The Cosmic Companion January 18, 2020

Dark matter, strange objects near the center of the Milky Way, a new look at the extinction of the dinosaurs, and ancient galaxies reveal secrets of our own family of stars.

Hello everyone!

I hope everybody has had a fabulous week, as The Cosmic Companion continues to bring you stories, news, and special features, all about space and astronomy! I’m really excited about new features coming to The Cosmic Companion, including Astro Pop - a look at the science behind science fiction and fantasy movies and books, Human and Machine which examines the instruments and people helping us understand the Universe, and Cosmic Comics, our own original comics about space and astronomy!

I’m also thinking of sending each story out to subscribers as they are published - you would receive one to two stories a day, covering everything you need to know about what is happening in the exploration of space. Let me know in the comments section of this newsletter what you think!

Listen and subscribe to Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion through any major podcast provider, including iTunes, Spotify, or TuneIn! Or, listen in at: https://thecosmiccompanion.substack.com.

The Cosmic Companion also offers a premium newsletter, featuring weekly exclusive videos, the astronomy comic of the week, and more. Just $5 a month, or $50 a year! Sign up at: https://thecosmiccompanion.substack.com.

Or, you can buy me a cup of coffee for my work!

Let’s take off!


The Week in Space

Dark Matter Could Shed Light on Glow of Gamma Radiation

By James Maynard

The origins of a faint glow of gamma-ray radiation are unknown, but dark matter may be the cause — or maybe its just the eruption of supermassive black holes at the cores of energetic galaxies.

Blazars — active galaxies with ravenous supermassive black holes near their center — are suspects in the case of the mysterious gamma radiation. Image credit: M. Weiss/CfA

A faint glow of gamma radiation — the unresolved gamma-ray background — fills the sky. This energy is not evenly distributed, as this light (much more energetic than can be seen by the human eye) is concentrated where the greatest amount of matter is found in the early Universe, while regions containing less matter exhibit lower emissions of radiation.

This correlation between matter and the unresolved gamma-ray background, could help astrophysicists better understand the nature of dark matter, a new study suggests.

The energy which makes up this background radiation comes from sources so far away from us that they cannot be resolved by astronomers. However, the fact that this radiation is concentrated in the same regions which were densely packed with matter in the early universe could provide a tantalizing clue to its nature.

Read more: http://bit.ly/Dark-Matter-Glow-Gamma


More Strange Objects Seen Near Black Hole at Center of Milky Way

By James Maynard

Four more unusual objects have been spotted orbiting the supermassive black hole near the center of the Milky Way galaxy. What are they?

The orbits of the newly-discovered G objects are traced over this image of objects near the center of our galaxy. Image credit: Anna Ciurlo, Tuan Do/UCLA Galactic Center Group

Every major galaxy is home to a supermassive black hole, and our own Milky Way is no exception. Astronomers recently found something unexpected near this massive object — four mysterious objects, each similar to a pair of bizarre bodies spotted in recent years in this same region of the galaxy.

Our local supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*, pronounced Sag A star), contains roughly four million times as much mass as the Sun. Not far from this black hole, members of a newly-discovered class of objects is caught in a gravitational dance with the massive body.

Read more: http://bit.ly/Black-Hole-Milky-Way


Asteroid, Not Volcanoes, may have Doomed Dinosaurs

By James Maynard

Roughly 66 million years ago, Earth was struck by an asteroid the size of Mount Everest, ending the age of dinosaurs. New simulations suggest volcanoes played a smaller role in their demise than many researchers believe.

The age of dinosaurs came to an end when a massive asteroid slammed into Earth, while earlier periods of massive eruptions in India played a much smaller role than believed, new simulations suggest. Image credit: The Cosmic Companion/8385/Parker West/Pixabay

The age of the dinosaurs came to an end around 66 million years ago, as the Earth was struck by an asteroid as large as Mount Everest. This event radically changed the climate of the Earth, and forever altered the course of life on the planet.

However, for thousands of centuries before impact, supervolcanoes in the Deccan Traps of India were sending vast quantities of dust and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, changing the global climate. This pair of events have caused to researchers to debate the degree of influence each of these climatic changes had on this global extinction.

