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Andromeda killed and ate our galactic sibling

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Andromeda has quite the appetite.

Scientists have discovered that the Milky Way once had a sibling that was consumed by our neighboring galaxy.

In a new study, scientists reconstructed events that occurred two billion years ago by conducting a detailed survey of the stars found in the faint halo which surrounds the nearby Andromeda galaxy.

Originally thought to have been built up from multiple smaller galaxies over a long period of time, this mysterious halo is now believed to have formed primarily from the remnants of M32 – a satellite galaxy that was once a similar size to our own before its outer layers were consumed.

“It’s kind of like a child eating dinner, and then looking on the floor afterwards and finding breadcrumbs all around,” said postdoctoral researcher Richard D’Souza from the University of Michigan.

“You know what’s been eaten.”

After it was cannibalized, M32 was reduced to little more than a small, dense core.

“It was shocking to realise that the Milky Way had a large sibling and we never knew about it,” said study co-author Eric Bell. “Astronomers have been studying the Local Group – the Milky Way, Andromeda and their companions – for so long.”

Source: The Guardian

Space

Milky Way galaxy is warped and twisted, not flat

Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is “warped and twisted” and not flat as previously thought, new research shows.

Analysis of the brightest stars in the galaxy shows that they do not lie on a flat plane as shown in academic texts and popular science books.

Astronomers from Warsaw University speculate that it might have been bent out of shape by past interactions with nearby galaxies.

The new three dimensional map has been published in the journal Science.

The popular picture of the Milky Way as a flat disc is based on the observation of 2.5 million stars out of a possible 2.5 billion. The artists’ impressions are therefore rough approximations of the truer shape of our galaxy, according to Dr Dorota Skowron of Warsaw University.

“The internal structure and history of the Milky Way is still far from being understood, in part because it is extremely difficult to measure distances to stars at the outer regions of our galaxy,” she said.

To gain a more accurate picture, Dr Skowron and her colleagues measured the distances of some of the brightest stars in the Milky Way, called Cepheid variable stars. These are massive young stars that burn hundreds, if not thousands, of times brighter than our own Sun. They can be so bright that they can be observed at the very edge of the galaxy.

Not only that, they also pulsate at regular intervals at a rate that is directly related to their brightness.

Artists’ impressions which depict the Milky Way as a flat disk will have to be revised

This enables astronomers to calculate their distance with great precision.

Most of the stars were identified by the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE) at Las Campanas Observatory (LCO) in Chile’s southern Atacama Desert. Przemek Mroz, a member of the OGLE team, said that the results were surprising.

Warsaw Telescope and Milky Way Cepheids discovered by the OGLE survey

“Our results show that the Milky Way Galaxy is not flat. It is warped and twisted far away from the galactic centre. Warping may have happened through past interactions with satellite galaxies, intergalactic gas or dark matter (invisible material present in galaxies about which little in known).”

The Polish results support an analysis of Cepheid variable stars published in February in Nature Astronomy journal by astronomers from Macquarie University in Australia and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Source www.bbc.co.uk

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Space

SpaceX Starship update coming later this month

Image Credit: SpaceX / Elon Musk

Starship could carry the first astronauts back to the Moon.

Elon Musk’s private space firm has been developing a spacecraft capable of landing humans on other worlds.

Designed to serve as the reusable second stage of the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), Starship will also be able to carry astronauts and cargo all the way to the surface of Mars.

The spacecraft has undergone several name changes since it was first announced, having previously transitioned from Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) to Interplanetary Transport System (ITS).

Now Elon Musk has revealed that a full update on the project will be coming on August 24th at either Cape Canaveral in Florida or Boca Chica in Texas, which is where a prototype was recently tested.

Writing on Twitter, he stated that the update would include a “detailed review of the first orbital Starship, explaining the pros and cons of each design decision.”

“We should have Starship Mk1 with 3 Raptors almost ready to fly by then,” he said.

It will certainly be interesting to see how things are progressing.

Source: Ars Technica

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Space

Exoplanet With 3 Suns a Great Site to Search for Alien Life

A newly discovered planet with three suns is exciting scientists for its close proximity to Earth and its potential for future observation, including possible signs of extraterrestrial life.

LTT 1445Ab is just 22.5 light-years away and was found using data gathered by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which searches for exoplanets.

The planet orbits just one of its three red dwarf stars, circling it every five days. It’s thought to be a third bigger than Earth, but has about eight times the mass of our planet and a temperature of about 320 degrees Fahrenheit.

“If you’re standing on the surface of that planet, there are three suns in the sky, but two of them are pretty far away and small-looking,” research co-author Jennifer Winters told New Scientist. “They’re like two red, ominous eyes in the sky.”

Because of its relative proximity to Earth, LTT 1445Ab could be used to look for potential signs of alien life.

Scientists think the planet could potentially have an atmosphere, and that they can examine the area for gases like carbon dioxide using new detection tools ready in the near future. LTT 1445AB will present plenty of opportunities for observations because of its speedy orbits around its sun.

RT
IMAGE © NASA/JPL-Caltech

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