Saturday, January 14, 2006

Astronomers Find A Space Slinky and A Stellar Tornado


By Elaine Meinel Supkis

Two interstellar spirals in the news today: one is a magnetic slinky coiled around increasingly tightly massed gasses and a star which is pouring out tremendous energy from one pole which is exciting the surrounding gasses in a tremendous, rainbow colored tornado.

From Space.com:
Astronomers have discovered a giant magnetic field that is coiled like a snake around a rod-shaped gas cloud in the constellation Orion.

Timothy Robishaw, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, involved in the discovery, described the structure as a "giant, magnetic Slinky wrapped around a long, finger-like interstellar cloud."

Astronomers call that wound-up shape "helical."

The discovery, presented here this week at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society, was made in the Orion Molecular Cloud, a known stellar nursery in the constellation Orion. It supports a previous theory about how magnetic fields interact with interstellar gas clouds.
This is an interesting development. Gravity has intrigued scientists ever since Newton and magnetism, since it was discovered probably by the Norse, being close by the North Pole, most likely, and unlike sailors elsewhere, sailing often in fog, magnetism has tickled minds for generations, every child is fascinated by it. Just take them down to a stream with a magnet and watch their amazement as the magnet pulls iron out of the loose gravel.

Magnetism is everywhere just like gravity and to see it so forcefully coiled around a large formation rather than being simply bipolar within a spinning sphere, means there is going to be a lot of rethinking how magnetism works and what the rules are concerning it.

This also reminds me of slinkies. This is one toy that would have never been bought if it weren't for TV. When I was a child, the lilting slinky song stuck to the mind and even though we had not so much as a stairstep in the house in Arizona, we wanted one. Well, we could take it to some rock formations but it wouldn't work, dropping it off of a cliff was verboten though possible fun.

We did take it inside the 86" Observatory and it made a wonderful racket clanking down the metal stairs and so it found a fond place in our hearts as a noisemaker.

Also in the news:
High-energy particles spewing out of a young star in a nearby stellar nursery are plowing through interstellar clouds and creating a giant spiral structure in space that looks like a glowing, rainbow-colored tornado, scientists said today.

The star spewing the particle jet lies 480 light-years away in a star-forming region known as Chamaeleon I.

In a photograph taken with NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, that star is actually not visible because it is located off the upper edge of the image.

The luminous tornado-shaped structure is known as a Herbig-Haro object and estimated to be about 0.3 light years, or nearly 2 trillion miles, long and shows up in the infrared.

Herbig-Haro objects are formed when highly energized particles—usually electrons and protons—are ejected from a young star and collide with nearby clouds of interstellar dust and gas. The jet particles stream out of the stars at speeds of more than 100 miles per second and heat the surrounding clouds to an infrared glow that can be detected.
A number of galactic objects have this same thing, one pole ejecting very violently a stream of energy that can go trillions and trillions of miles into space.

Streaming out from the center of the galaxy M87 like a cosmic searchlight is one of nature's most amazing phenomena, a black-hole-powered jet of electrons and other sub-atomic particles traveling at nearly the speed of light. In this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image, the blue of the jet contrasts with the yellow glow from the combined light of billions of unseen stars and the yellow, point-like globular clusters that make up this galaxy.
The really big globular galaxies are space's monsters which have gigantic black holes in the center and it seems this one has some tremendous turbulence to cause such a gigantic energy jet.

From Stokely.org, pictures of Rome.
Nature not only abhors a vacuum, She loves spirals. Using newly regained understanding of mathematics and geometry, during the 1600s and on, artists, scientists and builders used various spirals and double helixes to create hypnotizing designs and interesting constructs.

Gravity, exponential growth and magnetism all work together to create a host of spiralistic situations.

From Joshua Barnes, University of Hawaii:

That rotating disk galaxies should exhibit spiral structure is scarcely surprising, but the nature of the spiral patterns is not completely understood -- probably because there is no unique cause of spiral structure.

18.1 Material Arms & Density Waves

Because disk galaxies rotate differentially, the orbital period is an increasing function of radius R. Thus if spiral arms were material features then differential rotation would would soon wind them up into very tightly-coiled spirals. The expected pitch angle of material arms in a spiral galaxy like the Milky Way is only about 0.25 degrees (BT87, Ch. 6.1.2). In fact, pitch angles measured from photographs range from about 5 degrees for Sa galaxies to 20 degrees for Sc galaxies (Kennicutt 1981). The most likely implication is that spiral arms are not material features.

The other possibility is that spiral arms are density waves; in this case the stars which make up a given spiral arm are constantly changing. Observational and numerical evidence lends strong support to the idea of spiral density waves.
He has some interesting computer models showing how galaxies tend to form spiral arms when there is gravitational interference from some other galaxy.

Which takes me to my favorite topic: if we are all exploding away from each other at a faster and faster pace, why are all these galaxies sliding into each other, messing around with each other, inside each other's gravitational pools? This wouldn't be possible, would it?

This condundrum lurks in the background of Einsteinian physics, like a black hole, barely seen but utterly in control.
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Previous articles:
Our Galaxy Is Spiralling Down Into The Great Attractor's Black Hole
Einstein And Schroedinger And the Big Box Universe Paradox
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