Common Core State Standard
SL.CCS.1/2/3/4 Grades 6-12: An essay of a current news event is provided for discussion to encourage participation, but also inspire the use of evidence to support logical claims using the main ideas of the article. Students must analyze background information provided about a current event within the news, draw out the main ideas and key details, and review different opinions on the issue. Then, students should present their own claims using facts and analysis for support.

FOR THE WEEK OF OCT. 23, 2017

New evidence of huge stars colliding long ago excites astronomers

frontpageactionpoints.gif
1.gif
Summarize what you learn from another science article.
2.gif
Now share a fact or quote from news far away -- though not millions of light years.
3.gif
What do newspapers and school textbooks have in common? (List at least two things.)

News from the world of science last week sounds like something from a special effects film. Coverage includes phrases such as "cosmic gong show," "a mega-bang" and "rattled the galaxy." Here's how a New York Times article summarizes it in the first sentence: "Astronomers announced that they had seen and heard belated evidence that a pair of dead stars collided long, long ago, giving them their first glimpse of the violent process by which most of the gold and silver in the universe was created." Sounds major, right? Also a bit hard to grasp. (OK, more than a bit.) We'll try to explain what's up.

The distant collision -- known as a kilonova -- involved massive neutron stars weighing more than the sun. It took place at nearly the speed of light and rattled the galaxy in which it happened 130 million light-years ago. "It's the greatest fireworks show in the universe,” says David Reitze at the California Institute of Technology. "When these things collide, all hell breaks loose." Because of the unimaginably vast distance, what happened wasn't detected by sensors in space and on Earth until two months ago via gravity waves and gamma rays. The collision sent that evidence through the galaxy until it reached instruments at more than 70 observatories, two satellites and the Hubble Space Telescope. "The adrenaline hit," one astronomer says of reactions to surprise signals in mid-August.

Such spectacular explosions are believed to have produced many of the heavier elements we know, including precious metals like gold, silver and uranium. Studying the fireball from this explosion, astronomers conclude that it created a cloud of gold dust many times larger than our planet, confirming kilonovas as agents of ancient cosmic alchemy.

Astronomer says: "For the first time ever, we have proof. . . . This 50-year-old mystery, the holy grail, is solved." -- Vicky Kalogera, Northwestern University

Journalist writes: "These neutron stars are masses as great as the sun, packed into a region the size of Manhattan brimming with magnetic and gravitational fields." – Dennis Overbye, The New York Times

What scientists learn: Measurements of the light and other energy from the crash help explain how planet-killing gamma ray bursts are born, how fast the universe expands and where heavy elements like platinum and gold come from.

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2018
We welcome comments or suggestions for future topics: Click here to Comment

Front Page Talking Points Archive

Turning point: Royal wedding marks a historic ‘changing of the guard’ in Britain

When the earth erupts: Hawaiian emergency shows a volcano's awesome power

Mission to Mars: Spacecraft will measure the planet’s ‘vital signs’ for first time

Series of college controversies focus fresh attention on fraternity misdeeds and risks

Starbucks earns respect with quick, apologetic responses to a racial incident in Philadelphia

Facebook founder delivers damage-control testimony as Congress considers limits on the social media giant

Presidential tweets slap Amazon over its Postal Service deals – and maybe for another reason

NASA plans summer launch for a long-distance research trip by the Parker Solar Probe

Latest Facebook uproar is over diversion of users’ data for 2016 Trump campaign

U.S. and others explore ways to reduce space clutter that poses risks in orbit

Complete archive