January 17, 2018

30.05.10: The Faces of Gum 19.

Take a look at the Nebula pictured above. This is the current visual state of affairs of the nebula known as Gum 19, 22,000 light-years distant in the southern constellation Vela. This rich star forming region is pictured in the Digitized Sky Survey above, and the seemingly non-descript Gum 19 Nebula is perched towards center. Using a an infra-red spectrograph known as Sofia coupled to ESO’s New Technology Telescope, astronomers were able to capture Gum 19 as never before. The nebula itself seems to be canted about 90 degrees to our line of sight, hence its two-faced, dark/light appearance. Gum 19 also houses a monster; a supergiant blue star known as V391 Velorum. This tempestuous star illuminates its nebulous surroundings, and has a surface temperature of 50,000°F. Such a beast is not destined to last for long; blue giants typically go supernova within a 10 million year time span. Will V391 be the next visual supernova in our galaxy to pop? Whatever is the case, enjoy the above ESO provided view while you can!

24.04.10-Our Existence: Justified.

The formation of the Earth poses a key dilemma to planetary accretionary theory; namely, why are we here at all? Standard models would say that the Earth and other planets coalesced out of the proto-solar nebula to form. However, spiral density waves within the same nebula should have drawn down orbital energy to shorten the planets orbit, slowly drawing it in. Looking at other “hot Jupiter” systems, that’s just what we see; large gas giant worlds that formed further out, only to migrate inward into tight orbits… just how did we end up in our nice, neat orbit?

Now, computational astrophysicist Mordecai-Mark Mac Loc at the American Museum of Natural History may have the answer. Accounting for temperature and spin variability, resonance key holes can occur; planets like Earth may simply spiral inward and get hung up in these safe zones between dragging pressure waves. Of course, a majority of proto-planets don’t make the cut and simply spiral inward to a fiery end, but they’re not around for us to see today. One discovery that would perhaps give observational weight to this theory would be the discovery of exo-Earths also parked in nice neat orbits… the Kepler space telescope may pave the way for this discovery as it stares off into Cygnus. For now, thank computational mathematics that you’re here reading this, just as it says you should be!

Astro-Event of the Week: October 13th-19th 2008. Spot the Zodiacal Light!

   This week’s challenge is an elusive one. With the ecliptic at a high morning angle and the autumnal equinox behind us, now is a good time to attempt to spot the zodiacal light . Look to the east, about an hour or so before local sunrise. [Read more...]