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  • richardmitnick 2:06 pm on September 7, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA XMM-Newton, , X-rays Reveal Temperament of Possible Planet-hosting Stars   

    From Chandra: “X-rays Reveal Temperament of Possible Planet-hosting Stars” 

    NASA Chandra Banner
    NASA Chandra Telescope

    NASA Chandra

    September 6, 2017

    1
    Credit X-ray: NASA/CXC/Queens Univ. of Belfast/R.Booth, et al.; Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

    X-rays may provide valuable information about whether a star system will be hospitable to life on planets.

    Stellar X-rays mirror magnetic activity, which can produce energetic radiation and eruptions that could impact surrounding planets.

    Researchers used Chandra and XMM-Newton to study 24 stars like the Sun that were at least one billion years old.

    ESA/XMM Newton X-ray telescope

    The latest study indicates older Sun-like stars settle down relatively quickly, boosting prospects for life to develop on planets around them.

    A new study using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA’s XMM-Newton suggests X-rays emitted by a planet’s host star may provide critical clues to just how hospitable a star system could be. A team of researchers looked at 24 stars similar to the Sun, each at least one billion years old, and how their X-ray brightness changed over time.

    Since stellar X-rays mirror magnetic activity, X-ray observations can tell astronomers about the high-energy environment around the star. In the new study the X-ray data from Chandra and XMM-Newton revealed that stars like the Sun and their less massive cousins calm down surprisingly quickly after a turbulent youth.

    To understand how quickly stellar magnetic activity level changes over time, astronomers need accurate ages for many different stars. This is a difficult task, but new precise age estimates have recently become available from studies of the way that a star pulsates using NASA’s Kepler and ESA’s CoRoT missions. These new age estimates were used for most of the 24 stars studied here.

    Astronomers have observed that most stars are very magnetically active when they are young, since the stars are rapidly rotating. As the rotating star loses energy over time, the star spins more slowly and the magnetic activity level, along with the associated X-ray emission, drops.

    Although it is not certain why older stars settle down relatively quickly, astronomers have ideas they are exploring. One possibility is that the decrease in rate of spin of the older stars occurs more quickly than it does for the younger stars. Another possibility is that the X-ray brightness declines more quickly with time for older, more slowly rotating stars than it does for younger stars.

    A paper describing these results has been accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, and is available online. The other co-authors are Victor Silva Aguirre from Aarhus University in Denmark and Scott Wolk from CfA.

    A Quick Look at GJ 176

    See the full article here .

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    NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra’s science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.

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  • richardmitnick 7:40 am on May 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA XMM-Newton, Nice to see: XMM-Newton's by-catch   

    From SRON- “Nice to see: XMM-Newton’s by-catch” 

    sron-bloc
    SRON

    23 May 2017
    No writer credit found

    ESA/XMM Newton

    1
    Credit: ESA/XMM-Newton/ R. Saxton / A.M. Read, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

    The XMM-Newton X-ray telescope, carrying two Reflection Grating Spectrometers developed by SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research, was launched in 1999. It is orbiting earth since then. Its mission is to study high-energy phenomena in the Universe, such as black holes and neutron stars. When the telescope moves between specific target it stills collects scientific data (slews). This recent map shows 30,000 sources detected during 2114 of these slews. Some of the sources have been observed up to 15 times. After correcting for overlaps between slews, 84% of the sky has been covered. Lower energy sources are shown in red while higher energy sources are blue. The size of each source is proportional to its brightness. The centre of the plot corresponds to the centre of the Milky Way.

    Milky Way NASA/JPL-Caltech /ESO R. Hurt

    Objects above and below the centre of the plane of our Galaxy are mostly external galaxies that are emitting X-rays from their massive black holes.

    See the full article here .

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    sron-campus

    How did the Earth and life on it evolve? How do stars and planets evolve? How did the universe evolve? What is the position of the Earth and humankind in that immense universe? These are fundamental questions that have always intrigued humankind. Moreover, people have always possessed an urge to explore and push back the boundaries of science and technology.

    Science

    Since the launch of Sputnik in 1957, Dutch astronomers have seen the added value of space missions for science. Reaching beyond the Earth’s atmosphere would open up new windows on the universe and provide fantastic views of our home planet. It would at last be possible to pick up cosmic radiation that never normally reached the Earth’s surface, such as X-rays, ultraviolet and infrared radiation. A wealth of scientific information from every corner of the universe would then become available.

    The first Dutch scientific rocket experiments and contributions to European and American satellites in the early 1960s, formed the start of an activity in which a small country would develop an enviable reputation: scientific space research.

