Tag Archives: light year

Spiral galaxies like Milky Way bigger than thought, says CU-Boulder study

Let’s all fist bump: Spiral galaxies like our own Milky Way appear to be much larger and more massive than previously believed, according to a new University of Colorado Boulder study by researchers using the Hubble Space Telescope.

CU-Boulder Professor John Stocke, study leader, said new observations with Hubble’s $70 million Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, or COS, designed by CU-Boulder show that normal spiral galaxies are surrounded by halos of gas that can extend to over 1 million light-years in diameter. The current estimated diameter of the Milky Way, for example, is about 100,000 light-years. One light-year is roughly 6 trillion miles. (more…)

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The Supernova That Cried Wolf

A luminous supernova in a galaxy 67 million light years away from us has finally exploded for good, a UA-led team of astronomers has discovered. This event sheds light on how massive stars end their lives.

Astronomers have announced that a massive star, which they have watched repeatedly mimic a supernova since 2009, has finally exploded for real.

The report was presented at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Long Beach, Calif. by Jon Mauerhan of the Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona, in collaboration with Nathan Smith, also of the UA, and Alex Filippenko of the University of California, Berkeley.

The result is of special interest because it provides new critical information on the final death throes of massive stars in the years leading up to their explosion. The work has been accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. (more…)

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Crowdsourcing Site Compiles New Sign Language for Math and Science

A multimedia feature published this week in the New York Times, “Pushing Science’s Limits in Sign Language Lexicon,” outlines efforts in the United States and Europe to develop sign language versions of specialized terms used in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The article shares newly defined signs for terms like “light-year,” “organism” and “photosynthesis.” It also describes a successful crowdsourcing effort started at the University of Washington in 2008 that lets members of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community build their own guide to the evolving lexicon of science.

“It’s not a dictionary,” explained Richard Ladner, a UW professor of computer science and engineering. “The goal of the forum is to be constantly changing, a reflection of the current use.” (more…)

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Hungry Black Hole

Astronomers poised for galactic chow-down

The super-massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy has a healthy appetite, frequently snacking on asteroids and comets. Now, a cloud of gas and dust called G2 is on a dangerous course to become its next meal.

Even though Sagittarius A* (pronounced “Sagittarius A-star”) hasn’t been easy to see through the cosmic dust, sitting 25,000 light years away at galaxy central, scientists know it is a black hole — and a hungry one at that. Its weight has been estimated to be more than that of 4 million suns. (more…)

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MSU Research Sheds New Light on Star Clusters, Black Holes

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Research by Michigan State University astronomers has scientists re-thinking the fates of black holes, particularly in groups of stars known as globular clusters.

The research of Jay Strader, MSU assistant professor of physics and astronomy, and colleagues focused on a cluster called Messier 22, or M22, a collection of hundreds of thousands of stars located about 10,000 light years from Earth. Using images of unprecedented depth observed at radio wavelengths, Strader and his team were surprised to find not one but two black holes in the cluster. (more…)

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The Helix Nebula: Bigger in Death than Life

A dying star is refusing to go quietly into the night, as seen in this combined infrared and ultraviolet view from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX), which NASA has lent to the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. In death, the star’s dusty outer layers are unraveling into space, glowing from the intense ultraviolet radiation being pumped out by the hot stellar core.

This object, called the Helix nebula, lies 650 light-years away in the constellation of Aquarius. Also known by the catalog number NGC 7293, it is a typical example of a class of objects called planetary nebulae. Discovered in the 18th century, these cosmic works of art were erroneously named for their resemblance to gas-giant planets. (more…)

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Supernovae of the Same Brightness, Cut From Vastly Different Cosmic Cloth

Berkeley Lab researchers make historic observation of rare Type 1a Supernova

Exploding stars called Type 1a supernova are ideal for measuring cosmic distance because they are bright enough to spot across the Universe and have relatively the same luminosity everywhere. Although astronomers have many theories about the kinds of star systems involved in these explosions (or progenitor systems), no one has ever directly observed one—until now.

In the August 24 issue of Science, the multi-institutional Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) team presents the first-ever direct observations of a Type 1a supernova progenitor system. Astronomers have collected evidence indicating that the progenitor system of a Type 1a supernova, called PTF 11kx, contains a red giant star. They also show that the system previously underwent at least one much smaller nova eruption before it ended its life in a destructive supernova. The system is located 600 million light years away in the constellation Lynx. (more…)

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NSF’s South Pole Telescope Discovers a Galaxy Cluster Creating Stars at a Record Pace

Researchers say Phoenix Cluster activity may cause scientists to rethink how galaxies evolve

A National Science Foundation-funded radio telescope in Antarctica has found an extraordinary galaxy cluster that may force astronomers to rethink how galaxy clusters and the galaxies that inhabit them evolve.

The galaxy cluster was discovered some 5.7 billion light years from Earth by the 10-meter wide South Pole Telescope (SPT) located at NSF’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica, which is funded by NSF’s Office of Polar Programs. (more…)

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