NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and ESA’s (European Space Agency) XMM-Newton telescope are showing that fierce winds from a supermassive black hole blow outward in all directions — a phenomenon that had been suspected, but difficult to prove until now. (more…)
ANN ARBOR — Up to half of the water on Earth is likely older than the solar system itself, University of Michigan astronomers theorize.
The researchers’ work, published in the current issue of Science, helps to settle a debate about just how far back in galactic history our planet and our solar system’s water formed. Were the molecules in comet ices and terrestrial oceans born with the system itself—in the planet-forming disk of dust and gas that circled the young sun 4.6 billion years ago? Or did the water originate even earlier—in the cold, ancient molecular cloud that spawned the sun and that planet-forming disk? (more…)
Speeding at 1 Million mph, It Probes Black Hole and Dark Matter
A University of Utah-led team discovered a “hypervelocity star” that is the closest, second-brightest and among the largest of 20 found so far. Speeding at more than 1 million mph, the star may provide clues about the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way and the halo of mysterious “dark matter” surrounding the galaxy, astronomers say. (more…)
How do you grow a supermassive black hole that is a million to a billion times the mass of our sun? Astronomers do not know the answer, but a new study using data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has turned up what might be the cosmic seeds from which a black hole will sprout. The results are helping scientists piece together the evolution of supermassive black holes — powerful objects that dominate the hearts of all galaxies.
Growing a black hole is not as easy as planting a seed in soil and adding water. The massive objects are dense collections of matter that are literally bottomless pits; anything that falls in will never come out. They come in a range of sizes. The smallest, only a few times greater in mass than our sun, form from exploding stars. The biggest of these dark beasts, billions of times the mass of our sun, grow together with their host galaxies over time, deep in the interiors. But how this process works is an ongoing mystery. (more…)
Roguish runaway stars can have a big impact on their surroundings as they plunge through the Milky Way galaxy. Their high-speed encounters shock the galaxy, creating arcs, as seen in this newly released image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.
In this case, the speedster star is known as Kappa Cassiopeiae, or HD 2905 to astronomers. It is a massive, hot supergiant moving at around 2.5 million mph relative to its neighbors (1,100 kilometers per second). But what really makes the star stand out in this image is the surrounding, streaky red glow of material in its path. Such structures are called bow shocks, and they can often be seen in front of the fastest, most massive stars in the galaxy. (more…)
Weather forecasters on exoplanet GJ 1214b would have an easy job. Today’s forecast: cloudy. Tomorrow: overcast. Extended outlook: more clouds.
That’s the implication of a study led by researchers in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago who have definitively characterized the atmosphere of a super-Earth class planet orbiting another star for the first time. (more…)
Johnny Cash may have preferred this galaxy’s burning ring of fire to the one he sang about falling into in his popular song. The “starburst ring” seen at center in red and yellow hues is not the product of love, as in the song, but is instead a frenetic region of star formation.
The galaxy, a spiral beauty called Messier 94, is located about 17 million light-years away. In this image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, infrared light is represented in different colors, with blue having the shortest wavelengths and red, the longest. (more…)