Our Universe is huge, and in spite of constantly ongoing studies there are so many mysteries and unknowns in it. We will tell you about the latest discoveries, which once again turned our ideas about the universe.
A new type of storm … on the star
NASA telescopes “Spitzer” and “Kepler” – a powerful tandem, which recently found a completely unexpected phenomenon on a small star: a storm.
Just 53 light-years from us in the constellation of Lira, a L-dwarf the size of a Jupiter named W1906 + 40 showed a strange spot, similar to the red spot of Jupiter. Unlike his cousin, a brown dwarf of a similar size, W1906 + 40 is a conscientious star producing his own light. However, to call it light is difficult: this tiny star object is relatively cold – only 2000 degrees Celsius.
W1906 + 40 is so warm (in the sense: not hot and not cold), that clouds form and twist in its atmosphere. These clouds, spurred by the inner fury of the star, created a dark spot near the north pole, which astronomers mistook for the sunspot. And although it cannot be seen directly, scientists have identified its presence in the blackout, which occurs every nine hours.
Cloud conditions were also observed on brown dwarfs, but these nedostars are not strong enough to support synthesis. The longest storms on their surface will hardly survive more than a day. The storm on W1906 + 40 is strong and after two years.
New mysterious globular cluster
Globular clusters are spherical assemblies of thousands of stars. The age of some of them is comparable to the age of the universe; Some of them traveled billions of years before settling on the outskirts of the formed galaxies.
Our Milky Way is great, but it has only 150 clusters at its disposal. More massive galaxies attract more clusters, and the nearest galactic monster, the Centaurus A (NGC 5128), an elliptical galaxy 12 million light-years away, has 2000 ball sheds.
But not all Centaurus accumulations are interesting. As a rule, the mass of a cluster is commensurate with its brightness, and the brightest sources are also the most massive. But in the process of studying 125 clusters in the Centaurus, astronomers have discovered that some have a much larger mass than we see.
Scientists have proposed two equally curious solutions: dark matter or black holes. Globular clusters do not often contain dark matter, unlike galaxies, but these few, perhaps, with the help of an incomprehensible mechanism it received. Black holes are also massive enough to produce the observed effect. If so, Centaurus A becomes a space minefield with eerie gluttonous black holes on the periphery.
New brightest supernova
The University of Ohio Observatory with the formidable title of All Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae (ASAS-SN, consonant with “assassin”, “automatic examination of the entire sky for supernovae”) recently discovered the most ridiculous death of a star from all that has ever been observed.
In 2015, the double telescopic array “Brutus” and “Cassius” stumbled upon an unremarkable spot of light. Subsequent observations revealed a strange spectrum of light emanating from the site, and finally the South African large telescope confirmed a cloud of extremely bright gas with an unidentified 15-kilometer object in the center. Scientists suspect that this is a former supernova, several times beating the previous record – so wild that it released into the universe a fury of 600 billion suns.
ASASSN-15lh, as it was called, is so gorgeous that it exceeds the limits of our scientific understanding. Astronomers cannot properly explain the power of this supernova, but they have several ideas. Perhaps this is the wild agony of one of the most massive stars in the universe. It turns out that these elite stars exist, we just may not have seen one yet.
In the same way, a millisecond magnetar can come up as an explanation. These objects rotate at an incredible speed. If you convert this huge energy of rotation into light, you can get exactly the explosion that astronomers have observed.
A new type of star music
Astronomers hunt down the oldest stars in the galaxy, and the recently updated method allowed them to discover an ancient group of stars from the early days of the Milky Way.
The study, conducted by the School of Physics and Astronomy of the University of Birmingham, allowed to glimpse the hearts of eight elderly stars living in the Messier 4 (M4) globular cluster at some 7,200 light-years away from us and hear the music inside. These stars are much older, thicker and redder than the Sun, and (most surprisingly) are filled with sound. These “resonant acoustic oscillations” perturb the stellar matrix and cause tiny, but detectable changes in brightness.
The newly invented ability to measure these fluctuations spawned the field of astro-seismology, another way to study the stars. Astronomers can use this technique to determine the age and mass of a star. These fluctuations confirmed theoretical calculations and showed that M4 stars are 13 billion years old. They are the oldest stars in the galaxy.
A new type of stars with an oxygen atmosphere
Star SDSSJ124043.01 + 671034.68 (“Dox”, as it is called shortly) is similar to any other star, behind several but: its name is hard to pronounce and its outer layer is 99.9% oxygen. This incredible star – a white dwarf – is unique in our catalog of 4.5 million stars, including 32,000 confirmed white dwarfs.
The history of its discovery is also noteworthy. Looking for remarkable stars, scientists study spectral graphs that reflect the elemental composition of a star. Unfortunately, strangeness is a human concept, therefore it is necessary to identify strangeness by eye, it is impossible to entrust machines. Specifically, this case was noticed by the student Gustavo Oriki, who viewed about 300,000 spectral diagrams, several thousand a day before he found the Dox.
As a rule, white dwarfs are covered with light volatile elements, which are produced during the life cycle of a star. But the Dox somehow surrounded itself with a fluffy shroud and acquired an atmosphere of almost pure oxygen flavored with a small pinch of other elements, like neon and magnesium.
