Feb 10, 2009

Cosmic Jets Rock -FUPPETS-

What appears to be a massive tornado in space is actually one end of a pair of Cosmic Jets, streaming from a rapidly rotating white dwarf star. These Cosmic Jets are propelled by the ridiculously powerful magnetic fields created when the mass in these stars spins around, sometimes at rates of hundreds of times a minute. Some of them have been seen ejecting matter from quasars, hugely powerful and luminescent objects in deep space. Others have been found which appear to be ejected from supermassive black holes at the center of distant, ancient galaxies. The graphic below shows some of these, as seen through the VLA, or Very Large Array, a radio telescope composed of

27 antennas arranged in a ``Y'' shape on the Plains of San Agustin 50 miles west of Socorro, NM. All 27 antennas usually work together as a single instrument. Each antenna uses a parabolic dish 25 meters (82 feet) in diameter, and weighs 230 tons. The antennas are placed in four standard configurations, with the maximum separation ranging from 1 km to 36 km. The configuration is changed approximately once every four months by using special transporter vehicles to move the antennas along dual sets of of railroad tracks and place them on concrete pads distributed along the arms of the ``Y''. The VLA is used to produce images of the sky as seen at radio wavelengths.
Here is an image of the Very Large Array.

These Cosmic Jets are immense, spanning hundreds of thousands of light years across. They sweep whatever is in their path with some of the most highly charged particles found in the Universe. If a star in our Milky Way galaxy were to go supernova and become a rapidly spinning white dwarf, and if the poles of that star happened to sweep in Earth's direction, the energy within would completely eradicate any and all organic life on our planet, and maybe strip away our atmosphere and oceans. Amazing stuff.

Here are a few more beautiful images of these Cosmic Jets.

This one is viewed through an X-Ray telescope.

These are relatively recent discoveries and the whole mechanism for their creation is not fully understood. It goes to show, the more we look at the Universe, the more there is for us to discover. Each new tool brings new discoveries, and each new discovery brings new questions. The human race will never run out of possibilities, and it is stupid and ignorant to think that we will someday know everything there is to know.

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