This Spacespiracy Moment

July 11, 2016


Black Holes Colliding? Not So Rare After All.

When LIGO announced its second gravitational wave detection, the world of astrophysics went wild. Currently shut down until September, the massive machine, located in both Washington and Louisiana, is undergoing upgrades that will enhance its ability to detect these massive universal disturbances. According to a recent study, once it’s back online, LIGO might not have much down-time. “It turns out that most stars in the universe come in pairs,” meaning, the universe is riddled with potential binary black holes. And many, are close enough for LIGO detection.


Big SHOUT OUT to Juno! The Lil Spacecraft That Could!

At approximately 11:05pm Eastern, Juno successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit. There it will remain for 20 months, orbiting the gas giant 37 times, just 5,000 kilometers above the planet’s cloud cover. Want to see what Juno saw as it approached Jupiter? Click on the link above!


Check Out the Crab Nebula’s Beating Heart!

The Crab Nebula is probably THE MOST FAMOUS supernova remnant in the night’s sky. The exploding star is located in the constellation Taurus, its rapidly rotating neutron star at the center. And what surrounds this extremely dense pulsar? Radiation, debris, and gas, which were photographed for the first time by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Click on the link above to view the pic! It really is breathtaking.


The Chinese Just Built the World’s Largest Telescope:

When it comes to building telescopes, not only do the Chinese think BIG, they move FAST. Complete almost three-months ahead of time, the world’s largest telescope is the size of 30 soccer fields. Wait, WHAT? Named the Five Hundred Meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), the structure was completed in 5 years for $180 million dollars. FAST has many different objectives, and one is to look for extraterrestrials. “E.T. phone home” indeed.

The Curious Case of the Exoplanet in a Three Star System:

With so many galaxies, stars, and solar systems to study, scientists have been able to find patterns and thus, classify these object. That’s what makes the discovery of this little exoplanet, so interesting. The planet is bizarre. First of all, even though its 16 million years old, it can still be photographed directly (that’s young, actually, but old for this sort of thing). Not to mention the fact that the young planet has moved about 80 AUs (astronomical unit) away from its Sun. BUT THAT’S NOT EVEN THE STRANGEST PART. The host star is being escorted by not one, but TWO fellow stars. "“In this case, this planet is much closer to the other stars in the system than any known exoplanets in a multi-star system,” says Kevin Robert Wagner, a graduate student at the University of Arizona and lead author of the discovery paper, published 7/7/16 in Science."

Did We Just Spot a Direct Collapse Black Hole?

More than a decade ago, theorists “showed that a recently discovered unusual source of intense radiation is likely powered by a “direct-collapse black hole.” Now, two astronomers may have discovered proof of their existence. They started studying a curious 1-billion year old galaxy observed in Hubble’s COSMOS survey. After additional examination, they discovered the galaxy has an a-typical light signature. That, coupled with some tests, point to only one possible explanation - “a supermassive black hole likely formed by direct collapse.”


Discovered - Sneaky Black Holes:

For 20 years, VLA J2130+12 has been emitting strange radio signals, and now, scientists may have discovered what exactly is causing them. Using a combination of three massive telescopes, Chandra, Hubble, and VLA, astronomers have discovered that the source is a black hole “sneakily” consuming its sister star, without giving off any x-rays.

Do You Know Where Mars’ Moons Came From?

A new theory suggests that Mars had many moons. Currently, only Phobos and Deimos orbit the Red Planet, but a planetary scientist at the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels thinks there use to be a lot more. Pascal Rosenblatt believes that debris currently circling Mars after a collision with an asteroid, could have been “a breeding ground for a set of larger satellites relatively close to the planet.”

Earth Sized Radio Network Used to Spy Distant Universe

For the first time, we have been able to observe a tidal event in great detail. Using a world-wide radio network called the European VLBI Network (EVN), an international team of radio astronomers were able to observe a jet from a star being gobbled down by a black hole. Named Swift J1644+57, the phenomena is roughly 3.9 billion light years away. And for the first time, because of the EVN, scientists were able to “measure the jet's position to a precision of 10 microarcseconds.”

