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  Magnetar supernova, hi-res Pluto hazesJan 16, 2016 3:33 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:So it would seem I have a thing for guys in fancy dress doing upbeat, handwaving mission briefings. Let's do it every time, it'll be fun!
 
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After yesterday's onslaught of recent space news from this new year, already two more items of interest!
 
Colossal star explosion detected (BBC) - What may be "the most powerful supernova ever detected" looks to be the cataclysmic death of a huge star, 50-100 times the mass of our own Sun, whose explosion is subsequently being "supercharged" by magnetic energy from the rapidly spinning magnetar created as the central remnant of the supernova explosion; the magnetar would have formed from the part of the huge star that got crushed under almost unimaginable forces as the star collapsed, yet did not rebound explosively outward like most of the rest of the star's mass; instead, the huge forces involved spun the super-dense ball, a mass probably heavier than the Sun but compressed into a diameter of only about 10 miles across—"the density of the interior of a magnetar is such that a thimble full of its substance would have a mass of over 100 million tons"—at something like 1,000 times a second, generating a vast magnetic field in the process. This spin slows as the magnetar's magnetic field interacts with the surrounding material, transferring its energy to that material that is already expanding outward very rapidly from the supernova explosion. The net result, which was first seen in June but is still very energetic, was, at its peak, "200 times more powerful than a typical supernova, making it shine with 570 billion times the brightness of our Sun."
 
Pluto’s Haze in Bands of Blue (NASA) - They've shown us this in earlier, lower resolution photos from the New Horizons probe, but NASA has just released a highly detailed view of the beautiful blue bands of faint atmosphere visible around Pluto when seen with the Sun behind it, after New Horizons had zipped past the dwarf planet:

Scientists believe the haze is a photochemical smog resulting from the action of sunlight on methane and other molecules in Pluto’s atmosphere, producing a complex mixture of hydrocarbons such as acetylene and ethylene. These hydrocarbons accumulate into small particles, a fraction of a micrometer in size, and scatter sunlight to make the bright blue haze seen in this image.
 
As they settle down through the atmosphere, the haze particles form numerous intricate, horizontal layers, some extending for hundreds of miles around Pluto. The haze layers extend to altitudes of over 120 miles (200 kilometers).
 
 
 
 
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