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  • richardmitnick 8:36 am on July 24, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA NEOWISE   

    From NASA/Neowise: “NEOWISE Spots a Comet That Looked Like an Asteroid” 

    WISE

    July 23, 2014
    Elizabeth Landau
    818-354-6425
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    elizabeth.landau@jpl.nasa.gov

    Comet C/2013 UQ4 (Catalina) has been observed by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft just one day after passing through its closest approach to the sun. The comet glows brightly in infrared wavelengths, with a dust tail streaking more than 62,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) across the sky. Its spectacular activity is driven by the vaporization of ice that has been preserved from the time of planet formation 4.5 billion years ago.

    comet

    “The tail forms a faint fan as the smaller dust particles are more easily pushed away from the sun by the radiation pressure of the sunlight,” said James Bauer, researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

    C/2013 UQ4 takes more than 450 years to orbit the sun once and spends most of its time far away at very low temperatures. Its orbit is also retrograde, which means that the comet moves around the sun in the opposite direction to the planets and asteroids.

    The comet was originally thought to be an asteroid, as it appeared inactive when discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey on October 23, 2013. NEOWISE also observed the comet to be inactive on New Year’s Eve, 2013, but since then the comet has become highly active, allowing astronomers around the world to observe it. The comet’s activity should decline as it once again returns to the cold recesses of space.

    See the full article here.

    NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The mission’s principal investigator, Edward L. (Ned) Wright, is at UCLA. The mission was competitively selected in 2002 under NASA’s Explorers Program managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The science instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory, Logan, Utah, and the spacecraft was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp, Boulder, Colo. Science operations and data processing will take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

    What is NEOWISE?

    The NEOWISE project is the asteroid-hunting portion of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission. Funded by NASA’s Planetary Science Division, NEOWISE harvests measurements of asteroids and comets from the WISE images and provides a rich archive for searching WISE data for solar system objects.

    WISE was launched in December 2009, and surveyed the full sky in four infrared wavelength bands (3.4, 4.6, 12 and 22 μm) until the frozen hydrogen cooling the telescope was depleted in September 2010. The survey continued as NEOWISE for an additional four months using the two shortest wavelength detectors. The spacecraft was placed into hibernation in February 2011, after completing its search of the inner solar system.

    During its primary mission, NEOWISE delivered infrared detections of more than 158,000 minor planets to the scientific community, including more than 34,000 new discoveries. NEOWISE data have been used to set limits on the numbers, orbits, sizes, and probable compositions of asteroids throughout our solar system, and enabled the discovery of the first known Earth Trojan asteroid.

    NEOWISE Reactivation

    NEOWISE has been brought out of hibernation to learn more about the population of near-Earth objects and comets that could pose an impact hazard to the Earth. During its planned three-year survey in the 3.4 and 4.6 μm infrared bands, NEOWISE will rapidly characterize near-Earth objects (NEOs) and obtain accurate measurements of their diameters and albedos (how much light an object reflects). NEOWISE is equally sensitive to both light-colored asteroids and the optically dark objects that are difficult for ground-based observers to discover and characterize.

    NEOWISE observations resumed in December 2013. Just six days after the survey start, NEOWISE discovered its first potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroid, 2013 YP139.

    The WISE mission’s education and public outreach office is based at the University of California, Berkeley.


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  • richardmitnick 4:22 pm on May 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA NEOWISE,   

    From NASA/WISE: “NASA’s WISE Findings Poke Hole in Black Hole ‘Doughnut’ Theory” 

    WISE

    May 22, 2014

    J.D. Harrington
    Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-5241
    j.d.harrington@nasa.gov

    Whitney Clavin
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-354-4673
    whitney.clavin@jpl.nasa.gov

    A survey of more than 170,000 supermassive black holes, using NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), has astronomers reexamining a decades-old theory about the varying appearances of these interstellar objects.

    stars
    This image shows galaxies clumped together in the Fornax cluster, located 60 million light-years from Earth. The picture was taken by WISE, but has been artistically enhanced to illustrate the idea that clumped galaxies will, on average, be surrounded by larger halos of dark matter (purple).
    Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    The unified theory of active, supermassive black holes, first developed in the late 1970s, was created to explain why black holes, though similar in nature, can look completely different. Some appear to be shrouded in dust, while others are exposed and easy to see.

    The unified model answers this question by proposing that every black hole is surrounded by a dusty, doughnut-shaped structure called a torus. Depending on how these “doughnuts” are oriented in space, the black holes will take on various appearances. For example, if the doughnut is positioned so that we see it edge-on, the black hole is hidden from view. If the doughnut is observed from above or below, face-on, the black hole is clearly visible.

    However, the new WISE results do not corroborate this theory. The researchers found evidence that something other than a doughnut structure may, in some circumstances, determine whether a black hole is visible or hidden. The team has not yet determined what this may be, but the results suggest the unified, or doughnut, model does not have all the answers.

    “Our finding revealed a new feature about active black holes we never knew before, yet the details remain a mystery,” said Lin Yan of NASA’s Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC), based at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “We hope our work will inspire future studies to better understand these fascinating objects.”

