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Last observed in 2015, the black hole is spewing out ‘wobbly’ plasma jets that move so fast they change orientation within minutes.

Some 8,000 light-years from Earth in the Cygnus constellation (“The Swan”), a small black hole weighing just nine times the mass of Earth’s sun is gobbling up a sun-like star. The black hole and its stellar victim are locked together in what astronomers call a binary system and orbit each other once every 6.5 days – with spectacular effects, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is reporting.

While the black hole may be relatively tiny as far as these celestial objects go – for instance, the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy, known as Sagittarius A*, is 4 million times more massive than the sun, per a previous report from The Inquisitr – it does pack a pretty mean punch. Dubbed V404 Cygni, the black hole is continuously siphoning material from its stellar companion, slowly consuming the unfortunate star.

As it often happens in this type of binary system in which a star has the misfortune of sharing its lodgings with a black hole, V404 Cygni is slowly eating away at its neighbor, gradually draining the star of gas and dust. Since the stellar gas and debris is too vast to be devoured all at once, the material swirls around the black hole in a so-called accretion disk – on which V404 Cygni continuously feasts, shooting out X-rays and plumes of hot gas, or plasma, in the process.

This is the common fate that befalls most stars wandering too close to a black hole after getting sucked in by its strong gravity. And, while it’s not unusual for a black hole to spew out an intense amount of radiation and relativistic jets as it munches on a star, as previously covered by The Inquisitr, the emissions coming from V404 Cygni are truly special.

This particular black hole made headlines in 2015, when astronomers observed a massive outburst coming from V404 Cygni. Picked up by NASA’s Swift satellite, the outburst lasted for two weeks and was the first signal of activity detected from the slumbering object in nearly three decades, as reported by NASA at the time.

The event prompted a group of scientists to investigate the black hole and study its emissions. Led by James Miller-Jones, a researcher with the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), the team has just published a study in the journal Nature detailing the peculiar nature of the plasma jets being released by V404 Cygni.

According to their findings, the jets of hot gas spewing out of the black hole are unlike anything science has ever encountered before. While astronomers have had the chance to study relativistic jets emitted by black holes in the past – beams of ionized particles traveling close to the speed of light – the streams of particles ejected by V404 Cygni are “wildly wobbling,” notes Space.

In fact, the plasma jets coming from the black hole are moving so fast that they rapidly change orientation in a matter of minutes, tugging at the space around them in the process. Based on their observations, the scientists believe that “this unusually rapid motion could be happening because the black hole’s strong gravity is warping space around it,” states the media outlet.

After monitoring V404 Cygni with the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), a massive network of 10 radio telescopes set up all around the world, the team discovered that the plasma jets coming from the black hole “were changing so fast that, in a four-hour image, we saw just a blur,” explained study co-author Alexandra Tetarenko, an East Asian Observatory fellow in Hawaii.

“We’ve never seen this effect happening on such short time scales,” Miller-Jones said in a statement released today by the NRAO.

To get a better view of the black hole, his team snapped a total of 103 images of V404 Cygni, each with an exposure of about 70 seconds, and pieced them together into an animation, thereby obtaining a short movie of the active black hole. The visualization revealed that the object was wobbling like a spinning top, pulling space-time around with it and redirecting its relativistic jets in the process, reports Gizmodo.

“We were gobsmacked by what we saw in this system — it was completely unexpected,” said study co-author Greg Sivakoff, an astronomer at the University of Alberta in Canada.

“Finding this astronomical first has deepened our understanding of how black holes and galaxy formation can work. It tells us a little more about that big question: ‘How did we get here?’”

The results are consistent with Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which predicts that massive objects can warp space-time.

“When such a massive object is spinning, its gravitational influence pulls space and time around with it, an effect called frame-dragging,” detailed the NRAO, which runs the VLBA radio telescope network for the National Science Foundation.

As the black hole feeds on its neighboring star, the innermost portion of its accretion disk – which measures 6.2 million miles across in its entirety – is “puffed up” by the intense radiation generated while the ravenous object gorges on its stellar companion. This, coupled with the fact that the black hole’s spin axis is misaligned with the plane of the star, “causes the frame-dragging effect to warp the inner part of the disk, then pull the warped portion around with it,” explained NRAO officials.

Since the jets originate from either the inner disk or the black hole, this changes the jet orientation, producing the wobbling observed with the VLBA.”

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Space

Uranus smells like farts, astronomers have confirmed — and the discovery indicates there was ‘a big shakeup’ early in the solar system

A photo of Uranus taken by Voyager 2 in 1986 (edited to show its moon and rings).NASA/JPL-Caltech

  • Uranus is one of the solar system’s most mysterious planets.
  • Scientists had long believed that the “ice giant” world has clouds of hydrogen sulfide, a compound that smells bad to people, but they couldn’t be certain.
  • New telescope observations confirm the planet is clouded by the chemical.
  • The discovery may help astronomers further unravel the twisted history of the solar system‘s formation.

