Astronomy

Why Can't we make a star

Why Can't we make a star


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If we know that the reason a star burns without oxygen and fuel is that it converts hydrogen into helium and we have these two elements on earth then why can't we make a star on our planet


The process by which stars convert hydrogen to helium isn't burning; it is the fusion of the nuclei of atoms. To get nuclei to fuse you need to confine them in a very small space and get them very hot. On Earth we can make things very hot, and we can put things under lots of pressure. The trouble is that we can't do both at the same time.

The usual way we put things under pressure is squeezing them in some sort of vice. But if the thing we are squeezing is many millions of degrees, it will just vapourize our equipment. If we heat up some hydrogen, it expands and we don't get the confinement required for sustained fusion. (But this is how a thermonuclear bomb works)

Now a star is a huge ball of gas. The weight of the gas compresses the inner core of the star to an enormous pressure and traps the heat. A litre of the sun's core would weigh about 150kg at a pressure of about 250 billion atmospheres, and have a temperature of 15million degrees. This combination of temperature and pressure cannot be achieved on Earth. The hydrogen in the sun's core is confined by its own gravity.

Back on Earth we are trying to confine hydrogen with magnetic fields. (See the ITER Tokamak) With this system we will be able to start fusion, but the amount of energy we get out is less than the energy we put in. However solving this problem is merely a technical challenge. If we can work out how to use magnetic fields to confine hydrogen at very high temperatures we will be able to generate power from fusion.


It's very easy to create a star: you just put an amount of hydrogen gas quite near to each other and gravity will do the rest.

The problem is that the amount of gas you need for that is so large that even replacing the whole earth with hydrogen atoms is far from enough: you need far more hydrogen atoms for that and as such you can't do something on the earth when you need more space than the whole content of the earth :-)


This Maldives Resort Sky Guru Proves Wishing Upon a Star Does Make a Dream Job Come True

Every month Skift will profile someone working in the quirkiest, most incredible and surprising jobs in global travel. Skift's relentless curiosity about our industries extends to every corner of the labor market. Who knew jobs like this even existed?

As a little boy growing up without electricity on a Maldivian island 25 minutes away by speedboat from the resort where he now works, Ali Shameem discovered the wonders of the sky that would change his life.

When he was 12 years old, the lack of city lights polluting the air and by using firewood with kerosene to walk around in Maalhos, his home island of 300 people, allowed him to see the night sky in all its magnificence, Shameem said.

It was a combination of those many stargazing nights and the inspiration of his fisherman dad urging Shameem to be one of the “lucky ones in the Maldives to find the North Star,” he said, that led him on his lifelong quest to find the directional star sitting five degrees above the horizon on his side of the world and study astronomy.

Using the knowledge, he’s gained over the years, Shameem has been able to turn what he called a hobby into a thriving career and is creating a legacy he once only dreamed of in his native Maldives at the luxury resort of Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villa. He is affectionately called the Sky Guru.

Ali Shameem, the Sky Guru at the Sky Observatory at Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villa. Photo courtesy of Anantara Kihavah.

After getting a diploma in astronomy in India, Shameem went on to study under the patronage of Indian astronomer Dr. Parag Mahajani. He’s continued learning under the tutelage of Italian astronomers Giovanni Benjamin and Massimo Tarenghi.

Tarenghi, whom Shameem fondly refers to as his godfather, is the creator of the “Very Large Telescope,” the most powerful optical telescope in the world and former head the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) observatory in Chile.

“I’ve worked with the greatest astronomers around the world that make me a better astronomer every day. I’ve also worked with (Apollo 11 astronaut) Buzz Aldrin,” said Shameem.

Shameem said he collaborated with Aldrin for four years, often inviting the former U.S. astronaut and one of the first two humans to set foot on the moon to talk with guests in the observatory about his moon landing at Shameem’s first resort.

Now 40, Shameem is a room division manager by day and the storytelling Sky Guru by night extolling the wonders of the universe to guests at the Maldivian luxury resort on a private island in Baa Atoll that offers villas with private butlers sitting over water and underwater restaurants.

The resort, which welcomes celebrities, athletes, musicians, Grammy award winners, and some of the world’s richest, recruited Shameem about five years ago to direct and oversee the installation of the Anantara Kihavah Observatory that Shameem designed himself.

