May 16, 2008 | David F. Coppedge

Star Light, Star Bright, I Wish I Knew What’s Going On

Astronomy is fun, if for no other reason than it gives one endless opportunities to be shocked and surprised.

  1. Pulsar outside the box:  Theory has it all laid out nice and neat.  Pulsars form when a red giant drops matter onto a binary companion, making it go boom in a supernova, leaving behind a spinning pulsar.  Why, then, is PSR J1903+0327 orbiting a sun-like star?  This “wacky pulsar,” said, is sending surprised theorists back to the drawing board.  Maybe its red giant kicked it out of orbit towards the sunlike star.  Who knows?  Maybe not.  See also Science NowScience Daily, quoted an astronomer saying, “What we have found is a millisecond pulsar that is in the wrong kind of orbit around what appears to be the wrong kind of star.”
  2. Where are the supernovae?  Astronomers are glad to have found another supernova remnant in the Milky Way, but they should have found six times as many by now.  Science Now said this is “a step in the right direction,” but “there are a lot of steps.”  Since the material from this burst is expanding out at a record speed of 15,000 kilometers per second (yes, that is per second), it must have gone off just a hundred years ago.  Now they’re trying to find if it shot off starstuff so they can figure out where life comes from.  Should they look for the other supernova remnants first?
  3. Wear your starglasses:  The night sky may look dark, but astronomers just discovered it is twice as bright as it appears.  This is news from astronomers who just recently figured out that dust blocks half the light we see. quoted a Scottish astronomer who was “shocked by the sheer scale of the effect” of the dust.  Oh no; “We’ve really got to take dust seriously and we’ve got to make large adjustments to our magnitude calculations.”  Magnitude calculations are the cornerstone of almost everything in astronomy.

Did they tell this to the Europeans who, according to Science Now, are bragging about nailing the temperature of the young cosmos to three significant figures?

Well, what do you know.  Seriously.

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Categories: Astronomy, Cosmology

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