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A supernova that lit up the skies in the year 1006 lived and died fast, leaving no companion star behind, astronomers have found. The result is the latest clue in a puzzle that has been troubling astronomers for some time – how does this type of stellar explosion happen?... Read more »
Jonay I. González Hernández, Pilar Ruiz-Lapuente, Hugo M. Tabernero, David Montes, Ramon Canal, Javier Méndez, & Luigi R. Bedin. (2012) No surviving evolved companions of the progenitor of SN 1006. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature11447
Astronomers have taken a fresh look at an old supernova and found that it was turned inside out during its explosion. Iron, which forms during the stars death, is usually in the centre of the supernova remnant. But in Cassiopeia A they found it on the outside instead.
This analysis has also shed some light on a phenomenon called ‘neutron star kick’, in which the neutron star formed in a supernova recoils during the explosion.... Read more »
Una Hwang, & J. Martin Laming. (2011) A Chandra X-ray Survey of Ejecta in the Cassiopeia A Supernova Remnant. ApJ. arXiv: 1111.7316v1
Something unusual has been spotted lurking around several galaxies’ central black holes. Astronomers think it may be limiting the growth of the black holes – and stars elsewhere in the galaxies, too.
... Read more »
Tombesi, F., Cappi, M., Reeves, J., & Braito, V. (2012) Evidence for ultrafast outflows in radio-quiet AGNs - III. Location and energetics. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters. DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-3933.2012.01221.x
Judging by the many flares erupting from the sun at the moment, it is well on track to reach its next peak in activity early next year. As this peak approaches, we can expect many more huge bursts of energy that erupt from the sun and send lots of energetic particles, and sometimes magnetic fields, our way. These in turn will lead to more of the fantastic light displays, which you might have seen (or at least heard about) lately, creeping down from the North Pole towards the equator.... Read more »
Turner, D., Shprits, Y., Hartinger, M., & Angelopoulos, V. (2012) Explaining sudden losses of outer radiation belt electrons during geomagnetic storms. Nature Physics. DOI: 10.1038/nphys2185
Underneath Titan’s dense atmosphere lies something rather unusual, by terrestrial standards. Some features of the Saturnian moon, at first glance, might look similar to some features we have on Earth — it is the only other body in the solar system with lakes, and appears to have an active weather system. But instead of water, it’s methane that rains from the skies to fill Titan’s vast lakes, before it evaporates to form clouds that cover the surface. Curiously similar to ........ Read more »
Schneider, T., Graves, S., Schaller, E., & Brown, M. (2012) Polar methane accumulation and rainstorms on Titan from simulations of the methane cycle. Nature, 481(7379), 58-61. DOI: 10.1038/nature10666
Astronomers have found that the core of a red giant, the type of star that our Sun will eventually become, spins ten times as fast as its surface. And it happens because of a phenomenon we can see here on Earth, too.... Read more »
Beck, P., Montalban, J., Kallinger, T., De Ridder, J., Aerts, C., García, R., Hekker, S., Dupret, M., Mosser, B., Eggenberger, P.... (2011) Fast core rotation in red-giant stars as revealed by gravity-dominated mixed modes. Nature, 481(7379), 55-57. DOI: 10.1038/nature10612
When a star becomes a white dwarf — an old, extremely dense star that would have once been similar to our own Sun — the eventful part of its life is over. It releases what heat and light it has left over billions of years, slowly cooling until it no longer shines. Usually. Some white dwarfs, however, are not content with this ending....... Read more »
Li W, Bloom JS, Podsiadlowski P, Miller AA, Cenko SB, Jha SW, Sullivan M, Howell DA, Nugent PE, Butler NR.... (2011) Exclusion of a luminous red giant as a companion star to the progenitor of supernova SN 2011fe. Nature, 480(7377), 348-50. PMID: 22170681
Nugent PE, Sullivan M, Cenko SB, Thomas RC, Kasen D, Howell DA, Bersier D, Bloom JS, Kulkarni SR, Kandrashoff MT.... (2011) Supernova SN 2011fe from an exploding carbon-oxygen white dwarf star. Nature, 480(7377), 344-7. PMID: 22170680
Hubble has uncovered a goldmine of young dwarf galaxies that are undergoing intense bursts of star formation.
