Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking Unveil $100m Voyage to the Stars

Eminent astrophysicist Professor Stephen Hawking has joined forces with science investor and philanthropist Yuri Milner to launch a revolutionary $100m “moonshot” which aims to send a miniature spacecraft hurtling across the galaxy, propelled by lasers. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has also joined the board of the organisation, known as Breakthrough Starshot.

“Breakthrough Starshot is a $100 million research and engineering program aiming to demonstrate proof of concept for light-propelled nanocrafts,” the official press release reads. “These could fly at 20 percent of light speed and capture images of possible planets and other scientific data in our nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, just over 20 years after their launch.”

Breakthrough Starshot aims to send Nanocrafts – tiny robotic spaceships with a gram-scale mass and tiny lightsails, propelled using a 100 billion-watt laser – on a twenty-year journey, at one-fifth the speed of light, 25 trillion miles (4.37 light years) across the Milky Way to the Alpha Centauri star system.

The announcement coincides with the 55th Anniversary of the first orbit of the Earth by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, after whom Milner is named.

“The human story is one of great leaps,” Milner said. “55 years ago today, Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. Today, we are preparing for the next great leap – to the stars.”

“Earth is a wonderful place, but it might not last forever,” added Stephen Hawking, “Sooner or later, we must look to the stars. Breakthrough Starshot is a very exciting first step on that journey.”

“We take inspiration from Vostok, Voyager, Apollo and the other great missions,” said Pete Worden, former director of NASA AMES Research Center and advisor to Breakthrough Starshot. “It’s time to open the era of interstellar flight, but we need to keep our feet on the ground to achieve this.”

Image courtesy of The Guardian.

Astronomers Uncover a Supermassive Black Hole in a Small Galaxy Group

Black holes are incredibly mysterious and fascinating, don’t you agree? Some of them are incredibly large, so large in fact that we can’t really wrap our minds around their massiveness, especially when we hear that they are several billion times the mass of our sun. Not too long ago, a group of astronomers uncovered an extremely large black hole that’s almost as big as the largest one known to man so far. It is actually 17 billion times bigger than our sun, and what makes it really interesting is that it is located in a relatively small galaxy group 200 million light years away. Usually, supermassive black holes that weigh at least 10 billion suns are located at the cores of large galaxies in heavily populated areas.

Dubbed NGC 1600, this particular black hole was measured using something called a MASSIVE Survey, which involved measuring the movements of stars within its influence with the help of the Gemini Observatory telescopes in Hawaii and Chile. Nobody really knows why it is so big, but a plausible theory is that it represents the result of two merging black holes. The reason behind its existence is not that important right now anyway. What matters is that scientists now know that supermassive black holes can exist in smaller groups of galaxies, and since these small groups are relatively common, it appears that these spacetime regions might be a lot more common than we thought.

Could Planet Nine Destroy the Earth This Month?

Astronomy circles are all abuzz over speculation that a potential ninth planet – a Jupiter-sized super-planet –has been discovered in our solar system, with some sources reporting that its irregular orbit may have triggered the meteor shower that wiped out the dinosaurs, and may even induce the same level of disaster later this month.

The following report appeared in the New York Post, via a particularly disreputable UK tabloid:

“Planet Nine — a new planet discovered at the edge of the solar system in January — has triggered comet showers that bomb the Earth’s surface, killing all life, says Daniel Whitmire, of the University of Louisiana. The astrophysicist says the planet has a 20,000-year orbit around the sun and, at its closest to us, it knocks asteroids and comets toward Earth.

Fossil evidence has suggested most life on Earth is mysteriously wiped out every 26 million to 27 million years.

Whitmire claims Planet Nine’s passage through a rock-laden area called the Kuiper Belt is responsible for the “extinction events.””

So, could planet nine really destroy the Earth this month? Unlikely. Reports of our imminent destruction have been exaggerated, at worst. Online debunker Snopes contacted Whitmire to verify that the ninth planet poses a danger to our planet. His response? ” No truth to the story at all. That’s quite impossible.”

It seems that Plan(et) Nine From Outer Space won’t be troubling the Earth any time soon. If we really do have a ninth planet again – following the sad demotion of Pluto – we should be far more worried about Mondas

Planet With Three Suns Discovered

Astrophysicists have discovered a distant planet that has not one, not two, but three suns in its sky. While the Jupiter-sized world, named KELT-4Ab, orbits a single star (KELT-A), its system is within close proximity of a binary star, containing KELT-B and KELT-C, which circle each other as part of a larger orbit around KELT-A. Every 4,000 years or so, KELTs A, B, and C fall adjacent to each other and are all visible together in KELT-4Ab’s sky.

