Astrophysics

Intergalactic gas filaments crisscross the universe Astrophysics

Intergalactic gas filaments crisscross the universe

They crisscross the cosmos like cobwebs in a room that hasn't seen a vacuum cleaner in a long time: In so-called filaments, unfathomably large, threadlike structures of hot gas that surround and connect galaxies and clusters of galaxies, astrophysicists have long suspected the previously hidden half of matter in our universe. We owe our existence to a tiny error. After the big bang 13.8 billion years ago, the matter of the cosmos spread out in a gigantic gas cloud and was almost evenly distributed in it. Almost, but not quite: in some parts the cloud was somewhat denser than in…
The most distant galaxy in the universe Astrophysics

The most distant galaxy in the universe

How large is the universe? As large as the most distant object we can detect, might be one answer. But this is not quite true: The most distant visible object only marks the boundaries of the observable universe. This could be GN-z11. A team of astronomers used the Keck I telescope to measure the distance to this ancient galaxy. They found that GN-z11 is not only the oldest galaxy, but also the most distant. It is so far away that it actually defines the boundary of the observable universe itself. The team hopes its study can shed light on a…
When the fog dissolves Astrophysics

When the fog dissolves

In winter the fog sometimes does not dissolve the whole day. In space, planetary nebulae usually exist for many millennia, because they are star shells that have been ejected by their stars at the end of their lifetime. In the case of the Stingray Nebula, which was first catalogued in 1976 and is located 18,000 light years from Earth, this seems to be an exception. Images of the system taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2016 show a nebula that has drastically lost brightness and changed shape compared to Hubble images from 1996. Light blue gas shells near…
Milky Way’s Family Tree Astrophysics

Milky Way’s Family Tree

From small to large: this is one of the possible ways in which structures are created in the universe. Galaxies like our Milky Way are formed when several small predecessor objects join together. But what exactly did the Milky Way form from? An international team of astrophysicists led by Dr. Diederik Kruijssen from the Center for Astronomy at the University of Heidelberg has succeeded in reconstructing the merging history of our home galaxy and creating its family tree. To this end, the researchers analyzed the properties of globular star clusters orbiting the Milky Way. Globular clusters are dense groups…
How the universe heats up Astrophysics

How the universe heats up

Shortly after the Big Bang, in the Planck era, the universe was about 1032 Kelvin hot. Afterwards it expanded rapidly and cooled down as the energy spread over an ever larger space. By and large, this process should continue as long as the universe expands - an end to the expansion is not yet in sight, on the contrary. But there is a process that counteracts this cooling - at least temporarily. It is easy to understand. When 10,000 people go home from a football stadium, the mood cools down initially as the density of people decreases. But when…
Why the brain and the cosmos are structurally similar Astrophysics

Why the brain and the cosmos are structurally similar

The human brain has a volume of a about one liter (0,26 gallons, man: 1.27 l, woman: 1.13 l), i.e. one cubic decimeter or 0.001 cubic meter. The universe, on the other hand, has a volume of 2.3 million billion trillion cubic light years. Obviously, this is a huge difference of over 30 orders of magnitude. Nevertheless, both structures, the network of galaxies that criss-crosses the universe and the neural network in the brain, have surprising similarities, as Franco Vazza (astrophysicist at the University of Bologna) and Alberto Feletti (neurosurgeon at the University of Verona) note in a paper…
In search of dark matter with pendulums Astrophysics

In search of dark matter with pendulums

Current experiments that search for dark matter are mostly based on the idea that dark matter should somehow show up, i.e. by interacting with normal matter. Now, however, the only thing we really know about this important part of the universe is that an interaction with normal matter occurs via gravity. This is what first made researchers realize that dark matter exists. Is it perhaps because the search has so far been fruitless? Then a method could help, which researchers of the NIST and their colleagues presented now. "Our proposal is based purely on gravitational coupling, the only coupling…
Massive black hole turns star in solar size into spaghetti Astrophysics

Massive black hole turns star in solar size into spaghetti

About 215 million years ago the fate of a star was fulfilled: It was swallowed by a black hole with a million solar masses. The death struggle dragged on for a whole month. Meanwhile, the dying star was bidding farewell, a high-energy flare that emitted enough energy in the X-ray range alone to accelerate the Earth to one percent of the speed of light. This flare, called AT2019qiz and registered on Earth in 2019, was a gift to terrestrial astronomers. It is the first star death of this kind that was discovered so close to the Earth (although 215…