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  1. #1
    Marx's Avatar
    Marx is offline Administrator
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    Eta Car: tick tock, tick tock

    Eta Car: tick tock, tick tock



    So when is the supermassive star Eta Carinae going to blow? No one knows. But at 100 - 150 times the Sunís mass, it doesnít have much time left. And the presence of lots of nitrogen in the gas surrounding it is a bad sign: that means that the star was making heavy elements in its core, then belching them up into space. By the time a star like Eta Car is making nitrogen, it doesnít have long left to go. And when it goes, itíll go.
    The image above is from NASAís Chandra X-ray observatory. The blue part is an optical image from Hubble, and shows the bipolar lobes of gas ejected when Eta Car had a coughing fit back in the 1840s. Thatís 20 octillion tons of gas (20,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) it ejected at about a million miles per hour, in case youíre not getting enough awesome in your diet.
    The yellowish ring is gas the star ejected long ago getting slammed by more recently blown out matter. The gas gets heated to a few million degrees by the impact, and gives off X-rays. By examining the energies of the X-rays, astronomers have found the ring is rich in nitrogen, and thatís the bad thing. Stars like the Sun fuse hydrogen into helium in their cores. If the star is really massive, then it can fuse helium into carbon once the hydrogen in the core is used up. Then it can fuse carbon into neon, and up the periodic table until it hits iron. Stars canít fuse iron in their cores, which takes away the source of support for the zillions of tons of gas in the star. It collapses, and then complicated stuff happens (forgive me, I just wrote a long chapter for my next book about this, and I donít wanna repeat myself right nowÖ but I wrote a description of how this works on my Bitesize pages), and then the outer part of the star explodes. The inner part collapses down into a neutron star or a black hole.
    Usually, a star like Eta Car can go through its hydrogen in a few million years. But each element fuses more quickly than the last, and by the time neon or oxygen is fusing, the star has literally centuries left at most. The presence of nitrogen in the gas means there was time to make that much of it, get it to the surface, expel it, and let it expand for a while.
    So Eta Car is ticking bomb. It could go off tonight, or in the year 3000 (did Futurama ever cover this?), but it wonít be much longer than that.
    Note that the lobes appear to be tilted away from us by about 40 degrees or so. Thatís a good thing. When stars like Eta Carinae explode, they tend to shoot of beams of energy and matter that, at its distance of 7500 light years, could kill every living thing on Earth. But since itís pointed away from us, all weíll get is a spectacular light show. If youíre keeping score at home, gamma-ray burst aimed at you = bad, pretty supernova with no accompanying high energy radiation = good.
    I just wrote a lot about Eta for my upcoming book, so if you like this kind of stuff youíll love that chapter. It gave me the creeps, so Iím glad Iím done with it. Now Iím off to write about black holes devouring the EarthÖ
    The most offensive thing you can do to a feminist is treat her with FULL equality.
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  2. #2
    chevalier's Avatar
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    Re: Eta Car: tick tock, tick tock

    That was a very interesting post. I love stuff like this I'm trying to find a book on String Theory that I might be able to understand. I also enjoy watching shows on black holes ,quantum mechanics,astro physics and futurama bender and zoidberg kill me. Are you writing a book Marx? Or is this an article that you placed here?
    Chevalier.
    "no greater love hath a man than to lay down his life for his brother."

  3. #3
    Marx's Avatar
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    Re: Eta Car: tick tock, tick tock

    The most offensive thing you can do to a feminist is treat her with FULL equality.
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  4. #4
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    Fruit_Cake is offline Banned
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    Re: Eta Car: tick tock, tick tock

    my dad taught me the names of most of the stars when i was little, cant remember them now though. beteljuice alpha centaurai

  5. #5
    Marx's Avatar
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    Re: Eta Car: tick tock, tick tock

    I rather enjoy the night sky... Patrick Moore is a cool dude, even if he is old.
    The most offensive thing you can do to a feminist is treat her with FULL equality.
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  6. #6
    Marx's Avatar
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    Re: Eta Car: tick tock, tick tock

    Quote Quote from Drex View Post
    (The answer is very little, because the stars are so vastly spaced apart that the likelyhood of collision is neglegible!)
    As it happens, I was reading up on this only days ago...
    Andromeda also collided - in a hit & run style - with another galaxy a few billion years ago, leaving it severely depleted of its resources, and somewhat of a dent in it's formation. Similar is predicted for our Milky Way. Especially as our Galaxy is considerably smaller than Andromeda Galaxy. Another potential scenario that has been put foward is that some of the energies from the 'weaker' galaxy (read: ours) may be shot off, like a sling-shot.
    Yeah, it could get ugly. Luckily, this won't be for a few bits of an gazzillion years or so.
    The most offensive thing you can do to a feminist is treat her with FULL equality.
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