The phenomenon was discovered by Research Associate at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Jason Eastman, who is the lead author of study on KELT-4Ab, which used the Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope – two robotic telescopes in Arizona and South Africa, and the origin of the KELT moniker – to observe the curious planet and stars.

“Those two stars would orbit each other every about 30 years, and every 4,000 years they’d make one orbit around KELT-4A,” Eastman told Space.com.

In addition to its three suns, though, KELT-4Ab is curious for another reason: it is a type of planet known as a “hot Jupiter”, which is a gas giant that is positioned close to a sun, an occurrence that, theoretically, cannot yet be explained.

“Hot Jupiters aren’t supposed to exist. None of them,” Eastman said. “Gaseous planets the size of Jupiter are supposed to form much farther out [from their parent star] and stay there, like our own Jupiter did,” he said. “Exactly how they got so close is an outstanding question, but one theory is that it migrates due to hot interactions with a third body — in this case, the third and fourth bodies KELT-BC.”

The two unusual discoveries – the three stars and the “hot Jupiter – may even be related, according to Eastman. “The binary system KELT-4BC may be what ultimately drove the planet KELT-4Ab so close to its star,” he said.

New Exoplanet Hunting Instrument Being Developed by NASA

NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF) have recently been constructing a team of astronomers as part of a project to construct a powerful new exoplanet-hunting tool. The selection process involved a national competition, with the team chosen to be led by Penn State University assistant professor Suvrath Mahadevan. The next three years will now be spent developing and constructing the $10 million instrument, named NN-EXPLORE Exoplanet Investigations with Doppler Spectroscopy or NEID for short. NEID, once completed, will then be installed atop the WIYN observatory located at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona.

NEID will be the first piece of equipment that will allow astronomers to search for exoplanets from the Earth instead of an orbital telescope. The instrument works by detecting Earth-like planets that orbit stars by measuring the ‘wobble’ of a star, which is often indicative of an orbiting planet and the size of the ‘wobble’ making it possible to determine how big the planet may be. Once these potential exoplanets are discovered, powerful space telescopes can then be committed to the task of searching for these planets in more detail.

The goal of NEID is to assist in finding proof of life on other worlds, which is a discovery that has so far eluded us, should it exist. Whether NEID will help us find the aliens that so many of us hope to find is unknown, but should life exist out there, tools like this make it all the more reasonable that we discover it.

Astronomers Observe Exploding Star for the First Time

For the first time ever, astronomers have recorded the moment at which a star started to explode – known as the “shock breakout” – within the optical wavelength of NASA’s Kepler space telescope.

The astronomy team, led by Peter Garnavich, Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, USA, monitored the light levels emitted by sources within 500 galaxies – around 500 trillion stars – over a three-year period in order to detect the early signs of a supernova. The observations led to Kepler monitoring two stars in particular – both red supergiants – that were on the verge of exploding. The massive stellar bodies, KSN 2011a and KSN 2011d, were around 1.2 billion light years away.

“To put their size into perspective, Earth’s orbit about our sun would fit comfortably within these colossal stars,” Garnavich explained on the NASA website.

KSN 2011a and KSN 2011d were then observed exploding. While the Type II supernovae of both stars matched known mathematical models of the phenomena, the explosion KSN 2011a was not preceded by the expected shock breakout.

“In order to see something that happens on timescales of minutes, like a shock breakout, you want to have a camera continuously monitoring the sky,” Garnavich said. “You don’t know when a supernova is going to go off, and Kepler’s vigilance allowed us to be a witness as the explosion began.”

The video below shows KSN 2011d exhibiting the shock breakout prior to its supernova:

“That is the puzzle of these results,” Garnavich added. “You look at two supernovae and see two different things. That’s maximum diversity.”

New Horizons Spacecraft Paints a New Picture of Pluto

The dwarf planet on the edge of our Solar System, Pluto, is one of the most enigmatic and unknown to us. Now, a newly published report based on data taken by the New Horizons spacecraft has allowed researchers to get a far clearer picture of the true nature of Pluto.

