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All the planets were named after Greek and Roman gods and goddesses, except for Earth.

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Russian astrophysicists discovered a neutron star with an unusual magnetic field structure


Scientists from Moscow Institute for Physics and Technology, Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IKI), and Pulkovo Observatory discovered a unique neutron star, the magnetic field of which is apparent only when the star is seen under a certain angle relative to the observer.

Previously, all neutron stars could be grouped into two big families: the first one included objects where the magnetic field manifests itself during the whole spin cycle, and the other one included objects where the magnetic field is not measured at all.

The neutron star GRO J2058+42 studied by the researchers offers an insight into the internal structure of neutron star’s magnetic field only at a certain phase of its rotational period. The work was published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters and supported by the Russian Science Foundation.

The neutron star in the GRO J2058+42 system was discovered almost quarter of a century ago with the Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory (CGRO), USA. It belongs to the class of so-called transient X-ray pulsars. This object was studied using different instruments and nothing set it apart from other objects of its class. Only recent observations with the NuSTAR space observatory that has an outstanding combination of the high energy resolution ( Greater than 400 eV) and extremely wide energy range (3-79 keV), enabled the scientists to detect a peculiar feature in the pulsar’s emission, potentially making it the first object of its own family.

A cyclotron absorption line* was registered in the source energy spectrum** that allows to estimate the magnetic field strength of the neutron star. Such an observational phenomenon (cyclotron line) is not new and is currently observed in approximately 30 X-ray pulsars. The uniqueness of the Russian scientists’ discovery is that this line manifests itself only when the neutron star is seen under a certain angle to the observer. This discovery became possible due to a detailed “tomographic” analysis of the system. X-ray spectra of the neutron star GROJ2058+42 were measured from ten different directions and only in one of them a significant depression in the emission intensity around 10 keV was found. This energy corresponds approximately to the magnetic field strength of 1012 G at the surface of the neutron star. The obtained result is especially interesting due to a simultaneous registration of higher harmonics of the cyclotron line at the same rotational phase of the neutron star .

Neutron stars are superdense objects with the radius of about 10 km and the mass of 1.4-2.5 mass of the Sun. Neutron stars are born as a result of supernova explosions that can be lead to such compression of the matter that electrons merge with protons and form neutrons, resulting in colossal masses in small volumes. Moreover, the magnetic field strength at the surface of the neutron star after the collapse may reach 1011-1012 G (which is tens of millions times higher than achieved in the most powerful Earth labs). Typically, neutron stars have a dipole configuration of the magnetic field, i.e. they have two poles (similar to the Earth, which has the North and the South magnetic poles).

Some of neutron stars may form binary systems with normal stars, capturing the matter from their normal companions and accreting it onto magnetic poles This process is somewhat similar to the Earth capturing solar wind particles, which results in a phenomenon known as aurora. If the neutron star’s rotation axis does not coincide with its magnetic axis, the observer will register a periodic signal, like one from a lighthouse, and the star appears as an X-ray pulsar.

GRO J2058+42 is a quite peculiar X-ray pulsar because its emission can be observed only during bright outbursts. Such behavior is explained by the fact that the companion star in this system belongs to the so-called class Be-stars. Such stars rotate around their axis so rapidly that an outflowing (or the so-called decretion) disc of matter forms around their equator. As the neutron star moves around a high mass normal component, the matter from such disc starts to flow to its surface, which leads to an outburst, or a quick increase of the luminosity. These are ideal moments for studying physical properties of such objects.

Such studies are typically complicated by the fact that outbursts in most such systems are rather rare and cannot be reliably predicted. Therefore, it is important to promptly organize observations with space observatories when such events do happen. Scientists from above-mentioned institutes were fortunate to catch the beginning of a new outburst from GRO J2058+42 and quickly organize series of observations with the NuSTAR observatory. These observations showed that the magnetic field manifests itself only during certain phases of the neutron star rotation, which may point to its unusual configuration or peculiarities in the system’s geometry. The obtained results were so intriguing that the Russian scientists contacted their colleagues from the NuSTAR team and suggested carrying out additional observations that confirmed the initial findings.

In general, possible inhomogeneities in the magnetic field structure of neutron stars were predicted by the theoretical calculations (figure 2), but previously such inhomogeneities had been believed to form only through short outbursts, observed from magnetars. The discovery by the Russian scientists proved for the first time that the magnetic field of a neutron star has a considerably more complex structure than what had been believed earlier, and that this complex structure may retain its shape for a rather long time and be a fundamental property of an object.

