Deep Sky Astronomy & Telescopes

Supernova at Twilight

April 6, 2016

In his novel The Twilight of Briareus (John Day, 1974), Richard Cowper, who in reality was John Middleton Murry, Jr., wrote about a fictitious star called Delta Briareus that goes supernova (true, there is no constellation called Briareus, but bear with me). Because it is only 130 light years out, the supernova showers the Earth […]

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Aftermath: Debris Disk around a Red Giant

March 10, 2016

Debris disks around young stars are keys to understanding how planets form. But what about debris around older stars? We now have the best view ever achieved of the dusty disk around an aging star — a red giant — and we’re forced to ask whether such a debris disk, so similar to what we […]

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New Eyes on the Kuiper Belt

March 7, 2016

You probably recall how tricky it was to find 2014 MU69, the small Kuiper Belt Object that will be the next destination for our New Horizons probe. The actual extended mission to 2014 MU69 awaits a summer 2016 review within NASA, but because trajectory changes to get there could not be delayed, the New Horizons […]

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A New Kind of ‘Fast Radio Burst’

March 3, 2016

A new paper in Nature offers further information about Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), which we last looked at only a few days back. The February 24 post examined work on FRBs that were consistent with what has been seen before — transient pulses lasting mere milliseconds, while emitting huge amounts of energy (see Fast Radio […]

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Fast Radio Bursts: First Distance Measurement

February 24, 2016

Have we finally traced a Fast Radio Burst to its place of origin? News from the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) radio telescopes in eastern Australia, along with confirming data from the Japanese Subaru instrument in Hawaii, suggests the answer is yes. Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) are transient radio pulses that last scant […]

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Pondering Gravitational Waves

February 11, 2016

“Einstein would be beaming,” said National Science Foundation director France Córdova as she began this morning’s news conference announcing the discovery of gravitational waves. I can hardly disagree, because we have in this discovery yet another confirmation of the reality of General Relativity. Caltech’s Kip Thorne, who discussed black hole mergers way back in 1994 […]

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A New Look at the ‘Big Whack’

February 3, 2016

Somewhere a decade or so back in these pages a Centauri Dreams commenter described the event that formed our Moon as ‘the big whack.’ Although I hadn’t run across it before, the phrase turns out to have been common parlance for what is now thought to be a massive collision between the Earth and an […]

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A Telescope Eight Times the Diameter of Earth

February 2, 2016

If you’re looking for detailed imagery of a distant astronomical object, VLBI (Very Long Baseline Interferometry) can deliver the goods. As witness the image below, which the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is calling “the highest resolution astronomical image ever made.” Here we see radio emission from a jet of particles moving close to the […]

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Is Proxima Centauri a Bound Star?

January 19, 2016

About 1.4 million years from now, the K-class star Gliese 710, now 64 light years distant in the constellation Serpens, will brush past our Solar System. Moving to within 50,000 AU, the star could be expected to have an unsettling effect on cometary orbits in the Oort Cloud, perhaps dislodging some of these comets to […]

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Stellar Age: Recalibrating Our Tools

January 5, 2016

Making the call on the age of a star is tricky business. Yet we need to master the technique, for stellar age is a window into a star’s astrophysical properties, important in themselves and for understanding the star in the context of its interstellar environment. And for those of us who look at SETI and […]

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