Two white dwarfs shed outer layers of mass to form winding blue clouds of hot gas
Space news (October 16, 2015) – light-years away in the southern constellation Norma –
Firstdiscovered during modern times by noted astronomer Donald Menzel in 1922, planetary nebula PK 329-02.2 or Menzel 2 (Mz 2), is composed of a central star and companion suncocooned in stunning, hot clouds of glowing gas ejected in complex shapes that will fade into the cosmos over the next few thousands of years.
Astrophysicists believe the star at the upper right of the two centralstars shining brightly in this Hubble image is the main star of planetary nebula PK 329-02.2. The star just to the lower left of this central star astronomers believe is the companion sun, which is gravitationally tied to the main star.
Over tens of thousands of years, this pair of stars is expected to be cocooned in stunning clouds of hot, glowing gas. Swirling clouds forming a goodbye wave as the main star enters the final stages of its life cycle and starts to enjoy retirement as a white dwarf star.
You can discover more about the journey of the Hubble Space Telescope here.
Launching an accelerating fragment of the thin disk at 7 percent of the speed of light
Space news (July 25, 2015) – 7,500 light-years away in the constellation Centaurus
The majority of lights in the night sky above are double star systems composed of two suns orbiting each other. NASA space scientists using the Chandra X-ray Observatory observed the unusual double star system PSR B1259-63/LS 2883 (B1259 is the short version) three times between December 2011 and February 2014 looking for clues to its nature.
“These two objects are in an unusual cosmic arrangement and have given us a chance to witness something special,” said George Pavlov of Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania, lead author of a paper describing these results. “As the pulsar moved through the disk, it appears that it punched a clump of material out and flung it away into space.”
Composed of a pulsar and companion star 30 times the mass of the Sun, B1259 is in a weird looking cosmic arrangement that has been kicking up a little dust lately. Recent data indicates the high-energy particle winds created by the combination of rapid rotation and intense magnetic field of the pulsar appears to have punched a hole in the disk of gas surrounding the companion star. A hole composed of gas that has been ejected from the disk at 4 million miles per hour and accelerated from 7 percent of the speed of light to 15 percent between the second and third observation periods.
“After this clump of stellar material was knocked out, the pulsar’s wind appears to have accelerated it, almost as if it had a rocket attached,” said co-author Oleg Kargaltsev of George Washington University (GWU) in Washington, DC.
The pulsar is an ultra-dense neutron star orbiting its companion star in a highly elliptical orbit that makes its closest approach every 41 months. The companion star is rotating at a speed resulting in a disk of material spinning off, creating the thin disk of gas surrounding the massive sun. The pulsar is expected to pass through the disk of material as it makes its next approach to B1259. NASA scientists expect to view the event and collect data on the unusual nature of this double star system.
41 months is enough time for NASA scientists to plan their next move and get other telescopes and spacecraft in place to view the event. NASA scientists will collect data on the effects of the stellar winds of the pulsar on the gas disk surrounding the companion star as it passes through. There could be another ejection of gas material as it passes close to B1259, next time, which is an opportunity to learn more about double star systems and the cosmos.
“This just shows how powerful the wind blasting off a pulsar can be,” said co-author Jeremy Hare, also of GWU. “The pulsar’s wind is so strong that it could ultimately eviscerate the entire disk around its companion star over time.”
NASA space scientists will next view double star system B1259, later in the year, and sometime in 2016. The next passing of the pulsar through the disk of gas surrounding its companion star could be even more spectacular and unusual in nature.
You can learn more about the Chandra X-ray Observatory here.
Space & Astronomy Wiki – the constellations in the sky –
One of the first constellations in the night sky to be perceived the human eyes, Aquarius the Water Bearer was first recorded by Babylonian astronomers as “the Great One” on stones and official seals as early as the year 2000 BCE.
Located in the fourth quadrant between latitude 65-90, Aquarius the Water Bearer is the 10th largest constellation covering 980 square degrees of the night sky.
Found near Cetus (the whale), Pisces (the fish), Delphinus (the dolphin) and Eridanus (the river) on the Sea of the Southern sky, Aquarius the Water Bearer is best viewed in the evening sky in the Southern Hemisphere in spring and autumn in the Northern Hemisphere.
Look high in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere sky early in October around 10 p.m. local time (11 p.m. local daylight saving time), or early in November around 8 p.m. local time, to best see Aquarius the Water Bearer.
Look for four bright stars outlining a person with an overflowing vessel pouring water in the form of faint stars into the mouth of the star Fomalhaut in Piscis Austrinus the Southern Fish.
This is Aquarius the Water Bearer!
You can learn more about the constellation Aquarius here.
Astronomy Products – Fasten your seat belt amateur astronomers, we take off just before dawn, toward the star Spica in the constellation Virgo in the southeastern sky.
