Space Telescopes Observe Unprecedented Explosion

by Nancy Atkinson on April 7, 2011

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Images from Swift's Ultraviolet/Optical (white, purple) and X-ray telescopes (yellow and red) were combined in this view of GRB 110328A. The blast was detected only in X-rays, which were collected over a 3.4-hour period on March 28. Credit: NASA/Swift/Stefan Immler

From a NASA press release:

NASA’s Swift, Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory have teamed up to study one of the most puzzling cosmic blasts yet observed. More than a week later, high-energy radiation continues to brighten and fade from its location.

Astronomers say they have never seen anything this bright, long-lasting and variable before. Usually, gamma-ray bursts mark the destruction of a massive star, but flaring emission from these events never lasts more than a few hours.

Although research is ongoing, astronomers say that the unusual blast likely arose when a star wandered too close to its galaxy’s central black hole. Intense tidal forces tore the star apart, and the infalling gas continues to stream toward the hole. According to this model, the spinning black hole formed an outflowing jet along its rotational axis. A powerful blast of X- and gamma rays is seen if this jet is pointed in our direction.

On March 28, Swift’s Burst Alert Telescope discovered the source in the constellation Draco when it erupted with the first in a series of powerful X-ray blasts. The satellite determined a position for the explosion, now cataloged as gamma-ray burst (GRB) 110328A, and informed astronomers worldwide.

This is a visible-light image of GRB 110328A's host galaxy (arrow) taken on April 4 by the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3. The galaxy is 3.8 billion light-years away. Credit: NASA/ESA/A. Fruchter (STScI)

As dozens of telescopes turned to study the spot, astronomers quickly noticed that a small, distant galaxy appeared very near the Swift position. A deep image taken by Hubble on April 4 pinpoints the source of the explosion at the center of this galaxy, which lies 3.8 billion light-years away.

That same day, astronomers used NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to make a four-hour-long exposure of the puzzling source. The image, which locates the object 10 times more precisely than Swift can, shows that it lies at the center of the galaxy Hubble imaged.

“We know of objects in our own galaxy that can produce repeated bursts, but they are thousands to millions of times less powerful than the bursts we are seeing now. This is truly extraordinary,” said Andrew Fruchter at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory completed this four-hour exposure of GRB 110328A on April 4. The center of the X-ray source corresponds to the very center of the host galaxy imaged by Hubble (red cross). Credit: NASA/CXC/ Warwick/A. Levan

“We have been eagerly awaiting the Hubble observation,” said Neil Gehrels, the lead scientist for Swift at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “The fact that the explosion occurred in the center of a galaxy tells us it is most likely associated with a massive black hole. This solves a key question about the mysterious event.”

Most galaxies, including our own, contain central black holes with millions of times the sun’s mass; those in the largest galaxies can be a thousand times larger. The disrupted star probably succumbed to a black hole less massive than the Milky Way’s, which has a mass four million times that of our sun

Astronomers previously have detected stars disrupted by supermassive black holes, but none have shown the X-ray brightness and variability seen in GRB 110328A. The source has repeatedly flared. Since April 3, for example, it has brightened by more than five times.

Scientists think that the X-rays may be coming from matter moving near the speed of light in a particle jet that forms as the star’s gas falls toward the black hole.

“The best explanation at the moment is that we happen to be looking down the barrel of this jet,” said Andrew Levan at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, who led the Chandra observations. “When we look straight down these jets, a brightness boost lets us view details we might otherwise miss.”

This brightness increase, which is called relativistic beaming, occurs when matter moving close to the speed of light is viewed nearly head on.

Astronomers plan additional Hubble observations to see if the galaxy’s core changes brightness.

For more information see this NASA press release.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

iantresman April 7, 2011 at 4:24 PM

The ray-like structures remind me a bit of the filamentation in the Glowing Eye Nebula nebulae and the Cartwheel Nebula, see: (http://) goo.gl/VQa6z which in turn reminds me of a dense plasma focus, noted by others, see the peer-reviewed paper:

Milanese, M.M.; et al, “Filaments in the Sheath Evolution of the Dense Plasma Focus as Applied to Intense Auroral Observations”, IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science, (Aug. 2007), Volume: 35 Issue:4, page(s): 808 – 812. DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1109/TPS.2007.897483

Hon. Salacious B. Crumb April 7, 2011 at 4:37 PM

Sigh. Even more gobbledygook by the master of the irrelevant.
Great. Here we have an unrelated IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science is NOT a proper astrophysical paper!!!!
Peer review by electricians is like comparing fish riding bicycles. I.e. Aurora and supernovae, eh? Now, really. Stating a range of eighteen degrees of freedom is like believing in fairy-dust and Peter Pan! “I do believe in fairies. I do, I do”

It a’int even relevant to the science, sunshine! It complete and utter nonsense!

What’s worst, is that you already know it! Bah!

Mr Mike April 7, 2011 at 8:44 PM

The way you put that it almost sounds like the old Firesign Theatre LP, “Waiting for the Electrician… or Someone Like Him”. Maybe even the Sherlock Holmes parody “The Tail of the Giant Rat of Sumatra” which has “The Electrician” as one of the staring characters. If these references do not sound like anything you have heard then you are to be envied friend, because Dear Friends you get to hear all these for the First Time.

Mike C

Hon. Salacious B. Crumb April 7, 2011 at 9:30 PM

More like a Anton Chekov play, methinks. To quote Chekov;

“No psychologist should pretend to understand what he does not understand… Only fools and charlatans know everything and understand nothing.”

Seems like he’s got it in one. Ich sterbe… (I really wish this guy would!)

The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians April 7, 2011 at 4:59 PM

The image actually looks like something like what a kindergarden child might draw for a star, or one of those star knives like Japanese ninjas use, It could also be manufactured by the telescope spider or even perhaps a new trendy corporate logo.
I know! I know! You are absolutely right! It looks like ray-structure from some dense plasma focus! Quick throw out all your now antiquated physics, astronomy and astrophysics books; plasma cosmology and the electric universe now rules. Make sure all you lost astronomers and astrophysicists from now on subscribe to the IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science, and dump all those other tawdry publications. All the answers are there.
We have all be so foolish not to realise the truth! How silly were we! Master electrician iantresman has shown us our wrong ways. He has made us see the light and the way of the future! All hail our next brilliant Einstein!