Sky, housing the overwater observatory with a rooftop lounge, where guests can lay down for stargazing, a cocktail bar, and a powerful digitally controlled Meade 16-inch LX200 telescope with a giant tripod, has become the resort’s pièce de ré sis tance .

Aerial view of the Sky Observatory at Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villa. Photo courtesy of Anantara Kihavah.

The idea for the observatory came after realizing the astronomy program he helped create at his previous resort was missing something, a proper astronomy session, Shameem said. And over the years he saw increasing demand for stargazing.

“I felt that they needed somebody to explain to them in detail, but not with the formulas. But with more engaging language,” Shameem said. “And I could see from the look in travelers faces that they wanted more general information about the cosmos and how modern astronomers work.”

Shameem wanted to develop a concept where guests could spend time with the Sky Guru for at least an hour, while he explained the night sky and how the constellations work, he said.

Maldives, with its proximity to the equator and access to both the northern and southern hemispheres, offers stargazing opportunities rare in other parts of the world.

Through his observations over the years, Shameem has found that most guests have some interest in astronomy and 95 percent have never been to an observatory telescope, he said.

Today guests arriving for a stargazing tour, or what Shameem refers to as hospitality astronomy, are welcomed on the rooftop with champagne and canapes. Shameem familiarizes guests with the mysteries of the night sky utilizing his Sky Guru storytelling skills, visual presentations and lasers to point out constellations and planets for 45 minutes, before leading them up to the observatory for a closer view.

Sky bar in the Sky Observatory in Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villa. Photo courtesy of Anantara Kihavah.

“Shameem brings a unique passion for the galaxy and the mysteries of the cosmos to our guests both young and old, we are proud to have Shameem in our team as our Sky Guru and the education he provides is simply astounding,” said Ross Sanders, Anantara Kihavah’s general manager.

The hospitality industry is all about the experience and Shameem looks to provide an experience that is easy to understand for everyone and changes how people look at the night sky, he said.

Known fondly by his co-workers as “Tom Cruise” for his wicked smile, good looks and serious amount of laughter, Shameem lives 320 days at the resort and sometimes cooks on his terrace for his co-workers and other members of his stargazing team, said Paul Counihan, the resort’s director of sales and marketing.

And it’s that stargazing team, of three other Sky Gurus he’s trained over the years, that Shameem said is his greatest accomplishment, because his legacy will continue. His next dream is to recruit a female to become a Sky Guru. After spending 14 months at the resort due to the pandemic, the Sky Guru is enjoying some time off with his wife and children these days. But his gaze is never far off from that night sky.


7 Earth-sized worlds? What we really see

Artist’s concept of TRAPPIST-1 and its newly discovered system of 7 Earth-size planets. This image is evocative, but it’s not – even remotely – what we really see. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech.

When news of the TRAPPIST-1 system blazed across headlines, one of the common questions I got was what the planets really looked like. After all, if we can discover planets around other stars, we surely must be able to see them. But we can’t. In some ways can barely see the star. This demonstrates how what we actually observe (and how the data important to astronomers) is very different from the common perception of what astronomers observe.

Part of this misconception comes from the way we tell the story of astronomy. When articles came out talking about seven Earth-sized worlds, there were plenty of pictures of the planets as rich worlds with complex surface features. These artistic imaginings make for great images, but they are just imagined possibilities. We don’t know anything about the surface features of these planets, because we can’t even see the planets.

But we don’t have to observe planets directly to know that they are there.

The TRAPPIST planets, like most exoplanets, were discovered using a technique known as the transit method. Basically we measure the brightness of a star over time, and watch for little dips in brightness. You can see a graph of these measurements in the image below, which shows 500 hours of data gathered from the Spitzer space telescope.

View larger. | Here’s how we know planets orbit the star TRAPPIST-1, via changes in the brightness of the star’s light. Image via Brian Koberlein/ One Universe at a Time.

Every dot on the graph is a brightness measurement. You can see how most of the time it seems to fluctuate randomly along a common average, but every now and then it dips in brightness for a bit. That dip occurs when one of the planets passes in front of the star, blocking some of the light.

If you look on the vertical scale, you’ll notice that the variation in brightness is actually quite small. It only dips in brightness by about 1% when a planet passes by. This is actually pretty large for an exoplanet, and is due to the fact that TRAPPIST-1 is a small star, only about the size of Jupiter (though 80 times more massive), so the planets block about 1% of the light. This is why we need to make sensitive measurements of a star to detect exoplanets.

