It’s one of those astounding events that sounds like science fiction, but is just plain science. Astronomers say they were able to capture in unprecedented detail the process of a star being ripped into strips and devoured by a black hole.
The powerful phenomenon caught the attention of scientists when a new blast of light near a known supermassive black hole was spotted by telescopes around the world. Months worth of follow-up observations made it clear they were seeing the destruction of a far-off sun as it happened.
“In this case the star was torn apart with about half of its mass feeding — or accreting — into a black hole of one million times the mass of the sun, and the other half was ejected outward,” explained astronomer Edo Berger from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, in a statement.
The violent scene is what astronomers call a tidal disruption event, which happens when a star comes too close to a black hole and gets shredded through a— basically, the gravity of the black hole is so intense that it stretches whatever comes near vertically into long, thin shapes like pieces of spaghetti as it swallows it all up.
The event, which goes by the catalog entry AT2019qiz and is the closest such flare ever seen at just 215 million light-years away, was caught early enough that scientists have been able to get a relatively unobscured view of the cosmic carnage before a cloud of star guts pulls a veil over the region.
“We could actually see the curtain of dust and debris being drawn up as the black hole launched a powerful outflow of material with velocities up to 10,000 km/s (22 million miles per hour),” explained Kate Alexander, a NASA Einstein Fellow at Northwestern University. “This is a unique ‘peek behind the curtain’ that provided the first opportunity to pinpoint the origin of the obscuring material and follow in real time how it engulfs the black hole.”
A paper on the discovery was published Monday in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The event is so close and clear that Berger says it will help scientists learn more about the powerful forces at work, particularly the simultaneous pull of the shredded star into the black hole and the outward explosion of material from the star.
“Until now, the nature of these emissions has been heavily debated, but here we see that the two regimes are connected through a single process.”
The hope is that AT2019qiz could be a sort of Rosetta stone for studying and interpreting what black holes have for lunch in the future. One distant day, intergalactic space travelers may even give thanks that this discovery regularly allows them to warp around the universe without turning into space spaghetti.
Trio returns to Earth after 6 months aboard International Space Station – CBC.ca
A trio of space travellers safely returned to Earth on Thursday after a six-month mission on the International Space Station.
The Soyuz MS-16 capsule carrying NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, and Roscosmos’ Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner landed on the steppes of Kazakhstan southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan at 7:54 a.m. local time Thursday. After a brief medical checkup, the three will be taken by helicopters to Dzhezkazgan from where they will depart home.
The crew smiled as they talked to masked members of the recovery team, and NASA and Roscosmos reported that they were in good condition.
As part of additional precautions due to the coronavirus, the rescue team members meeting the crew were tested for the virus and the number of people involved in the recovery effort was limited.
Cassidy, Ivanishin and Vagner spent 196 days in orbit since arriving at the station on April 9.
NASA’s Kate Rubins and Roscosmos’ Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov arrived at the orbiting outpost a week ago for a six-month stay.
Before the crew’s departure, Russian cosmonauts were able to temporarily seal the air leak they tried to locate for several months. The small leak has posed no immediate danger to the station’s crew, and Roscosmos engineers have been working on a permanent seal.
In November, Rubins, Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov are expected to greet NASA’s SpaceX first operational Crew Dragon mission comprising NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi. It follows a successful Demo-2 mission earlier this year.
Osiris-Rex: Nasa asteroid mission confident of success – BBC News
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.css-14iz86j-BoldTextfont-weight:bold;“We really did kind of make a mess.”
That was Dante Lauretta’s take after reviewing the first pictures to come down from .css-yidnqd-InlineLink:linkcolor:#3F3F42;.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visitedcolor:#696969;.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visitedfont-weight:bolder;border-bottom:1px solid #BABABA;-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:focus,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:focusborder-bottom-color:currentcolor;border-bottom-width:2px;color:#B80000;@supports (text-underline-offset:0.25em).css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visitedborder-bottom:none;-webkit-text-decoration:underline #BABABA;text-decoration:underline #BABABA;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-skip-ink:none;text-decoration-skip-ink:none;text-underline-offset:0.25em;.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:focus,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:focus-webkit-text-decoration-color:currentcolor;text-decoration-color:currentcolor;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:2px;text-decoration-thickness:2px;color:#B80000;Nasa’s Osiris-Rex probe following its bid to grab a sample from asteroid Bennu on Tuesday.
