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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, Stephan’s Quintet   

    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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  • richardmitnick 10:18 am on December 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESA XMM-Newton, Lockman Hole   

    From ESA: “The Lockman Hole in X-rays” 

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    European Space Agency

    1

    14/12/2015

    A special patch of sky can be found close to the Big Dipper, in the northern constellation of Ursa Major, also known as the Great Bear. Appearing to contain no stars and hardly any gas clouds from our Milky Way galaxy, this region is called the Lockman Hole. A unique window into the distant Universe, it was discovered in 1986 by astronomer Felix J. Lockman.

    Since its discovery, astronomers have been surveying the Lockman Hole to study the evolution of galaxies throughout cosmic history. Shortly after the launch of ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray observatory, which lifted off on 10 December 1999, various teams started looking at this patch of the sky with the new telescope.

    ESA XMM Newton
    ESA/XMM-Newton

    By 2003, they had accumulated over 200 hours of data.

    This image shows a portion of the Lockman Hole based on those observations. Hundreds of distant galaxies can be seen – their light has travelled billions of years before reaching Earth.

    At the core of each of these galaxies is a supermassive black hole, a huge concentration of matter millions to billions of times more massive than the Sun, whose powerful gravity draws large amounts of material from the surroundings. The majority of the black holes depicted here are accreting nearby matter at a very high rate, which results in the emission of light across the electromagnetic spectrum, including X-rays.

    Also portrayed in the image are a few galaxy clusters, gigantic assemblies of galaxies permeated by hot gas that shines brightly in X-rays. The double-lobed red object towards the upper left of the image is one such galaxy cluster: its light has taken over eight billion years to reach us.

    This colour view combines X-ray data collected at energies of 0.5–2 keV (shown in red), 2–4.5 keV (green) and 4.5–10 keV (blue). The image spans half a degree – about the diameter of the full Moon – on the short side; north is up and east to the left. It was first published in 2001, in a paper by G. Hasinger and colleagues.

    See the full article here .

    Another view:
    2
    The Chandra mosaic of a region of the sky known as the Lockman Hole (named after astronomer Felix Lockman, who discovered that this region of the Galaxy is almost free of absorption by neutral hydrogen gas) shows hundreds of X-ray sources. The high spatial resolution of Chandra allowed for the identification of many supermassive black holes in this image. The Lockman Hole data and two other surveys with Chandra and the Hubble Space Telescope have provided a reasonably accurate census of supermassive black holes in the Universe. Astronomers have used this census to study the rate at which these enormous black holes grow by pulling in gas from their surroundings.

    NASA Chandra Telescope
    NASA/Chandra

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  • richardmitnick 2:48 pm on December 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESA XMM-Newton   

    From ESA: “Cosmic filaments exposed near huge cluster” 

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    European Space Agency

    2 December 2015
    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

    Dominique Eckert
    University of Geneva, Switzerland and INAF-IASF, Milano, Italy
    Email: Dominique.Eckert@unige.ch

    Mathilde Jauzac
    University of Durham, UKand University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
    Email: mathilde.jauzac@durham.ac.uk

    Norbert Schartel
    ESA XMM-Newton Project Scientist
    ESA Directorate of Science and Robotic Exploration
    Tel: +34 91 8131 184
    Email: Norbert.Schartel@esa.int

    1
    Components of the galaxy cluster Abell 2744, also known as the Pandora Cluster: galaxies (white), hot gas (red) and dark matter (blue).
    Galaxy clusters are the most massive cosmic structures held together by gravity, consisting of galaxies, hot gas and dark matter. They sit in the densest hubs of the filamentary ‘cosmic web’ that pervades the Universe.
    Using ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray observatory, astronomers have detected three massive filaments flowing towards the core of Abell 2744 and connecting it with the cosmic web. The filaments also consist of galaxies, hot gas and dark matter. One of them can be seen as the elongated structure on the left side of the image, another one is visible towards the upper right, and the third one below the cluster, slightly towards the right.
    There are also two structures – one on the lower left of the cluster, the other in the upper central part of the image – which are not physically linked to the cluster but are the projection of more distant structures viewed along the same line of sight.
    The astronomers detected the hot gas in the cluster and filaments with X-ray observations and the galaxies with optical observations. To reconstruct the distribution of dark matter, they used the gravitational lensing effect that the mass of the cluster and filaments exerts on more distant galaxies.
    Abell 2744 has a mass of almost two million billion times the mass of our Sun. Light from the cluster galaxies and gas travelled for over 3 billion years to reach Earth.
    The image measures about half a degree across. The image is sprinkled with foreground stars belonging to our Galaxy, the Milky Way, which are visible as the roundish objects with diffraction spikes.

    ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray observatory has revealed three massive filaments of hot gas flowing towards a cluster of galaxies, uncovering a portion of the cosmic skeleton that pervades the entire Universe.

    Galaxies tend to congregate, forming groups and even larger agglomerates called clusters. These clusters are the most massive cosmic structures held together by gravity. As well as galaxies, they contain large amounts of hot gas and even larger amounts of invisible dark matter.

    On a grander scale, galaxies and galaxy clusters appear to be linked in a gigantic filamentary network, with the most massive clusters sitting in the densest hubs of this ‘cosmic web’.

