The Milky Way is warped and twisted, not flat

From: BBC NEWS

Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is “warped and twisted” and not flat as previously thought, new research shows.

Analysis of the brightest stars in the galaxy shows that they do not lie on a flat plane as shown in academic texts and popular science books.

Astronomers from Warsaw University speculate that it might have been bent out of shape by past interactions with nearby galaxies.

The new three dimensional map has been published in the journal Science.

The popular picture of the Milky Way as a flat disc is based on the observation of 2.5 million stars out of a possible 2.5 billion. The artists’ impressions are therefore rough approximations of the truer shape of our galaxy, according to Dr Dorota Skowron of Warsaw University.

“The internal structure and history of the Milky Way is still far from being understood, in part because it is extremely difficult to measure distances to stars at the outer regions of our galaxy,” she said.

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First Ever Picture of a Black Hole

From BBC NEWS 

Astronomers have taken the first ever image of a black hole, which is located in a distant galaxy.

It measures 40 billion km across – three million times the size of the Earth – and has been described by scientists as “a monster”.

The black hole is 500 million trillion km away and was photographed by a network of eight telescopes across the world.

Details have been published today in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Prof Heino Falcke, of Radboud University in the Netherlands, who proposed the experiment, told BBC News that the black hole was found in a galaxy called M87.

“What we see is larger than the size of our entire Solar System,” he said.

“It has a mass 6.5 billion times that of the Sun. And it is one of the heaviest black holes that we think exist. It is an absolute monster, the heavyweight champion of black holes in the Universe.”

The image shows a intensely bright “ring of fire”, as Prof Falcke describes it, surrounding a perfectly circular dark hole. The bright halo is caused by superheated gas falling into the hole. The light is brighter than all the billions of other stars in the galaxy combined – which is why it can be seen at such distance from Earth.

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Image: EHT Collaboration

Hayabusa-2: Japan spacecraft touches down on asteroid

From BBC News:

A Japanese spacecraft has touched down on an asteroid in an attempt to collect a sample of rock from the surface.

The Hayabusa-2 probe was trying to grab the sample from a pre-chosen site on the asteroid Ryugu just before 23:00 GMT on 21 February.

The spacecraft reached asteroid Ryugu in June 2018 after a three-and-a-half-year journey from Earth.

Hayabusa-2 is expected to return to Earth in 2020 along with its rocky hoard.

During sample collection, the spacecraft approached the 1km-wide asteroid with an instrument called the sampler horn. On touchdown, a 5g “bullet” made of the metal tantalum was fired into the rocky surface at 300m/s.

The particles kicked up by the impact should have been be caught by the sampler horn.

“We made a successful touchdown, including firing a bullet,” said Hayabusa-2 project manager Yuichi Tsuda.

“We made the ideal touchdown in the best conditions,” he said.

 

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Mysterious Radio Signals From Distant Galaxy Detected

From BBC News:

Astronomers have revealed details of mysterious signals emanating from a distant galaxy, picked up by a telescope in Canada.

The precise nature and origin of the blasts of radio waves is unknown.

Among the 13 fast radio bursts, known as FRBs, was a very unusual repeating signal, coming from the same source about 1.5 billion light years away.

Such an event has only been reported once before, by a different telescope.

“Knowing that there is another suggests that there could be more out there,” said Ingrid Stairs, an astrophysicist from the University of British Columbia (UBC).

“And with more repeaters and more sources available for study, we may be able to understand these cosmic puzzles – where they’re from and what causes them.”

The CHIME observatory, located in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, consists of four 100-metre-long, semi-cylindrical antennas, which scan the entire northern sky each day.

The telescope only got up and running last year, detecting 13 of the radio bursts almost immediately, including the repeater.

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China’s lunar probe makes history by successfully soft-landing on the far side of the moon — TechCrunch

It’s not Lunar New Year yet, but there is something new on the moon. In a major milestone for space exploration, China announced that its lunar program has successfully soft-landed a probe on the far side of the moon, making it the first country to do so. The historic landing was reported by Xinhua, China’s…

via China’s lunar probe makes history by successfully soft-landing on the far side of the moon — TechCrunch

Everything You Need to Know About String Theory

YouTube channel SpaceTime has been running an excellent series on String Theory and explains, in simplistic-yet-detailed language, what it is and how it’s taken the science world by storm over the past thirty years.

Also (for some reason WordPress are not allowing me to embed more than one video) How to Detect Extra Dimensions, Why String Theory is Right and Why String Theory is Wrong.

 

NASA Launches Mission to ‘Touch the Sun”. Parker Solar Probe

Original story via BBC NEWS

US space agency Nasa has launched its mission to send a satellite closer to the Sun than any before.

The Parker Solar Probe rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The probe is set to become the fastest-moving manmade object in history. Its data promises to crack longstanding mysteries about the Sun’s behaviour.

It is the first space craft to be named after a living person – astrophysicist Eugene Parker, 91, who first described solar wind in 1958.

“Wow, here we go! We’re in for some learning over the next several years,” he said after watching the lift-off from the scene. The University of Chicago professor said he had been biting his nails in anticipation.

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Scientists Are About to Announce a “Groundbreaking” Discovery

From Science Alert...

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) is hosting an announcement today to reveal exciting findings from its IceCube observatory at the South Pole. At 11am EDT (3pm GMT) today, they’ll be streaming live from the NSF headquarters in Virginia, as scientists discuss a groundbreaking discovery in astronomy. The NSF said that the announcement concerns “multi-messenger astrophysics findings” from IceCube.

More than 20 observatories took part in the research, and leading astrophysicists from these will be present at the event. Aside from that, no other details have been revealed.

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