Sound ridiculous, doesn’t it? Yet we really expected to take you equally seriously here?

Folks. Now where is my clown suit when you need it?

Jon Hanford April 7, 2011 at 5:25 PM

“The ray-like structures….”

I could be wrong (please let me know if so) but I think the ray-like structures in the top image are instrumental artifacts from the imager on Swift. Calling Don Alexander……:)

iantresman April 7, 2011 at 5:30 PM

That was my first thought, except that in the article, Andrew Levan at the University of Warwick said that “The best explanation at the moment is that we happen to be looking down the barrel of this jet”. But another view would be useful.

Don Alexander April 7, 2011 at 9:26 PM

You called?? ^^

Jon is completely right.

all we are seeing is the special PSF-shape of the Swift XRT in a case where it has observed large amounts of X-rays in so-called Photon Counting mode.

Anyone who has ever seen the optical image of a bright, possibly saturated star should know that the optics tent to spread out the light, possibly create cross-shaped beams (resulting from the bars that hold the secondary mirror), or other diffraction artifacts or even CCD blooming if “the cup runneth over”. All this stuff has NOTHING AT ALL to do with the actual shape or extent of the star, which is still a milliarcsecond point source!!

And pretty much exactly the same is occurring here. It’s just the optics of a Wolter-style X-ray telescope.

And before anyone gets more crazy ideas, the circle + box + larger circle shape of the brighter stars is a similar artifact for the UVOT telescope.

Hon. Salacious B. Crumb April 7, 2011 at 10:09 PM

I think Jon had wrote this at the same time as I was writing my text below; (April 7, 2011 at 5:31 pm)
I.e. “Optical Design & Engineering : Advances in ray-tracing techniques for multiple-aperture telescopes” http://spie.org/x23643.xml?ArticleID=x23643
It shows the generation of a similar PSF-shapes.
Just saying.

Jon Hanford April 7, 2011 at 11:15 PM

Thanks for the reply Don. The artifact sure looked familiar (see my Google Image link below).

Sal, right indeed, I missed your post (& thanks for the SPIE link, enjoyed the read on x-ray optics).

As for the event itself, I’ll be interested to see a writeup on these observations once they’re analyzed. Neat stuff!

Lawrence B. Crowell April 7, 2011 at 10:48 PM

I would tend to agree. This looks like some sort of aperature effect.

LC

Torbjorn Larsson OM April 8, 2011 at 3:16 PM

That was what I surmised, but I believe my will to live on (in the comments) got an electric shock and fled to an alternate plasma universe. :-/

And the eternal question lurked, “if a troll comments on the web and no one is around to reply, does it make a wave?”

Glad you guys fight for science though!

iantresman April 7, 2011 at 5:27 PM

Do I note a tinge of sarcasm. No surprise when other scientists are equally puzzled. Of course plasma scientists have nothing useful to add. Why should a paper published in a peer-reviewed plasma science journal have any relevance to a universe where 99.999% of what’s visible is made of plasma.

Where else can you look down the barrel of a [particle] jet? A plasma gun of course, another name for the dense plasma focus.

Do I expect you to take me seriously? Of course not, how should I expect an anonymous individual who claims to put science first, to behave. It means you don’t have to (or are unable to) bother with any science.

The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians April 7, 2011 at 5:59 PM

Sarcasm? What! Your kidding me.
Also my expensive big plasma TV has heaps of plasma in it I hear, but it doesn’t produce patterns like your are currently imagining.
Our visible universe is 99.999% plasma. Wow! Well that might just explain why at night the sky appears so darn dark. As there seems so much space in the entire universe, where there is no bright plasma or plasma at all, then all this plasma must make only a very tiny fraction compared to the volume of the entire universe? Now I’m puzzled!

Torbjorn Larsson OM April 8, 2011 at 3:37 PM

That is all sorts of fallacies round up in one, but mostly begging the question.

The question is if plasma is relevant to parts of the universe, and the claim here is based on the assumption that it is relevant to parts of the universe.

This is setting aside the point that we may be discussing different parts of the universe. It is also setting aside the not small point that we already have the prediction from properties of astronomical observatories, tested many times over.

Also, it is using argument from repetition, since the unwarranted assumption has been raised in about every PU thread to date.

Also, it is special pleading in the form of “appeal to inflation” which, if it isn’t instituted as a fallacy I now do. Analogously to appeal to probability a quantity is inflated. The universe is ~ 75 % energy (DE), 25 % matter (DM + LM), 4 % bosonic matter (LM) that can make plasma. So what if “99.999 %” of LM is plasma?

And indeed the standard cosmology is driven by everything _but_ LM. LM, whether plasma or not, is merely sprinkled as gravitationally formed gas aggregations around the place. The architect and the decorator was general relativity.

Torbjorn Larsson OM April 8, 2011 at 3:48 PM

Actually, EESE’s comment on the visible universe puts the same inflation and irrelevancy of plasma for cosmology in a more basic box. Nice!

Olaf April 8, 2011 at 7:21 PM

No, you “summised” the conclusion based on the word “aren’t”. People can judge other statements for themselves, referring to the peer-reviewed citations I gave.

Where exactly is this 99.999% plasma located?
You even fail to grasp this concept of what the original claim of 99.999% really means.

iantresman April 9, 2011 at 8:41 AM

Then please explain, I am sure others are interested.

Hon. Salacious B. Crumb April 9, 2011 at 10:24 AM

If you can’t even explain it, then how the hell do you expect everyone else?
Dud science, is exactly that, dud science! You’ve got it wrapped up in spades, brother!

iantresman April 9, 2011 at 12:30 PM

I stand by the statement that our visible universe is 99.999% plasma. If you agree with Olaf, then why not add something constructive, and explain what you think the “original claim” means. I do not know what Olaf is criticising. I’m not going to guess when you can both just state it. I might even agree with you.

