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Mystery Alignment of Dying Stars Puzzles Scientists

Mystery Alignment of Dying Stars Puzzles Scientists | The limitless universe | Scoop.it

Dying stars that are among the most beautiful objects in the universe line up across the night sky, and astronomers aren't sure why. These "cosmic butterflies" — actually a certain type of planetary nebula — all have their own formation histories, and they don't interact with each other. But something is apparently making them dance in step, scientists using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory's New Technology Telescope (NTT) have discovered.

 

"This really is a surprising find and, if it holds true, a very important one,"study lead author Bryan Rees, of the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, said in a statement. "Many of these ghostly butterflies appear to have their long axes aligned along the plane of our galaxy. By using images from both Hubble and the NTT we could get a really good view of these objects, so we could study them in great detail."

 

In the final stages of their lives, stars like our own sun puff their outer layers into space, creating strange and striking objects known as planetary nebulas. (No planets are necessarily involved. The term was coined by famed astronomer Sir William Herschel to describe celestial bodies that appeared to have circular, planet-like shapes when viewed through early telescopes.)

Rees and co-author Albert Zijlstra, also of the University of Manchester, studied 130 planetary nebulae in the central bulge of the Milky Way galaxy.

They found most of these objects to be scattered more or less randomly across the sky, but one type — the bipolar nebulae, which have distinctive butterfly or hourglass shapes that are thought to result when jets blast material away from a dying star perpendicular to its orbit — showed a surprising alignment.

 

"The alignment we're seeing for these bipolar nebulae indicates something bizarre about star systems within the central bulge,"Rees said. "For them to line up in the way we see, the star systems that formed these nebulae would have to be rotating perpendicular to the interstellar clouds from which they formed, which is very strange."

 

Faraway bipolar nebulae display this predilection much more than nearby cosmic butterflies do, the researchers said. They suspect that the orderly behavior may have been caused by strong magnetic fields present when the galaxy's central bulge was forming.

 

But little is known about the characteristics of the Milky Way's magnetic fields in the distant past, so the planetary nebula alignment remains mysterious for now. "We can learn a lot from studying

 these objects,"Zijlstra said in a statemnt. "If they really behave in this unexpected way, it has consequences for not just the past of individual stars, but for the past of our whole galaxy."


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Chéri Vausé's curator insight, September 19, 2013 11:11 AM

My character Avi, in the Garden of Souls, is shown the origins of the universe. God has created a beautiful universe, filled with wonders. This is just a glimpse into it.

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World Within Worlds: Geeky Math Equation Creates Beautiful 3-D Worlds

World Within Worlds: Geeky Math Equation Creates Beautiful 3-D Worlds | The limitless universe | Scoop.it

The quest by a group of math geeks to create a three-dimensional analogue for the mesmerizing Mandelbrot fractal has ended in success.

 

They call it the Mandelbulb. The 3-D renderings were generated by applying an iterative algorithm to a sphere. The same calculation is applied over and over to the sphere’s points in three dimensions. In spirit, that’s similar to how the original 2-D Mandelbrot set generates its infinite and self-repeating complexity.

 

The following images are worth a look. Each photo is a zoom on one of these Mandelbulbs.  Daniel White, the amateur fractal image maker who coordinated the Mandelbulb effort, admits this creation isn’t exactly the Mandelbrot in 3-D. It’s mesmerizing and beautiful, but as he notes, only some versions of their original formula generate the kind of detail and complexity they are looking for. Their original equation doesn’t work very well unless you take it beyond the 2nd power. The picture above, White says, doesn’t have the level of detail that should be there.

 

“That means the biggest secret is still under wraps, open to anyone who has the inclination, and appreciation for how cool this thing would look,” White wrote on his website.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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