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  • richardmitnick 1:08 pm on August 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ESA Herschel, IRAS 19312+1950, ,   

    From JPL: “NASA Team Probes Peculiar Age-Defying Star” 

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    JPL-Caltech

    August 29, 2016
    Elizabeth Landau
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-354-6425
    elizabeth.landau@jpl.nasa.gov

    Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    1
    An age-defying star called IRAS 19312+1950 exhibits features characteristic of a very young star and a very old star. The object stands out as extremely bright inside a large, chemically rich cloud of material, as shown in this image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. IRAS 19312+1950 is the bright red star in the center of this image. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    A NASA-led team of scientists thinks the star — which is about 10 times as massive as our sun and emits about 20,000 times as much energy — is a newly forming protostar. That was a big surprise, because the region had not been known as a stellar nursery before. But the presence of a nearby interstellar bubble, which indicates the presence of a recently formed massive star, also supports this idea.

    For years, astronomers have puzzled over a massive star lodged deep in the Milky Way that shows conflicting signs of being extremely old and extremely young.

    Researchers initially classified the star as elderly, perhaps a red supergiant. But a new study by a NASA-led team of researchers suggests that the object, labeled IRAS 19312+1950, might be something quite different — a protostar, a star still in the making.

    “Astronomers recognized this object as noteworthy around the year 2000 and have been trying ever since to decide how far along its development is,” said Martin Cordiner, an astrochemist working at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. He is the lead author of a paper in the Astrophysical Journal describing the team’s findings, from observations made using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory.

    NASA/Spitzer Telescope
    NASA/Spitzer Telescope

    ESA/Herschel
    ESA/Herschel

    Located more than 12,000 light-years from Earth, the object first stood out as peculiar when it was observed at particular radio frequencies. Several teams of astronomers studied it using ground-based telescopes and concluded that it is an oxygen-rich star about 10 times as massive as the sun. The question was: What kind of star?

    Some researchers favor the idea that the star is evolved — past the peak of its life cycle and on the decline. For most of their lives, stars obtain their energy by fusing hydrogen in their cores, as the sun does now. But older stars have used up most of their hydrogen and must rely on heavier fuels that don’t last as long, leading to rapid deterioration.

    Two early clues — intense radio sources called masers — suggested the star was old. In astronomy, masers occur when the molecules in certain kinds of gases get revved up and emit a lot of radiation over a very limited range of frequencies. The result is a powerful radio beacon — the microwave equivalent of a laser.

    One maser observed with IRAS 19312+1950 is almost exclusively associated with late-stage stars. This is the silicon oxide maser, produced by molecules made of one silicon atom and one oxygen atom. Researchers don’t know why this maser is nearly always restricted to elderly stars, but of thousands of known silicon oxide masers, only a few exceptions to this rule have been noted.

    Also spotted with the star was a hydroxyl maser, produced by molecules comprised of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom. Hydroxyl masers can occur in various kinds of astronomical objects, but when one occurs with an elderly star, the radio signal has a distinctive pattern — it’s especially strong at a frequency of 1612 megahertz. That’s the pattern researchers found in this case.

    Even so, the object didn’t entirely fit with evolved stars. Especially puzzling was the smorgasbord of chemicals found in the large cloud of material surrounding the star. A chemical-rich cloud like this is typical of the regions where new stars are born, but no such stellar nursery had been identified near this star.

    Scientists initially proposed that the object was an old star surrounded by a surprising cloud typical of the kind that usually accompanies young stars. Another idea was that the observations might somehow be capturing two objects: a very old star and an embryonic cloud of star-making material in the same field.

    Cordiner and his colleagues began to reconsider the object, conducting observations using ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory and analyzing data gathered earlier with NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Both telescopes operate at infrared wavelengths, which gave the team new insight into the gases, dust and ices in the cloud surrounding the star.

    The additional information leads Cordiner and colleagues to think the star is in a very early stage of formation. The object is much brighter than it first appeared, they say, emitting about 20,000 times the energy of our sun. The team found large quantities of ices made from water and carbon dioxide in the cloud around the object. These ices are located on dust grains relatively close to the star, and all this dust and ice blocks out starlight making the star seem dimmer than it really is.

