“We’ve seen outbursts in the centers of galaxies before but this one is really, really massive,” said Curtin University professor Melanie Johnston-Hollitt. “And we don’t know why it’s so big. But it happened very slowly—like an explosion in slow motion that took place over hundreds of millions of years.”
Researchers at the Curtin University International Centre for Radio Astronomy were observing the distant galaxy cluster Ophiuchus when they detected a huge explosion at the center of a supermassive black hole, approximately 390 million light-years from Earth. According to scientists, the explosion released five times more energy than the big bang, Science Daily reported.
In fact, the explosion was so massive that it blew a hole in the cluster plasma (super-heated gas) surrounding the supermassive black hole and also broke the previous record-holder—a cluster known by the designation MS 0735+74.
One author of the study, Dr. Simona Giacintucci who works at the Naval Research Laboratory in the U.S., compared the explosion to the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, in which the top of the mountain was completely blown off.
“The difference is that you could fit 15 Milky Way galaxies in a row into the crater this eruption punched into the cluster’s hot gas,” she said.
X-ray telescopes previously detected a hole in the black hole’s cluster plasma, but astronomers originally discarded the theory that it could have been caused by an energetic explosion because the outburst was believed to be too massive.
“People were skeptical because the size of outburst,” Johnston-Hollitt said. “But it really is that. The Universe is a weird place.”
“This object was actually observed with the Chandra X-ray telescope by a previous team and they saw this bubble in the hot X-ray plasma in the centre of this galaxy cluster, and they said, ‘Well, this can’t be from one of these energetic outputs because it would be enormous; the scale would be unthinkable’. So, they dismissed that possibility,” explained Prof Johnston-Hollitt, who directs the MWA. “But we went back and we observed with low-frequency radio telescopes and discovered that this cavity is filled with radio plasma.”
The scientists realized what they discovered when they observed the Ophiuchus cluster with radio telescopes. Then they saw that the radio data matched the x-ray data, confirming a gigantic expulsion of energy from the cluster.
In total, four telescopes were used to detect and confirm the eruption. Those instruments were NASA’s X-ray Observatory, ESA’s XMM-Newton, the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) in Western Australia, and the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) in India.
Johnston-Hollitt, who directs the MWA, compared their discovery to archeologists uncovering the first dinosaur bones. She further stated that with new tools like low-frequency radio telescopes, astronomers can “dig” deeper into space and uncover unusual discoveries like this which teach us about the universe and its history.
Johnston-Hollitt also pointed out that studying the universe at different wavelengths will continue to uncover never-before-seen phenomenas like this one.
“We made this discovery with Phase 1 of the MWA, when the telescope had 2048 antennas pointed towards the sky,” she said. “We’re soon going to be gathering observations with 4096 antennas, which should be ten times more sensitive. I think that’s pretty exciting.”
Chinese Military Satellite Smashed by Russian Rocket in “Major Confirmed Orbital Collision”
In an incident that is likely illustrative of things to come, Chinese military satellite 1-02 was smashed after it appears to have collided into the debris from a disintegrating Russian rocket.
The collision, which occurred earlier this year, shows the increasing danger of space junk such as satellite parts and other miscellaneous jetsam littering the Earth’s orbit. An estimated 8,000 metric tons of space debris pose the risk of destroying functional equipment such as weather forecasting systems, telecoms and GPS systems – and even manned space travel missions – if the problem isn’t reined in.
The fate of the Chinese satellite was uncovered by Harvard astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.
The breakup of Yunhai 1-02 was initially reported by the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron (18SPCS). However, it wasn’t until recently that McDowell found out what caused the breakup.
The astrophysicist soon found that it was destroyed by space junk that originated from a Russian Zenit-2 rocket that had launched a spy satellite in 1996. On Aug. 14, McDowell found a strange entry in a database on Space-Track.org: “Collided with satellite.”
“This is a new kind of comment entry — haven’t seen such a comment for any other satellites before,” McDowell tweeted.
“A quick analysis of the TLEs show that Yunhai 1-02 (44547) and [the debris object] passed within 1 km of each other (so within the uncertainty of the TLEs) at 0741 UTC Mar 18, exactly when 18SPCS reports Yunhai broke up,” he added, noting that this “looks to be the first major confirmed orbital collision in a decade.”
However, the Yunhai satellite still remains functional and is transmitting radio signals, notes Space.com.
The incident shows the growing likelihood of such collisions in the high-traffic, littered near-Earth orbital zone.
“Collisions are proportional to the square of the number of things in orbit,” McDowell explained. “That is to say, if you have 10 times as many satellites, you’re going to get 100 times as many collisions.”
He added: “So, as the traffic density goes up, collisions are going to go from being a minor constituent of the space junk problem to being the major constituent. That’s just math.”
A worst-case scenario of such collisions is known as the “Kessler Syndrome,” and describes the possibility of one collision setting in motion a chain of collisions. Such a disaster was the premise of the 2013 film “Gravity.”
One hopes that things don’t reach that point.
In the meantime, however, there have been a number of initiatives meant to tackle the growing problem of space debris, such as the ELSA-d spacecraft launched in a demonstration mission earlier this year.
Boston Dynamics Drops New Video Of 5-Foot Atlas Humanoid Robot Effortlessly Doing Parkour
Robot maker Boston Dynamics has released new video of its two-legged Atlas robot effortlessly completing a parkour obstacle course, offering a new display of its humanoid machines’ unsettling repertoire.
In the video, a pair of Atlas robots can be seen leaping over large gaps, vaulting beams, and even performing backflips. The robot can even be seen jumping over a board while using its arm to remain steady.
While the display seems like anything but “free” running – as the original developers of parkour had envisioned – the routine does seem like an impressive, if terrifying, display of effective coding that took months to perfect, according to the Hyundai-owned robotics firm.
“It’s not the robot just magically deciding to do parkour, it’s kind of a choreographed routine, much like a skateboard video or a parkour video,” said Atlas control lead Benjamin Stephens.
See for yourself:
Unlike its robotic dog Spot, which controversially hit New York City streets last year before being pulled, Atlas isn’t a production robot. Instead, it’s a research model meant to see how far the limits of robotics can be pushed.
In the past, Boston Dynamics has displayed the robot’s feats with videos of Atlas jogging and even busting out some cool dance moves.
Team lead Scott Kuindersma said in a statement that in about two decades, we can expect to coexist with robots that move “with grace, reliability, and work alongside humans to enrich our lives.”
Until then, some of us will continue to reserve our right to feel a bit queasy about the prospect of people being chased down by these skilled free-running (and dancing) machines.
South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash
What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?
It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.
The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.
The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.
“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”
The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.
Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.
Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.