    Groundbreaking technology

    Nowadays we take for granted images of the Earth from space, beautiful photos from the Hubble Space Telescope or landings of space vehicles on nearby planets. Yet sometimes we all too easily forget that none of these scientific successes would have been possible without the people who developed groundbreaking technology. Technology that sooner or later will also prove useful to life on Earth.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:02 pm on March 3, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA XMM-Newton, IRAS 13224−3809, ,   

    From Astronomy: “This nearby supermassive black hole packs a pretty big punch” 

    Astronomy magazine

    Astronomy Magazine

    March 01, 2017
    Alison Klesman

    1
    NGC 6814 is a stunning example of a Seyfert galaxy. Like IRAS 13224−3809, this galaxy hosts a bright, highly X-ray variable supermassive black hole at its center. ESA/Hubble & NASA; Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt (Geckzilla)

    Supermassive black holes are associated with the vast majority of galaxies. They’re believed to evolve with their host galaxies and even to affect galaxy growth over time, owing to their ability to gobble up vast amounts of gas and dust and shoot high-energy radiation back out into their surroundings.

    There are measurable correlations between the mass of a supermassive black hole and the properties of its host galaxy’s bulge, such as the luminosity of the bulge and the movements of stars within it. The reasons for these correlations are still unknown, but astronomers have long believed that supermassive black holes affect the star formation around them via some sort of feedback process.

    In a letter printed today in Nature, a group of astronomers led by Michael Parker at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, UK, report their observations of IRAS 13224−3809, a nearby Seyfert galaxy hosting an active galactic nucleus, or AGN. Seyfert galaxies shine intensely in infrared light due to the activity of their supermassive black holes, which are relatively low mass but are accreting at high rates. IRAS 13224−3809 hosts a central supermassive black hole weighing about 6,000,000 times the mass of our Sun.

    Parker and his coauthors studied observations of IRAS 13224−3809 taken with the X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission [ESA/XMM-Newton] over the course of 17 days and with the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array [NASA/NuSTAR] over the course of six days. They observed X-ray variability on scales of minutes to weeks.

    ESA/XMM Newton
    ESA/XMM Newton

    NASA/NuSTAR
    NASA/NuSTAR

    By looking at the X-ray spectrum of the source, they were able to determine that this object offers a relatively unhindered view right down into the inner portions of the accretion disk near the black hole itself.

    When astronomers “look” at a supermassive black hole, they’re actually observing light from the accretion disk of matter around the black hole, which hasn’t yet fallen past the event horizon and become invisible. Supermassive black holes show variability over time in a variety of wavelengths, including optical light, infrared light, and X-rays. This variability is believed to arise from changes in the accretion disk, such as clumps of matter or outflows of gas and radiation.

    IRAS 13224−3809’s black hole shows extraordinary X-ray variability — in fact, it’s the most variable AGN observed at X-ray wavelengths. Parker’s group was able to watch the effects of an ultrafast outflow, which is associated with areas of the accretion disk within a few hundred times the size of the event horizon. Ultrafast outflows, or UFOs, are outflows moving faster than about 6,000 miles per second (10,000 km/s). They’re believed to be triggered by X-ray radiation associated with accretion at the innermost portions of the disk, just a few times the size of the event horizon.

    IRAS 13224−3809’s outflow was clocked at 44,000 miles per second (71,000 km/s), or about 0.236 times the speed of light. This puts it in the top 5 percent of UFOs ever observed. What’s more, the power it’s putting out is on par with quasars that are three orders of magnitude more massive.

    Because of their immense power, IRAS 13224−3809’s outflows may be strong enough to drive feedback in its host galaxy, just as more massive quasars do in the much more distant universe.

    While all black holes are variable, the timescale of variability typically scales with size. This makes sense when you think of variability relating to the accretion disk, which also scales with size. Thus, IRAS 13224−3809 shows much faster variability than the variability observed in quasars, which are similar but much more massive objects. Parker and his group were able to watch IRAS 13224−3809’s X-ray light undergo changes that took only hours, rather than months in a quasar.

    Studying IRAS 13224−3809 could thus help astronomers finally start to answer questions about how UFOs and other outflows are created. It could also shed light on how black hole feedback affects the host galaxy. This object’s unique properties would allow studies to be performed more easily and with much shorter observing times than those focused on faraway, slower-acting quasars.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 7:33 am on February 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA XMM-Newton, furthest pulsar in the Universe, , The brightest   

    From ESA: “The brightest, furthest pulsar in the Universe” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    21 February 2017
    Markus Bauer








    ESA Science and Robotic Exploration Communication Officer









    Tel: +31 71 565 6799









    Mob: +31 61 594 3 954









    Email: markus.bauer@esa.int

    Gian Luca Israel
    INAF, Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma, Italy
    Email: gianluca@oa-roma.inaf.it

    Norbert Schartel
    XMM-Newton project scientist
    Email: Norbert.Schartel@esa.int

    1
    NGC 5907 X-1: record-breaking pulsar

    ESA’s XMM-Newton has found a pulsar – the spinning remains of a once-massive star – that is a thousand times brighter than previously thought possible.

