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Space Science

Herschel Spectroscopy of Future Supernova 21

Posted by Soulskill
from the that's-a-big-star dept.
davecl writes "ESA's Herschel Space Telescope has released its first spectroscopic results. These include observations of VYCMa, a star 50 times as massive as the sun and soon to become a supernova, as well as a nearby galaxy, more distant colliding starburst galaxies and a comet in our own solar system. The spectra show more lines than have ever been seen in these objects in the far-infrared and will allow astronomers to work out the detailed chemistry and physics behind star and planet formation as well as the last stages of stellar evolution before VYCMa's eventual collapse into a supernova. More coverage is available at the Herschel Mission Blog, which I run."
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Herschel Spectroscopy of Future Supernova

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  • Lots of hot water (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 28, 2009 @01:23PM (#30255726)

    You can really see stars as the engines of life, not just as the energy source, but the source of our building materials. We are made of stardust as Carl Sagan used to say.

    Interesting notes from the article referring to the PACS and Spire instruments.

    The SPIRE spectrum, a portion of which is shown (Fig. 1 right), has prominent features from carbon monoxide (CO) and water (H2O).

    Many of the features are due to water, showing that the star is surrounded by large quantities of hot steam.

    In the PACS spectral range, more than 400 spectral lines of which more than 270 are water lines have been detected. The envelope of VY CMa resembles nuclear power plants on Earth, where water is used to cool the environment of the central engine.

  • by chebucto (992517) * on Saturday November 28, 2009 @01:37PM (#30255792) Homepage

    They can do some experiments, at least in the astrophysics branch of the science (I recall jetliners with atomic clocks being used to test time dilation). Not to mention some of the planetary exploration robots, or that recent bombardment of the moon (which let us detect water there).

    But generally, you are right - most of astronomy is dedicated to observation. Astronomers basically work out theories based on empirical observation of natural phenomena, which is as strong a foundation as any other hard science. And while experimentation may be part of some definitions of science, that seems more like a problem with the definitions than with astronomy.

  • by 2.7182 (819680) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @02:07PM (#30255986)

    The jetliner experiment isn't just astronomy - it's a test of general relativity, which is just like testing a basic principle like F=ma.

    People might think twice when they attack the string theorists for not having experimental evidence for their theories. They do in fact have an infinite number of theories which get rid of the divergences that occur in quantum gravity, so give them some credit for that.

It's a poor workman who blames his tools.