Hon. Salacious B. Crumb April 7, 2011 at 5:31 PM

Hey resident expert iantresman! Do you know how X-ray telescopes work and what kinds of diffraction patterns they produce?
I hear you are a chemist, so I’d properly assume you know something about X-ray diffraction techniques that can be applied in chemistry for detecting atomic crystalline lattices by crystallography.
Perhaps you could enlighten us on their observed ray-like structures? Do these, too, remind you of some dense plasma focus, too?

Do you want a peer-reviewed reference for this too to prove my point?

Let’s see. How about this article “Optical Design & Engineering : Advances in ray-tracing techniques for multiple-aperture telescopes” http://spie.org/x23643.xml?ArticleID=x23643

Look at the image of the so-called polychromatic point-spread function (PSF). Does this remind you of anything, too?

According to this article; “We have successfully implemented a flexible and efficient ray-trace approach for multiple-aperture telescopes and have shown that the computed PSFs agree with experimental results.”

Is not an X-ray telescope, at least by its design, a multiple-aperture telescope?

Could this be the source of such “a dense plasma focus” too?

Please tell us more. We certainly like to hear about other personal theories and speculations! Pray do tell!

As Isaac Asimov said;”The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka!” but “That’s funny…” (I don’t think he meant it so literally though!)

iantresman April 7, 2011 at 5:44 PM

Diffraction patterns produced by an x-ray telescope, while they may superficially look like a rayed object, aren’t. By the say, I am neither a chemist, nor an electrician. What qualifications contribute to your expertise?

Personal theories are not allowed here. But I note another paper which suggest that astrophysical jets may have something to do with the physics of plasma guns, see:

Contopoulos, J., “A Simple Type of Magnetically Driven Jets: an Astrophysical Plasma Gun“, Astrophysical Journal v.450, p.616 (available online in full).

But wait, there must be a mistake. It’s authored by a NASA researcher, and published in an astrophysics journal. And then there is:

Bostick, W. H., “Simulation of Astrophysical Processes in the Laboratory”, Nature 179, 214 – 215 (26 January 1957); doi: (http://) dx.doi.org/10.1038/179214a0

Published in Nature no less, but you have a simple get-out clause, it’s more than 6-months old, so obviously the laws of physics have expired in that time.

Hon. Salacious B. Crumb April 7, 2011 at 6:22 PM

“By the say, I am neither a chemist, nor an electrician.”
You are either a liar or con artist aren’t you?
Your linked site, says; “…I also have a B.Sc (Hons) in Chemistry from the University of East Anglia,…” http://www.plasma-universe.com/index.php/User:Iantresman
That would make you a chemist, don’t you think?

If you can’t even admit that as a decent person, then everything else you say here is really quite irrelevant.

iantresman April 7, 2011 at 8:19 PM

I never denied a degree in chemistry. That doesn’t make me a chemist. On the other hand, if you’re suggesting that I need only a degree in astronomy to become an astronomer, then I might be tempted.

Do you have any qualifications to speak of?

DrFlimmer April 7, 2011 at 8:26 PM

What? I have a degree (that is to say two – a B.Sc. and a M.Sc.) in Astrophysics, so, yeah, I consider myself an Astrophysicist, especially since I had to do one research each (both dealing with radiation spectra of blazars, which is also the topic of my Ph.D. work I’ve begun last year).

How did you get a degree in Chemistry without doing any form of research? Or is the university system of your country (I assume America) so much different from the German system?

Hon. Salacious B. Crumb April 7, 2011 at 6:54 PM

Wow. Now you want to rely on some 1957 Bostick paper to prove some phenomena observed in 2011! All this is some divine unquestionable proof. Frankly, what you say is all quite ludicrous and irrelevant if you ask me.

As for the diffractions produced by X-ray telescopes, you’re reply here means we can only surmise you don’t know. (Just saying “aren’t” really proves my point.)

You do realise this object is 3.8 billion light years away? Clearly the source of the emissions at this distance is just an unresolvable point source. (How big do you reckon the ‘spikes’ are in arc seconds.)

As we always seem to be able to show, again and again, you’re quite out of your depth!

Hon. Salacious B. Crumb April 7, 2011 at 6:56 PM

Correction: As for the diffractions produced by X-ray telescopes, your reply here means we can only surmise you don’t know. (Just saying “aren’t” really proves my point.)

DrFlimmer April 7, 2011 at 8:08 PM

(Disclaimer: If anyone does not get the irony of the following, he/she shouldn’t read it. Just sayin’.)

Oh, Salacious, how dare you? We all know that redshift has nothing to do with distance, so how can we know it is 3.8 billion ly away? Could also be just on our doorstep. What about a death-ray-plasma-gun from some freakin’ aliens trying to destroy the earth?

Olaf April 8, 2011 at 6:56 PM

I made no such claim, but that’s funny, like quoting the Bible and suggesting that it proves the existence of a deity.

Actually your promotion of EU is exactly the same way how creationists are trying to push their ideas. Quote mining is one such an example.

You are the scientific equivalent as the creationist.

DrFlimmer April 7, 2011 at 6:17 PM

These rays are just an artifact of the telescope. The jet is too bright, causing these artifacts. Like these 4-rayed stars on Hubble images. Nothing to worry about.

Jon Hanford April 7, 2011 at 8:34 PM

Well, I seem to remember other imagery from the Swift XRT (generated by GRBs, not nuclear jets in galaxies) that appear similar:

http://www.google.com/images?hl=en&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&gbv=2&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=FBueTd2gN4XWgQeqt4jMDw&ved=0CDMQBSgA&q=grb+swift+x+ray&spell=1&biw=1000&bih=478

(also no sign of ‘rays’ in the higher-res image taken by CXO a few days after the initial Swift detection on 28 March. Too late? Wrong wavelength?) :D

iantresman April 7, 2011 at 8:52 PM

I have no problem if the ray-like spokes turn out to be artifacts, though their absence does not disprove the dense plasma focus model.

