The application of physical theory to celestial systems such as stars, planets, galaxies, supernovae, and black holes. Astrophysics proper is concerned with explaining phenomena more so than making observations, the latter falling under the purview of astronomy.

learn more… | top users | synonyms

6
votes
3answers
152 views

How is the distance to a $\gamma \mathrm{-ray}$ burst (GRB) measured in just a few days?

Recently the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope recorded the most energetic Gamma Ray burst (GRB 130427A) yet observed with a peak $\gamma \mathrm{-ray}$ energy of $94\, \mathrm{GeV}$. Various sources ...
6
votes
2answers
154 views

How does the Sun's magnetic field continue to exist at such high temperatures?

The temperature at the surface of the Sun is apparently well above 5000 C; I'm assuming the layers beneath the surface may be even hotter. At school, we learned that heating a metal beyond a certain ...
5
votes
1answer
133 views

According to the initial mass function, should there be more brown dwarfs than red dwarfs?

According to the IMF and the stellar mass distribution, stars become more abundant the less massive they are. And while objects must have a mass > 0.075 solar mass to become a star, brown dwarfs with ...
5
votes
2answers
588 views

Abundances of the light element of the Big Bang Nucleosynthesis

This question is related to the Big Bang Nucleosynthesis of light elements, more concretely I do not understand some features of the graph Why do the $^3$He and D abundances go down with ...
4
votes
3answers
112 views

Why are the jets of the “light saber” star slightly curved?

Why don't the jets of the HH-24 object follow a straight line? In the image below, notice how they bend towards left from the expected straight line. Is it an optical distortion, or some nearby ...
4
votes
1answer
128 views

How much atmospheric pressure (CO2) is required to carry iron oxide dust in the wind?

It is common knowledge that there are dust devils and dust storms on Mars. But can we demonstrate that the atmospheric pressure on Mars, which is 0.6% of the pressure we experience on Earth, provides ...
4
votes
2answers
210 views

Is it known what causes the “knee” in the observed Cosmic Ray spectrum?

I've seen many versions of the figure shown below -- the famous Swordy plot. They tend to explicitly point out two features in the CR spectrum, the knee and the ankle. I know that the source of ...
4
votes
1answer
2k views

How does a star ignite?

I remember reading that X-Rays are generated by 'braking' electrons in a Coolidge tube. Is it fundamentally a matter that the extreme gravity immediately before a star ignites is so strong that it ...
4
votes
3answers
403 views

Why is the dark matter density profile within the solar radius (and local density) uncertain?

It seems that we know the rotation curve inside the sun's galactic orbit fairly accurately. Then wouldn't we be able to just take the derivative* of this to get the DM density profile at smaller ...
4
votes
5answers
334 views

Is dark matter around the Milky Way spread in a spiral shape (or, in a different shape)?

Dark matter doesn't interact with electromagnetic radiation, but it, at least, participates in gravitational interactions as known from the discovery of dark matter. But does dark matter exist in a ...
4
votes
3answers
580 views

Energy of the electron-muon reaction

Lets see the reaction: $e^- \mu^- \to e^- \pi^- \nu_\mu \;\;\;\;\;\;\;\;\;\;\; {(1)}$ I suppose, that this reaction occurs as follows $e^- \mu^- \to e^- \mu^- \pi^+ \pi^- \to e^- \pi^- \nu_\mu$ Is ...
3
votes
1answer
123 views

Could the estimated stellar mass for the Milky Way galaxy include brown dwarfs?

Trying to find an estimate for the stellar mass of the MW galaxy, I found this paper and the estimated stellar mass is $~6.5 \times 10^{10} M_{\odot}$. I was also trying to understand the methods used ...
3
votes
1answer
3k views

Why are the orbits of the planets in our solar system along the same basic plane? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Why are our planets in the solar system all on the same disc/plane/layer? After watching this video I realized that the orbits of the planets in our solar system ...
3
votes
0answers
55 views

squeezed radiation astronomy

Squeezed electromagnetic vacuum does have a renormalized energy density smaller than the vacuum. So it makes it in my opinion a inconspicuous candidate for a dark energy carrier. Are there ...
3
votes
1answer
380 views

neutrinos by formation of “neutron pairs”

Here : http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20084-neutron-star-seen-forming-exotic-new-state-of-matter.html are news on superfluidity in a neutron star. The necessary bosons they say are pairs of ...
2
votes
2answers
68 views

What defines a cold plasma?

