As young stars form, they often produce narrow high-speed jets from their poles. By astronomical standards, these fountains are dense, narrowly collimated, and quickly changing. The jets have been measured at velocities greater than 200 km/s and Mach numbers as high as 20. The animation above (which you should watch in its full and glorious resolution here) is a numerical simulation of a protostellar jet. Every few decades the source star releases a new pulse, which expands, cools, and becomes unstable as it travels away from the star. Models like these, combined with observations from telescopes like Hubble, help astronomers unravel how and why these jets form. (Image credit: J. Stone and M. Norman)
ETA: As it happens, the APOD today is also about protostellar jets, so check that out for an image of the real thing. Thanks, jshoer!
Some 60 million light-years away in the southerly constellation Corvus, two large galaxies collided. But the stars in the two galaxies cataloged as NGC 4038 and NGC 4039 don’t collide in the course of the ponderous, billion year or so long event. Instead, their large clouds of molecular gas and dust do, triggering furious episodes of star formation near the center of the cosmic wreckage. Spanning about 500 thousand light-years, this stunning view also reveals new star clusters and matter flung far from the scene of the accident by gravitational tidal forces. Of course, the visual appearance of the far-flung arcing structures gives the galaxy pair its popular name - The Antennae.
NGC 6888, also known as the Crescent Nebula, is a cosmic bubble about 25 light-years across, blown by winds from its central, bright, massive star. This colorful portrait of the nebula uses narrow band image data combined in the Hubble palette. It shows emission from sulfur, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms in the wind-blown nebula in red, green and blue hues. NGC 6888’s central star is classified as a Wolf-Rayet star (WR 136). The star is shedding its outer envelope in a strong stellar wind, ejecting the equivalent of the Sun’s mass every 10,000 years. The nebula’s complex structures are likely the result of this strong wind interacting with material ejected in an earlier phase. Burning fuel at a prodigious rate and near the end of its stellar life this star should ultimately go out with a bang in a spectacular supernova explosion. Found in the nebula rich constellation Cygnus, NGC 6888 is about 5,000 light-years away.
ESO’s Very Large Telescope has captured an intriguing star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud — one of the Milky Way’s satellite galaxies.
This sharp image reveals two distinctive glowing clouds of gas: red-hued NGC 2014, and its blue neighbour NGC 2020. While they are very different, they were both sculpted by powerful stellar winds from extremely hot newborn stars that also radiate into the gas, causing it to glow brightly.
A new experiment that smashes gold nuclei at near light speed could mimic the particle soup created an instant after the Big Bang.
The experiment, which will be carried out at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, has just begun pumping liquid helium into 1,740 superconducting magnets to chill them to near absolute zero (minus 273 degrees Celsius, or minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit). At that point, the magnets can run indefinitely without losing any energy.
The team will then steer beams of gold ions — gold atoms stripped of their electrons and positively charged — into each other at nearly the speed of light, creating scorching temperatures of 7.2 trillion degrees Fahrenheit (4 trillion degrees Celsius). That’s 250,000 times hotter than the sun’s fiery core.
These blazing-hot conditions “melt” the gold atoms’ protons and neutrons, creating plasma of their constituent quarks and gluons, the massless glue that holds quarks together, that mimic the primordial soup of particles found just after the Big Bang. By studying the plasma, the team hopes to help explain how the early universe evolved from that state to what it is today.
Born in London in 1920 to well-to-do parents, Rosalind attended a private girls’ school in her youth and then went on to Newnham College, Cambridge. In 1941 she was awarded Second Class Honors in her Finals. This was accepted as a bachelor’s degree in the qualifications for employment, since Cambridge did not offer official degrees to women until 1947. Franklin was awarded a research fellowship, but did not do well and left after a year to work at the British Coal Utilization Research Association. Her work there was the basis for her PhD thesis, and she was awarded her PhD in 1945 from Cambridge.
Franklin spent three years in Paris at the Laboratoire Central des Services Chimiques de L’Etat where she worked under Jacques Mering and learned the technique of applying X-ray crystallography to amorphous substances. She returned to England in 1951 as a research associate to King’s College, London.
When Franklin came to the lab, she was given responsibility for Maurice Wilkins’ DNA project, since Wilkins was away and no one had worked on it for months. When Wilkins returned, he thought Franklin had been appointed as his assistant, which led to a bad working relationship between the two of them.
“Working with a student, Raymond Gosling, Franklin was able to get two sets of high-resolution photos of crystallized DNA fibers. She used two different fibers of DNA, one more highly hydrated than the other. From this she deduced the basic dimensions of DNA strands, and that the phosphates were on the outside of what was probably a helical structure.” (http://www.dnaftb.org/19/bio-3.html)
James Watson and Francis Crick were working to solve DNA’s structure at this same time. Franklin did not know Watson and Crick very well, although Maurice Wilkins did, and had collaborated with them. Reportedly, Wilkins showed Watson and Crick Franklin’s X-ray data which confirmed the structure they had theorized and supposedly led directly to the solution of DNA structure. Both Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins published papers on their X-ray data in the same Nature issue with Watson and Crick’s paper on the structure of DNA.
