At the center of our galaxy lies a black hole whose massive gravitational field helps keeps this whole party together. Near the center of the galaxy are lots of stars, but it’s such a cosmic clusterfuck, it’s hard to get a good idea of what’s going on down there. Astronomers using the Keck telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii have been watching stars near the galactic center in IR for 17 years, providing a detailed view of their dynamics. The fruits of these observations include the measurement of the mass of the Milky Way’s central black hole: approximately 4 million times the mass of the Sun.
In the depths of space, can anyone hear you scream? If you were near a star being ripped apart as it’s being sucked into a black hole, you might hear a whole lot of screaming, coming from the star itself.
The atoms we’re familiar with are held together with a sort of an electric force. But in the extreme magnetic fields of stars, far more powerful than we could ever produce on Earth, could be a new kind of magnetic chemical attraction, resulting a new breed of molecules.
There are plenty of binary star systems out there, but it’s often been thought that there’s an absolute minimum distance two starts can orbit each other before they just slam into each other and form a single star. But several pairs of new red dwarf stars are challenging that minimum distance.
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center has created this image to illustrate the size of a neutron star, the “crushed core of a star that has exploded as a supernova” and packs half a million times the mass of Earth in a size that’s practically microscopic for a star.
Sure, some stars like Betelgeuse have cool names, but too many of them are just letters and numbers for cataloguing purposes. And then there’s Gomez’s Hamburger, above, that not only has one of the cooler names for a star, but is a pretty damn cool star in itself.
Around 440 million years ago, the Earth saw one of several mass extinction events, and now some scientists believe that particular mass extinction could have been caused by a deadly blast of radiation from a passing cluster of dying stars. Great, that’s one more thing in the universe that could kill all of us without giving a shit.
Stars come in all sorts of different shapes, but they all pretty much look the same. Giant plasma nuclear furnaces that are generally spherical. Generally. And then NASA went and discovered a star that defies the normal star shape in that it has spiral arms, like a mini galaxy.
Cool dwarf, bro.
NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) was decommissioned last year, but as part of its last cache of data that’s recently been made available, some 100 new brown dwarfs stars were discovered, one of which is as cool as 80 degree Fahrenheit, making it one of the few stars that you could swim through comfortably. If such a thing were possible.
Betelgeuse is already one of the brighter stars in the sky, and if it goes supernova, as many astronomers are predicting that it might— or technically, already did, we just haven’t seen it yet— it could temporarily create what would appear to be a second sun in the sky. A small one, but it still might be bright enough to be visible in the daytime.
Wait, what? Vacuum energy? Even in the vacuum of space, there’s energy— not a whole lot of it, but apparently it’s enough that if it’s concentrated enough around a neutron star, the whole neutron star could collapse. And that’s all the introduction I can write about that… this is all news to me.