Astronomers Propose New Donut-Shaped Celestial Object

As though there wasn't already enough cool stuff in the cosmos, scientists say space may hold enormous, spinning space donuts made of blistering-hot vaporized rock. They published their report in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

Planetary scientists Simon Lock and Sarah Stewart were trying to understand what happens when two planets collide. As we know from our own Earth, planets are not simply dead rocks or balls of gas, but active, complex bodies, with constantly shifting temperatures, orbits, shape, rotation, and gravity.

Consequently, planet-on-planet wrecks are less like a smashing of rocks and more like a figure-skating accident, a sudden, midair arresting of whirling triple axels.

The impact of these crashes is so violent, astronomers believe, that the two bodies involved are reduced to hot rubble. Over time, that rubble cools and congeals, eventually spinning and condensing into a new celestial body. It was this kind of smash-up, some scientists say, that created the Earth.

Lock and Stewart aren’t so sure about that. They think our planet’s origins may have been bigger, and substantially more donut-shaped. They hypothesize that the heat and momentum of these collisions can fling hot debris into a big, fat rotating ring they call a synestia.

From there, the process is similar: The vaporized rock cools and begins to stick together, coalescing into a rocky baby planet—and possibly a moon or two.

After centuries of study, we’re still not totally sure how our own Moon was born. Much of its composition is similar to Earth’s, which suggests, Lock and Stewart say, that the cosmic donut could have birthed them both.

The term synestia is their invention, too, a blend of the prefix syn, meaning “together,” and Hestia, the Greek goddess of home, the hearth, and architecture.

A real synestia has yet to be spotted in space, but the scientists are confident that they’ll turn up once we dig deeper into other solar systems.

MARS Bioimaging
The World's First Full-Color 3D X-Rays Have Arrived
MARS Bioimaging
MARS Bioimaging

The days of drab black-and-white, 2D X-rays may finally be over. Now, if you want to see what your broken ankle looks like in all its full-color, 3D glory, you can do so thanks to new body-scanning technology. The machine, spotted by BGR, comes courtesy of New Zealand-based manufacturer MARS Bioimaging.

It’s called the MARS large bore spectral scanner, and it uses spectral molecular imaging (SMI) to produce images that are fully colorized and in 3D. While visually appealing, the technology isn’t just about aesthetics—it could help doctors identify issues more accurately and provide better care.

Its pixel detectors, called “Medipix” chips, allow the machine to identify colors and distinguish between materials that look the same on regular CT scans, like calcium, iodine, and gold, Buzzfeed reports. Bone, fat, and water are also differentiated by color, and it can detect details as small as a strand of hair.

“It gives you a lot more information, and that’s very useful for medical imaging. It enables you to do a lot of diagnosis you can’t do otherwise,” Phil Butler, the founder/CEO of MARS Bioimaging and a physicist at the University of Canterbury, says in a video. “When you [have] a black-and-white camera photographing a tree with its leaves, you can’t tell whether the leaves are healthy or not. But if you’ve got a color camera, you can see whether they’re healthy leaves or diseased.”

The images are even more impressive in motion. This rotating image of an ankle shows "lipid-like" materials (like cartilage and skin) in beige, and soft tissue and muscle in red.

The technology took roughly a decade to develop. However, MARS is still working on scaling up production, so it may be some time before the machine is available commercially.

[h/t BGR]

ESA/Herschel/SPIRE; M. W. L. Smith et al 2017
Look Closely—Every Point of Light in This Image Is a Galaxy
ESA/Herschel/SPIRE; M. W. L. Smith et al 2017
ESA/Herschel/SPIRE; M. W. L. Smith et al 2017

Even if you stare closely at this seemingly grainy image, you might not be able to tell there’s anything to it besides visual noise. But it's not static—it's a sliver of the distant universe, and every little pinprick of light is a galaxy.

As Gizmodo reports, the image was produced by the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory, a space-based infrared telescope that was launched into orbit in 2009 and was decommissioned in 2013. Created by Herschel’s Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE) and Photodetector Array Camera and Spectrometer (PACS), it looks out from our galaxy toward the North Galactic Pole, a point that lies perpendicular to the Milky Way's spiral near the constellation Coma Berenices.

A close-up of a view of distant galaxies taken by the Herschel Space Observatory
ESA/Herschel/SPIRE; M. W. L. Smith et al 2017

Each point of light comes from the heat of dust grains between different stars in a galaxy. These areas of dust gave off this radiation billions of years before reaching Herschel. Around 1000 of those pins of light belong to galaxies in the Coma Cluster (named for Coma Berenices), one of the densest clusters of galaxies in the known universe.

The longer you look at it, the smaller you’ll feel.

[h/t Gizmodo]


More from mental floss studios