    In addition, the dense cloud around the object appears to be collapsing, which happens when a growing star pulls in material. In contrast, the material around an evolved star is expanding and is in the process of escaping to the interstellar medium. The entire envelope of material has an estimated mass of 500 to 700 suns, which is much more than could have been produced by an elderly or dying star.

    “We think the star is probably in an embryonic stage, getting near the end of its accretion stage — the period when it pulls in new material to fuel its growth,” said Cordiner.

    Also supporting the idea of a young star are the very fast wind speeds measured in two jets of gas streaming away from opposite poles of the star. Such jets of material, known as a bipolar outflow, can be seen emanating from young or old stars. However, fast, narrowly focused jets are rarely observed in evolved stars. In this case, the team measured winds at the breakneck speed of at least 200,000 miles per hour (90 kilometers per second) — a common characteristic of a protostar.

    Still, the researchers acknowledge that the object is not a typical protostar. For reasons they can’t explain yet, the star has spectacular features of both a very young and a very old star.

    “No matter how one looks at this object, it’s fascinating, and it has something new to tell us about the life cycles of stars,” said Steven Charnley, a Goddard astrochemist and co-author of the paper.

    NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission, whose science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado.

    Herschel is an ESA space observatory with science instruments provided by European-led principal investigator consortia and with important participation from NASA.

    For more information, visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer

    See the full article here .

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    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.

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  • richardmitnick 12:06 pm on May 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESA Herschel, ESA Hi-Gal   

    From ESA: “The Little Fox and the Giant Stars” 

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    European Space Agency

    23/05/2016
    No writer credit found

    1

    New stars are the lifeblood of our Galaxy, and there is enough material revealed by this Herschel infrared image to build stars for millions of years to come.

    ESA/Herschel
    ESA/Herschel

    Situated 8000 light-years away in the constellation Vulpecula – latin for little fox – the region in the image is known as Vulpecula OB1. It is a ‘stellar association’ in which a batch of truly giant ‘OB’ stars is being born.

    The vast quantities of ultraviolet and other radiation emitted by these stars is compressing the surrounding cloud, causing nearby regions of dust and gas to begin the collapse into more new stars. In time, this process will ‘eat’ its way through the cloud, transforming some of the raw material into shining new stars.

    The image was obtained as part of Herschel’s Hi-GAL key-project. This used the infrared space observatory’s instruments to image the entire galactic plane in five different infrared wavelengths.

    3
    This fantastic picture is a 70-170-350um composite image of the Galactic Plane at the longitude of 59° in the Vulpecula region. Most remarkable features that can be seen are shock fronts from HII regions, bubbles, Interstellar medium structured at all scales, and remarkable filamentary structures with on-going star formation.

    These wavelengths reveal cold material, most of it between -220ºC and -260ºC. None of it can be seen at ordinary optical wavelengths, but this infrared view shows astronomers a surprising amount of structure in the cloud’s interior.

    The surprise is that the Hi-GAL survey has revealed a spider’s web of filaments that stretches across the star-forming regions of our Galaxy. Part of this vast network can be seen in this image as a filigree of red and orange threads.

    At visual wavelengths, the OB association is linked to a star cluster catalogued as NGC 6823. It was discovered by William Herschel in 1785 and contains 50–100 stars. A nebula emitting visible light, catalogued as NGC 6820, is also part of this multi-faceted star-forming region.

    The giant stars at the heart of Vulpecula OB1 are some of the biggest in the Galaxy. Containing dozens of times the mass of the Sun, they have short lives, astronomically speaking, because they burn their fuel so quickly.

    At an estimated age of two million years, they are already well through their lifespans. When their fuel runs out, they will collapse and explode as supernovas. The shock this will send through the surrounding cloud will trigger the birth of even more stars, and the cycle will begin again.

    See the full article here .

