Friday, April 14, 2017

Will we ever be able to see black holes in space?

While it may seem impossible to actually photograph a black hole in space, it might actually soon be possible. Based on previous posts on this blog it seems as if we are a long way off from discovering, documenting, and photographing a black hole in space, but with some new developments in telescope networking a way to may speed up this process. National Geographic recently published an article titled "Astronomers May Finally Have the First Picture of a Black Hole" that describes how scientists might be able to photograph a black hole and what the significance of that would be.
The picture above shows what scientists would be using to possibly capture images of the supermassive black hole that is theorized to be at the center of the milky way galaxy. These radio dishes are part of the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter Array) in Chile. Using this network of satellites and two space telescopes, we have been able to photograph the center of our galaxy. Some of the photos taken are seen below (as provided by National Geographic). 

These two photos show the pictures taken using the dishes and telescopes.

This picture above shows the theorized black hole at the center of another, distant galaxy. This was also provided by National Geographic. "In addition to supermassive black holes, astronomers have found indirect evidence for lighter black holes littering various galactic hosts, including the outburst captured here by a NASA x-ray telescope" (National Geographic).Essentially, this new method of using a combination of 66 radio dishes and super telescopes has paved the way to find all sorts of black holes, whether they be "supermassive" or "lighter" black holes. 

Again, you may wonder "what does this have to do with anything, what is the point of discovering black holes?" Well, it can help us learn more about a little thing called gravity for instance. These black hole discoveries can help us learn more about gravity by helping us better understand and test Einstein's theory of gravity. Radio astronomer Heino Falcke of Radboud University in Holland says "Even if the first images are still crappy and washed out, we can already test for the first time some basic predictions of Einstein's theory of gravity in the extreme environment of a black hole.” Einstein's theory of gravity states that "matter warps or curves the geometry of space-time, and we experience the distortion as gravity," and he predicted the existence of supermassive black holes. Falcke proceeded to say "they [supermassive black holes] are the ultimate endpoint of space and time, and may represent the ultimate limit of our knowledge." It is an accepted, but unproven that there is a supermassive black hole at the center of every galaxy and "only have circumstantial evidence" to support this claim. They might be able to attain a little more than just circumstantial evidence now. 

With new images such as the one taken above of "jets of high-speed particles spewing from the supermassive black hole at a galaxy's heart" scientists may be able to attain a better understanding of gravity. This is just a start because we still will have to study these black holes, this discovery is essentially just a way to be able to research black holes. The way this would help us confirm Einstein's theory is the ripples in space time created by the colliding of black holes, so if we know more about black holes we can know more about this theorized phenomenon. The video below better explains the spacetime ripple that could be created.

The picture below shows the map of where the telescopes and radio dishes were on the planet. 

Images and Information gathered from:

"Astronomers May Finally Have the First Picture of a Black Hole." National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 11 Apr. 2017. Web. 14 Apr. 2017.

Times, The New York. "LIGO Hears Gravitational Waves Einstein Predicted." The New York Times. The New York Times, n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2017.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Why Compact Stars?

While it is obvious that compact stars, exotic stars, and so on are magnificently curious entities in our universe, there is more to the why I write about these incredible beings. Anyone can plainly state that they do something for the simple reason that they are interested in it, but this post will delve much deeper into the question of "why?" The fact of the matter is, as has been stated in many a blog before this, the scientific community does not have copious amounts of knowledge on the subject of compact stars (among other things, see title of blog) and relies heavily on speculation. This speculation is educated speculation, but speculation nonetheless. Simply put, the purpose of this blog is to insight curiosity into you so that maybe one day you or I can finally discover more about these stars. Below is a depiction of many of the fascinating and awe inducing effects of various types of stars and compact stars.