ISTAR’s new Phoenix WFT 204-6 Comet Hunter is blasting off for Comet ISON.
Featuring a f/5.9 achromatic doublet objective, fully multicoated optics and a dual-speed, 360 degree 2.5″ focuser, ISTAR’s new Phoenix WFT 204-6 is the perfect starship to take you to Comet ISON and beyond.
Your starship to the stars is waiting!
Drop by ISTAR-optical.com or a local telescope shop to have a look at ISTAR’s new Phoenix WFT 204-6. Once you have a look at this telescope, you’ll begin to sweat as you visualise your next celestial journey to Comet ISON around November 28, as it nears its closest point to the sun.
“Blink, blink, Demon Star. We know not what you are”
Ancient Astronomy –
Tonight the human journey to the beginning of space and time travels 93 light years to the constellation Perseus, to check out Algol, a bright blue beacon in the sky astronomers in Egypt and China studied extensively for centuries. Called the Demon Star by some stargazers, this bright blue star was believed by ancient Greeks to represent the blinking eye of Gorgon the Medusa, held high in the hands of Perseus the Hero. This is thought to be the case due to periodic changes in the Demon Star that occur every few days. The word Algol comes from the Arabic for al-Ghul – the ghoul.
Ancient astronomers in Egypt and China studied Algol
Modern astronomers studying Algol believe the Demon Star has a macabre habit to match its moniker. You see Algol’s a multiple star system composed of one star in the act of consuming the outer layers of the other. According to theory, two such stars in close proximity should be interacting
Modern astronomers have been studying Algol’s periodic blinking every few days, since sometime in the 17th century. In 1783, a young astronomer called John Goodricke sent a letter to the Royal Society of London suggesting this blinking could be due to a darker body passing in front of a star. It wasn’t until 1881 that University of Harvard astronomer Edward Dickering confirmed Algol has more than one sun. In fact, around 1912 a team of astronomers in Helsinki determined Algol has a brilliant blue star and bloated red star orbiting periodically close together, with a third star orbiting the pair at a distance.
Modern astronomers studied the Demon Star
The periodic blinking of the Demon Star occurs when the red bloated star passes in front of the blue star, merging the pair into a single point of light, which accounts for Algol turning blood red, before turning blue again around 10 hours later.
Click this link to watch a YouTube documentary on Algol. The documentary is a mix of different videos on the dying star, which the site has put into one show. Pretty cool stuff.
Six exo-planets are circling red dwarf star Gliese 581 20 light-years distant in the constellation Libra
Astronomy News – The human search for an exoplanet capable of being a cradle for a new human genesis found what many consider the first exoplanet with the physical makeup to make it possible. A team of planet hunters from the University of California (UC) Santa Cruz and the Carnegie Institute of Washington recently announced to the world the discovery of an exoplanet they believe has a few characteristics of an exoplanet with the right stuff to make life possible. Gliese 581g, as it’s referred too, has about three times the mass of Earth and appears to be situated in the right spot in the solar system of the red dwarf star Gliese 581 for the ingredients of life to exist. This is about dead center in what planet scientists term the habitable zone of Gliese 581, a position planet scientists believe could make it possible for water and an atmosphere to exist on this exoplanet, necessary ingredients for the formation of life, planet scientists believe.
Astronomers search for a cradle for a new human genesis
These planet hunters have been using one of the largest time-machine-to-the-stars on the planet, the Keck I Telescope in Hawaii’s W.M Keck Observatory, to journey 20 light years to the constellation of Libra to continue the search for more planets circling red dwarf star Gliese 581 that could be habitable. Planet hunters have been using the HIRES spectrometer to precisely measure the radial velocity of the host star – the motion of the star along the line of sight from Earth – and stars close to red dwarf star Gliese 581, in order to try to find other planets circling this red dwarf star. The gravitational pull of orbiting planets causes periodic changes in the radial velocity of the host star that astronomers can calculate using sophisticated mathematical techniques we’ll cover on another day. These are the techniques planet hunters used in order to find all of the stars they have found circling red dwarf star Gliese 581, which after the two most recent planet discoveries, brings the total to six exoplanets circling this distant star.
Astronomers believe Gliese 581g is in the habitable zone of its home star
The discovery of six exoplanets circling red dwarf star Gliese 581 marks the high-planet mark for the human hunt for planets capable of being a cradle for a new human genesis. Gliese 581g is the only planet of the six exoplanets discovered that astronomers have indicated, so far, as being in the life zone of the red dwarf star Gliese 581. This exoplanet orbits its parent star in about 37 days and measurements planet scientists have made of its mass indicates it’s probably a rocky planet with a definite surface and enough gravity to hang onto an atmosphere. Gliese 581g is also tidally locked to its parent star, which means that one side of the planet is always facing its host star and in perpetual daylight. This makes some planet scientists believe that the best place for life to exist would be in the terminator, the part of the planet between the day and night sides of the planet.