Uranus, the seventh planet from the sun, has held a vital (and smelly) secret of the solar system for decades.

An international team of researchers reported on Monday that they’ve discovered evidence that Uranus holds one of the most unpleasant-smelling chemicals known to humankind.

“They found hydrogen sulfide, the odiferous gas that most people avoid, in Uranus’s cloud tops,” according to a press release from Gemini Observatory, a high-power telescope atop a Hawaiian volcano.

Voyager 2 was the only spacecraft ever to visit the chilly, blue-green “ice giant.” The probe tried to see which chemicals were in Uranus’ clouds during its 1986 flyby, but it couldn’t tell scientists for certain.

Now, however, astronomers have used an instrument at the Gemini Observatory to “sniff” the planet’s gases from Earth. Their discovery could help write the book on when and where the planets of the solar system formed — and if they ever switched places.

“This is evidence of a big shakeup early on in the solar system’s formation,” Glenn Orton, a co-author of the new study and a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told Business Insider. “There was definitely a migration taking place.”

The journal Nature Astronomy published the findings on Monday.

Why it took so long to detect Uranus’s stinky clouds

The reason most people avoid hydrogen sulfide is because the compound is a signature ingredient in the scent of rotten eggs — and farts.

Humans can smell hydrogen sulfide when it makes up as little as three out of every billion molecules in the air, the EPA says. At higher concentrations, such as near volcanic areas, it can be poisonous. Breathing a concentration of a few hundred parts per million can kill a person in about half an hour, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“If an unfortunate human were ever to descend through Uranus’s clouds, they would be met with very unpleasant and odiferous conditions,” Patrick Irwin, a physicist at the University of Oxford who led the new study, said in the press release. But he added that “suffocation and exposure” to Uranus’ -200 degree Celsius temperatures “would take its toll long before the smell.”

Researchers had long suspected that Uranus’s atmosphere was laced with hydrogen sulfide, and in concentrations dozens of times higher than at Saturn or Jupiter.

They couldn’t be certain, though, since Uranus orbits the sun from 1.85 billion miles away.

The vast distance, aside from making the planet distant and difficult to study, leads to blisteringly cold temperatures that freezes hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen-sulfide ice can form clouds, but the solid crystals are hard for chemical-analyzing instruments called spectrometers to study. (The method works far better with liquids and gases.)

Irwin and others suspected there were at least whiffs of hydrogen sulfide gas drifting above the clouds. And now, thanks to an extremely sensitive Gemini instrument that can see light invisible to humans, Irwin said scientists “have the fingerprint which caught the culprit.”

Why the discovery might ‘shake up’ ideas about the solar system’s evolution

An artist’s conception of the dust and gas surrounding a newly formed planetary system.

Astronomers like Irwin have an interest in hydrogen sulfide on Uranus that goes far beyond the gas’ smell.

The discovery of hydrogen sulfide may help piece together the story of how the solar system formed and arranged itself some 4.6 billion years ago. Figuring out the exact makeup of distant planets could help determine where in the solar system they first formed — and how far they migrated away from the sun afterward.

Like all planets, Uranus and Neptune formed from a giant disk of gas and dust that shrouded the sun some 4.6 billion years ago. The planets are mostly made of heavier elements, and didn’t balloon with lightweight hydrogen and helium gases.

“Uranus and Neptune never had the time to grow into gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn,” Imke de Pater, an astronomer at the University of California Berkeley who wasn’t involved in the study, wrote in an accompanying article in Nature Astronomy. “The composition of a celestial body is a fundamental parameter in determining its formation and evolutionary history.”

The two planets failed to become gas giants (and instead became “ice giants”) for two main reasons.

First, the solar system’s early disk of dust and gas grew more diffuse farther out from the sun. With less material available, it took Uranus and Neptune longer to form.

Second, this slower formation gave the sun more time to blow hydrogen and helium out of the solar system with its stellar winds— before Uranus and Neptune could grow massive enough to capture it with their gravity.

“Giant planets form really fast, in a few million years,” Kevin Walsh, who studies planet formation at the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado, told Space.com in March. “That creates a time limit because the gas disk around the sun only lasts 4 to 5 million years.”

Scientists agree on this much, but Orton said they have “too many theories” about the migration of Uranus and Neptune, which came next.

A true-color photo of Uranus (left) and a false color image (right) taken at the turn of 1986 by NASA’s Voyager 2 probe.

One leading idea says the planets coalesced millions of miles closer to the sun, then quickly migrated outward.

But Orton said the newly detected hydrogen sulfide — and a strange lack of ammonia in the Gemini Observatory readings — suggest the planets actually formed farther out, then moved inward. (The ratio of the two molecules suggests the worlds were once even colder than they are today.)

To solve the question once and for all, Orton says researchers need to send spacecraft to plunge through the clouds of Uranus, not unlike how the Cassini probe dove into Saturn. The goal: figure out the exact abundances of hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, among other gases, and use the readings to pin the exact birth locations of Uranus and Neptune.