The Hitomi Wasn’t A Complete Waste After All:

In March, Japan’s Hitomi, spun out of control and quickly became inoperative. Before the space satellite met her demise, however, she was able to send a small data set of Perseus, a galactic metropolis in our universe. Miraculously, in her short life, Hitomi observed “churning of hot gases around the core of a supermassive black hole at the center of NGC 1275, a galaxy near the center of the agglomeration of thousands of galaxies.” While we mourn the death of an exquisite instrument, we can celebrate the demonstrated success of X-ray spectroscopy, and hopefully, its bright future.


Hubble Is Here to Stay!

The Hubble Space Telescope has been orbiting our little planet for 26 years...and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon! At the end of June, NASA announced that the telescope will carry on for another five years. With the James Webb Space Telescope scheduled to launch in 2018, that timing sounds pretty perfect to me. For a look at Hubble’s 26-year history, check out this article!


Microbes Created This Underground City?

Near the coast of the Greek island Zakynthos, exists an underwater city...but no, this city wasn’t created by men, it was created by microbes. In 2013, snorkelers discovered, what looked like, underground ruins. Upon further examination, the “structures” turned out to be “fossilized remains of sediments laid down by methane-chomping microbes.” Whaaaaaaaaaaat?


More Astronauts In the ISS, Please!

On July 6th, NASA launched the Soyuz capsule, and three astronauts, toward the ISS. They docked the night of July 8th, testing components on the capsule for the two days in between. They will be at the station for four months and will conduct the “first-ever DNA sequencing in space.” COOL!!!


Planet Nine is Where?

Beyond the Kuiper Belt, some astronomers believe, lurks Planet Nine. Back in January, Caltech planetary scientists announced evidence of a large mass in the outer reaches of our solar system. Six objects past the Kuiper Belt all have oval orbits that are eerily similar in direction and plane...indicating that a large mass is pulling them away from the Sun. But data from only six objects simply isn’t enough to make a strong statistical argument. Now the race is on to study as many Kuiper Belt objects as possible, not only to increase those odds, but also to pinpoint Planet Nine’s exact location. Some scientists believe that, if we find it, we may even be able to see it.


Richard Feynman, Physics Artist of the Century:

Richard Feynman is famous for his diagrams on quantum physics, diagrams that revolutionized the industry standard. This article is about those diagrams, the artist (Feynman), and of course, physics. Enjoy!


Robotic Light-Sensitive Heart Cells...What Are They Exactly?

Harvard bioengineering is ahead of the game. A team there led by Kit Parker have created the next evolution of swimming robots. To constuct their penny-sized “stingrays,” not only did they wrap a “gold skeleton” with soft silicon (underwater robotics used to be dominated by big, bulky materials), but they designed the skeleton using 200,000 genetically engineered rat hearts. The hearts are programmed to contract when hit with pulses of light, allowing their human controllers to manipulate their movement. Not only is the design exquisitely intricate, it is also highly functional, directing the stingray to move with locomotion never before seen in underwater robots.


We Can Find Water WHERE On Ceres?

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has identified areas on Ceres in the northern hemisphere that may contain water. The rock itself has “just enough mass to hold on to water molecules,” and in its permanently shadowed regions, conditions for stockpiling water are favorable. You know what I’m thinking...let’s colonize!!


Where Is This 500 Million Light-Year Long Gas Jet Coming From?

What the ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array telescope, has detected, is marvelous. The telescope was used to discover something strange in the center of the NGC 1377 galaxy, 70-million light years away. It detected a gas jet that is 60 light years across and 500 million light years long, COLD, and SPIRALING away from the galaxy’s center. Typically, we see “very narrow tubes of hot plasma.” Scientists explain that because the black hole at the center of the galaxy is “eating” cold gas, it can grow much, MUCH faster.



Sources: Science News, Wired, Astronomy Magazine


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writer | author | sci-fi storyteller

Lisa Caskey

writer | author | sci-fi storyteller
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