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 2:27 pm on May 11, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 2007 OR10 largest unnamed body in our solar system, , , ESA Herschel,   

    From JPL-Caltech: “2007 OR10: Largest Unnamed World in the Solar System” 

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    JPL-Caltech

    May 11, 2016
    Michele Johnson
    NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
    650-604-6982
    michele.johnson@nasa.gov

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

    Written by Preston Dyches
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory

    1
    New K2 results peg 2007 OR10 as the largest unnamed body in our solar system and the third largest of the current roster of about half a dozen dwarf planets. The dwarf planet Haumea has an oblong shape that is wider on its long axis than 2007 OR10, but its overall volume is smaller. Credits: Konkoly Observatory/András Pál, Hungarian Astronomical Association/Iván Éder, NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

    Konkoly Observatory at Piszkesteto Mountain Station, Hungary
    Konkoly Observatory Budapest Hungary
    Konkoly Observatory at Piszkesteto Mountain Station, Hungary

    Dwarf planets tend to be a mysterious bunch. With the exception of Ceres, which resides in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, all members of this class of minor planets in our solar system lurk in the depths beyond Neptune. They are far from Earth – small and cold – which makes them difficult to observe, even with large telescopes. So it’s little wonder astronomers only discovered most of them in the past decade or so.

    Pluto is a prime example of this elusiveness. Before NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft visited it in 2015, the largest of the dwarf planets had appeared as little more than a fuzzy blob, even to the keen-eyed Hubble Space Telescope. Given the inherent challenges in trying to observe these far-flung worlds, astronomers often need to combine data from a variety of sources in order to tease out basic details about their properties.

    Recently, a group of astronomers did just that by combining data from two space observatories to reveal something surprising: a dwarf planet named 2007 OR10 is significantly larger than previously thought.

    The results peg 2007 OR10 as the largest unnamed world in our solar system and the third largest of the current roster of about half a dozen dwarf planets. The study also found that the object is quite dark and rotating more slowly than almost any other body orbiting our sun, taking close to 45 hours to complete its daily spin.

    For their research, the scientists used NASA’s repurposed planet-hunting Kepler space telescope — its mission now known as K2 — along with the archival data from the infrared Herschel Space Observatory. Herschel was a mission of the European Space Agency with NASA participation. The research paper* reporting these results is published in The Astronomical Journal.

    ESA Herschel
    ESA Herschel

    “K2 has made yet another important contribution in revising the size estimate of 2007 OR10. But what’s really powerful is how combining K2 and Herschel data yields such a wealth of information about the object’s physical properties,” said Geert Barentsen, Kepler/K2 research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.

    The revised measurement of the planet’s diameter, 955 miles (1,535 kilometers), is about 60 miles (100 kilometers) greater than the next largest dwarf planet, Makemake, or about one-third smaller than Pluto. Another dwarf planet, named Haumea, has an oblong shape that is wider on its long axis than 2007 OR10, but its overall volume is smaller.

    Like its predecessor mission, K2 searches for the change in brightness of distant objects. The tiny, telltale dip in the brightness of a star can be the signature of a planet passing, or transiting, in front.

    Planet transit. NASA
    Planet transit. NASA

    But, closer to home, K2 also looks out into our solar system to observe small bodies such as comets, asteroids, moons and dwarf planets. Because of its exquisite sensitivity to small changes in brightness, Kepler is an excellent instrument for observing the brightness of distant solar system objects and how that changes as they rotate.

    Figuring out the size of small, faint objects far from Earth is tricky business. Since they appear as mere points of light, it can be a challenge to determine whether the light they emit represents a smaller, brighter object, or a larger, darker one. This is what makes it so difficult to observe 2007 OR10 — although its elliptical orbit brings it nearly as close to the sun as Neptune, it is currently twice as far from the sun as Pluto.

    Enter the dynamic duo of Kepler and Herschel.

    Previous estimates based on Herschel data alone suggested a diameter of roughly 795 miles (1,280 kilometers) for 2007 OR10. However, without a handle on the object’s rotation period, those studies were limited in their ability to estimate its overall brightness, and hence its size. The discovery of the very slow rotation by K2 was essential for the team to construct more detailed models that revealed the peculiarities of this dwarf planet. The rotation measurements even included hints of variations in brightness across its surface.

