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  • richardmitnick 11:06 am on August 20, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESA Hipparcos, , ,   

    From European Space Agency: “Infant exoplanet weighed by Hipparcos and Gaia” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    20 August 2018

    The mass of a very young exoplanet has been revealed for the first time using data from ESA’s star mapping spacecraft Gaia and its predecessor, the quarter-century retired Hipparcos satellite.

    Astronomers Ignas Snellen and Anthony Brown from Leiden University, the Netherlands, deduced the mass of the planet Beta Pictoris b from the motion of its host star over a long period of time as captured by both Gaia and Hipparcos. ([Nature Astronomy])

    Beta Pictoris system

    ESA/GAIA satellite

    ESA/Hipparcos satellite

    The planet is a gas giant similar to Jupiter but, according to the new estimate, is 9 to 13 times more massive. It orbits the star Beta Pictoris, the second brightest star in the constellation Pictor.

    The planet was only discovered in 2008 in images captured by the Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile.

    ESO VLT at Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert, •ANTU (UT1; The Sun ),
    •KUEYEN (UT2; The Moon ),
    •MELIPAL (UT3; The Southern Cross ), and
    •YEPUN (UT4; Venus – as evening star).
    elevation 2,635 m (8,645 ft) from above Credit J.L. Dauvergne & G. Hüdepohl atacama photo

    Both the planet and the star are only about 20 million years old – roughly 225 times younger than the Solar System. Its young age makes the system intriguing but also difficult to study using conventional methods.

    “In the Beta Pictoris system, the planet has essentially just formed,” says Ignas. “Therefore we can get a picture of how planets form and how they behave in the early stages of their evolution. On the other hand, the star is very hot, rotates fast, and it pulsates.”

    This behaviour makes it difficult for astronomers to accurately measure the star’s radial velocity – the speed at which it appears to periodically move towards and away from the Earth. Tiny changes in the radial velocity of a star, caused by the gravitational pull of planets in its vicinity, are commonly used to estimate masses of exoplanets. But this method mainly works for systems that have already gone through the fiery early stages of their evolution.

    In the case of Beta Pictoris b, upper limits of the planet’s mass range had been arrived at before using the radial velocity method. To obtain a better estimate, the astronomers used a different method, taking advantage of Hipparcos’ and Gaia’s measurements that reveal the precise position and motion of the planet’s host star in the sky over time.

    Astrometric measurements to detect exoplanets

    “The star moves for different reasons,” says Ignas. “First, the star circles around the centre of the Milky Way, just as the Sun does. That appears from the Earth as a linear motion projected on the sky. We call it proper motion. And then there is the parallax effect, which is caused by the Earth orbiting around the Sun. Because of this, over the year, we see the star from slightly different angles.”

    And then there is something that the astronomers describe as ‘tiny wobbles’ in the trajectory of the star across the sky – minuscule deviations from the expected course caused by the gravitational pull of the planet in the star’s orbit.

    Planet transit. NASA/Ames

    This is the same wobble that can be measured via changes in the radial velocity, but along a different direction – on the plane of the sky, rather than along the line of sight.

    Radial Velocity Method-Las Cumbres Observatory

    Radial velocity Image via SuperWasp http:// http://www.superwasp.org/exoplanets.htm

    “We are looking at the deviation from what you expect if there was no planet and then we measure the mass of the planet from the significance of this deviation,” says Anthony. “The more massive the planet, the more significant the deviation.”

    To be able to make such an assessment, astronomers need to observe the trajectory of the star for a long period of time to properly understand the proper motion and the parallax effect.

    The Gaia mission, designed to observe more than one billion stars in our Galaxy, will eventually be able to provide information about a large amount of exoplanets.

    In the 22 months of observations included in Gaia’s second data release, published in April, the satellite has recorded the star Beta Pictoris about thirty times. That, however, is not enough.

    “Gaia will find thousands of exoplanets, that’s still on our to-do list,” says Timo Prusti, ESA’s Gaia project scientist. “The reason that the exoplanets can be expected only late in the mission is the fact that to measure the tiny wobble that the exoplanets are causing, we need to trace the position of stars for several years.”

    Combining the Gaia measurements with those from ESA’s Hipparcos mission, which observed Beta Pictoris 111 times between 1990 and 1993, enabled Ignas and Anthony to get their result much faster.

    This led to the first successful estimate of a young planet’s mass using astrometric measurements.

