a week i space and science
Science,  Space

A Week in Space and Science 10 August – 16 August 2020

While doing research for Beyond I’m reading a lot of stuff. Quite often I come across Storys that are really Interesting. Sadly I just don’t have the time to write posts about all these stories. Recently I saw something that gave me the idea to create a summary of the most interesting stories I come across. I know that I’m not the first to do something like this. But this gives me the opportunity to read up on these interesting story and It provides you with a nice summary and many great stories.

This week I’m a bit late because this is the first implementation of this idea. I promise that the next blog will be more on time.

Every week I will write a blog about the 6 most Interesting stories about Space and Science I’ve come across in the past week. I will not write a full-length Post about each story but try to summarise the story in a few paragraphs. The goal is that you don’t need to speed too much time reading. But still get a good understanding of what the storys are about.

Summary of a week in space and science

Here is a quick summary of the six topics I am featuring this week.

  • NASA study shows that the dwarf planet Ceres is in fact an ocean world under the surface.
  • Past evidence supports the complete loss of Arctic sea ice by 2035 duo to increasing Climat Change.
  • We just found the fastest star in the milky way, travelling at 8% the speed of light.
  • The extinction of the woolly rhinoceros may have been caused by climate change.
  • Astrophysicists have calculated when the last ever supernova will happen in the universe.
  • Hubble finds that Betelgeuse’s mysterious dimming is due to a traumatic outburst.

Study shows Ceres is an ocean world

Fig 1: Dwarf planet Ceres. Credit: NASA/JPL-CalTech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

The dwarf planet Ceres is not only the largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. But also the only dwarf planet inside Neptune´s orbit. Long thought to be a primitive chunk of rock recent publications in the Nature journals showed that there is an “extensive reservoir” of brine (salty water) beneath the surface. This reservoir may even be spanning the whole planet. The NASA Dawn mission, that spend 3 years orbiting Ceres collected all this data. Dawn found shiny patches of sodium carbonate inside a 20-million-year-old crater.

These patches were formed as recently as 2 million years ago. Meaning that the heat from the impact would have dissipated millennia ago. A surprise discovery of the rare mineral hydrohalite led to the conclusion that it must have gurgled up from the inside of Ceres shockingly recently. The thing about the mineral is that it will dissipate within tens to hundreds of years.

All of this leads to the conclusion that there must be a brine source beneath the surface of Ceres. NASA already selected new missions to ceres to answer questions like where comes the heat from or is the whole dwarf planet covered in an ocean under the surface.

More on Ceres Ocean: sciencealert.de

Arctic sea ice might gone by 2035

Polar bear ice caps melting
Fig 2: Polar Bear on melting arctic ice. Credit: Sabah File Photo

The Nature Climat Change published a new study last week that predicts that the Arctic sea ice could be gone by 2035.

A new and improved model, that uses data from the last interglacial period – A warm period around 127,000 years ago – predicts that the arctic ice will continue to melt faster and faster until it is completely gone by 2035.

The UK Met Office Hadley Centre runs this model. Its the UK´s most advanced physical representation of the Earth´s climate and a critical tool for climate research.

During spring and early summer, shallow pools of water form on the surface of Arctic sea-ice. These ‘melt ponds’ are important for how much sunlight is absorbed by the ice and how much is reflected back into space. With increasing temperature, the ponds get bigger and so the temperature increases even more. That’s one reason why scientists say that climate change will accelerate by itself.

Dr. Louise Sime, the group head of the Palaeoclimate group and joint lead author at BAS, says, “We know the Arctic is undergoing significant changes as our planet warms. By understanding what happened during Earth’s last warm period we are in a better position to understand what will happen in the future. The prospect of the loss of sea-ice by 2035 should really be focussing all our minds on achieving a low-carbon world as soon as humanly feasible.”

More on the melting of the Arctic on sciencealert.

Credit: Guarino, M., Sime, L.C., Schröeder, D. et al. Sea-ice-free Arctic during the Last Interglacial supports fast future loss. Nat. Clim. Chang. (2020).

The fastest star ever seen

Fast star
  Fig 3: The X marks SgrA*. (Florian Peissker)

Most stars move under Newtonian gravity and Kepler´s laws of motion. That is until they reach speeds so fast that Einstein´s theory of general relativity plays a role.

