The young star Eta Carinae –one of the most massive in the Milky Way – survived a titanic eruption 170 years ago. Although located relatively far away from Earth (about seven thousand light-years away, as compared with the average distance of naked-eye stars of about a thousand light-years), it can be seen easily by people in the southern hemisphere because it is extraordinarily bright—about five million times more luminous than our Sun.
The Universe has showered us with amazing, thought-provoking headlines this week, from why alien hunters have spent 60 years finding new solutions for the Drake Equation to the biggest “Oh No” moment in the Solar System to humanity’s unlikely gateway to space.
Another amazing week of news from the Cosmos: from the New York Times’ Carl Zimmer on the origins of life and how it may have evolved on other worlds to the the creeping suspicion, that there is something substantial missing from our standard model of the Universe to Albert Einstein’s demon-haunted quantum world.
“We started asking ourselves why we had not found it earlier, because it’s very extreme in its properties and very bright,” says Michael McDonald, assistant professor of physics in MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research about the discovery of a sprawling new galaxy cluster hiding in plain sight. “It’s because we had preconceived notions of what a cluster should look like. And this didn’t conform to that, so we missed it.”
A 2018 Hubble Space Telescope finding confirmed a nagging discrepancy about the Hubble Constant –the rate at which the Universe is expanding–showing the universe to be expanding faster now than was expected from its trajectory seen shortly after the big bang. Researchers hinted that there may be new physics to explain the inconsistency known as the ‘Hubble Tension’ “The community is really grappling with understanding the meaning of this discrepancy,” said lead researcher and Nobel Laureate Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and Johns Hopkins University.
An enormous amount of gravity from a cluster of distant galaxies causes space to curve so much that light from more distant galaxies is bent. This “gravitational lensing” effect has allowed University of Copenhagen astronomers to observe the same exploding star –SN Requiem–in three different places in the heavens, and may help solve the mystery of cosmic expansion and reveal the nature of dark matter and dark energy.