    Together, the two space telescopes allowed the team to measure the fraction of sunlight reflected by 2007 OR10 (using Kepler) and the fraction absorbed and later radiated back as heat (using Herschel). Putting these two data sets together provided an unambiguous estimation of the dwarf planet’s size and how reflective it is.

    According to the new measurements, the diameter of 2007 OR10 is some 155 miles (250 kilometers) larger than previously thought. The larger size also implies higher gravity and a very dark surface — the latter because the same amount of light is being reflected by a larger body. This dark nature is different from most dwarf planets, which are much brighter. Previous ground-based observations found 2007 OR10 has a characteristic red color, and other researchers have suggested this might be due to methane ices on its surface.

    “Our revised larger size for 2007 OR10 makes it increasingly likely the planet is covered in volatile ices of methane, carbon monoxide and nitrogen, which would be easily lost to space by a smaller object,” said András Pál at Konkoly Observatory in Budapest, Hungary, who led the research. “It’s thrilling to tease out details like this about a distant, new world — especially since it has such an exceptionally dark and reddish surface for its size.”

    As for when 2007 OR10 will finally get a name, that honor belongs to the object’s discoverers. Astronomers Meg Schwamb, Mike Brown and David Rabinowitz spotted it in 2007 as part of a survey to search for distant solar system bodies using the Samuel Oschin Telescope at Palomar Observatory near San Diego.

    “The names of Pluto-sized bodies each tell a story about the characteristics of their respective objects. In the past, we haven’t known enough about 2007 OR10 to give it a name that would do it justice,” said Schwamb. “I think we’re coming to a point where we can give 2007 OR10 its rightful name.”

    Ames manages the Kepler and K2 missions for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation operates the flight system with support from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

    For more information about the Kepler and K2 missions, visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/kepler

    More information about Herschel is online at:

    http://www.nasa.gov/herschel

    *Science paper:
    LARGE SIZE AND SLOW ROTATION OF THE TRANS-NEPTUNIAN OBJECT (225088) 2007 OR10 DISCOVERED FROM HERSCHEL AND K2 OBSERVATIONS

    See the full article here .

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    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.

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  • richardmitnick 4:24 pm on April 22, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESA Herschel, Herschel’s view of the Eagle Nebula   

    From ESA: “Herschel’s view of the Eagle Nebula” 

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    European Space Agency

    4.22.16

    Temp 1

    The Eagle Nebula, also known as M 16, seen by ESA’s Herschel space observatory. The nebula lies about 6500 light-years away.

    ESA/Herschel
    ESA/Herschel

    A group of young, bright stars, not visible at these infrared wavelengths, are located near the centre of the image. The powerful light emitted by these stars is setting the surrounding gas ablaze, causing it to shine; the stars also drive mighty winds that are carving the giant cavities in the cloud.

    At the borders of these cavities, the interstellar mixture of gas and dust becomes denser, eventually collapsing and giving rise to a new generation of stars.

    The image is a composite of the wavelengths of 70 microns (blue), 160 microns (green) and 350 microns (red).

    Acknowledgement: G. Li Causi, IAPS/INAF, Italy
    Credits: ESA/Herschel/PACS, SPIRE/Hi-GAL Project

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 7:30 am on March 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESA Herschel,   

    From ESA: “Star-forming ribbon” 

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    European Space Agency

    29/03/2016
    M. Juvela (U. Helsinki, Finland)

    1

    Star formation is taking place all around us. The Milky Way is laced with clouds of dust and gas that could become the nursery of the next generation of stars. Thanks to ESA’s Herschel space observatory, we can now look inside these clouds and see what is truly going on.

    ESA/Herschel
    ESA/Herschel

    It may seem ironic but when searching for sites of future star formation, astronomers look for the coldest spots in the Milky Way. This is because before the stars ignite the gas that will form their bulk must collapse together. To do that, it has to be cold and sluggish, so that it cannot resist gravity.

