"I saw this image when I was a kid…the photograph of Jupiter taken by NASA’s Voyager. Beautiful…but nothing special until shown in rapid succession. Suddenly Jupiter was alive…breathing…I was hypnotized."
- Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling), from the movie 'Another Earth'
I can’t encourage all of you enough to see this film. It’s one of my dear, dear favorites. Watch Brit Marling speak on some of the dynamics of the film (no spoilers) and view the trailer here. 'Another Earth' was released in 2011. If you haven’t seen this movie, I can assure you chills when you watch the trailer.
A new study using observations from a novel instrument provides the best look to date at magnetic fields at the heart of gamma-ray bursts, the most energetic explosions in the universe. An international team of astronomers from Britain, Slovenia and Italy has glimpsed the infrastructure of a burst’s high-speed jet.
Gamma-ray bursts are the most luminous explosions in the cosmos. Most are thought to be triggered when the core of a massive star runs out of nuclear fuel, collapses under its own weight, and forms a black hole. The black hole then drives jets of particles that drill all the way through the collapsing star and erupt into space at nearly the speed of light.
Measurements of polarized light in the afterglow of GRB 120308A by the Liverpool Telescope and its RINGO2 instrument indicate the presence of a large-scale stable magnetic field linked with a young black hole, as shown in this illustration. Theoretical models link the presence of strong and stable polarized light in a gamma-ray burst’s jet with a large-scale magnetic field (a blue spiral, in this illustration) originating from the newly-formed black hole.
Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Wiessinger
Not only is this stunning citole the only surviving piece of it’s kind from the XIV century, it was also played by Robert Dudley to Elizabeth I.
A citole is the medieval equivalent of a guitar. This example is both a unique survival of its type and an outstanding example of medieval secular art. It was highly prized in its day and highly regarded throughout its history.
Alterations have been made, including attempts to convert it to a violin. Among the changes is the insertion of a silver plate above the peg box, engraved with the arms of Elizabeth I, Queen of England (1558-1603) and her favourite and lover, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. One of the most likely uses for the citole in medieval times would be as accompaniment to love ballads. The amorous associations clearly persisted into the Elizabethan age.
In the fall of 1997, a massive, unmanned rocket—one of the largest ever—took off on American soil, bound to Venus. It swung around that planet, entering deep-space so it could take advantage of the sun’s gravitational pull. Then it took a tour of the solar system, passing Venus again, Earth, and, a day before the new millennium began, Jupiter.
It kept flying and flying—until, on the first of July, 2004, its payload arrived in the orbit of Saturn.
And there the Cassini probe remains, taking observations, collecting data. Launched over a decade and a half ago, the spacecraft still works. It continues its mission of advancing science and informing us of our planetary neighborhood.
Except … except. If sequestration of the U.S. federal budget continues into 2014, NASA’s budget will lose hundreds of millions in funding. Today, according to early reports, agency leaders suggested to their employees that those cuts would come from the planetary sciences division. NASA might have to terminate the Cassini mission while it is still scientifically productive.
Read more. [Image: NASA]
It’s Full of Stars — One of the Densest Star Clusters Ever Discovered
This recently released photograph from the Hubble Telescope captures the spectacular glory of Messier 15 located about 35,000 light-years away. It might be hard to believe, but if you were to look up in the sky and locate the constellation Pegasus, this entire cluster of stars is located inside of it. It is one of the densest clusters of stars ever discovered. Via the ESA:
Both very hot blue stars and cooler golden stars can be seen swarming together in the image, becoming more concentrated towards the cluster’s bright centre. Messier 15 is one of the densest globular clusters known, with most of its mass concentrated at its core. As well as stars, Messier 15 was the first cluster known to host a planetary nebula, and it has been found to have a rare type of black hole at its centre.
Amidst the wondrous celestial spectacle that is the Orion Nebula Cluster, which contains the notorious Horse Head Nebula and the Trapezium Star Cluster, lurks a (potential) massive black hole 200x the mass of our home star, according to a newly published international study noted by Phys.org in a recent article.
The long-standing anomaly among astrophysicists has been the incredible speed at which the stars within this cluster are moving relative to the ration of high and low mass stars.
The four bright stars at the center of the Orion Nebula are referred to by astronomers as the Trapezium. This Hubble Space Telescope image reveals the stars of the Trapezium cluster in visible (left) and infrared (right) wavelengths of light. The alleged black hole is proposed to exist between the four brightest stars in this image. [source]
"These properties have been a puzzle to astronomers, given all the knowledge that they have about how stars are formed and distributed," said Dr. Baumgardt of UQ’s School of Mathematics and Physics.
Via sophisticated computer modeling, the researchers had to further refine the movements of stars within the system due to the expansion of the cluster due to gas accelerating outwards by the high mass stars. The computations revealed a high mass star imploded into a black hole, resulting in some stars driven toward the the center of the cluster, colliding with the black hole itself, while others were flung out of the cluster altogether:
"Our scenario neatly accounts for virtually all observed properties of the Orion Nebula Cluster, that is, its low number of high-mass stars, and its rapidly-moving central stars, and suggests that the massive stars near the centre of this cluster are bound by a black hole," commented Dr. Ladislav Subr, of Charles University in Prague.
On the next clear night, find the Orion Nebula in the night sky. Although it’s beauty is derived from the gases being “highlighted” by the massive star tucked behind the blanketing gas and dust, you may never gaze upon this celestial nursery the same way again, if a black hole is indeed determined to reside here. Photo by ESO/S. Brunier via earthsky.org.
What are the implications of this study? Well…considering the Orion Nebula is the most studied nebula by astronomers around the world, it’s continuously serving as a demonstration for researchers of how stars - massive stars in particular - form, along with the creation of gaseous regions such as the nebula; this one - Orion - being an emission nebula. Now knowing there may be a black hole a mere 1,344 light years away from Earth prime for observational study, Prof. Pavel Kroupa of the University of Bonn (Germany) suggests:
"Having such a massive black hole at our doorstep would be a dramatic chance for intense studies of these enigmatic objects."
ESA’s Mars Express orbited the Red Planet nearly 12,500 times by October 2013. Its high resolution stereo camera images, assembled in this “fly-around,” show riverbeds, volcanos, canyons and craters. Credit: ESA/Space.com
There are spacecraft flying around Mars, sending us stunning images of the Martian landscape, beautifully composited and recreated into 3D renderings for our visual enjoyment. This is a prime example of such data mapping of the red planet’s topography. Take a couple minutes and explore Mars, courtesy of ESA/NASA/JPL and that engineering wonder we call the Mars Express spacecraft. 720p/high resolution recommended.