    “By combining data from Hipparcos and Gaia, which have a time difference of about 25 years, you get a very long term proper motion,” says Anthony.

    “This proper motion also contains the component caused by the orbiting planet. Hipparcos on its own would not have been able to find this planet because it would look like a perfectly normal single star unless we had measured it for a much longer time.

    “Now, by combining Gaia and Hipparcos and looking at the difference in the long term and the short term proper motion, we can see the effect of the planet on the star.”

    The result represents an important step towards better understanding the processes involved in planet formation, and anticipates the exciting exoplanet discoveries that will be unleashed by Gaia’s future data releases.

    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 4:32 pm on May 4, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , ESA Hipparcos, New Target for an Old Method: Hubble Measures Globular Cluster Parallax   

    From AAS NOVA: “New Target for an Old Method: Hubble Measures Globular Cluster Parallax” 



    4 May 2018
    Kerry Hensley

    Globular cluster NGC 6397 dazzles in this optical image from La Silla Observatory.

    ESO WFI LaSilla 2.2-m MPG/ESO telescope at La Silla, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres

    MPG/ESO 2.2 meter telescope at Cerro La Silla, Chile, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres

    Globular clusters like NGC 6397 are important laboratories for understanding stellar evolution — but measuring the distance to these ancient stellar groups can be challenging. [ESO]

    the Wide-Field-Imager (WFI) camera at the 2.2-m ESO/MPI telescope at the ESO La Silla Observatory

    ESO/Cerro LaSilla, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    Measuring precise distances to faraway objects has long been a challenge in astrophysics. Now, one of the earliest techniques used to measure the distance to astrophysical objects has been applied to a metal-poor globular cluster for the first time.

    ESA/GAIA satellite

    Gaia is on track to map the positions and motions of a billion stars. [ESA]

    A Classic Technique

    Distances to nearby stars are often measured using the parallax technique — tracing the tiny apparent motion of a target star against the background of more distant stars as Earth orbits the Sun. This technique has come a long way since it was first used in the 1800s to measure the distance to stars a few tens of light-years away; with the advent of space observatories like Hipparcos and Gaia, parallax can now be used to map the positions of stars out to thousands of light-years.

    ESA/Hipparcos satellite

    Precise distance measurements aren’t only important for setting the scale of the universe, however; they can also help us better understand stellar evolution over the course of cosmic history. Stellar evolution models are often anchored to a reference star cluster, the properties of which must be known precisely. These precise properties can be readily determined for young, nearby open clusters using parallax measurements. But stellar evolution models that anchor on the more-distant, ancient, metal-poor globular clusters have been hampered by the less-precise indirect methods used to measure distance to these faraway clusters — until now.

    New Measurement to an Old Cluster

    Thomas Brown (Space Telescope Science Institute) and collaborators used the Hubble Space Telescope to determine the distance to NGC 6397, one of the nearest metal-poor globular clusters and anchor for one stellar population model.

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    Brown and coauthors used a technique called spatial scanning to greatly broaden the reach of the parallax method.

    Spatial scanning was initially developed as a way to increase the signal-to-noise of exoplanet transit observations, but it has also greatly improved the prospects of astrometry — precisely determining the separations between astronomical objects. In spatial scanning, the telescope moves while the exposure is being taken, spreading the light out across many pixels.

    Unprecedented Precision

    This technique allowed the authors to achieve a precision of 20–100 microarcseconds. From the observed parallax angle of just 0.418 milliarcseconds (for reference, the moon’s angular size is about 5 million times larger on the sky!), Brown and collaborators refined the distance to NGC 6397 to 7,795 light-years, with a measurement error of only a few percent.

    Using spatial scanning, Hubble can make parallax measurements of nearby globular clusters, while Gaia has the potential to reach even farther. Looking ahead, the measurement made by Brown and collaborators can be combined with the recently released Gaia data to trim the uncertainty down to just 1%. This highlights the power of space telescopes to make extremely precise measurements of astoundingly large distances — informing our models and helping us measure the universe.


    Thomas Brown et al 2018 ApJL 856 L6.http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/2041-8213/aab55a/meta .

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    The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the Universe.