Astronomy News – In the next leg of the human “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time” we travel 11.4 million light years, give or take a few hundred thousand, to the Sculptor Galaxy NGC 253 (the Silver Coin Galaxy) to view an infrared mosaic of images taken by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). Part of the Sculptor group of galaxies (South Polar Group), the 7.6 magnitude Silver Coin Galaxy has infant stars in duty cocoons heating up the galaxies core and broadcasting infrared light into the universe and is the brightest member of the Sculptor group of galaxies. Young emerging stars in the infrared images shown here are concentrated in the galaxies core and along the spiral arms. The green areas are tiny dust or soot particles left after the formation of these emerging stars that have absorbed the ultraviolet light from these young stars, which makes these particles glow with infrared light the four infrared detectors on WISE can detect. The blue image on the top was taken in the short wavelengths, about 3.4 and 4.6 microns, this photo has stars of all ages scattered all over the Sculptor Galaxy.
NGC 253 is considered a starburst galaxy, and an intermediary type of spiral galaxy, with stars forming and exploding at unusually high rates in an intense star-forming period. First recorded by Caroline Herschel, the sister of astronomer William Herschel, on September 23, 1783, the Sculptor Galaxy can best be seen in the Sculptor constellation in the southern night sky in late September by stargazers using a time-machine-to-the-stars. Stargazers with good eyes and a dark sky can even view NGC 253 during this time, just be prepared to spend a little time in the search for the Silver Coin Galaxy.
The Hubble Space Telescope takes the human “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time” into the beehive
Astronomy News – We join the human “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time” as it boards the Hubble Space Telescope to travel 15,800 light years (~ 4850 parsecs) into Centaurus the Centaur to globular cluster Omega Centauri to peer into the beehive and look at individual stars. The beehive as it’s called was first noted by early star-gazer Ptolemy 2,000 years ago, both the largest and brightest globular cluster orbiting the Milky Way, the beehive is about 12 billion years old. Ptolemy didn’t have the Hubble Space Telescope to view Omega Centauri, so in his writings, he refers to the beehive as a single star. In reality, the beehive, or Omega Centauri, is a tightly packed group of about 10 million stars held together by gravity and orbiting a central gravitation mass, of some kind. In fact, the stars in the beehive are on average only about 0.1 light years apart, so close together that astronomers had to use the powerful vision of the Hubble Space Telescope to resolve individual stars.
Hubble gives us the best view of the universe we have ever had
The Hubble Space Telescope’s vision is sharp enough astronomers used the images they have collected over a four-year period of viewing globular cluster Omega Centauri to precisely measure the relative motions of over 100,000 individual stars in the beehive. In an effort to gain insight into the evolution and life cycle of tight groups of stars formed in the early universe, and try to determine if there’s, in fact, an intermediate mass black hole hidden in the beehive. This study was conducted over a four-year period by Jay Anderson and Roeland van der Marel of the Space Telescope Science Institute using Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys and high-speed, sophisticated computer programs to measure the relative motions of individual stars in the beehive.
On a clear night in the southern equatorial region of the night sky, it’s even possible to view the 3.5 magnitude beehive with the naked eye. Globular cluster Omega Centauri will appear as a fuzzy star that early astronomers believed was a single star. Use astronomical binoculars as your time-machine-to-the-stars, or a telescope, and the view becomes a wonder to behold as wide across in your viewfinder as the Full Moon. Using an 8-inch time-machine-to-the-stars you’ll view about 1,000 stars, each a faint pinprick of light, and you should notice that the beehive isn’t completely circular. Globular cluster Omega Centauri, in fact, rotates at a pretty fast speed around its central gravitational mass and astronomers believe this is one reason it’s less than circular.
Stargazers Halloween treats abound in autumn’s night sky
Winter treat for the lonely wanderer
Astronomy news (2013-10-15) – Cassiopeia the Queen is one of the first northern deep sky objects we’ll view during our “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time”. Cassiopeia the Queen is easily recognizable in autumn’s night sky using her characteristic W or M shape form and she was one of the 48 constellations originally listed by the 2nd-century Greek astronomer Ptolemy during his observations of the night sky. Today, Cassiopeia the Queen is one of 88 constellations recognized by modern stargazers in the night sky, and the abundance of magnificent open star clusters within her arms provides viewers with a chance to see a variety of outstanding celestial objects that have been entertaining stargazers for thousands of years.
Cassiopeia the Queen is a familiar sight for modern astronomers and stargazers in the mid-northern latitudes of planet Earth and is often one of the first constellations in the northern sky beginning stargazers journey to view. Board your time-machine-to-the-stars near the end of October, or the beginning of November, and take the family on a journey through time and space to visit Cassiopeia the Queen. A visit with Cassiopeia the Queen will open a child’s mind to the possibilities of the universe, before them, and your wife will be able to tell her friends that you took her out last night.
