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…
What you need to be able to do as a private astronaut at BlueOrigin Space

What you need to be able to do as a private astronaut at BlueOrigin

BlueOrigin, the space company started by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has now announced the date of its first manned space flight. The New Shepard capsule will cross the official boundary to space in a suborbital flight. This means that all passengers will subsequently be real astronauts. You can bid for a seat on the first flight on July 20 at BlueOrigin. The company has now announced the requirements that candidates must meet. Namely these (translated into everyday requirements): (more…)
Tricorder & Co: Analyzing substances with a cell phone? Space

Tricorder & Co: Analyzing substances with a cell phone?

In almost all of my novels, the protagonists use devices the size of a smartphone to examine substances they encounter. Current laboratory technology is quite a bit bigger - but that doesn't have to be the case at all. A team of researchers is now proving this in an article in the Review of Scientific Instruments. The team, led by Peter Rentzepis of Texas A&M, has developed an extension for an ordinary cell phone that allows the device to detect chemicals, drugs, biological molecules and pathogens. Modern cell phones have high-quality cameras capable of detecting low light levels and eliminating…
Watching a planet grow Space

Watching a planet grow

Astronomers usually detect exoplanets based on irregularities in the glow of the parent star. Although more than 4,000 exoplanets have been cataloged to date, only 15 have been imaged directly by telescopes. Even in their best photos, the planets are just dots, simply because they are so far away and quite small. A new technique from the Hubble team is now expected to help image planets directly. The researchers have used it to catch a rare glimpse of a Jupiter-sized planet, still forming, that feeds on material surrounding a young star. They report it in the Astronomical Journal. "We…
Brown dwarfs at the speed limit Space

Brown dwarfs at the speed limit

Brown dwarfs are formed when a newborn star does not have enough mass to ignite the nuclear fusion of hydrogen. This is their essential difference to giant gas planets - brown dwarfs form quasi first and in the center of the system, gas giants follow later. As central objects of their system, brown dwarfs naturally inherit the rotation of the protostellar cloud. But some of them apparently give extra gas later. Astronomers at Western University in Canada have now discovered three brown dwarfs that spin faster than any previously found, coming close to the theoretical maximum speed. The astronomers…
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…)
Basic structure of the cosmos pictured for the first time Astrophysics

Basic structure of the cosmos pictured for the first time

Stars group together to form galaxies. Galaxies form galaxy clusters. These form superclusters, between which vast, largely empty regions extend, the voids. All superclusters are connected by a honeycomb-like basic structure, the "cosmic web", which consists of filamentary gas structures of hydrogen. That these filaments must exist has been known for some time. On the one hand, they are known from simulations based on theories of the structure of the universe, which predict such a basic structure. On the other hand, they become visible when energetic quasars illuminate them like car headlights illuminating the nebula. However, the regions thus…
What a volcano would look like on a metal world Space

What a volcano would look like on a metal world

On Earth it rains water, on Titan liquid methane comes from the sky. On some planets it rains iron or even diamonds. Such differences also exist in volcanology. On Ceres, researchers have discovered ice volcanoes, while terrestrial volcanoes spew cinders of liquid rock. On the asteroid Psyche, which consists primarily of metal, there may once have been iron volcanoes. Perhaps elsewhere, too. But what would such volcanoes look like? Knowing that is important for detecting them on distant celestial bodies. A team of researchers led by Arianna Soldati of North Carolina State University has studied this in a very…