Read more: http://cheezburger.com/61761281
Read more: https://imgflip.com/i/1hlzxw
A hyperactive sunspot on the surface of the sun has fired off two of the most powerful solar flares of the year in just 24 hours, and promises to unleash more solar storms over the next several days, space weather experts say.
The active sunspot went into overdrive on Mother’s Day when it erupted late Sunday night with an X-class solar flare, the strongest type of solar storm possible, NASA scientists said in an update. That first eruption registered as an X1.7-class event on the space weather scale, and was followed midday Monday by an even more powerful X2.8 solar flare, which is the third-strongest solar storm in recent years.
You can see a video of the huge solar flares together here as seen by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory and other spacecraft.
The Mother’s Day solar flare sent a super-hot wave of solar plasma, called a coronal mass ejection, hurtling through space at about 2.6 million mph (4.3 million km/h). The solar eruption was not aimed at Earth, so should pose no threat to satellites and astronauts in orbit, NASA officials said.
The solar storm could deliver a glancing blow to NASA’s infrared Spitzer Space Telescope and sun-watching Stereo-B spacecraft, according to NASA’s update.
“If warranted, operators can put spacecraft into safe mode to protect the instruments from solar material,” NASA officials explained in a statement. “There is some particle radiation associated with this event, which is what can concern operators of interplanetary spacecraft since the particles can trip computer electronics on board.”
The back-to-back solar storms erupted from an active sunspot region that is just out of sight over the left side of the sun. The region has been active in recent days, spouting off two medium-strength M-class solar flares, but the two X-class solar storms are its most powerful events yet.
The region “will soon rotate into view” as seen from Earth, NASA officials said. When it does, any major solar flares and eruptions could be aimed squarely at Earth.
“Increased numbers of flares are quite common at the moment because the sun’s normal 11-year activity cycle is ramping up toward solar maximum, which is expected in 2013,” NASA officials said in the update Monday.
When aimed directly at Earth, X-class solar flares can pose a serious risk to astronauts and satellites in space, and interfere with GPS and communications signals. The strongest solar storms can even affect ground-based power system infrastructure. Moderately strong solar flares can supercharge the Earth’s northern lights to create spectacular aurora displays.
The sun’s current space weather cycle is called Solar Cycle 24 and began in 2008. A fleet of spacecraft, including NASA’s powerful Solar Dynamics Observatory, keep constant watch on the sun for signs of solar flare activity.
NASA and the Space Weather Prediction Center operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are providing updates throughout today on the recent solar flares.
Image courtesy of NASA
This article originally published at Space.com
Modern science is more about patience and persistence than about great epiphanies. It is therefore extremely satisfying when you make a breakthrough, as it means a lot of hard work has finally paid off. After monitoring a fairly quiet black hole for nearly 26 years, my colleagues and I were thrilled to suddenly catch it emit a powerful wind something we didnt even know black holes could do.
We first discovered the black hole back in 1990, when I was based at an observatory on La Palma in the Canary Islands. Orbiting space missions had just detected a mysterious and very bright new X-ray source in the star constellation Cygnus that had undergone a huge outburst. Our observations revealed that V404 Cygni was a black hole of around ten times the mass of our sun. This was the first object in our galaxy to be unequivocally identified as a black hole.
The black hole is part of a binary system it has a low-mass companion star (only about half the mass of our sun) that orbits around the black hole every 6.5 days. During this process it continuously swallows material from the star. The matter falling towards the black hole forms a so-called accretion disc. Its hotter, innermost zones emit X-rays, which we cannot detect from the Earths surface, as they are absorbed by our atmosphere, and hence must be studied from space. The outer regions of the disc, however, emit visible light, which means we can observe this region from the ground.
What makes V404 Cygni special is that, at only 8,000 light years away, it is one of the closest known black holes to the Earth, and has a particularly large accretion disc (with a radius of about 10m kilometres), which makes its outbursts extremely bright. X-ray outbursts from black holes are rare (V404 Cygni is one of the best known), typically happening on timescales of decades. They happen when so much material is accumulated in the accretion disc that it becomes unstable and the disc suddenly starts dumping matter onto the black hole. This causes the matter to reach very high velocities and temperatures, emitting huge quantities of X-rays in the process, at which point they are spotted by orbiting X-ray satellites.
We continued to study the black hole for 25 years, but it was very quiet for most of the time. Luckily I happened to be observing it on June 14 2015, just 13 hours before its next outburst happened, and noticed the accretion disc was moving in towards the black hole. This beautifully illuminates the physics of accretion discs going into an active state, so I knew what was coming. Once the outburst began, an international team of astrophysicists was assembled to follow it in detail, using telescopes available to us now of vastly greater power compared to what we were using 25 years ago. This time, its X-ray brightness increased a million fold in a few days, becoming the brightest source in the sky.
The results, which have just been published in Nature, are surprising. They show a powerful wind of hydrogen and helium emanating from the black hole and travelling at a mind-boggling speed of 3,000 kilometres a second. Formed in the outer layers of the accretion disc, this wind has to move quickly to be able to escape from the immense gravitational field surrounding the black hole.
The wind is likely driven by the X-rays created in the outburst heating the disc surface to high enough temperatures to escape the discs gravity and flow outwards. It is thanks to the high resolution provided by the CANARIAS telescopes huge aperture that we were able to link this wind with the X-ray flare. And while radio jets accelerated by processes around the black hole itself have been seen in these X-ray outbursts before (including V404 Cyg), this was the first time we had seen a strong wind blown off the outer accretion disc.
