Friday, 14 August 2015

The Destroyer of All Matter

A black hole said to be a called a mathematical singularity, but what exactly is a singularity. The mathematics of a black hole fail to describe the shape as does the expression of 1/0. Black holes are singularities in space time. Our own milky way is said to contain a black hole in its center.

However one may ask where is the Galactic center?
The question of the finding where the galactic center is not something that is easily calculated.  However being located at the point that our solar system is, we are able to readily identify the center. Radio observations made of our galactic center reveal a highly sophisticated structure.

This image of the galactic center reveals regions of star birth never before seen.

A large number of globular clusters and gas nebulae are found at center. The above X-Ray image shows numerous stars and nebulae at the heart of our galaxy, the lighter waves on the left represent nebula's.

The above image shows a wide field view of the galactic center. Perhaps the most prominent source in this image is of Sagittarius A. Deep within Sagittarius A is the source Sagittarius A*, which astronomers have identified as being a black hole with a mass millions of times that of the Sun. Image by Dr. N.E Kassim, from data obtained by the VLAT.
The kinematics if stars within the central cluster show that the Milky Way contains a mass concentration of 4 x 10 ^ 6, this almost certainly means there is a black at the position of compact source Sagittarius A*. The acceleration of some these stars in this region have also been measured, for example one star within the region exceeded a velocity of 5000 km/s when it was closest to Sagittarius A*. Most recently in 2012 a new S-star was found with a period of only 11.5 years.

Simulation of star rotation around a black hole. The closer the star to the black hole the faster its rotation and the more space time is distorted.

Plot of orbits that stars orbiting Sgr* A. For some of these stars the orbit is of a high velocity while others take 10 - 14 years.

The above figure shows orbits of stars around Sagittarius A*, as determined by their proper motion and radial velocity. The black hole potential Sagittarius* A is in the center. Sagittarius A* has a proper motion of about 20km/s. You can find the full research here

A technical answer to explain a black hole would be to say, it is a solution to Einstein's theory of relativity which describes the gravitational field of mass zero.  A black hole is a compact mass that has a radius smaller than Schwarzschild radius.

The radius where the escape velocity of the black hole reaches the speed of light is called the Schwarzschild radius, named after physicist Karl Schwarzschild. The speed of light is measured to be approximately 300,000 kilometers per second.

Simulation of black hole, with gravitational lensing effect
One cannot observe the singularity at the center of a black hole. This is because when the distance of a black hole increases, the escape velocity increases, until this velocity reaches a finite speed of light and then at this point the velocity has such reached to such an extent that even light cannot escape hence making it extremely difficult to observe as no light escapes and neither does any radiation. This is one of the reasons even space telescopes cannot directly capture images of black holes, they do however find other sources of evidence that suggest and indicate the presence of black holes.

The first discussion of black holes can be traced back to famous French mathematician Pierre Simon Laplace. Fellow engineers may recall having studied Laplace Transform which is useful in analyzing electronic circuits.

Simulation of black hole creating a gravitation lensing effect, making it look as though the stars behind are bending around it.

Laplace considered that if we reduce the radius (r) of a celestial body of a mass (M), the escape velocity (Vesc) at its surface will increase. This can be written in its mathematical form below:

From this we can see that for a small radius, (Vesc) will roughly equal to the speed of light. This happens when the radius (r) decreases.
Black Hole-Powered Spiral Galaxy NGC 7742
The above image shows small spiral galaxy NGC 7742. It is theorized that such type of galaxies called Seyfert type 2 are powered by a black hole in its core.

The radius of (rs) is named the Schwarzschild radius. From our above equation we can see that our radius is relatively small about 3km.

So what does this Schwarzschild equation tell us?
This equation gives us a black hole's size and the corresponding event horizon.
If we were to imagine an astronaut fall toward the event horizon, if he carried a watch it would run more and more slowly and his progress toward the event horizon would slow down as well. At the event horizon, the gravitational redshift would be so intense that the watch would stop altogether. Our astronaut would have reached the event horizon, but from our perspective he would never have made it. For the astronaut he would he would go pass the event horizon, continuously falling into the black hole for perhaps infinity. However this is our imagined scenario, because in reality the gravity at the event horizon would be so intense that our astronaut would be ripped apart atom by atom.

The above video shows very interesting simulation of a black hole with (rs) having a radius of 6.03.
At the moment it is quite difficult for us to observe the center of our galaxy but perhaps in the near future we may be able to observe this radius.