    As well as gas, there is also dust. This too is extremely cold, perhaps just 10–20 degrees above absolute zero. To optical telescopes it appears completely dark, but the dust reveals itselfat far-infrared wavelengths.

    One of the surprises is that the coldest parts of the cloud form filaments that stretch across the warmer parts of the cloud. This image shows a cold cloud filament, known to astronomers as G82.65-2.00. The blue filament is the coldest part of the cloud and contains 800 times as much mass as the Sun. The dust in this filament has a temperature of –259ºC. At this low temperature, if the filament contains enough mass it is likely that this section will collapse into stars.

    This image is colour-coded so that the longest infrared wavelength, corresponding to the coldest region, is shown in blue, and the shortest wavelength, corresponding to slightly warmer dust, is shown in red.

    The field of view on display here is a little more than two times the width of the full Moon. It is one of 116 regions of space observed by Herschel as part of the Galactic Cold Cores project. Each field was chosen because ESA’s cosmic microwave background mapper, Planck, showed that these regions of the galaxy possessed extremely cold dust.

    ESA/Planck
    ESA/Planck

    See the full article here .

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 8:35 am on January 19, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESA Herschel, Serpens core   

    From ESA: “Herschel reveals filaments in the Serpens Core” 

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    European Space Agency

    Temp 1

    18/01/2016

    The interstellar medium fills the ‘empty’ space between the stars in our galaxy. It is a mix of molecular clouds, cold and warm gases, regions of electrically charged hydrogen, and more.

    Molecular clouds are the densest part of the interstellar medium, holding most of its mass in the form of hydrogen gas. ESA’s Herschel space observatory has revealed that many are built around filaments, with dense threads snaking throughout each cloud.

    ESA Herschel
    Herschel

    These filaments potentially transport material, and, when massive enough, are known to form new stars.

    This Herschel image shows the Serpens Core, the heart of a giant molecular cloud. The Core is the bright clump towards the upper right, with a more diffuse secondary cluster, named Ser G3-G6, shown at the bottom right. Also visible as a faint yellow glow towards the upper left of the frame is a region known as LDN 583 that shines brightly in the far-infrared.

    Giant molecular clouds contain up to 10 million times the mass of the Sun, and can stretch for hundreds of light-years. Compared to the rest of space they are dense, holding up to a thousand atoms per cubic centimetre – and even more in star-forming regions. However, these properties are relative: even at their densest, these clouds are more than 10 times emptier than the best laboratory vacuums we can produce on Earth.

    These giant clouds are complex formations, most often made up of filaments mixed with clumpy and irregular folds, sheets and bubble-like structures. A typical spiral galaxy like the Milky Way can contain thousands of them, accompanied by many of their smaller relatives.

    Serpens is an ideal target for scientists wanting to know more about giant molecular clouds, because it lies just 1400 light-years from us. Scientists compared Herschel’s observations of this cloud to a state-of-the-art simulation to find out more about the cloud’s properties, and to test the accuracy of their model.

    They discovered a radial network of filaments stretching throughout the Serpens Core, filaments that are predicted to break and fragment to form the cores of new stars. These filaments resemble the spokes of a wheel, with the Core forming the hub.

    This three-colour image is made from observations with Herschel’s PACS camera (blue and green) and SPIRE camera (red). The size of the region shown is 1.7×1.9º on the sky, where 1º corresponds to about 25 light-years.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 10:08 am on December 21, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESA Herschel, , Stephan’s Quintet   

    From ESA: “Sparkling Stephan’s Quintet” 

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    European Space Agency

    21/12/2015
    No Writer Credit

    1
    No image credit

    The Stephan’s Quintet of galaxies was discovered by astronomer Édouard Stephan in 1877. At the time, however, he reported the discovery of ‘new nebulae’, as the concept of other galaxies beyond our Milky Way was only formalised in the 1920s.

    This image combines observations performed at three different wavelengths, with ESA’s Herschel and XMM-Newton space observatories as well as with ground-based telescopes, to reveal the different components of the five galaxies.

