Could a Wolf-Rayet Star Generate a Gamma Ray Burst?

Gamma ray bursts (GRBs) are the most energetic events to be seen in the observable universe. On March 19th, a record breaking GRB was observed in the constellation of Boötes by NASA’s Swift Observatory and ground based telescope arrays (i.e. the Polish “Pie of the Sky” GRB detector). This was an explosion unparalleled with anything we have ever seen. Not only was it the brightest GRB, it was the most distant GRB – this explosion occurred 7.5 billion years ago (it was therefore located 7.5 billion light years away). Taking measurements of the spectrum of light from these events not only helps us understand what causes such a massive detonation, but also reveals the nature of the Universe when it was half the age it is now.

In a new publication headed by the University of Utrecht, in The Netherlands, the highly dynamic and self-destructive Wolf-Rayet star has been singled out as a possible GRB progenitor after some complex tidal interactions with a binary partner, spinning-up the star until it collapses and unleashes vast amounts of energy into space…
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Carnival of Space #48

This weeks edition of the Carnival of Space is being housed over at the Next Big Future by futurist Brian Wang. Check out his site, you’ll find many ideas on the future of space technology, nanotechnology, anything to do with advanced concepts and the future. Great stuff.

I entered one article this week, a short discussion about the recent sunspot activity and the implications of the overlap of Solar Cycle 23 and 24… There’s more where that came from…

Astroengine.com Roundup and Opinion

It’s been a while since I last posted as I’ve been flying from the US to the UK and have only just gotten my office up and running. That’s not to say I haven’t been writing. On the Universe Today, I’ve posted quite a few articles ranging from quite an elaborate April Fools story (but not quite as elaborate as Virgin and Google’s Virgle prank), to a black hole hiding in the middle of Omega Centauri, to rocks rolling around on Mars… here’s a round up of the most interesting…
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Upgrade to WordPress 2.5

Keeping up to date with the upgrades, astroengine.com has been successfully upgraded to version 2.5. Apparently v2.5 has been in the making for six months, and I must say, everyone has done a great job. The Administration section is especially nice. Let’s see if the upgrade converts into an increase in speed…

Ouch, a few plugins are now dead, but I’ll be sure to find replacements. Feel free to point out any problems with the site as you go, sending a message to ijo@astroengine.com.

More to come…

Daily Roundup: SpaceShipTwo, A Guy Tries to Sue the LHC and Orbs Falling to Earth

In a quick roundup of today’s articles on the Universe Today, I’ve covered the three articles (I got a special chuckle out of the LHC post):

I found the first article especially interesting – two identical orbs falling to Earth in Australia and Brazil? Check it out.

Also, an earlier article “13.73 Billion Years – The Most Precise Measurement of the Age of the Universe Yet“, has totally surprised me and hit the front page of Digg.com with 700+ Diggs so far (as of Saturday). Plus it’s had about 11,000 hits so far, so I’m really chuffed with that one.

More are on the way…

What’s Going on with These Sunspots? Are they from Solar Cycle 23 or 24?

Magnetic view of the new sunspots appearing at the Suns equator (credit: SOHO)

On posting the story “The Sun Bursts to Life: Sunspots, Flares and CMEs” on the Universe Today, something was strange about my source material. Although the Sun had started Solar Cycle 24 back in January of this year, the new sunspots recently observed were the “leftovers” from the previous cycle and not new ones from this cycle. Something is strange. Surely one cycle ends and another begins? Think again…
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Carnival of Space #47

In this weeks Carnival, we fly over to The Martian Chronicles for a Mars-themed look at the goings on in the Universe. Some really excellent articles have been posted this week, specifically “Artificial Gravity Via Bigelow Space Stations?” – a good question over at Colony Worlds, “The Science of the Brightest GRB” carries out a superb analysis of the recent gamma ray burst over at the aptly named Starts With A Bang and over at Bad Astronomy, Phil is honoured by having an asteroid named after him

I also submitted a rather “out there” story about all the things you can do with lasers and black holes – great fun! (But is that a white hole horizon or a black hole horizon? If you can’t tell, then what’s the point in worrying about it…?)

Building a Base on the Moon

Interconnecting modular-hangar based lunar habitat design. Image courtesy of Florian Ruess.

So mankind is beginning to reach into space. In the past, our efforts beyond the Earth’s atmosphere have been purely strategic and political. Now, scientific advancement is becoming a priority for government agencies and business opportunities are beginning to show themselves for private enterprise. So what’s the next step? If we are to make the ultimate push into space and actually live out there, we must use any natural resource to our advantage. Strategically speaking, the Moon is an ideal stepping stone for mankind to spread our influence beyond Earth. So where do we start?

Having just completed my “Building a Base on the Moon” series on the Universe Today, it is evident that we are gradually developing the right technology and moving in the right direction. But we have a long way to go before we accomplish the ultimate lunar habitat…
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How do you Build a Laser with a Black Hole?

The principal behind the lasing effect between the black hole and white hole horizons.
The principal behind the lasing effect between the black hole and white hole horizons.

Lasers. Very cool and exciting toys. They have also revolutionized science and technology. Through a comparatively simple process, photons are bounced backward and forward within an optical cavity. Stimulated emission from the quantum states of the material within the cavity causes more and more photons to be generated. Eventually a threshold is reached and laser emission results, producing a collimated beam of a defined wavelength.

So where do black holes come into all this? Well, it is theorized that black hole event horizons produce radiation. Hawking radiation, although not yet proven, is probably responsible for the only emission from a black hole. It may even cause the black hole to evaporate. But what if this radiation could be used in the ultimate laser cavity? Some Scottish researchers think it might be possible… in theory…
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Daily Roundup: The Mars Curse and the Biggest Explosion in the Universe!

The largest ever gamma ray burst observed. Image credit: NASA

This week has been an exciting week for astronomers. The largest explosion ever seen in the Universe was observed on Wednesday. This gamma ray burst, produced when a star collapses in on itself to create a black hole, is a record breaker. Not only is it the biggest explosion mankind has seen since records began, it is also the furthest and oldest “thing” we have ever observed…
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