Hon. Salacious B. Crumb April 7, 2011 at 9:09 PM

You can’t wiggle out of this one this time…

All you just prove your initial argument was to create a very deliberate and fraudulent premise to fool others.

Also using your own specious arguments… It also does not prove “the dense plasma model” either.

As we all know; a half-truth by you is no better than a lie.

Let’s see; You say “By the say, I am neither a chemist, nor an electrician.” Then you say; “I never denied a degree in chemistry. That doesn’t make me a chemist.”

No. You are absolutely right. It just makes you look like a bloody fool!

iantresman April 7, 2011 at 9:22 PM

Do you really understand proof in science, or do you deliberately misapply it to anything I write? I have nothing to worry about if your best argument is claim people are lying and call them names.

iantresman April 7, 2011 at 10:32 PM

>You are only doing this to avoiding scrutiny

I gave up chemistry after finishing my degree. I am not a chemist. Just like yourself, anybody can check my background on the web, it is not hidden.

But thank you for continuing to feel the need to insult me, it can’t be easy hiding behind an inscrutable pseudonym from an inscrutable ivory tower. Who’s avoiding scrutiny?

Hon. Salacious B. Crumb April 8, 2011 at 3:36 AM

It is not me making the unfounded comments. You actually made the assertion, it was not me. Also who here is feeding out all this EU/PC garbage. Again, it is not me, now is it? If you cannot defend your own written words, that isn’t my problem.

As for the chemistry stuff, all I said; “I hear you are a chemist, so I’d properly assume you know something about X-ray diffraction techniques that can be applied in chemistry for detecting atomic crystalline lattices by crystallography.” I then said “Perhaps you could enlighten us on their observed ray-like structures? Do these, too, remind you of some dense plasma focus, too?”

If you has done chemistry, as you say, your surely would have studied it? So if you did this degree, anyone with half a brain would immediately comprehend that the actual comment is on “X-ray diffraction techniques” and spoke to nothing at all here about “your degree” here. [It would have been discussed generally in Physical Chemistry and specifically in Polymer and Material Chemistry in most degree courses. It is near impossible to avoid.] Logically, if you studied it, you likely say something about it.

Funny, too. You did this exact same thing when we were taking about mythical nucleosynthesis in the solar magnetic fields, lithium spallation and spallation using neutron sources in chemistry. Like now, you don’t seem to know much about it or are quite reticent to talk about it.

Why, I wonder?

Hon. Salacious B. Crumb April 7, 2011 at 9:50 PM

Again from your very own words, Let’s see; You say ;

“By the say, I am neither a chemist, nor an electrician.”
Then you say; “I never denied a degree in chemistry. That doesn’t make me a chemist.” and yet you now also say;
“Yes there was research in my British chemistry degree.”

To deny you are a chemist when you have been trained in chemistry proves either that you are quite deluded or a liar.

I was actually saying. If you have a degree in chemistry, you should know something about X-ray diffraction. Why therefore would any sane person avoid it, eh?

You are only doing this to avoiding scrutiny for your deliberate purpose of tricking others to your unsubstantiated electric universe nonsense. You are just using unnecessary semantics to pretend otherwise just to avoid exposing your deliberate deceptive tactics. Except this time, you won’t be getting away with it!

iantresman April 7, 2011 at 10:32 PM

>You are only doing this to avoiding scrutiny

I gave up chemistry after finishing my degree. I am not a chemist. Just like yourself, anybody can check my background on the web, it is not hidden.

But thank you for continuing to feel the need to insult me, it can’t be easy hiding behind an inscrutable pseudonym from an inscrutable ivory tower. Who’s avoiding scrutiny?

Torbjorn Larsson OM April 7, 2011 at 4:31 PM

If a supernova is the death scream of a star, what was observed here amounts to pure torture.

Poor little star.

Torbjorn Larsson OM April 7, 2011 at 4:34 PM

Which would have been fun, if not the thread was already filled with our own prolonged torture. My excuses for not updating and adding hurt to harm! :-/

DrFlimmer April 7, 2011 at 6:20 PM

At least, this was a short kind of torture. Galactic X-ray binaries, like the famous Cygnus X-1, contain lightweight black holes that only suck on the star like on a straw. It’s the very same process but much slower.. THAT’S what I call torture. ;)

Hon. Salacious B. Crumb April 7, 2011 at 8:48 PM

@ Mr. iantresman’s first comment;

Actually,, according to the NASA source, the rays are 1 arcsec long (1/60th of one degree). At 3.8 billion light years, how long are the rays do you think?

The answer is about 1 million light years. Using the diameter of the rays, the object would have to be 2 to 4 million light years across. The Milky Way is only just 100,000 light years across.
This object would then have to be the size of the some known galaxy clusters! Again. If the object were this size, then how does “events never lasts more than a few hours.” I.e. It is totally impossible for an object or explosion this size appear a couple of million light-years across. Therefore we can only conclude the ‘explosion’ or ‘or your plasma source’ can only be a point source to have such variations, don’t you think?
Using your words of your own website and your explanation of the phenomena of “Dense Plasma Forces”, absolutely proves this is totally unrelated to this story of a cosmic ‘explosion’.
Attempting to associate this event with dense plasma as an explanation of some “dense plasma focus” is disingenuous at best.
You would be foolish to pretend anything else. Pity.

Don Alexander April 7, 2011 at 9:49 PM

“Actually,, according to the NASA source, the rays are 1 arcsec long (1/60th of one degree).”

That’s completely wrong…

Though, if I may correct it, it just proves your point even more. A single PIXEL of XRT is already 2.36 arcseconds large (http://www.swift.psu.edu/xrt/techDescription.html), so obviously, those rays are like 100 arcseconds long…

Hon. Salacious B. Crumb April 7, 2011 at 9:58 PM

My error. i meant 1 arcmin NOT 1 arcsec.
The point was that the rays could not be part of object at that large distant and show phenomena changing over several hours.
The length of the bar in the NASA figure is 1 arcmin. By eye, I simply adjudged the rough size of each ray.

iantresman April 7, 2011 at 10:12 PM

And even further supporting the point, I assumed that the rays were not radial, but angled towards the viewer and parallel with the jet (which would be odd because the ray width appears constant)

iantresman April 7, 2011 at 9:37 PM

Crumb wrote: “You would be foolish to pretend anything else.”