    ESA/XMM Newton
    ESA/XMM Newton

    The pulsar is also the most distant of its kind ever detected, with its light travelling 50 million light-years before being detected by XMM-Newton.

    Pulsars are spinning, magnetised neutron stars that sweep regular pulses of radiation in two symmetrical beams across the cosmos. If suitably aligned with Earth these beams are like a lighthouse beacon appearing to flash on and off as it rotates. They were once massive stars that exploded as a powerful supernova at the end of their natural life, before becoming small and extraordinarily dense stellar corpses.

    This X-ray source is the most luminous of its type detected to date: it is 10 times brighter than the previous record holder. In one second it emits the same amount of energy released by our Sun in 3.5 years.

    XMM-Newton observed the object several times in the last 13 years, with the discovery a result of a systematic search for pulsars in the data archive – its 1.13 s periodic pulses giving it away.

    The signal was also identified in NASA’s Nustar archive data, providing additional information.

    NASA NuSTAR
    NASA/NuSTAR

    “Before, it was believed that only black holes at least 10 times more massive than our Sun feeding off their stellar companions could achieve such extraordinary luminosities, but the rapid and regular pulsations of this source are the fingerprints of neutron stars and clearly distinguish them from black holes,” says Gian Luca Israel, from INAF-Osservatorio Astronomica di Roma, Italy, lead author of the paper describing the result published in Science this week.

    The archival data also revealed that the pulsar’s spin rate has changed over time, from 1.43 s per rotation in 2003 to 1.13 s in 2014. The same relative acceleration in Earth’s rotation would shorten a day by five hours in the same time span

    “Only a neutron star is compact enough to keep itself together while rotating so fast,” adds Gian Luca.

    Although it is not unusual for the rotation rate of a neutron star to change, the high rate of change in this case is likely linked to the object rapidly consuming mass from a companion.

    “This object is really challenging our current understanding of the ‘accretion’ process for high-luminosity stars,” says Gian Luca. “It is 1000 times more luminous than the maximum thought possible for an accreting neutron star, so something else is needed in our models in order to account for the enormous amount of energy released by the object.”

    The scientists think there must be a strong, complex magnetic field close to its surface, such that accretion onto the neutron star surface is still possible while still generating the high luminosity.

    “The discovery of this very unusual object, by far the most extreme ever discovered in terms of distance, luminosity and rate of increase of its rotation frequency, sets a new record for XMM-Newton, and is changing our ideas of how such objects really ‘work’,” says Norbert Schartel, ESA’s XMM-Newton project scientist.

    An accreting pulsar with extreme properties drives an ultraluminous X-ray source in NGC 5907 by G.L. Israel is published in Science.

    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 8:27 pm on February 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ESA XMM-Newton, , ,   

    From Chandra: “XJ1500+0154: Black Hole Meal Sets Record for Duration and Size” 

    NASA Chandra Banner

    NASA Chandra Telescope

    NASA Chandra

    February 6, 2017
    Megan Watzke, press release
    Chandra X-ray Center, Cambridge, Mass.
    617-496-7998
    mwatzke@cfa.harvard.edu

    1
    Illustration
    Credit X-ray: NASA/CXC/UNH/D.Lin et al, Optical: CFHT, Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss
    Observation Date 23 Feb 2015
    Observation Time 10 hours
    Instrument ACIS

    A supermassive black hole in a small galaxy 1.8 billion light years away has been partaking in a decade-long binge of a star.

    This is known as a tidal disruption event and happens when an object gets too close to a black hole and is torn apart by gravity.

    Other similar events have been seen before but this one is much longer, representing an unusually massive meal.

    A trio of orbiting X-ray telescopes, including Chandra, was used to make this discovery.

    A trio of X-ray observatories has captured a remarkable event in their data: a decade-long binge by a black hole almost two billion light years away. This discovery was made using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, Swift Observatory, and ESA’s XMM-Newton, as reported in our press release.

    NASA/SWIFT Telescope
    NASA/SWIFT Telescope

    This artist’s illustration depicts what astronomers call a “tidal disruption event,” or TDE. This is when an object, such as a star, wanders too close to a black hole and is destroyed by tidal forces generated from the black hole’s intense gravitational forces. During a TDE, some of the stellar debris is flung outward at high speeds, while the rest (shown as the red material in the illustration) becomes hotter as it falls toward the black hole, generating a distinct X-ray flare. A wind blowing away from this infalling material is shown in blue.

