#AstroMiniBR: a new planet in Proxima Centauri!

Every Saturday, TecMundo and #AstroMiniBR bring together five relevant and fun astronomical curiosities produced by the collaborators of the non-Twitter profile to spread the knowledge of this science that is the oldest of all!

#1: A planetary neighbor outside the Solar System

A new planet has been discovered in Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Solar System, just 4.2 light-years away from us! The discovery was made by a group of astronomers through observations of the Very Large Telescope, located in Chile. Data analysis showed evidence of the presence of one more planet around Proxima Centauri, the third detected in this planetary system. The new planet, named Proxima d, is less massive than the others, has about 25% of the mass of Earth and orbits its host star at a distance of approximately 4 million kilometers. Interestingly, its orbital period is equivalent to just 5 Earth days. This discovery is important for planetary science studies because it allows a detailed study of our closest neighbor star and its set of planets with diverse characteristics, capable of helping our understanding of how planets form and evolve over millions of years. years and, eventually, improve future studies and investigations.

#2: A cosmic dance between different stars

The image above shows the impressive effects of the interaction between two stars, the first of them, a white dwarf star, which burns the remainder of its fuel continuously and at a relatively cold temperature; and a second, a red giant star, close to the final stages of its life and highly unstable. While the difference in dimensions between them is impressive, this is a good example that size doesn’t say much: as these stars orbit each other, the white dwarf pulls material from the red giant to its surface. Given enough time, the pulled material builds up and adds to the white dwarf’s mass until an explosion occurs! In the image, it is possible to see the structures formed by this violent interaction, in red and yellow tones. The purple region shows the effects of an extremely energetic jet from the white dwarf hitting material around the stars, causing shock waves, similar to vapor cones generated by supersonic planes.

#3: The far side of the moon that isn’t dark

Contrary to what many people think and what was sung by the famous British rock band Pink Floyd, the dark side of the Moon is not. The image above certainly doesn’t look familiar, but it is our good old familiar Moon. This part of its surface, however, cannot be seen by our eyes here on Earth. That’s because, locked in synchronous rotation, the Moon always presents the same face to the Earth’s surface. But for the probes (and also the astronauts) that were in lunar orbit, the far side of the Moon became known. The sharp image above shows the surface of this other side, showing its characteristic impact craters and the rough, weathered spots that, while bearing similarities, are lighter and less marked than the visible side, which is covered by dark spots. The likely explanation for this is that the crust on the far side is thicker, making it harder for molten material from the lunar interior to flow to the surface.

#4: Is that a nebula or a galaxy over there?

Just 100 years ago, astronomers still didn’t know for sure whether those large, diffuse objects they observed in the sky were local, neighboring nebulae or whether they were galaxies, distinct and distant from the Milky Way. One of the most famous episodes in the history of science, known as the Great Debate, or the Shapley-Curtis debate, tried to solve this problem. Held in 1920 at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, it brought together astronomers Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, each defending one of the hypotheses about the nature of these celestial objects. Shapley believed that the distant nebulae were relatively small and situated on the outskirts of the Milky Way, while Curtis maintained that they were in fact independent galaxies, implying that they were extremely large and distant. Times after this public debate, scientists were able to verify individual evidence from both astronomers, but on the main topic of the existence of other galaxies, Curtis proved to be correct.

#5: The Weathervane Galaxy

Big, beautiful and shiny! So is the spiral galaxy M83, “a mere” 12 million light-years away from us. Its prominent spiral arms are marked by streaks of dark dust and punctuated by clusters of bright blue stars! About 40,000 light-years across, M83 has a highly energetic and powerful core in the X-ray spectrum, a region where a high concentration of neutron stars and black holes are located!

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