Astrophysics

The first millisecond of the universe: How big bang matter drips out of the tap Astrophysics

The first millisecond of the universe: How big bang matter drips out of the tap

The beginning of the universe is notoriously difficult to investigate. Anyone who has read my book "The Disruption" (coming soon in English) knows the problem. This is not so much because it happened so long ago. Whereas 13.8 billion years are also a long time. It is more difficult for scientists because they have not yet fully understood the physics of the great beginning. Under the extreme, today hardly in the experiment to be imitated conditions at that time still completely different, superordinate laws applied, which we must still find out slowly. There are already some suggestions. And there…
The first spiral galaxy Astrophysics

The first spiral galaxy

Well, it may not have been the first spiral galaxy researchers have now discovered in data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), but it was the oldest and most distant (which is synonymous in astronomy) to date. We observed it at a time when the universe was only 1.4 billion years old. Today it is almost ten times as old. The discovery of a galaxy with a spiral structure at such an early date is an important clue to solving the classic questions of astronomy: "How and when did spiral galaxies form?" "I was excited because I had never…
Watching a star being born Astrophysics

Watching a star being born

Starforge is the name of a simulation program developed by an international team of researchers that enables the most realistic and highest-resolution 3D simulation of star formation to date. The result is a visually stunning, mathematically driven marvel that allows viewers to float around a colorful cloud of gas in 3D space as they watch sparkling stars form. STARFORGE (Star Formation in Gaseous Environments) simulates an entire gas cloud for the first time, with masses 100 times greater than previously possible. It is also the first simulation to simultaneously model star formation, evolution, and dynamics, taking into account feedbacks…
What is hard science fiction, anyway? Astrophysics

What is hard science fiction, anyway?

Brandon Q. Morris writes hard science fiction. But what does that actually mean? I like to explain it this way: What happens in my books could happen in reality. There are no laws of physics that would prevent it. You could also call it "realistic" science fiction, although the fiction remains, of course. In the end, it is a story that I tell. Apart from the degree of hardness (more on that below), hard science fiction also tends to depict the conflict between the hero and the environment (in the form of the universe and its manifold phenomena) instead of…
The noise of interstellar space Astrophysics

The noise of interstellar space

The vacuum between the stars is not empty. The interstellar medium consists of dust and gas, which in turn can be in atomic, molecular and ionized form. Its density varies widely. Interestingly, it is greatest in cool, dense regions where matter is mainly in molecular form and one could count up to 1 million molecules per cubic centimeter. In hot, diffuse regions, on the other hand, matter is mainly ionized and one finds only a single ion per 10,000 cubic centimeters. Compared to, say, the capabilities of a vacuum chamber constructed by humans, with still ten billion particles per…
How to make the invisible visible Astrophysics

How to make the invisible visible

Astronomers have a lot in common with forensic scientists. They infer from traces the events that might have led to the formation of these traces. They take photographs and look at what is visible of these events in order to then also be able to capture their invisible parts. Very much remains invisible in the universe: Black holes, dark matter or dark energy, which we all see only through their effects, are certainly the most prominent. But also magnetic fields play an important role. They provide the framework in which charged particles move in galaxies. For example, when clusters…
Older stars rotate faster than expected Astrophysics

Older stars rotate faster than expected

Not only humans lose mobility in old age - stars also rotate more slowly then. All stars are born with angular momentum that comes from the rotation of the protostellar cloud. Then, as they get older, their rotation slows in a process called "magnetic braking." A study published in 2016 by scientists at Carnegie Observatories provided the first evidence that stars at a similar stage of life as the Sun are spinning faster than magnetic braking theories predict. The results of that study were based on a method in which scientists locate dark spots on the surface of stars and…
Two pairs of quasars in the early universe Astrophysics

Two pairs of quasars in the early universe

Quasars are loners. This is not because they do not get along with their colleagues, but has something to do with their nature. They are nuclei of active galaxies. And every galaxy has only one nucleus. Billions of stars can rotate badly around several cores. Nevertheless, astronomers have now found two quasar pairs at a distance of about ten billion light years as they report in Nature Astronomy. (more…)