BREAKING NEWS: Examination of Ancient Text Reveals Details of Supernova

German researches have uncovered evidence of the Arabic scholar Ibn Sina’s sighting of supernova 1006 (SN 1006). The new evidence will sit alongside that of others around that globe that reported details of what has been described as the brightest stellar event ever recorded by human beings.

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Ibn Sina was a Persian scientist and philosopher, who as part of his observations, traveled a lot and wrote about what he saw, along with his interpretations of subjects ranging from medicine to astronomy. One of the texts named Kitab al-Shifa, related to physics, meteorology, and especially astronomy that caught the attention of the researchers. A section of particular note described a bright object appearing in the sky in the year 1006. The section had been studied before, but the account had been attributed to a discussion of a comet.

ibn-Sina in al-Shifa

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In their recorded paper, German researchers Ralph Neuhaeuser, Carl Ehrig-Eggert and Paul Kunitzsch present the translation of ancient skygazer Ibn Sina’s text, describe an object that was very bright and that changed color over time before fading away – even noting at one point the object threw out sparks. The researchers suggest the description was actually that of SN 1006.

type-la-supernova

SN 1006 was noted and described by others around the world, from places such as Morocco, Japan, Yemen and China, but none of those descriptions included information about the object changing colors. Sina wrote the object started out as faint greenish-yellow, that it twinkled especially at its brightest, and then became whitish before it disappeared altogether.

2 white dwarfs colliding

Most modern astronomers believe that SN 1006 was not just a Ia supernova (which occur when a white dwarf is pulled into another star causing it to blow up due to the overabundance of matter), but that it was the result of two white dwarfs colliding. This new information from an ancient part-time astronomer, the researchers suggest, may help to better understand an event that occurred over a thousand years ago.

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Rare Transit of Mercury to Take Place on May 9TH

On 9 May there will be a rare transit of Mercury, when the smallest planet in our Solar System will pass directly between the Earth and the Sun. The last time this happened was in 2006, and the next two occasions will be in 2019 and 2032. During the transit, which takes place in the afternoon and early evening in the UK, Mercury will appear as a dark silhouetted disk against the bright surface of the Sun.

mercury_transit-2016

From the UK the transit begins at 1112 GMT (1212 BST), when the limb of Mercury appears to touch the limb of the Sun, and ends at 1842 GMT (1942 BST) when the limb of the silhouetted planet appears to leave the Sun. Observers in different locations will see the transit taking place at a slightly different time, as the planet will appear to take a slightly different path across the Sun.

The entire event is visible from most of Western Europe, the western part of North and West Africa, the eastern part of North America and most of South America. Most of the transit (either ending with sunset or starting at sunrise) will be visible from the rest of North and South America, the eastern half of the Pacific, the rest of Africa and most of Asia. Observers in eastern Asia, south-eastern Asia and Australasia will not be able to see the transit.

Mercury completes each orbit around the Sun every 88 days, and passes between the Earth and Sun every 116 days. As the orbit of Mercury around the Sun is tilted compared with the orbit of the Earth around the Sun, the planet normally appears to pass above or below our nearest star. A transit can only take place when the Earth, Mercury and the Sun are exactly in line in three dimensions.

There are 13 or 14 transits of Mercury each century, so they are comparatively rare events, though each one can typically be seen over a large area of the Earth’s surface. A transit was first seen in 1631, two decades after the invention of the telescope, by French astronomer Pierre Gassendi. The most recent transit of Mercury visible in the UK was in 2003 (the 2006 event was visible in the western hemisphere), which was followed by even rarer transits of Venus in 2004 and 2012.

At any time, Mercury blocks out no more than a tiny part of the light from the Sun. This means that the event should NOT be viewed with the unaided eye. Looking at the Sun without appropriate protection, either during the transit, or at any other time, can cause serious and permanent damage to the eyes.

