Stories tagged astrophysics

VY Canis Majoris v. our Sun: No contest.
VY Canis Majoris v. our Sun: No contest.Courtesy Public domain
If you’re like me, you’re fretting about what to buy your significant other this coming holiday season. Let it go. We have bigger problems. There’s a humongous star in the constellation Canis Major that’s in its final death throes and could go supernova at any time. VY Canis Majoris, as it is referenced, is the largest star known to science, and is so huge, if it were placed in the center of our Solar System, it would encompass all the space between our Sun and the orbit of the planet Saturn (see diagram). But don’t worry, the unstable red hypergiant is nearly 5000 light-years away, and is being monitored closely (in far-infrared and submillimeter portions of the light spectrum) by the European Space Agency's new space telescope Herschel. Read more here about what's actually going on.

More about the Herschel space observatory


NOVA - MUSICAL MINDS at 8PM ET/PT (please check local listings)

Can the power of music make the brain come alive? Throughout his career Dr. Oliver Sacks, neurologist and acclaimed author, whose book Awakenings was made into a Oscar-nominated feature film starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, has encountered myriad patients who are struggling to cope with debilitating medical conditions. While their ailments vary, many have one thing in common: an appreciation for the therapeutic effects of music. NOVA follows four individuals—two of whom are Sacks’s case studies—and even peers into Sacks’s own brain, to investigate music’s strange, surprising, and still unexplained power over the brain.

NOVA scienceNOW hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson at 9PM ET/PT (please check local listings)

The fast-paced science magazine series NOVA scienceNOW returns on
June 30 on PBS with a new, 10-week season full of fresh new perspectives, fascinating
scientists, cutting-edge innovations, and provocative stories from the frontlines of science,
technology, and medicine. Hosted by renowned author and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse
Tyson, the series also introduces a brand-new correspondent this season, Ziya Tong (former
host and producer of Wired Science).

Ever wonder how gold is made. One explanation of the origin of gold is from the collision of neutron stars.


NASA Science website is an awesome resource

NASA Science website
NASA Science websiteCourtesy NASA
To show how useful this site can be, here are links to pages I found as I dug deeper into just one of the many areas on the NASA Science website.

Science for different levels of learning

The NASA Science website provides learning opportunities for four learning groups.

Earth, sun, planets, and astrophysics

The NASA Science website is divided into these parts.


A terrifying burst of cosmic energy: JGordon not pictured.  (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
A terrifying burst of cosmic energy: JGordon not pictured. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Scientists have recently reported observing a massive, and as of yet unexplained, burst of radio energy from across the universe. At the time of the event, I was probably in the shower, or watching TV, and, in either case, too far from my radio telescope to see what was happening.

Researchers say that the burst was unlike anything seen before, coming from at least one and a half billion light years away, and giving off as much energy as a large power station running for two billion years. I guess I have to take the scientists' word for it, although that seems like an awful lot of energy for me to miss. The event lasted for only five milliseconds, though, so it seems possible that it could have slipped my notice.

"The burst may have been produced by an exotic event such as the collision of two neutron stars or be the last gasp of a black hole as it evaporates completely," says Professor Duncan Lorimer of the University of West Virginia. Based on my own knowledge of cosmic events, I'd say it's equally likely that the energy burst came from a galactic scale conflict between, say, Thanos and Adam Warlock, or the utter destruction of a planet, as observed in Star Wars IV: A New Hope. However, I can't yet say either way for sure.

Scientists believe it's possible, however peculiar it may seem, that similar events may be occurring several times a day. The difficulty in actually spotting one just comes from the sky being so big, a fact that I can confidently confirm.


The moon.: Image courtesy Mdf.
The moon.: Image courtesy Mdf.

The Space Telescope Science Institute (the Hubble Space Telescope's science home), is conducting a three-day workshop beginning November 28 that will feature a roster of scientists, engineers, and astronauts presenting their thoughts about what NASA's return of human presence to the Moon could mean for astrophysics.

You can see the presentations live, or view previous webcasts from the presentations, by visiting the Space Telescope Science Institute’s webcast page.