Space: The Cosmos & Beyond
By Gunner Glam
Is the universe ever expanding? Is it crunching together? Or is it just openness?
With such mind-boggling questions to ponder on, Studio Brow would like to share a few new discoveries of the vastness known as outer space from Discovery Space News.
MASSIVE BLACK HOLE AT THE CENTER OF THE MILKY WAY MAY BE DEVOURING ASTEROIDS
It has come to light that a massive swarm of asteroids may be getting swallowed by a black hole.
There are regular but variable bursts of X-rays coming from the galaxy’s black hole that may be telltale footprints of vaporized asteroids.
A past massive X-ray flare could have been the remains of a planet that orbited too close to the black hole.
Further observations with NASA’s Chandra X-ray telescope are planned for 2012.
This conclusion has been reached by a team of astronomers trying to figure out why the black hole, known as Sagittarius A*, flares with X-rays approximately once a day. The bursts range in brightness and typically last a few hours.
Scientists suspect there is a massive swarm of asteroids circling the black hole, objects that have been striped away or booted out from their respective solar systems. They estimate that asteroids passing within about 100 million miles of the black hole — about as far as Earth orbits the sun — would succumb to its gravitational grip and be torn to bits.
DAREDEVIL TO PLUNGE FROM OUTER SPACE
Welcome to the extreme sport of space-diving.
Daredevil adventurer Felix Baumgartner intends to plunge 23 miles from the edge of space back to Earth.
The stunt is sponsored by Red Bull and will require a supersonic spacesuit.
After some minor speed bumps, Daredevil adventurer Felix Baumgartner’s plans to plunge 23 miles from the edge of space back to Earth — a Red Bull-sponsored stunt that would be the world’s highest freefall — is finally coming to fruition, the team announced Monday, Feb. 6.
After successful rounds of vacuum chamber tests in Texas, the team is now moving to Roswell, N.M., for the mission’s final phase of preparations, said Art Thompson, a team technical director who helped develop the B-2 Stealth bomber.
“This test was enormously important for our self-confidence. The success has given us an additional boost to rise to the challenges that still lie ahead,” Baumgartner said.
And while breaking records is important, this is also a stunt with great benefit for science. Team medical director Dr. Jonathan Clark hopes their findings can eventually have an impact on space travel and tourism.
“Red Bull Stratos is testing new equipment and developing the procedures for inhabiting such high altitudes as well as enduring such extreme acceleration,” Clark said. “The aim is to improve the safety for space professionals as well as potential space tourists.”
“We’ll be setting new standards for aviation. Never before has anyone gone supersonic without being in an aircraft,” Clark added.
To do it at all required a custom supersonic spacesuit, designed by the David Clark Company, which made the first such pressurized suits to protect World War II fighters during high-speed maneuvers.
In the process of his leap, Baumgartner said he hopes to become the first parachutist to break the sound barrier, plummeting toward the ground at 760 miles per hour.
NEW BATCH OF GIANT ALIEN WORLDS FOUND
The finding of 18 distant planets boosts a theory about how planets form.
Astronomers found 18 Jupiter-sized planets orbiting distant stars.
The discovery boosts the number of known alien worlds to well above 700.
The finding also sheds light on the way planets form around stars.
A new haul of 18 Jupiter-sized gas giant planets have been detected orbiting stars bigger than our sun, according to a press release by scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
The find boosts the number of known planets circling huge stars by 50 percent. Studying the newly found planets could also help astronomers better understand how planets — including ones in our own solar system — form and grow.
The new batch of alien worlds was announced on the heels of another recent discovery of 50 newly found planets from another team of astronomer, bringing the list of identified alien planets well past 700.
It is the largest single announcement of planets in orbit around stars more massive than the sun, aside from the discoveries made by the Kepler mission,” said John Johnson, assistant professor of astronomy at Caltech, in the release.
Findings on the discovery were published in the December issue of The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series.
The Kepler space telescope has so far identified more than 1,200 possible planets, though most of those have not yet been confirmed.
Using the Keck Observatory in Hawaii — with follow-up observations using the McDonald and Fairborn Observatories in Texas and Arizona, — the researchers surveyed about 300 stars.
They zeroed-in on stars that are more than one and a half times more massive than the sun.
To detect planets, the astronomers looked for stars that wobble, which can be caused by the gravitational tug of an orbiting planet. By searching for the signature wobble in the distant stars, the team found 18 planets with masses similar to Jupiter’s.
The researchers say that the findings lend further support to the theory that planets grow from seed particles that accumulate gas and dust in a disk surrounding a newborn star.
According to this theory, tiny particles start to clump together, eventually snowballing into a planet. If this theory is accurate, the characteristics of the resulting planetary system — such as the number and size of the planets, or their shapes — depends on the mass of the star.
A more massive star would create a bigger disk, which in turn would offer up more material to produce a greater number of giant planets.
“It’s nice to see all these converging lines of evidence pointing toward one class of formation mechanisms,” Johnson said in the release.
In another twist, the new batch of planets appear to have orbits that are mostly circular, while planets around sun-like stars span a wide range of circular to elliptical paths. Johnson said he’s now trying to find an explanation.
-From the vastness of the universe, more landing soon from Studio Brow-