Split-Personality Pulsar Switches From Radio To Gamma-Rays

by Elizabeth Howell on July 23, 2014

Another snapshot of our strange universe: astronomers recently caught a pulsar — a particular kind of dense star — switch off its radio beacon while powerful gamma rays brightened fivefold.

“It’s almost as if someone flipped a switch, morphing the system from a lower-energy state to a higher-energy one,” stated lead researcher Benjamin Stappers, an astrophysicist at the University of Manchester, England.

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Video: A Dizzying, Whirly View Of The Earth From Space!

by Elizabeth Howell on July 23, 2014

We’ve got vertigo watching this video, but in a good way! This is a sped-up view of Earth from the International Space Station from the Cupola, a wraparound window that is usually used for cargo ship berthings and Earth observations.

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‘Weak’ New Meteor Shower Due To Fragile Comet Dust

by Elizabeth Howell on July 23, 2014

A Camelopardalid seen frame-by-frame in a recording taken May 24, 2014 at 1:58:08 a.m. UT (9:58:08 p.m. ET). Credit:  Original recording by Peter C. Slansky; compilation by Jim Albers and Peter Jenniskens.

A Camelopardalid seen frame-by-frame in a recording taken May 24, 2014 at 1:58:08 a.m. UT (9:58:08 p.m. ET). Credit:
Original recording by Peter C. Slansky; compilation by Jim Albers and Peter Jenniskens.

While the Camelopardalid shower only produced a few meteors, the lack of flashy disintegrations showed astronomers something new, a new study reveals: the dust from its parent comet (Comet 209P/Linear) was much more fragile than the usual. The reasons are still being investigated, but one theory is that after a century in space, there wasn’t much left to run into.

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In this image from the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile young stars huddle together against a backdrop of clouds of glowing gas and lanes of dust. The star cluster, known as NGC 3293, would have been just a cloud of gas and dust itself about ten million years ago, but as stars began to form it became the bright group we see here. Clusters like this are celestial laboratories that allow astronomers to learn more about how stars evolve. Credit: ESO/G. Beccari

In this image from the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile young stars huddle together against a backdrop of clouds of glowing gas and lanes of dust. Image Credit: ESO / G. Beccari

Any human being knows the awe-inspiring wonder of a splash of stars against a dark backdrop. But it takes a skilled someone to truly appreciate a distant object viewed through an eyepiece. Your gut tightens as you realize that the tiny fuzzy blob is really thousands of light-years away.

That wave of amazement is encouraged by understanding and knowledge.

Stunning photographs of the cosmos further convey the beauty that arises form the simple interplay of dust, light and gas on absolutely massive and distant scales. The striking image above from ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile is but one example.

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SpaceX today released video from the Falcon 9 first stage flyback and landing video from the July 14 launch of six ORBCOMM advanced telecommunications satellites. This was a test of the reusability of the Falcon 9′s first stage and its flyback and landing system. It splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean, and SpaceX called it a “soft” landing, even though the booster did not survive the splashdown. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted on July 14 that the rocket booster reentry, landing burn and leg deployment worked well, but the hull of the first stage “lost integrity right after splashdown (aka kaboom).” He later reported that detailed review of rocket telemetry showed the booster took a “body slam, maybe from a self-generated wave.”

SpaceX today said last week’s test “confirms that the Falcon 9 booster is able consistently to reenter from space at hypersonic velocity, restart main engines twice, deploy landing legs and touch down at near zero velocity.”

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