Black holes are incredibly fascinating. They represent the unknown, the dangerous, the terrifyingly majestic. They are the modern version of the void, the abyss, the bottomless pit. Most sci-fi gets black holes right, but poetic license ignores the facts at times, and takes over to accommodate the needs of the story.
According to the World Health Organization, 360 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss. For the remaining 95% of the population, sound is a cardinal part of our sensory experience. It allows us to communicate easily, and to better experience the natural world. So how terrifying is it for our ableist mind to have one […]
Space images can often be breathtaking and the night sky has often inspired artists to produce incredible masterpieces. Sometimes even the way astronomers represent data can be both scientifically and artistically stunning. Case in point is the polarization map released by the Planck Collaboration, which shows unique views of the universe, and reminds me of […]
In this episode of the Astroholic LIVE, Dr Duncan Astle joined us to talk about the latest research into learning in children. We also talk about satellite galaxies made exclusively of dark matter, the three-body problem, the right-hand rule, tardigrades, and much more.
There’s a creature on earth that can survive the most extreme conditions on (and thanks to humans off) the planet! It’s called a tardigrade, but people also call it a “waterbear” or “moss piglet.”
One of my favourite pieces of science communication written by any scientist is Hubble’s “The Exploration of Space”. It was written in 1929 and published in Harper’s Magazine (158: 732) for the general public. I find it absolutely fascinating, but I’ve come to realise that the people who are not as familiar with astrophysics as I am might […]
NASA’s discovery of water on Mars Billions of years ago, Mars looked more welcoming to life than Earth was at the time. We have seen evidence of ancient lakes and river beds, but nowadays water on the surface of Mars exist almost entirely as ice. In 2007, scientists observed some dark lines forming in the […]
New Horizon has completed the four maneuvers necessary to direct it to its next target. New Horizons is approximately 120 million kilometres beyond Pluto (which it approached on the 14th of July) and 5.08 billion kilometers from Earth. The maneuvers will change New Horizons’ trajectory by approximately 57 meters per second, nudging it towards a […]
Short Answer - the temperature of a black hole is inversely proportional to its mass. For a black hole with the same mass as our Sun the temperature is 60 billionths of a degree kelvin.
A new paper accepted for publication this month has highlighted how spiral galaxies came to form in the early Universe. By using the power of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a team lead by Roberto Maiolino has individuated the mechanism through which galaxies gather stellar mass. For a star to form a certain amount of […]
In this vlog, I talk about Prof. Payne-Gaposchkin, one the most important astronomers of the 20th Century. Thanks to her we know that stars are not made by the same elements as the Earth, and that Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the Universe.
We all get the munchies, but when you’re a supermassive black hole (SMBH) your hunger might have dire consequences. And just like that an SMBH has outgrown its galaxy and jumped to the top of the heavyweight objects in the universe.
About 12 billion light years from us, there is a galaxy called CID-947. It has a mass similar to our own Milky Way (about 1000 billion times the mass of the Sun) and it was only remarkable because it had an active galactic nucleus (AGN, i.e. an accreting SMBH).
As I mentioned in a previous post, there are a few ways to measure the distance of a star in our galaxy. Unfortunately when the Luminosity is unknown and it is too far away to use parallaxes method, we are stumped for ways to estimate the distance.
Once in a while though we get lucky and we have events that allow us to calculate distance in other ways. Circinus X-1 is one of these events. Circinus X-1 is an x-ray binary; an x-ray binary is a system of two stars where material from one companion is accreting on the neutron star, which in turns emits x-rays.
Pluto, not to be confused with Micky Mouse’s dog, is going to be in the news a lot soon, as we are finally going to take a closer look to the elusive dwarf planet. Pluto Stats: Discovered by Clyde Tombaugh on the 18th of February 1930, it is smaller than our Moon with a 1184 […]
The cosmos has plenty of terrifying Lovecraftian features, but one of my favourites is the Space Roar.
There is a loud radio signal, described as a constant hiss, that seems to pervade the cosmos. It is louder than the radio signature of radio galaxies, and it is without explanation.
Every few months, I see articles about Betelgeuse, the right shoulder in the constellation of Orion, ready to go supernova. The articles vary from the sensational to the apocalyptic and I can understand why it is a fascinating subject. A supernova in our galactic backyard.
I have a mathematician friend who believes that anything that it is mathematically possible exists somewhere in the multiverse. She believes that there are some features that are so beautiful, that it would be a crime if they were simply quirks of the Universal language.
6th of March – Dawn arrives at Ceres. The space probe Dawn, which recently took some stunning pictures of the asteroid Vesta, will encounter Ceres in March. Ceres is the largest object in the Asteroid Belt and the only dwarf planet in the inner solar system. It has a diameter of 950 km and a […]
The third feature is about Population III stars. These stars are the first lights that shone in the Universe. These stars no longer exist, but affected the environment of the early Universe. They formed between a million and 10 million years after the Big Bang and they were made almost exclusively of hydrogen.
