Aging White Dwarfs Become Even More Magnetic

In a few billion years the Sun will end its life as a white dwarf. As the Sun runs out of hydrogen to fuse for energy it will collapse under its own weight. Gravity will compress the Sun until it’s roughly the size of Earth, at which point a bit of quantum physics will kick in. Electrons from the Sun’s atoms will push back against gravity, creating what is known as degeneracy pressure. Once a star reaches this state it will cool over time, and the once brilliant star will eventually fade into the dark.

Continue reading “Aging White Dwarfs Become Even More Magnetic”

There Could be Magnetic Monopoles Trapped in the Earth's Magnetosphere

Electricity and magnetism have a lot in common. They are connected by the unified theory of electromagnetism, and are in many ways two sides of the same coin. Both can exert forces on charges and magnetic fields. A changing electric field creates a magnetic field and vice versa. Elementary particles can possess electric and magnetic properties. But there is one fundamental difference.

Continue reading “There Could be Magnetic Monopoles Trapped in the Earth's Magnetosphere”

Space Missions are Building Up a Detailed Map of the Sun’s Magnetic Field

Solar physicists have been having a field day of late.  A variety of missions have been staring at the sun more intently ever before (please don’t try it at home).  From the Parker Solar Probe to the Solar Orbiter, we are constantly collecting more and more data about our stellar neighbor.  But it’s not just the big name missions that can collect useful data – sometimes information from missions as simple as a sounding rocket make all the difference.  

That was the case for a group of scientists focused on the Sun’s chromosphere, the part of the suns’ atmosphere between the photosphere and the corona that is one of the least understood parts of the star.  Now, with data collected from three different missions simultaneously, humanity has its first layered view of how the sun’s magnetic field works in this underexplored zone.

Continue reading “Space Missions are Building Up a Detailed Map of the Sun’s Magnetic Field”

The Magnetic Fields Swirling Within the Whirlpool Galaxy

Messier objects are some of the most imaged objects in the universe.  In part that’s because many of them are so visibly appealing.  A good example of that is the Whirlpool galaxy, M51, which recently received an even more dramatic visual representation with a new photo released by NASA.  In it, the magnetic fields that are holding the galaxy together and tearing it apart at the same time are clearly visible.  And it is even more stunning to look at.

Continue reading “The Magnetic Fields Swirling Within the Whirlpool Galaxy”

How The Sun’s Scorching Corona Stays So Hot

corona

We’ve got a mystery on our hands. The surface of the sun has a temperature of about 6,000 Kelvin – hot enough to make it glow bright, hot white. But the surface of the sun is not its last later, just like the surface of the Earth is not its outermost layer. The sun has a thin but extended atmosphere called the corona. And that corona has a temperature of a few million Kelvin.

How does the corona have such a higher temperature than the surface?

Like I said, a mystery.

Continue reading “How The Sun’s Scorching Corona Stays So Hot”

Weekly Space Hangout – Oct 2, 2015: Water on Mars, Blood Moon Eclipses, and More Pluto!

Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain)

Guests:

Morgan Rehnberg (cosmicchatter.org / @MorganRehnberg )
Pamela Gay (cosmoquest.org / @cosmoquestx / @starstryder)
Kimberly Cartier (@AstroKimCartier )
Brian Koberlein (@briankoberlein / briankoberlein.com)
Alessondra Springmann (@sondy)
Continue reading “Weekly Space Hangout – Oct 2, 2015: Water on Mars, Blood Moon Eclipses, and More Pluto!”