Dwarf galaxies are the most common in the universe but until now astronomers had seen few examples of distant dwarf galaxies because they are small and not very bright...... Read more »
van der Wel, A., Straughn, A., Rix, H., Finkelstein, S., Koekemoer, A., Weiner, B., Wuyts, S., Bell, E., Faber, S., Trump, J.... (2011) EXTREME EMISSION-LINE GALAXIES IN CANDELS: BROADBAND-SELECTED, STARBURSTING DWARF GALAXIES AT 1 . The Astrophysical Journal, 742(2), 111. DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/742/2/111
Unusual stars known as blue stragglers have been causing trouble for astronomers since they were first seen in 1953: they are hotter and brighter than they should be, and much younger too. Now, they are causing mischief again for astronomers that are trying to work out where they come from.... Read more »
Geller AM, & Mathieu RD. (2011) A mass transfer origin for blue stragglers in NGC 188 as revealed by half-solar-mass companions. Nature, 478(7369), 356-9. PMID: 22012393
If you’re reading this at night, look outside. Even in a city you’ll be able to see a few stars, if it’s not too cloudy and your eyes are up to it. If you’re lucky, the view from your window or garden will include a whole host of stars...... Read more »
Jordan Zastrow, M. S. Oey, Sylvain Veilleux, Michael McDonald, & Crystal L. Martin. (2011) An Ionization Cone in the Dwarf Starburst Galaxy NGC 5253. Asrophysical Journal Letters. arXiv: 1109.6360v1
Tomorrow, the Tevatron particle accelerator at Fermilab will shut down. The end will be no song and dance: the accelerator operators will simply stop putting new protons and antiprotons into the machine...... Read more »
CDF Collaboration. (1995) Observation of Top Quark Production in p¯p Collisions with the Collider Detector at Fermilab. Physical Review Letters, 74(14), 2626-2631. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.74.2626
DZero Collaboration., Abachi, S., & et al. (1995) Search for High Mass Top Quark Production in pp¯ Collisions at s. Physical Review Letters, 74(13), 2422-2426. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.74.2422
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past 24 hours, you’ve probably heard about the neutrinos that turned up at the Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy a few nanoseconds earlier than they were supposed to, in a feat that would have required them to travel faster than the speed of light.... Read more »
The OPERA Collaboraton. (2011) Measurement of the neutrino velocity with the OPERA detector in the CNGS beam. . arXiv: 1109.4897v1
In the beginning, the only elements that existed were hydrogen, helium and very small amounts of lithium...... Read more »
Judging by its starlight and gas content (as seen in the image above), Eris looks to be a near match for our own Milky Way galaxy — except that it exists only as a simulation inside a supercomputer...... Read more »
Javiera Guedes, Simone Callegari, Piero Madau, & Lucio Mayer. (2011) Forming Realistic Late-Type Spirals in a LCDM Universe: The Eris Simulation. Astrophysical Journal. arXiv: 1103.6030v2
In the late 90s there was a race going on between two astronomy collaborations. Both were on the verge of making a discovery that would change the field of cosmology forever, though they may not have realised it at the time.... Read more »
Sternberg A, Gal-Yam A, Simon JD, Leonard DC, Quimby RM, Phillips MM, Morrell N, Thompson IB, Ivans I, Marshall JL.... (2011) Circumstellar material in type Ia supernovae via sodium absorption features. Science (New York, N.Y.), 333(6044), 856-9. PMID: 21836010
We often think of outer space, the bit between stars, as a complete vacuum. The reality is that, while it is a better vacuum than any we can create on Earth, it is far from empty. The interstellar medium (ISM) fills the space between stars in a galaxy. ... Read more »
Paul F. Goldsmith, Rene Liseau, Tom A. Bell, John H. Black, Jo-Hsin Chen, David Hollenbach, Michael J. Kaufman, Di Li, Dariusz C. Lis, Gary Melnick.... (2011) Herschel Measurements of Molecular Oxygen in Orion. Astrophysical Journal. arXiv: 1108.0441v1
We take it for granted that there exists a periodic table with numerous elements (at last count, 118) from which we can construct the world around us. But when the universe began with a big bang, it started out with no elements at all.... Read more »
Mars has always been the toddler of the rocky planet family. With a radius half that of Earth’s and a mass just over one tenth of that of our planet, it is bigger than baby Mercury but not quite as grown up as Earth and Venus.... Read more »
Walsh KJ, Morbidelli A, Raymond SN, O'Brien DP, & Mandell AM. (2011) A low mass for Mars from Jupiter's early gas-driven migration. Nature, 475(7355), 206-9. PMID: 21642961
On February 23rd 1987, the journey of some light that had been travelling for 168,000 years came to an end. Astronomer Ian Shelton at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile was observing the night sky as usual when he saw something out of the ordinary.... Read more »
Matsuura M, Dwek E, Meixner M, Otsuka M, Babler B, Barlow MJ, Roman-Duval J, Engelbracht C, Sandstrom K, Lakicevic M.... (2011) Herschel Detects a Massive Dust Reservoir in Supernova 1987A. Science (New York, N.Y.). PMID: 21737700
The Cassini spacecraft is zooming around Saturn as I type, currently in between two flybys of Saturn’s moon Titan – one was in June, the next will be September. It was supposed to explore Saturn and its moons for only four years between 2004 and 2008.... Read more »
Postberg F, Schmidt J, Hillier J, Kempf S, & Srama R. (2011) A salt-water reservoir as the source of a compositionally stratified plume on Enceladus. Nature, 474(7353), 620-2. PMID: 21697830
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