Organization:365 Days Of Astronomy
Description: Space scoop, news for children
Our understanding of Saturn’s rings is still evolving. A team of researchers using observations made in 2008 have managed to measure the brightness and temperature of Saturn’s rings in more detail than ever. More detail in mid-infrared images from the ground, that is.
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Bio: Richard Drumm is President of the Charlottesville Astronomical Society and President of 3D – Drumm Digital Design, a video production company with clients such as Kodak, Xerox and GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals. He was an observer with the UVa Parallax Program at McCormick Observatory in 1981 & 1982. He has found that his greatest passion in life is public outreach astronomy and he pursues it at every opportunity.
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This is the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast. Today we bring you a new episode in our Space Scoop series. This show is produced in collaboration with Universe Awareness, a program that strives to inspire every child with our wonderful cosmos.
Born to be Wild
Black holes are known for their destructive behavior – like the ability to rip apart stars and planets, and swallow them whole.
Ok, suck them through the straw of their accretion disk. There, that’s a better metaphor.
But black holes are actually valuable members of our cosmic society, and they give a lot of energy back to the Universe.
Supermassive black holes lurk in the cores of most galaxies, gobbling up nearby cosmic gas and dust. As they feed, energy is released and heats up surrounding material, sending it blasting from the galaxy in two directions in what are called bipolar astrophysical jets.
Almost all big galaxies are thought to harbor a supermassive black hole in their cores, so these jets are a fairly common sight.
A United Kingdom-led group of European astronomers used the MUSE and X-shooter instruments on the VLT, the Very Large Telescope, at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile.
They studied the ongoing collision between two galaxies, known collectively as IRAS F23128-5919, that lie around 600 million light-years from Earth. It’s located about a degree south of the star Gamma Tucanae in the southern constellation Toucana the, you guessed it, toucan.
So the collision was ongoing 600 million years ago and the light from there is just now arriving here. This was a time where life on Earth was just getting started. It was the Ediacaran Period and multicellular life had arisen, the first weird Ediacaran biota had just appeared.
However, there’s something in the picture of the galaxy collision that the astronomers got, that has just been discovered for the first time. New stars are forming within the violent jets of material being blasted from the supermassive black hole!
Stars are being born in the wild environment there. They are hotter and brighter than other stars which form in the more peaceful main part of the galaxy. So the violence of the outflow is making these stars grow larger than they otherwise would.
Not only that, but many of them are hurtling rapidly away from the galaxy’s center.
Stars that form farthest from the galaxy run the risk of flying out of the galaxy altogether, spending the rest of their lives roaming the dark reaches of space, alone!
Safe from Darth Vader, I suppose.
The stars that form closer to the galaxy center risk the opposite: the galaxy’s gravity might eventually slow them down so much that they fall back towards the galaxy and the black hole waiting there.
This might actually answer a question that has been puzzling astronomers for years. How do spiral galaxies get their unique central bulge?
Stars formed in these outflow jets could end up in the galaxy’s bulge and that could explain where the bulge comes from.
Hey Here’s A Cool Fact:
This discovery might also solve the mystery of how certain elements like oxygen reached the space between galaxies.
If stars are jettisoned out of a galaxy and then explode as supernovae, the elements they make, and it’s the entire periodic table of the elements, would be released into intergalactic space. These atoms then become part of the IGM, the intergalactic medium.
I should do a Q&A someday outlining the steps a supernova goes through as it explodes. It’s fascinating stuff!
Thank you for listening to the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast!
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by Astrosphere New Media. Audio post-production by Richard Drumm. Bandwidth donated by libsyn.com and wizzard media. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at 365DaysOfAstronomy.org or email us at info@365DaysOfAstronomy.org. This year we will celebrate more discoveries and stories from the universe. Join us and share your story. Until tomorrow! Goodbye!