These awesome pics are what happens when a runaway star slams into a cloud of space dust.

How fast is a star?

Though the stars in the sky seem pretty fixed, they're actually all moving relative to each other. You just can't tell because they're so far away. Even the constellations are only temporary — in another 50,000 years, they may look very different!

No two stars are moving the exact same way, either. Some move at very different speeds, which means that while some stars are like this:


GIF from ExperimentalUTubeChannel/YouTube.

Others are like this:

GIF from "Star Wars."

Or something like that, anyway. They're not jumping to light speed, but they are pretty dang fast.

How do you track down a super-fast star?

That's what William Chick and his team of astronomers at the University of Wyoming wanted to do.

"We are using the bow shocks to find massive and/or runaway stars," said Henry Kobulnicky, another astronomer from the University of Wyoming.

Wait. Bow shock? What the heck is a bow shock?

As the stars zoom through space, material shoots out of them, creating a kind of solar wind. This wind hits any dust or gas in the star's way, causing it to pile up in front of the star. It's kind of like how a boat makes water bunch up in front of it.

Yeah, like that. Image from AlfvanBeem/Wikimedia Commons.

On a boat, it's a bow wave. On a star or a bullet or a plane, it's bow shock.

Eventually, the bow shocks' big, chaotic pileup heats up the gas and dust in front of the star and causes it to glow. Most of the light is infrared, which means it's invisible to the naked eye. But if you have an infrared telescope, you can spot the bow shocks. Some of them are a bit hard to see:

Image from NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Wyoming.

But some of them are just ... wow.

Image from NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA.

That star, called Zeta Ophiuchi, is hurtling across the galaxy at 54,000 mph and is gigantic — 20 times as massive as our sun. It's the Rebel Without a Cause of stars — living fast, dying young. It'll speed across the galaxy for about another 4 million years before exploding in a gigantic supernova like some sort of cosmic firework.

What made these stars so fast in the first place?

"Some stars get the boot when their companion star explodes in a supernova," said Chick. That's what they think happened to Zeta Ophiuchi up there. Others get slingshotted out of star clusters.

Our own sun isn't moving quite as fast as Zeta Ophiuchi; it's in the slow and steady camp. As for exactly how fast, it depends on what you're measuring it against, but Stanford University puts the sun's speed at a more stately 45,000 mph. We're not sure if our sun has a bow shock.

To find these stars, Chick and his team used data from a pair of powerful telescopes located in outer space, the Spitzer Space Telescope and Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). Other researchers are also looking at bow shocks to try to learn how these massive, fast stars live and die. Learning more about them could help us understand more about our own solar system and how the universe works.

Want one more picture? OK, just one more.


Bow shock around LL Orionis. Image from Hubble Heritage/Flickr.

Yeah.


GIF from wolfwaffles.com

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

via Pixabay

Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

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