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Tuesday
Dec062011

Science Sliders

by Sarah Scoles

Pop these into your mouth:

A letter to Nature (Dear Nature, ... Love, McConnell, et al.) describes the discovery of black holes that have the mass of about 10 billion suns. The processes and assumptions that form black holes and give us information about them make sense up to masses of about 6 billion suns. That they do not make sense of these super-supermassive black holes or their observable effects means that the formation of super-supermassive black holes follows a different path.

Was my last post about dark matter not quite technical or empirical enough for you? Eugenie Samuel Reich at Nature dives into nine recent, and sometimes contradictory, news stories on the subject.

Cha-ching: NASA's Kepler satellite (as I'm sure you've heard, as the whole internet has been exploding with the news) banks another Earth-sized planet. And this one is in the habitable zone of a Sun-like star. Is it rocky? Does it have water? Is it where we go when we die? At only 600 light-years of distance, we can all afford to go take a little look-see. Or we could hold our horses and wait for astronomers to do a few density calculations.

Here's a gift you can give yourself: A 3D movie of the asteroid Vesta. But first you have to give yourself the gift of 3D glasses.

The problem with the Sun is that sometimes it just puts out too many electromagnetic waves. If it were a lot dimmer, we could do optical astronomy all day. And if it were less bright at the Lyman-alpha wavelength, one of Hydrogen's key spectral lines, we would be able to see the Lyman-alpha lines coming from other parts of the galaxy. But the Sun drowns that more distant light out. Luckily, though, the Voyager 2 spacecraft has traveled far enough away that the Sun isn't such a bother anymore, and it can see Lyman-alpha emission from star-forming regions in other parts of the galaxy. Yay, spaceflight.

 

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