Space

The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a never-before-seen break-up of an asteroid,  P/2013 R3, which has fragmented into as many as ten smaller pieces.

Although fragile comet nuclei have been seen to fall apart as they approach the Sun, nothing like the breakup of P/2013 R3 has ever been observed before in the asteroid belt.


In a new Hubble telescope image, spiral galaxy ESO 137-001 is zooming toward the upper right, in between other galaxies in the Norma cluster located over 200 million light-years away.

The road is perilous: intergalactic gas in the Norma cluster is sparse, but so hot at 180 million degrees Fahrenheit that it glows in X-rays.

The spiral plows through the seething intra-cluster gas so rapidly, at nearly 4.5 million miles per hour, that much of its own gas is caught and torn away. Astronomers call this "ram pressure stripping." The galaxy's stars remain intact due to the binding force of their gravity.


This continues from my earlier article "Ten reasons not to live on Mars, great place to Explore." Many of the ideas in that article apply not just to Mars but to the solar system generally.

Astronomers studying nearby galaxy M83 have found a new super-powered small black hole, named MQ1.


M83, the iconic Southern-sky galaxy, is being mapped with the Hubble Space and Magellan telescopes (detecting visible light), the Chandra X-ray Observatory (detecting light in X-ray frequencies), the Australia Telescope Compact Array and the Very Large Array (detecting radio waves).

Astronomers have found a few compact objects that are as powerful as MQ1, but have not been able to work out the size of the black hole contained within them until now.  The team observed the MQ1 system with multiple telescopes and discovered that it is a standard-sized small black hole, rather than a slightly bigger version that was hypothesized to account for all its power.


How accurately can you simulate the universe's most violent events?

Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz wanted to find out, so when the first detailed observations of a star being ripped apart by a black hole were reported in 2012 (Gezari et al., Nature), he was eager to compare the data with his numerical model.

He was also highly skeptical of one of the published conclusions: that the disrupted star was a rare helium star. 

"I was sure it was a normal hydrogen star and we were just not understanding what's going on," said Ramirez-Ruiz, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz.


The Smithsonian's Submillimeter Array (SMA) telescope has providec the most detailed view yet of stellar nurseries within the Snake nebula and what they found lends new insight into how cosmic seeds can grow into massive stars.

Stretching across almost 100 light-years of space, the Snake nebula is located about 11,700 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Ophiuchus.

In images from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope it appears as a sinuous, dark tendril against the starry background, thus the name. It was targeted in the new study because it shows the potential to form many massive stars - stars that are 8 times heavier than our Sun.


A common space weather phenomenon on the outskirts of Earth's magnetic bubble, the magnetosphere, has a much different effect on Venus.

 The giant explosions, called hot flow anomalies, can be so large at Venus that they're bigger than the entire planet - and they can happen multiple times a day. 
Earth is protected from the constant streaming solar wind of radiation by its magnetosphere.

Venus, on the other hand, is a barren, inhospitable planet, with an atmosphere so dense that spacecraft landing there are crushed within hours. Venus has no magnetic protection. 


In 1964, the physicist John Bell tackled locality and the disparity between classical physics and quantum mechanics, stating that if the universe is based on classical physics, the measurement of one entangled particle should not affect the measurement of the other.

Calling Bill Haley and the Comets, because PSR J0738-4042, which lies 37,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Puppis, is being rocked around the clock.

As in being constantly hit by asteroids.

It's not a great place. The environment around this star is especially harsh, full of radiation and violent winds of particles, say the researchers who used telescopes in South Africa and Australia to find the assaults.

"One of these rocks seems to have had a mass of about a billion tonnes," saidAustralian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation's (CSIRO)  astronomer and member of the research team Dr. Ryan Shannon. "If a large rocky object can form here, planets could form around any star. That's exciting."


How smart do you have to be to convince Albert Einstein to change his mind?

Pretty smart. He never invoked 'the science is settled' or ridiculed the political party of physicists who insisted the universe was expanding. It was static until someone proved otherwise.

Eventually they did, but it was not the urban legend that claimed in 1931 American astronomer Edwin Hubble showed Einstein his observations of redshift in the light emitted by far away nebulae - what we call galaxies now. The tipping point was instead a tortuous thought process following many encounters with some of the most influential astrophysicists of his generation.