Sometimes you have to just sit back and marvel at a particularly gorgeous view of a galaxy interaction. When these giant space cities merge with each other, wild and crazy things happen—a sort of “Galaxies Gone Wild” scenario. Take this pair, for example. We see them locked together in a cosmic dance that has lasted for not quite a half-billion years. With each turn on the intergalactic dance floor, they change each other permanently. Eventually, they’ll combine to make one giant galaxy.Continue reading “A Giant Galaxy has been Unwinding its Neighbor for 400 Million Years”
Lunar Samples Have Been in the Deep Freeze for 50 Years. NASA Finally has the Right Technology to Study Them Properly
Ever wonder what happened to all those collections of rocks and dust the Apollo astronauts brought back from the Moon? Some of those lunar samples were studied right away. Others made their way into a few museums and science centers and the desks of world leaders. Still others landed in storage at NASA Johnson’s Space Center in Houston. Some got stored at room temperature while others were put into a deep freeze. The idea was to preserve any traces of gases or water or possibly organic materials on them. Now, some of these lunar samples are at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, where they’re under examination for the first time in 50 years using new techniques not available during the Apollo years.Continue reading “Lunar Samples Have Been in the Deep Freeze for 50 Years. NASA Finally has the Right Technology to Study Them Properly”
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A Pulsar and Star are Orbiting Each Other Every 62 Minutes. The Fastest “Black Widow” Binary Ever Seen
The Milky Way Galaxy has its share of oddities, from black holes and magnetars to luminous blue variable stars and strange new worlds. But, have you ever heard of a “black widow binary?” Not exactly an easy name to wrap your head around, especially if you’re afraid of spiders. But, these things actually exist in our galaxy and they’re fascinating.Continue reading “A Pulsar and Star are Orbiting Each Other Every 62 Minutes. The Fastest “Black Widow” Binary Ever Seen”
Pulsars Could Explain the Excess of Gamma Radiation Coming from the Center of the Milky Way
Ever hear of the Galactic Center GeV Excess? No, it’s not a cosmic rock band, although that’s a great name for one. Actually, it’s what astronomers call a super-high rate of gamma-ray radiation coming from the heart of our Milky Way Galaxy. Since this Galactic Center Excess was first detected in 2009, people thought it might be a signature of dark matter annihilating itself in mass quantities. But, as with any unexplained phenomenon in space, others disagreed. It could also have something to do with Sagittarius A*, the galaxy core’s own supermassive black hole. Or, it might be some other kind of strange burst event. Now, an astronomer at the Australian National University suggests that rapidly spinning neutron stars may be the culprits behind this high-energy galactic mystery.Continue reading “Pulsars Could Explain the Excess of Gamma Radiation Coming from the Center of the Milky Way”
Astronomers Discover Eight Echoes from Black Holes
Black holes are the ultimate space-time sinks in the universe. Anything that wanders too close to one of these monsters gets sucked in, never to be seen again. That includes clouds of gas and dust from nearby stars. It all just disappears down the black hole’s insatiable maw. However, not all is lost. As the black hole feeds on the feast supplied by its neighbors, it gives off bright flashes of X-ray light. In a few places, the light bounces off the train of material spiraling into the black hole. That creates what astronomers call a black hole echo. Now, researchers have found eight of these systems relatively close to us in the Milky Way Galaxy.Continue reading “Astronomers Discover Eight Echoes from Black Holes”
Solar Power in a Future Martian Lifestyle
Sometime in the next couple of decades, humans will head to Mars for long-term missions of more than 400 days. Such lengthy stays mean building Martian cities, complete with safe habitats, labs, and other infrastructure. Future Martians will have to do a lot to survive. They’ll build their cities, make their own food, distill water, create fuel, manufacture medicines, and create other supplies. To do that, they’ll use manufacturing facilities that they bring along. That all requires power. Lots of it. As we all know, Mars is noticeably lacking in obvious ways to make electricity. So, what will our intrepid explorers do to generate power for their new lives on the Red Planet?