Tagged: space

Earth’s Richat Structure

What on Earth is that? The Richat Structure in the Sahara Desert of Mauritania is easily visible from space because it is nearly 50 kilometers across. Once thought to be an impact crater, theRichat Structure’s flat middle and lack of shock-altered rock indicates otherwise.

Spin up of a Supermassive Black Hole

How fast can a black hole spin? If any object made of regular matter spins too fast — it breaks apart. But a black hole might not be able to break apart — and its maximum spin rate is really unknown. Theorists usually model rapidly rotating black holes with the Kerr solution to Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, which predicts several amazing and unusual things.

Galaxy Collisions: Simulation vs Observations

What happens when two galaxies collide? Although it may take over a billion years, such titanic clashes are quite common. Since galaxies are mostly empty space, no internal stars are likely to themselves collide. Rather the gravitation of each galaxy will distort or destroy the other galaxy, and the galaxies may eventually merge to form a single larger galaxy. Expansive gas and dust clouds collide and trigger waves of star formation that complete even during the interaction process. Pictured above is a computer simulation of two large spiral galaxies colliding, interspersed with real still images taken by theHubble Space Telescope. Our own Milky Way Galaxy has absorbed several smaller galaxies during its existence and is even projected to merge with the larger neighboring Andromeda galaxy in a few billion years.

Kepler’s Supernova Remnant in X-Rays

What caused this mess? Some type of star exploded to create the unusually shaped nebula known as Kepler’s supernova remnant, but which type? Light from the stellar explosion that created this energized cosmic cloud was first seen on planet Earth in October 1604, a mere four hundred years ago. The supernova produced a bright new star in early 17th century skies within the constellation Ophiuchus. It was studied by astronomer Johannes Kepler and his contemporaries, without the benefit of a telescope, as they searched for an explanation of the heavenly apparition. Armed with a modern understanding of stellar evolution, early 21st century astronomers continue to explore the expanding debris cloud, but can now use orbiting space telescopes to survey Kepler’s supernova remnant (SNR)across the spectrum.