Read more: http://bit.ly/Asteroid-Doomed-Dinosaurs


Cores of Dying Galaxies Formed in Early Universe

By James Maynard

Examination of the most distant dying galaxy known to astronomers suggests the cores of these objects formed earlier in the evolution of the Cosmos than previous theories suggest. How did they develop and what does it mean for our understanding of galaxies?

Dead galaxies tend to remain that way, even if they are able to gather gas from nearby families of stars. Image credit: Kavli/IPMU

The most distant dying galaxy known to astronomers contains nearly one trillion stars, making this family of stars is significantly larger than our own Milky Way galaxy. Analysis of the core of this galaxy shows this object started to form 12 billion years ago — just 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang.

Like humans, galaxies are born, live out their lives, and fall into silence. The first galaxies formed just a couple hundred million years after the Big Bang, as the gravitational pull of both normal matter and dark matter pulled stars together into groups. Now, by studying dying galaxies, astronomers hope to better understand the life cycles of stellar families.

Read more: http://bit.ly/Dying-Galaxies-Early-Universe

Read more stories at www.thecosmiccompanion.com

Coming soon: The First Woman on the Moon: The Past and Future History of Women in Space by James Maynard


Thanks for reading!

You can also listen to my new podcast, Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion, available on all major podcast distributors, including iTunes, Spotify, and TuneIn! Or, tune in at: https://thecosmiccompanion.substack.com. You can also add Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion to your flash briefings on Amazon Alexa!

If you want to keep up with the latest updates and news about astronomy and space exploration, visit www.thecosmiccompanion.com, join my Facebook pagesubscribe on YouTube, and follow @TheCosmicCompanion on Instagram and @CompanionCosmic on Twitter.

Remember - VIP subscribers receive this newsletter, plus a second weekly newsletter with sneak previews of each video episode of Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion, an astronomy comic of the week, rare space photos, and more! Plans start at just $5!

Do you know someone else who would love this newsletter? Please share! Invest in knowledge with a premium subscription for yourself or a loved one today (including advance viewings of my weekly video show)! Or, I’d love it if you could buy me a cup of coffee - I LOVE coffee!

Thanks for everything and I will see you next week!

Astronomy - Don’t Leave Home Without It!

- James

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Astronomy News with the Cosmic Companion Podcast January 14, 2020

  
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Happy New Year!

For the first podcast of 2020, we will discuss how astronomers may find life on distant exoplanets, and we examine the deaths of stars and the formation of black holes. One black hole may not be as large as was originally measured, while another may not be there at all. The TESS spacecraft finds a planet orbiting a pair of stars, and a massive exoplanet is seen spiraling toward its sun. Water is seen leaving Mars at a far greater rate than expected, and new calculations shed new light on the deaths of stars.


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James

The Cosmic Companion January 11, 2020

Happy 2020! We are off to a rousing start - black holes, exoplanets, and Mars!

Hello everyone!

Happy new year, and I wish everyone an exciting, wonderful year. This week is full of incredible stories, including the search for oxygen on alien worlds, new data about black holes, and Mars is losing water faster than anyone expected.

Listen and subscribe to Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion through any major podcast provider, including iTunes, Spotify, or TuneIn! Or, listen in at: https://thecosmiccompanion.substack.com.

The Cosmic Companion also offers a premium newsletter, featuring weekly exclusive videos, the astronomy comic of the week, and more. Just $5 a month, or $50 a year! Sign up at: https://thecosmiccompanion.substack.com.

Or, you can buy me a cup of coffee for my work!

Let’s take off!


The Week in Space

How The James Webb Space Telescope will See Oxygen in Alien Atmospheres

By James Maynard

As astronomers examine the atmospheres of planets orbiting other stars, a new method of detecting oxygen, developed at the University of California Riverside, could provide evidence for worlds that may harbor life.

Astronomers may soon be able to detect oxygen in the atmospheres of distant exoplanets. This could be the signs of life — or heating that could doom large water worlds like this one. Image credit: Simulation by The Cosmic Companion/Created in Universe Sandbox.

Astronomers know of more than 4,000 planets orbiting stars other than our own Sun. However, examining the atmospheres of these worlds is at the very limits of what astronomers are capable of carrying out.

However, the James Webb Space Telescope, due for launch in March 2021, will have the ability to determine the chemical composition of these alien atmospheres. Signs of large quantities of oxygen in the air of alien worlds could, potentially, be a sign of life.