Just recently a star called S62 was observed that at its closest approach to the black hole at the center of our galaxy has a speed of more than 8% of the speed of light.

The supermassive black hole at the center of the Milkyway is called Sagittarius A (SgrA). It has a mass of about 4 million suns.

For a long time, scientists have studied the star called S2. S2 is a blue giant that orbits the black hole every 16 years. S2´s closest approach to SgrA in 2018 gave scientists a chance to observe the effects of relativity on stars. The effect they looked for is called gravitational redshift.
If you toss a ball up into the air, it slows down as it rises. If you shine a beam of light into the sky, the light doesn’t slow down, but gravity does take away some of its energy. As a result, a beam of light becomes redshifted as it climbs out of a gravitational well.

This effect has been observed in the lab, but S2 gave us a chance to see it in the real world. Sure enough, at the close approach, the light of S2 shifted to the red just as predicted.
Then S62 was discovered, a star about twice as massive as the sun.

S62 orbits SgrA every 10 years and at a speed of about 8%, the speed of light even time dilation plays a role. That means an hour at S62 would last about 100 minutes on Earth.


Credit: phys.ord

Ancient genomes suggest woolly rhinos went extinct due to climate change

Woolly rhinos
Fig 4: This image shows the preserved, reconstructed remains of a baby woolly rhinoceros named Sasha that was discovered in Siberia. Credit: Albert Protopopov

The extinction of prehistoric megafauna like the woolly mammoth, cave lion, and woolly rhinoceros at the end of the last ice age has often been attributed to the spread of early humans across the globe. Although overhunting led to the demise of some species, a study appearing August 13 in the journal Current Biology found that the extinction of the woolly rhinoceros may have had a different cause: climate change.

Researchers sequenced DNA from 14 of these megaherbivores. They found that the woolly rhinoceros population remained stable and diverse until only a few thousand years before it disappeared from Siberia. Around that time temperatures likely rose too high for the cold-adapted species.

Recent findings of Human presence long before the extinction of these creatures supports that claim.

For more information please read Woolly Rhinos

Credit: phys.ord

Physicists calculate when the last supernova ever will happen

Fig 5: Eta Carinae. Credit: NASA, ESA, N. Smith (University of Arizona, Tucson), and J. Morse (BoldlyGo Institute, New York) / Cosmic Fireworks in Ultraviolet / CC BY 4.0 CC BY (Ausschnitt)

In the end, everything will be cold. Every star will be burned out and no light or heat will be left in the universe.

“It will be a bit of a sad, lonely, cold place,” said theoretical physicist Matt Caplan, who added no one will be around to witness this long farewell happening in the far far future. This end is known as “Heat death”

Just before everything goes dark forever a silent firework will light up the universe. The dead stars will collapse and many will end as a supernova. Long after everything else in the universe has died and gone quiet.

Caplan’s new work, accepted for publication by Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, calculates how long these nuclear reactions take to produce iron, and how much iron black dwarfs of different sizes need to explode. He calls his theoretical explosions “black dwarf supernova” and calculates that the first one will occur in about 10 to the 1100th years. “In years, it’s like saying the word ‘trillion’ almost a hundred times. If you wrote it out, it would take up most of a page. It’s mindbogglingly far in the future.”

For more information check out last supernova

Credit: phys.ord

Astronomers Finally Know What Caused That Mysterious Dimming of Betelgeus

Expleantion of why stars dimm
Fig 6: NASA diagram of how the dimming took place. Credit: NASA/ESA/E. Wheatley, STScI

The sudden dimming of one of the brightest stars in the night sky, Betelgeuse, could be due to a dust cloud spewing up from its surface, astronomers said on Thursday.

The mystery has enthralled skywatchers since the star – part of the Orion constellation – began to lose luminosity last October, with some experts suggesting it could herald its explosion into a supernova.

But Hubble brought the answer. Just before the dimming took place Hubble recorded a sunspot and the ejection of material from the star. The star ejected so much hot gas that when the gas-cooled in the vacuum of space it blocked out a quarter of the star’s surface.

The researchers, due to publish their findings in The Astrophysical Journal, said they were not sure of the ultimate cause of the plasma eruption.

Betelgeuse, almost 1,000 times the size of the Sun, is 725 light-years from Earth, meaning the event witnessed by the telescope happened around the beginning of the 14th century.


Credit: LOWELL Observatory

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