Chills and Thrills

1 October 2021

Cooler weather has reached my neck of the woods, but there are still plenty of exciting discoveries in astrophysics this month.

Pocket Cosmos

A team has created one of the most detailed simulations of the universe. It looks at the evolution of dark matter in the universe, and you can download a snapshot of their model for free. You’ll just need a 100 Terrabyte hard drive to keep it on. Since it doesn’t simulate regular matter, things such as a newly discovered type of red dwarf aren’t included. Maybe next time.

Coming to an End

Astronomers have been learning about the life of stars, from their birth within interstellar nebulae to what happens when they die. Not surprisingly, the two are related. A recent study found that supernovae can create bubbles that clear a region of dust and gas. Star formation can occur on the surface of these pressure bubbles. But another team found that fewer stars become supernovae than we thought. The largest stars don’t die in a brilliant explosion, but instead have a rather quiet end as they collapse into a black hole. We also are learning more about white dwarfs. These small remnant stars can be difficult to study, but new research has shown that white dwarfs get more magnetic as they age.

Hiding in the Dark

Black holes are so massive that not even light can escape them. But we know they are likely not completely dark. Through the quantum effect known as Hawking radiation, light might escape slowly over time. If true, this means that black holes obey the laws of thermodynamics, meaning that they have a temperature. New research on black hole thermodynamics finds they may also have a pressure. And even though black holes don’t shine much on their own, they do power tremendous light shows such as quasars. They also seem to power the cosmic gamma-ray background.

That’s it for this month. Until next time, enjoy your pumpkin spice, apple cider, or whatever Autumn pleasures you enjoy. There will be plenty of new discoveries to learn about next month.