n-a-s-a

trailingfireflies:

Mira (MY-rah) is a star that scientists have studied for 400 years. But NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer telescope captured a very surprising image of Mira. It showed for the first time that Mira has a long tail of dust and gas—13 light-years long! That is 20,000 times longer than the average distance from the Sun to Pluto!

A star’s life has a beginning, middle, and end, just like ours. Only a star’s life is much, much longer. Mira is a red giant star near the end of its life. It is blowing off much of its mass in the form of gas and dust. It has already flung out enough material to construct at least 3,000 Earth-sized planets!

Mira is moving at 291,000 miles per hour! This is much faster than the other stars in our part of the Milky Way galaxy. This speed and the huge amount of material coming off Mira have created its contrail-like tail.

Credit NASA

spaceartist
mindblowingscience:

Rare trio of supermassive black holes found

Where two distant galaxies collide, three supermassive black holes engage in a gravitational dance. Two of the black holes embrace in a tight orbit, spinning out jets of gas, while the third waits off to the side. Observations of the trio demonstrate that swirling jets can help astronomers find hidden black hole pairs. The finding also suggests that these pairs may be more common than previously thought.
Every large galaxy appears to harbor a central supermassive black hole, a pileup of the corpses of huge stars. These black holes, which can weigh well over a billion suns, appear to build up over time from collisions between galaxies. As two galaxies merge, their central black holes find one another, spiral together and eventually combine into one giant black hole.
Roger Deane, an astrophysicist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and colleagues stumbled upon the black hole trio while studying galaxies that emit a lot of radio light. The researchers knew of a galaxy that holds two black holes, which were first discovered three years ago and are separated by about 24,000 light-years. What Deane’s team figured out is that one of those black holes is actually two black holes, crowded together at just 450 light-years apart, the team reports June 25 inNature.
To distinguish between the two close-together black holes, Deane’s team used the European Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network. When used together, EVN’s 18 telescopes, spread around the world, behave like a powerful antenna with roughly the diameter of Earth. The network provides astronomers with the resolution needed to pick out the separate blasts of radio waves from two black holes hundreds of light-years apart in a galaxy nearly 5 billion light-years away.
By combining the new observations with old data, Deane and colleagues also saw a spiraling jet of electrons coming from one of the black holes in the closely bound pair. The gravity of one of the black holes appears to be yanking around the other’s jet.
Scientists have seen twirling jets before and thought that they might come from two supermassive black holes orbiting each other, Fu says. But this is the first time astronomers have seen both a spiraling jet and independent evidence of a black hole binary. Now astronomers can use spinning jets to look for black hole pairs that they couldn’t otherwise see.
“I’m quite excited to see that our system has turned out be a triple,” says Hai Fu, an astrophysicist at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, who was part of the team that originally discovered the black holes.  Finding dual black holes is hard, he says. “We spent many years looking at many sources, and this was the only pair we found.”
But Deane’s team’s findings suggest that close binaries are prevalent, since the team found one after looking at only six galaxies. “Either we got incredibly lucky and won the lottery,” Deane says, “or they’re more common than previously anticipated.”

Researchers think that compact binary supermassive black holes may be strong sources of gravitational waves. As they orbit each other, the black holes radiate gravitational energy, which should send out ripples in the fabric of space. In principle, these gravitational waves may be detectable by instruments on Earth, like the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, but physicists have not directly detected the waves. A direct observation of gravitational waves would confirm a prediction of Einstein’s theory of general relativity and also provide a way to explore the many phenomena that emit almost no light. A collection of compact black hole pairs could help researchers know where to look.

mindblowingscience:

Rare trio of supermassive black holes found

Where two distant galaxies collide, three supermassive black holes engage in a gravitational dance. Two of the black holes embrace in a tight orbit, spinning out jets of gas, while the third waits off to the side. Observations of the trio demonstrate that swirling jets can help astronomers find hidden black hole pairs. The finding also suggests that these pairs may be more common than previously thought.

Every large galaxy appears to harbor a central supermassive black hole, a pileup of the corpses of huge stars. These black holes, which can weigh well over a billion suns, appear to build up over time from collisions between galaxies. As two galaxies merge, their central black holes find one another, spiral together and eventually combine into one giant black hole.