But even this graph is a bit misleading. We don’t just point a telescope at the star and measure “brightness.” What the telescope actually does is focus the image of a star on a digital camera detector known as a CCD. Each pixel of the detector measures the amount of light it gathers as a number, where a higher number means more light struck the pixel. TRAPPIST-1 is a small, faint, 18th-magnitude star, so even on a good telescope its light only strikes a few pixels at a time.

You can see an animation of its actual image below. If you want to know what the TRAPPIST-1 system looks like from Earth, that’s it.

Animation showing the actual brightness variation of the few pixels of light from TRAPPIST-1. Image via Brian Koberlein/ One Universe at a Time.

Technically we don’t even see that. Since the CCD pixels just produce a number, what we really have are an array of numbers for each observation we make. The pixel numbers for each observation are then combined to create an overall brightness measurement. From that we analyze the dips in brightness to calculate the orbits, sizes, and masses of the planets. It’s complex work, which is what makes exoplanet discoveries so amazing.

Now certain skeptics might argue that since we don’t have images of the planets, we don’t really know they exist. But that goes back to the misconception about astronomy. While there are lots of great astronomical images, astronomy is really about data. Even when we gather images, our focus is not about making them pretty, but about making them useful. That’s why, for example, most astronomical images are black and white rather than color, and why we observe things at a range of wavelengths to see different features.

So while astronomy can discover entire solar systems, and those distant worlds would undoubtedly be wondrous to behold, that’s not what we really see.

Artist’s illustration. The apparent sizes are accurate, but the surface features are pure fiction. Image via Brian Koberlein/ One Universe at a Time.

Bottom line: What we see – and how we know – the 7 recently discovered Earth-sized planets orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1.


For Teachers

When kids are asked for their favorite topics in science, astronomy (along with dinosaurs) is always high on the list. As a "gateway" to science education, astronomy is essential to the curriculum in many states and school districts. But even where astronomy is not required, it can often be a wonderful way to approach required science principles and ideas. Examples from astronomy can make vivid any general discussion of gravity and forces, of nuclear energy, of light and color, and of the nature of scientific hypotheses. (For a summary of astronomy in the K-8 science standards of the 50 states, see: http://aer.noao.edu/cgi-bin/article.pl?id=204)

As you explore the Seeing in the Dark website, be sure to take a look at the how-to videos for stargazing, print out a custom star chart of the night sky where you live, and read and watch special effects videos of fascinating astronomy topics.

An enormous amount of research has been done during the last few decades on how students learn most effectively, and the consensus is that doing activities and discovering ideas on your own is far better than passive listening. In this section you will find a selection of proven hands-on activities that teach basic astronomy to your students. In addition, we have links to activities around the web, organized by topic.

You can also find great astronomy related activities in the PBS Teachers website.


Buy a Star, But It's Not Yours

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Winona Ryder got one for Johnny Depp. Nicole Kidman got one and named it "Forever Tom." Princess Diana has two, purchased for her after her death. And at least one widow of a fireman lost in the World Trade Center attack wanted to buy one in memory of her late husband.

What these people have is a 12-by-16-inch certificate from the Illinois company International Star Registry (ISR), claiming that a star had been named for them or their loved one.

They have a booklet with charts of the constellations, along with a large detailed star chart with "their" star circled in red. They also have a gap in their bank account where $48 used to be. What they don't have is any confirmation their star's new name is recognized and will be used by anyone outside International Star Registry.

Founded in 1979, ISR has sold over 1 million of their full-color "Name A Star" parchment certificates. Figuring there are between 400 billion and 1 trillion stars in this galaxy alone, selling names for them at nearly $50 each sounds like a license to print money.

But International Star Registry certainly doesn't have a license to name stars. Robert Naeye, editor of Mercury Magazine, a publication of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, puts it in no uncertain terms: "The star names sold by the International Star Registry are not recognized by any professional astronomical organization."

The International Astronomical Union is the only scientific body authorized to name astronomical bodies.

In other words, typing "Forever Tom" into the Hipparcos star data catalog will get you nothing but a 404.

