The past 12 months have been witness to some noteworthy new astronomical discoveries, from exploding stars to faraway black holes.
THIS WHITE DWARF IS AN INTERSTELLAR SPEED DEMON
The swiftest runaway stars ever seen speeding through our galaxy were discovered in July by astronomers analyzing data of stellar motions gathered by the Gaia satellite of European Space Agency (ESA). Six hypervelocity stars were discovered for the first time, and two of them — cataloged as J1235-3752 and J0927-6335— are the speediest ever observed, racing through space at 1,694 kilometers per second and 2,285 kilometers per second respectively. Speed is so high that J0927-6335 could finish 694 orbits around the Earth in an hour.
These stars are termed white dwarfs, which are the cores of stars akin to sun that have puffed off their outer layers and expired and in which intrinsic fusion reactions have ceased. Astronomers believe the white dwarfs once existed in binary systems, where the star in company of white dwarf exploded in a cataclysmic supernova, serving the white dwarf an almighty kick.
“These stars are extraordinary because they are traveling much faster than normal stars in the Milky Way,” Kareem El-Badry (the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) said to Space.com. “Because they’re faster than the galactic escape velocity, they’ll soon be launched into intergalactic space.”
THE MOST ANCIENT SUPERMASSIVE BLACK HOLE EVER DETECTED
It’s just fitting that, as the most extravagant telescope ever built, the JWST (James Webb Space Telescope) is breaking new astronomical records with regularity, with one of the most significant being the discovery of the most distant SMBH (supermassive black hole) till date. This particular black hole was spotted by JWST in a galaxy called CEERS 1019, which we see in the form it was in about 13.3 billion years ago (just 570 million post the Big Bang). Its mass is about 9 million times the mass of the sun, or around twice as massive as the SMBH at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way.
PLANET OR FAILED STAR? THE JWST FINDS THE TINIEST BROWN DWARF
All astronomical record don’t need to be about the biggest or the most distant. JWST has the credit of discovering the smallest brown dwarf found so far too, which at mere three to four times the mass of Jupiter is of the same size as some planets. Astronomers found this brown dwarf along with other brown dwarfs holding mass less than eight times that of Jupiter employing the JWST, in the star cluster IC 348.
“One basic question you’ll find in every astronomy textbook is, what are the smallest stars? That’s what we’re trying to answer,” stated Kevin Luhman (Penn State University)He is lead author of a paper related to brown-dwarf discovery.
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