    The Society, through its publications, disseminates and archives the results of astronomical research. The Society also communicates and explains our understanding of the universe to the public.
    The Society facilitates and strengthens the interactions among members through professional meetings and other means. The Society supports member divisions representing specialized research and astronomical interests.
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    The Society, through its members, trains, mentors and supports the next generation of astronomers. The Society supports and promotes increased participation of historically underrepresented groups in astronomy.
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  • richardmitnick 10:06 am on October 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA Hipparcos, How far away are the stars?, The parallax method   

    From Ethan Siegel: “How far away are the stars?” 

    Ethan Siegel

    This is the Milky Way from Concordia Camp, in Pakistan’s Karakoram Range. To the right is Mitre Peak, and to the far left is the beginning of Broad Peak. Photograph by Anne Dirkse, of http://www.annedirkse.com under a c.c.-by-s.a.-4.0 license.

    Scientists still don’t know, but the answer could hold the key to the expanding, accelerating Universe.

    “Scratch a cynic and you’ll find a disappointed idealist.” -Jon F. Merz

    When you look up at the night sky and see the glittering stars overhead, your first thought might be to wonder what, exactly, they are. Once you know they’re very distant suns, however, with different masses, brightnesses, temperatures and colors, your next thought might be to wonder just how far away they are. It might surprise you to learn that despite centuries of advancement in astronomy and astrophysics, from telescopes to cameras to CCDs to observatories in space, we still don’t have a satisfying answer. When you consider that much of our understanding of the Universe today — how it was born, how it came to be the way it is and what it’s made of — is based on the distances to the stars, it highlights just how important this problem is.

    Stars that appear to be at the same distance, like the ones in the constellation of Orion, may in fact be many hundreds or even thousands of light years more-or-less distant than one another. Image credit: La bitacora de Galileo, via http://www.bitacoradegalileo.com/2010/02/07/orion-la-catedral-del-cielo/.

    If you want to know how fast the Universe is expanding at any point in time, you need to know how fast the distant galaxies are moving away from us and how far away they are. Measuring a galaxy’s recession speed is straightforward — just measure its redshift and you’re done — but distances are a tricky thing. There needs to be some type of relationship between a quantity you can measure, like observed brightness, angular size, periodicity of a particular signal, etc., and something that will tell you an object’s intrinsic brightness or size. You can then calculate its distance. That’s how we figure out a whole slew of properties about the Universe, including:

    how fast it’s expanding today,
    how the expansion rate has changed over time,
    and what makes up the Universe, including matter, radiation and dark energy.

    The construction of the cosmic distance ladder involves going from our Solar System to the stars to nearby galaxies to distant ones. Each “step” carries along its own uncertainties. Image credit: NASA,ESA, A. Feild (STScI), and A. Riess (STScI/JHU).

    But all of that knowledge requires a starting point for measuring cosmic distances. All of our measurement methods are dependent on knowing how these objects we’re measuring operate nearby: they all require an understanding of the closer star or galaxy types that we also find at great distances. No matter how you go about it, there’s one key step we need to begin with, and that’s an assumption-free method to measure the distances to the nearest stars. We only know of one, and we’ve known of it since before the time of Galileo.

    The parallax method, employed since the 1800s, involves noting the apparent change in position of a nearby star relative to the more distant, background ones. Image credit: ESA/ATG medialab.

    It’s the idea of parallax, which is a purely geometrical way to measure the distances to the stars. Regardless of what type of star you have, what its brightness is or how it’s moving through space, measuring parallax is exactly the same.

    Measure the star you’re trying to observe today from your location, at its current position relative to the other objects in the sky.
    Measure the star from a different position in space, and note how the star’s apparent position appears to change relative to the other points of light you can identify.
    Use simple geometry — knowing the difference in your position from those first two measurements and the apparent change in angle — to determine the distance to the star.

    We’ve been using this method since the mid-1800s to measure the distances to the nearest stars, including Alpha Centauri, Vega and 61 Cygni, which has the distinction of being the first star to ever have its parallax measured back in 1838.

    61 Cygni was the first star to have its parallax measured, but also is a difficult case due to its large proper motion. These two images, stacked in red and blue and taken almost exactly one year apart, show this binary star system’s fantastic speed. Image credit: Lorenzo2 of the forums at http://forum.astrofili.org/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=27548.

    But as straightforward as this method is, it comes along with its own inherent flaws. For starters, these angles are always very small: about 1 arcsecond (or 1/3600th of a degree) for a star that’s 3.26 light years away. For comparison, our nearest star, Proxima Centauri, is 4.24 light years away and has a parallax of just 0.77 arcsec. Stars more distant than perhaps one or two hundred light years can’t have their parallaxes measured from the ground at all, since the atmospheric turbulence contributes too greatly to uncertainties. In 1989, the European Space Agency attempted to overcome all of these difficulties by launching the Hipparcos satellite, which — from space — could measure precisions down to an accuracy of just 0.001 arcsec.