The International Star Registry is not in the business of officially assigning star names it is in the business of finding people willing to part with their money for a piece of paper that in a scientific sense means precisely nothing.

"We produce a good product, a fun product. We may have planted a seed with people, educated them even slightly about astronomy, about the stars," said Rocky Mosele, vice president of marketing and advertising for ISR. "For people to say, 'Well, it's not official' -- I think people are OK that it's not official. I'm sure of it. I know because customers call again and again and again."

Yet a significant number of people believe that the naming of a star is an official activity. Is ISR's star-naming business therefore a scam? No, not legally. The company promises to send you a piece of parchment, a booklet and a star map -- and it delivers. It also promises to copyright your star's new name and location in a book -- and it does.

Earlier ISR advertisements promised to store a star's name in a vault in Geneva, Switzerland, and there's no reason to believe this was not done. The company very carefully makes no claim that the star's new name will be recognized by professional astronomers.

"We've been given a clean bill of health by the attorney general of Illinois," Mosele said. "They find no problem with what we do we're not trying to mislead people."

ISR doesn't even use the word "official" anywhere on its main Web page.

Yet this tacit acknowledgement hasn't stopped ISR from throwing its weight around. In 2000, they threatened to sue Ohio Wesleyan University for hosting a student's Web page criticizing the company's star-naming practices. Rather than face a lawsuit, the university removed the website. At roughly the same time, ISR threatened suit against a Florida planetarium for remarks against ISR made by one of its employees.


In as simple a way as possible, how are we able to tell the elementary make up of a planet using only a telescope?

Just reading a story about how scientists used the Hubble telescope to view HAT-P-26b, s planet 440 light years away. They saw "distinct signatures of water in its atmosphere" and "found fewer heavy elements than they had expected". How can you do this using only a telescope?

How does red dye work? It absorbs all colors but red which we see.

Well it turns out all molecules absorb at some wavelengths or another of light. They just aren't all visible. The wavelengths that molecules absorb at are specific to the individual bonds inside them. Similarly the wavelengths molecules emit when excited are specific to the bonds.

By measuring the wavelengths of light from distant planets we can get a feel for what molecules are in the atmosphere.


Why Can’t We Find Planet Nine?

From its location and size to its very existence, every aspect of Planet Nine remains shrouded in mystery.

Charlie Wood

Many astronomers remain convinced that a once-in-a-generation discovery is in the offing — one that would rewrite textbooks down to the elementary school level. “Every time we take a picture,” said Surhud More, an astronomer at the University of Tokyo, “there is this possibility that Planet Nine exists in the shot.”

Planet Nine, the hypothetical body thought to be lurking far beyond Neptune, continues to accumulate circumstantial evidence for its existence. But no telescope has yet been able to spot it. Michael Brown, a champion of the Planet Nine hypothesis and an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology, feels “eternally optimistic” that someone will soon find it, but there’s reason to believe that Planet Nine, if it exists, might be essentially invisible to existing observatories. At a recent Caltech workshop, two dozen physicists gathered to share the latest news and to discuss more creative ways to hunt.

The first evidence for Planet Nine surfaced in 2014, when the discovery of a planetoid revealed that a handful of mini ice-worlds beyond the Kuiper belt followed suspiciously similar paths around the sun. “If things are in the same orbit, then something’s pushing them,” said Scott Sheppard, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science and the co-discoverer of the 2014 planetoid. Brown and his colleague Konstantin Batygin made a specific prediction two years later: The “perturber,” as they call it, should weigh between 5 and 20 Earth masses and follow an elliptical orbit hundreds or even 1,000 times more distant from the sun than Earth.

Out there, space gets dark alarmingly fast. Planets twice as far away look 16 times dimmer — the intensity of the sunlight weakens by a factor of four going out, and then four times again coming back. At an orbital distance of 600 astronomical units (1 AU is the distance between Earth and the sun), Planet Nine would be 160,000 times dimmer than Neptune is at 30 AU. At 1,000 AU, it would appear more than 1 million times weaker. “There’s really a brick wall, basically, at 1,000 AU,” said Kevin Luhman, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University.

