Posts Tagged ‘space’

Testing Magnetars

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008 by Bellatrix

Magnetars are a bizarre form of star, with mysteries that have eluded astronomers for a long time. Recently with the help of the European Space Agency’s XMM Newton and Integral Satellite astronomers have been able to test and explain one of the unknown aspects of what magnetars are really doing.

Magnetars are a special kind of neutron star. Neutron stars, for a quick reminder, are what is left after a massive star dies in a supernova. They are very small, maybe 20 km in diameter, but very dense, a teaspoon worth of neutron star would weigh about one hundred million tons. Magnetars form a special class of neutron stars that have incredibly strong magnetic fields, about a thousand times stronger than that of a normal neutron star, and they have incredibly fast rotation. Magnetars are also known to shine bright in X-rays, but scientists have been unable to test any theories because they are unable to reproduce the strong magnetic properties in a lab.

We have found about 15 magnetars. One type known as SGR, or soft gamma repeaters, sporadically release bursts of short gamma rays and hard x-rays. The other type is known as AXPs, or anomalous X-ray pulsars, pulse periodically with x-rays. While once thought to be two different objects we now know they share many of the same properties. Magnetars strong magnetic fields are thought to be so strong that they can twist the crust of the star. This twist would produce currents in the form of a cloud of electrons flowing around the star. Its thought that these currents interact with radiation coming from the stellar surface to produce x-rays.

Using data from XMM Newton and Integral astronomers have looked at all known magnetars and actually found evidence of these electron clouds. They found that the electron density around these magnetars is about a thousand times stronger than for a normal pulsar. They were also able to measure the velocity of the electron clouds going around the magnetars.

This data has provided scientists the chance to find a link between an observed phenomenon and the physical process behind it. The team is now working to try and develop more detailed models of what exactly is happening on the surface of the magnetar. These objects are very bizarre and are an example of a celestial object with extreme conditions. It is something that challenges current theories and provides us with examples of new and interesting phenomenon that we could never observe on earth. Studying the is an exciting and interesting challenge for astronomers and physicists.

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Votes from Space!

Friday, November 7th, 2008 by William Reynolds

And to think some people can’t be bothered because “There wasn’t any parking at my polling place…” Actual quote.  Sigh…. Let me see if I got this straight, astronauts circling in orbit can cast their votes in the general election, but 1 parking spot too few is enough to delay your civic duty 4 more years?

I’m not trying to spin up some indignant rhetoric around patriotic duty and whatnot, but considering how many people have given their lives to obtain and protect the freedoms we enjoy – not the least of these being the right and privilege to determine our leadership through general elections – it seems a tad remiss to take a pass on casting a ballot because of a lack of convenience.

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OUU Podcast #3: Relativity and Quantum Mechanics

Friday, October 3rd, 2008 by Aridian PR
Our Undiscovered Universe Podcasts


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OUU Podcast #3: Relativity and Quantum Mechanics

Welcome to the third in a series of podcasts that explore Null Physics as presented in the book, Our Undiscovered Universe, written by Scientist and Engineer, Terence Witt.

The topics of discussion today include the overview of Einstein’s general relativity and its relation to quantum mechanics and Null theory.

Also in Episode 3:

  • What type of research activities can be performed to support Null physics assertion that photons, particles and space are real?
  • Why does OUU refer to quantum reality as “a form of mysticism?”
  • How does the OUU description of quantum phenomena differ from that of contemporary physics?
  • What type of research activities can be performed to support Null physics assertion that photons, particles and space are real?
  • Also available on iTunes! Search “Null Physics” and Subscribe Now!

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    Our Next Giant Leap

    Saturday, August 30th, 2008 by Evan Finnes

    One-fifth of the entire world population watched the live broadcast of the first Moon-walk, so it is no surprise that we all remember or have heard those famous words spoken by Neil Armstrong in 1969. The Apollo program and lunar landings aided the advancement of many fields of engineering, and is considered by many to be the greatest achievement of mankind. Nearly forty years after the end of the Apollo missions, NASA finally plans on returning to the Moon.

    Before NASA returns man to the Moon, they plan on doing extensive studies. The first mission to the Moon will be the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (“LRO”), which is scheduled to launch by the end of this year or early next year. The LRO will be equipped with the most sophisticated technology ever sent to the Moon–including instruments to make detailed 3-D maps of the entire lunar surface, locate subsurface water-ice, and record radiation levels to help develop technologies which will ensure the safety of future crews.

    Launching with the LRO is the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (“LCROSS”). In 1999, NASA’s Lunar Prospector detected the spectral signature of hydrogen in the Moon’s permanently shadowed polar craters. LCROSS will impact the Moon in one of these craters. The impact will send a plume of material into space, which will be observed by a near-infrared camera, which will analyze the plume for traces of water. Presence of water on the Moon would be an important natural resource for a future lunar colony.

    NASA plans on having mankind back on the Moon by 2020. Utilizing the new equipment which is currently being developed as part of the Constellation program, four astronauts will land on the Moon aboard the new Altair Lunar Lander, which will provide life support for the initial week long mission to the Moon. The Lunar Lander will be launched into low-Earth orbit aboard an Ares V Rocket, where it will rendezvous with the Orion crew vehicle.

    Returning man to the Moon is the important first step in NASA’s new Moon Mars and beyond initiative proposed by George Bush. The Lunar surface will be explored and studied in an attempt to learn how to build a successful space colony. Risks such as radiation and psychological trauma will have to be fully understood and overcome before any long-term manned missions to Mars, or elsewhere, can be pursued. Having a colony on the Moon will also help us study how the Earth and Moon were formed, and giant telescopes on the Moon will not have the atmospheric interference which is a problem on Earth. Along with the many scientific advances which will follow future lunar landings, returning to the Moon will renew the general population’s interest in space exploration.

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