I think you’ll find that an arcsec is 1/3600th of a degree.

But thank you for a fairly sensible response, which I will graciously note, was probably a typo on your behalf; the article image is labelled 1 arcmin, and you have correctly used 1/60th of a degree in your calculations.

iantresman April 7, 2011 at 9:53 PM

Don Alexander has confirmed above that the ray-like spokes are artifacts of the image. While they still remind me of a dense plasma focus, they clearly have nothing to with the device, and nothing can be inferred from them, or the dense plasma focus.

Don Alexander April 7, 2011 at 10:07 PM

And just to repeat this in case someone missed it above:

All we are seeing is the special PSF-shape of the Swift XRT in a case where it has observed large amounts of X-rays in so-called Photon Counting mode.

Anyone who has ever seen the optical image of a bright, possibly saturated star should know that the optics tent to spread out the light, possibly create cross-shaped beams (resulting from the bars that hold the secondary mirror), or other diffraction artifacts or even CCD blooming if “the cup runneth over”. All this stuff has NOTHING AT ALL to do with the actual shape or extent of the star, which is still a milliarcsecond point source!!

And pretty much exactly the same is occurring here. It’s just the optics of a Wolter-style X-ray telescope.

And before anyone gets more crazy ideas, the circle + box + larger circle shape of the brighter stars is a similar artifact for the UVOT telescope.

Hon. Salacious B. Crumb April 7, 2011 at 11:40 PM

This story has to be a UT record.

Fifty-one (51) comments in a little less than 4.5 hours!!

(Nancy. I’d probably delete the lot, except for perhaps Don’s and Jon Hanford contributions! Thankx!)

Aqua April 8, 2011 at 1:41 AM

Mano man… I’d really have to be bored stiff to read all these comments. You guys are too much!

Meanwhile…. that’s a pretty zingy firecracker to be seen at 3.8 billion light-years away!

damian April 8, 2011 at 11:11 AM

Wow, so this is a star being swallowed up by a singularity or a function of a galaxy we have yet to theorize upon. I look forward to the theoretical conjectures that are sure to follow these observations. Considering the size and variability of the universe we can observe I often wonder that we don’t see unique events more often. But then it does rather bring into focus the immense scale and distance in time that we are dealing with. 3.8 billion light-years is a LONG time ago.

When this explosion happened, the earth was being pounded by what is refereed to as the late heavy bombardment. Defining the landscapes of our solar systems planets and moons.
I wonder if the galaxy this originates from has grow since then.

Jon Hanford April 8, 2011 at 2:36 PM

While most of the researchers commenting on the origin of this outburst discuss a stellar disruption by a SMBH at the center of this galaxy (or a smaller BH near the galaxy’s nucleus), Stan Woosley (UCSC) has another alternative.

According to Dr. Woosley “…the event might be explained by the gravitational collapse of a giant star into a black hole, a scaled-up version of the process that usually produces a gamma-ray burst. In [his] scenario, the core of the giant star collapses to form a black hole but it takes days for the outer layers to fall in and emit radiation, accounting for the unusually long duration of the observed explosion.”

I’ve heard this mechanism invoked before to explain a few GRBs (‘long-duration’ GRBs IIRC). I curious how likely this is wrt GRB 110328A, given its extreme duration/light curve?

(SN article w-Woosley quote: http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/72398/title/Baffling_blowup_in_distant_galaxy )

“You are witnessing a birth. Birth of a spiral galaxy.”

Um, how can you tell this is (or will be) a spiral galaxy? I can’t really make out much structure from the Hubble image above. Also, SMBHs, if they are involved with this event, occur in both spiral and elliptical galaxies.

TrampySkank April 8, 2011 at 9:01 PM

All of the conclusions are fallacious. How do you account for the fluctuation in the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

DrFlimmer April 8, 2011 at 9:06 PM

Is that a European or an African swallow? :D

Hon. Salacious B. Crumb April 9, 2011 at 2:43 AM

Giggle!

Mr Mike April 8, 2011 at 11:04 PM

@ Catamarion
– (if you need any of the TLA explained just ask) –

Do you really want all of us reading here to take your words at face value? Are you sure of what you say?

So, BHs “generate energy & matter; they are downsteppers of higher dimensional energy” greater than 3D energy I guess is what you imply here, or tell me I am wrong in that assumption. I’ll call that >3D->EM to make word management a tad easier herein.

Any energy ‘generated” inside a BH stays there, any energy generating mass falling past the EH will have the energy also falling past the EH. The only things able to escape the infall of a BH are those things on “our side” of the EH. This is also expressed as HR or Bekenstein-Hawking radiation for those special little critters which do not fall in past the BHs EH. But still it is not the BH which is generating this HR/BHR radiation. The BH swollowed the other particle of the pair.

What we see in these events pictured and discussed here are the impact of the massive magnetic and gravitational fields generated by the material around the BH, and in some cases the frame dragging the BH causes to the local ST by nature of the BHs spin speed.

“Intense tidal forces tore the star apart, and the infalling gas continues to stream toward the hole. According to this model, the spinning black hole formed an outflowing jet along its rotational axis. A powerful blast of X- and gamma rays is seen if this jet is pointed in our direction.”

The term downstepper (DnStp) implies some form of EM energy, I guess. Do you want that higher dimensional energy to be DC or AC, phased or multi-phased or un-phased; does that >3D->EM energy ever affect matter in your idea of a DnStp-ing BH? Ok, now what matter and energy, space-time, will that energy affect, LM, HM, DM, DE?

What does your DnStp do to downstep energy, are there fields as we have calculated for EM energy. Does the density of the DnStp-ed energy change into current?

I could go on but right now I need to replace my keyboard and wipe the monitor yet again.

Mike C

DrFlimmer April 9, 2011 at 9:37 AM

Lars, thanks for the giggle.

