Welcome back to a long overdue edition of Science Saturday. This week: make three ground-breaking astronomical discoveries including a diamond planet, a star-swallowing black hole, and the supernova of a generation. Also, team up with NASA and Tor/Forge Books to create NASA-inspired sci-fi novels.
Three Amazing Astronomic Discoveries: A Planet Made of Diamond, A Star Swallowed by a Black Hole, and the Supernova of a Generation!
This week, astronomy telescopes of all sorts have been busy collecting data. And, what they’ve found is three ground-breaking discoveries both inside and outside of the Milky Way.
Astronomers Discover Planet Made of Diamond
Only 4,000 light years away (or about one eighth of the way to the center of our galaxy) lies a small and extremely dense planet orbiting a neutron star. The newly discovered planet is far denser than any other known so far, and it appears to be composed almost entirely of carbon. Because of it’s evolutionary history and extreme density, that carbon is likely crystalline, aka diamond. The planet is probably the remnant of a previously massive star that has since shed its outermost layers. No one can say for sure what the diamond planet looks like close up, so we’ll leave that to the sci-fi writers. Diamond mountains and beaches of diamond sands?
An exotic diamond planet
First Ever Glimpse of a Supermassive Black Hole Swallowing a Star
Scientists have, for the first time, witnessed a black hole tear apart and swallow a star that got just a little too close. Until now, astronomers had only seen the aftermath of these events. The Swift satellite observed a set of extremely bright gamma ray bursts originating from outside of our galaxy. Scientists say that these bursts are nothing like those seen before. Based on additional radio telescope observations, scientists concluded that the gamma rays were emitted from a nearby galaxy after the black hole in its center ripped apart a star named Swift J1644+57. Results were published in the August 25 issue of Nature.
The “Supernova of a Genration” Discovered in Nearby Galaxy
Yesterday, a supernova was seen closer to Earth than any other of its kind — just around the corner in the Pinwheel Galaxy located in the Big Dipper. Astronomers are excited at the indications that the supernova was discovered just hours after it exploded. Astronomers at UC Berkeley who made the discovery say that this will be the most-studied supernova in history. As the supernova gets brighter, it might even be noticeable with binoculars in 10 days from now. The best time to see the exploding star is just after evening twilight in about a week. You’ll need dark skies, but it’s said to be brighter than any other supernova of its kind in the last 30 years, so a pair of good binoculars should do the trick.
The supernova of a generation in the nearby Pinwheel galaxy
NASA to Publish Science Fiction Book Series
In another melding of science and science fiction, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has teamed up with Tor/Forge Books to develop and publish a series of “NASA-inspired works of fiction”. Scientists and engineers will work with writers to help raise awareness of the role that NASA plays in people’s everyday lives and to help inspire the next generation of American scientists and engineers.
NASA and Tor/Forge Books team up for sci-fi series
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth a peek.
- NASA: James Webb Telescope to now cost $8.7 billion
- Official NASA MMO offering up swag for Kickstarter funding
- Cassini closes in on Saturn’s tumbling moon Hyperion