Pluto’s geology is one of great variety and beauty, including vast crevices, craters and large valleys that stretch across much of its surface. As a contrast to this, there is a 1,000 kilometer long flat plain in the northern hemisphere named the Sputnik Planum. This area is surrounded by enormous icy mountains and large glaciers that flow into the plain. Those studying the plain believe that Pluto’s surface must be constantly reshaping as it is completely unblemished by craters or other features, with Jeffery Moore, a New Horizons co-investigator at NASA Ames Research Center stating that “it can’t possibly be more than 10 million years old; it could also be a day old.” This is before even considering the unusual mountainous protrusions that are believed to be cryo-volcanoes.

Pluto’s atmosphere is also very cold, even colder than researchers believed it would, despite its distance from the sun. Near the surface, the atmosphere is a chilly -233 degrees Celcius, warming to -163 at higher altitudes. The temperature drops off drastically in the upper atmosphere however, with gasses cooling to -202 Celcius. These cold temperatures mean that few gasses escape Pluto’s atmosphere, despite its low gravity, as they are unable to gain the energy to move and end up trapped close to the planet.

This new analysis of the flyby of Pluto that took place in July last year has been published by the journal Science and despite all this new knowledge, there is still so much more to discover. These amazing landscapes also make you wonder just what other unearthly beautiful landscapes exist out there on other bodies in the Solar System. Who knows what else could still be out there?

The Mystery of Deep Space Radio Signals Becomes Even Stranger

Last year, we told you that a series of strange signals from the depths of space had been detected by the Parkes radio telescope in New South Wales, Australia. The detection of the Fast Radio Burst (FRB) signals near the constellation of Auriga were remarkable because they were so brief – lasting “as long as it takes a human to blink their eye,” according to Swinburne University’s Emily Petroff – and, as yet, unexplained.

Since then, the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico – famous to non-astronomers as the climactic setting of the 1995 James Bond movie, Goldeneye – has been monitoring these 10 millisecond-long bursts, and has determined that, whatever the signals are, they’re repeating.

That these FRBs are not one-offs, powered by some kind of explosive event such as a solar flare or a collapsing star, suggests that a continuing energy source is powering the signals. That could make the source a spinning neutron star, or even (whisper it) aliens.

“The fact it repeats rules out—for this object anyway—any of the models that are just one-offs, whether they involve mergers or evaporating black holes or something else,” James Cordes, astronomer at Cornell University, told Scientific American.

Cordes does not pay lip service to the idea that aliens are responsible for the radio transmissions, instead pinning his hypothesis on recognised natural phenomena. “Nature is more clever than theorists, and I think most of us would hope there are new, exotic phenomena to be identified here, but we have to be careful to not let expectations trump reality,” Cordes added. “I am a minimalist—if you can explain something by known phenomena, you should.”

NANOGrav Astronomers Use Pulsars to Spot Gravitational Waves

Earlier this month, the discovery of the gravitational waves shook the scientific community as it confirmed one of Einstein’s theories that it took us a century to develop the technology to prove. Now a team of astronomers known as NANOGrav believe that we can more easily track the effects of these gravitational waves rippling across the Earth using stable pulsar signals. Stephen Taylor from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory believes that “Detecting this signal is possible if we are able to monitor a sufficiently large number of pulsars spread across the sky,” and that “The smoking gun will be seeing the same pattern of deviations in all of them.”

A pulsar is a spinning, highly magnetized neutron star, a remnant left behind after stars go supernova. Some of these neutron stars spin incredibly fast, performing as many as thousands of rotations per second, which send a signal out on each rotation, which can be picked up on Earth. As a result, millisecond pulsars have a predictable arrival time on their signals, with NANOGrav’s instruments able to measure them as precisely as to within a ten-millionth of a second according to NANOGrav’s Maura McLaughlin. “Because of that, we can use them to detect incredibly small shifts in Earth’s position.”

Right now the team is already monitoring 54 pulsars, most of which are in the northern hemisphere of the planet. This has caused NANOGrav to reach out to teams in Australia and around the globe “in order to get the all-sky coverage this search requires,” according to JPL’s Michele Vallisneri. With proper coverage, the team believes that low-frequency gravitational waves could be proven within 10 years, ahead of the 2028 eLISA space mission, which would be capable of detecting the higher frequency waves. We live in an exciting time, and who knows what the myriad efforts of scientists worldwide may discover about the universe we live in next.

Image credit to NASA

Are Aliens Building Their Own Starkiller Base?

Back in October, we brought you the story of a curious star which may be displaying evidence of an alien presence. The star, KIC8462852, positioned between the constellations of Cygnus and Lyra, was observed through the Kepler Space Telescope exhibiting massive dips in its light output – incomparable to any other star ever observed – with the only logical explanation being that huge foreign bodies were obscuring the star.

