A red giant is a luminous giant star of low or intermediate mass (roughly 0.3–8 solar masses (M☉)) in a late phase of stellar evolution. The outer atmosphere is inflated and tenuous, making the radius large and the surface temperature as low as 5,000 K and lower. The appearance of the red giant is from yellow-orange to red, including the spectral types K and M, but also class S stars and most carbon stars.
The most common red giants are stars on the red-giant branch (RGB) that are still fusing hydrogen into helium in a shell surrounding an inert helium core. Other red giants are the red-clump stars in the cool half of the horizontal branch, fusing helium into carbon in their cores via the triple-alpha process; and the asymptotic-giant-branch (AGB) stars with a helium burning shell outside a degenerate carbon–oxygen core, and a hydrogen burning shell just beyond that.
Cosmic dust is dust which exists in outer space. Most cosmic dust particles are between a few molecules to 0.1 µm in size. A smaller fraction of all dust in space consists of larger refractory minerals that condensed as matter left the stars. It is called “stardust” and is included in a separate section below. The dust density in the local interstellar medium of the Local Bubble is approximately 10−6 × dust grain/m3 with each grain having a mass of approximately 10−17 kg.
Cosmic dust can be further distinguished by its astronomical location: intergalactic dust, interstellar dust, interplanetary dust (such as in the zodiacal cloud) and circumplanetary dust (such as in a planetary ring). In the Solar System, interplanetary dust causes the zodiacal light. Sources of Solar System dust include comet dust, asteroidal dust, dust from the Kuiper belt, and interstellar dust passing through the Solar System. The terminology has no specific application for describing materials found on the planet Earth except for dust that has demonstrably fallen to Earth. By one estimate, as much as 40,000 tons of cosmic dust reaches the Earth’s surface every year. In October 2011, scientists reported that cosmic dust contains complex organic matter (“amorphous organic solids with a mixed aromatic–aliphatic structure”) that could be created naturally, and rapidly, by stars.
On August 14, 2014, scientists announced the collection of possible interstellar dust particles from the Stardust spacecraft since returning to Earth in 2006.
Planet Nine is a hypothetical large planet in the far outer Solar System, the gravitational affects of which would explain the unusual orbital configuration of a group of trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) that orbit mostly beyond the Kuiper belt.
The hypothesis first took form in a 2014 letter to the journal Nature by astronomers Chad Trujillo and Scott S. Sheppard, who had inferred the possible existence of a massive planet from similarities in the orbits of the distant trans-Neptunian objects Sedna and 2012 VP113. On 20 January 2016, researchers Konstantin Batygin and Michael E. Brown at Caltech argued that a massive outer planet would be the likeliest explanation for the similarities in orbits of six distant objects. The predicted planet would be a super-Earth, with an estimated mass of about 10 times that of Earth (approximately 5,000 times the mass of Pluto), a diameter two to four times that of Earth, and a highly elliptical orbit that is so far away that it could take around 15,000 years to orbit the Sun.
On the basis of models of planet formation that might include planetary migration from the inner Solar System, such as the fifth giant planet hypothesis, the authors suggest that it may be a primordial giant planet core that was ejected from its original orbit during the nebular epoch of the Solar System’s evolution.
The first direct gravitational wave observation was made on 14 September 2015 and was announced by the LIGO and Virgo interferometer collaborations on 11 February 2016. The waveform, detected by both LIGO observatories, matched the predictions of general relativity for a gravitational wave emanating from the inward spiral and merger of a pair of black holes and subsequent “ringdown” of the single resulting black hole. The signal was named GW150914 (i.e., “Gravitational Wave 2015–09–14“). This was also the first observation of a binary black hole merger, demonstrating the existence of binary stellar-mass black hole systems, and that such mergers could occur within the current age of the universe.
This first observation was reported around the world as a remarkable accomplishment for many reasons. Efforts to prove the existence of such waves had been ongoing for over fifty years, and the waves are so minuscule that Einstein doubted they could ever be detected. The waves given off by the cataclysmic merger of GW150914 reached Earth as a ripple in space-time that changed the length of a 4-km LIGO arm by a tiny fraction of the width of a proton, proportionally equivalent to changing the distance to the nearest star by one hair’s width. The energy released during the brief climax of the event was immense, with about three solar masses converted to gravitational waves and radiated away at a peak rate of about 3.6×1049 watts — more than the combined power of all light radiated by all the stars in the observable universe. The observation was also heralded as confirming the last remaining unproven prediction of general relativity, and validating its predictions of space-time distortion in the context of large scale cosmic events, as well as inaugurating a new era of gravitational-wave astronomy, allowing probing of violent astrophysical events unobservable until now.