    Among observed TDEs, this event involved either the most massive star to be completely ripped apart and devoured by a black hole or the first instance where a smaller star was completely ripped apart. The resulting X-ray source is known as XJ1500+154 and is located in a small galaxy about 1.8 billion light years from Earth. The optical image in the left inset shows this galaxy and a cross to mark the location of XJ1500+0154. This image reveals that XJ1500+0154 is found in the center of the galaxy, implying that the source likely originates from a supermassive black hole that resides there. The image on the right shows XJ1500+0154 in the Chandra image covering the same field.

    The source was not detected in a Chandra observation on April 2, 2005, but was detected in an XMM-Newton observation on July 23, 2005, and reached peak brightness in a Chandra observation on June 5, 2008.

    ESA/XMM Newton
    ESA/XMM Newton

    These observations show that the source became at least 100 times brighter in X-rays. Since then, Chandra, Swift, and XMM-Newton have observed it multiple times.

    The X-ray data also indicate that radiation from material surrounding this black hole has consistently surpassed the so-called Eddington limit, defined by a balance between the outward pressure of radiation from the hot gas and the inward pull of the gravity of the black hole.

    This TDE may help answer the question as to how supermassive black holes in the early universe grow. If supermassive black holes can grow, from TDEs or other means, at rates above those corresponding to the Eddington limit, this could explain how supermassive black holes were able to reach masses about a billion times higher than the sun when the universe was only about a billion years old.

    A paper describing these results appears in the February 6th issue of Nature Astronomy. The authors are Dacheng Lin (University of New Hampshire), James Guillochon (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), Stefanie Komossa (QianNan Normal University for Nationalities), Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz (University of California, Santa Cruz), Jimmy Irwin (University of Alabama), Peter Maksym (Harvard-Smithsonian), Dirk Grupe (Morehead State University), Olivier Godet (CNRS), Natalie Webb (CNRS), Didier Barret (CNRS), Ashley Zauderer (New York University), Pierre-Alain Duc (CEA-Saclay), Eleazar Carrasco (Gemini Observatory), and Stephen Gwyn (Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics).

    CFHT Telescope, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA
    CFHT Interior
    CFHT referenced for optical without comment

    See the full article here .

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    NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra’s science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:34 am on April 28, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESA XMM-Newton, Powerful winds spotted from mysterious X-ray binaries   

    From ESA: “Powerful winds spotted from mysterious X-ray binaries” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    28 April 2016
    Ciro Pinto
    Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge
    United Kingdom
    Tel: +44 1223 339281
    Email: cpinto@ast.cam.ac.uk

    Norbert Schartel
    ESA XMM-Newton Project Scientist
    Email: Norbert.Schartel@esa.int

    Markus Bauer








    ESA Science Communication Officer









    Tel: +31 71 565 6799









    Mob: +31 61 594 3 954









    Email: markus.bauer@esa.int

    1
    High-speed winds from X-ray binary. No image credit.

    ESA’s XMM-Newton has discovered gas streaming away at a quarter of the speed of light from very bright X-ray binaries in two nearby galaxies.

    ESA/XMM Newton
    ESA/XMM Newton

    At X-ray wavelengths, the celestial sky is dominated by two types of astronomical objects: supermassive black holes, sitting at the centres of large galaxies and ferociously devouring the material around them, and binary systems, consisting of a stellar remnant – a white dwarf, neutron star or black hole – feeding on gas from a companion star.

    Sag A* NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory 23 July 2014, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way
    Sag A* NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory 23 July 2014, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way

    ALMA composite  HD 142527 binary star system
    ALMA composite HD 142527 binary star system

    In both cases, the gas forms a swirling disc around the compact and very dense central object: friction in the disc causes the gas to heat up and emit light at many wavelengths, with a peak in X-rays.

    Not all of the gas is swallowed by the central object though, and some of it might even be pushed away by powerful winds and jets.

    But an intermediate class of objects was discovered in the 1980s and is still not well understood. Ten to a hundred times brighter than ordinary X-ray binaries, these sources are nevertheless too faint to be linked to accreting supermassive black holes, and in any case, are usually found far from the centre of their host galaxy.

    “We think these ‘ultra-luminous X-ray sources’ are somewhat special binary systems, sucking up gas at a much higher rate than an ordinary X-ray binary,” explains Ciro Pinto from the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, UK.

    “Some host highly magnetised neutron stars, while others might conceal the long-sought-after intermediate-mass black holes, which have masses around 1000 times the mass of the Sun. But in the majority of cases, the reason for their extreme behaviour is still unclear.”

    2
    The irregular galaxy NGC 5408 viewed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

    Ciro is the lead author of a new study*, based on observations from ESA’s XMM-Newton, revealing for the first time strong winds gusting at very high speed from two of these exotic objects. The discovery, published in this week’s issue of the journal Nature, confirms that these sources conceal a compact object accreting matter at extraordinarily high rates.

    Ciro and his colleagues delved into the XMM-Newton archives and collected several days’ worth of observations of three ultra-luminous X-ray sources, all hosted in nearby galaxies located less than 22 million light-years from our Milky Way.

