One of the fascinating things about being a human in this age is that we can do more than wonder about other life and other civilizations. We can actually look for them, although there are obvious limitations to our search. But what’s equally fascinating is that we can wonder if others can see us.Continue reading “Can Alien Civilizations Detect Humanity?”
Astronomers have used machine learning to sharpen up the Event Horizon Telescope’s first picture of a black hole — an exercise that demonstrates the value of artificial intelligence for fine-tuning cosmic observations.
The image should guide scientists as they test their hypotheses about the behavior of black holes, and about the gravitational rules of the road under extreme conditions.Continue reading “Artificial Intelligence Produces a Sharper Image of M87’s Big Black Hole”
For astronomers, one of the greatest challenges is capturing images of objects and phenomena that are difficult to see using optical (or visible light) telescopes. This problem has been largely addressed by interferometry, a technique where multiple telescopes gather signals, which is then combined to create a more complete picture. Examples include the Event Horizon Telescope, which relies on observatories from around the world to capture the first images of the supermassive black hole (SMBH) at the center of the M87 galaxy, and of Sagittarius A* at the center of the Milky Way.
That being said, classic interferometry requires that optical links be maintained between observatories, which imposes limitations and can lead to drastically increased costs. In a recent study, a team of astrophysicists and theoretical physicists proposed how these limitations could be overcome by relying on quantum mechanics. Rather than relying on optical links, they propose how the principle of quantum entanglements could be used to share photons between observatories. This technique is part of a growing field of research that could lead to “quantum telescopes” someday.Continue reading “Are We Entering the Era of Quantum Telescopes?”
Astronomers have a new tool to help them understand giant stars. It’s a detailed study of the precise temperatures and sizes of 191 giant stars. The authors of the work say that it’ll serve as a standard reference on giant stars for years to come.
It’ll also shed some light on what the Sun will go through late in its life.Continue reading “Giant Stars and the Ultimate Fate of the Sun”
Where are we? Cosmically, we’re in our home galaxy, typically known as the Milky Way. The center of our galaxy is marked by a supermassive black hole, which the Sun orbits at a distance of about 30,000 light-years. The official distance, set by the International Astronomical Union in 1985, is 27,700 light-years. But a new study as confirmed we are actually a bit closer to the black hole.Continue reading “A new measurement puts the Sun 2,000 light-years closer to the center of the Milky Way”
Starting in late 2019, Betelgeuse began drawing a lot of attention after it mysteriously started dimming, only to brighten again a few months later. For a variable star like Betelgeuse, periodic dimming and brightening are normal, but the extent of its fluctuation led to all sorts of theories as to what might be causing it. Similar to Tabby’s Star in 2015, astronomers offered up the usual suspects (minus the alien megastructure theory!)
Whereas some thought that the dimming was a prelude to the star becoming a Type II supernova, others suggested that dust clouds, enormous sunspots, or ejected clouds of gas were the culprit. In any case, the “Great Dimming of Betelgeuse” has motivated an international team of astronomers to propose that a “Betelgeuse Scope” be created that cant monitor the star constantly.Continue reading “What’s Happening with Betelgeuse? Astronomers Propose a Specialized Telescope to Watch the Star Every Night”
In astronomy, the sharpness of your image depends upon the size of your telescope. When Galileo and others began to view the heavens with telescopes centuries ago, it changed our understanding of the cosmos. Objects such as planets, seen as points of light with the naked eye, could now be seen as orbs with surface features. But even under these early telescopes, stars still appeared as a point of light. While Galileo could see Jupiter or Saturn’s size, he had no way to know the size of a star.Continue reading “Gamma-Ray Telescopes Can Measure the Diameters of Other Stars”
Astronomy is advancing to the point where we can see planets forming around young stars. This was an unthinkable development only a few years ago. In fact, it was only two years ago that astronomers captured the first image of a newly-forming planet.
Now there are more and more studies into how planets form, including a new one with fifteen images of planet-forming disks around young stars.Continue reading “More Pictures of Planet-Forming Disks Around Young Stars”
When astronomers talk about an optical telescope, they often mention the size of its mirror. That’s because the larger your mirror, the sharper your view of the heavens can be. It’s known as resolving power, and it is due to a property of light known as diffraction. When light passes through an opening, such as the opening of the telescope, it will tend to spread out or diffract. The smaller the opening, the more the light spreads making your image more blurry. This is why larger telescopes can capture a sharper image than smaller ones.Continue reading “How Interferometry Works, and Why it’s so Powerful for Astronomy”
An almost unimaginably enormous black hole is situated at the heart of the Milky Way. It’s called a Supermassive Black Hole (SMBH), and astronomers think that almost all massive galaxies have one at their center. But of course, nobody’s ever seen one (sort of, more on that later): It’s all based on evidence other than direct observation.
The Milky Way’s SMBH is called Sagittarius A* (Sgr. A*) and it’s about 4 million times more massive than the Sun. Scientists know it’s there because we can observe the effect it has on matter that gets too close to it. Now, we have one of our best views yet of Sgr. A*, thanks to a team of scientists using a technique called interferometry.Continue reading “One of Our Best Views of the Supermassive Black Hole at the Heart of the Milky Way”