Scientists Discovered the Most Massive Neutron Star Ever - VICE - Canadanewsmedia
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Scientists Discovered the Most Massive Neutron Star Ever – VICE

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The universe has a reputation for producing bizarre phenomena, and neutron stars are among its absolute weirdest creations. Formed when huge stars explode and collapse into small city-scale spheres, these objects are the most dense stellar remnants that we know of aside from black holes.

A team of astronomers has now successfully identified the most massive neutron star on record, according to a paper published on Monday in Nature Astronomy. Called J0740+6620, the star is 2.14 times as massive as the Sun, and measures about 15 miles in diameter.

This beats out previous contenders, such as J1614−2230 and J0348+0432, and pushes the known upper limit of neutron star masses well beyond two times the mass of the Sun.

The discovery is important because scientists have yet to pinpoint the maximum possible mass for neutron stars. J0740+6620 likely sits near this threshold, which means it can shed light on the mysterious interior dynamics of neutron stars and yield insights into the deaths and afterlives of massive stars.

The new mass detection “is interesting because it informs our understanding of how supernovae form neutron stars (and how massive the progenitor stars must be),” said lead author Thankful Cromartie, a graduate student in astronomy at the University of Virginia, in an email.

“In order to account for neutron stars that are born extremely massive, we need to refine our models of stellar evolution and supernovae explosions,” she added.

J0740+6620 is a pulsar, a special type of neutron star that emits luminous beams of radiation out of its magnetic poles. Because these poles happen to be oriented toward Earth, scientists can clearly observe it regularly blinking like a cosmic lighthouse, despite the fact that it is located 4,600 light years away.

The pulsar has a companion star that scientists think is a white dwarf, another type of stellar corpse that is not quite so dense as neutron stars or black holes. Cromartie and her team observed this binary system from 2014 to 2019 using the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.

The researchers were able to calculate the pulsar’s mass due to its interactions with its companion white dwarf. As the two objects orbit each other, their immense gravity warps space surrounding them, which distorts the radiant pulses emitted by J0740+6620.

Light from the pulsar travels slightly farther as a result of this distortion, which is a phenomenon called the “Shapiro Delay,” after astrophysicist Irwin Shapiro, who first described it in 1964.

The team used this subtle time delay to estimate the mass of the white dwarf, which in turn enabled them to calculate the mass of the pulsar. The research revealed that J0740+6620 is the biggest neutron star known to scientists.

The results “serve as a strong validation of the existence of high-mass neutron stars,” the team concluded in the paper. “Even small increases in the measured mass of the most massive neutron stars force a reconsideration of the fundamental physics at play in their interiors.”

Correction: An earlier version of this paper stated that J0740+6620 was measured at 2.17 solar masses. That was based on a preprint version of the Nature Astronomy paper. A new version of the paper had a measurement of 2.14 solar masses. The article has been updated to reflect this number.

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

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Billionaire Bezos unveils plans to land humans on Moon, with a little help from some old friends – The Register

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Blue Origin and industry vets eye a slice of NASA’s lunar lander largesse

Richest person in the world, Jeff Bezos, yesterday pitched NASA a team mostly made up of the usual suspects to build a lunar lander for the agency’s ambitious 2024 boots-on-Moon goal.

Speaking at the International Astronautical Congress in Washington, Bezos announced the “national team”, of which his Blue Origin would be the prime contractor (naturally). The members consist of Lockheed Martin for the Ascent Stage, Northrop Grumman for the Transfer Element and Draper providing the guidance and navigation systems.

“We could not ask for better partners,” intoned the billionaire, which is fair enough. After all, elements of all the companies in the team-up worked on the Apollo program back in the day (although those engineers will have long been put out to pasture.)

The Transfer Element will guide the stack from lunar orbit to close to the Moon, from whence the Descent Element will conduct a powered descent. Lockheed Martin’s ascent module will then send the freshly minted Moonwalkers back into space.