Alexander Lutovinov, Professor of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Deputy Director for Research at Space Research Institute, MIPT professor, and one of the discovery authors, said, “The structure of magnetic fields of neutron stars is a fundamental issue of its formation and evolution. On the one hand, the dipole structure of the progenitor star should be preserved during the collapse, but on the other hand, even our own Sun has local magnetic field inhomogeneities that are manifested as sun spots. Similar structures were theoretically predicted for neutron stars as well. It is great to witness them in real data for the first time. The theorists will now have new factual data for their modeling, and we will have a new tool for studying parameters of neutron stars.”

TOP IMAGE….Russian scientists discovered a unique neutron star, the magnetic field of which is apparent only when the star is seen under a certain angle relative to the observer. The neutron star GRO J2058+42 studied by the researchers offers an insight into the internal structure of neutron star’s magnetic field only at a certain phase of its rotational period. CREDIT @tsarcyanide, MIPT Press Office

CENTRE IMAGE….‘Tomographic’ X-ray imaging of the X-ray pulsar GROJ2058+42. An artist'sic impression of the accreting X-ray pulsar shows one of the neutron star poles generating an X-ray emission (Credit: NASA/CXC/S. Lee). Arrows demonstrate different directions of the emitted radiation and the corresponding observed spectra CREDIT Astrophysical Journal Letters

LOWER IMAGE….This is a magnetic field of a neutron star with a strong magnetic field (a magnetar) in its initial state (left) and after its transition to the unstable state (right) CREDIT Gourgouliatos et al

image

Yes this ice planet is cold baby raptor 🥶 But don’t worry we become a update with this retro jacket and my sunglasses are in repair.


~Diary of ShepardChris

How planets may form after dust sticks together

Scientists may have figured out the origins of planets


Scientists may have figured out how dust particles can stick together to form planets, according to a Rutgers co-authored study that may also help to improve industrial processes.

In homes, adhesion on contact can cause fine particles to form dust bunnies.

Similarly in outer space, adhesion causes dust particles to stick together.

Large particles, however, can combine due to gravity - an essential process in forming asteroids and planets. But between these two extremes, how aggregates grow has largely been a mystery until now.

The study, published in the journal Nature Physics, found that particles under microgravity - similar to conditions believed to be in interplanetary space - develop strong electrical charges spontaneously and stick together, forming large aggregates.

Remarkably, although like charges repel, like-charged aggregates form nevertheless, apparently because the charges are so strong that they polarize one another and therefore act like magnets.

Related processes seem to be at work on Earth, where fluidized bed reactors produce everything from plastics to pharmaceuticals.

During this process, blowing gas pushes fine particles upwards and when particles aggregate due to static electricity, they can stick to reactor vessel walls, leading to shutdowns and poor product quality.

“We may have overcome a fundamental obstacle in understanding how planets form,” said co-author Troy Shinbrot, a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the School of Engineering at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

“Mechanisms for generating aggregates in industrial processes have also been identified and that - we hope - may be controlled in future work.

Both outcomes hinge on a new understanding that electrical polarization is central to aggregation.”

The study, led by researchers at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, opens avenues to potentially controlling fine particle aggregation in industrial processing.

It appears that introducing additives that conduct electricity may be more successful for industrial processes than traditional electrostatic control approaches, according to Shinbrot.

The researchers want to investigate effects of material properties on sticking and aggregation, and potentially develop new approaches to generating and storing electricity.

IMAGE….These are glass particles colliding in microgravity.
Credit Gerhard Wurm, Tobias Steinpilz, Jens Teiser and Felix Jungmann

NRL-camera aboard NASA spacecraft confirms asteroid phenomenon


A U.S. Naval Research Laboratory-built camera mounted on the NASA Parker Solar Probe revealed an asteroid dust trail that has eluded astronomers for decades.

Karl Battams, a computational scientist in NRL’s Space Science Division, discussed the results from the camera called Wide-Field Imager for Solar Probe (WISPR) on Dec. 11 during a NASA press conference.

WISPR enabled researchers to identify the dust cloud trailing the orbit of the asteroid 3200 Phaethon.

“This is why NRL’s heliospheric imagers are so ground-breaking,” Battams said.

“They allow you to see near-Sun outflows massively fainter than the Sun itself, which would otherwise blind our cameras.

And in this case, you can also see solar system objects extremely close to the Sun, which most telescopes cannot do.”

He said the trail is best seen near the Sun where 3200 Phaethon’s dust is more densely packed, making WISPR a vital tool for scientists.

The data captured by WISPR determined the asteroid dust trail weighs an estimated billion tons, and measures more than 14 million miles long.

The findings raise questions about the trail’s origin.

“Something catastrophic happened to Phaethon a couple of thousand years ago and created the Geminid Meteor shower,” Battams said.

