Posts tagged galaxy
Posts tagged galaxy
Echinopsis Atacamensis and the Milky Way
The Light of Stars
What’s moving? Time lapse videos of the sky can be quite spectacular when they last long enough for stars, planets, aurora, and clouds to appear to move in just a few seconds. Pictured above, however, astrovideographer Daniel López not only treats us to several inspiring time lapse videos of the night sky, but shows us how he used sliders and motorized cranes to move the imaging cameras themselves, creating a thrilling three-dimensional sense of depth. The video sequences were taken from Tenerife on the Canary Islands of Spain over the past two months, and show scenes including sunset shadows approaching Observatorio del Teide, the Milky Way shifting as the sky rotates, bright planets Venus and trailing Jupiter setting, a reddened Moon rising through differing layers of atmospheric refraction, the MAGIC gamma-ray telescopes slewing to observe a new source, and unusual foreground objects including conic Echium wildpretii plants, unusual rock formations, and a spider moving about its web. The video concludes by showing the Belt of Venus descending on Mt. Teide as the morning sun rises.
This stunning photo of the Milky Way was captured from what may be the coldest and most isolated research facility on Earth: the French-Italian Concordia Base station, located at 3,200 meters (nearly 10,500 feet) altitude on the Antarctic plateau, 1,670 km (1,037 miles) from the geographic south pole.
Taken by Dr. Alexander Kumar, a doctor, researcher and photographer who’s been living at the Base since January, the image shows the full beauty of the sky above the southern continent — a sky that doesn’t see the Sun from May to August.
During the winter months no transportation can be made to or from Concordia Base — no deliveries or evacuations, not for any reason. The team there is truly alone, very much like future space explorers will one day be. This isolation is one reason that Concordia is used by ESA for research for missions to Mars.[Read More]
To find distances in space, astronomers use objects called “standard candles.” Standard candles are objects that give a certain, known amount of light. Because astronomers know how bright these objects truly are, they can measure their distance from us by analyzing how dim they appear.
For example, say you’re standing on a street evenly lined with lampposts. According to a formula known as the inverse square law, the second streetlamp will look one-fourth as bright as the first streetlamp, and the third streetlamp will look one-ninth as bright as the first streetlamp, and so on. By judging the dimness of their light, you can easily guess how far away the streetlamps are as they stretch into the distance.
For short distances in space — within our galaxy or within our local group of nearby galaxies — astronomers use a type of star called a Cepheid variable as a standard candle. These young stars pulse with a brightness that tightly relates to the time between pulses. By observing the way the star pulses, astronomers can calculate its actual brightness.
But beyond the local group of galaxies, telescopes can’t make out individual stars. They can only discern large groups of stars. To measure distances to far-flung galaxies, therefore, astronomers need to find incredibly bright objects.
So astronomers turn to exploding stars, called supernovae. Supernovae, which occur within a galaxy about every 100 years, are among the brightest events in the sky. When a star explodes, it releases so much energy that it can briefly outshine all the stars in its galaxy. In fact, we can sometimes see a supernova occur even if we can’t see its home galaxy.
To determine distances, astronomers use a certain type of exploding star called a Type Ia supernova. Type Ia supernovae occur in a binary system — two stars orbiting one another. One of the stars in the system must be a white dwarf star, the dense, carbon remains of a star that was about the size of our Sun. The other can be a giant star or even a smaller white dwarf.
White dwarf stars are one of the densest forms of matter, second only to neutron stars and black holes. Just a teaspoon of matter from a white dwarf would weigh five tons. Because white dwarf stars are so dense, their gravity is particularly intense. The white dwarf will begin to pull material off its companion star, adding that matter to itself.
When the white dwarf reaches 1.4 solar masses, or about 40 percent more massive than our Sun, a nuclear chain reaction occurs, causing the white dwarf to explode. The resulting light is 5 billion times brighter than the Sun.
