Tag Archives: cosmos

Astronomers Just Witnessed A Massive Cosmic Explosion… 12 Billion Years After It Happened

Supergiants are massive stars with huge amounts of energy, which causes them to expand rapidly. However, all stars eventually reach a limit, after which the gravity of the core is no longer able to hold the star together.

The explosion that follows is known as a supernova (or sometimes a hypernova, if it’s big enough). As the outer portions of the star explode off, the core collapses upon itself.

Nebulas are the remnants of a supernova explosion. This is the Crab Nebula. Click to enlarge

If a star is large enough, the extreme amount of energy produced by this inward collapse forces the star’s core to release high-energy gamma particles. These gamma bursts are the most powerful event so far discovered in the universe. But just how powerful is that?

Well, in just 10 seconds, these gamma ray bursts release more energy than our Earth’s sun will during the entire 10 billion years of its expected lifespan.

On April 19th, in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, the ROTSE-IIIb telescope (owned by Southern Methodist University in Dallas) detected the rare phenomenon in a corner of the sky.

Click to enlarge

The gamma ray burst, classified as GRB 140419A by NASA’s Gamma-ray Coordinates Network, came from a supernova that happened 12.1 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang (estimated to have occurred 13.8 billion years ago).

Gamma ray burst have only recently been observed. Not only are they at extremely high frequencies, but they also have the shortest wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum, making them more difficult to detect. It wasn’t until the 90s that we created a telescope with the technology to detect gamma radiation.

The discovery was published in Science Daily earlier this month. You can read the full story here.

NOTE: The feature image is an artist rendering of a gamma burst. It is, however, based on detailed scientific study of the event.

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11 MUST-SEE Skywatching Events for 2014 (Infographic)

Yesterday, Space.com published this great infographic which highlights some of the most awesome space-related phenomenon and events that will be happening this year.

Skywatchers: mark your calenders! (Click on infographic to enlarge)

Direct Evidence That the Universe Expanded 100 Trillion TRILLION Times in A Split-Second

Astronomers announced a HUGE discovery yesterday. They claim to have found the first direct evidence to support the Big Bang and the Inflationary Theory of the universe.

For those who aren’t totally familiar with the theory, it basically states that 13.8 billion years ago all the matter in the universe existed in an extremely dense ball of matter (known as the singularity) about the size of a pinhead.

Then this singularity, no longer able to hold itself together, blew apart, expanding by 100 trillion trillion times (that’s 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times) in less than the blink of an eye.

Here’s a nice graphic illustrating inflationary theory (the top numbers are the time after the Big Bang, the bottom numbers the average temperature of the universe)

Click to enlarge

Scientists theorized that this explosion was so massive and violent that it ripped apart space itself. Einstein theorized that if this were the case, we would be able to observe gravitational waves (which squeeze and stretch space) that were left over from the Big Bang.

So how did the scientists know they had observed gravitational waves? Well, these waves produce a very distinct “swirly” pattern (like the ones in the image below) in polarized light, known as “B-mode” polarization. Polarization is when light waves are distorted from their original shape.

B-mode polarization fractions of a second after the Big Bang (Image: BICEP2 Project)
Types of light polarization

There have been a number of discoveries in the past which pointed indirectly to the Big Bang and expansion, such as the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation, but scientists consider this discovery the first direct evidence supporting the inflationary theory.

Read the full story from Space Industry News here.