Not only is this blog a way to convey an interesting topic to you and to try to create a certain interest in you about these compact stars, but it is also for my personal benefit as well. I wish to do what others have not been able to do, confirm, to a degree, or deny, to a degree, the aforementioned speculation about these various stars. This seems far-fetched and out there because if world renowned scientists have not been able to confidently confirm any of these speculations, why would I be able to. This is just the ultimate farthest reaching dream end goal. Granted it is recognized that this is an uphill battle because there is no way to 100% confirm speculation without either recreating the environment of the stars on earth or going out into space. However, headway has already been made in recreating these environments on earth. For proof, go to the last blog post where the density at the center of a black hole was recreated at Colorado State University. One may think it is an impossible feat, but in reality it is not impossible in the slightest. Below is a picture of the CERN particle accelerator (Large Hadron Collider) along the border between Switzerland and France that is used to create stable microscopic black holes, proving that it can be done here on planet Earth. From:

Again, even with that information the question "but what does this have to do with you, why do you want to do this" may be prompted. Other than the fact that all of this is incredibly magnificent and interesting, it would be amazing to be apart of the team that helps advance the field. This would be amazing because it would be groundbreaking research and if any discovery is found it would be a groundbreaking discovery and to be part of that would unbelievable. Discovery is the driving force behind my interest in this, not just to put my name on something to say that I did it or was a part of it, but to really discover something important that has previously been thought impossible. My "contrarian nature" (thanks mom) also plays a part in this. This plays a part because someone said something is impossible, so I must prove that it is possible obviously. On a more serious note, we know these stars exist, but we cannot fully confirm all the details about them. This lack of firm knowledge fuels my curiosity and yearning for discovery because there is a way to do it, it is very difficult, but there is a way. Below is a picture of a microscopic image of what is created in a particle accelerator (a microscopic black hole essentially). From:

There have been little glimmers of possibility when it comes to creating compact stars using particle accelerators here on earth. There actually have been more than glimmers, it has been done, now all that needs to be done is to find a better way to keep it contained for longer periods of time so more research can be done. Keeping a black hole contained for a longer period of time is incredibly tricky, and that is what we may find impossible, but you never know unless you try, and that is why I am here writing about these curious anomalies that can create bigger explosions than anyone could ever imagine just by touching one another (see the first video to see the supernova created during the collision of two white dwarf stars, yes those are dwarf stars that caused that). The goal is to learn more, the goal is to always learn and discover more.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Why so Dense?

Energy, density, matter, fusion, and, most importantly, lasers. Those were all key factors in a recent Colorado State University attempt to recreate the density that is found in the middle of a star on Earth. Now, you may think "well what's so special about that?" Well, the density at the center of a star is denoted as  "ultrahigh-energy density matter," which means that it has an energy level that is greater than 1 × 108 J cm−3 (according to the CSU study) and pressures "greater than a gigabar" (also CSU study). To put that into perspective, the SI base unit for pressure is a pascal... a gigabar is equal to the amount of pressure present in 140 trillion pascals. That, undeniably, is a lot of pressure. This pressure was thought to have been impossible to recreate, until now. 

So, now that you understand how truly incredible the center of a star is, let's begin to delve into the question of "how?" The short answer to that question would be to say "with compact, ultrahigh contrast, femtosecond lasers." Simple, right? Well, yes... if you hold a degree in physics, but assuming no physicists are reading this blog, it's about time for an explanation. "The experiments were conducted by irradiating the segmented nanowire (made of Ni-Co segments) arrays with λ = 400 nm, ultrahigh-intensity contrast (>1012) pulses of 0.6 J of energy, and 55-fs full width at half maximum (FWHM) duration from a frequency-doubled titanium-sapphire laser at Colorado State University. " What this means in laymen's terms is they pumped high intensity bursts of energy into irradiated nanowire and created a spectrum curve (FWHM) of the two extreme points on this in order to find points on the y-axis which would be half of what the maximum amplitude is. The image below shows said spectrum. What this process does is temporarily create a space, as you can see below, with such high intensity that can mimic the environment in the center of a star. 