Do you have any source for what you said above? And I demand a source that contains clear calculations on a clear basis and that makes predictions that the source is, indeed, “electrical” in nature.
Since you are attacking “MA” it is YOU who needs to prove his point. So do it! Just by making long statements you prove nothing!

Btw: Magnetic and electric fields behave according to Maxwell’s equations. I think you won’t dispute that. And these equations permit that the source terms on the right hand side can be zero (the charge density, the current density and the displacement current can, of course, be zero!). Therefore we can build an equation like: curl (B) = 0. This is a valid equation (one would say: “in vacuum”). And this equation has at least one solution! for example: B=constant. This also obeys div (B) = 0. Therefore B=constant is permitted by Maxwell’s equations and a possible configuration of a magnetic field without ANY current (remember we set j and dE/dt equal to zero).
This may seem unrealistic. But it obeys Maxwell’s equations and is therefore a valid solution.
What does it show us? Magnetic fields CAN exist without an underlying current. That’s what the physics says.

Now, prove your other points!

Torbjorn Larsson OM April 9, 2011 at 12:15 PM

Good point. And this is needed, because otherwise you couldn’t have intrinsic magnetic moments of elementary particles (electrons, say).

Apparently in PU physics there are very few of the Standard model particles we see – and specifically no particles of electric charge or current!

What a wondrous universe indeed. But not ours.

Lawrence B. Crowell April 9, 2011 at 12:19 PM

I think the intellectual content of these discussions suffers when we get into these flame wars. I do think the UT writers of these blog entries should remove comment posts that are theory mongering, such as the EU/PC stuff. Recent entries by the wag promoting “pan-theory” and other such nonstandard and substandard conjectures should be removed. Unfortunately UT seems to be a main target of the plasma mongers, where BTW it is my experience these guys often have little actual knowledge of basic electromagnetism and less on plasma physics, and that this stuff is a quirky phys-ideology based loosely on physics that is largely wrong and outdated.

LC

iantresman April 9, 2011 at 1:48 PM

I half agree with you. But there is nothing wrong with healthy discussion. It’s just that a lot of it is not healthy. I think it was useful and constructive to learn, for example, that the “spokes” in the image were due to artifacts in the imaging system.

I think you will also find that not just those interested in plasma physics, but many of the astronomers have a poor basic knowledge of standard physics. So what a great opportunity to learn.

Of course people will “theory monger”, sometimes because there is no generally accepted theory. This should be another great opportunity to learn by argument, rather than ridicule. And you can always ignore a post.

Jean Tate April 9, 2011 at 3:12 PM

All the more reason, then, for those interested to start – and engage in – a proper discussion, at the BAUT Forum!

In hindsight, do you now think that your first comment on this story might have been somewhat better worded? More along the lines of asking what the spokes were, perhaps? After all, you of all people Ian should know when it’s reasonable to provide links to (or citations of) published papers and when it’s not, in comments on UT stories.

iantresman April 9, 2011 at 4:06 PM

If we all had 20-20 hindsight, we’d never make any mistakes, so of course I would have phrased the question differently, or not at all. Nevertheless, the image still reminds me, as I stated, and the responses were completely out of proportion.

But more than anything, I’d like to see the comment policy enforced, and the link therein to “powerful (but fair) rules” corrected. There are still posts here calling me a “liar or con artist”, and that looks bad on Universe Today. I also have posts withdrawn which have absolutely nothing to do with fringe theories.

Mr Mike April 9, 2011 at 6:39 PM

@ Ian Tresman

Actually Ian, we all do have this hindsight, if what you really mean is having the same advantage before the event, as in foresight, then I agree, there would be many fewer mistakes and much of what is put off to mistakes on the part of a person would be seen as what it truly is, provocation by that person. Several posts herein fit both of these situations wouldn’t you say?

To remain on topic now, the next post — in case this one is in need of deletion for moderation, will be a non-rebuttal, a non-agressively, non-provokingly worded simple little post I hope.

Mike C

Jean Tate April 9, 2011 at 8:34 PM

The comments policy could, indeed, be better enforced.

However, it would be nice if the regulars – many of whose comments I removed a short time ago – would show a little more self-discipline, and so reduce the need for enforcement actions. If you (anyone, not just Ian) think a comment is way beyond the pale, please contact me (via my BAUT account), and I’ll try to respond within 24 hours.

I’m curious though Ian: is this the first time you’ve seen a Swift image with its eight spikes? A quick search through past UT stories turned up two with similar images (perhaps you didn’t read those).

Hon. Salacious B. Crumb April 10, 2011 at 5:32 AM

EU/PC is mostly and effectively banned by the BAUT Forum, and the moderators actively will delete any such material. (This is the reason why these guys do not appear within the BAUT forum.)

Frankly, these EU/PC guys have a known agenda which is aimed to bring their unfounded and rejected ideas into the main stream. They are collectively using agreed ‘advertising’ methods in using sites like Universe Today. The same individual has been doing this for years and has met the same responses.

The first comment in this thread was mostly to create doubt and swing the conversation to their nonsensical theories instead of the main story. He will avoid any scrutiny and is not interested in being corrected but to highjack the story away from it.

When I asked about him being a chemist, knowing he had a chemistry background. That is why I said; “I hear you are a chemist, so I’d properly assume you know something about X-ray diffraction techniques that can be applied in chemistry for detecting atomic crystalline lattices by crystallography.”

This individual never responded to the question, deliberately I fear. I asked about X-ray diffraction techniques because I thought he was thinking about the (GRB) 110328A source as being like a beam (the article refers to a relativistic beam.) Images produced by X-ray diffraction on materials look very much like the ray structure seen in the image, where the materials examined have an X-ray beam directed towards, which are scattered by the positions of atoms in the material. In turn, the examination of the pattern (it is actually (approximately) an electromagnetic interaction with the charges of protons and electrons within the atoms.)
Now anyone who has studied chemistry as a B.Sc. (Hons.) would have at least some idea of the use of X-ray diffraction of materials. [I did!].