    The data were obtained over several years with the Reflection Grating Spectrometer, a highly sensitive instrument that allowed them to spot very subtle features in the spectrum of the X-rays from the sources.

    3
    NGC 1313 viewed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

    In all three sources, the scientists were able to identify X-ray emission from gas in the outer portions of the disc surrounding the central compact object, slowly flowing towards it.

    But two of the three sources – known as NGC 1313 X-1 and NGC 5408 X-1 – also show clear signs of X-rays being absorbed by gas that is streaming away from the central source at an extremely rapid 70 000 km/s – almost a quarter of the speed of light.

    “This is the first time we’ve seen winds streaming away from ultra-luminous X-ray sources,” says Ciro.

    “And there’s more, since the very high speed of these outflows is telling us something about the nature of the compact objects in these sources, which are frantically devouring matter.”

    While the hot gas is pulled inwards by the central object’s gravity, it also shines brightly, and the pressure exerted by the radiation pushes it outwards. This is a balancing act: the greater the mass, the faster it draws the surrounding gas. But this also causes the gas to heat up faster, emitting more light and increasing the pressure that blows the gas away.

    There is a theoretical limit to how much matter can be accreted by an object of a given mass, called the ‘Eddington luminosity’. It was first calculated for stars by astronomer Arthur Eddington, but it can also be applied to compact objects like black holes and neutron stars.

    Eddington’s calculation refers to an ideal case in which both the matter being accreted onto the central object and the radiation being emitted by it do so equally in all directions.

    But the sources studied by Ciro and his collaborators are being fed through an accretion disc that is likely being puffed up by internal pressure of the gas flowing at a fast pace towards the central object.

    In such a configuration, the material in the disc can shine 10 times or more above the Eddington limit and, as part of the gas eludes the gravitational grasp from the central object, very high-speed winds can arise like the ones observed by XMM-Newton.

    “By observing X-ray sources that are radiating beyond the Eddington limit, it is possible to study their accretion process in great detail, investigating by how much the limit can be exceeded and what exactly triggers the outflow of such powerful winds,” says Norbert Schartel, ESA XMM-Newton Project Scientist.

    The nature of the compact objects hosted at the core of the sources observed in this study is, however, still uncertain, although the scientists suspect it might be stellar-mass black holes, with masses of several to a few dozen times that of the Sun.

    To investigate further, the team is still scrutinising the data archive of XMM-Newton, searching for more sources of this type, and are also planning future observations, in X-rays as well as at optical and radio wavelengths.

    “With a broader sample of sources and multi-wavelength observations, we hope to finally uncover the physical nature of these powerful, peculiar objects,” concludes Ciro.

    Science paper:
    Resolved atomic lines reveal outflows in two ultraluminous X-ray sources in Nature.
    [No link provided]

    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 10:02 am on March 31, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ESA XMM-Newton,   

    From ESA- “Found: Andromeda’s first spinning neutron star” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    31 March 2016
    Paolo Esposito
    INAF-Istituto di Astrofisica Spaziale e Fisica Cosmica, Milan, Italy
    Email: paoloesp@iasf-milano.inaf.it

    Gian Luca Israel
    INAF-Osservatorio Astronomica di Roma, Italy
    Email: gianluca@oa-roma.inaf.it

    Andrea De Luca
    INAF-Istituto di Astrofisica Spaziale e Fisica Cosmica, Milan, Italy
    Email: deluca@iasf-milano.inaf.it

    Norbert Schartel
    XMM-Newton project scientist
    Email: Norbert.Schartel@esa.int

    1
    Andromeda’s spinning neutron star
    Released 31/03/2016
    ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/J. Fritz, U. Gent/XMM-Newton/EPIC/W. Pietsch, MPE; data: P. Esposito et al (2016)

    ESA/Herschel
    ESA/Herschel

    Decades of searching in the Milky Way’s nearby ‘twin’ galaxy Andromeda have finally paid off, with the discovery of an elusive breed of stellar corpse, a neutron star, by ESA’s XMM-Newton space telescope.

    Andromeda Galaxy NASA Hubble
    Andromeda Galaxy NASA/ESA Hubble

    ESA/XMM Newton
    ESA/XMM Newton

    Andromeda, or [Messier] 31, is a popular target among astronomers. Under clear, dark skies it is even visible to the naked eye. Its proximity and similarity in structure to our own spiral galaxy, the Milky Way, make it an important natural laboratory for astronomers. It has been extensively studied for decades by telescopes covering the whole electromagnetic spectrum.

    Despite being extremely well studied, one particular class of object had never been detected: spinning neutron stars.

