JWST is better than anyone expected — here’s why
Starts With A Bang!
by Ethan Siegel
6h ago
This image features data from 10 different JWST filters: 6 from the near-infrared and 4 from the mid-infrared. As a result, features that include stars, gas, dust, and various molecular signatures can all be revealed at once, showcasing where star formation is occurring and will occur in the future, among many other features. (Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team)JWST is better than anyone expected — here’s why Humanity’s newest, most powerful space telescope is performing even better than predicted. The reason why is unprecedented. On Christmas Day, 2021, astronomy for ..read more
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Science won’t ever make philosophy or religion obsolete
Starts With A Bang!
by Ethan Siegel
4d ago
The farther away we look, the closer in time we’re seeing towards the Big Bang. The latest record-holder for quasars comes from a time when the Universe was just 690 million years old. These ultra-distant cosmological probes also show us a Universe that contains dark matter and dark energy, but many questions remain unanswered at the scientific frontiers. (Credit: Robin Dienel/Carnegie Institution for Science)The information we have in the Universe is finite and limited, but our curiosity and wonder is forever insatiable. And always will be. For hundreds of thousands of years — nearl ..read more
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Quantum entanglement just got a whole lot weirder
Starts With A Bang!
by Ethan Siegel
5d ago
This illustration shows the connectedness of two entangled particles. In early 2023, the first demonstration of entanglement between non-identical particles, a positive and negative pion, not only exists, but can be measured, leveraged and utilized to probe the internal structure of atomic nuclei. (Credit: Augusto / Adobe Stock)It isn’t just identical particles that can be entangled, but even those with fundamentally different properties interfere with each other. In the quantum Universe, things behave very differently than our common experience would suggest. In the macroscopic worl ..read more
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The Milky Way’s next supernova could reveal dark matter
Starts With A Bang!
by Ethan Siegel
6d ago
This image of the Cassiopeia A supernova remnant shows the aftermath of a type II, core-collapse supernova that occurred more than 350 years ago. The supernova remnant glows in a variety of electromagnetic wavelengths, but if we had been operating neutrino detectors back in ~1667 when the light (and neutrinos) first arrived, we could have determined whether there was a neutrino deficit, and a hint of dark matter in the process. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)The last naked-eye Milky Way supernova happened way back in 1604. The next one could be the key to solving the dark matter mystery. In al ..read more
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Sparkle-filled JWST galaxy solves a longstanding cosmic mystery
Starts With A Bang!
by Ethan Siegel
1w ago
This sparkle-rich lensed galaxy located behind galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, known as the Sparkler, just happens to be catching this galaxy in the act of forming a second population of stars within some of its massive globular clusters. This could provide the solution to a longstanding mystery: how a second population of stars can come to exist within these objects. (Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI; Annotation: E. Siegel)Most globular clusters appear to form their stars all at once, but there are exceptions. JWST just observed how “second formations” happen. Over half a year since its first sc ..read more
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Starts With A Bang podcast #89 — The active threat of the Sun
Starts With A Bang!
by Ethan Siegel
1w ago
This illustration shows a massive space weather event, larger than a typical solar flare, known as a surface mass ejection. Although SMEs have the capacity to entirely destroy a planet, they’re thankfully limited to occurring on red supergiants, a class of star that will never include our Sun or anything it will evolve into. (Credit: NASA, ESA, Elizabeth Wheatley (STScI))Starts With A Bang podcast #89 — The active threat of the Sun Here on Earth, the Sun is our primary source of light, heat, and energy. But it also poses a grave threat to human civilization. For life on Earth, there ..read more
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Ask Ethan: How can we comprehend the size of the Universe?
Starts With A Bang!
by Ethan Siegel
1w ago
This simulation shows the cosmic web of dark matter and the large-scale structure it forms. Normal matter is present, but is only 1/6th of the total matter. Meanwhile, matter itself only composes about 2/3rds of the entire Universe, with dark energy making up the rest. The unobservable Universe must extend for at least ~400 times the extent of the visible Universe we can see, meaning that our 92 billion light-year diameter Universe is less than one-64-millionth of the minimum volume of what’s out there. (Credit: The Millennium Simulation, V. Springel et al.)Human beings are tiny creatures ..read more
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No atmosphere found on JWST’s first Earth-sized exoplanet
Starts With A Bang!
by Ethan Siegel
1w ago
This illustration shows the first Earth-sized planet discovered by JWST: LHS 475 b. Although it’s 99% the size of Earth, transit spectroscopy failed to reveal any hint of an atmosphere, making many worry that the Earth-sized planets JWST is sensitive to have no atmospheres at all. (Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, Leah Hustak (STScI))JWST just found its first transiting exoplanet, and it’s 99% the size of Earth. But with no atmosphere seen, perhaps air is truly rare. For many of us, when we turn our eyes skyward, we imagine much, much more than the stars, galaxies, and the expanse of empty sp ..read more
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Meet TOI-700’s exoplanets: our best bet for alien life
Starts With A Bang!
by Ethan Siegel
1w ago
The exoplanetary system TOI-700 now has four known planets orbiting it, with the third planet located in the “optimistic” habitable zone and the fourth firmly located in the habitable zone. Despite being a red dwarf star, TOI-700 could quite possibly be home to inhabited planets. (Credit: ESA)Red dwarf stars were supposed to be inhospitable. But TOI-700, now with at least two potentially habitable worlds, is quite the exception. Somewhere out there, likely right within the Milky Way lies the very first inhabited planet that humanity will discover. Although we don’t know which world it is ..read more
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JWST’s “most distant galaxies” might be fooling us all
Starts With A Bang!
by Ethan Siegel
1w ago
This enhanced view of JWST’s first deep-field image of the cosmos overexposes the brightest galaxies and the cluster’s center in order to better bring out the details present in the fainter, redder, more distant galaxies. This first deep-field view took only half-a-day to acquire with JWST, and contains nearly 100 candidates for ultra-distant galaxies. With 20+ years of data to come, we can only imagine what will ultimately be revealed. (Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI; Processing by E. Siegel)JWST has seen more distant galaxies than any other observatory, ever. But many candidates for ..read more
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