Because the chain reaction always happens in the same way, and at the same mass, the brightness of these Type Ia supernovae are also always the same. The explosion point is known as the Chandrasekhar limit, after Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, the astronomer who discovered it.
To find the distance to the galaxy that contains the supernova, scientists just have to compare how bright they know the explosion should be with how bright the explosion appears. Using the inverse square law, they can compute the distance to the supernova and thus to the supernova’s home galaxy.
May 10, 2011
But for the first time, scientists have experimentally shown a different version of the Doppler effect at a much, much smaller level – the rotation of an individual molecule. Prior to this such an effect had been theorized, but it took a complex experiment with a synchrotron to prove it’s for real.
“Some of us thought of this some time ago, but it’s very difficult to show experimentally,” said T. Darrah Thomas, a professor emeritus of chemistry at Oregon State University and part of an international research team that today announced its findings in Physical Review Letters.
Most illustrations of the Doppler effect are called “translational,” meaning the change in frequency of light or sound when one object moves away from the other in a straight line, like a car passing a radar gun. The basic concept has been understood since an Austrian physicist named Christian Doppler first proposed it in 1842.
But a similar effect can be observed when something rotates as well, scientists say.
“There is plenty of evidence of the rotational Doppler effect in large bodies, such as a spinning planet or galaxy,” Thomas said. “When a planet rotates, the light coming from it shifts to higher frequency on the side spinning toward you and a lower frequency on the side spinning away from you. But this same basic force is at work even on the molecular level.”
In astrophysics, this rotational Doppler effect has been used to determine the rotational velocity of things such as planets. But in the new study, scientists from Japan, Sweden, France and the United States provided the first experimental proof that the same thing happens even with molecules.
At this tiny level, they found, the rotational Doppler effect can be even more important than the linear motion of the molecules, the study showed.
The findings are expected to have application in a better understanding of molecular spectroscopy, in which the radiation emitted from molecules is used to study their makeup and chemical properties. It is also relevant to the study of high energy electrons, Thomas said.
“There are some studies where a better understanding of this rotational Doppler effect will be important,” Thomas said. “Mostly it’s just interesting. We’ve known about the Doppler effect for a very long time but until now have never been able to see the rotational Doppler effect in molecules.”
(Editor’s Note: This is an archive image from 2006)
W3 is a region where many massive stars are forming in a string of stellar clusters, located about 6,000 light years from Earth in the Perseus arm of the Milky Way galaxy. W3 is part of a vast molecular cloud complex that also contains the W4 superbubble (not seen in this image). Scientists believe that the extraordinary amount of star formation in W3 has possibly been influenced by neighboring W4, an inflating bubble of gas over 100 light years across. W4 may directly trigger the birth of W3’s massive stellar clusters as it expands and sweeps up molecular gas into a high-density layer at its edge, within which stars can form. Another possible scenario is that W4’s expansion has caused a domino effect of star formation, forming the cluster IC 1795 (seen as a clump of X-ray sources in the bottom left corner of this image) which in turn triggered formation of the young, massive clusters in W3.
In this composite image of one of the many star-forming complexes of W3, called W3 Main, green and blue represent lower and higher-energy X-rays, respectively, while red shows optical emission. Hundreds of X-ray sources are revealed in this central region of W3 Main. These bright point-like objects are an extensive population of several hundred young stars, many of which were not found in earlier infrared studies. These Chandra data show that W3 Main is the dominant star formation region of W3. Because its X-ray sources are all at the same distance, yet span a range of masses, ages, and other properties, W3 is an ideal laboratory for understanding recent and ongoing star formation in one of the Milky Way’s spiral arms.
17:33 11 May 2011 by Stephen Battersby
File under “unexplained phenomena”: elongated nebulae in the Milky Way’s centre seem to lie parallel to the plane of the galactic disc, hinting at an underlying pattern.
