Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Jets of Divine Dipsomania


2010 photo from the NSF's Mayall 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak, Herbig-Haro object HH 555 in the Pelican Nebula. A tiny singularity has collided with a galactic gas cloud, trailing gas like a bullet fired through cotton candy. At the pillar's tip, gas is drawn into a disk which will form a baby star. At the top and bottom are two bright jets spiralling along magnetic field lines. These could be signs of a Black Hole.

Universe Today reports new observations by astronomer Carlos Carrasco-Gonzalez and collaborators using the Very Large Array in New Mexico. Observing Herbig Haro object HH 80-81 in radio frequencies, they discovered the young star giving off synchrotron radiation. This infant star has only 10 times the mass of our Sun, but gives off 17,000 times as much radiation. Such radiation is usually the product of very high temperatures and magnetic fields, such as one would find near a Black Hole.

The Big Bang created billions of tiny singularities, formed from quantum fluctuations grown large by the Universe's expansion. If a Black Hole collided with a dust cloud, it would draw in material but also give off radiation. Material spiraling into the singularity would produce both radiation and a magnetic field, exactly as observed in HH 80-81. A Black Hole could be at home in the centre of stars like our Sun. Carrasco-Gonzalez' observation is a big clue that Black Holes exist in the second last place humans would look, in the centres of stars.

Theories of the Sun have advanced over time. As late as the 1920’s most astronomers would lecture that our Sun was made of iron, and glowed in the sky like a hot poker. Only a young astronomer named Cecilia Payne suggested that the Sun’s spectral lines could be interpreted as hydrogen. Because Payne was a young woman, her idea was roundly dismissed. The equations of nuclear fusion were still being worked out. Payne was a happy and attractive lady, pleased to be ahead of her time.

The reward of the young scientist is to be the first person to see something or to understand something. Nothing can compare with that experience; it engenders what Thomas Huxley called the Divine Dipsomania"--Cecilia Payne

Check out the new Carnival of Space!

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12 Comments:

Anonymous ken anthony said...

I note that the wikipedia article on Cecilia Payne mentions Henry Norris Russell took credit for her thesis. When I went to his wiki article, nothing is mentioned of her.

Then I went to the Vogt-Russell theorem wikipedia article and found it very inadequate. Can you be persuaded to add something to that last article? BTW, I gave you a link in a comment over at Rand.

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