    ESA/Hipparcos satellite

    Testing the Hipparcos satellite in the Large Solar Simulator, ESTEC, February 1988. Image credit: Michael Perryman.

    Ideally, this would have meant that we could get accurate parallaxes for stars up to 1,600 light years away: about 100,000 stars total. The brightest and closest stars would be able to have their distances measured to better than 1% precision, which would then mean we’d be able to measure things like the expansion of the Universe throughout its history to that precision level as well. But a number of difficulties prevented that.

    The Earth doesn’t just move throughout the year; the Sun moves through the galaxy as well.
    Because parallax measurements aren’t simultaneous, other stars move relative to the Earth-Sun system as well.
    The more distant stars are not “fixed” in the sky, but exhibit relative motions as well. All stars have their own parallax, dependent on their distance.
    And the influence of gravitational bodies in our Solar System and throughout the galaxy can cause small deflections in starlight due to General Relativity.

    When you take all of these uncertainties into account, we wound up with uncertainties in positions that were much greater than 1%. In fact, if you expected a known nearby, bright star to simply have its position change the same way your thumb’s position, held at arm’s length, changed when you switched which eye you looked at it with, the actual data would be a rude awakening to you.

    The “real” motion of Vega, just 26 light years away, as made from three years of Hipparcos data. Image credit: Michael Richmond of RIT, under a creative commons license, via http://spiff.rit.edu/classes/phys301/lectures/parallax/parallax.html.

    Over a period of three years, Hipparcos taught us a great deal about the motion of stars in our Milky Way, which is a combination of parallax and a series of true proper motions. The way to overcome these constraints is to take continuous measurements of stars as the Earth moves around the Sun and the Sun moves through space, with clearly identified, bright, distant “reference stars” which won’t show any discernible parallax. If you heard about the ESA’s Gaia mission, this is exactly what it’s attempting to do.

    ESA/GAIA satellite
    ESA/GAIA satellite

    With much greater accuracy and precision than Hipparcos, Gaia is undertaking an all-sky survey of the galaxy to measure the positions and motions of approximately 1 billion stars within the Milky Way.

    A map of star density in the Milky Way and surrounding sky, clearly showing the Milky Way, large and small Magellanic Clouds, and if you look more closely, NGC 104 to the left of the SMC, NGC 6205 slightly above and to the left of the galactic core, and NGC 7078 slightly below. Image credit: ESA/GAIA.

    Parallaxes should be available for hundreds of millions of these stars, with a precision of just 10 µas (0.00001 arcsec) at maximum. We should be able to get significantly better than 1% precision for all of the Hipparcos stars, and — at last — should get outstanding parallax measurements for the closest Cepheid variable stars: Polaris and Delta Cephei. If we can understand the distances to this type of variable star within our own galaxy, we should be able to much better constrain our measurements of the cosmic distance ladder, and therefore, better understand how the Universe has expanded over its history and what makes it up.

    Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech, of the (symbolic) cosmic distance ladder.

    It’s a bold, ambitious plan, and after hundreds of years of uncertainty in the distances to the stars, we’ll finally have the answer. By the year 2020, when Gaia’s data catalog is complete, we should know whether our various methods of measuring extragalactic distances have flaws or tensions, or whether all the pieces fall into place. We might not know exactly how far away the stars are today, but thanks to our greatest space observatories, we’re finally about to find out!

    See the full article here .

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    “Starts With A Bang! is a blog/video blog about cosmology, physics, astronomy, and anything else I find interesting enough to write about. I am a firm believer that the highest good in life is learning, and the greatest evil is willful ignorance. The goal of everything on this site is to help inform you about our world, how we came to be here, and to understand how it all works. As I write these pages for you, I hope to not only explain to you what we know, think, and believe, but how we know it, and why we draw the conclusions we do. It is my hope that you find this interesting, informative, and accessible,” says Ethan

  • richardmitnick 9:14 am on September 17, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ESA Hipparcos,   

    From Science Node: “Gaia, Hipparcos, and 3D star maps” 

    Science Node bloc
    Science Node

    12 Sep, 2016
    Lance Farrell

    The European Space Agency just published the first catalog of stars from the Gaia mission. Before Gaia, there was Hipparcos.

