Imaged by the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), this is the most detailed depiction yet of the enormous supergiant Betelgeuse, 600 light-years off in the constellation Orion and 1400 times the size of the sun.
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The star is just about eight million years old, but is already on the verge of becoming a supernova. When that happens, the resulting explosion will be visible from Earth, even in broad daylight.
The star has been observed in many other wavelengths, particularly in the visible, infrared, and ultraviolet. Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope astronomers discovered a vast plume of gas almost as large as our Solar System. Astronomers have also found a gigantic bubble that boils away on Betelgeuse’s surface. These features help to explain how the star is shedding gas and dust at tremendous rates (eso0927, eso1121). In this picture, ALMA observes the hot gas of the lower chromosphere of Betelgeuse at sub-millimeter wavelengths — where localised increased temperatures explain why it is not symmetric. Scientifically, ALMA can help us to understand the extended atmospheres of these hot, blazing stars.
KIC 8462862, a distant star, flickers erratically. Among the possibilities: occlusion by an alien "megastructure" surrounding it in space.
Though it sounds far-fetched, and there's no other evidence of intelligence emanating from the system, the flickering's gotten weirder. The star's total output has diminished continuously over the course of four years.
Jason Wright, the Penn State astronomer who first suggested that Tabby’s Star might be the site of a vast alien construction project, agreed that the new analysis lends credibility to Schaefer’s claim of century-long dimming. “The new paper states, and I agree, that we don’t have any really good models for this sort of behavior,” he said. “That’s exciting!”
Keivan Stassun, an astronomer at Vanderbilt who disputed the idea of long-term dimming, said that Tabby’s star continues to defy explanation. “[Montet’s] intriguing new findings suggest that none of the considered phenomena can alone explain the observations,” he told Gizmodo. “In the end, figuring out this puzzle may require accounting for a combination of effects.”
Or, they just decided to get the Dyson sphere finished ahead of schedule.
For amateur astronomers, tonight is an exciting night. Read the rest
Meet maker Gary Hug who built his own home observatory, including a DIY reflector telescope, and discovered more than 300 asteroids.
Studio Brussels asked astronomers at Belgium's MIRA Public Observatory to select stars that would make a fitting asterism in memory of David Bowie. (Of course, only the International Astronomical Union can officially name stars and other astronomical objects, and it's almost always with a number.)
Will you live long enough to watch the setting suns?
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"This is a truly exotic star system. In principle there's no reason why it couldn't have planets in orbit around each of the pairs of stars. Any inhabitants would have a sky that would put the makers of Star Wars to shame," Dr Lohr said. "There could sometimes be no fewer than five Suns of different brightnesses lighting up the landscape."
Could the flickering and winking of some stars be a kind of Morse Code that extraterrestrials are using to communicate across space? Princeton University astrophysicist Lucianne Walkowicz and her colleagues are exploring that very question. Her team is using algorithms to sift data from the space observatory Kepler for flickering patterns that don't appear to be the result of passing planets, sunspots, eclipses, or other known reasons. “What would lead us to say it really is an alien signal?” she asks. “I don’t know, but in my book, finding things you can’t explain is interesting no matter what it is."
And just to be clear, this has nothing to do with the star twinkling that we see, which is caused by atmospheric turbulence on Earth. Or so they'd like us to think. "Flickering Stars: Could Aliens Be Sending Us Signals?" (Thanks, Jake Dunagan!) Read the rest
How scientists study the fossils of ancient bacteria to find clues to a 2.6-million-year-old supernovae. Jennifer Ouellette explains how the the bacteria incorporated elements from an exploding star into their bodies, and how those elements can still be found today. Read the rest