Zeta Ophiuchi has had an interesting life. It began as a typical large star about twenty times more massive than the Sun. It spent its days happily orbiting a large companion star until its companion exploded as a supernova about a million years ago. The explosion ejected Zeta Ophiuchi, so now it is speeding away through interstellar space. Of course, the supernova also expelled the outer layers of the companion star, so rather than empty space, our plucky star is speeding through the remnant gas as well. As they say on Facebook, it’s complicated. And that’s great news for astronomers, as a recent study shows.Continue reading “A Fast-Moving Star is Colliding With Interstellar gas, Creating a Spectacular bow Shock”
Black holes are powerful cosmic engines. They provide the energy behind quasars and other active galactic nuclei (AGNs). This is due to the interaction of matter with its powerful gravitational and magnetic fields.
Technically, a black hole doesn’t have a magnetic field on its own, but the dense plasma surrounding the black hole as an accretion disk does. As the plasma swirls around the black hole, the charged particles within it generate an electrical current and magnetic field. The direction of the plasma flow doesn’t change spontaneously, so one would imagine the magnetic field is very stable. So imagine the surprise of astronomers when they saw evidence that a black hole’s magnetic field had undergone a magnetic reversal.Continue reading “A Supermassive Black Hole Just Flipped its Entire Magnetic Field”
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Why is there so much antimatter in the Universe? Ordinary matter is far more plentiful than antimatter, but scientists keep detecting more and more antimatter in the form of positrons. More positrons reach Earth than standard models predict. Where do they come from?
Scientists think pulsars are one source, and a new study strengthens that idea.Continue reading “A Pulsar is Blasting out Jets of Matter and Antimatter”
Axions are a popular candidate in the search for dark matter. There have been previous searches for these hypothetical particles, all of which have come up with nothing. But recently the results of a new search for dark matter axions have been published…and has also found nothing. Still, the study is interesting because of the nature and scale of the search.Continue reading “A Worldwide Search for Dark Matter Fails to Turn up a Signal for This Mysterious Particle”
Patterns in nature often occur in more than one place. Spirals, symmetry, and chaos all impact natural phenomena, from the shape of a shell to the course of a river. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the most famous and fundamental shapes from biology also appears in astrophysics. Yes, scientists have found a double-helix structure in the magnetic field of M87. And it looks just like a super enlarged DNA strand.Continue reading “M87’s Supermassive Black Hole is Spewing out a Spiraling jet of Material”
What if our eyes could see radio waves?
If we could, we might be able to look up into the sky and see a tunnel of rope-like filaments made of radio waves. The structure would be about 1,000 light-years long and would be about 350 light-years away.
This tunnel explains two of the brightest radio features in the sky.Continue reading “A Magnetic Tunnel Surrounds the Earth”
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”
A team of astronomers has found that giant, organized magnetic fields can help drive some of the most powerful explosions in the universe. But when all is said and done, the shock wave from that blast scrambles any magnetic fields in a matter of minutes.Continue reading “Exploding Material From a Gamma-ray Burst Scrambled Nearby Magnetic Fields”
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”
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”