Wow! What is the difference between a 6.5 meter telescope and a 2.4 meter telescope. The beauty and exquisite details we can see with the James Webb Space Telescope compared to the Hubble Infrared Space Telescope is amazing. Intellectually, we knew, of course, what the difference would be, but the first images and data released Monday and Tuesday made it clear at the level of the heart or gut.
Captured objects: a very distant cluster of galaxies, a planetary nebula ejected from a dying star, the spectra of the atmosphere of an exoplanet, a group of interacting galaxies, and the protostars and dust pillars of a nebula of beauty star formation.
Webb’s capabilities stand out and both represent the most scientifically interesting type of object and the four main areas of Webb’s science of focus: first light in the universe, set of galaxies in the early universe, birth of stars and protoplanetary systems and planets (including origins). of life).
Hunting dark matter
The previous week, LZ’s dark matter team released a report on its efforts to detect dark matter particles. Finding out what dark matter is has been one of the biggest puzzles in physics and developing the experiment that would definitely tell us what a Nobel Prize (or two) would be worth.
Dark matter is a type of matter that has mass, that responds to gravity, but does not interact with electromagnetic radiation — the different forms of light (for example, visible light, X-rays, infrared, radio, etc.). , so it does. not blocking or scattering light as ordinary matter does.
Because dark matter does not interact with electromagnetic radiation, it can pass through ordinary matter. On an astronomical scale, we know that it is there because of its gravitational effect: to make the objects we can see (stars, galaxies, gas clouds, etc.) move much faster than we would expect from the gravity of these objects.
The gravity of dark matter bends or deforms the space-time around it as described by Einstein’s general theory of relativity, so that although dark matter does not interact with light, it bends the path of light bending the space-time that light travels through. Through. We used light bending to trace the location and amount of dark matter in galaxy clusters.
The detection of dark matter will improve our understanding of the quantum realm, as well as the formation of large-scale structures of galaxies, galaxy clusters, and superclusters. Although the techniques and technology developed to detect dark matter will have effects of more practical or commercial use, it is natural human curiosity and the desire to better understand physical reality that drives research.
Dark matter detectors are built far below the surface to protect them from the cosmic rays of space just like the detectors we use for the other phantom particles in the atomic realm, neutrinos. Neutrinos have a small mass, but dark matter particles are expected to be many tens of thousands of times more massive. Both neutrino and dark matter detectors look for light flashes and bouncing nuclei that have been hit by phantom particles. These events are extremely rare. We have been measuring neutrinos since the 1970s, but we still have to definitively detect dark matter particles.
The largest dark matter detector built to date is the “LUX-ZEPLIN” (or “LZ”), located 4,850 feet underground at the Sanford underground research facility in Lead, SD. The capitalization of the name means it is an acronym for obscure. physics terms joined by a group of physicists who are also fans of rock music. LZ uses 7 metric tons of liquid xenon in a large tank as a means of detection.
Two other dark matter detectors in China and Italy have a slightly smaller but similar design: the PandaX-4T in China uses 3.7 tons of xenon and the XENONnT in Italy uses 5.9 tons of xenon.
The LZ team released a status report after 65 days of data collection from a three- to five-year experiment that showed the detector was working properly, but no dark matter has yet been detected.
In our night sky, it will be much easier for us to see the meteors of the Delta Aquariid in the meteor shower that extends between mid-July and mid-August with a peak on the night of July 29-30. Delta Aquariids can produce up to 35 meteors per hour for the southern tropics.
For Kern County in a dark sky, we are more likely to see between 12 and 15 meteors per hour. This year, the moon will pass only one day of the new phase, so there will be no moon to wash away the faintest meteors as they traverse the sky at 25 miles per second.
On Monday night, the moon will pass through Jupiter. The moon will be in the last quarter on the night of July 19-20 and the morning of July 21 will be right next to Mars, less than 3 degrees apart. In the early hours of the morning of July 26, a thin waning crescent moon will be next to the bright Venus.
Columnist Nick Strobel is director of the William M. Thomas Planetarium at Bakersfield College and author of the award-winning AstronomyNotes.com website.