Organization: 365 Days Of Astronomy
Description: Space scoop, news for children.
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.
Colliding Stars Spill Radioactive Waste Into the Universe
We’ve all heard of radioactive material, it turned Dr. Jon Osterman into Dr. Manhattan and unleashed the Incredible Hulk.
Well, in the comic books it did, anyway…
In reality, radioactivity is when the atoms in chemical elements emit smaller particles or energy called “radiation”.
We are all exposed to small amounts of this type of radiation every day. Rocks, glass and even bananas are naturally a little radioactive. Just not enough to be harmful.
Radiation is often used in hospitals to diagnose and treat illnesses. And, of course, hundreds of thousands of tons of harmful radioactive waste are produced by nuclear reactors each year.
In addition, radioactive material is found in space. For decades we’ve been aware that a huge amount of radioactive material is scattered across our Galaxy, but how it got there was a bit of a mystery – until now.
Go to your computer or smartphone and do a Google image search for CK Vul. The letters C, K, a space, and Vul. The space is important. The letters don’t have to be capitalized. It’s the first thing Google shows you.
That space photograph might look like a fuzzy blob at first glance, but you’re looking at the remnant of a spectacular cosmic collision.
In June of 1670, two stars, one of them likely a red giant, crashed together, hurling material into space, shown in orange in the image, and leaving behind a brand new star.
The collision actually happened 2,000 years before that, but the light from the event only arrived here at Earth in 1670.
The explosion was bright enough that it appeared as a new star that was visible to the naked eye in the night sky for several months.
It faded for a bit and then re-brightened in March of 1671, then faded from view by August 1671.
It brightened again, but only weakly, in March 1672, and then faded for good in late May of that year.
It’s incredibly rare for stars to collide, but there’s another reason this event has astronomers excited — the glowing stuff surrounding the star contains radioactive material!
This is the first time radioactive material has been directly detected in space. It is a radioactive type of aluminum, similar to the material used to make everyday items like aluminum foil, car engines and soda cans.
Our galaxy contains about three solar masses of this type of radioactive aluminum. These new observations using the ALMA radiotelescope array in Chile tell us that at least some of it was produced during star collisions.
However, only a small amount of aluminum was spotted around this object, suggesting there’s probably a second source still waiting to be found.
Hey, Here’s A Cool Fact:
When radioactive materials emit radiation, they can become completely different elements.
Radioactive aluminum will eventually turn into the element magnesium.
So aluminum with an atomic number of 13 turns into magnesium with an atomic number of 12. It loses 1 proton to do this trick.
Magnesium is found in foods like almonds & cashews, brown rice, kidney beans, potato skins, pumpkin & peanut butter.
It plays an important role in keeping our bodies healthy.
This is from the NIH: “Magnesium is a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation.
Magnesium is required for energy production, oxidative phosphorylation, and glycolysis.”
Have you had your magnesium today?
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 Planetary Science Institute. 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!