Previous research on the topic had some scientists deem the recreation of the high density core of stars "impossible" but the combined brainpower of the Electrical Engineering Department from CSU, the Physics Department at the University of Buenos Aires, the Physics Department from the Heinrich-Heine University in Dusseldorf, the Physics Department from CSU, the Livermore National Laboratory, and ARTEP Inc., it was made possible. This recreation of this incredibly dense environment is important because it gives us an opportunity (if experimentation continues) to further understand what lies in our solar system. As harkened on in previous blog posts, much of what we as a species "know" about what is out there in the never ending depths of space, is all speculation; this experiment, if more of this nature are done and carried through, provides insight into what is actually happening so there is no need for speculation anymore. Although this experiment definitely does not end all speculation or even any definitively, it is a stepping stone for more groundbreaking research into the great unknown, where actually no ground has to be physically broken. 

(The figure below shows "PIC-simulated energy density distribution in an array of vertically aligned 400-nm-diameter Au nanowires irradiated with an intensity of 1 × 1022 W cm−2 (a0 = 34) using a 400-nm wavelength pulse of 30-fs duration.") 

Original Report (where all quotes were gathered from if not already denoted):

Monday, October 24, 2016

Choosing Inaccuracy?

In the film "Interstellar" (2014), a massive black hole they call "Gargantua" is depicted. While the film is praised for its scientific accuracies, it does sometimes give up some of that accuracy to appeal to the visual and relatively simple minds of the audiences. This is the case with "Gargantua" in this film. According to, this is what "Gargantua" would most likely look like in space: 

The movie portrayed it in a more colorful manner to give it more popular appeal:

Its portrayed in a more uniform and colorful manner, which makes sense why the studio would want to do that because it does appeal to a wider range of people. Kip Thorne, the scientific consultant for "Interstellar", said, when speaking on the more accurate version, "it would have looked a lot more puzzling." Thorne had created both a scientifically accurate model and the one that was eventually used for the film, and he was "disappointed" to find out that Christopher Nolan (the director) chose to go with the less scientifically accurate version, but he did agree with the decision stating that " I would not want a lopsided, color-shifting black hole used in a fast paced movie using science as a venue for an exciting story." 
While they did have an option to make this scene more accurate, they chose to go the more cinematic route and be inaccurate. This is not necessarily a bad thing because it would have, as stated by Kip Thorne, made the movie look "a lot more puzzling," which is not something you want in your big budget film that must make over $165 million to make a profit. Usually, people are not going to watch something that will confuse them. For the most part, "Interstellar" remains scientifically accurate, but it does cut out some accuracy for the sake of its popular appeal. 

Here is the full scene involving the black hole from the movie:

Thursday, September 29, 2016

First Post

Compact stars, exotic stars, and quark stars are incredibly fascinating aspects in our ever expanding universe. What makes them so fascinating is that a lot of what we "know" about them is based almost entirely on speculation. Some stars we are more familiar with than others, such as our own sun we can get a general understanding of it, but something like a quark star we have no way of knowing anything definitive about it, or even if they exist. Quark stars are believed to be "is an intermediate stage in between neutron stars and black holes. It has too much mass at its core for the neutrons to hold their atomness. But not enough to fully collapse into a black hole." ( What this essentially means is that quark stars are on the cusp of becoming black holes, but just aren't big enough, "While a regular neutron star is 25 km across, a quark star would only be 16 km across, and this is right at the edge of becoming a black hole." ( But these are completely theoretical. 
Quark stars are a type of exotic stars, but there are many other types too. Exotic stars are essentially anything that the scientific community does not have a firm grasp on as a concept or a theory. According to the always reliable wikipedia, "aexotic star is a hypothetical compact star composed of something other than electronsprotonsneutrons, and muons; and balanced against gravitational collapse by degeneracy pressure or other quantum properties." Keyword being "hypothetical," so the term "exotic star" is very general and can include any type of hypothetical star that is "composed of something other than electrons, protons, neutrons, and muons," sounds like a quark star to me, which it is (along with preon stars, which we'll get to at a later date). Now, compact stars basically encompass all of these.  This is only scratching the surface of these stellar remnants; there are so many more intricate and intriguing details to go along with these types of stars, such as supernovas, electroweak stars, boson stars, the aforementioned preon stars, Q stars, dark stars, planck stars, and of course black holes. 

Interesting Links of the Day: failed-supernova?tgt=nr

And on a completely unrelated note: Roach milk exists...