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Posts Tagged "astrophysics"

@ScientificAmerican

Physics, Metaphysics and Cosmology Collide in New E-Book, Possibilities in Parallel: Seeking the Multiverse

Possibilities in Parallel: Seeking the Multiverse

Parallel universes are a staple of science fiction, and it’s no wonder. They allow us to explore the question, “What if?” in a way that lets us step completely outside of the world we know, rather than question how that world might have turned out differently. For cosmologists, the question isn’t “What if the South [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

The Evolution of a Scientific American Information Graphic: Gamma-Ray Flashes

Dwyer_detail

On occasion, concept sketch submissions make me swoon. Most often, the happy-making sketch comes from a freelance illustrator that has been commissioned to flesh out a specific information graphic for us. But every once in awhile, an unexpected gem arrives directly from an author. Scientific American’s expert authors are generally great at providing reference material [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Getting Ready for Scientific American Tweet-Up at the American Museum of Natural History

We’re counting down the days here until the Scientific American tweet-up at the American Museum of Natural History on Wednesday, January 18, starting at 6 p.m. Full details are on my earlier blog post. We’ll enjoy talks, a tour of the “Beyond Planet Earth” exhibition–and some conversations over cocktails. Attendance is free for followers of [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Scientific American Tweet-Up at the American Museum of Natural History

You say you’d love a fun science evening? Great, here’s your chance. Scientific American will be co-hosting a tweet-up and reception in partnership with the American Museum of Natural History the evening of Wednesday, January 18. While we expand our minds, we’ll enjoy some cocktails and open access to the Beyond Planet Earth exhibit. Attendance [...]

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Basic Space

How ‘UFOs’ Curb Black Hole Growth

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. Astronomers studying nearby galaxies have found a new type of outflow called an ultra-fast outflow, or UFO. An international team of astronomers led [...]

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Basic Space

Stars That Go Out With a Bang

Supernova 2011fe in the Pinwheel Galaxy. Credit: {link url="http://thunderf00tdotorg.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/supernova-in-m101-aug-25th-full-processing/"}Thunderf00t{/link}

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 [...]

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Basic Space

The Strange Case of the Christmas Burst

Artist's impression of one possible scenario — the supernova model — for the creation of the Christmas gamma-ray burst.  Credit: {link url="http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a010000/a010800/a010808/"}NASA/Swift/Aurore Simonnet, Sonoma State Univ.{/link}

How did the Christmas gamma-ray burst explode? No, it’s not a geeky Christmas cracker joke, it’s a real question scientists have been trying to answer since Christmas day last year, when a gamma-ray burst called GRB 101225A first lit up the sky. The Christmas burst, as its come to be known, exhibted some rather unusual [...]

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Basic Space

Massive Stars Create ‘Cocoon’ of Cosmic Rays

Cygnus X is a star forming region in the constellation Cygnus in the night sky. It looks rather pretty in visible light, as shown at the beginning of the video below. But in radio, infrared and gamma ray wavelengths, Cygnus X really comes to life. Recent Fermi Large Area Telescope (LAT) observations have shown that [...]

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Basic Space

Hubble Unearths Distant Colourful Dwarf Galaxies

The GOODS field with 18 of the newly discovered colourful dwarf galaxies highlighted. Click for a bigger image. Credit: {link url="http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2011/31/image/a/"}NASA, ESA and CANDELS{/link}

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. Observing distant dwarf galaxies used to require training telescopes [...]

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Basic Space

Blue stragglers formed by engulfing red giants

Open star cluster NGC 188 in the constellation Cepheus. Credit: {link url="http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utente:Roberto_Mura"}Roberto Mura{\link}

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. When astronomers observe stars from [...]

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Basic Space

Light from starburst galaxies makes the best cosmic disinfectant

NGC 5253, the dwarf starburst galaxy studied by Jordan Zastrow and her colleagues. Credit: {link url="http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso0434/"}ESO{/link)

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. Either way, you will be looking [...]

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Basic Space

Oxygen might be hiding behind grains of cosmic dust

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. Almost all of the ISM is hydrogen [...]

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Basic Space

We’re cosmic dust but you’re everything to me

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. Not long after Shelton reported the discovery, an astronomer in [...]

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But Seriously...

Neil deGrasse Tyson at 85% the Speed of Light

Neil deGrasse Tyson in Slow-Motion

This video made me laugh harder than anything I’ve seen in a long time. Okay, except for some Louis CK videos. But for a non-comedian (allegedly)… this is hard to beat. Not that the humor is entirely intentional by the speaker. I had previously seen the original video – of Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about [...]