That’s partly why laying eyes on the planet has proven so tough. Both Brown and Sheppard are leading teams that are searching for the planet with the Subaru telescope in Hawaii. Subaru has a wide field of view, which helps the teams scour a potential search area that’s the size of 4,000 full moons. (Using other telescopes would be like “looking through a straw,” Sheppard said.) Over the past two years, each team has secured around a week of viewing time each year. With perfect weather, that would theoretically have been enough time to cover most of the area of interest. But windy and cloudy nights have scuttled many planned observations.

Even if the astronomers do soon cover the search area, cosmically bad luck could keep the planet hidden. Perhaps it’s lost in the light pollution of the Milky Way, or hiding in the glare of a bright star. “I lose sleep at night when I think about that possibility,” Brown said. Worse, it could be in the part of its orbit that takes it beyond that 1,000-AU wall. Waiting for it to swing back around would take thousands of years.

Hence the need for backup detection plans. One idea is to look for the heat glow the body should emit directly. Luhman essentially ruled out the existence of anything bigger and warmer than a gas giant with a 2014 analysis of infrared data, but physicists expect a smaller, colder Planet Nine to shine in the millimeter part of the spectrum. Stars are dim here, so there’s less risk of Brown’s nightmare scenario. Best of all, direct emissions, unlike reflected light, have to make only a one-way trip.

Current millimeter telescopes in Antarctica and Chile could detect Planet Nine today should it stray across their search field, according to Gilbert Holder, a cosmologist at the University of Illinois. Yet those instruments are busy mapping the cosmic microwave background (CMB), so they’re not necessarily pointed in the right direction at the right times. Holder is waiting for the Next Generation CMB Experiment, which his preliminary calculations estimate could pick up a planet as small as Earth at 1,000 AU. “There would be nowhere for Planet Nine to hide once this thing was turned on,” he said.

That moment remains the better part of a decade away, however, and less-patient souls wonder if signs of Planet Nine might lie buried in today’s data sets. In addition to glowing with millimeter light, the predicted body would also ever-so-slightly sculpt the paths of the known planets. It should gravitationally nudge the gas giants, for instance, even if by only a dozen meters over the course of an orbit 5 billion kilometers long.

After more than a decade of tracking the Cassini spacecraft’s path through the Saturnian system, some researchers think the ringed planet’s orbit differs from what their models predict. “There’s a pattern,” said Matthew Holman, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He compared a model of Saturn’s orbit to Cassini data and found a hint of something unknown. “If you put a planet in” the outer solar system, he said, “the fit would be better.”

But researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which maintains its own finely tuned model of the solar system, disagree. Every time Cassini fired its thrusters or made another planetary flyby, uncertainty crept into the records of the probe’s speed and location. Each model handles these sources of error differently, and JPL’s algorithms suggest there’s more than enough noise to obscure any alleged Planet Nine signal.

Now that the Cassini mission is over, conclusive answers may have to wait for more-precise sensors. Another workshop talk described gravitationally mapping the entire solar system with a network of souped-up accelerometers akin to those in smartphones. Makan Mohageg, a physicist at JPL, believes groups of atoms cooled to the point at which they act like waves could do the trick. The interference between two such wave-like matter packets is extremely sensitive to movement. Place into orbit three or four sensors based on this technology, Mohageg said, and you can pinpoint the location of unknown gravitational disturbances. His group launched a test device to the International Space Station in May.

Even if Planet Nine isn’t out there, the hunt is turning up other finds. Sheppard will soon confirm the discovery (and in some cases, rediscovery) of small moons of Jupiter. More, who works with Brown on the Subaru survey, is mapping the dark-matter halo around our galaxy by targeting flickering stars. “We’re trying to find anything that goes bump in the night, really,” Sheppard said.


Why Can't we make a star - Astronomy

Here's What Astronomy Says About the Biblical Star at Christ's Birth

Later this month, you can witness a rare event in the night sky that has not been seen in almost eight centuries. 

FOX5NY.com reports the two largest planets in our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn, will align on Dec. 21 to create what's sometimes referred to as the "Christmas Star" or the "Star of Bethlehem." 

When the planets line up on the day marking the start of the winter solstice, they will appear to form a double planet. It's a rare event and one that hasn't been seen since the Middle Ages, according to Forbes.com. But in reality, the planets won't be close at all. It will just look like that to viewers on Earth. 

Theories About the 'Star of Bethlehem'

As CBN News has reported, while there have been many theories about the identity of the biblical star of Bethlehem that appeared at Christ's birth, a combination of historical research, astronomical insight, and biblical understanding has come together to present a plausible explanation that is both miraculous and understandable.