Franklin left Cambridge in 1953 to work at Birkbeck College on the tobacco mosaic virus and the polio virus. She died in 1958 of Ovarian cancer.
In 1962, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins for solving the structure of DNA. Although the debate continues about the amount of credit due to Franklin for contributing to their discovery, the Nobel committee does not give posthumous prizes so she would not have received a Nobel Prize in any case.
"GAIA comes into focus"
ESA’s GAIA is getting ready to take data! Images like this one of the star cluster NGC1818 in the Large Magellanic Cloud are allowing the GAIA team to calibrate the telescope in preparation for the main show; observations of the brightest ~1% of stars in our galaxy (plus loads of other exciting astronomy going on in the background of images!).
Read More: at ESA.int
Image Credit: NGC1818, ESA/DPAC/Airbus DS
NGC 4631 (the Whale Galaxy or Caldwell 32) is a spiral galaxy, 30 million ly away in Canes Venatici. It has a central starburst, and is interacting with dwarf elliptical galaxy NGC 4627. The pair together is ARP 281
Are there parallel universes?
Are there parallel universes? Universes in which, rather than reading this article, you are still asleep; in which you are happier, unhappier, richer, poorer, or even dead? The answer is “possibly”. It’s a controversial claim but one that has won more and more followers over the last few decades.
The origin of this parallelism lies in the physics of the very small. At the beginning of the twentieth century physicists developed quantum mechanics to understand the world at the smallest scales. The theory suggests that in this tiny world reality is fuzzy. Little particles, for example electrons, don’t need to be either here or there, they can be in several places at once. And they can also simultaneously possess other properties we would normally deem mutually exclusive. When this happens physicists say that the particles are in a superposition of several different states. (You can read a more detailed account of this in our introduction to Schrödinger’s equation.)
Best of 2013!
- Physicists: Earth May be Breaking Through Dark Matter Walls
- Black Holes May Turboboost Super-Civilizations
- Giant, Magnetized Outflows From Our Galactic Center
- Nearby Ancient Star is Almost as Old as the Universe
- Higgs Boson = Cosmic Doomsday?
- Why Are Black Holes so Bright?
- 'Monster' Starburst Galaxies Discovered in Early Universe
- Curtains Down for the Black Hole Firewall Paradox: Making Gravity Safe for Einstein Again
- Planck Shows Almost Perfect Cosmos—Plus Axis of Evil
- Einstein’s Gravity Theory Passes Toughest Test Yet
- Strange New Bursts of Gamma Rays Point to a New Way to Destroy a Star
- Are the Newly Discovered Planets Ideal SETI Targets?
- Giants Elliptical Galaxy Harbors Largest Known Black Hole in Universe
- Hunting for Alien Megastructures
- "Laws of Physics for a Holographic Universe"—New Theories of Space-Time
- Giant Black Hole’s Dust Oddity Surprises Scientists
- Time to Plan for A Mission to Alpha Centauri
- Obese Black Hole Galaxies Could Reveal Quasar Secrets
- If This Theory is Correct, We May Live in a Web of Alternate Timelines
- Our Lopsided Universe is Darker, Lighter, Slower, Older & More Mysterious Than We Thought
- How Giant Black Holes Spin: A New Twist Revealed
- Oceanic Black Holes Found in Southern Atlantic
- 'Listening' to Black Holes Form With Gravity Waves
- Inside the Enigma of Black Holes
- Astronomers Discover Densest Galaxy Ever
- Did a Hyper Black-Hole Spawn the Universe?
- Supermassive Black Holes at Galaxy Centers—“Exit Doors From Our Universe”
- "Other Universes Are Pulling on Our Universe"—New Planck Data Triggers Controversy
- Seven-Planet Solar System Found
- How Did Supermassive Black Holes Grow So Big?
- Black Holes Don’t Make a Big Splash
- "Distant, Younger Galaxies Look Very Different Than Nearby Galaxies"
- New Type of Black Hole Quasar Discovered
Rush Of Gas From A Champagne Bottle
This is a cork popping out of a champagne bottle, as imaged by a high-speed infrared camera. The infrared light lets you see the plumes of carbon dioxide that shoot out of the bottle’s mouth behind the cork. Carbon dioxide is invisible to the naked eye; the fog you might have noticed around the mouth of opened bottles of fizzy drinks isn’t the carbonation. It’s a combination of water vapor and ethanol vapor.
These photos come from researchers at the University of Reims in the Champagne region of France. They wanted to examine the speed of cork-popping at different temperatures. They found, of course, that corks pop faster out of warmer champagne. At higher temperatures, less of the carbon dioxide in champagne remains dissolved in the liquid. Instead, it lives as a gas in the headspace in the bottle’s neck, creating higher pressures there and thus forcing the cork out faster when you finally open the bottle.
The researchers also found that of all of the energy released when a bottle of Champagne is opened, only five percent contributes to the speedy exit of the cork. The rest of the energy creates an audible shock wave—that festive champagne bang, the researchers think. To be sure, they’re planning to measure the sound waves created by popping bubbly.
All science aside, please celebrate responsibly as you welcome in 2014.
Happy New Year!
Neil Degrasse Tyson