Bryan Rees of the University of Manchester, UK, found the strange alignment after studying 44 such nebulae. His findings bolster observations made in 2008 by Walter Weidmann of Cordoba Observatory in Argentina and Ruben Diaz of the Gemini Observatory in Chile. Rees presented his results at the UK National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno, UK, last month.
The structures are thought to result from the interaction between pairs of stars. As one ageing star breathes out its gases while whirling around a companion, it creates a planetary nebula that stretches out perpendicular to the plane of the stars’ orbits. So the nebular alignment hints at an underlying alignment of stellar pairs.
Albert Zijlstra, Rees’s adviser at Manchester, speculates that powerful magnetic fields might have once girded the galaxy’s central stellar bulge and guided the tilt of star-forming gas clouds.
But Mike Edmunds of the University of Cardiff, UK, cautions that the apparent alignment might be due to an unknown observational bias that favours finding nebulae parallel to the galactic disc, rather than a real effect. “Spatial statistics is a minefield,” he told New Scientist. He urges the team to recheck their analysis.
(From 2008) This Chandra X-ray Observatory image shows Westerlund 2, a young star cluster with an estimated age of about one or two million years. Until recently little was known about this cluster because it is heavily obscured by dust and gas. However, using infrared and X-ray observations to overcome this obscuration, Westerlund 2 has become regarded as one of the most interesting star clusters in the Milky Way galaxy. It contains some of the hottest, brightest and most massive stars known.
This Chandra image of Westerlund 2 shows low energy X-rays in red, intermediate energy X-rays in green and high energy X-rays in blue. The image shows a very high density of massive stars that are bright in X-rays, plus diffuse X-ray emission.
An incredibly massive double star system called WR20a is visible as the bright yellow point just below and to the right of the cluster’s center. This system contains stars with masses of 82 and 83 times that of the Sun. The dense streams of matter steadily ejected by these two massive stars, called stellar winds, collide with each other and produce copious amounts of X-ray emission. This collision is seen at different angles as the stars orbit around each other every 3.7 days. Several other bright X-ray sources may also show evidence for collisions between winds in massive binary systems.
Read entire caption/view more images: www.chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2008/wd2/
Image credit: NASA/CXC/Univ. de Liège/Y. Naze et al
Results from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, combined with new theoretical calculations, provide one of the best pieces of evidence yet that many supermassive black holes are spinning extremely rapidly. The images on the left show 4 out of the 9 large galaxies included in the Chandra study, each containing a supermassive black hole in its center.
The Chandra images show pairs of huge bubbles, or cavities, in the hot gaseous atmospheres of the galaxies, created in each case by jets produced by a central supermassive black hole. Studying these cavities allows the power output of the jets to be calculated. This sets constraints on the spin of the black holes when combined with theoretical models.
Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC Illustration: CXC/M. Weiss
Messier 101 (M101) is a face-on spiral galaxy about 22 million light years away in the constellation Ursa Major. It is similar to the Milky Way galaxy in many ways, but is larger. The new “Great Observatories” composite image of M101 was distributed to over 100 planetariums, museums, nature centers, and schools across the country in conjunction with Galileo’s birthday on February 15. The year 2009 marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s telescope and has been designated the International Year of Astronomy to celebrate this historic anniversary.
This image of the spiral galaxy Messier 101 (M101) is a composite of data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Spitzer Space Telescope. The colors correspond to the following wavelengths: The X-rays detected by Chandra are colored blue. Sources of X-rays include million-degree gas, the debris from exploded stars, and material zooming around black holes and neutron stars. The red color shows Spitzer’s view in infrared light. It highlights the heat emitted by dust lanes in the galaxy where stars can form. Finally, the yellow coloring is visible light data from Hubble. Most of this light comes from stars, and they trace the same spiral structure as the dust lanes.
X-ray: NASA/CXC/JHU/K.Kuntz et al.; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI/JHU/K. Kuntz et al; IR: NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI/K. Gordon