This theory finds the planet Jupiter to be part of that star. In the ancient world, all heavenly bodies were considered "stars". 

The Magi or the three wise men were, most likely, court advisers to Babylon who used the stars to give guidance to the ruler. Why would God guide astrologers, of all people, to the King of Kings? This example, according to some writers, was Christ's first human ministry to unbelievers.

Who Exactly Were the Magi? 

But who were these mysterious wise men? One ancient Jewish writer Philo speaks of them.

Star of Bethlehem expert Rick Larson once told CBN News that Philo "describes a particular school of Magi, calls it the Eastern school, and these Magi he praises. He says these guys understood the natural order and are able to explain the natural order to others.  And they were, according to Philo, probably what we might call proto-scientists." 

Early church historians had been giving a date of around 3 BC for Christ's birth, though other scholars had been saying 7 BC because of what appears to be a misunderstanding of King Herod's death in between those two dates.

What the Magi likely saw were five astronomical conjunctions that took place over a span of time from August of 3 BC to June of 2 BC. When one planet passes another and, as seen from earth, they line up – that would have been of great significance to these astrologer-advisers.

We now know what these conjunctions meant to these Magi as they would have observed from their far-off land. The conjunctions involved the constellation Leo the Lion, the planet Venus, the planet Jupiter and the star Regulus. 

To the Babylonians, the lion represented Israel. Venus was motherhood. Jupiter stood for fatherhood or kingship. And Regulus symbolized royalty.  

Put these together in the Babylonian mindset and what do you get? A clear and repeated message that a grand king had been born in Israel. 

Larson used computerized astronomical tools to track the convergence of these heavenly signs involving Jupiter, Venus, Leo, and Regulus, back to when they would have occurred. 

"Nine months after that first conjunction – nine months – the gestation period of a human. We see Jupiter and Venus come together to form the brightest star anyone had ever seen," Larson said.

That would have been in mid-June of 2 BC – again near Regulus in Leo. Eventually, Larson traces it all to a conclusion on Dec. 25, in 2 BC. 

"Of course, they didn't use our calendar – you know December 25th meant nothing to them. They never heard of December, but to us, it could be a sign and it is interesting that the gifting did occur on December 25th," he said.

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

With today's telescopes, the grandeur of the skies is more visible than ever before. Yet even with the naked eye, the Psalmist proclaimed "the heavens declare the glory of God."

How can he do that? Could the Star of Bethlehem be an example in announcing the Messiah? Or is this some kind of misguided astrology?

"The Bible comes down extremely hard on astrology. Reverence for the stars, the idea that stars order your life or guide you or whatever – did you know it was a killing offense in the Old Testament?" Larson said.

But the Bible also says that God put signs in the sky. Perhaps the Star of Bethlehem was like a thermometer.

"A thermometer can tell you if it's hot or cold but it can't make you hot or cold – because it's not an active agent. Stars are like that. According to the Bible, they can tell you things they can be signs from a higher power, from God on high. But they can't make you do anything, they're burning balls of gas, you know," Larson said.  

The Romans Thought the Star Was About Them -- Instead, It Announced the King of Kings

Of course, the Romans who ruled most of the known world at the time thought the star was about them and they even put the star on one of their coins with an image of Caesar Augustus, which represents how impressive the star was. A sort of Star of Rome rather than the Star of Bethlehem. And that's probably what made the Magi ride toward Israel.

While the mortal Augustus has long passed from history, Jesus is worshipped by millions around the world as the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, The Eternal One Who created the heavens and the signs of His own coming – who said that one day he would also return. 

So the Magi went looking for this infant king to the capital city of the Jews, Jerusalem, and the Jews sent them into Bethlehem, a place from which the Jewish scriptures prophesied a king would come. The rest is history. 

Editor's Note: Much of the material for this story was originally researched and written by Gailon Totheroh.

Who is Jesus? Is he really God’s Son? And what does Jesus have to do with Heaven? Your questions are answered here.

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This activity is art meets science in space! You can create the life cycle of a star college as a poster or as a hanger mobile. Either way, your students will learn a lot about a star's birth, life, and death.