    ESA Herschel
    Herschel

    ESA XMM Newton
    XMM-Newton

    Stephan’s Quintet is one of the most spectacular galactic groups known, but only four galaxies from the originally discovered quintet are physically linked – the other was later discovered to be much closer to us. NGC 7320, the galaxy in the lower part the image, lies about 40 million light-years from us, rather than the 300 million light-years of the others.

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    NGC 7320 from Hubble

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble

    One of them is the bright source above NGC 7320 in this view, two are the intertwined galaxies immediately to the right of image centre, and the fourth is the round patch towards the lower-right corner.

    Later, it was discovered that an additional galaxy, hidden beyond the left edge of this image, sits at a similar distance to these four galaxies, reinstating the group as a quintet.

    By observing these galaxies in infrared light with Herschel – shown in red and yellow – astronomers can trace the glow of cosmic dust. Dust is a minor but crucial ingredient of the interstellar matter in galaxies, which consists mainly of gas and provides the raw material for the birth of new generations of stars.

    One galaxy stands out in the infrared light: the nearby NGC 7320, a spiral galaxy busy building new stars.

    Shown in white, the optical light observed from ground-based telescopes reveals the shapes of the four distant galaxies, which exhibit tails and loops of stars and gas. These intricate features are an effect of their mutual gravitational attraction.

    The intense dynamical activity of the distant group is also portrayed in the distribution of diffuse hot gas, which shines brightly in X-rays and was detected by XMM-Newton.

    Represented in blue, the hot gas appears to sit mostly between the four colliding galaxies. It is likely a mixture of primordial gas predating the formation of the galaxies and intergalactic gas that has been stripped off the galaxies or expelled during their interactions.

    A hint of a shockwave from the interaction of these four galaxies is visible as an almost vertical blue structure on the right of the image centre. This structure of hot gas also seems to trace a filament of infrared-bright dust that might have been heated by the shock.

    At the top end of the shock, the infrared view reveals stars forming both within and outside the galaxies.

    A faint tail of stars, gas and dust extends towards the left, leading to a dwarf galaxy glowing in infrared – the red and yellow object at the tip of the tail.

    Further to the left, a dense concentration of hot gas is also visible in blue at the end of the tail, although it is unclear whether it belongs to the galactic group or is a foreground source.

    See the full article here .

    Another view of Stephan’s Quintet from Hubble:
    2

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 8:59 pm on September 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESA Herschel, ,   

    From JPL: “Herschel and Planck Honored with Space Systems Award” 

    JPL

    September 3, 2015
    Whitney Clavin
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-354-4673
    whitney.clavin@jpl.nasa.gov

    1
    Left ESA/Herschel, right ESA/Planck

    The Herschel and Planck project teams are this year’s recipients of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Space Systems Award. Both space missions were led by the European Space Agency (ESA), with important participation from NASA.

    This award is presented annually by the AIAA to recognize outstanding achievements in the architecture, analysis, design and implementation of space systems. This year’s award was presented Sept. 2 during the AIAA Space and Astronautics Forum and Exposition, in Pasadena.

    The project teams of the Herschel and Planck missions, which were managed together by ESA, have been cited for “outstanding scientific achievements recognized by the worldwide scientific community and for outstanding technical performances of the two satellites.”

    The Herschel infrared space observatory, which operated from May 2009 until April 2013, carried the largest telescope ever built for a space observatory. Its 3.5-meter primary mirror collected long-wavelength radiation from some of the coldest and most distant objects in the universe. The observatory made more than 40,000 scientific observations over about 25,000 hours. Herschel’s data are publicly available for use by astronomers across the globe.

    Planck was launched into space with Herschel in 2009, and also operated until October, 2013. It was designed to probe, with the highest accuracy ever achieved, the remnants of the radiation that filled the universe immediately after its explosive birth. Data from Planck, also publicly available, are helping to provide answers to some of the most important questions in modern science: how did the universe begin, how did it evolve to the state we observe today and how will it continue to evolve in the future?