While some astronomers argued that the light dips could be caused by passing comets, others claimed that the chances of that were slim, leaving only one other possible explanation: aliens. Now, the comet theory has been debunked, which lends fresh support for some kind of alien presence at KIC8462852.

“The comet-family idea was reasonably put forth as the best of the proposals, even while acknowledging that they all were a poor lot,” Bradley Schaefer, an astronomer from Penn State University, told New Scientist. “But now we have a refutation of the idea, and indeed, of all published ideas.”

Looking at light output data for KIC8462852, spanning from 1890 to 1989, Schaefer was able to determine that the star’s strange light phenomena has been occurring for over 100 years, meaning that passing comets could not have been responsible. According to Schaefer, this “century-long dimming trend requires an estimated 648,000 giant comets (each with 200 km diameter) all orchestrated to pass in front of the star within the last century,” an explanation that is “completely implausible.”

Could it really be aliens? And why would they be blocking light from a sun for over 100 years? One explanation could be that another species is building their equivalent of a Dyson Sphere around the star. A Dyson Sphere – named for famed astrophysicist Freeman Dyson – is a theoretical superstructure that surrounds a star, designed to harness that star’s light and heat to make the artificial shell habitable. Or, for a more contemporary comparison, Starkiller Base, the First Order’s planet-destroying weapon, constructed around a planet and using a star for its power, from Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens.  A new paper written by Schaefer may support the idea.

“The century-long dimming and the day-long dips are both just extreme ends of a spectrum of timescales for unique dimming events, so by Ockham’s Razor, all this is produced by one physical mechanism,” Shaefer’s paper reads. “This one mechanism does not appear as any isolated catastrophic event in the last century, but rather must be some ongoing process with continuous effects.”

Image courtesy of Danielle Futselaar.

NASA Releases Astonishing Images of The Sun in 4K

Modern technology has allowed us all to see the beauty of our own solar system and gaze in its wonder. The advent of ultra-high resolution video means it’s now possible to observe planetary bodies in such an unbelievable degree of detail. Today, NASA released a video which captures the Sun’s temperature variation is glorious 4K. In NASA’s own words:

“SDO captures images of the Sun in 10 different wavelengths, each of which helps highlight a different temperature of solar material,” NASA’s YouTube channel explains. “In this video we experience images of the Sun in unprecedented detail captured by SDO. Presented in ultra-high definition video (4K) the video presents the nuclear fire of our life-giving star in intimate detail, offering new perspective into our own relationships with grand forces of the solar system.”

The footage is accompanied by a soothing audio track which makes the video extremely relaxing and quite mesmerizing. Perhaps as imaging technology improves, scientists will be able to unveil more about the solar system and further our understanding of the universe. I really hope funding doesn’t inhibit research in the next century as scientific discovery is essential to progress the human race. If you even have a passing internet in astronomy, I’d definitely give the video a look!

Our Galaxy’s Strangest Star Could Have Alien Craft in Orbit

There is a star, positioned between the constellations of Cygnus and Lyra, which has astronomers in a tizz. When viewed through the Kepler Space Telescope, this particular star exhibits strange properties; the telescope observed huge dips in light levels from the star, notable because they could not be explained by any naturally occurring phenomena.

“We’d never seen anything like this star,” says Tabetha Boyajian, a postdoc at Yale. “It was really weird. We thought it might be bad data or movement on the spacecraft, but everything checked out.”

It seems that the star is being orbited by a number of objects large enough to block out considerable levels of light from the star. The objects are too small and too close to the star to be planets, yet they have not been consumed by its gravity; they remain in orbit.

Boyajian, who heads up the Planet Hunters organisation, published a paper regarding the strange star. While it poses numerous possible explanations, the only one deemed plausible by Boyajian – that another star passed through this star system, pulling with it a collection of comets, and deposited them into the orbit of the unusual star – relies on a huge coincidence. Another contributor to the paper suggests that the objects are consistent with “swarm of megastructures,” and posits that they could be huge solar panels built by an alien civilisation.

“When [Boyajian] showed me the data, I was fascinated by how crazy it looked,” Jason Wright, an astronomer from Penn State University. “Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build.”

Boyajian and his team will continue to observe the star, hoping that the answer to its mysteries will become apparent. At present, though, many of the astronomers involved believe aliens could the most plausible cause.

Thank you The Atlantic for providing us with this information.