    Yan is the second author of the research accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. The lead author is post-doctoral researcher, Emilio Donoso, who worked with Yan at IPAC and has since moved to the Instituto de Ciencias Astronómicas, de la Tierra y del Espacio in Argentina. The research also was co-authored by Daniel Stern at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, and Roberto Assef of Universidad Diego Portales in Chile and formerly of JPL.

    Every galaxy has a massive black hole at its heart. The new study focuses on the “feeding” ones, called active, supermassive black holes, or active galactic nuclei. These black holes gorge on surrounding gas material that fuels their growth.

    With the aid of computers, scientists were able to pick out more than 170,000 active supermassive black holes from the WISE data. They then measured the clustering of the galaxies containing both hidden and exposed black holes — the degree to which the objects clump together across the sky.

    If the unified model was true, and the hidden black holes are simply blocked from view by doughnuts in the edge-on configuration, then researchers would expect them to cluster in the same way as the exposed ones. According to theory, since the doughnut structures would take on random orientations, the black holes should also be distributed randomly. It is like tossing a bunch of glazed doughnuts in the air — roughly the same percentage of doughnuts always will be positioned in the edge-on and face-on positions, regardless of whether they are tightly clumped or spread far apart.

    But WISE found something totally unexpected. The results showed the galaxies with hidden black holes are more clumped together than those of the exposed black holes. If these findings are confirmed, scientists will have to adjust the unified model and come up with new ways to explain why some black holes appear hidden.

    “The main purpose of unification was to put a zoo of different kinds of active nuclei into a single umbrella,” said Donoso. Now, that has become increasingly complex to do as we dig deeper into the WISE data.”

    Another way to understand the WISE results involves dark matter. Dark matter is an invisible substance that dominates matter in the universe, outweighing the regular matter that makes up people, planets and stars. Every galaxy sits in the center of a dark matter halo. Bigger halos have more gravity and, therefore, pull other galaxies toward them.

    Because WISE found that the obscured black holes are more clustered than the others, the researchers know those hidden black holes reside in galaxies with larger dark matter halos. Though the halos themselves would not be responsible for hiding the black holes, they could be a clue about what is occurring.

    “The unified theory was proposed to explain the complexity of what astronomers were seeing,” said Stern. “It seems that simple model may have been too simple. As Einstein said, models should be made ‘as simple as possible, but not simpler.'”

    Scientists still are actively combing public data from WISE, put into hibernation in 2011 after scanning Earth’s entire sky twice. WISE was reactivated in 2013, renamed NEOWISE, and given a new mission to identify potentially hazardous near-Earth objects.

    For more information about NEOWISE, visit:

    http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/programs/neowise.html

    For more information about WISE, visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/wise

    See the full article here.

    NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The mission’s principal investigator, Edward L. (Ned) Wright, is at UCLA. The mission was competitively selected in 2002 under NASA’s Explorers Program managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The science instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory, Logan, Utah, and the spacecraft was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp, Boulder, Colo. Science operations and data processing will take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

    The mission’s education and public outreach office is based at the University of California, Berkeley.


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  • richardmitnick 5:43 pm on February 28, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA NEOWISE   

    From NASA/JPL at Caltech: “NEOWISE Spies Its First Comet” 

    February 28, 2014
    DC Agle 818-393-9011
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    agle@jpl.nasa.gov

    NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft has spotted a never-before-seen comet — its first such discovery since coming out of hibernation late last year.

    comet
    Comet NEOWISE was first observed by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft on Valentine’s Day, 2014.

    NASA Wise Telescope
    NEOWISE (WISE)

    “We are so pleased to have discovered this frozen visitor from the outermost reaches of our solar system,” said Amy Mainzer, the mission’s principal investigator from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “This comet is a weirdo – it is in a retrograde orbit, meaning that it orbits the sun in the opposite sense from Earth and the other planets.”

    Officially named “C/2014 C3 (NEOWISE)“, the first comet discovery of the renewed mission came on Feb. 14 when the comet was about 143 million miles (230 million kilometers) from Earth. Although the comet’s orbit is still a bit uncertain, it appears to have arrived from its most distant point in the region of the outer planets. The mission’s sophisticated software picked out the moving object against a background of stationary stars. As NEOWISE circled Earth, scanning the sky, it observed the comet six times over half a day before the object moved out of its view. The discovery was confirmed by the Minor Planet Center, Cambridge, Mass., when follow-up observations were received three days later from the Near Earth Object Observation project Spacewatch, Tucson, Ariz. Other follow-up observations were then quickly received. While this is the first comet NEOWISE has discovered since coming out of hibernation, the spacecraft is credited with the discovery of 21 other comets during its primary mission.

    Originally called the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), the spacecraft was shut down in 2011 after its primary mission was completed. In September 2013, it was reactivated, renamed NEOWISE and assigned a new mission to assist NASA’s efforts to identify the population of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects. NEOWISE will also characterize previously known asteroids and comets to better understand their sizes and compositions.

    See the full article http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2014-067>here.

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

    Caltech Logo
    jpl


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