    Neutron stars are the small and extraordinarily dense remains of a once-massive star that exploded as a powerful supernova at the end of its natural life. They often spin very rapidly and can sweep regular pulses of radiation towards Earth, like a lighthouse beacon appearing to flash on and off as it rotates.

    These pulsars can be found in stellar couples, with the neutron star cannibalising its neighbour. This can lead to the neutron star spinning faster, and to pulses of high-energy X-rays from hot gas being funnelled down magnetic fields on to the neutron star.

    Binary systems hosting a neutron star like this are quite common in our own Galaxy, but regular signals from such a pairing had never before been seen in Andromeda.

    Now, astronomers systematically searching through the archives of data from XMM-Newton X-ray telescope have uncovered the signal of an unusual source fitting the bill of a fast-spinning neutron star.

    It spins every 1.2 seconds, and appears to be feeding on a neighbouring star that orbits it every 1.3 days.

    “We were expecting to detect periodic signals among the brightest X-ray objects in Andromeda, in line with what we already found during the 1960s and 1970s in our own Galaxy,” says Gian Luca Israel, from INAF-Osservatorio Astronomica di Roma, Italy, one of the authors of the paper describing the results, “But persistent, bright X-ray pulsars like this are still somewhat peculiar, so it was not completely a sure thing we would find one in Andromeda.

    “We looked through archival data of Andromeda spanning 2000–13, but it wasn’t until 2015 that we were finally able to identify this object in the galaxy’s outer spiral in just two of the 35 measurements.”

    While the precise nature of the system remains unclear, the data imply that it is unusual and exotic.

    “It could be what we call a ‘peculiar low-mass X-ray binary pulsar’ – in which the companion star is less massive than our Sun – or alternatively an intermediate-mass binary system, with a companion of about two solar masses,” says Paolo Esposito of INAF-Istituto di Astrofisica Spaziale e Fisica Cosmica, Milan, Italy.

    “We need to acquire more observations of the pulsar and its companion to help determine which scenario is more likely.”

    “The well-known Andromeda galaxy has long been a source of exciting discoveries, and now an intriguing periodic signal has been detected by our flagship X-ray mission,” adds Norbert Schartel, ESA’s XMM-Newton project scientist.

    “We’re in a better position now to uncover more objects like this in Andromeda, both with XMM-Newton and with future missions such as ESA’s next-generation high-energy observatory, Athena.”

    The science team:
    P. Esposito,1? G. L. Israel,2 A. Belfiore,1 G. Novara,3 L. Sidoli,1 G. A. Rodr´ıguez Castillo,2
    A. De Luca,1 A. Tiengo,1;3;4 F. Haberl,5 R. Salvaterra,1 A. M. Read,6 D. Salvetti,1 S. Sandrelli,7
    M. Marelli,1 J. Wilms8 and D. D’Agostino9

    1INAF–Istituto di Astrofisica Spaziale e Fisica Cosmica – Milano, via E. Bassini 15, I-20133 Milano, Italy
    2INAF–Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma, via Frascati 33, I-00040 Monteporzio Catone, Italy
    3IUSS–Istituto Universitario di Studi Superiori, piazza della Vittoria 15, I-27100 Pavia, Italy
    4INFN–Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare, Sezione di Pavia, via A. Bassi 6, I-27100 Pavia, Italy
    5Max-Planck-Institut f¨ur extraterrestrische Physik, Giessenbachstraße, D-85748 Garching, Germany
    6Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 7RH, U.K.
    7INAF–Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera, via Brera 28, I-20121 Milano, Italy
    8ECAP–Erlangen Centre for Astroparticle Physics, Sternwartstrasse 7, D-96049 Bamberg, Germany
    9CNR–Istituto di Matematica Applicata e Tecnologie Informatiche, via de Marini 6, I-16149 Genova, Italy

    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 10:25 am on January 14, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A Milky Way twin swept by an ultra-fast X-ray wind, , , ESA XMM-Newton   

    From ESA: “A Milky Way twin swept by an ultra-fast X-ray wind” 

    ESASpaceForEuropeBanner
    European Space Agency

    14 January 2016
    Markus Bauer
    ESA Science and Robotic Exploration Communication Officer
    Tel: +31 71 565 6799
    Mob: +31 61 594 3 954
    Email: Markus.Bauer@esa.int

    Anna Lia Longinotti
    Catedrática CONACYT
    Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica (INAOE Puebla, Mexico)
    Email: annalia@inaoep.mx

    Matteo Guainazzi
    ESA ASTRO-H Resident Astronomer
    Institute of Space and Astronautical Science
    Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
    Email: Matteo.Guainazzi@sciops.esa.int

    Norbert Schartel
    ESA XMM-Newton project scientist
    Email: norbert.Schartel@esa.int

    Temp 1
    Winds from a spiral galaxy. Artist’s depiction. No image credit found.

