This infographic shows you the insane scale of our solar system
by Ria Misra
You may have seen graphics comparing the objects in our solar system by size, but this visualization offers a slightly different spin on the theme, by comparing objects by their total mass. Plus, it also features 460 tiny versions of former planet Pluto bouncing off of Earth like a game of interstellar marbles.
The visualization is the work of astronomer Rhys Taylor, who also previously made a similar visualization comparing the size of the gas giants in our solar system by mass.
Sun Unleashes Monster Solar Flare, Biggest of 2014
by Miriam Kramer
The sun fired off a major solar flare late Monday (Feb. 24), making it the most powerful sun eruption of the year so far and one of the strongest in recent years.
The massive X4.9-class solar flare erupted from an active sunspot, called AR1990, at 7:49 p.m. EST (0049 Feb. 25 GMT). NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured high-definition video of the monster solar flare. The spaceecraft recording amazing views the solar flare erupting with a giant burst of plasma, called a coronal mass ejection, or CME.
Sunspot AR1990 (previously named AR1967) is located on the southeastern limb of the sun, pointed away from Earth. This is the third time this sunspot has rotated onto the Earth-facing side of the sun…
The beautiful leftover debris from an exploded star
This image of the debris of an exploded star - known as supernova remnant 1E 0102.2-7219, or “E0102” for short - features data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. E0102 is located about 190,000 light years away in the Small Magellanic Cloud, one of the nearest galaxies to the Milky Way. It was created when a star that was much more massive than the Sun exploded, an event that would have been visible from the Southern Hemisphere of the Earth over 1000 years ago.
Chandra first observed E0102 shortly after its launch in 1999. New X-ray data have now been used to create this spectacular image and help celebrate the ten-year anniversary of Chandra’s launch on July 23, 1999. In this latest image of E0102, the lowest-energy X-rays are colored orange, the intermediate range of X-rays is cyan, and the highest-energy X-rays Chandra detected are blue. An optical image from the Hubble Space Telescope (in red, green and blue) shows additional structure in the remnant and also reveals foreground stars in the field…
A look at today’s Sun in this three-wavelength image (094, 335 and 193 angstroms). Each highlights a different part of the corona. The bright area to the right is Active Region 1974, which has been crackling with M-class solar flares the past few hours.
Scientists directly image brown dwarf for the first time at Keck Observatory
(Phys.org) — A team of researchers led by Justin R. Crepp, the Freimann Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Notre Dame, has directly imaged a very rare type of brown dwarf that can serve as a benchmark for studying objects with masses that lie between stars and planets. Their paper on the discovery was published recently in Astrophysical Journal…
This artist’s concept shows what the weather might look like on cool star-like bodies known as brown dwarfs. These giant balls of gas start out life like stars, but lack the mass to sustain nuclear fusion at their cores, and instead, fade and cool with time.
New research from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope suggests that most brown dwarfs are racked with colossal storms akin to Jupiter’s famous “Great Red Spot.” These storms may be marked by fierce winds, and possibly lightning. The turbulent clouds might also rain down molten iron, hot sand or salts — materials thought to make up the cloud layers of brown dwarfs…
Stellar Trio Could Put Einstein’s Theory of Gravity to the Test
by Adrian Cho
In a cosmic coup, astronomers have found a celestial beacon known as a pulsar in orbit with not one, but two other stars. The first-of-its-kind trio could soon be used to put Einstein’s theory of gravity, or general relativity, to an unprecedented test. “It’s a wonderful laboratory that nature has given us,” says Paulo Freire, a radio astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, who was not involved in the work. “It’s almost made to order.”
A pulsar consists of a neutron star, the leftover core of a massive star that has blown up in a supernova explosion. The core’s own gravity squeezes it so intensely that the atomic nuclei meld into a single sphere of neutrons. The spinning neutron star also shines out a beam of radio waves that sweeps the sky just as the light beam from a lighthouse sweeps the sea. In fact, pulsars flash so regularly that they make natural timepieces whose ticking can be as steady as that of an atomic clock…
After nearly a decade of development, construction, and testing, the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) is pointing skyward and collecting light from distant worlds with the help of a special starlight-blocking device, called a coronagraph, built at the American Museum of Natural History.
This is Gemini Planet Imager’s first-light image of the light scattered by a disk of dust orbiting the young star HR4796. The narrow ring is thought to be dust from asteroids or comets left behind by planet formation; some scientists have theorized that the sharp edge of the ring is defined by an unseen planet.
Processing by Marshall Perrin, Space Telescope Science Institute
An entirely new class of galaxy-escaping hypervelocity stars
by George Dvorsky
Every once in a while, the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole flings a wayward star into intergalactic space at speeds reaching 2 million miles per hour. But astronomers have now discovered a surprising new class of “hypervelocity stars” that can escape the galaxy — and they don’t need the galactic core to do it.
Astronomers first discovered hypervelocity stars back in 2005. There may be some 1,000 exile stars originating from the Milky Way, all of them forming near the supermassive black hole at the core of our galaxy. Astronomers estimate that these giant blue stars are tossed out of these central regions every 100,000 years or so.
Hypervelocity stars are typically former members of a binary star system; when a binary swings too close to the supermassive black hole, the intense gravity yanks the binary apart, capturing one star while violently flinging the other outward at tremendous speeds — sometimes reaching 0.2% the speed of light, or 895 km/s, so they’re aptly named…
Newfound Monster Supernova Breaks Records… and Hearts
by Andrew Fazekas
A newly discovered exploding star may have broken two cosmic records, as it’s both the brightest and the most distant supernova ever seen, according to a new study.
Located about 10 billion light-years from Earth, the supernova dubbed SNLS-06D4eu is hundreds of times brighter than the typical supernova. This has led the astronomers with the Supernova Legacy Survey (SNLS), who made the find, to believe they may have stumbled across a whole new species of these dying massive stars, which they are calling “superluminous supernovae.”
First spotted as a faint ultraviolet speck on images six years ago, researchers initially were not sure what they had found. Its extreme brightness could not be explained by current theories of what powers supernovae. A supernova is generally thought to occur when nuclear fuel runs out in the star’s core, which causes it to suddenly collapse into a neutron star or black hole…