    Cosmic Background Radiation Planck
    CMB per Planck

    JPL contributed mission-enabling technology for instruments on both Planck and Herschel. The U.S. data archives for both missions are based at NASA’s Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

    More information about Herschel is online at:

    http://www.nasa.gov/herschel

    http://www.herschel.caltech.edu

    http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Herschel

    More information about Planck is online at:

    http://www.nasa.gov/planck

    http://www.esa.int/planck

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA JPL Campus

    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, 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.

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  • richardmitnick 3:15 pm on August 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESA Herschel   

    From ESA: “Feathery filaments in Mon R2” 

    ESASpaceForEuropeBanner
    European Space Agency

    24/08/2015
    No Writer Credit

    1

    Fierce flashes of light ripple through delicate tendrils of gas in this new image, from ESA’s Herschel space observatory, which shows the dramatic heart of a large and dense cosmic cloud known as Mon R2. This cloud lies some 2700 light-years away and is studded with hot, newly-formed stars.

    ESA Herschel
    Herschel

    Packed into the bright centre of this region are several hot ‘bubbles’ of ionised hydrogen, associated with newborn stars situated nearby. Here, gas heated to a temperature of 10 000 °C quickly expands outwards, inflating and enlarging over time. Herschel has explored the bubbles in Mon R2, finding them to have grown over the course of 100 000 to 350 000 years.

    This process forms bubble-like cavities that lie within the larger Mon R2 cloud. These are known as HII regions and Mon R2 hosts four of them, clustered together in the central blue-white haze of bright light — one at the very centre, two stretching out like butterfly wings to the top left and bottom right, and another sitting just above the centre.

    Each is associated with a different hot and luminous B-type star. These stars can be many times the mass of the Sun and usually appear with a blue hue due to their high temperature.

    Astronomers have found that the hot bubbles in Mon R2 are enveloped by vast clouds of cold, dense gas, sitting within the filaments that stretch across the frame. In stark contrast to the gas in the hot bubbles, these clouds can be at temperatures as low as –260 °C, just above absolute zero.

    This particular cluster of HII regions has been studied as part of the Herschel imaging survey of OB young stellar objects, or HOBYS, programme. This image combines multiple Herschel observations obtained with the PACS and SPIRE cameras and has been processed to highlight the cloud’s clumpy complex of filaments, visible here in great and dramatic detail.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 9:23 am on May 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESA Herschel   

    From ESA: “Threading the Milky Way” 

    ESASpaceForEuropeBanner
    European Space Agency

    28 May 2015
    No Writer Credit

    1
    Herschel’s view of G49

    2
    Herschel’s view of G47

    3
    Herschel’s view of G64

    These three new images of huge filamentary structures of gas and dust from ESA’s Herschel space observatory reveal how matter is distributed across our Galaxy, the Milky Way.

    ESA Herschel
    Herschel

    Long and flimsy threads emerge from a twisted mix of material, taking on complex shapes as the gas and dust in them become denser and cooler. Two of them even exhibit a ‘head’ – a brighter clump of matter at the tip of the wispy thread.

    With masses of thousands to several tens of thousands times that of our Sun, these are among the most prominent filaments ever observed in the Galaxy. Longer than 100 light-years, they are at most 10 light-years wide, reproducing even at these very large scales the filamentary distribution of matter that Herschel has observed in detail in nearby star-forming regions in the Milky Way.

    While dust is only a minor ingredient in this cosmic blend, it shines brightly at the far-infrared and submillimetre wavelengths probed by Herschel. This allowed astronomers to reveal for the first time the coolest and densest portions in this tangle, visible in red and yellow in these false-colour images.

    The filaments are dotted with brighter clumps: these are cosmic incubators, where the seeds of new generations of stars are taking shape. The blue and violet glow of the fuzzy splotches that embellish the filaments reveals pockets of warmer material, set ablaze by the fierce radiation released by newborn stars still embedded within them.

    Before Herschel, only two gigantic filaments like these were known, but astronomers have now used data from the observatory to uncover several new ones weaving their way through the spiral arms of the Milky Way. They believe that these are the first structures to form as interstellar matter starts coming together, eventually leading to the formation of stars.

    Related scientific papers:
    Large scale filaments associated with Milky Way spiral arms, by Ke Wang et al.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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