The cosmic microwave background or CMB is my second feature for this series. The CMB is formed by the original photons produced in the Big Bang and was created at the last scattering surface.
The Universe began 13.8 billion years ago in an event called the Big Bang. Throughout its ages the universe has changed a lot, sometimes dramatically, so to appreciate these changes I’m going to discuss the History of the Universe in 10 Features. My first feature is the theory of cosmic inflation.
Pluto is still not officially a planet. No matter what most people think, both scientist and non, until the International Astronomical Union has a vote, Pluto remains a dwarf planet.
The Seven Wonders of the Milky Way are: The Sagittarius stream, a long, complex, structure made of stars that wrap in polar orbit around the Galaxy. It consists of tidally stripped stars from the Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy. The multi-planet planetary system around the millisecond pulsar PSR 1257+12.
In this “out of office” vlog I try to clarify some misconceptions about the distance between the Earth and the Moon, using props and a wonderful animation by Digital Welshman.
In this Astroholic Vlog I will be talking about Dyson Spheres. Dyson Spheres are hypothetical megastructures purposely built around stars to absorb most or all of the stellar electromagnetic output.
In the first Astroholic Vlog, I present a soap box talk (minus the box) about merging galaxies.
The exoplanet finder extraordinaire that is the Kepler telescope significantly changed our understanding of the type of planets that can exist in our galaxy. We only find two types of planets in our solar system: small rocky planets (like the Earth) and giant gassy planets (like Uranus). The scientist working on Kepler’s data have identified […]
When galaxies collide, the supermassive black holes (SMBH) at their centre merge after a long spiralling dance around each other. Several studies have been conducted to underpin everything that happens from the beginning of the galaxy mergers to the SMBHs becoming one; the final details of this process are still unclear (this is called “The […]
Dutch Astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope were able to measure the rotational speed of a planet outside the Solar System for the first time. Ignas Snellen and his colleagues at Leiden University in the Netherlands used infrared light and its absorption in the planet atmosphere to calculate the length of the day of β Pictoris b.
Associate Professor Kevin Luhman of Penn State University has discovered the coldest brown dwarf yet using the NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer. A brown dwarf is a massive gaseous object which is on the low end of the stellar mass and temperature scale. There’s an heated (pardon the pun) debate regarding the classifications of brown […]
The NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope team have discovered the first Earth-size planet orbiting a star in the “habitable zone”. The habitable zone, also known as the “Goldilock zone”, is the area around a start where planets (or satellite) are in the right range of temperature to posses liquid water on their surface. A condition we […]
Exactly one year ago, astronomer Carl Murray a scientist from Queen Mary University of London discovered a curious disturbance in the A ring of Saturn. Analysing the data of the Cassini probe which was keeping an eye on the moon Prometheus (the bright white dot in the picture), Murray noticed that the distortions of the […]
The Associate Press has released a video from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory of a flare erupting from the Sun. Solar Flares are sudden brightening of the Sun’s surface. They occur when the strong magnetic field of the Sun (in a yet poorly understood mechanism) accelerates charged particles to near the speed of light.
A new dwarf planet has recently been discovered in the solar system, orbiting at about 10 light hours from our Star. This is the furthest object belonging to our planetary system that we have been able to observe.
It was announced on Monday that the Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarisation 2 (BICEP2 – don’t you love projects acronyms?) experiment at the South Pole found a special pattern in the cosmic microwave background (CMB). The pattern they found is the B-mode polarisation signal in the CMB. Waves that can oscillate in more than one orientation […]
I know that likelihood of stars colliding is very low, but have there been papers describing the theoretical process of star collision? James, London I think we can divide star-collision into three classes; Stellar Mergers, Binary Collisions and Stellar Collision.
What does it actually look like in the asteroid belt? Is it anything like as dense as is shown in films? Or is it more like you can see one or two rocks in the distance? Contrary to popular belief, the asteroid belt is mostly empty.
If by big we mean physical dimension, the largest known galaxy is most likely IC1101. IC1101 is gargantuan even among galaxies; it’s a super elliptical galaxy with a diffuse stellar halo that to extends to at least 1.4 million light years. The Milky Way’s halo by comparison extends to about 100.000 lights years. In the picture we […]
A pulsar is a highly magnetised fastly rotating neutron star which formed during a supernova explosion. The name pulsar is a portmanteau for pulsating star, because it emits a beam of electromagnetic radiation usually in radio, x-ray or gamma-ray light. They were first discovered by Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Antony Hewish in 1967, when they […]
What are magnetic monopoles and why are they important? If you ever broke a magnet in two when you were little (I was a weird kid, leave me be) you might have noticed that you would have two perfectly working magnets in your hands.