Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Ignoring That DC Lunatic, Tonight -- We Will Look Some 300 Million Light Years Off, Into The Night Sky... Powdered With Stars

[Ahem. I prefer the unwasted grace -- of celestial events -- even half a Universe away, tonight. . . to those unfolding as the 45 faux-emperor throws another tantrum, in DC.] In this retelling, we have learned that a smallish white dwarf has donned a very powerful radiation emitting "coat of many colors" -- (or white-hot ballgown, if you prefer) and has become almost 40 per cent brighter (in x-ray emission waves) than the host black hole (which weighs in at over one million Suns' mass) it is whirring around -- at about half the speed of light. And the pirouette is likely to remain stable, for a few hundred years -- an eye-blink -- in celestial time, but an entirely welcome eternity, for the dancers invo-loved.

What a performance that would be to behold, from the edges of this far off system. Not unlike watching a long-lost then teen-aged friend, dance at a winter formal, some 22 years earlier, from the edge of some jet black obsidian clad ballroom floor. Whoosh. What a twistingly luminous. . . sight. From Discover online, describing the latest measurements, seen and confirmed by three separate interstellar observatories (Chandra, XMM-Newton and Swift), here:

. . . .The team thinks that these powerful radiation bursts are actually caused by two stars instead of one. The original sighting in 2014 still holds up: a black hole lured in a passing star and tore it to pieces. Some of these stellar shreds, which emit massive amounts of X-ray radiation, were sucked into the back hole. Others, though, remained in the innermost stable circular orbit (ISCO) — the closest spot where objects can orbit a black hole without being devoured by it.

In that dangerously close orbit lies another star, thought to be a tiny, dense white dwarf. Researchers think that the dwarf’s gravity pulled in the bright stellar remnants, creating a halo, or coat-tail, of X-rays around it. These X-rays can be seen every time the star orbits the black hole, which is once every 131 seconds. . . .

The night sky is a blackened road, "powdered with stars. . ." said Milton. And tonight, I can almost see the ballgowns shimmering as they float across that firmament. Smile. So, let's all forget DC, for a spin. . . I know I will.


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