How to support open-source software and stay sane – Nature

Illustration by The Project Twins

On 10 April, astrophysicists announced that they had captured the first ever image of a black hole. This was exhilarating news, but none of the giddy headlines mentioned that the image would have been impossible without open-source software. The image was created using Matplotlib, a Python library for graphing data, as well as other components of the open-source Python ecosystem. Just five days later, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) rejected a grant proposal to support that ecosystem, saying that the software lacked sufficient impact. It’s a familiar problem: open-source software is widely acknowledged as crucially important in science, yet it is funded non-sustainably.

First glimpse of a black hole being born from a star’s remains – New Scientist

Science Photo Library/Getty

We’ve received a birth announcement from 20 million light years away, in the form of our first ever glimpse of what seems to be the birth of a black hole. A team led by Christopher Kochanek at Ohio State University in Columbus have glimpsed something very special in data from the Hubble Space Telescope, from when it was watching the red supergiant star N6946-BH1, which is about 20 million light years from Earth.

Newly discovered protostar is well placed for studying how massive stars form

The protostar is the large, bright red star where the arrow is pointing.
NASA/JPL-Caltech

Twelve thousand light-years from Earth, a star is forming. At first, it had all the marks of an aging star on its way to death. But new evidence published in the Astrophysical Journal shows that the star known as IRAS 19312+1950 is likely a protostar, wrapping its surrounding cloud of dust and ice closer as it coalesces.

Researchers detect elusive Hawking radiation in a laboratory-built black hole

NASA-JPL/Caltech

Black holes aren’t perfectly black. For the first time, using a model of a black hole that traps sound instead of light, scientists have seen spontaneous evidence of what comes out of them.

These particles are so few and faint that it’s not feasible to observe them for an astrophysical black hole, so Jeff Steinhauer at Technion–Israel Institute of Technology made a tabletop version of a black hole that sucks in sound instead of light.

Using this, he’s the first to see evidence for particles that escape a black hole, called Hawking radiation.

Read the full story in Astronomy Magazine.

Ultra-Deep Survey unveils observations of largest ever swath of deep universe

Data on over 250,000 galaxies going back 13 billion years will show how galaxies change over time / UKIDSS

Astrophysicists have released images of the largest swath of the deep universe ever observed. The images gaze 13 billion years back in time and cover an area of the sky four times the size of the full moon.

Omar Almaini, at the University of Nottingham, and colleagues netted infrared observations of 250,000 galaxies, the earliest less than a billion years after the Big Bang. The farther away from Earth you look in the universe, the farther back in time you see.

Read the full story in Astronomy Magazine.

Local supernova 2 million years ago solves cosmic ray puzzle

Image credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/Science Photo Library

All signs point to a supernova. A stellar explosion 2 million years ago that flooded our neighbourhood with charged particles could be the answer to several cosmic puzzles.

For years, astrophysicists have struggled to explain why there are so many high-energy cosmic rays – speeding charged particles that hit Earth from all directions.

Read the full article in New Scientist.

How to de-clutter (and re-clutter) the universe

Used under Creative Commons.

Do you ever look around your apartment and think, where did all this stuff come from? Maybe some of your clothes or books or tchotchkes are unnecessary, and you could stand to de-clutter. Or, to take the very long view—the universe’s view—not only are your books not necessary, but neither are most of the elements that make up your books, your other possessions, or indeed you yourself. There was a time in the universe’s infancy when these elements didn’t exist, and yet somehow the universe managed to create them all, along with you and everything else you can see.

For the full explanation of how the elements were created, read the full article in Scope.