Astronomical societies have produced online guides on how to safely view the transit, for example by projecting the solar image with binoculars or a telescope. Mercury is too small to be visible using the pinhole projectors that worked successfully in the solar eclipse in March last year.

On the morning of 9 May, UK amateur astronomical societies and public observatories will be running events where members of the public can safely enjoy the transit. The Royal Astronomical Society will be running a (free) event outside our headquarters in the courtyard of Burlington House, central London, where members of the public can come and view the transit using appropriate equipment at no cost.

Observers with access to a moderate-sized telescope with an appropriate safe filter should be able to see Mercury as a dark disk, comparable in apparent size to a sunspot, but somewhat darker. At the beginning and end of the transit, when Mercury’s limb is close to the edge of the Sun, it may also be possible to see the ‘black drop’ effect, where a broad line appears to connect the planet to the solar limb. This is thought to result from the quality of the telescope in use, and turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere (so-called ‘seeing’), and has in the past compromised efforts to record transit times.

Professor Martin Barstow, President of the Royal Astronomical Society, is keen for people to experience the transit for themselves: “It is always exciting to see rare astronomical phenomena, such as this transit of Mercury. They show that astronomy is a science that is accessible to everyone, and I would encourage you to take a look if the weather is clear… but do follow the safety advice!”

As it is so close to the Sun, Mercury is difficult to study in detail using telescopes on Earth. Two NASA space probes have visited Mercury, Mariner 10 in 1974 and 1975, and MESSENGER, which orbited the planet from 2011 until a deliberate crash landing in 2015. The European Space Agency mission BepiColombo will launch next year, and is expected to study the planet from 2024 onwards. (UK scientists are making a significant contribution to this project.)

Transit techniques are also deployed outside our Solar system, and missions like Kepler have used it to confirm the presence of more than 1,000 planets in orbit around other stars. The same technique will be used by the European Space Agency’s PLATO mission, expected to launch in 2024.

JUST IN: Examination of Ancient Text Reveals Details of Supernova

A trio of German researches has uncovered evidence of the Arabic scholar Ibn Sina’s sighting of supernova 1006 (SN 1006). The new evidence will sit alongside that of others around that globe that reported details of what has been described as the brightest stellar event ever recorded by human beings. In their paper uploaded to the preprint server arXiv, Ralph Neuhaeuser, Carl Ehrig-Eggert and Paul Kunitzsch describe the text under study, their translation of it and the relevance of the information recorded by the ancient skygazer.

supernova 1006

Ibn Sina was a Persian scientist and philosopher, who as part of his observations, traveled a lot and wrote about what he saw, along with his interpretations of subjects ranging from medicine to astronomy. It was one of those texts, called Kitab al-Shifa, about physics, meteorology, and especially astronomy that caught the attention of the researchers – most particularly a section that described a bright object appearing in the sky in the year 1006. The section had been studied before, but the account had been attributed to a discussion of a comet.

In this latest look, the researchers suggest that the description was actually that of SN 1006. In addition to the timing, the detailed description, they note, sounds more like the sudden appearance of an exploding star. In their translation, Sina describes an object that was very bright and that changed color over time before fading away – even noting at one point that the object threw out sparks.

Ibn Sina Kitab al-Shifa

SN 1006 was noted and described by others around the world, from places as far-flung as Morocco, Japan, Yemen and China, but none of those descriptions included information about the object changing colors. Sina wrote that the object started out as faint greenish-yellow, that it twinkled a lot, especially at its brightest, and that it became whitish before it disappeared altogether.

Most modern astronomers believe that SN 1006 was not just a Ia supernova (which occur when a white dwarf is pulled into another star causing it to blow up due to the overabundance of matter), but that it was the result of two white dwarfs colliding. This new information from an ancient part-time astronomer, the researchers suggest, may help to better understand an event that occurred over a thousand years ago.