From the sun to Neptune (or Pluto if you are a child of the '80s), a solar system model helps students to visualize the planets and the distance between them. You can create a model on several sheets of paper or scale things up and create a model on the wall up your stairs or in your school room!


Warm Up

To begin this lesson, I start with a review of the questions my students asked at the beginning of the unit and I say,

"You had lots of questions about lots of different parts of the solar system. Now, you have more knowledge about the moon, the sun, and the Earth. Today, I want you to think of 3 more scientific questions about stars and put them at the top of your page. You have about 2 minutes."

This is a change for my students because we usually do this together or at least with a partner! However, as I prepare them to transition to second grade I want them to be totally ready, and working independently is part of that expectation. After 2 minutes, I ask a few students to share their questions and I add them to our chart for the day where we will take notes about important things we learn. Asking scientific questions supports Science and Engineering Practice 1.


Two Stars Slammed Into Each Other And Solved Half Of Astronomy’s Problems. What Comes Next?

Progress, as they say, is slow. In science, this is often true even for major breakthroughs rarely is an entire field of research remade in a single swoop. The Human Genome Project took a decade. Finding the first gravitational waves took multiple decades. So it&rsquos hard to overstate the enormous leap forward that astronomy took on Aug. 17, 2017.

On that day, astronomers bore witness to the titanic collision of two neutron stars, the densest things in the universe besides black holes. In the collision&rsquos wake, astronomers answered multiple major questions that have dominated their field for a generation. They solved the origin of gamma-ray bursts, mysterious jets of hardcore radiation that could potentially roast Earth. They glimpsed the forging of heavy metals, like gold and platinum. They measured the rate at which the expansion of the universe is accelerating. They caught light at the same time as gravitational waves, confirmation that waves move at the speed of light. And there was more, and there is much more yet to come from this discovery. It all happened so quickly and revealed so much that astronomers are already facing a different type of question: Now what?

&ldquoEven people like me, who have been waiting for this for a long time and preparing for this, I don&rsquot think we&rsquore ready,&rdquo said Edo Berger, an astronomer at Harvard who studies explosive cosmic events. &ldquoNow it&rsquos a question of, do we have the right instrumentation for doing all the follow-up work? Do we have the right telescopes? What&rsquos going to happen when we have not just one event, but one a month, or one a week &mdash how do we deal with that flood?&rdquo

From Copernicus and Kepler to Hubble and Einstein, astronomy has experienced plenty of tectonic shifts. The discovery of GW170817, as the August event is known, will be another of these. Astronomers often describe the detection of gravitational waves &mdash which happened for the first time just last year, and was awarded a Nobel prize in October &mdash as a new form of perception, as though we can now hear as well as see. The neutron-star merger event was like seeing and hearing at the same time, and with a dictionary to make sense of it all.

The Aug. 17 gravitational wave gave astronomers a glimpse at an entirely different universe. For most of history, they&rsquove studied stars and galaxies, which seem static and unchanging from the vantage point of human timescales. &ldquoYou can look at them today and look at them 10 years from now, and they will be the same,&rdquo Berger said. But GW170817 revealed a universe alive, pulsating with creation and destruction on human timescales. Think about that: GW170817 was a relatively close 130 million light years from Earth, meaning its gravitational waves and light were emitted while the first flowering plants were busy evolving on Earth, around the time stegosauruses roamed the plains. But the event itself unfolded in less than three human-designated weeks. This faster timescale is &ldquopushing the way astronomy is done,&rdquo Berger said.

When the wave crashed through Earth, it caused a tiny shift in the path of laser beams traveling down long corridors in observatories called the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), in the U.S., and the Virgo interferometer, in Italy. 1 On Aug. 17, LIGO&rsquos twin detectors and Virgo each felt the wave, which allowed astronomers to roughly triangulate from which direction it rolled in. They swung every bit of glass they had, both on Earth and in the heavens, in that general direction. In space, the Fermi space telescope glimpsed a burst of gamma radiation. Within an hour, astronomers made six independent discoveries of a bright, fast-fading flash: A new phenomenon called a kilonova. Astronomers saw the telltale sign of gold being forged, a major discovery by itself. Nine days later, X-rays streamed in, and after 16 days, radio waves arrived, too. Each type of information tells astronomers something different. Richard O&rsquoShaughnessy, an astronomer at the Rochester Institute of Technology, describes the discovery as a &ldquoRosetta stone for astronomy.&rdquo &ldquoWhat this has done is provide one event that unites all these different threads of astronomy at once,&rdquo he said. &ldquoLike, all our dreams have come true, and they came true now.&rdquo

