Posts tagged cosmos

Scienthusiast

What is that word?  I made it up.  It’s a mix of science + enthusiast.  I have to be careful though.  I’m NOT a scientist.  I’m enthusiastic about science.  So it’s what I’m going to start calling myself.

Yes, I’m a scienthusiast.

I guess it could be hyphenated  sci-enthusiast?  Maybe scien-thusiast?  Either way, I looked around Google briefly and it’s possible I thought of this before billions of other people?  Maybe it’s some horrible word that I shouldn’t use?  Nah, it’s great!  It describes me quite fittingly, I think.

So there, it’s my word.  It’s OK, you can borrow it.  I expect royalties though!

What to do with it?  Well, I think the world needs more enthusiasm for science.  Not to solve every lurking problem in our lives but to better understand how the world around us works.  Some mysteries shall remain so.  There are some exceedingly complex things in the Universe that aren’t really practical for everyone to know.  Unless it’s your job to know them, that is.

So, perhaps one of my goals in life is to help spread the word of science; Turn people on to how it all works, at a fundamental level.  It always goes back to a quote from Carl Sagan.  Roughly, we live in a world filled with technology.  So few people understand how it all works.  You don’t have to be a scientist to understand.  You simply have to open your mind to it.  When people learn how things actually work, it’s usually one of those “wow…” moments.

In saying that, remember, we can’t let go of reason for madness.  There was a time when people who studied the heavens feared retribution.  Good people were arrested, exiled or even killed for observing something knowable versus believing in something we couldn’t know.  It might seem insane to think that could happen again, but remember as a species, we’re very young.  There are a lot of good and honest people out there that speak for science.

Science is interesting because it changes based on observation.  In that sense, our view of the world has evolved, as our methods and tools have evolved.  The next few decades should prove to be very exciting in the realm of understanding.  How the forefathers of great thinkers should like to be alive today to have a glimpse at what we know.  How the great thinkers of our future might look back and realize how primitive our thinking was.  Each new generation stands on the shoulders of giants from the previous.

Life; space; time; the Cosmos; all encompassing and all waiting to be discovered and understood.  We are, in a way, how the Universe understands itself.

We, as the human race, must keep it going.  If we’re not to be scientists, we should at least be enthusiastic about science.

Enter: The Scienthusiast.

A new type of supernova?

SN 2006gy

This one exploding star outshines an entire galaxy! The NGC 1260 core is the dimmer object.

Ok, I thought I was all on the up and up with these things and how they worked.  Ok, that is, as much as a layman can be on the up and up.  I am not an astrophysicist (yet)!

So get this: a few years ago we witnessed a strange supernova.  Actually, a little back story first.  The general idea I always had was that stars with several solar masses went supernova.  Reason being, they burned through their fuel at a greater rate.  Once the fuel at the core was gone or fusion wasn’t adequate enough to resist the inward pressure (gravity) the whole thing collapsed.  This releases a tremendous amount of energy and essentially the star explodes.  You get left with a huge amount of ‘stuff’ being blown out into space and you’re left with either a neutron star or black hole at what used to be the core of the star.

That was a super basic overview and back story.  So what is this new supernova?  It is being called a Pair-instability Supernova.  What the what?!  If the name sounds bizarre then wait until you hear about how it works.

So here is how it goes.  First, you need a supermassive star.  A star of 130-250 solar masses seems to be the “zone”.  Instinctively, one thinks “the more massive the star, the more massive the black hole it leaves behind”.  Well, not really.  At least, not in the case of this kind of star.  See, these supermassive stars have low metallicity.  I believe that means they’re almost entirely Hydrogen and Helium with very little other elements present…

…and well, I’m going to just post what Wiki says because I’m feeling lazy:

A pair instability supernova occurs when pair production, the production of free electrons and positrons in the collision between atomic nuclei and energetic gamma rays, reduces thermal pressure inside a supermassive star‘s core. This pressure drop leads to a partial collapse, then greatly accelerated burning in a runaway thermonuclear explosion which blows the star completely apart without leaving a black hole remnant behind.[1][2] Pair instability supernovae can only happen in stars with a mass range from around 130 to 250 solar masses and low to moderate metallicity (low abundance of elements other than hydrogen and helium, a situation common in Population III stars). The recently observed objects SN 2006gy and SN 2007bi[3] are hypothesized to have been pair instability supernovae.

So there, you have it.  The star goes kablooey and leaves nothing but the fresh scent of brute.  Ok maybe not.  Incredible though, that a star can completely obliterate itself and leave nothing behind.

With that said, the star SN 2006gy is in a galaxy some 240 million light  years away (ie the light we saw originated 240 million years ago).  There is a star nearer to us, Eta Carinae that might go supernova much in the same way.  If it does, it will likely be brilliantly bright.  Visible during the day and able to be read by at night.

Fact is stranger than fiction, once again.

More info here

And here (this site has multiple links at the bottom)

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