    ESA/Hipparcos, launched in 1989

    The European Space Agency (ESA) released long awaited galactic images from the Global Astrometric Interferometer for Astrophysics (GAIA) on September 15.

    ESA/GAIA satellite
    ESA/GAIA satellite

    Gaia’s view. A visualization of how Gaia scanned the sky during its first 14 months of operations, between July 2014 and September 2015.The oval represents a projection of the celestial sphere, with different portions of the sky gradually appearing, according to when and how frequently they were scanned by Gaia. Courtesy ESA

    Thanks to Gaia – and the supercomputers and 400 or so humans in the associated Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC) helping to process the massive datasets – we now have the best map of our home galaxy every made.

    So far GAIA has charted about one billion stars, and will assemble the most detailed 3D visualization of the Milky Way in the months to come.

    Launched in late 2013 and currently orbiting the sun nearly 1.5 million km away from Earth, Gaia streams back about 40 Gigabytes per day. Over the full life of the mission, Gaia will amass 73 Terabytes.

    But before Gaia, there was Hipparcos. Hipparcos was launched in 1989 and remained in operation until 1993. In 2015, Hervé Bouy from the Center for Astrobiology (CSIC-INTA) in Spain and João Alves from the University of Vienna, Austria brought the Hipparcos data to life, rendering the star maps in 3D.

    Star maps. 100,000 stars is an interactive visualization of our stellar neighborhood. It shows the location of 119,617 nearby stars derived from multiple sources, including the 1989 Hipparcos mission. Courtesy Chrome Experiments; ESA.

    Among many advantages, a 3D view eliminates the interference brought by companion stars, bringing hidden structures into focus. The 3D visualization includes all the stars within 1500 light years of our sun.

    So while we wait for Gaia’s update, take a look at this Chrome experiment, and let’s fly through the 100,000 stars in our immediate stellar neighborhood.

    But be warned: Do not use this visualization for interstellar navigation.

    See the full article here .

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    Science Node is an international weekly online publication that covers distributed computing and the research it enables.

    “We report on all aspects of distributed computing technology, such as grids and clouds. We also regularly feature articles on distributed computing-enabled research in a large variety of disciplines, including physics, biology, sociology, earth sciences, archaeology, medicine, disaster management, crime, and art. (Note that we do not cover stories that are purely about commercial technology.)

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  • richardmitnick 8:13 pm on September 12, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESA Hipparcos, ESA Star Mapper   

    From ESA: “ESA’s Star Mapper visualisation” 

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    European Space Agency

    No writer credit


    In 1989, ESA launched the first space mission dedicated to astrometry – the science of charting the sky. The satellite was named Hipparcos, echoing the name of ancient Greek astronomer, Hipparchus, who compiled the oldest known stellar catalogue in the second century BC.

    ESA Hipparcos

    Hipparcos operated for over three years and a catalogue based on its data, released in 1997, had a major impact on many areas of astronomy research.

    This catalogue listed 117 955 stars, reporting their positions with unprecedented accuracy, alongside estimates of their distance from us and motions through the Galaxy. It was a huge advance on the best catalogues compiled from ground-based observations, which contained information for just over 8000 stars.

    The newly launched ESA Star Mapper visualisation is an exploration of some central aspects of astrometric star catalogues, using data from ESA’s Hipparcos mission.

    This interactive experience allows users to delve into this famous dataset, exploring the three-dimensional distribution of almost 60 000 stars from the Hipparcos Catalogue. Stars are visualised as a function of their brightness; it is also possible to show their colours, as well as names and parent constellations for the brightest stars.

    Users can get a sense of where in the sky stars were located in the past – or will be in the future – based on their motions measured by Hipparcos.

    A visualisation of the ‘Hertzsprung-Russell diagram’, a tool used by astronomers to study the evolution of stars, is provided as well.

    The next great breakthrough in this field will come with ESA’s Gaia mission, launched in 2013.

    ESA/Gaia satellite
    ESA/Gaia satellite

    Gaia will make a census of more than a billion stars – roughly 1% of the content of our Galaxy – of such superb precision and detail that it will revolutionise astronomy again.

    The journey starts at: http://sci.esa.int/star_mapper/

    More about Hipparcos: http://sci.esa.int/hipparcos/

    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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