Tag Archives: astrophysics

Looking for planets? It’s all about the lithium!

I have a lot of respect for planet hunters. It’s not an easy job. Discovering and confirming the existence of a planet requires a lot of patience, and I’d imagine it must be frustrating at times. So I’m sure a … Continue reading

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A Universe of Marshmallows

I fear that even contemplating writing the tirade of geekery that’s about to ensue might forever concrete my reputation as a mad scientist. Although I don’t really have a reputation as a mad scientist. Yet. This started out as a … Continue reading

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A chill stellar wind…

Thermodynamics may be very good at putting freshers to sleep during Monday morning lectures, but it really is a fundamental piece of modern physics. Bluntly, you don’t argue with thermodynamics. Originally developed to increase the efficiency of steam engines, the … Continue reading

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Singularly beautiful

Everything in the Universe likes to go in circles. Moons orbit planets, planets orbit stars, stars orbit other stars — and in each case all parts of the system are interrelated. The speed at which one star orbits another, for … Continue reading

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Ribbon in the Sky

Remember IBEX? NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer has been mapping the outer limits of the solar system from a highly eccentric Earth orbit for almost a year now. It was designed to observe the Sun’s heliosphere — the bubble blown in … Continue reading

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“Who ordered that?”

While you were reading this sentence, several hundred muons passed straight through your body. In fact, around ten thousand pass each square metre of Earth’s surface every minute. Slightly disconcerting, isn’t it? A muon is essentially a bigger, fatter version … Continue reading

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You are now leaving the Milky Way

It’s bad luck if a black hole crosses your path. Actually it’s very bad luck, particularly if you happen to be a star like SDSS J090745.0+024507. Known by some as “The Outcast Star”, it had the misfortune tens of millions … Continue reading

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A wobbly star!

I remember reading an article when I was just a kid called “The Hunt for Wobbling Stars”. I can’t have been much more than 8 years old, but the concept seemed simple enough even then. Any planet tugs on a … Continue reading

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Hydrogen Alpha

This rather beautiful image is a picture of the Milky Way taken in Hydrogen alpha (H-α) emission. In other words, this is what the Milky Way would look like to you, if the only things you could see were hot … Continue reading

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Gravitational Ballet

I just wasted my entire coffee break playing with this! It’s a celestial mechanics simulator. You can build your own tiny solar system with up to four objects (planets or stars), set their masses and velocities, then hit the start … Continue reading

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