Seemingly impossible, the idea of a nested star has been proposed before – it’s just nobody has ever found an example of the cosmic oddity. That may be about to change though. Scientists are keeping the name of the star a secret right now – at least until their peers can validate their findings – but at this point they think they may have found a star within a star.
It’s a hauntingly beautiful phenomenon created by an unusually high concentration of Noctiluca scintillans (or Sea Sparkles), a single-celled bioluminescent algae of the dinoflagellate species that turns the water a brilliant, glowing, ethereal blue. Floating in swarms of millions and feeding on plankton and bacteria, it is believed that the Sea Sparkles generate their glow through their cell membranes when they are jostled.
On February 15, 2013 an asteroid about half the size of a football field will pass by the Earth with only 17,200 miles to spare. The asteroid, named 2012 DA14, will pass Earth closer than many man-made satellites. Don Yeomans of NASA's Near Earth Object Program at JPL told reporters that this is a record-setting close approach. Since regular sky surveys began in the 1990s, we've never seen an object this big get so close to Earth.
Astronomers Valeri Hambaryan and Ralph Neuhӓuser have discovered proof that a massive short duration gamma-ray burst hit the earth in the 8th century. The intense blast of high-energy radiation could have caused a mass-extinction event if it had been just a tad bit closer to the earth. Scientists estimate that the event emanated from 3,000 to 12,000 light years away from the Sun, just far enough for Earth’s natural defenses to shield inhabitants from total destruction.
If you have ever wondered why, against conventional logic, black holes are so “light”, researchers at Virginia Tech may be about to quench your thirst for an answer. Computer models of the early universe fall fairly close to home except for one thing – the ratio of the mass of black holes in the center of the galaxies relative to the mass in the remainder of the galaxy is way off. The mass simulated in black holes is much lighter than expected and scientists have yet to explain where, and how, the missing mass has snuck off. Their best guess to date was that the black holes were somehow expelling much of the mass that should have fallen into the central black hole. Now Virginia Tech researchers have spotted a quasar (a bright, galactic nucleus that surrounds the galaxy’s central supermassive black hole) that has spit out a tremendous amount of matter with two trillion times the energy the sun emits.
The annual Leonid meteor shower, one of the best annual meteor showers, will be reaching its peak this week although the showing is not expected to be spectacular with only 10-15 meteors per hour projected. This year the shower is a bit unusual with two peaks expected – one on Saturday morning (11/17/2012) and the other on Tuesday morning (11/20/2012).
Two volunteer amateur astronomers have confirmed the existence of a Neptune-like planet that has four suns, making it the first quadruple planetary star system ever discovered and a real-life version of Tatooine from "Star Wars”. The planet is a gas giant located 5,000 light years from Earth and orbits one pair of the stars which in turn forms a unit that orbits around the second pair of stars.
Astronomers have discovered a new planet, about the size of Earth, orbiting Alpha Centauri B, a nearby sun-like star roughly 4 light years away. The new planet orbits its parent star about 10 times closer than Mercury so temperatures might be more than 2,240 degrees Fahrenheit. Still, scientists are hopeful that more planets will be discovered a bit further out, some in the range that could indeed support life as we know it.
Russian astronomers have discovered a comet, named C/2012 S1, which is heading our way. It is scheduled to fly by Earth in December 2013. It is expected to be the brightest visitor to our solar system in over a century. Astronomers believe the comet will be considerably brighter than Halley’s Comet (1986) and Hale-Bopp (1997) and may even be brighter than the moon – negative magnitudes maybe. C/2012 S1 could be visible for up to three months. And then again, maybe not.
Each year, the Royal Observatory Greenwich‘s hosts its annual Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition. Now in its fourth year and growing, they received over 800 photo submission. Winners were announced on Sept. 19 in four main categories — Deep Space, Our Solar System, Earth and Space, and Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year — and three special awards were also handed out. Here are the winners of the 2012 competition.
For those anxiously awaiting December 21, 2012, here’s a little thriller for you. In a few hours, an asteroid (named 2012 QG42) the size of three football fields will be making a close pass by Earth. We would have warned you earlier but, eh, the astronomy geeks just spotted it a few weeks ago.
Two separate sightings on Monday indicate something big happened on Jupiter. Two astronomers reported seeing a bright flash on the surface of Jupiter on Monday at 6:35 AM CDT. One astronomer, George Hall from Dallas, recorded the event which set the astronomer community abuzz.