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Space Science

Cosmic Fireworks Display Seen Inside Helix Nebula 34

Posted by Soulskill
from the pretty-pictures dept.
goran72 writes "A new image, taken with an infrared camera on the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii, has revealed a cosmic fireworks display, in the form of tens of thousands of previously unseen comet-shaped knots inside the Helix Nebula. Unlike previous optical images of the Helix Nebula knots, the infrared image shows thousands of clearly resolved knots, extending out from the central star at greater distances than previously observed. These images enable astronomers to estimate that there may be as many as 40,000 knots in the entire nebula, each of which are billions of kilometers/miles across. Their total mass may be as much as 30,000 Earths, or one-tenth the mass of our Sun."
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Cosmic Fireworks Display Seen Inside Helix Nebula

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  • by The Pirou (1551493) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @11:57AM (#28586671)
    The French do it better. This amateur Helix Nebula is just slapping together any old 'exposed inner core' with another 'exposed inner core' over 10,000 to 1,000,000 years to illuminate ejected material. Where's the precision in that?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 05, 2009 @11:58AM (#28586677)
    A new image, taken with an infrared camera on the Slashdot Telescope on SourceForge, has revealed a cosmic fireworks display, in the form of tens of thousands of sparks flying from the NAOJ.org hosting site. Unlike previous optical images of the hosting site, the infrared image shows thousands of clearly resolved sparks, extending out from the central rack at greater distances than previously observed. These images enable sysadmins to estimate that there may be as many as 40,000 sparks in the entire datacenter, each of which is several inches long. Their total heat may be as much as 30,000 hits per second, or one-tenth the power of a Sun Fire E10K.
  • So the practical implication of this is that rocky planets are a lot more common than previously thought, or that we have a better explanation of how they're created, or... what? These are great photos, but what's the story here?

    • by Fluffeh (1273756)

      These are great photos, but what's the story here?

      When you have great footage, you don't need a story. What news have you been watching?

  • google cache is here [209.85.135.132], but it seems slashdotted too.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by SEWilco (27983)
      Google cache doesn't include images, so of course you're still left waiting for the images from the original site. Fortunately, the original site's slashdotting ends instantly in astronomical time.
  • by mbone (558574) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @12:31PM (#28586819)

    Here is the original paper : http://arxiv.org/abs/0906.2870 [arxiv.org] . Note that HST detected about 3500 of these, so this is an advance, not an overturning, of older work. These knots are pretty strange.

    The Helix Nebulae is a sphere of gas expelled by a dying star, probably in multiple episodes, with. many thousands of these "comet-like objects." Typical theoretical speculation is that they are gas instabilities as old gas is overtaken by new gas expulsions [arxiv.org], possibly with dusty cores [harvard.edu]. In addition, the knots are expanding (away from the central star) significantly slower [harvard.edu] than the gas of the nebulae. If you Google or go to Arxiv.org, you can find lots of speculation on these knots.

    For myself, I have to wonder if these could be "planetary comets" - i.e., giant comets resulting from the heating of bodies in the Oort cloud of the star. The mass is about right, and that would explain their longevity, but it is not clear why they would be expanding away from the central star.

    • by mbone (558574)

      The really interesting thing to me about this is this : If these knots reveal in any way what is already existing in the outer solar system of the dying star, as opposed being some odd expulsion from the star, or the interaction between different expulsions, this is telling us something very profound about outer solar systems : There could be a lot of stuff out there. One tenth of a Solar mass - 30,000 Earths - is a lot of dark baryonic matter. Maybe we should go out and look in our own Oort cloud and see w

  • "Suburu" is the Japanese name for the Pleiades cluster. I've heard from various sources that the word means "Unite", "5 brothers" or is just a given name. (Anybody speak Japanese?) It's also the nickname of Fuji Heavy Industries, which was formed by the merger of a Japanese manufacturing cartel also known as the 5 brothers.. And FHI, of course, makes the car, which uses the Pleiades as its logo.

    Although in Hawaii, the Suburu Telescope is owned by the Japanese National Observatory, hence the Japanese name.

