At http://phys.org/print255061090.html … NASA is preparing a new mission, the Magnetospheric Multiscale mission – planned to launc in 2014. The 'Fast Plasma Instrument' is 100 times faster than anything that has gone before and the idea is to find out what is going on with so called 'magnetic reconnection'. Scientists are puzzled by magnetic lines that appear to cross and create burst of energy.
Meanwhile, NASA reports that a 'Black Hole Caught Red-handed in a Stellar Homicide' event – see www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-122&cid=release_2012-122, a story that is on a lot of blogs today, 3rd of May. The NASA Galaxy Evolution Explorer, a space based observatory, and the Pan-STARRSI telescope on a mountain in Hawaii, has identifed the remains, it is claimed in a paper just published, of the homicide in question. Super black holes, we are confidently informed, lurk in the centre of galaxies and lay quiet until an unsuspecting victim, such as a star, wanders too close and is ripped apart like some nightmare predator pouncing on its prey. What the authors read or watch in their leasure can only be guessed at but what is different in this to other earlier claims of greedy feeding frenzies by black holes is that the star in question, now eaten it is presumed, was a recognised and known object in the sky. Naturally, the paper is published in Nature (May 2nd) rather than in an astronomical journal. The star, we are told, was near the end of its life, after consuming most of its hydrogen fuel – and from this you can visualise the paper is a mishmash of theory and conjecture and the actual observed event is less awe inspiring. What was actually seen was a bright flare in ultraviolet light – and once picked up astronomers monitored the flare for almost a year. It reached maximum brightness after six weeks and took months to gradually fade away. The brightening was simililar to what is seen in supernovae events – but they happen much quicker. As the process took some 12 months for the flaring to cease it is assumed a black hole was responsible – devouring the star until it disappeared. What really happened – will we ever know?