“There’s no way the asteroid is anywhere near active enough when it is near the Sun to produce the mass of dust we are seeing, so we are confident that WISPR is seeing part of the Geminid meteor stream.”

WISPR, designed, developed and led by NRL, records visible-light images of the solar corona and solar outflow in two overlapping cameras, which together cover more than 100-degrees angular width from the Sun.

Understanding how the solar environment behaves is important to the Navy and Marine Corps because when the solar winds reach Earth, they can affect GPS, spacecraft operations, and ground-based power grids.

WISPR and the Parker Solar Probe will continue to orbit the Sun for the next five years.


IMAGE….An image from the Wide-Field Imager for Solar Probe (WISPR), a U.S. Naval Research Laboratory-built camera, displays the dust trail of asteroid 3200 Phaethon near the Sun on Nov. 5, 2018. The trail is visible for the first time in the region where the white dots are omitted. 3200 Phaethon’s orbit intersects Earth’s orbit every year, and results in the Geminid Meteor shower. CREDIT (U.S. Navy photo by Brendan Gallagher and Guillermo Stenborg)

WATER COMMON – YET SCARCE – IN EXOPLANETS

The most extensive survey of atmospheric chemical compositions of exoplanets to date has revealed trends that challenge current theories of planet formation and has implications for the search for water in the solar system and beyond.

A team of researchers, led by the University of Cambridge, used atmospheric data from 19 exoplanets to obtain detailed measurements of their chemical and thermal properties. The exoplanets in the study span a large range in size – from ‘mini-Neptunes’ of nearly 10 Earth masses to ‘super-Jupiters’ of over 600 Earth masses – and temperature, from nearly 20C to over 2,000C. Like the giant planets in our solar system, their atmospheres are rich in hydrogen, but they orbit different types of stars.

The researchers found that while water vapour is common in the atmospheres of many exoplanets, the amounts were surprisingly lower than expected, while the amounts of other elements found in some planets were consistent with expectations. The results, which are part of a five-year research programme on the chemical compositions of planetary atmospheres outside our solar system, are reported in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

“We are seeing the first signs of chemical patterns in extra-terrestrial worlds, and we’re seeing just how diverse they can be in terms of their chemical compositions,” said project leader Dr. Nikku Madhusudhan from the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge, who first measured low water vapour abundances in giant exoplanets five years ago.

In our solar system, the amount of carbon relative to hydrogen in the atmospheres of giant planets is significantly higher than that of the Sun. This ‘super-solar’ abundance is thought to have originated when the planets were being formed, and large amounts of ice, rocks and other particles were brought into the planet in a process called accretion.

The abundances of other elements have been predicted to be similarly high in the atmospheres of giant exoplanets – especially oxygen, which is the most abundant element in the universe after hydrogen and helium. This means that water, a dominant carrier of oxygen, is also expected to be overabundant in such atmospheres.

The researchers used extensive spectroscopic data from space-based and ground-based telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Very Large Telescope in Chile and the Gran Telescopio Canarias in Spain. The range of available observations, along with detailed computational models, statistical methods, and atomic properties of sodium and potassium, allowed the researchers to obtain estimates of the chemical abundances in the exoplanet atmospheres across the sample.

The team reported the abundance of water vapour in 14 of the 19 planets, and the abundance of sodium and potassium in six planets each. Their results suggest a depletion of oxygen relative to other elements and provide chemical clues into how these exoplanets may have formed without substantial accretion of ice.

“It is incredible to see such low water abundances in the atmospheres of a broad range of planets orbiting a variety of stars,” said Madhusudhan.

“Measuring the abundances of these chemicals in exoplanetary atmospheres is something extraordinary, considering that we have not been able to do the same for giant planets in our solar system yet, including Jupiter, our nearest gas giant neighbour,” said Luis Welbanks, lead author of the study and PhD student at the Institute of Astronomy.

Various efforts to measure water in Jupiter’s atmosphere, including NASA’s current Juno mission, have proved challenging. “Since Jupiter is so cold, any water vapour in its atmosphere would be condensed, making it difficult to measure,” said Welbanks. “If the water abundance in Jupiter were found to be plentiful as predicted, it would imply that it formed in a different way to the exoplanets we looked at in the current study.”

“We look forward to increasing the size of our planet sample in future studies,” said Madhusudhan. “Inevitably, we expect to find outliers to the current trends as well as measurements of other chemicals.”

These results show that different chemical elements can no longer be assumed to be equally abundant in planetary atmospheres, challenging assumptions in several theoretical models.

“Given that water is a key ingredient to our notion of habitability on Earth, it is important to know how much water can be found in planetary systems beyond our own,” said Madhusudhan.