    • by Shag (3737)

      The Subaru car logo has fewer than 7 stars on it, because Fuji Heavy Industries has fewer than 7 sub-companies.

      Alas, the Subaru telescope was not built by Fuji at all, but by Mitsubishi Electric, which is part of the same industrial conglomerate as Mitsubishi Motors. This confuses people tremendously.

      But it's kind of fun to be able to say "I drive a 500-ton Subaru built by Mitsubishi."

      • by fm6 (162816)

        Well, the Pleiades cluster has has a lot more than 7 stars &mdash hundreds in fact. How many of these stars count as part of the star formation is a cultural matter. Western tradition says 7, but I believe Japanese tradition says 6. I could be mistaken.

        You'll notice that the Suburu logo has 6 stars. Not 4. That because FHI's current structure of 4 divisions didn't exist in 1953. That was when the company was formed out of 5 smaller companies. Hence the one big star and the 5 little ones.

        • by Shag (3737)

          Yes, of course, I misspoke; there are seven "bright" stars recognized in the Pleiades in western traditions.

          The bit about FHI history is interesting - I hadn't really kept track of how many divisions they have currently, since I work for the "other" Subaru (the one this thread is about). :)

          • by fm6 (162816)

            Hey, since you work for NAOJ, perhaps you know somebody who actually speaks Japanese? If so, please ask them what the literal translation of "Suburu" actually is. If my "5 brothers" story is nonsense, I'd love to know for sure.

            • by Shag (3737)

              Hey, since you work for NAOJ, perhaps you know somebody who actually speaks Japanese?

              Quite a lot of somebodies actually. But that was true before I worked for them; there are tons of international students here from Japan (and I have Japanese cousins).

              If so, please ask them what the literal translation of "Suburu" actually is. If my "5 brothers" story is nonsense, I'd love to know for sure.

              The explanation I've heard is that it translates as "to (come/bring/tie/bind) together." Think of how the ancients would have perceived the stars in the Pleiades, all bundled together when all the other stars around them are more spread out.

              Most myths I could find that made reference to a number at all stuck with 7 whatevers.

              • by fm6 (162816)

                I got the 5-brothers story from a flyer written by a Suburu dealer. Obviously not carefully researched!

                • by Shag (3737)

                  If you can't trust a car dealer to be well-versed in astronomy and Asian mythology, who can you trust?!

  • Is this evidence of extra-terrestrial life?

    The organized and deliberate complexity of those 'knots' certainly seems to suggest so.

  • can this be right ?
    "The size of each knot is about five times as big as Pluto's orbit in the Solar System"

    ie, that the size of each of those little knots is 5x the size of our entire solar system ? wow.

    from http://www.naoj.org/Pressrelease/2009/07/02/fig2.jpg [naoj.org] and http://www.naoj.org/Pressrelease/2009/07/02/fig4.jpg [naoj.org] i would estimate the size of the entire nebula to be about 400 to 500 times the size of the solar system.

    • by cathector (972646)

      eh, close. too small be only a factor of 4,
      if you take the diameter of the nebula to be 2.5 light years and the orbit of pluto to be 40 AU: http://www.google.com/search?q=2.5+light+years+%2F+80+AU [google.com]

    • by mbone (558574)

      Size is tricky here - each knot is thought to be about 5 times the mass of the Earth, and could be less if they were fed by a central body. Those knots are like comet comas and tails - they would make a very good vacuum, here on Earth.

      • by cathector (972646)

        thanks for the reply.
        i'm not sure i follow. do you mean the quote about "five times as big as Pluto's orbit" is referring to mass ?

        • by mbone (558574)

          No, just size. It's a huge ball of very thin gas, like a comet but much bigger.

  • Oh say can you see
    By the nebula's light
    What so proudly we hailed
    At the comet's last gleaming... ... o'er the land of the flneep
    And the home of the g'znarbilywarblave!

  • The last technician to work on the spacecraft before launch sneezed on the lens and was too embarrassed to clean it off.

Brain fried -- Core dumped

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