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Cosmic Gun

Astrophysicists from Kolkata-based S N Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences and Centre for Space Physics (affiliated to the University of Calcutta) have finally found an explanation for the unusual behaviour of a star 3,000 parsecs (1 parsec equals 3.26 light years) away. Named ss433, the star ejects matter every minute like a gun firing bullets – each as bulky as one ten-thousandth of earth’s mass and escaping into space with one fourth the speed of light.

Ever since ss433’s discovery 25 years ago, the scientists have wondered where the matter for the “bullets” was coming from. They have now found ss433 sucks in matter from a companion star. “ss433 lies at the heart of a supernova remnant called W 50, a leftover of an exploded star that emits radiation and matter. The expanding debris of W 50 is adding to its (ss433) bullet firing nature. It emits radio waves and infrared radiation as well as life-producing elements like carbon, nitrogen and oxygen,” says lead researcher Sandip Chakrabarti.

The discovery follows an analysis of recent satellite data. “The star showed a flare of X-ray emissions which was twice the emissions observed last year,” says Chakrabarti. The next increase in flare is expected at the end of January. The scientists say ss433 is a part of a binary (two star) system 100,000 years old. And it will last another 50,000 years. In a paper soon to be published in the Monthly Notices of Royal Astronomical Society, Chakrabarti predicts the binary system will shortly evolve into a black hole. The black hole will have a mass of 3 solar mass (three times the mass of sun), he adds.

The above article was published in the science and technology section of ‘Down To Earth’, a science and environment fortnightly, on January 15, 2004.

Biplab Das

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The following comments are for "Cosmic Gun"
by Rakesh

Waiting for Viper9..perhaps to pounce....
Mr. Das

I hope you'll excuse any presumption on my part , but these pieces of yours ,read a lot like Samvak's posts ...hanging in the air...leaving a trail of questions unanswered.

To be quite candid ,I am none the wiser for having read it.The way I see it these read like newsitems that merely inform and do not enlighten.

( Posted by: RJKT [Member] On: September 30, 2005 )

Sorry I'm late
Nah, I'm not going to pounce!

Yes, I don't see the point of the article, but why attack it? Rakesh does this sort of thing, which may be the acceptable quality of English where he comes from, regardless of how it compares to Canadian standards.

(What's that, you say? Canadians have standards?)

( Posted by: Viper9 [Member] On: September 30, 2005 )

Relieved to hear from you at last.I may be very old fashioned ...nonetheless I hew to the belief that any kind of writing should be to the point , with all loose ends tied up -and hopefully short and 'sweet'.

Though I must say ,I can hardly see India , where he seems to come from, compromising on standards ,at least as far as the quality of writing goes.

( Posted by: RJKT [Member] On: September 30, 2005 )


I didn't mean to suggest that India had low writing standards, just that less may be expected of English writing where English is not the lingua franca.

You know, I can speak and write German . . . poorly. I could probably get away with writing something in German here that wouldn't go over so well in Germany!

( Posted by: Viper9 [Member] On: September 30, 2005 )

Point taken...I was really trying to make the point -albeit a very trite one -that one first needs to think the whole thing through and put it together as cogently as possible.

A mistake many of us end up making is that we write for ourselves ..never for the reader.

Coincidentally I 've been trying to learn French -admittedly most fitfully -since early 1966 , and have never succeeded.

( Posted by: RJKT [Member] On: October 1, 2005 )

Thanks All, But
While commenting all you forget that it is after all science writing. And of course a news item. The scope of juggling with words is not there. I don't know how much RJKT knows about science writing. But, I have doubts. I can't be a lyricist while writing a story on scientific research.

( Posted by: Rakesh [Member] On: October 1, 2005 )

Read books by Dawkins, Gould, Sagan, or any issue of Scientific American, Free Inquiry, or Discover to see examples of quality sceince writing.

( Posted by: Viper9 [Member] On: October 2, 2005 )

Viper9 and others
Although I confess I know next to nothing about Science Writing ,I entirely agree with what Viper says.

If one is keen on perfecting one's craft ,
it might perhaps not be a bad idea to ,inter alia, take in some of the older works ..alas the only one's that I remember having read many years ago...classics such as -

Feynman's Lectures in Physics -all 3 vols.
George Gamow's books.
Heisenberg's writings on the Philosopy of Science.

I still have vivid memories of how simply but lucidly these men wrote..reducing the most abstruse and complex topics to their essentials such a fashion that even a layman could comprehend what thay were saying.

( Posted by: RJKT [Member] On: October 2, 2005 )

Gould, Sagan, Dawkins
Viper thanks for suggesting the science writers' names, who are also scientists par excellence. They are no stranger to me. Neither their books. Many of them, I have read. Besides, visiting american and british libraries (which have Discover, Sci Am and NS, NG) in Kolkata, I have developed a small library at my home. Still, to be precise, you missing something. Neither of you earn a living by writing on science topics in a country like India, where you need a microscope to find out science in media. Let me explain. Suppose, you have been asked to write a news item with word limit of 300 words. And you have to give something new in your story. As soon as you start writing, you need to wrap up the story. So, there is no room for building up a story. In case of science books, this does not happen. You have freedom for creativity. Given such opportunity I can pen exciting stories. I will post such samples, published earlier. Reading them, you will understand whether I read science books. It does not mean that I can emulate the style of Sagan. None can do that. Gould, I think not good for lay people. In India, we also have to think of readers. To reach wide readers, editors instruct us to write simple and clear. I think my stories have these elements. And also the ultimate form of the story depends on sub-editors and editors, who prune and add words. I can't help but abide by house style. This is necessary for survival. I hope you will understand my points. Nevertheless, I am still learning the craft of science writing. And thanks for your constructive comments.

( Posted by: Rakesh [Member] On: October 2, 2005 )

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