Tag Archives | Universe

Voyager Unveils the Mystery of the Interstellar Fluff from Hell

VoyagerFluffJesus Diaz writes on Gizmodo:

For years, astronomers have been puzzled by the fact that our solar system is crossing a cloud of interstellar hell. One that shouldn’t be there at all. Intergalactic plot to keep us isolated or cosmic event? Voyager got the answer:

Using data from Voyager, we have discovered a strong magnetic field just outside the solar system. This magnetic field holds the interstellar cloud together — “The Fluff” — and solves the long-standing puzzle of how it can exist at all.

The Fluff is much more strongly magnetized than anyone had previously suspected. This magnetic field can provide the extra pressure required to resist destruction.

The Voyagers are not actually inside the Local Fluff. But they are getting close and can sense what the cloud is like as they approach it.

At least, that’s what NASA’s Heliophysics Guest Investigator from George Mason University Merav Opher says in the December 24 issue of Nature.

Read the rest

Continue Reading

The Death Throes of A Colossal Star, That Could Spawn New Life in the Universe

Jonathan Amos, BBC News

The death throes of one of the biggest stars known to science have been spied by Europe’s Herschel space telescope. The observatory, launched in May, has subjected VY Canis Majoris, to a detailed spectroscopic analysis.

It has allowed Herschel to identify the different types of molecules and atoms that swirl away from the star which is 20–25 times as massive as our Sun. VY Canis Majoris is some 4,500 light-years from Earth and it could be seen to explode as a supernova at any time.

It is colossal. If VY Canis Majoris were sited at the centre of our Solar System, its surface would extend out towards the orbit of Saturn. The star, in the constellation Canis Major, has been recorded by astronomers for at least 200 years…

Continue Reading

The Billion-Year Technology Gap: Could One Exist?

YouAreHereRebecca Sato & Casey Kazan write on Daily Galaxy:

Are we the lone sentient life in the universe? So far, we have no evidence to the contrary, and yet the odds that not one single other planet has evolved intelligent life would appear, from a statistical standpoint, to be quite small. There are an estimated 250 billion (2.5 x 10¹¹) stars in the Milky Way alone, and over 70 sextillion (7 x 10²²) in the visible universe, and many of them are surrounded by multiple planets.

Meanwhile, our 4.5 billion-year old Solar System exists in a universe that is estimated to be between 13.5 and 14 billion years old. Experts believe that there could be advanced civilizations out there that have existed for 1.8 gigayears (one gigayear = one billion years).

The odds of there being only one single planet that evolved life among all that unfathomable vastness seems so incredible that it is all but completely irrational to believe. But then “where are they?” asked physicist Enrico Fermi while having lunch with his colleagues in 1950…

Continue Reading