Scientists have no idea how it happened, but they assume that once Dox was a companion of the red giant. He passed the substance in the form of super-hot gas to his stellar wife, while the Dox did not eat too much, the lid did not explode and all the light material did not go into deep space. It is amazing discovery nevertheless, after this, astronomers probably wouldn’t be surprised even if they found little aliens playing free pokies games on mobiles. That would surprise me, though.
A new type of space mountains
Forever erupting lava moon of Jupiter Io – the most volcanically active body in the solar system. It rotates only 400,000 kilometers from its pot-bellied, gaseous “folder” and powerful gravitational forces chew the moon like a cud.
Thanks to countless cycles of gravitational torment, Io is now dotted with sulphurous geysers, infernal lava flows and jagged mountains. This hundred mountains is unlike any other in the solar system: they exist in isolation and stick out directly from the unsteady surface of the satellite, unlike the grouped and sloping mountains on other worlds.
As modeling shows, compressive forces work together with lava flows to produce these strange vertical mountains. The surface of Io is constantly covered with fresh lava from its 400 active volcanoes (which is amazing for a body the size of the Moon), which cover the plains of the companion with five inches of molten matter every ten years.
The accumulation of ash and lava creates extreme pressure, which increases with depth, thanks to the spherical nature (majority) of the moons. When the voltage becomes unbearable, the earth splits and a massive peak is thrown out.
A new type of unexpectedly young hot Jupiter
Hot Jupiters are gas giants, who somehow found themselves at a close distance from their stars. Some of them are locked in such close orbits that the gravity of the star eats small bodies layer by layer, and the possible planet PTFO8-8695 b rotates so close that it completes the orbit every 11 hours.
PTFO8-8695 b is also one of the youngest planets, since its star, PTFO8-8695, is only two million years old. This is paradoxically small – the majority of hot Jupiters have stars of billions of years.
Astronomers think that all hot Jupiters are migrating, because it is too hot near a star so that gas giants can form. Gas planets merge in quiet cool conditions; in the same way, the giants in our solar system are in the asteroid belt.
The fate of PTFO8-8695 b is unknown, but not so pessimistic. It seems that some hot Jupiters settle in stable orbits and, possibly, will be able to live long enough.
A new type of extinct space rock
Oest 65, an ancient cosmic stone rich in iridium and neon, is unlike any other in our collection of 50,000 cosmic souvenirs. It belongs to the type of meteorites that we can never see again, because according to astronomers, the brutal encounter, in the process of which Oest 65 appeared, erased its parent bodies into powder.
This meteorite fell 470 million years ago and settled in the lower part of the ancient ocean, which is now part of the Swedish quarry. His parent was, most likely, a space potato 20-30 kilometers wide, large enough to snatch a good piece of the Earth, if compared with the relatively small asteroid Chicxulub, which destroyed the dinosaurs (10 kilometers).
Orbital potatoes encountered an even more gigantic cosmic rock 100-150 kilometers in width, giving rise to many small pieces that rained furiously to Earth. These chondrites still wander in the vicinity of the Sun, although we probably will never find a sample similar to Oest 65.
A new type of exosystem
When astronomers discovered the planet 2MASS J2126-814, it looked like a world that existed completely separate, in itself. This planet, a wandering gas giant 12-14 times massive than Jupiter, is doomed to hang around forever in space to search for the sun, which it can call its own.
But this story has a happy ending. Astronomers have found another object, following an outcast planet, a red dwarf named TYC 9486-927-1. Both bodies are 100 light years from Earth and seem to be moving together – it turns out the planet is not alone.
Scientists realized that they discovered the largest solar system known to date. The parent star is located 1,000,000,000,000 kilometers from the planet. What it is – imagine the forms of life that peer into the night sky and cannot distinguish their own star from other similar points in the sky.
The 2MASS J2126-8140 orbits 140 times the orbit of Pluto, which is 6 billion kilometers from the Sun. Such a situation could not result from the traditional method of producing the solar system in the process of disk collapse, and scientists believe that these two bodies emerged from one giant trickle of intergalactic gas.
A new type of solid planet
Solid planets like the Earth depend on mass restrictions. If one grows too thick, its gravitational pull attracts more and more hydrogen and swells up to the gas giant. Usually so. But the planet Kepler-10c, with a mass of 17 terrestrial and having no gas, demonstrates to astronomers a muzzle.
They discovered this planet floating at 560 light years in the constellation of the Dragon, using the Kepler space observatory in conjunction with the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo in the Canary Islands. Kepler-10c – 30,000 kilometers in diameter – was initially ranked among the gargantuan gas of a funny size – mini-neptune – relatively small planets with dense layers of gas.
But the hypothesis of the mini-neptune dissolved, when the mass measurements showed that Kepler-10c somehow managed to press 17 earth masses into this frame. For mini-neptune this is too “meaty” and says that the planet consists of solids.
Kepler-10c with its age of 11 billion years is a cosmic long-liver. Her advanced age suggests that in the early Universe many heavy elements lurked, and increases the likelihood that the cosmos contains many more rocky planets than previously thought.