Roger Deane, an astrophysicist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and colleagues stumbled upon the black hole trio while studying galaxies that emit a lot of radio light. The researchers knew of a galaxy that holds two black holes, which were first discovered three years ago and are separated by about 24,000 light-years. What Deane’s team figured out is that one of those black holes is actually two black holes, crowded together at just 450 light-years apart, the team reports June 25 inNature.

To distinguish between the two close-together black holes, Deane’s team used the European Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network. When used together, EVN’s 18 telescopes, spread around the world, behave like a powerful antenna with roughly the diameter of Earth. The network provides astronomers with the resolution needed to pick out the separate blasts of radio waves from two black holes hundreds of light-years apart in a galaxy nearly 5 billion light-years away.

By combining the new observations with old data, Deane and colleagues also saw a spiraling jet of electrons coming from one of the black holes in the closely bound pair. The gravity of one of the black holes appears to be yanking around the other’s jet.

Scientists have seen twirling jets before and thought that they might come from two supermassive black holes orbiting each other, Fu says. But this is the first time astronomers have seen both a spiraling jet and independent evidence of a black hole binary. Now astronomers can use spinning jets to look for black hole pairs that they couldn’t otherwise see.

“I’m quite excited to see that our system has turned out be a triple,” says Hai Fu, an astrophysicist at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, who was part of the team that originally discovered the black holes.  Finding dual black holes is hard, he says. “We spent many years looking at many sources, and this was the only pair we found.”

But Deane’s team’s findings suggest that close binaries are prevalent, since the team found one after looking at only six galaxies. “Either we got incredibly lucky and won the lottery,” Deane says, “or they’re more common than previously anticipated.”

Researchers think that compact binary supermassive black holes may be strong sources of gravitational waves. As they orbit each other, the black holes radiate gravitational energy, which should send out ripples in the fabric of space. In principle, these gravitational waves may be detectable by instruments on Earth, like the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, but physicists have not directly detected the waves. A direct observation of gravitational waves would confirm a prediction of Einstein’s theory of general relativity and also provide a way to explore the many phenomena that emit almost no light. A collection of compact black hole pairs could help researchers know where to look.

its-shezza
distant-traveller:

The Cone Nebula from Hubble

Stars are forming in the gigantic dust pillar called the Cone Nebula. Cones, pillars, and majestic flowing shapes abound in stellar nurseries where natal clouds of gas and dust are buffeted by energetic winds from newborn stars. The Cone Nebula, a well-known example, lies within the bright galactic star-forming region NGC 2264. The Cone was captured in unprecedented detail in this close-up composite of several observations from the Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. While the Cone Nebula, about 2,500 light-years away in Monoceros, is around 7 light-years long, the region pictured here surrounding the cone’s blunted head is a mere 2.5 light-years across. In our neck of the galaxy that distance is just over half way from the Sun to its nearest stellar neighbor, the Alpha Centauri star system. The massive star NGC 2264 IRS, seen by Hubble’s infrared camera in 1997, is the likely source of the wind sculpting the Cone Nebula and lies off the top of the image. The Cone Nebula’s reddish veil is produced by glowing hydrogen gas.

Image credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, NASA, ESA - Processing & Licence: Judy Schmidt

distant-traveller:

The Cone Nebula from Hubble

Stars are forming in the gigantic dust pillar called the Cone Nebula. Cones, pillars, and majestic flowing shapes abound in stellar nurseries where natal clouds of gas and dust are buffeted by energetic winds from newborn stars. The Cone Nebula, a well-known example, lies within the bright galactic star-forming region NGC 2264. The Cone was captured in unprecedented detail in this close-up composite of several observations from the Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. While the Cone Nebula, about 2,500 light-years away in Monoceros, is around 7 light-years long, the region pictured here surrounding the cone’s blunted head is a mere 2.5 light-years across. In our neck of the galaxy that distance is just over half way from the Sun to its nearest stellar neighbor, the Alpha Centauri star system. The massive star NGC 2264 IRS, seen by Hubble’s infrared camera in 1997, is the likely source of the wind sculpting the Cone Nebula and lies off the top of the image. The Cone Nebula’s reddish veil is produced by glowing hydrogen gas.

Image credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, NASA, ESA - Processing & Licence: Judy Schmidt