Organization: 365 Days Of Astronomy
Description: Space scoop, news for children.
In the 1980s, scientists started discovering a new type of object in other galaxies, objects that were extremely bright in X-rays. When looked at with X-ray telescopes, they shone as bright as a million suns combined.
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.
Today’s sponsor: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is sponsored by — Helge Bjørkhaug, one of our Patreon supporters.
Big thanks to our Patreon supporters this month: Brett Duane, Joseph J. Biernat, Nik Whitehead, Timo Sievänen, Noel Ruppenthal, Steven Jansen, Casey Carlile, Phyllis Simon Foster
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.
A Flash in The Night Sky
Comic books have some amazing characters. Superman can shoot laser beams from his eyes and the Hulk is strong enough to lift a mountain. The Flash could run really, really fast.
Well, the cosmos has its own superheroes. Just like the Flash, Barnard’s Star has the power of super speed. In fact, it travels across our night sky faster than any other star!
Barnard’s Star is located in the constellation Ophiuchus, the serpent bearer or the doctor. It’s named for astronomer E.E. Barnard, who discovered the star in 1916.
In an average human lifetime of 80 years, Barnard’s Star will have crossed an area of our night sky equal to the width of the full Moon. It moves 10.3 seconds of arc each year.
Just so ya know, a degree of arc is divided into 60 minutes of arc and each minute is divided into 60 seconds of arc.
Barnard’s Star is the nearest single star to the Sun. Most stars are found in binary pairs or clusters. Our Sun is a singleton as well. And it’s because of the star’s closeness that it gained its, uh, superpower.
Imagine you’re sitting on a beach and looking out to sea. A person walking their dog at the edge of the surf could travel along a wide section of the beach in a minute, while a distant ship on the horizon would appear to move very little.
Of course, we know the ship is moving much faster than the person, but perspective plays a trick on us.
This same trick makes Barnard’s Star, which is close to us by cosmic standards, appear to move faster than every other star.
This sideways motion is called proper motion.
To make this little star even more awesome, a planet has just been discovered orbiting it!
Because Barnard’s Star is only 6 light years away, the newly discovered planet is the second-closest exoplanet to the Earth. The closest star system, at 4.37 light years away, is the Alpha Centauri triple star system, and it has an exoplanet too.
The planet is at least 3.2 times more massive than Earth and may be more massive than that. It orbits Barnard’s Star in 233 days at a distance of around .4AU, or 37 million miles.
It probably has a rocky surface, but that’s where the similarities end.
Barnard’s star is a red dwarf star, which means it’s much cooler and dimmer than our Sun. The planet receives only 2% of the energy that we here on Earth get from our Sun.
So despite lying very close to its star, this planet is a freezing, shadowy world where temperatures probably dip below –170℃, making it inhospitable for life as we know it.
Hopefully there are other planets that orbit closer to the star than this one and are warmer, but it’s likely that if they’re there they are smaller than Earth.
The data suggests another planet there, but it’s out at about 4AU and has around 15 Earth masses, so it’s probably a gas giant.
The current data is inconclusive, so more observations are needed.
Hey Here’s A Cool Fact:
The true speed of Barnard’s Star is about 500,000 kilometers an hour. Despite this blistering pace, it is not the fastest known star.
That title is held by the Helium star US 708 in the constellation Ursa Major. US 708 is moving through the galaxy at 4 million kilometers an hour!
This exceeds the escape velocity of the galaxy and is therefore fast enough to hurl it out of the galaxy altogether!
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 Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 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 celebrates the Year of Everyday Astronomers as we embrace Amateur Astronomer contributions and the importance of citizen science. Join us and share your story. Until tomorrow! Goodbye!