Been looking for this very simple answer for a while now, and google returns a face cream with the words cold plasma in it. Very frustrated. Just wondering, what constitutes a cold plasma in the ...
2
votes
2answers
122 views

When do stars become red giants?

I am a bit confused when do stars become red giants? Is it just after they have finished core H burning and the core contracts creating high temperatures which result in core He burning to occur which ...
2
votes
1answer
308 views

Why are cgs units the norm in astrophysics?

Other physics communities, e.g. the particle physics one, have their own set of units, custom-tailored to their own needs. Now, the astrophysics community is somewhat similar, in that a lot of ...
2
votes
1answer
849 views

Blandford-Znajek process: Why/how does the current flow along the magnetic field lines

Related: How would a black hole power plant work? I have put a bit of commentary enumerating my confusions in parentheses I read in Black Holes and Time Warps (Kip Thorne), that quasars can generate ...
2
votes
1answer
311 views

How does inflation drive Ω close to 1?

I'll keep it simple. How does inflation drive Ω close to 1?
2
votes
3answers
353 views

Why is it thought that normal physics doesn't exist inside the event horizon of a black hole?

A black hole is so dense that a sphere around it called the event horizon has a greater escape velocity than the speed of light, making it black. So why do astronomers think that there is anything ...
1
vote
0answers
33 views

Lorentz factor correction for luminosity

I am looking at the physics behind gamma ray bursts, working through a comprehensive review Kumar & Zhang (2014) (arXiv link). On page 92, Eq (111) the luminosity or a relativistically expanding ...
0
votes
2answers
131 views

Mass-to-light ratio and rotation curve from brightness profile

This should probably be basic but I've been looking for days and I can't find how to (I'm probably over complicating, but still). I want to calculate a rotation curve for some spiral galaxies. From ...
-1
votes
2answers
95 views

How is it possible that Thermosphere can maintain so much heat? [closed]

Thermosphere is the Layer of Atmosphere in approx 100-1000 km altitude. Particles in thermosphere are typically at 1400 K temperature. But the sun activity can raise the temperature up to 2300 K. ...
-1
votes
2answers
2k views

Is there a binary black hole system in the middle of the galaxy? [closed]

We have observed gravity effects from black holes in the center of galaxies, but galactic centers are dusty so we can’t tell if it’s one black hole or two black holes in a binary system in there. A ...
20
votes
2answers
11k views

Is Jupiter a failed star?

In my physics lessons, my teachers have always been keen to tell my class that Jupiter is considered a 'failed star' by scientists. Is this true? In my own effort I wondered if maybe this could just ...
6
votes
4answers
3k views

What is a peryton?

It is a bit hard to find an accessible explanation online. I find the word "peryton" in some papers about radio astronomy, here's one example: http://arxiv.org/abs/1503.05245 I don't think they refer ...
6
votes
2answers
974 views

What is the frequency of occurrence of stellar classifications off the HR main-sequence?

An alternative version of this question would be: "if was to pick a star from the $10^{11}$ or so in our galaxy at random, what are the probabilities of it being various kinds of star?" (and I do mean ...
6
votes
1answer
266 views

Axial Tilt and precession rate of exoplanets

The Earth's axis is 23.5 degrees away from othogonality to the ecliptic, and it takes about 26 000 years for it to precess fully. I have neither an intuitive sense nor the formula for precession ...
5
votes
3answers
272 views

We're all star dust?

OK so we've all heard of this from Carl Sagan, Lawrence Krauss and others and we know the argumentation, I don't refute that. There are other examples, for instance I once calculated (this was before ...
5
votes
2answers
244 views

How can Y-dwarf stars have such a low temperature?

A recent article from NASA said they found some stars with temperatures "as cool as the human body." How is this possible? Does fusion still occur in these stars?
4
votes
2answers
224 views

Can the Sun's core be treated as an ideal gas?

I know that a gas behaves more like an ideal gas at higher temperature, and that is very well achieved in the Sun's core. But also low pressure is needed for a gas to behave like an ideal gas, and the ...
4
votes
1answer
232 views

Is the fuel burn for a satellite launch affected by the position of the moon relative to the launch site?

