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Shannon Hall

Shannon Hall has written 26 posts for astrobites

Generating the First Map of Clouds on an Exoplanet

An international team of astronomers have used data from NASA’s Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes to create the first map of clouds on an exoplanet.

The Densest Galaxy Discovered

The densest galaxy in the local Universe may have been found. M60-UCD1 is most likely a tidally-stripped remnant of a more massive progenitor galaxy. Strader et al. predicts that the progenitor of M60-UCD1 was ~ 50-200 times more massive, suggesting that it was once an elliptical galaxy that has been stripped of most of its mass.

Chandra Observes Sgr A* Rejecting Material

Sgr A* – the supermassive black hole sitting in the center of the Milky Way – is often referred to as a ‘starved’ black hole, meaning that it swallows very little of the nearby cosmic gas and dust. The authors of this paper observed Sgr A* with the Chandra X-ray telescope for 3 mega seconds, throughout which only 1% of the gas available to Sgr A* actually accreted onto the black hole. It swallows cold gas, while rejecting hot gas – ejecting the matter back into space.

Let’s Watch as the Supermassive Black Hole Sgr A* Spaghettifies a Gas Cloud!

The long discussed gas cloud, G2, has finally begun its descent into the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. The cloud has been so stretched that the head has swung around the black hole entirely and is rapidly coming back towards us (at a speed of 3000 km/s – 1% the speed of light), while the tail is still falling inwards – an event that will last for a year.

Birth of the Most Massive Star Known – Caught in Action

The formation of massive stars is still an intense topic of debate. Observations are difficult because massive star forming regions are heavily obscured by dust – invisible in the optical and near infrared. The trick is to look at much longer wavelengths. Today’s paper does just that, using the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile to observe the birth of a massive star in submillimeter wavelengths. At 500 times the mass of the Sun and 1 million times brighter, it is the largest forming protostar ever seen in our galaxy.

Behind the Scenes of Supernovae Explosions: The Violent Birth of Neutron Stars

Recent computer simulations are shedding light on the brightest and most energetic phenomena in the Universe – supernova explosions. A team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics modeled the formation of neutron stars in three dimensions with unprecedented accuracy, showing that as matter is drawn inward, it sloshes both asymmetrically and in spiral motions. It’s a bold, new look into the center of the supernova explosion and the birth of a neutron star.

The Ring Nebula in 3D

Recent images from the Hubble Space Telescope reveal a much more complex structure of the Ring Nebula than previously thought. The team presents a 3-D model of lobes and rings, with multiple ionization fronts and knots.

Why do you love astronomy?

Most astronomers that I come across on a daily basis – be them undergraduate students, graduate students, or professors – have a never-ending love for astronomy. It can be seen in the late nights worked and their incessant need to talk about their research. I think all authors, here at astrobites, fit this category well. We love astronomy. We love doing research and we especially love talking about it. So I wanted to dedicate a post to this single question: why do you love astronomy? Here’s what a few of the authors have to say.

Hidden Siblings in Kepler Systems

It is likely that all exoplanet systems have 4 or more planets orbiting a single star. If we look at the number of specific orbital period ratios for both high multiplicity systems (4 or more transiting planets) and low multiplicity systems (2 transiting planets) we may verify this. We may also make statements about the formation and evolution of planetary systems as well as search for any additional planets.

Are Exomoons Habitable?

Some exoplanets seem to have walked directly out of the best science fiction movies. Taking these planets into example, the question of habitability seems like a joke. But what if we stopped looking at these extreme worlds and turned our eyes to their moons instead? Surely their moons are less extreme. And given that our own Jupiter hosts 67 moons, surely they’re more abundant. Can such extreme planets host habitable moons? The 36-page paper written by Heller and Barnes attempts to address this question.

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