When a Star is Born

Into the great beyond! Here on Earth, we have been obsessed with space from the beginning of time. Whether it be worshipping them as Gods, using them to calculate our time, or finding ways to land on them, stars and planets have always been a place of human’s dreams and desires. Despite our existence-long fascination, there is still so much more to understand about the extraterrestrial worlds. In galaxies far, far away, there are phenomena occurring that boggle the best modern minds.

Betelgeuse Star Dimming

     No, not the singing poltergeist summoned by repeating his name. The Betelgeuse star is a red giant star ready to turn supernova. Scientists first noticed that the star had been growing dimmer and dimmer. Then, on Jan. 14, the star was thought to have emitted gravitational waves that seemed to signal the end of Betelgeuse. Though the waves came from a source 10 degrees away from the star, astronomers still associate Betelgeuse’s dimming with an imminent demise. Currently, the star has reached its current size by burning through the hydrogen in its core and is now using helium.  When done with the helium, the star will use carbon and eventually silicon. After burning through silicon, the star will have nothing left to use and turn into a supernova.  At this point, the star will implode, and will likely become a condensed neutron star or a black hole. On Earth, we will see this explosion as a bright full moon in the sky for four weeks, declining in brightness from then for about six months.

Scientists Detect the Collision of Two Stars

     At the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society on Jan. 6, astronomers announced the second example of two neutron stars that violently merged, creating gravitational waves picked up on Earth. The collision happened 520 million light-years ago, but because of the time it takes for the waves to travel such a distance, it only reached Earth recently. Neutron stars are the smallest stars in the universe and are typically the remnants of a previous supernova explosion. The diameters of neutrons are the size of Chicago or Atlanta. However, these stars are extremely dense, and their mass is bigger than Earth’s sun. Basically, imagine two incredibly heavy, big cities violently ramming into each other. The sizes of the stars are  unusual under these circumstances, and scientists are still working to understand how such a high mass system was formed.

The Spitzer Telescope’s Mission is Coming to an End

     Though the Spitzer telescope itself is not exactly a scientific phenomenon, the images it was able to capture in its circulation around Earth during its 17 years in service enabled the discovery of some of the decade’s most groundbreaking space-discoveries. For example, in May 2010 the Spitzer captured an image of a supernova remnant, known as HBH 3. The picture captured on of the oldest stars explode, leaving behind dust and particles that will be in our galaxy’s circulation for billions of years. The Spitzer was also able to capture a picture of the Carina nebula, one of the biggest stars in the galaxy, a bright star at the center of the universe that wreaks havoc on surrounding nebula. Lastly, the Spitzer was able to capture an image of the Orion nebula, the closest and most influential source of stars for Earth.

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