“We’re working on that now,” Orton said, referring to a proposal for a new Uranus probe.

Source www.businessinsider.com

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India shoots down satellite, becomes ‘space superpower’

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has claimed his forces shot down a low-earth satellite in a pre-planned test. Such capabilities raise fears of a weaponization of space at a time of rising tension with Pakistan.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday that his country’s forces had shot down a low-orbit satellite as part of a test exercise.

Modi said he was proud of his scientists and congratulated those behind the mission. He said the exercise proved India had become a “space superpower,” bringing it in line with the US, Russia and China.

Although Modi said the test exercise, deemed “Mission Shakti” (Hindi for “power”), was not aimed at any one country, the announcement could inflame tensions with Pakistan just days ahead of a crucial election.

Pakinstan responded by urging international action against military threats in space.

“Space is the common heritage of mankind and every nation has the responsibility to avoid actions which can lead to the militarization of this arena,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Prime Minister Modi was careful to point out that India opposes the weaponization of space, emphasizing that Wednesday’s test did not violate international law.

Indian space expert Ajay Lele underscored Modi’s claim by saying: “India is not placing weapons in space. A ground-based missile defense interceptor system was used to destroy the satellite. If some country or adversary places a satellite for intelligence or for troubling India, India now has the capability to remove such an irritant.”

Modi praised the effort on Twitter, saying it was important because it was an entirely indigenous effort. India has an ambitious space program, having launched probes to the moon and Mars, as well as unveiling plans for a manned space mission by 2022.

Polls are due to open in Indian elections in just days, with the vote lasting six weeks. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party is facing a challenge from opposition leader Rahul Gandhi’s Congress party. The nationalist leader crushed the Congress party at the last general election in 2014.

Analysts said the latest speech fell in line with Modi’s campaign message so far, in which he has presented aspirational goals for India. Modi was quoted as saying “I dream of an India which can think two steps ahead. I dream of an India that is completely self-reliant in every possible way.”

Tensions between India and Pakistan have escalated in recent months, after a militant attack killed 40 policemen in Indian-controlled Kashmir in February. Islamabad denied it was behind the attack, but India responded with a cross-border air strike against what it said was a militant training camp.

Pakistan returned fire with its own air strikes, and by shooting down an Indian plane over Kashmir. The pilot was captured and later released.

Since then, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has offered to talk with Modi over the issue. However, Pakistan has accused the Hindu right-wing leader of capitalizing on the tensions for political gain.

Source www.dw.com

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Astronomer manages to photograph a US experimental ship Boeing X-37B in the orbit of the Earth

Astronomer and professional photographer Ralf Vandebergh took photographs of the unmanned device while moving 300 kilometers up. Little is known of this classified project, initiated by NASA and currently addressed by Boeing and the United States Department of Defense (DARPA).

US experimental ship Boeing X-37B

The raw and processed images released by the Dutch astronomer Ralf Vandebergh.

A Dutch astronomer specializing in satellite monitoring captured the first images of the mysterious spacecraft Boeing X-37B, which is believed to hold the future of the US space program, orbiting the Earth.

Ralf Vandebergh, who is dedicated to taking pictures of planets and satellites from his base in Nijswiller, many of which have been used officially by NASA, published his find last week on his Twitter account.

There you can see the raw and processed image of the Boeing X-37B, an unmanned vehicle that would be testing systems for a new space shuttle, orbiting the earth at about 300 kilometers altitude on a mission called OTV-5 (Orbital Test Vehicle, or Orbital Test Vehicle).

The astronomer had been trying to take a picture of the X-37B, of which little is really known, for months and finally managed to detect its trajectory in May.

Preparing the photo, taken with an ALCCD 5L-11 mono CMOS and 5-inch F / 4.8 telescope, required a little more time.

«When I tried to observe it again in mid-June, it did not fulfill the trajectory and the expected time. Apparently, he had maneuvered into another orbit. Thanks to the amateur network of satellite observers, it was quickly found again and I was able to take the images on June 30 and July 2, “Vandebergh explained.

Boeing X-37B

A Boieng X-37B, the advanced new American space vehicle (US Air Force).

Although the images of the small spaceship are blurred, they have exceeded Vandebergh’s expectations: “We can recognize a bit of the nose, cargo area and tail of this mini-ferry, even with some details”.

Unknown objective

The OTV-5 mission ( the fifth of its kind ) of this X-37B began on September 7, 2017, after being launched by a Falcon 9 rocket from SpaceX from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, United States.

Its role and objectives are classified and little is known about its real capabilities, although it is believed that it would be collecting data, information, and intelligence, in addition to testing numerous equipment and components.

It is also not known when this mission that will take almost 700 days will end. The last X-37B (OTV-4) landed at the KSC on May 8, 2017, after 718 days orbiting, and it is expected that the OTV-6 will be launched sometime in 2019.

Source: Live Science

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