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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

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Education

Teacher of the year explains why he's leaving district in unforgettable 3-minute speech

"I'm leaving in hopes that I can regain the ability to do the job that I love."

Lee Allen

For all of our disagreements in modern American life, there are at least a few things most of us can agree on. One of those is the need for reform in public education. We don't all agree on the solutions but many of the challenges are undeniable: retaining great teachers, reducing classroom size and updating the focus of student curriculums to reflect the ever-changing needs of a globalized workforce.

And while parents, politicians and activists debate those remedies, one voice is all-too-often ignored: that of teachers themselves.

This is why a short video testimony from a teacher in the Atlanta suburb of Gwinnett County went viral recently. After all, it's hard to deny the points made by someone who was just named teacher of the year and used the occasion to announce why he will be leaving the very school district that just honored him with that distinction.

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