A Dying Star Shooting Gigantic Balls Of Plasma Twice the Size of Mars

A Dying Star Shooting Gigantic Balls Of Plasma Twice the Size of Mars

Numerous people love to do stargazing. But what if they see some cannonballs? That’s what Hubble has spotted in space recently.

Researchers believe the blobs of plasma may start the explanation about the planetary nebula formation. According to UPI, the cannonballs were ejected from V Hydrae, which is a bloated red giant 1,200 light-years from the Earth.

Hubble data shows that they are twice the size of Mars. Red giants are considered dying stars in the final stages of life, exhausting their nuclear fuel.

The plasma balls are zooming so fast through space it would take only 30 minutes for them to travel from Earth to the Moon, researchers said. According to the astronomers’ estimation, the stellar cannon has been shooting plasma balls for approximately 400 years.

The fireballs present a puzzle to astronomers because the ejected material could not have been shot out by the host star, called V Hydrae. Astronomers suspect that V Hydrae has likely discarded half of its mass into space during the star’s “death throes.” It has expanded in size and shed its layers into space.

Because scientists do not believe that V Hydrae could eject such balls of fire, the best explanation is that the materials were shot out by an unseen companion star. The theory suggests that the companion star would have to be situated in an elliptical orbit that moves it close to V Hydrae’s atmosphere every 8.5 years.

As the other star enters the red giant’s outer atmosphere, it gobbles up the material, which then settles into a disk around the companion star. The disk serves as the launch pad for plasma balls that travel at approximately half million miles per hour.

Raghvendra Sahai, the study’s lead author and an astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), says the light of V Hydrae is obscured about every 17 years.

Researchers say that because of the wobble of the jet direction, the plasma balls alternate between passing in front and behind the star system, hiding the dying star from sight.

Sahai says the detection of cosmic cannonballs was the first time they witnessed the process. He said that it was quite pleasing as well because the research helped explain mysterious things observed about V Hydrae by other scientists.

“This discovery was quite surprising,” said Sahai.

Sahai hopes the findings would be helpful in seeing structures in planetary nebulae. He and his colleagues also hope to use Hubble to further observe the V Hydrae star system.

Details of the new study are published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Gaia’s Billion Star Map Hints At Treasures To Come

Gaia’s Billion Star Map Hints At Treasures To Come


Gaia’s first sky map. Source: ESA

The first catalogue of more than a billion stars from ESA’s Gaia satellite was published today – the largest all-sky survey of celestial objects to date.

On its way to assembling the most detailed 3D map ever made of our Milky Way galaxy, Gaia has pinned down the precise position on the sky and the brightness of 1142 million stars.

As a taster of the richer catalogue to come in the near future, today’s release also features the distances and the motions across the sky for more than two million stars.

“Gaia is at the forefront of astrometry, charting the sky at precisions that have never been achieved before,” says Alvaro Giménez, ESA’s Director of Science.

Gaia mapping the stars of the Milky Way. Source: ESA.

Gaia mapping the stars of the Milky Way. Source: ESA.

“Today’s release gives us a first impression of the extraordinary data that await us and that will revolutionise our understanding of how stars are distributed and move across our Galaxy.”

Launched 1000 days ago, Gaia started its scientific work in July 2014. This first release is based on data collected during its first 14 months of scanning the sky, up to September 2015.

“The beautiful map we are publishing today shows the density of stars measured by Gaia across the entire sky, and confirms that it collected superb data during its first year of operations,” says Timo Prusti, Gaia project scientist at ESA.

Source: ESA

Gaia: Here Comes the Sun

Gaia: Here Comes the Sun

What would it look like to return home from outside our galaxy?

Although designed to answer greater questions, recent data from ESA’s robotic Gaia mission is helping to provide a uniquelymodern perspective on humanity’s place in the universe. Gaia orbits the Sun near the Earth and resolves star’s positions so precisely that it can determine a slight shift from its changing vantage point over the course of a year, a shift that is proportionately smaller for more distant stars — and so determines distance.

In the first sequence of the video, an illustration of the Milky Way is shown that soon resolves into a three-dimensional visualization of Gaia star data. A few notable stars are labelled with their common names, while others stars are labelled with numbers from Gaia’s catalog. Eventually the viewer arrives at our home star Sol (the Sun), then resolving the reflective glow of its third planet: Earth.

The featured video is based on just over 600,000 stars, but Gaia is on track to measure the parallax distances to over one billion stars over its planned five year mission.

Credit: Galaxy Illustration: Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org), Star Data: Gaia Mission, ESA, Antoni Sagristà Sellés (U. Heidelberg) et al.

Temperatures of the Universe: From Absolute Zero to ‘Absolute Hot’ [Infographic]

Temperatures of the Universe: From Absolute Zero to ‘Absolute Hot’ [Infographic]

What do we really know about the range of temperatures in the universe? Probably not much. We perceive the world based on our ’earthly’ feelings: we are cold when the temperature drops below −20°C, and we sweat when it gets higher that 35°C.

To help you get a better idea of what hot and cold really mean, BBC Future teamed up with the Information is Beautiful Studio have created an interesting infographic.

Let’s explore the temperatures of the Universe from Absolute zero (–273.15°C or –459.67°F) to ‘Absolute hot‘ or Planck temperature, which has the value 1.416785(71)×10^32 kelvin (where 1 kelvin = [°C] + 273.15 or ([°F] + 459.67) × 5⁄9); below which, conventional laws of physics break down.