Scientists Witness Planetary Destruction by Real Death Star

The Death Star from Star Wars is one of the most menacing space stations in sci-fi history. Not only is its size impressive, but it has the power to destroy entire planets with its superlaser. Scientists have since used the name to describe extraordinary space discoveries, including galaxies and, most recently, a white dwarf star that is disintegrating a minor planet in its orbit.

"This is something no human has seen before," said Andrew Vanderburg, lead author of a new study published in Nature and graduate student at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "We're watching a solar system get destroyed." According to the researchers, the disintegrating mass is the "first planetary object to be seen transiting a white dwarf."

As recorded by NASA's K2 Kepler satellite, the white dwarf star's brightness fluctuates every 4.5 hours, which helped draw attention to the destructive scene. Using the data from K2 and other sources, the researchers found heavy metal debris "polluting" the space around the star. "It's like panning for gold—the heavy stuff sinks to the bottom. These metals should sink into the white dwarf's interior where we can't see them," said co-author John Johnson. "We now have a 'smoking gun' linking white dwarf pollution to the destruction of rocky planets," added Vanderburg.

According to some estimates, it will take anywhere between four and five billion years for our sun to die and become a white dwarf, so this is one cosmic danger that we do not have to worry about.

New Jersey Is Now Home to the Western Hemisphere's Largest Planetarium

Space-loving tourists often travel to Manhattan to visit the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. But starting December 9, they’ll be able to get their fill of stars and planets in nearby Jersey City. As Astronomy reports, New Jersey’s second-most-populous city is now home to the largest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere, and the fourth largest in the world.

The Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, an interactive science museum in Liberty State Park, opened in 1993. It’s home to 12 museum exhibition halls, aquariums, a live animal collection, and an IMAX dome theater. On July 31, 2017, the theater was closed for extensive renovations, thanks to a $5 million gift from an altruistic former high school teacher-turned-philanthropist, Jennifer Chalsty, who’s served as a science center trustee since 2004.

Renamed the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium, the IMAX theater received a digital upgrade and a brand-new screen, and was provided with the requisite technology to serve as a planetarium. The theater’s dome is 60 feet high, with a diameter of 89 feet, and its 10-projector system broadcasts onto a 12,345-square-foot domed screen.

There are only three planetariums in the world that are larger than the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium, and they’re all located in China and Japan. “You can fit any other planetarium in the Western Hemisphere inside the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium,” said Paul Hoffman, the science center's president and CEO, in a press release. “Add in the state-of-the-art technology and you have a spectacular unique theater like none other in the world. Visitors will be able to fly through the universe, experience the grandness and vastness of space, roam planetary surfaces, navigate asteroid fields, and watch the latest full-dome movies."

[h/t Astronomy]

How Often Is 'Once in a Blue Moon'? Let Neil deGrasse Tyson Explain

From “lit” to “I can’t even,” lots of colloquialisms make no sense. But not all confusing phrases stem from Millennial mouths. Take, for example, “once in a blue moon”—an expression you’ve likely heard uttered by teachers, parents, newscasters, and even scientists. This term is often used to describe a rare phenomenon—but why?

Even StarTalk Radio host Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn’t know for sure. “I have no idea why a blue moon is called a blue moon,” he tells Mashable. “There is nothing blue about it at all.”

A blue moon is the second full moon to appear in a single calendar month. Astronomy dictates that two full moons can technically occur in one month, so long as the first moon rises early in the month and the second appears around the 30th or 31st. This type of phenomenon occurs every couple years or so. So taken literally, “Once in a blue moon” must mean "every few years"—even if the term itself is often used to describe something that’s even more rare.

[h/t Mashable]


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