What I don’t understand is there is no logical reason not to answer it. All I was questioning was the interpretation of the first comment, and his subsequent ones.

As to this statement;
“Still. It doesn’t let you get away with the deliberate statements to try and fool others to believe your EU/PC nonsense.
Also you said; “Diffraction patterns produced by an x-ray telescope, while they may superficially look like a rayed object, aren’t.”
Even I have shown you this was wrong, not just Don, here.”

Why did you delete this?

In fact the “Diffraction patterns produced by an x-ray telescope” are the source of the rays seen by the telescope, and are an artefact of the focussing of X-rays into an image. (They appear far more pronounced by the luminosity of the object and by the image being magnified to a field size of about 4 to 5 arcmin.)
The object imaged is from the distance a point source, whose central round disk is a product of the limited resolution of the X-ray telescope.

The central problem is understanding how a X-ray telescope works and produces images. Even basic astronomy knows the X-ray telescopes focus X-rays using multiple nested grazing incident mirrors. The outer rings are parabolic, the inner rings are hyperbolic. At the focus some 10 meters away, a system akin to a photoelectric system produces the image that is about half of a degree across. (The Chandra X-ray Observatory is exactly like this, though other X-ray telescopes do have slight different designs and sensitivities .)
The series of mirrors are from 0.6 to 1.2 metres in aperture.

The image presented in the lead of this story would normally look like a faint round star, but as the intensity increase of the source, so rays are produced. (Similar to what is seen through optical telescopes.) I suggest you read the NASA page; http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/science/how_l1/xray_detectors.html
Chandra X-ray Observatory [Much of this information is available on the NASA Chandra Site.]

Finally, if you must impose rules, why are you allowing nearly all those below? they too, defeat you comment rules, too?

Note: UT should really do a general story on X-ray telescopes.

iantresman April 10, 2011 at 10:39 AM

@HSBC’s post

I am not answerable to someone who hides behind an anonymous alias making disrespectful comments about me.

>”EU/PC is mostly and effectively banned”
That is not correct, as described here on BAUT, not that I consider this a justification for promoting these theories.

Mr Mike April 9, 2011 at 6:32 PM

@ LBC

I totally agree, I had wished I could remove much of what I snidely wrote about 1 hr after but, alas, no cancel is available.

As to the reason for the posts from the PU/EU crowd — it might be they are attempting to gain visits to the sites that are in the ‘profile’ for their account here, I can think of no other reason.

If someone were to blast me in a similar way I might feel the need to outlive them but I would still avoid them not repost again, and again… in a place where I was clearly a sore spot, a thorn in the bed. But that is me and mine, not they and err, them — well, it is correct if ungainly in simple fact.

Mike C

iantresman April 9, 2011 at 7:26 PM

Rather than speculate, you only need to ask why motivates someone to post. Unfortunately whatever I may give as a reason, others here believe they know better.

If I thought that removing the link to my site would make any difference, I would do so. But I also believe that I should be transparent in providing a link that shows my interests. So I’m dammed if I do, dammed if I don’t.

Regarding motives, I simply have an interest in plasma astrophysics, so I can’t help whether my questions are plasma related, nor whether they fall into an unwelcome category.

Mr Mike April 9, 2011 at 7:54 PM

@ Ian

… I simply have an interest in plasma astrophysics, so I can’t help whether my questions are plasma related…

You do mean that your intended posts are indeed mainstream astrophysics related expressions of a plasma like nature that you post as questions or post what you have observed in a lab, seen papers related to such, correct, do I have that right, is what you are saying and I am reading the same?

As to transparency and purpose you say it is your belief that your interests need to be seen so as to understand your posts, this is what I hear you say.

As to damned if you do or you do not I can not answer, but I do see no other reason which you have given which is more compelling than the reason I posited apriori. If indeed your wish is to be seen as a mainstream poster with slightly un-mainstream views then your site or link belies that. If you wished what I said you would not have that link as it is more proration and provocative than simply motivated as you say.

Please join in the commonly ‘sensed’ commonality — we may need to change, indeed we have as a group over time changed much of what has been posited in prior times, but it will not be here or at your instigation or oration.

Paraphrasing now, the quote is not mine even if the memory makes it seem that way.

… If you seek to enact a change rather than to effect a change you will always fail, even a dictator dies and a strongman succumbs, no one will fail singlehandedly — it takes a crowd to pull down a beast and a jester to bring some cosmic relief.

OBL The Firesign Theatre (TFT) reference,

“if you push something hard enough, it WILL fall over… testlicals deviant to Fudd’s law…” from _I think We’re All Bozo’s on this Bus_ the scene in the Wall of Science Hall

Mike C

iantresman April 9, 2011 at 9:18 PM

:Mr Mike. Somewhow my reply to you appears up here.

Jean Tate April 9, 2011 at 1:29 PM

I’ve removed a dozen or three comments on this story for pretty clear violations of the comments policy.

This is a fascinating astronomical event; it should surely be possible to discuss it – and Nancy’s story on it – in a way that is nice, brief, and doesn’t promote personal alternative astrophysics ideas.

Mr Mike April 9, 2011 at 6:20 PM

@ J Tate

Feel free to delete any of mine you care to delete, I have a thick skin — and a quick temper from time to time. This leads me to make nasty posts which are clearly off topic or if on topic still nasty. I would delete them but I do not have that option, nor an edit option, but Oh Well, bother.

Mike C

Lawrence B. Crowell April 9, 2011 at 1:39 PM

For starters the universe contains only 5% ordinary matter. About 90% of that ordinary matter is in an ionized or plasma state.

Alfven laid down the plasma physics to work out phenomenology of solar flares and hot structures that exist in various configurations. Plasmas do not constitute 99.999% of astrophysics. This is a plain nonsense statement.

You plasma universe guys do not do any actual plasma physics. This is more of a temple of worship, where your “god” is plasma physics. Plasma physics is hard stuff actually, and largely it is worked out on computers. Big mag-hydro codes are developed and used to work out these problems. I am not that experienced with this area of work, so to be honest I can’t comment a whole lot on this. However, this EU community is more of a phys-cult than anything to do with research.

