Looking Closer and Testing Theories

Last week, while looking at some of the best images from the Cassini spacecraft, I commented on the fact that the smooth rings of Saturn are small, varied chunks of ice and rock when you get down to the smaller scales.  Reflecting on that this morning, I was thinking about how observing objects in our universe at smaller scales gives new insight into the variety and complexity of natural phenomena.  Not long after, I came across a story of a new interesting object in our own Solar System. A new binary asteroid was discovered.  This in itself isn’t too different...

Nature Outshines CERN

The gravitational center of most objects and clusters in the universe are the place where the most massive and high energy interactions take place.  For the solar system, the Sun’s core is hot and energetic.  For star clusters, central regions host the most massive and brightest stars.  For galaxy clusters, the most massive galaxies in the universe are seen in the center.  And for individual galaxies, the Milky Way included, the core is where the fun happens. In the core of our galaxy, there are many massive and powerful objects, not limited to a supermassive star cluster, pulsars, supernova remnants,...

Still More Hidden Galaxies

I’ve covered a few ‘hidden galaxy’ stories lately, from the ultra high resolution see-through of Andromeda, to dark dust in front of M81 and M82.  Now, hundreds of new hidden galaxies have been revealed by a team of astronomers who are looking straight through the Milky Way for the first time ever, shedding light on the structure of new galaxy clusters and the enigmatic pull of the ‘great attractor.’ The Earth is not stationary in space.  It orbits the Sun, which in turn orbits the Milky Way galaxy, which then moves through the Universe as part of a galaxy cluster. ...

Gamma Rays Point to Pulsars, Not Dark Matter

Gamma rays are the most powerful form of electromagnetic radiation in the universe.  With wavelengths as small at atoms, they usually result from the most powerful interactions known, such as the collision of two particles, or the release of energy from the accretion disk of a black hole.  But there is another potential source of gamma rays that has not yet been confirmed: Dark Matter. The leading candidate for dark matter is the theorized Weakly Interacting Massive Particle (WIMP), though it is not as wimpy as its namesake suggests, making up 5 times as much mass as the visible matter...

A Young Giant Galaxy Cluster

In the early universe, there was a huge amount of swirling matter and light that didn’t really have much structure.  Compared to today’s much more regular dotting of galaxy clusters and superclusters, the early universe was all over the place.  But as will all things, there had to be a first.  a first star, a first galaxy, and even a first galaxy cluster. The massive cluster of galaxies known as IDCS J1426.5+3508 is the most distant massive galaxy cluster ever discovered, and it has some interesting properties that point to how it formed and evolved so quickly.  One such property is...

The Great Iron Ball

Deep within the Earth, far below the layers of rock that form the crust, and even further below the molten rock of the mantle, lies a hot core of Iron and Nickel.  The swirling of the liquid metal creates a flow of charge and produces the magnetic field of the Earth, without which we humans could not survive. But there is still more.  At the centre of the Earth, a part of the liquid metal core, the size of Pluto, cooled into a solid ball of Iron and Nickel.  When in the Earth’s history did it form? This question has...

Comets Crashed into the Moon

The Moon has clearly seen some stuff.  It’s visibly heavily cratered across it’s surface, which has remained unchanged since it’s surface solidified 4.2 Billion years ago.  Think about that – the Moon has been the same, with the exception of cratering, for 4 Billion years. This is a stark contrast to the Earth, whose erosion and tectonic activity cause the crust to change on scales of a few hundred million years. Astronomers have worked hard to learn about the early solar system by looking at the Moon and its cratering patterns.  Most of the visible craters on the Moon are...

2 Million Kph Wind from the Milky Way Core!

I thought Hurricanes had powerful winds.   The strongest wind ever recorded was a gust up to 400 Kph near a tropical cyclone in Australia.  But Earthbound wind has nothing on Galactic wind. Around the time when our ancestors were just learning to walk upright, the core of the Milky Way Galaxy unleashed a blast of gasses and material at 2 Million Kph. Millions of years later, we see the aftermath of this eruption as two massive bubbles of material blown out above and below the galactic centre, at least 30,000 Light Years tall! The lobes were discovered by the...