Astronomers by using images from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) reveal an old star in the throes of a fiery outburst, spraying the cosmos with dust. The findings offer a rare, real-time look at the process by which stars like our sun seed the universe with building blocks for other stars, planets and even life. The star, catalogued as WISE J180956.27-330500.2, was discovered in images taken during the WISE survey in 2010, the most detailed infrared survey to date of the entire celestial sky.
Cosmic rays are charged subatomic particles that streak to Earth from deep in outer space. A few rare cosmic rays are extraordinarily powerful, with energies up to 100 million times greater than any attained by human-made particle colliders, such as CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. The sources of these cosmic rays are a mystery. According to study co-author Francis Halzen at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, principal investigator at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, a massive telescope designed to find the tiny subatomic particles nature is capable of accelerating elementary particles to macroscopic energies.
Dark matter is one of the greatest cosmic mysteries of our time, an invisible, intangible material thought to make up five-sixths of all matter in the universe. Scientists currently think it is composed of a new type of particle, one that interacts normally with gravity but only very weakly with all the other known forces of the universe. As such, dark matter is detectable only via the gravitational pull it generates.
Scientists from the University of Oklahoma have identified two white dwarf stars considered the oldest and closest known to man. Astronomers identified these 11- to 12-billion-year-old white dwarf stars only 100 light-years away from Earth. According to scientists these stars are the closest known examples of the oldest stars in the universe forming soon after the Big Bang. Mukremin Kilic, assistant professor of physics and astronomy in the OU College of Arts and Sciences and lead author on a recently published paper said that a white dwarf is like a hot stove, once the stove is off, it cools slowly over time.
With the help the data collected by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) astronomers are actively hunting a class of supermassive black holes throughout the universe called blazars. The mission has revealed more than 200 blazars.Blazars are among the most energetic objects in the universe. They consist of supermassive black holes actively “feeding,” or pulling matter onto them, at the cores of giant galaxies.
The universe’s expansion is accelerating, an observation that prompted astronomers to invoke an unknown entity called dark energy to explain it, has been further confirmed by new measurements. Scientists have used cosmic magnifying glasses called gravitational lenses to observe super-bright distant galaxies, giving a measure of how quickly the universe is blowing up like a giant balloon. They found, in agreement with previous measurements, that the universe’s expansion is indeed speeding up over time.
Scientists think that dark energy, the weird force blamed for propelling the universe to expand at an accelerated speed, probably turned on between 5 and 7 billion years ago. Now astronomers have mapped thousands of galaxies from this era, and have determined the most precise distances to them yet, in an effort to get to the bottom of the dark energy mystery. Dark energy is thought to represent about 74 percent of the universe’s total mass and energy, dwarfing ordinary matter.
The universe is filled with high-energy radiation, much of which is made of gamma rays belched out by strange pulsing stars and the remnants of supernova explosions. But nearly one-third of all gamma-ray emitting objects seen to date defy identification. The objects were spotted by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, which scans the entire sky over the course of three hours, mapping the powerful spectrum.
Astronomers have discovered a planetary system that formed nearly 13 billion years ago, suggesting the early universe harbored more planets than has been thought. The system consists of a star called HIP 11952 and two Jupiter-like alien planets. It is just 375 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Cetus (the Whale). The planets are likely the oldest yet found, at 12.8 billion years old, they’re just 900 million years younger than the universe itself, according to the commonly accepted Big Bang theory. HIP 11952 contains very little other than hydrogen and helium.