The gross mass of a satellite rocket is tiny compared to that of Earth, and Luna. Between them, however, the two bodies set up tides in bodies of water which itself is again considerable mass. At ...
4
votes
3answers
323 views

stability of hypothetical lunar atmosphere

Assume that by some means, the moon could be given an atmosphere, of the same density and pressure at the surface as the earth's. Obviously in a stable atmosphere there are temperature variations from ...
4
votes
1answer
1k views

The Galactic Plane

I'm guessing this isn't a great physics question, but I just can't find an answer with Google. If the galactic plane is perfectly horizontal at what angle and rotation will the ecliptic plane of our ...
3
votes
1answer
169 views

What would happen in the final days of the universe?

I would like to know the stages of how the universe would end and what would happen and what the possible scenarios are. I understand that eventually all the stars would burn out and that would ...
3
votes
2answers
315 views

Pressures Necessary for Carbon Detonation

Carbon detonation is a characteristic event of Type 1a Supernova (EDIT: where an accreting white dwarf near the Chandrashankar limit of 1.4 solar masses explodes), an extremely important standard ...
3
votes
1answer
917 views

At what temperature does water become a liquid on Mars? On the asteroids? And in a vacuum?

I know that I can just read off the phase diagram for water (for the surface atmospheric pressure on each object). But could there possibly be some nuances that someone might miss just from viewing ...
3
votes
2answers
213 views

Can the implications of dark energy be used to bridge the gap between Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity?

Can the findings of the Physics Nobel Laureates of 2011, namely the overpowering existence of dark energy (vacuum energy) have any implications in the quest the combine Quantum Mechanics and General ...
3
votes
1answer
143 views

The fine structure non-constant

If the fine structure constant is different in different parts of the universe, then what would happen if we travelled to those regions? (I realise this is completely impossible as they are ...
2
votes
1answer
36 views

Direction of Gamma Ray Bursts

After a black hole consumes a star, why do gamma ray bursts only shoot out perpendicular to the spinning accretion disk? Why do they not shoot out parallel to the disk?
2
votes
2answers
228 views

Would it be possible to detect nuclear explosion on exoplanet?

How strong would have to be nuclear explosion on exo-planet that orbits some other star for it to be detectable outside of that system. Or it would be impossible due to amount of radiation coming from ...
2
votes
1answer
226 views

The Helium mass fraction from the Big Bang Nucleosynthesis

In Perkin's book Particle Astrophysics (page 144): I do not understand how one comes to the following expression (the second equality with $r$) for the Helium mass fraction due to the Big Bang ...
2
votes
4answers
183 views

How do black holes accrete mass?

Thanks to time dilation, a distant observer watching a man fall in to a black hole will only see him asymptotically approach the event horizon. So how do black holes ever get bigger?
2
votes
1answer
2k views

Degree of ionization and Saha equation

Say you want to calculate degree of ionization for different gases in atmosphere of a star with abundances similar to those in Sun (let's assume you only have hydrogen, helium and sodium) over the ...
2
votes
2answers
540 views

Speed of sound in astrophysics

Why is the speed of sound given so much importance in Astrophysics? For example in gas outflow (and accretion) problems, we often calculate the sonic point (the point at which the outflow speed ...
1
vote
2answers
66 views

We say Light is Red-Shifted or Blue-shifted from faraway stars and galaxies [closed]

We say Light is Red-Shifted or Blue-shifted from faraway stars and galaxies. Can we find out the distance at which it changed its frequency. So in another solar system, it might seem to be Green ...
1
vote
2answers
1k views

Explanation for negative specific heat capacities in stars?

I've just found out that a negative specific heat capacity is possible. But I have been trying to find an explanation for this with no success. Negative heat capacity would mean that when a system ...
1
vote
2answers
194 views

Redshift 1+z - CMB Temperature lower?

I know that $\frac{\lambda_2}{\lambda_1} = 1 + z$ Suppose a galaxy had redshfit $z=3$. Does this mean that the wavelength becomes $4\lambda$? Then by wien's law where $\lambda \propto \frac{1}{T}$, ...
1
vote
1answer
1k views

What is the electric charge has the sun and the corona of the sun?

What is the net electric charge (in magnitude and sign) of the sun and its corona?