Caught in the act: A black hole rips apart an unfortunate star

Robie de Guzman   •   September 27, 2019   •   556

Scientists have captured a view of a colossal black hole violently ripping apart a doomed star, illustrating an extraordinary and chaotic cosmic event from beginning to end for the first time using NASA’s planet-hunting telescope.

The U.S. space agency’s orbiting Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, better known as TESS, revealed the detailed timeline of a star 375 million light-years away warping and spiraling into the unrelenting gravitational pull of a supermassive black hole, researchers said on Thursday.

The star, roughly the same size as our sun, was eventually sucked into oblivion in a rare cosmic occurrence that astronomers call a tidal disruption event, they added.

Astronomers used an international network of telescopes to detect the phenomenon before turning to TESS, whose permanent viewing zones designed to hunt distant planets caught the beginning of the violent event, proving effective its unique method of surveilling the cosmos.

Such phenomena happen when a star ventures too close to a supermassive black hole, objects that reside at the center of most large galaxies including our Milky Way.

The black hole’s tremendous gravitational forces tear the star to shreds, with some of its material tossed into space and the rest plunging into the black hole, forming a disk of hot, bright gas as it is swallowed.

Observing the oscillation of light as the black hole gobbles the star and spews stellar material in an outward spiral could help astronomers understand the black hole’s behavior, a scientific mystery since physicist Albert Einstein’s work more than a century ago examined gravity’s influence on light in motion. (Reuters)

Lunar Loo Challenge: Design the new toilet for NASA

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 30, 2020

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has launched the Lunar Loo Challenge to call on the global community to design compact toilets that can operate in both microgravity and lunar gravity.

The new design may be adapted for use in the Artemis lunar landers as NASA prepares to return to the moon by 2024.

“Although space toilets already exist and are in use (at the International Space Station, for example), they are designed for microgravity only. NASA is looking for a next-generation device that is smaller, more efficient, and capable of working in both microgravity and lunar gravity,” according to NASA.

NASA’s Lunar Loo challenge has a total prize purse of $35,000 that will be shared among the teams submitting the top three designs in the Technical category.

NASA is also encouraging the next generation of space explorers, engineers, and scientists, to also design new concepts through the Junior Category. For all the details, visit https://www.herox.com/LunarLoo. AAC

Stargazers watch peak of Lyrid meteor shower

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 23, 2020

People looked up to skies on Wednesday (April 22) to witness the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower.

According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), Lyrids are bright and fast meteors that are active from April 16 to 25 every year.

Several stargazers were able to witness this spectacle while others just enjoyed watching the stars.

“The Lyrid meteor shower has been observed for more than 2,600 years. Chinese records show that ‘stars fell like rain’ during the meteor shower of 687 B.C.,” according to PAGASA.

However, they also reported that in recent times, the Lyrids have generally been weak.

“The shower typically generates a dozen meteors per hour under optimal conditions with a brief maximum that lasts for less than a day,” PAGASA stated. AAC

LOOK: NASA’s 50-year observation of Earth from space

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 23, 2020

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released a compilation of images of their observations of the Earth in a span of 50 years.

“From the Apollo 8 “Earthrise” image to a growing fleet of satellites, these missions enhanced our understanding of our home planet,” according to NASA’s Twitter post.

This is in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

The video showed bits of what earth looks like from space. The video also covered Earth’s changes over the years. AAC

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