Blue Origin will also be building the descent element of the lander, which uses the company’s BE-7 engine. The powerplant, Bezos said, is fuelled by liquid hydrogen and oxygen and as well being “highly throttleable” and developing 10,000 pounds of thrust.

The BE-7, of course, has yet to actually leave the test stand. Bezos told the audience that to date, the company had managed 13 minutes of test time, including a three-minute continuous firing.

That same engine, Bezos added, would be used by Northrop Grumman in the transfer element of the lunar lander stack.

Bezos unveiled the Blue Moon lander back in May and the announcement of the National Team is an indicator that it will take more than one company to meet the 2024 goal. It will also reassure those within NASA nervous about flinging cash at a company that has yet to even make Earth orbit, let alone do anything in deep space.

And NASA has lots of experience in giving money to Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman after all.

Grumman, of course, built the original Apollo Lunar Module back in NASA’s glory days while Draper provided the guidance systems for the Moon missions.

These days, Northrop Grumman provides NASA with ISS cargo services and is working on both the boosters for the eternally-delayed Space Launch System and the habitat for the agency’s Lunar Gateway.

Draper has continued to work on precision guidance, although there is a delightful hole to tumble down in researching the Apollo guidance units, particularly efforts to fire up the old things once more. Naturally, the hand-woven circuitry of the Apollo era won’t feature this time around.

NASA is due to select two contractor teams in late 2020 to actually build the lander, having asked for proposals (and deleted certain reusability requirements in the rush to 2024). ®

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Bezos's Blue Origin partners with Lockheed, others on moon lander – Financial Post

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WASHINGTON — U.S. billionaire Jeff Bezos said on Tuesday his space company Blue Origin has signed agreements with Lockheed Martin Corp, Northrop Grumman Corp and research and development organization Draper for development of its lunar lander designed to help NASA put humans on the moon by 2024.

Blue Origin’s so-called Blue Moon lunar lander, unveiled by Bezos in May, is in development and sits at the center of the space company’s ambition to ferry humans into deep space and land key contracts from the U.S. space agency for space exploration.

“I’m excited to announce that we put together a national team to go back to the moon,” Bezos, founder and CEO of online retail giant Amazon, said at the International Astronautical Congress.

The four companies, with Blue Origin as the lead contractor, plan to submit a proposal for the lander to NASA under its Artemis lunar program, an accelerated mission to the moon kickstarted in March by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

Bezos called the partnerships a “national team” whose history in space exploration fits the Blue Moon’s mission. Lockheed is separately developing the moon-bound astronaut capsule named Orion. Northrop helped NASA build the Apollo lunar landers in the 1960s. Draper, a not-for-profit research and development organization, built NASA’s navigation computers for Apollo lunar landers. (Reporting by Joey Roulette; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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A giant full beaver moon set to dazzle Metro Vancouver skies – Vancouver Courier

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While it is getting darker earlier in Metro Vancouver, this month’s full beaver moon promises to illuminate the night sky.

The November full moon is thought to have derived its funny name because it occurred during the optimal time to trap the furry creatures. In fact, both colonial Americans as well as the Algonquin tribes referred to it as such.

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“Why this name? Back then, this was the month to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs,” reports Farmer’s Almanac.

While it is commonly known as the beaver moon, it was also called the Full Frost Moon by other North American Tribes.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the moon will be fullest during the day on Tuesday, Nov. 12. However, Vancouver stargazers will still be able to see the nearly-full moon in all her celestial glory the night before (Nov. 11) as well as later that night (Nov. 12).

What’s more, this full moon casts long, hauntingly beautiful shadows in the Northern Hemisphere. They are similar to those cast by the midday summer sun, as the moon is extremely high in the sky during this time.

Stargazers should opt to travel as far away from city lights as possible in order to avoid light pollution that will obscure the clarity of heavenly bodies. While this works best the in more remote places, anywhere that has a higher elevation will also provide more ideal viewing conditions.

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