Galaxies Regulate their Own Growth so they Don’t Run Out of Star Forming Gas

A simulation of a galaxy’s ‘heart and lungs’ at work is pictured inset on an artist's impression of bi-polar jets of gas originating from a supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy. Credit ESA/Hubble, L. Calçada (ESO) / C Richards/MD Smith/University of Kent Licence type Attribution (CC BY 4.0)

Look at most spiral or barred spiral galaxies and you will see multiple regions where stars are forming. These star forming regions are comprised of mostly hydrogen gas with a few other elements for good measure. The first galaxies in the Universe had huge supplies of this star forming gas. Left unchecked they could have burned through the gas quickly, generating enormous amounts of star formation. Life fast though and die young for such an energetic burst of star formation would soon fizzle out leaving behind dead and dying stars. In some way it seems, galaxies seem to regulate their star formation thanks to supermassive black holes at their centre. 

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Mapping the Stars in a Dwarf Galaxy to Reveal its Dark Matter

Draco Dwarf Spheroidal galaxy

Dark matter is curious stuff! As the name suggests, it’s dark making it notoriously difficult to study. Although it’s is invisible, it influences stars in a galaxy through gravity. Now, a team of astronomers have used the Hubble Space Telescope to chart the movements of stars within the Draco dwarf galaxy to detect the subtle gravitational pull of its surrounding dark matter halo. This 3D map required studying nearly two decades of archival data from the Draco galaxy. They found that dark matter piles up more in the centre, as predicted by cosmological models.

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A Close Pulsar Measures 11.4 km Across

Animation of the millisecond pulsar PSR J0437-4715. On the left as seen from Earth. On the right as seen from the star's equatorial plane. (c) NASA/Sharon Morsink/Devarshi Choudhury et al.

When massive stars detonate as supernovae, they leave often behind a pulsar. These fast rotating stellar corpses have fascinated scientists since their discovery in 1967. One nearby pulsar turns 174 times a second and now, its size has been precisely measured. An instrument on board the International Space Station was used to measure x-ray pulses  from the star. A supercomputer was then used to analyse its properties and found it was 1.4 times the mass of the Sun and measured only 11.4 km across!

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Solar Flares and Solar Magnetic Reconnection Get New Spotlight in Two Blazing Studies

Image of a solar flare (bright flash) obtained by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on Oct. 2, 2014, with a burst of solar material erupting being observed just to the right of the solar flare. (Credit: NASA/SDO)

Two recent studies published in The Astrophysical Journal discuss findings regarding solar flare properties and a new classification index and the Sun’s magnetic field, specifically what’s called solar magnetic reconnection. These studies hold the potential to help researchers better understand the internal processes of the Sun, specifically pertaining to solar flare activity and space weather. Here, Universe Today discusses these two studies with both lead authors regarding the motivation behind the studies, significant results, and implications on our understanding regarding solar flares and space weather.

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‘Fly Me to the Moon’ Points to the Past and Future of Moonshot Marketing

Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum in "Fly Me to the Moon" movie poster
Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum star in "Fly Me to the Moon." (Apple Original Films / Columbia Pictures)

In a new movie titled “Fly Me to the Moon,” a marketing consultant played by Scarlett Johansson uses Tang breakfast drink, Crest toothpaste and Omega watches to give a publicity boost to NASA’s Apollo moon program.

The marketing consultant may be totally fictional. And don’t get me started on the fake moon landing that’s part of the screwball comedy’s plot. But the fact that the makers of TangCrest and Omega allied themselves with NASA’s brand in the 1960s is totally real.

More than 50 years later, those companies are still benefiting from the NASA connection, says Richard Jurek, a marketing and public relations executive in the Chicago area who’s one of the authors of “Marketing the Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program.”

In the latest episode of the Fiction Science podcast, Jurek says Tang sold poorly when it was introduced in the late 1950s. “But once it was announced that it was being used in the space program and marketed that way, it became a huge bestseller for them, and in fact, still sells more overseas — and is a multibillion-dollar brand today,” he says.

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SpaceX’s Rocket Failure Could Cause Delays for Lots of Launches

SpaceX rocket-cam showing orbital flight
A view from the Falcon 9 upper stage's rocket-cam shows ice forming around the engine hardware. (Credit: SpaceX via YouTube)

After going eight years and more than 300 launches without a failure, SpaceX had a Falcon 9 rocket launch go awry, resulting in the expected loss of 20 Starlink satellites.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it would oversee an investigation into the anomaly, raising the prospect that dozens of launches could be delayed until the problem is identified and rectified.

As many as 40 Falcon 9 launches are on tap between now and the end of the year — potentially including missions that would carry astronauts to the International Space Station and send the privately funded Polaris Dawn crew into orbit for the world’s first commercial spacewalk.

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A Hopping Robot Could Explore Europa Using Locally Harvested Water

Various forms of hopping robots have crept into development for us[e in different space exploration missions. We’ve reported on their use on asteroids and even our own Moon. But a study funded by NASA’s Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) in 2018 planned a mission to a type of world where hopping may not be as noticeable an advantage—Europa.

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Resources on Mars Could Support Human Explorers

Mineral map of Mars showing the presence of patches that formed in the presence of water. Credit: ESA

In the coming decades, multiple space agencies and private companies plan to establish outposts on the Moon and Mars. These outposts will allow for long-duration stays, astrobiological research, and facilitate future Solar System exploration. However, having crews operating far from Earth for extended periods will also present some serious logistical challenges. Given the distances and costs involved, sending resupply missions will be both impractical and expensive. For this reason, relying on local resources to meet mission needs – aka. In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) – is the name of the game.

The need for ISRU is especially important on Mars as resupply missions could take 6 to 9 months to get there. Luckily, Mars has abundant resources that can be harvested and used to provide everything from oxygen, propellant, water, soil for growing food, and building materials. In a recent study, a Freie Universität Berlin-led team evaluated the potential of harvesting resources from several previously identified deposits of hydrated minerals on the surface of Mars. They also presented estimates of how much water and minerals can be retrieved and how they may be used.

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Exoplanet Could be an Enormous Version of Europa

Certain exoplanets pique scientists’ interest more than others. Some of the most interesting are those that lie in the habitable zone of their stars. However, not all of those planets would be similar to Earth – in fact, finding a planet about the size of Earth is already stretching the limits of most exoplanet-hunting telescopes. So the scientific community rejoiced when researchers at the Université de Montréal announced they found an exoplanet in the size range of the Earth. However, it appears to be almost entirely covered in water, making it more similar to a giant version of Europa, the ice-covered moon of Jupiter. 

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The Moon Occults Spica This Weekend For North America

Mu Geminorum
The Moon occults the star Mu Geminorum. Credit: David Dickinson

The ‘Great North American Occultation’ sees the Moon blot out Spica Saturday night.

Few events in the sky transpire as quickly as occultations. While the path of the planets may move at a leisurely pace, and the orbits of double stars may be measured in terms of a lifetime or more, occultations are swift vanishing acts.

North American observers have a chance to witness just such an event this coming weekend, when the waxing gibbous Moon passes in front of the bright first magnitude star Spica.

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