Black Holes: One Size Doesn
This comparison above shows four elliptical galaxies that have a massive central bulge of stars, the larger the bulge the larger the black hole. The galaxies are part of 30 galaxies searched by astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

The column of black-and-white pictures at left, taken by ground-based telescopes, shows the galaxies. The boxes define the central regions of stars. Close-up images of these regions, as seen by Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera , are in the middle column. The column at right lists the masses of the black holes and illustrates the respective diameters of the event horizons. An event horizon defines the black hole's boundary. The event horizons cannot be seen in the Hubble images because they are about 25 million times smaller than the scale of the pictures.
Astronomers determined the mass of each black hole by measuring the motion of stars swirling around it: the closer the stars approach the black hole, the faster their velocity. The faster the stars are moving, the more massive the black hole is. This information suggests that the galaxy and the black hole grew at the same time. 

Black holes seem to behave like very efficient vacuum cleaners with an infinite limit. But can a black hole go away over time?

There are three stages of a black hole; stellar, primordial and super massive.

A stellar black hole is a region of space into which a star collapse's. So how does a star collapse? A start collapses once it has run out of fuel, this fuel consists of hydrogen and helium which we discussed in a previous post in Interstellar Star Formation.
It collapses to a critical size where any other type of force is overcome by a single force, gravity.

Primordial black holes are said to have been created at the time of the big bang. These mini black holes are theorized to be of the order of 1cm. In such small objects quantum theory becomes very important.  Primordial black holes could perhaps be very hot and from the outside they may actually look like a whit hole as they expel intense radiation and gamma ray bursts.

Super massive black holes are what we have been discussing earlier. These are the type that harbor in the center of galaxies. In the order of 100 million solar masses, 100 million times the size of our solar system lay at galactic nuclei.  For stellar black holes they may have a potential lifetime of 10^67 years. Most of these will have gone away by now or perhaps many lurk in far distances where there is an infancy of the universe.

Radio jets spew from Galaxy M87, on the top left we see radio emission from the elliptical galaxy. This radio source is called Virgo A. The color is in false color and highlight the intensity of the radio emission. Image courtesy of NASA, Hubble Space Telescope.
Infinitely strong gravitational forces deform and destroy matter from existence at the singularity, this is a region where physical theory breaks down. Many galaxies show an enhanced brightness in the core, along with various anomalies and high velocity of objects around it, suggest existence of a black hole. Attempts to discover black holes rely on influence of gravitational field of surrounding celestial objects. However black holes that may be easiest to discover are those within a binary system where one can easily identify its influence on its companion star.

Black hole as represented in 2014 sci-fi epic Interstellar

There are still many questions about black holes that are yet to be answered. With future development of the space telescope to succeed the Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Telescope is sure to uncover many more facets of the hidden secrets in universe.

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Goodbye for now and see you next time.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

The Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB)

What is the CMB?

The radiation left from the early stages of the universe is called cosmic microwave background radiation. When the universe was at this early stage, it was soo hot that all atoms in the universe were ions. An ion is an atom that has positive and negative electrical charges. At this point in time the conditions of the universe may have been similar to that of a star; hot, dense and opaque allowing different atoms to pass through it.

Over time as the universe expanded, this gas cooled down. This ofcourse took several hundred thousand years. Radiation that was left behind from the big bang has been able to travel throughout the universe. As this early universe expanded, the radiation red-shifted to longer wavelengths and was therefore in a form to represent different temperatures. The spectrum of the CMB maintains the shape of a Blackbody spectrum. According to writer of 

"Blackbody radiation refers to an object or system which absorbs all radiation incident upon it and re-radiates energy which is characteristic of this radiating system only, not dependent upon the type of radiation which is incident upon it. The radiated energy can be considered to be produced by standing wave or resonant modes of the cavity which is radiating."

The presence of CMB radiation with a Blackbody is a strong indication of the Big Bang theory. 

This above picture is a view of the sky after the foreground glow of the solar system dust has been extracted. This image is dominated by emission from interstellar dust in the Milky Way Galaxy. The two bright objects in the center of the lower right quadrant are nearby galaxies, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds.


The COBE satellite 
The Cosmic Microwave Background Explorer was launched in 1989. Developed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, its mission was to measure the infrared and microwave radiation from the early universe. COBE made some very precise measurements at different wavelengths. These measurements were from a few micrometer to 1 centimeter. 

The data on the graph above shows small dots, these small dots are the COBE measurement of the CMB at different frequencies. The X-Axis of the graph represents the frequency cycle per centimeter and Y-Axis represents the brightness of the frequency component. The uncertainty in each measurement is less than size of each dot. The left hand side of the curve that just begins to rise represents data points of a blackbody spectrum.  The above observation matches theoretical predictions of the Big Bang almost with perfection. So much so that there can be little doubt that one is seeing the radiation left behind from a hot, dense beginning from an earlier universe. Researches John Mather and George Smoot were awarded Nobel Prize for this work in 2006.

The above mapping shows the Northern and Southern galactic hemispheres,

Images of different regions of the hemispheres, the second image is of our galaxy. The galactic center is the middle bulged.

This graph displays the different magnitudes of the wavelengths from radio waves to X-rays and Gamma rays.