NASA’s Kepler Telescope Finds New Earth-Like Planet

NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope (above) has discovered an Earth-like planet within our galaxy. The planet, given the designation Kepler-452b, is thought to be older and larger than the Earth, but with a similar atmosphere and gravity that could be capable of sustaining life.

The Kepler Space Telescope was launched in March 2009, and during its lifespan has discovered over 1,000 new planets, but the discovery of Kepler-452b is considered to be its most important discovery to date.

A NASA statement reads, “Today, and thousands of discoveries later, astronomers are on the cusp of finding something people have dreamed about for thousands of years – another Earth.”

Kepler-452b appears to be what NASA calls a ‘Goldilocks’ planet, positioned within a zone not too close and not too far from the star that it orbits, ideal for sustaining life. It has twice the land mass of the Earth, has a 380-day year, and its atmosphere is capable of producing cloud cover and a rain cycle.

Jeff Coughlin, Kepler research scientist at SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, thinks that this discovery is just the beginning. “Is this the end? Hell no!” he said at the press conference announcing the discovery.

Thank you The Independent and NASA for providing us with this information.

NASA’s New Horizons to Name Pluto Landmarks After Your Sci-Fi Favourites

Mount Spock? Skywalker Valley? Tardis Ridge? These landmarks could be coming to Pluto and its satellites, thanks to NASA’s New Horizons mission. The NASA team has compiled a list of names that range from fictional characters from science fiction and fantasy, to their home planets and vehicles, from which to draw future names to newly discovered regions within the Pluto orbitary system. The list also includes noted authors, river gods, and even famous dogs.

The list, derived from an online survey at “OurPluto”, drew over 60,000 ballots and 15,000 candidates, according to Mark Showalter, planetary scientist at the SETI Institute, the body that organised the campaign. The New Horizons probe will be flying over Pluto this month, and Showalter expects the team to start naming the subsequent geographical discoveries as early as 14th July.

Though names must be approved by the International Astronomical Union, Showalter was keen to involve the public in the process. “It’s up to the IAU, but since the public was so invested in the process, we thought it was appropriate to let the public know what we’re proposing,” Showalter told NBC News.

NBC has compiled the highlights of the “OurPluto” list:

  • Features on Pluto:The themes include space missions and spacecraft (Columbia and Challenger, Sputnik and Soyuz), scientists and engineers (Tombaugh, Lowell and Oort), historic explorers (Norgay, Hillary and Baré), underworld beings and locales (Cthulhu, Balrog and Pandemonium), and travelers to the underworld (Heracles, Virgil and Beatrice).
  • Features on Charon, Pluto’s largest moon:Fictional explorers and travelers (Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Skywalker, Leia, Vader, Alice, Dorothy), fictional origins and destinations (Vulcan, Mordor, Tatooine), fictional vessels (Serenity, Tardis, Nostromo, Galactica), and authors, artists and directors who touched on exploration (Douglas Adams, Arthur C. Clarke, Madeleine L’Engle).
  • Features on the moon Styx: River gods (Ethiopia’s Eqqo, Egypt’s Hapi, Zaire’s Mbongo).
  • Features on the moon Nix:Deities of the night (Chandra, a Hindu moon god; Bodach, a Scottish goblin; Metsaka, a moon goddess of Mexico’s Huichol people).
  • Features on the moon Kerberos:Dogs from literature, history and mythology (Laika and Toto).
  • Features on the moon Hydra:Legendary serpents and dragons (Jabberwock, Smaug and Falkor).

By the end of the month, we could a real-life Serenity Valley. Browncoats beware.

Thank you NBC News for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of International Astronomical Union.

Check Out a Real-Time Map of Objects in Earth’s Orbit

Like the average computer desk, space is laced with debris. For every crumb lodged in your keyboard, one thousand times as many particles are currently in orbit around the Earth. With the wonderful 3D-visualised map stuffin.space, you can now watch the myriad or objects hurtling around our planet in real time.

The site uses live satellite data from Space Track, the US Department of Defense’s website designed to promote space flight safety and “protection of the space environment”. The site monitors space junk traffic in orbit around the planet, tracking all objects bigger than a tennis ball, excluding secret military satellites, sadly.

Though this data, stuffin.space tracks around 150,000 unique objects currently in orbit around the Earth and can show their position, movement, and trajectory in real time. Every object has its own identifier, so if you know the name of the object you’d wish to follow, simply type its name into the search box and the screen will zero in on it.