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But Seriously...

Cosmos: The Second Coming

Cosmos Trailer Neil deGrasse Tyson

I’ve been waiting a long time for this. Fresh from its debut at San Diego Comic-Con, the first official trailer for the reboot of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: In August of 2008, I attended the third annual SciFoo conference at the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA.  That’s a whole other subject, which I’ve touched on here [...]

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Dark Star Diaries

How to See a Black Hole: Introducing Dark Star Diaries

Sagittarius A*

The image you see here is a computer-generated model of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way, which we call Sagittarius A*. More precisely, it is a model of the “shadow” that Sagittarius A*, with its mass of four million suns, should cast. The glowing blob in the lower right corner is [...]

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Guest Blog

Habitable and not-so-habitable exoplanets: How the latter can tell us more about our origins than the former

On 29th September this year, astronomers announced the discovery of an exoplanet called Gliese 581 g. This planet, they said, was exactly the right distance from its star for water to exist on its surface, with a good chance that it could hold an atmosphere. These two properties are very important when judging whether a [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Black Hole Roundup

Spinning black hole (NASA)

Black holes, black holes, and more black holes. In the past few weeks I’ve been thinking, talking, and even dreaming about black holes (yes really, somnolent thoughts seem well suited to these fantastic objects). Mostly this has been an effect of my book Gravity’s Engines hitting the shelves, but it’s also because barely a day [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Black Holes to the Rescue

The birth of a galaxy. An overlay of the X-ray light (blue) and ultraviolet light (red) coming from a system 12 billion years ago (with thanks to Wil van Breugel and Ian Smail)

This post is the fourth in a series that accompanies the publication of my book ‘Gravity’s Engines: How Bubble-Blowing Black Holes Rule Galaxies, Stars, and Life in the Cosmos’ (Scientific American/FSG). Ten years ago the universe was in trouble. Or rather, our puny human theories about the nature of all the stars and galaxies in [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Black Holes: Incredibly Loud and Extremely Distant

CygA-

This post is the third in a series that accompanies the upcoming publication of my book ‘Gravity’s Engines: How Bubble-Blowing Black Holes Rule Galaxies, Stars, and Life in the Cosmos’ (Scientific American/FSG). In space it’s a good thing that you can’t hear black holes scream. Although some of the most incontrovertible evidence for the existence [...]

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Life, Unbounded

The Hole

Hole ((c) C. Scharf 2012)

Every so often in the summer months I allow myself a bit of leeway with posts, because as fun as it is to write about real science, it’s also a lot of fun to write pure speculation. I particularly like speculation that takes extraordinary possibilities about our place in the universe, and cuts them down [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Venus was Just the Beginning: The Science of Planetary Transits

transit_cartoon.001

Are you sick of reading about the transit of Venus this year? Yes? Me too. But the fact is that when astrophysical objects move between us and something else, like the convenient blaze of a star, there is an extraordinary amount that can be learned. I won’t go far into the delights of a venusian [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Black Holes Are Coming!

The center of the Milky Way seen in 6cm radio emission. Our central supermassive black hole lurks in the spiral-ring like structure to the right.(Credit: VLA, Prof. K.Y. Lo, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Dept. of Astronomy)

On August 14th 2012 my new book, Gravity’s Engines, will launch. I’m enormously excited about this, and over the next couple of months – increasingly so as publication date approaches, Life, Unbounded will carry some posts that talk about the science between the covers. The subject matter of Gravity’s Engines may appear a little surprising [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Stellar Sands Help Enrich The Universe

It's a desert out there...(Image created from source material by: NASA, ESA and A.Zijlstra (UMIST, Manchester, UK) and Rosino (Wikipedia))

One of the most widely known and repeated astrophysical facts is that stars produce all the heavy elements that eventually make planets, shrubberies, and the likes of us. It’s absolutely true, but how exactly do they get those elements out into the universe to do all that? A major route is stellar explosion. When supernovae [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Stars Eat Planets

Caution! Do not cross this line... (NASA/ESA, G. Bacon STScI)

“What a deep voice you have,” said the little girl in surprise. “The better to greet you with,” said the wolf. “Goodness, what big eyes you have.” “The better to see you with.” “And what big hands you have!” exclaimed Little Red Riding Hood, stepping over to the bed. “The better to hug you with,” [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Alien worlds through iPad eyes

Superimposed image of the Milky Way and Australian Aboriginal engraving of 'The Emu In The Sky' (Barnaby Norris)

Scientific illustration has a long and noble history, from ancient depictions of celestial forms to Leonardo Da Vinci’s extraordinary drawings of anatomy and invention, to the latest computer-generated animation splashed across CNN or – perhaps with more reflective thought – the cinematic screens of the world’s great science museums. In English the word ‘illustrate’ has [...]