Dust and grit flew in all directions but that was good news, enthused the University of Arizona professor.
“Everything that we can see from these initial images indicates sampling success. So in case you can’t tell, I’m pretty excited.”
The principal investigator’s team now has to work out precisely how much material Osiris-Rex might have lifted from the surface of 500m-wide Bennu.
If it’s a kilo or more, it would represent the biggest extra-terrestrial sample cache since the Apollo astronauts gathered rocks from the Moon some 50 years ago.
But even a smaller amount would still be a great prize.
Bennu is a very primitive object, with chemistry preserved from the dawn of the Solar System more than 4.5 billion years ago. As such, it can tell us a great deal about how the Sun and the planets came into being.
Osiris-Rex used what had been described as a “reverse vacuum cleaner” to acquire its clutch of “soil”.
More properly called the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism, or Tag-Sam, this device comprised a long boom with a ring-shaped collection chamber on the end.
The idea was to deliver a squirt of nitrogen when the Tag-Sam made contact with the asteroid.
The hope was this gas would stir up Bennu’s fragmented surface, leading to a considerable number of rocky pieces getting trapped inside the collection chamber.
The downlinked pictures certainly suggested the strategy was the right one.
Osiris-Rex may have been in contact with Bennu for only six seconds before retreating, but the sampling ring was flat and stable, and even pressing into the soil slightly. This should have maximised the chances of retaining material.
Rich Burns, Nasa’s project manager on the mission, lauded the the way his team managed to put the probe in just the right place on Bennu – almost exactly at the centre of the targeted sampling zone.
“We’re over 320 million km away from Earth at this point, and we touched this asteroid within a metre of where we intended to. So that’s extraordinary and a real credit to our team,” he told reporters.
On Thursday, engineers will command the spacecraft to take detailed pictures of the sampling ring to try to see what it contains.
And then on Saturday, they’ll make Osiris-Rex spin itself around with the Tag-Sam outstretched. Any extra mass on board will change the level of torque required to turn the probe, compared with the level that was needed to perform the same rotation exercise prior to sample acquisition.
“We are expecting a final sample mass measurement report on Monday,” explained Sandy Freund, the mission operations manager at Lockheed Martin, the company that manufactured Osiris-Rex.
It seems highly likely that Osiris-Rex has achieved its objective of taking at least 60g off Bennu. But if it hasn’t, there are two more nitrogen bottles still aboard the probe to facilitate further sampling bids. And there’s plenty of time, too.
The spacecraft is not scheduled to depart Bennu for Earth until April next year. A landing on Earth for any rock cache in this timeline would be late 2023.
Prof Lauretta once again on Wednesday’s paid tribute to the British scientist who conceived Osiris-Rex.
This was Bristol-born Michael Drake who held senior science positions at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
He worked up the concept for the mission but sadly died in 2011, aged 65, just months after Nasa had green-lit the project.
“I’m pleased to see that my dad’s legacy is being honoured at this exciting time in Osiris-Rex’s mission,” Michael Drake’s son, Matt Drake, told BBC News.
“My father’s idea to study near-Earth asteroids as a means of peering back in time to the birth of the Solar System finally came to fruition during [Tuesday’s] Tag event.
“As the principal investigator of this team from its inception until his passing almost 10 years later, he would have been incredibly proud of his team’s accomplishments.”
Osiris-Rex carries a plaque of remembrance to Michael Drake.
Rare 'blue moon' to appear on Halloween this year – Richmond News
The year 2020 has brought many surprises and this year’s Halloween is no different.
A rare “blue full moon” will be appearing on Halloween night this year.
While the moon will not look blue, the term “blue moon” is given when two full moons appear in a single month.
A full moon on Halloween occurs roughly once every 19 years – a pattern known as the Metonic Cycle.
The next illuminated Halloween full moon, says astronomers, after 2020 will be in the 2039, 2058, 2077 and 2096.
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