Artists impression of the black hole emitting wind.
The finding allows us to explain why the outburst was so brief, lasting only two weeks, compared to the previous outburst which lasted three months and helped us discover the object in the first place. This is linked to how and at what rate black holes accrete material, and grow in size (mass) important parameters for understanding the evolution of black holes on all scales in the universe. If this material had not been blown away, it is likely that the outburst would have lasted much longer.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but we have known for many years that, in spite of the intense gravitational field close to the Event Horizon of the black hole (within which nothing can escape), the enormous pressure of radiation itself, combined with the spin and magnetic field of the black hole, can lead to large fractions of the infalling matter being spat out often at velocities approaching the speed of light.
Once the outburst had finished, we were able to detect a nebula a cloud of dust and gases formed from material expelled by the wind. This phenomenon also helps us to estimate how much mass was ejected through the wind.
These observations are just a small part of the huge dataset collected worldwide during the outburst, and much more remains to be done as it is all thoroughly digested. But it demonstrates the importance of reacting quickly to these events with our most powerful telescopes in order to catch these events. We are now organising to put programmes in place for future events, as the detailed physics of how black holes suck in matter is still very poorly understood.
For the last two years, photographer Tim Dodd has never travelled without his vintage Russian space suit (it was an impulse online purchase). Whenever a photo opp presents itself, Tim dons the suit and takes awesome self-portraits in an ongoing series entitled, Everyday Astronaut.
Recently Dodd drove 1300 miles to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats in northwestern Utah. It had been a lifelong dream to visit and drive the famous flats but the weather had other ideas. A rainstorm flooded the flats and instead of getting to drive them, Dodd took an amazing series of photos for Everyday Astronaut instead.
The artist shared the resulting self-portraits on reddit and even provided the camera settings for each shot to help aspiring photographers. For more be sure to check out Everyday Astronaut at the links below.
Sony A7RMKII 85mm @F2.0 ISO 100 1/200th
Sony A7RMKII 85mm @F2.0 ISO 100 1/200th
Sony A7RMKII 300mm @F5.0 ISO 100 1/5000th
Sony A7RMKII 24mm @F2.0 ISO 1250 8 sec
Canon 5D MK III 11mm @F4 ISO 6400 30 sec
Sony A7RMKII 11mm @F4 ISO 3200 30 sec
Sony A7RMKII 11mm @F4 ISO 3200 30 sec
A telescope in Chile has captured a spectacular view of a pitch black cloud in deep space, a celestial home to several newborn stars hidden in a nebula named after a smoking apparatus.
The new space photo shows part of the dark Pipe nebula called Barnard 59, a distant nebula that forms the mouthpiece of the celestial pipe after which its parent structure is named. Barnard 59 is between 600 and 700 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Ophiuchus (The Serpent Bearer).
Astronomers used a telescope at the La Silla Observatory operated by the European Southern Observatory in Chile’s high Atacama Desert to snap the new image, which ESO officials said is a textbook example of a so-called dark nebula.
“Originally, astronomers believed these were areas in space where there were no stars,” ESO officials said in an image announcement today (Aug. 15). But it was later discovered that dark nebulae actually consist of clouds of interstellar dust so thick it can block out the light from the stars beyond.”
Indeed, the new ESO photo shows Barnard 59 as a dark patch of sky framed by an immense star-filled background. At the center of the image are foggy, smoke-like features illuminated by newborn stars, according to an image description.
Barnard 59 is just one part of the Pipe nebula. Only when it is joined with four other Barnard objects do they appear to form the complete smoking pipe after which the structure is named.
There is relatively little star formation actually underway inside Barnard 59, when compared to other dark nebulas, ESO officials said. Several asteroids, which are actually in the foreground in our own solar system, also appear as blue, green and red stripes, they added.
The Pipe nebula’s Barnard 59 structure is named after American astronomer Edward Emerson Barnard, who was the first scientists to systematically observe dark nebulas in through long-exposure space photography, ESO officials explained. In all, Barnard mapped 370 dark nebulas in the sky between the late 19th and early 20th century.
Barnard was also an avid comet-hunter who used the prize money from discovering comets to buy his first house, ESO officials said.
In the announcement of the new Pipe nebula image, ESO officials named the cosmic photo “Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe,” French for “This is Not a Pipe.” The moniker is an homage to the famous painting of the same name by Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte (1898-1967), who painted a smoking pipe and wrote “This is not a pipe” in French below to remind the observer that the painting is a mere representation of a pipe, and not a pipe itself.
The Pipe nebula, ESO officials reminded readers, is also not a real smoking pipe.
“By coincidence, this image is appearing on the 45th anniversary of the painter’s death,” ESO officials said.
This article originally published at Space.com
Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/16/pipe-nebula/
Humanity will be better off when our planet has been rid of these terrible socks.
Fire it directly to space.
Should they be fired into space, never to return to this good green Earth of ours? Yes.
Read more: http://cheezburger.com/8414584320
While it’s a sad thought, it’s also a challenge many researchers take to heart. The mystery pushes them to keep digging, keep piecing parts together.
One of the biggest question marks of the artifacts we’ve uncovered from the ancient Greeks is the so-called Antikythera Mechanism…
(via Unexplained Mysteries)
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the next discovery they make about this machine is that it somehow contains the location of Atlantis.