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Observations

Scientists Find First Neutrinos from Distant Space [Video]

IceCube

The world has heard the first faint whispers of the most powerful cataclysms in the universe. Scientists working on the IceCube experiment in Antarctica report that they have found 28 neutrinos that must have come to earth from explosions in the distant universe—the first time scientists have found neutrinos coming from outside our own solar [...]

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Observations

Quasars at 50: Luminous Cosmic Beacons Remain a Puzzle

Quasar 3C 273 with jet

Fifty years ago, in the journal Nature, astronomer Maarten Schmidt published a brief paper noting that a star-like object known as 3C 273 was simply too far away to be a star in the Milky Way. Schmidt, of the California Institute of Technology, concluded on the basis of spectroscopic observations that the object was most [...]

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Observations

Fermi Satellite Tracks Cosmic-Ray Origins Back to Supernova Remnants

Supernova shock wave

The cosmos is full of surprises—not a week goes by without some group of astronomers announcing a perplexing new discovery that upends theory or expectation. But equally important is the difficult and time-consuming research required to firmly pin down what astronomers think they already know. Take, for instance, a new study on the origins of [...]

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Observations

Despite Tantalizing Hints, Voyager 1 Has Not Crossed into the Interstellar Medium

Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 leaving the solar system

Voyager 1 is going, going … not quite gone. The well-traveled NASA spacecraft, launched in 1977, is headed out of the heliosphere, the fluctuating bubble in space inflated by plasma streaming outward from the sun. For years Voyager 1 has been closing in on the heliopause—the outer edge of the heliosphere—where the solar wind meets [...]

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Observations

Astronomers Spot Most Distant Supernova Yet

most distant supernova, SLSNe

A superluminous supernova may sound like a designation dreamed up by someone with a penchant for hyperbole, but such explosions are deserving of the extravagant language. They are very big blasts—and two newfound examples originated in the very distant past. Astronomers using two telescopes atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii have discovered a pair of supernovae [...]

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Observations

Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting: From the Big Bang to the Big Controversy (aka Climate Change)

The first morning lecture series for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, which is focused on physics for this, its 62nd anniversary year, got off to a cosmic start, tracing the origins and evolution of the universe, before crashing back to Earth with a discussion of climate change. (You can read all our coverage this week, [...]

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Observations

What Happens If We Find the Higgs Particle–or If We Don’t?

With instruments offering “tantalizing hints” in support of the Higgs boson, the elementary particle thought to endow matter with mass, we stand at a singular moment in time for physics. Will we get sufficient evidence to confirm the existence of the Higgs, thus helping to complete the decades-old Standard Model? Will science have to go [...]

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Observations

Where Did the Sun Come from? The Search Continues

open cluster Messier 67

We all come from somewhere. If you wind the clock back far enough, we all come from the same place. Sometime about 4.5 billion years ago, the sun was born, and a disk of debris swirling around it soon coalesced into Earth and the rest of the planets. But where did that happen? Where was [...]

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Observations

Newfound Gas Cloud Points to Possible Planets Near the Milky Way’s Black Hole

Times are tough on planet Earth right now, but at least we don’t have a supermassive black hole lurking just over the horizon. A new study suggests that stars near the Milky Way’s central black hole may well form planets. The researchers based their analysis on a very recent discovery of a gas cloud making [...]

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Observations

The 2010 Kavli Prizes honors eight scientists in astrophysics, nanotech and neuroscience

Eight scientists will share three million-dollar Kavli Prizes for their contributions in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience. The announcement was made today in Oslo, Norway, by Nils Christian Stenseth, president of the Nor­wegian Academy of Science and Letters, and broadcast live at the opening of the World Science Festival in New York City. [...]

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PsiVid

Stephen Colbert Interviews Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Stephen Colbert is a smart science fan and often features great science book authors and scientists on his show, The Colbert Report. I also appreciate his funny takes on scientific topics such as tissue engineered meat, the LHC and more! Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson has appeared on The Colbert Report six times. What a boon [...]

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SA Visual

The Evolution of a Scientific American Information Graphic: Gamma-Ray Flashes

On occasion, concept sketch submissions make me swoon. Most often, the happy-making sketch comes from a freelance illustrator that has been commissioned to flesh out a specific information graphic for us. But every once in awhile, an unexpected gem arrives directly from an author. Scientific American’s expert authors are generally great at providing reference material [...]

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