The beautiful visualisation suite was developed by 18-year-old James Yoder, a programmer and alumnus of FIRST Robotics, the lauded high school robotics competition. Yoder was driven by a desire to learn how to render 3D graphics and code using the JavaScript API, WebGL.

“Using those orbital parameters, stuffin.space uses a propagation model to predict the location of every satellite in real time, with an accuracy of within a few kilometers, and displays the data using a WebGL visualization with an accurate view of the Earth’s rotation and sunlight angle,” Yoder told Gizmodo.

Yoder will be studying electrical engineering at the University of Texas this Autumn.

Thank you Gizmodo for providing us with this information.

International Astronomical Union (IAU) Planet-Naming Contest Opening Up

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) will open up exoplanet naming contests starting next year, in an effort to cut off the complicated names following the once-strict naming guidelines.

Instead of having the next OGLE235-MOA53 b exoplanet, other suitable – and potentially amusing – names could be up for grabs.  It’s a difficult task for the IAU, as there are so many exoplanets being discovered, and trying to assign names too complicated is a major headache.

The IAU has teamed up with Zooniverse and created a list of 305 exoplanets in 206 solar systems – with astronomy organizations and researchers able to select planets to be named, which will begin in September.

Here is what an IAU representative said in a statement regarding the contest:

“People have been naming celestial objects for millennia, long before any scientific system of names ever existed.  Even today, almost every civilization and culture uses common names to describe the stars and planets visible to the naked eye, as well as their apparent distribution on the sky – constellations, asterisms [star patterns], etc.”

Several planet naming services have cropped up, allowing participants to pay a fee to vote, though the IAU quickly put a stop to those startups.  A public vote will open up in March 2015, with winning names unveiled to the public in August 2015.

Thank you to Space.com for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of Space.com

“Hand of God” Spotted By NASA Telescope

NASA captured some X-Ray images with the help of its Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR for short. The image resulted in a hand-shaped celestial object that resembles the “Hand of God”.

“NuSTAR’s unique viewpoint, in seeing the highest-energy X-rays, is showing us well-studied objects and regions in a whole new light,” NuSTAR principal investigator Fiona Harrison, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said in a statement.

It illustrates a pulsar wind nebula, produced by the dense remnant of a star that exploded in a supernova. The remnants created afterwards a pulsar, called PSR B1509-58, or B1509 for short, which spins around 7 times per second blowing a wind of particles into material ejected during the star’s death throes. As these particles interact with nearby magnetic fields, they produce an X-ray glow in the shape of a hand. Scientists however aren’t sure whether the ejected material actually assumes the shape of a hand, or whether its interaction with the pulsar’s particles is just making it appear that way.

The red cloud appearing at the fingertips is a separate structure called RCW 89. Astronomers believe the pulsar’s wind may be heating the cloud and producing the low-energy X-ray glow.The X-ray energies seen by NuSTAR range from 7 to 25 kiloelectron volts, or keV, whereas the energies seen by Chandra range from 0.5 to 2 keV.

This could be an example of pareidolia, a phenomenon which makes people see familiar things in unusual shapes. However, despite its supernatural appearance, the “Hand of God” figure was produced by a natural astrophysical phenomena.

Thank you Mashable for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Mashable

Indian Army Tracks Spy Drones For 6 Month, Turns Out They Were Just Planets

This sounds a little too silly to be believable but it seems the Indian Army have spent roughly six months watching, tracking and documenting the movements of what they believed were two Chinese spy drones, when they were in fact watching the planets Jupiter and Venus!

The level of incompetence here is absolutely incredible and it makes you wonder just how many people in a position of power there actually have a grasp of our own solar system and night sky, let alone any clue as to what could be a spy drone, not a huge gas giant planet millions of miles away…

The two unknown objects appeared in the night sky sometime in August 2012, the Telegraph Calcutta reported that the Indian army made 329 sightings of these objects between the first sighting and February 2013, yet in that time the had not come to the conclusion that they were planets orbiting the sun. Instead the determined that on 155 occasions the apparent drones were in violation of the Line of Actual Control that separates China and India.

Of course this was all straightened out 6 months later when the army finally contacted astronomers at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics in Bangalore, who are likely still rolling around dying of laughter.

“The astronomers were told that the first object, viewed from a location about 4,715 metres above sea level near Thakung, appeared in the horizon at about 6pm and remained visible until about 5am. The second object appeared at 4am and faded away at 11am.” said Telegraph Calcutta.

Jumping to conclusions really can be a dangerous thing, but the fact that this went on for 6 months is somewhat frightening.

Thank you VR-Zone for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of BBC.