Image of CMB as produced by data collected byt he WMAP.

In 2001 the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) made more accurate measurements of the CMB variations.  The above is much more detailed map of the structure of the universe.
In 2013, the European Space Agency (ESA) launched the Planck mission, which went one step further and obtained images in a much higher detail.

The image shows observations of the Cosmic microwave background (CMB) as observed by Planck. The image shows tiny temperature fluctuations that correspond to regions of slightly different densities, representing the seeds of all future structure: the stars, galaxies and nebula's that we have today.

Spiral Galaxy NGC 6503
"Most galaxies are usually in a group close by. A neighboring is never too far away. But this galaxy, known as NGC 6503, has found itself in a very lonely position, at the edge of a strange empty patch of space called the Local Void.
The Local Void is a huge stretch of space that is at least 150 million light-years across. It seems completely empty of stars or galaxies"


Light Echo From Star V838 Monocerotis - April 30, 2002

Star V838 Monocerotis

Hubble Probes Interior of Tarantula Nebula
30 Doradus Nebula, is a giant star-forming region


Early scientists predicted that, the early universe must have begun as a singularity and then expanded as radiation and elementary particles. However what do we mean when we say singularity?

According to the FreeDictionary a singularity is "a hypothetical point in space-time at which matter is infinitely compressed to infinitesimal volume"
This means matter which infinitely falls toward a negative value making it smaller than any real value.

The Big Bang theory is fundamental to our understanding of the universe. So far it has resisted any efforts made by researchers to prove it false, as the CMB provides evidence of the scenario of our early universe.

Nucleus of Galaxy Centaurus A
The above image shows the Nucleus of Galaxy Centaurus A.
Some of the crucial discoveries made by the COBE were:
  • COBE revolutionized our understanding of the early cosmological structure.
  • It measured and mapped the oldest light in the universe -- the cosmic microwave background. This was similar to seeing a baby picture of the universe.
  • The cmb spectrum was measured with a precision of 0.005%.
  • The results confirmed the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe.
  • The very precise measurements helped eliminate a great many theories about the Big Bang.
  • The mission urged scientists into a new age of precision measurements, providing ground for new research into microwave background by NASA's WMAP mission and ESA's Planck mission, that latter provided much more detailed measurements.

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Goodbye for now and see you next time.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Pluto on the Horizon

NASA completed a historic mission of New Horizons to the Pluto system this month, which consisted of exploring Pluto and its moon's; Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra. To get this mission approved it took around 14 years spanning from 1989 to 2003. 

Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto in 1930 at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. In Tombaugh's time one could only determine Pluto's orbit and color. Pluto's orbit is 284 Earth years and is very elliptical. At perihelion, Pluto is closer to the Sun than Neptune. Pluto's orbit is locked in a 3:2 ratio with that of Neptune's.

In 1978, Christy & Harrington discovered Charon, Pluto's largest moon.  Pluto and Charon have a rocky core which is encapsulated with water ice mantle. They both are also tidally locked, each having a hemisphere that faces the other. 

Not much detail is known about Pluto, but the New Horizon's mission should shed more light in the coming months. Currently around 90% of the data is still aboard the space craft and yet to be transmitted back to NASA communications back on Earth.

Pluto's surface is an icy mix of frozen water, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide. Pluto also has a very thin atmosphere which holds gasses that freeze when Pluto is further away from the Sun, but when it is closer these gasses heat up.

The Changing Faces of Pluto
First look at Pluto by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Pluto and Charon are perhaps a product of an impact between Kuiper belt objects. Both at one time were thought to be close a double planet system.
Pluto has many interesting features with the dark and light patches in the south mainly consisting of large icy solids.
Pluto is at a distance of 5.9 billion kilometers and has a temperature of -229 °C.

Amazing features with alot of details can been seen from this image. The ice glaciers would perhaps flow similar to those on Earth.

Icy mountain ranges of Pluto stretch for hundreds of kilometers.

Pluto and Charon from final approach of New Horizon's.

Size of Pluto and Charon compared with Earth.

Pluto has a diameter of 2372 km according to recent measurements taken by the New Horizons spacecraft. When we compare this with Earth's 12,742 km, we get an idea of how tiny Pluto really is. Pluto maintains a surface gravity of just 0.063g, while Earth's is 1g.

A spectacular view of Pluto with the Sun's light creating  a halo.

Image of Pluto from New Horizon as it made its approach through the years.

Pluto comparison with other moons and Planets.

Simulation view of Nix
Nix is a satellite of Pluto which was discovered in 2005 by the Hubble Space Telescope. New Horizons measured Nix to be 32 Kilometers in diameter.

Simulation view of Kerberos with Pluto and Charon in view.
 Kerberos is another small moon which orbits Pluto.
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Until next time goodbye for now.