May 3, 2007
Sending astronauts up to our nearest star to reignite the Sun, the premise of sci-fi movie Sunshine, is truly the least of our problems when we are currently faced with global climate change, global terrorism, and global economic collapse. Nevertheless, astronomers are concerned about recent findings regarding the hot gas surrounding our star and its stellar neighbours. Put simply they cannot find them.
A team led by Martin Barstow of Leicester University, England, has used data from the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) satellite to map the space in between the stars within a sphere of radius 300 light years. He reported details of the observations to the Royal Astronomical Society National Astronomy Meeting in Preston in April, explaining how the FUSE results show a distinct lack of oxygen. Received astronomical wisdom has it that local interstellar medium including the whole Solar system is embedded in a wispy diffuse cloud of hot gas, the so-called Local Fluff.
The findings, or lack of finding oxygen, suggests that an ancient stellar explosion, a supernova, blew away the gas from within the local interstellar medium leaving us with a less than fluffy cloud. More in this week’s SN.