 

Unique Fragment From Earth’s Formation Returns After Billions Of Years In Cold Storage

In a paper to be published today in the journal Science Advances, lead author Karen Meech of the University of Hawai`i’s Institute for Astronomy and her colleagues conclude that C/2014 S3 (PANSTARRS) formed in the inner Solar System at the same time as the Earth itself, but was ejected at a very early stage.

object

Their observations indicate that it is an ancient rocky body, rather than a contemporary asteroid that strayed out. As such, it is one of the potential building blocks of the rocky planets, such as the Earth, that was expelled from the inner Solar System and preserved in the deep freeze of the Oort Cloud for billions of years.

Karen Meech explains the unexpected observation: “We already knew of many asteroids, but they have all been baked by billions of years near the Sun. This one is the first uncooked asteroid we could observe: it has been preserved in the best freezer there is.”

C/2014 S3 (PANSTARRS) was originally identified by the Pan-STARRS1 telescope as a weakly active comet a little over twice as far from the Sun as the Earth. Its current long orbital period (around 860 years) suggests that its source is in the Oort Cloud, and it was nudged comparatively recently into an orbit that brings it closer to the Sun.

The team immediately noticed that C/2014 S3 (PANSTARRS) was unusual, as it does not have the characteristic tail that most long-period comets have when they approach so close to the Sun. As a result, it has been dubbed a Manx comet, after the [tailless cat]. Within weeks of its discovery, the team obtained spectra of the very faint object with ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile.

Careful study of the light reflected by C/2014 S3 (PANSTARRS) indicates that it is typical of asteroids known as S-type, which are usually found in the inner asteroid main belt. It does not look like a typical comet, which are believed to form in the outer Solar System and are icy, rather than rocky. It appears that the material has undergone very little processing, indicating that it has been deep frozen for a very long time. The very weak comet-like activity associated with C/2014 S3 (PANSTARRS), which is consistent with the sublimation of water ice, is about a million times lower than active long-period comets at a similar distance from the Sun.

The authors conclude that this object is probably made of fresh inner Solar System material that has been stored in the Oort Cloud and is now making its way back into the inner Solar System.

A number of theoretical models are able to reproduce much of the structure we see in the Solar System. An important difference between these models is what they predict about the objects that make up the Oort Cloud. Different models predict significantly different ratios of icy to rocky objects. This first discovery of a rocky object from the Oort Cloud is therefore an important test of the different predictions of the models. The authors estimate that observations of 50-100 of these Manx comets are needed to distinguish between the current models, opening up another rich vein in the study of the origins of the Solar System.

Co-author Olivier Hainaut (ESO, Garching, Germany), concludes: “We’ve found the first rocky comet, and we are looking for others. Depending how many we find, we will know whether the giant planets danced across the Solar System when they were young, or if they grew up quietly without moving much.”

* The Oort cloud is a huge region surrounding the Sun like a giant, thick soap bubble. It is estimated that it contains trillions of tiny icy bodies. Occasionally, one of these bodies gets nudged and falls into the inner Solar System, where the heat of the sun turns it into a comet. These icy bodies are thought to have been ejected from the region of the giant planets as these were forming, in the early days of the Solar System.

This research was presented in a paper entitled “Inner Solar System Material Discovered in the Oort Cloud,” by Karen Meech et al., in the journal Science Advances.

The team is composed of Karen J. Meech (Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawai`i, USA), Bin Yang (ESO, Santiago, Chile), Jan Kleyna (Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawai`i, USA), Olivier R. Hainaut (ESO, Garching, Germany), Svetlana Berdyugina (Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawai’i, USA; Kiepenheuer Institut für Sonnenphysik, Freiburg, Germany), Jacqueline V. Keane (Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawai`i, USA), Marco Micheli (ESA, Frascati, Italy), Alessandro Morbidelli (Laboratoire Lagrange/Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur/CNRS/Université Nice Sophia Antipolis, France) and Richard J. Wainscoat (Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawai`i, USA).

ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Bra