    ESA’s XMM-Newton has found a wind of high-speed gas streaming from the centre of a bright spiral galaxy like our own that may be reducing its ability to produce new stars.

    ESA XMM Newton
    XMM-Newton

    It is not unusual to find hot winds blowing from the swirling discs of material around supermassive black holes at the centre of active galaxies.

    If powerful enough, these winds can influence their surroundings in various ways. Their primary effect is to sweep away reservoirs of gas that might otherwise have formed stars, but it is also possible that they might trigger the collapse of some clouds to form stars.

    Such processes are thought to play a fundamental role in galaxies and black holes throughout the Universe’s 13.8 billion years.

    But they were thought to affect only the largest objects, such as massive elliptical galaxies formed through the dramatic collision and merging of two or more galaxies, which sometimes trigger the winds powerful enough to influence star formation.

    Now, for the first time, these winds have been seen in a more normal kind of active galaxy known as a Seyfert, which does not appear to have undergone any merging.

    3
    Resembling a swirling witch’s cauldron of glowing vapors, the black hole-powered core of a nearby active galaxy appears in this colorful NASA[/ESA] Hubble Space Telescope image. The galaxy lies 13 million light-years away in the southern constellation Circinus.

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble

    When observed in visible light, almost all Seyfert galaxies have a spiral shape similar to our own Milky Way. However, unlike the Milky Way, Seyferts have bright cores that shine across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, a sign that the supermassive black holes at their centres are not idle but are devouring their surroundings.

    The supermassive black hole at the heart of this particular Seyfert, known as IRAS17020+4544 and located 800 million light-years from Earth, has a mass of nearly six million Suns, drawing in nearby gas and making it shine moderately.

    XMM-Newton has found that the winds from around the black hole are moving at 23 000–33 000 km/s, about 10% the speed of light.

    An important finding is that the wind from the centre is sufficiently energetic to heat the gas in the galaxy and suppress star formation – the first time it has been seen in a relatively normal spiral galaxy.

    “It’s the first solid case of an ultra-fast X-ray outflow observed in a ‘normal’ Seyfert galaxy,” says Anna Lia Longinotti from the Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica of Puebla, Mexico, lead author of the paper describing the results in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

    Temp 1
    The peculiar wind of a spiral galaxy. Image: Sloan Digital Sky Survey; Spectrum: Longinotti et al (2015)

    The galaxy has another surprise: the X-ray emission from the fast winds from galactic cores are usually dominated by iron atoms with many of their electrons stripped off, but this galaxy’s winds turn out to be rather unusual, exhibiting lighter elements like oxygen, with no iron detected.

    “I was actually very surprised to discover that this wind is made mostly of oxygen because nobody has seen a galaxy like this before,” says Anna Lia.

    Because the galaxy is broadly similar to our own, it raises questions about the history of the Milky Way and the role that our own central black hole may have played.

    “We know, also thanks to recent results obtained by XMM-Newton, that the four-million-solar-mass black hole in our own galaxy has undergone phases of much stronger activities, even only a few hundred years ago,” says co-author Matteo Guainazzi, ESA astronomer currently at the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

    “Of course we cannot be sure, but our discovery implies that fast outflows like those found in IRAS17020+4544 may have once swept through our own Galaxy during one of these active phases.

    “This possibility was not considered before, because this ‘feedback’ from X-ray winds was previously observed only in galaxies very different from the Milky Way.”

    “XMM-Newton continues to make discoveries with the potential to question our understanding of how the stars in a galaxy and the supermassive black hole at its centre co-evolve throughout the history of the Universe,” says Norbert Schartel, ESA’s XMM-Newton project scientist.

    Notes for Editors

    X-ray high-resolution spectroscopy reveals feedback in a Seyfert Galaxy from an ultra fast wind with complex ionization and velocity structure,” by A.L Longinotti et al is published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

    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 10:08 am on December 21, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ESA XMM-Newton,   

    From ESA: “Sparkling Stephan’s Quintet” 

    ESASpaceForEuropeBanner
    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.

    3
    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 8:33 pm on December 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESA XMM-Newton, , ,   

    From JPL-Caltech: “NuSTAR Finds Cosmic Clumpy Doughnut Around Black Hole” 

    JPL-Caltech

    December 17, 2015
    Whitney Clavin
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
    818-354-4673
    whitney.clavin@jpl.nasa.gov

    1
    Galaxy NGC 1068 can be seen in close-up in this view from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble

    NuSTAR’s high-energy X-rays eyes were able to obtain the best view yet into the hidden lair of the galaxy’s central, supermassive black hole.

    NASA NuSTAR
    NASA/NuSTAR

    2
    This active black hole is one of the most obscured known, meaning that it is surrounded by extremely thick clouds of gas and dust.