LC

iantresman April 9, 2011 at 4:19 PM

>You plasma universe guys do not do any actual plasma physics

I bet there are few people here that have done (a) any plasma physics (b) any courses specifically on plasma physics. I bet some have done astrophysics courses that have included some plasma physics.

And of course plasmas do not constitute 99.999% of astrophysics.

alcyone April 9, 2011 at 5:58 PM

iantresman, please do yourself a flavour: seek out and join an astronomy club. Do you own a telescope? If you don’t, let the club members educate you on what would be a good choice for you. If I may be so bold, may I suggest a refractor – no support vanes, no secondary mirror and no diffraction spikes on any astrophotos you may endeavour to shoot in the (probably not so near) future:)

Your universe awaits you!

iantresman April 9, 2011 at 7:17 PM

OK, so I look through said telescope and see neat images of the universe. What are you hoping I might learn?

alcyone April 9, 2011 at 9:50 PM

Of course, unless you used a camera you wouldn’t be seeing “images”, you would be observing wonderful celestial objects with your own eyes. I would hope you could learn about the beauty of the universe, and a little bit about astronomy. At the very least, you would have first hand knowledge of things like diffraction spikes.

iantresman April 9, 2011 at 10:23 PM

Ah, now I see where you’re going. Thank you for the suggestion. Of course if I were to use a refractor, then I wouldn’t benefit from first hand knowledge of things like diffraction spikes, as you noted.

Mr Mike April 9, 2011 at 7:26 PM

The length of time or duration for this event as we see it to occur seems out of profile for a nominally disruptive SMBH event as we have posited them to occur; even if the event is aggressively profiled to be along the model of a super large star at very high velocity and near centered penetration of the BHs EH –and very little left over to affect the accretion disk in the short term, although that is surely a possible result.

In fact unless the speed of the impactor is an incredibly large value the AD will be affected greatly as the AD tears and strips the slow star’s outer shell as the slow star gradually passes through the huge dense field of debris, additionally the slow star itself will have an impact on that AD as the slow star would effect the AC tidally; this will be reflected by other phenomena — which we will not be able to use as a test due to the distance involved. Any gravity waves might tell us more if we could ever nail down the resolution needed for a specific distance and/or could fine tune the ‘scope’ or scopes if using a very broad baseline of scopes.

If a massive star enters into this dance with the SMBH via the ecliptic, rather than the plane of the AD, there is still the tremendous force of the impact which is not in-falling. The splash which will not be in-falling for some time to come will interact with the AD, become a part of the AD in fact. This force will affect the AD and environ for much time to come if this model is more plausible.

If the massive star were to be penetrating from the quadrant opposite our viewpoint, and the polar axis of both bodies were aligned at 90° the magnetic fields might be in positions which would conserve MM — it then follows that what we are seeing might be all there is to this show, all EM effects for a long time to come. There will be EM field disruptions — gravitational excursions of the AD and stellar shell. A minor if long lived dance to the death of it all in any case. But we will not be able to ‘see’ any of that due to the great distance and the resolving power we currently have to hand. It would be like looking at a stellar object’s disk from too close a perspective — which we see illustrated with the images taken to date; too intense for our optics of choice and too far for other optics to hand. If we detuned the instruments to lessen and broaden the image and then subtracted the intensity would the resultant data paint a different story of what is happening at this juncture.

However, it is a pretty show for all to see, if you like lethal amounts of radiation that is. I am glad we are far away but wish something would happen in a similar fashion nearby, in terms of a safe distance for us of course. We might be able to tease something out of that nearby event which would help to explain what we are seeing with this event.

Mike C

iantresman April 9, 2011 at 7:28 PM

(Last reply @Mike C, to his second to last post). Darn the comment system sometimes.

Mr Mike April 9, 2011 at 8:02 PM

It might be the moderation numbering sequence as someone suggested on a different forum a while back. You think you have posted a reply to the correct post but it shows up in a different area of the thread or indeed in another thread.

For example this is a reply to your 7:28pm posting.

iantresman April 9, 2011 at 8:22 PM

I think you’re right, but only just noticed it happening. Earlier moderated posts have appeared in the right place.

DrFlimmer April 9, 2011 at 8:30 PM

@ Ian Tresman

The problem, Sir, is not what you ask in these days. The problem is your record. I mean, there is enough evidence only on UT that shows that you consider Electric Universe, Plasma Universe, and/or Plasma Cosmology as a more valid idea than the “mainstream theory”.
And, although, we have shown time in time again that those ideas do not hold anymore to newer data, you still keep them and you still have a website that promotes exactly these ideas. So, for whatever reasons, it seems that you don’t want to learn although you keep asking questions. So, naturally, we wonder.
And I wonder, why you wonder that we wonder.

You may not have a direct connection to that other site (thunder….), but that site has a clear agenda. And since you still hold up to (say) similar ideas, and that although they’ve been disproved time in time again, it is only natural to think that you also try to promote something here.

And btw: Plasma astrophysics is part of the “mainstream” (which is not an ivory tower!). For instance, the institute I’m working for has a large group working on it. They calculate instabilities in the solar wind, or the structure of the magnetic field of the heliosphere, and other things. My roommate is hopefully beginning his PhD theses soon and his topic will be the results of the IBEX mission.
So, yeah, plasmas are highly considered in astrophysics. And yes, even the ideas of EU, PU or PC have been considered in the past. But nor anymore, and that is because they couldn’t explain the new data.

It’s true, new and fresh ideas are always welcome, if they can explain new results at least as good as the older theories. But EU, PU or PC is not among them. Otherwise tons of papers would be published with these ideas. But they are not. And in this case I don’t need to wonder, it is obvious (and no, they are not suppressed).

iantresman April 9, 2011 at 9:15 PM

DrFlimmer wrote: “The problem, Sir, is not what you ask in these days. The problem is your record.”

It’s a good thing I don’t ask questions about my record then.

>”it seems that you don’t want to learn although you keep asking questions”

One asks questions to learn.

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