As O&rsquoShaughnessy put it, every discovery eventually becomes a tool. Astronomers hope to use neutron-star mergers to test general relativity, the mind-bending conceit that what we perceive as gravity is actually a curving of space and time. 2 Binary neutron stars and black holes may deviate from the gravitational fields predicted by general relativity, which could put Einstein &mdash and alternative theories for gravity in extreme systems &mdash to the test, said Jacqueline Hewitt, a physicist who directs MIT&rsquos Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research.

Gravitational waves aren&rsquot blocked by dark matter, dust or other space objects, so they can serve as messengers from the insides of stars, Hewitt said. When LIGO upgrades are finished next year, astronomers will be able to investigate how the waves form and reconstruct the violent smashups.

Eleonora Troja, an astronomer at NASA&rsquos Goddard Space Flight Center who studies X-rays, had hoped for years to detect the light from a neutron-star merger, but many people thought she was dreaming. &ldquoI had a lot of proposals rejected because they were considered too visionary, too advanced,&rdquo she said. But even Troja never imagined witnessing what happened this summer. &ldquoSometimes, I am still like, &lsquoDid that really happen?&rsquo&rdquo

Troja says that the information gathered in August could eventually serve as a template for finding other neutron-star collisions and gamma-ray jets. We may have already unwittingly captured evidence of many such events, but the record is likely buried in a decade&rsquos worth of data from the Fermi and Swift gamma-ray space telescopes, waiting to be uncovered. Those observatories, and new ones under construction now, will allow humanity to see even more violent, rapidly changing astronomical phenomena. The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, for example, is currently under construction and will eventually photograph the whole sky every three nights. &ldquoIn the future, when we digest all this information, it will be a drastic change in the way we study these cosmic objects,&rdquo Troja said.

This event that unfolded across a couple of weeks will also inform our deepest experience of time, the beginning and the end of our cosmology. Combinations of light and gravitational waves, like those detected after the neutron-star merger, can be used to measure the rate at which the expansion of the universe is accelerating. 3

&ldquoIt&rsquos totally new,&rdquo Troja said. &ldquoComparing the two independent measurements, the one from light and the one from gravitational waves, you can measure the rate of the expansion of the universe.&rdquo All our futures are wrapped up in this question.

Thanks to the Aug. 17 event, astronomers now know what to look for. Soon, they will be able to sift through an embarrassment of neutron-star mergers and other phenomena. And as with any disruption, there will be a period of adjustment. Huge telescopes in space and on Earth are few and far between, and on Earth, most of them can only work when it&rsquos dark and the skies are clear. That means thousands of people vie for limited time at the proverbial eyepiece. Telescope committees are set up to review proposals and grant that time, and assignments are often allotted months in advance. That will have to change as astronomers chase events in real time.

&ldquoIn our case, for the telescopes we were using in Chile, people traveled to Chile to use the telescopes, and we asked them to give up their time [to track the Aug. 17 event]. And everybody did it with so much enthusiasm,&rdquo Berger said, adding that anyone who sacrificed hard-won telescope time was credited in the scientific literature. &ldquoBut we need better mechanisms. You can&rsquot call up every individual person and negotiate and explain, especially when these objects are fading away so quickly, while you&rsquore on the phone with them.&rdquo

Hewitt is chair of a committee that develops 10-year plans for astronomy, known as the decadal surveys, and said the detection of gravitational waves &mdash and neutron-star mergers &mdash were listed as goals for the next several years in the most recent report in 2010 and in the mid-point report in 2015. We got there early, and now astronomers are talking about how to prioritize their time, where to focus, and how to pivot to the next big thing, she said. Many are now hoping that the U.S. rejoins a space-based gravitational wave experiment called LISA. And they are talking about how to turn their eyes to the sky, at a moment&rsquos notice, the next time the universe throws something big their way.

&ldquoIt&rsquos a wonderful time, it&rsquos a terrifying time,&rdquo O&rsquoShaughnessy said. &ldquoI can&rsquot really capture the wonder and the horror and glee and happiness.&rdquo