    The NuSTAR data revealed that the torus of gas and dust surrounding the black hole, also referred to as a doughnut, is more clumpy than previously thought. doughnuts around active, supermassive black holes were originally proposed in the mid-1980s to be smooth entities. More recently, researchers have been finding that doughnuts are not so smooth but have lumps. NuSTAR’s latest finding shows that this is true for even the thickest of doughnuts.

    NuSTAR is a Small Explorer mission led by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, also in Pasadena, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The spacecraft was built by Orbital Sciences Corporation, Dulles, Virginia. Its instrument was built by a consortium including Caltech; JPL; the University of California, Berkeley; Columbia University, New York; NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland; the Danish Technical University in Denmark; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California; ATK Aerospace Systems, Goleta, California, and with support from the Italian Space Agency (ASI) Science Data Center.

    NuSTAR’s mission operations center is at UC Berkeley, with the ASI providing its equatorial ground station located at Malindi, Kenya. The mission’s outreach program is based at Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, California. NASA’s Explorer Program is managed by Goddard. JPL is managed by Caltech for NASA.

    For more information, visit http://www.nasa.gov/nustar and http://www.nustar.caltech.edu/.

    The most massive black holes in the universe are often encircled by thick, doughnut-shaped disks of gas and dust. This deep-space doughnut material ultimately feeds and nourishes the growing black holes tucked inside.

    Until recently, telescopes weren’t able to penetrate some of these doughnuts, also known as tori.

    “Originally, we thought that some black holes were hidden behind walls or screens of material that could not be seen through,” said Andrea Marinucci of the Roma Tre University in Italy, lead author of a new Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society study describing results from NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton space observatory.

    With its X-ray vision, NuSTAR recently peered inside one of the densest of these doughnuts known to surround a supermassive black hole. This black hole lies at the center of a well-studied spiral galaxy called NGC 1068, located 47 million light-years away in the Cetus constellation.

    The observations revealed a clumpy, cosmic doughnut.

    “The rotating material is not a simple, rounded doughnut as originally thought, but clumpy,” said Marinucci.

    Doughnut-shaped disks of gas and dust around supermassive black holes were first proposed in the mid-1980s to explain why some black holes are hidden behind gas and dust, while others are not. The idea is that the orientation of the doughnut relative to Earth affects the way we perceive a black hole and its intense radiation. If the doughnut is viewed edge-on, the black hole is blocked. If the doughnut is viewed face-on, the black hole and its surrounding, blazing materials can be detected. This idea is referred to as the unified model because it neatly joins together the different black hole types, based solely upon orientation.

    In the past decade, astronomers have been finding hints that these doughnuts aren’t as smoothly shaped as once thought. They are more like defective, lumpy doughnuts that a doughnut shop might throw away.

    The new discovery is the first time this clumpiness has been observed in an ultra-thick doughnut, and supports the idea that this phenomenon may be common. The research is important for understanding the growth and evolution of massive black holes and their host galaxies.

    “We don’t fully understand why some supermassive black holes are so heavily obscured, or why the surrounding material is clumpy,” said co-author Poshak Gandhi of the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom. “This is a subject of hot research.”

    Both NuSTAR and [ESA]XMM-Newton observed the supermassive black hole in NGC 1068 simultaneously on two occasions between 2014 to 2015.

    ESA XMM Newton
    ESA/XMM-Newton

    On one of those occasions, in August 2014, NuSTAR observed a spike in brightness. NuSTAR observes X-rays in a higher-energy range than XMM-Newton, and those high-energy X-rays can uniquely pierce thick clouds around the black hole. The scientists say the spike in high-energy X-rays was due to a clearing in the thickness of the material entombing the supermassive black hole.

    “It’s like a cloudy day, when the clouds partially move away from the sun to let more light shine through,” said Marinucci.

    NGC 1068 is well known to astronomers as the first black hole to give birth to the unification idea. “But it is only with NuSTAR that we now have a direct glimpse of its black hole through such clouds, albeit fleeting, allowing a better test of the unification concept,” said Marinucci.

    The team says that future research will address the question of what causes the unevenness in doughnuts. The answer could come in many flavors. It’s possible that a black hole generates turbulence as it chomps on nearby material. Or, the energy given off by young stars could stir up turbulence, which would then percolate outward through the doughnut. Another possibility is that the clumps may come from material falling onto the doughnut. As galaxies form, material migrates toward the center, where the density and gravity is greatest. The material tends to fall in clumps, almost like a falling stream of water condensing into droplets as it hits the ground.

    “We’d like to figure out if the unevenness of the material is being generated from outside the doughnut, or within it,” said Gandhi.

    “These coordinated observations with NuSTAR and XMM-Newton show yet again the exciting science possible when these satellites work together,” said Daniel Stern, NuSTAR project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

    See the full article here.

    Another simpler view of NGC 1068 from Hubble:
    4

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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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