New research from the University of California Riverside suggests that the Webb Telescope could find oxygen surrounding distant exoplanets by studying patterns in how these molecules block light. Using this method, astronomers may be able to easily detect oxygen in the atmospheres of distant worlds.

Read more: http://bit.ly/James-Webb-Oxygen-Atmospheres


‘Wandering’ Black Holes Found in Dwarf Galaxies

By Rob Lea

Newly discovered massive black holes located away from the centre of their respective galaxies may give us vital clues about how black holes formed in the early Universe.

Artist’s conception of a dwarf galaxy, its shape distorted, most likely by a past interaction with another galaxy, and a massive black hole in its outskirts (pullout). The black hole is drawing in material that forms a rotating accretion disc and generates jets of material propelled outward. Image credit: Sophia Dagnello, NRAO/AUI/NSF

A recent discovery of 13 massive black holes at the centers of dwarf galaxies could aid astronomers seeking to understand how black holes formed in the early Universe. Each of these galaxies is less than one percent as large as the Milky Way, and the black holes they contain hold roughly 400,000 times as much mass as the Sun.

By studying these black holes, researchers at Montana State University found that these black holes could form, even as their host galaxies underwent periods of vigorous star formation. This unexpected result shows that the earliest galaxies were also capable of forming similar black holes when the Universe was young.

Read more: http://bit.ly/Wandering-Black-Holes


Exoplanet Found by TESS Orbiting a Pair of Stars Like Tatooine

By James Maynard

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) spies a planet with a pair of suns, similar to the home world of Luke Skywalker from Star Wars. In future years, 100 more planets like this world may be found.

A simulation showing how KOI-1338 may look as it orbits its pair of suns. Image credit: Screenshot from video created by NASA Goddard.

Using the new TESS spacecraft, launched in 2018, astronomers have found a planet orbiting a pair of stars in the TOI-1338 star system.

Most stars are accompanied by one or more stellar partners, so binary star systems are fairly common. However, it is challenging to find planets in these families of stars, due to the complex gravitational attractions in such systems. The now-defunct Kepler spacecraft found 12 of these worlds, and TESS is expected to find 100 more during the course of its mission.

Read more: http://bit.ly/Exoplanet-TESS-Tatooine


Water Vapor Seen Rapidly Escaping From Mars

By James Maynard

Already a desert planet, Mars is still losing the water it has left at a far greater speed than astronomers expected. Researchers from the French National Centre for Scientific Research think they know what’s happening.

Mars was once a water world (right), but turned to desert billions of years in the past. Today, water loss continues at a far greater pace than astronomers expected. Image credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Billions of years ago, Mars was a world with oceans, rivers, and ponds. The loss of its magnetic field left the world a barren desert. Still, some water remains on Mars, found at both poles, and underground.

However, a new finding shows that as summer comes to each hemisphere of the Red Planet, water driven into the atmosphere can escape to space much more quickly than previously believed. Several spacecraft are due for launch to Mars during the upcoming year.

Read more: http://bit.ly/Water-Escaping-from-Mars


Read more stories at www.thecosmiccompanion.com


Coming soon: The First Woman on the Moon: The Past and Future History of Women in Space by James Maynard


Thanks for reading!

The new year will offer several upcoming changes for The Cosmic Companion, including new and exciting features, articles, comic strips, and more.

You can also listen to my new podcast, Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion, available on all major podcast distributors, including iTunes, Spotify, and TuneIn! Or, tune in at: https://thecosmiccompanion.substack.com. You can also now add Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion to your flash briefings on Amazon Alexa!

If you want to keep up with the latest updates and news about astronomy and space exploration, visit www.thecosmiccompanion.com, join my Facebook pagesubscribe on YouTube, and follow @TheCosmicCompanion on Instagram and @CompanionCosmic on Twitter.

Remember - VIP subscribers receive this newsletter, plus a second weekly newsletter with sneak previews of each video episode of Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion, an astronomy comic of the week, rare space photos, and more! Plans start at just $5!

Do you know someone else who would love this newsletter? Please share! Invest in knowledge with a premium subscription for yourself or a loved one today (including advance viewings of my weekly video show)! Or, I’d love it if you could buy me a cup of coffee - I LOVE coffee!

Thanks, and happy holidays — see you on January 11th!

Astronomy - Don’t Leave Home Without It!

- James

Give a gift subscription

Share

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