The Pillars of Creation revealed by JWST. It seems like Big Rip isn’t happening after all. Black holes twisting spacetime into knots. Jets that seem to be going faster than the speed of light.
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Pillars of Creation by Webb
It’s time to update your computer’s desktop wallpaper. We’ve finally got Webb’s version of the Pillars of Creation, made famous by the Hubble Space Telescope, which released images in 1995. Because JWST is an infrared telescope, it can peer through gas and dust, obscuring all the newly forming stars. Intense radiation from all the new stars is blasting away at the pillars, wearing them down and revealing the young stars. It’s a beautiful picture and scientifically fascinating.
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More about JWST’s best image so far.
The Big Rip Averted
Astronomers use Type 1a supernovae to measure distances in the Universe. They always detonate with the same amount of energy, so it’s possible to calculate how far away they are. A new catalog of Type 1a supernovae has been completed called Pantheon+, which contains over 1,500 Type 1a supernovae. From this, astronomers have been able to accurately measure the ratios of dark matter and dark energy at different periods in the Universe.
More about dark energy and the death of the Universe.
Black Holes Spacetime Knots
In 2020, astronomers detected the gravitational waves from the collision between two black holes. One had more than 40 times the mass of the Sun and was rotating as quickly as the laws of physics allow. As the two black holes were about to collide, they tangled up spacetime in the region. Astronomers could measure this in the shape of the gravitational wave signal detected by LIGO. This helped to confirm one of Einstein’s predictions about relativity in one of the most extreme environments in the Universe.
More about black holes merger.
Most Powerful Gamma Ray Burst Ever Recorded
Gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions in the Universe, shining briefly with more radiation than the rest of their galaxy. It’s believed they’re caused by the collapse of the most massive stars in the Universe. On October 12th, astronomers detected a GRB that defied comprehension, the most powerful ever seen. Even though the explosion happened 2.4 billion light-years away, spacecraft detectors were overwhelmed, and the radiation ionized the Earth’s atmosphere, disrupting long-range communications.
More about the record-breaking gamma-ray burst.
2017 Kilonova Aftermath
One of the most important astronomical discoveries in the last decade was the detection of a kilonova, the collision of two neutron stars. This was special because astronomers detected both the gravitational waves from the impact and the bright flash of radiation. Years after the kilonova was first seen, astronomers have used the Hubble Space Telescope to study the wreckage. One fascinating discovery is that the region has developed giant jets blasting radiation into space which appear to be going faster than the speed of light (but it’s just an illusion).
More about ‘faster than light’ jets.
A Warning Sign for Supernovae
It’s believed that red supergiant stars will fade before they detonate as supernovae. This is because they shed material in the final years of their lives, which obscures our view, making it look like they’re dimming. This is why astronomers were so excited when Betelgeuse dimmed a few years ago. It appears that Betelgeuse didn’t dim fast enough. A new theory suggests that red supergiants will hurl off 10% of their mass in the last year of their life, dimming by a factor of 100. When Betelgeuse disappears from the night sky, that might mean it’s about to explode.
More about predicting star explosions.
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