage stellar remnants appears to be 6 billion years old, another appears to be 4 billion years old. The ages are out of sync with those of the cluster's normal stars, which are 8 billion years old.


Continuing from the prior article... “The Sun Ain’t Yeller”, cries the heliochromologist.  Undaunted by tradition, dogma, or tens of thousands of erroneous magazine and textbook images of our Sun, heliochromology, a colorful heterodox, is winning the day because the Sun is what it is, color and all, regardless of other’s puerile incognizance. 

The answer is not a vague, subjective one, but an objective one, as sure as red apples are red.  Heliochromology is our path to enlightenment that will bring resolve to this color conundrum -- a subtle polemic that has been dormant to all of astronomy for hundreds, nay thousands, nay nay, tens of thousands of years, perhaps since mankind first discovered the Sun and its daily color metamorphosis. 

We know not who the sagacious sapien may have been who indubitably made the first astronomical discovery of all time – the Sun.

NASA's sun-focused STEREO spacecraft unexpectedly detected particles from the edge of the solar system last year, allowing University of California, Berkeley, scientists to map for the first time the energized particles in the region where the hot solar wind slams into the cold interstellar medium.

Mapping the region by means of neutral, or uncharged, atoms instead of light "heralds a new kind of astronomy using neutral atoms," said Robert Lin, UC Berkeley professor of physics and lead for the suprathermal electron sensor aboard STEREO. "You can't get a global picture of this region, one of the last unexplored regions of the heliosphere, any other way because it is too tenuous to be seen by normal optical telescopes."

The heliosphere is a volume over which the effects of the solar wind extend, stretching from the sun to more than twice the distance of Pluto. Beyond its edge, called the heliopause, lies the relative quiet of interstellar space, at about 100 astronomical units (AU) - 100 times the Earth-sun distance.


If you're a long-time reader of this site, you might get the idea that Albert Einstein was a pretty smart guy - that comes across because he tends to proven right a lot even today.

PSR J0737-3039A/B is a unique system of two dead stars, pulsars, and one of the pair is 'wobbling' in space just like a spinning top, according to a team of researchers. The effect, called precession, was predicted by Albert Einstein and is yet another confirmation of his theory.

The binary pulsars were formed when a pair of massive stars exploded and their cores collapsed to create objects whose mass is greater than that of our Sun, but compressed to the size of a city. They are spinning at incredible speeds and emit powerful beams of radio waves which sweep across our radio-telescopes like cosmic lighthouses producing regular pulses of energy - hence their name, pulsars. PSR J0737-3039A/B is the only known system in our galaxy where two pulsars are locked into such close orbit around one another - the entire system could fit inside our Sun.


A few years ago Voyager 1 entered the final frontier, that place where the solar wind becomes denser and hotter and pressure from gas between stars causes it to slow - the Termination Shock.

Now that Voyager 2 has reached its edge of the solar system, just under 7 billion miles from Earth, it has confirmed what astrophysicists had believed - the conflict between the solar wind and the interstellar wind has made that part of the solar system slightly squashed.