Both astronomers and ancient navigators used Cassiopeia as a guide to finding their way
One of the best open star clusters you can view with the naked eye is 6.5 magnitude NGC 129, a large, bright, open cluster of stars 8×50 astronomical binoculars will reveal to have six to twelve brighter stars nestled within the collective glow of a field of stars too faint to resolve using binoculars. You should see about 35 celestial bodies in this region of space and time 5,200 light years distant from your position on the Earth. Look toward the north of two 9th magnitude stars, near the center of NGC 129, and you’ll find the Cepheid variable DL Cassiopeiae. DL Cassiopeiae will fluctuate between 8.6 and 9.3 magnitudes, over the course of an eight-day cycle.
The central star in Cassiopeia’s characteristic W is Gamma Cassiopeiae, a prototype for a class of irregular variable stars believed to be rapidly spinning type-B celestial bodies often fluctuating by as much as magnitude 1.5 or more, Gamma Cassiopeiae will flicker between 2.2 and 3.4 magnitudes as you watch her nightly dance and this star at maximum brightness outshines both Alpha Cassiopeiae and Beta Cassiopeiae. Astronomers believe these apparent fluctuations are due to a decretion disk around this star resulting from the rapid spinning of the star, which results in some of the star’s mass forming a decretion disk. Gamma Cassiopeiae is also a spectroscopic binary star with an orbital period of about 204 days and astronomers believe Gamma Cassiopeiae’s companion star is about the same relative mass as Sol. Part of a small group of stellar sources in the night sky that beam X-ray radiation about 10 times higher than the X-rays emitted from other type-B stars across the cosmos, Gamma Cassiopeiae exhibits both short-term and long-term cycles of x-ray emission. Stargazers should also be able to view Gamma Cassiopeiae as an optical double star, with a faint magnitude 11 companion star, about 2 arcseconds distant from Gamma Cassiopeiae.
Chinese astronomers studied Gamma Cassiopeiae
Ancient stargazers in China called Gamma Cassiopeiae Tsih, which loosely translates as “the whip”, but no references have been found in Arabic or Latin texts of Gamma Cassiopeiae being referred to using a different name. Modern stargazers refer to Gamma Cassiopeiae by a number of different designations, including 27 Cassiopeiae, HR 264, HD 5394, and others. Modern astronauts often use Gamma Cassiopeiae as a star guide because it’s a relatively bright celestial object and in previous space missions this star was used as an easily recognizable navigational reference point in the night sky.
Astronomers note two Messier objects
M103 (NGC 581) is the first of two Messier objects in Cassiopeia’s arms viewable through a six-inch time-machine-to-the-stars and should appear as about three dozen stars grouped in a triangular area 6′ across. A fairly compact open cluster, M103 will be 1 degree east of Delta Cassiopeiae, and is the left bottom star of Cassiopeia’s characteristic W shape marking her throne in the night sky. Pierre Mechain was first given credit for seeing this open cluster in the night sky in 1781. Stargazers using 8×50 binoculars will see about 25 magnitude 10 or fainter stars in their view and a string of four stars immediately to M103’s southeast, which adds to the beauty of viewing M103, significantly.
The second Messier object in Cassiopeia cataloged by Messier is M52 (NGC 7654), you can locate M52 by drawing a line from Alpha Cassiopeiae through Beta Cassiopeiae, and then extending your line an equal distance to M52. An 8-inch time-machine-to-the-stars will reveal about 75 stars in the night sky clumped in various patterns along the edge of the Milky Way that aren’t lost among the background points of light behind these stars. One of the richest open clusters in Cassiopeia’s arms and north of the celestial equator, Messier made note of M52 in his catalog in 1774. This open cluster will appear as a nebulous mass of about 100 stars in 8×50 astronomical binoculars, with a few individual stars that you can resolve a little better. Stargazers looking for a little extra should look to the north of M52 to find Harrington 12, a wide triangular looking asterism containing about a dozen 5th to 9th magnitude stars, which will appear spectacular in low-power astronomical binoculars.
The Owl spreads its wings
Journey less than 3 degrees south of Delta Cassiopeiae to find the spectacular Owl Cluster (NGC 457), a celestial object ancient stargazers could plainly see in the north night sky, the Owl Cluster’s wings will be clearly viewable using a 4-inch time-machine-to-the-stars. Stargazers can also locate Delta Cassiopeiae by using 5th magnitude Phi Cassiopeiae and 7th magnitude HD 7902, which lie to the southeast of the Owl Cluster. The Own’s eastern wing is a line of four bright stars while the western wing is composed of two pairs of stars arranged in a long rectangle. The brightest star in the Owl Cluster will shine at 8.6 magnitude and will appear a little orange in color to star gazers.