    Computer simulations indicate that the cosmic web, which consists primarily of dark matter and some ordinary matter, behaves as the scaffolding of the cosmos, providing the framework for stars, galaxies and clusters to form and evolve.

    In the past few decades, astronomers have detected the threadlike structure of the cosmic web in the large-scale distribution of galaxies, and found hints that diffuse gas is arranged in a similar way.

    2
    Four galaxy clusters embedded in the cosmic web, the wispy network of both dark and baryonic matter that is believed to pervade the Universe. This image was extracted from a numerical simulation of the formation and evolution of cosmic structure.
    Four very massive galaxy clusters are visible where the concentration of galaxies (shown in white and purple) is higher. Two of the clusters, in the lower left corner of the image, are in the early phases of a merging process; the other two clusters can be seen in the central part of the image, just above the centre. The filamentary structure formed by the four clusters extends toward the right side of the image, where several less massive systems can be seen.
    Galaxy clusters form in the densest knots of the cosmic web, where filaments intersect. The density of gas in the filaments that link the clusters is represented with different colours, with dark brown indicating less dense regions and brighter colours (from orange to yellow and green) indicating increasingly denser regions.
    The image shows a portion of the cosmic web that spans about 260 million light-years across.

    A new study using ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray observatory has now uncovered a handful of filaments made of galaxies, gas and dark matter that are flowing towards one of the most massive galaxy clusters in the Universe, obtaining the first, unambiguous detection of gas in the cosmic web.

    ESA XMM Newton
    XMM-Newton

    “This was an unexpected and most welcome discovery,” says Dominique Eckert of the University of Geneva, Switzerland, lead author of the paper reporting the new results in the journal Nature this week.

    The object of the study is Abell 2744, which has been nicknamed the Pandora Cluster owing to its complex and jumbled structure. It is composed of at least four smaller components that are merging.

    “We knew that this is an incredibly massive cluster hosting active processes at its core, and seeing its direct connection to the cosmic web confirms our picture of how structures form in the Universe,” adds Dr Eckert.

    From 30 hours of observations by XMM-Newton in December 2014, the astronomers detected five large structures of hot gas that seem to be linked to the core of Abell 2744.

    Comparing the X-ray data with optical observations, they identified the galaxies that belong to the various filaments, recognising that three of them are physically connected to the cluster, while the other two are the projection of more distant structures viewed along the same line of sight.

    Just like the cluster, the filaments also contain plenty of dark matter. The astronomers have reconstructed its distribution by studying the ‘gravitational lensing’ effect that the mass of the cluster and filaments exerts on distant galaxies, modifying the path of their light and so increasing their brightness and twisting their shapes as seen by us.

    “We initially looked at the inner core of Abell 2744 with the Hubble Space Telescope, with the aim of using the cluster as a strong magnifying lens to detect background galaxies that would be otherwise too faint to observe,” explains co-author Mathilde Jauzac from the University of Durham, UK.

    “After the discovery of X-ray gas in these filaments, we decided to look at the gravitational lensing effect also in the outskirts of the cluster, where background galaxies are only weakly distorted and magnified, but still enable us to study the dark matter distribution near the cluster as well as in the nearby filaments.”

    The combination of observations at different wavelengths revealed how the various components of Abell 2744 and its surroundings coexist.

    From the X-ray data, the astronomers measured the density and temperature of the gas and compared it with the predictions from theory. With gas temperatures of 10–20 million degrees celsius, the filaments are much colder than the centre of the cluster, where the gas reaches 100 million degrees, but hotter than the average temperature in the cosmic web, estimated to be several million degrees.

    The gas and galaxies in the filaments amount to about a tenth of the total mass – the rest being dark matter – which also agrees with expectations.

    While the measurements match well with the astronomers’ theoretical scenario, caution is always in order when drawing conclusions about the Universe as a whole.

    “What we observed is a very special configuration of dense filaments close to an exceptionally massive cluster. We need a much larger sample of less-dense filaments to investigate the nature of the cosmic web in greater detail,” says Dr Eckert.

    For more in-depth investigations, astronomers will have to wait for ESA’s Athena X-ray telescope, planned for launch in 2028.

    ESA Athena spacecraft
    Athena spacecraft

    Athena’s extraordinary sensitivity will make it possible to survey hot gas in the cosmic web across the sky, detecting faint and diffuse filaments and even identifying some of the atomic elements in the gas.

    “With the discovery of filaments around Abell 2744, we are witnessing the build-up of the cosmic web in one of the busiest places in the known Universe, a crucial step in the study of the formation of galaxies and galaxy clusters,” says Norbert Schartel, ESA XMM-Newton Project Scientist.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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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 10:59 am on November 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESA XMM-Newton, ,   

    From JPL-Caltech: “NASA, ESA Telescopes Give Shape to Furious Black Hole Winds” 

    JPL-Caltech

    February 19, 2015
    Whitney Clavin
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
    818-354-4673
    whitney.clavin@jpl.nasa.gov

    Felicia Chou
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-0257
    felicia.chou@nasa.gov

    1
    Supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies blast radiation and ultra-fast winds outward, as illustrated in this artist’s conception. New data from NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) XMM-Newton telescopes show that these winds, which contain gases of highly ionized atoms, blow in a nearly spherical fashion, emanating in every direction, as shown in the artwork. The findings rule out the possibility that the winds blow in narrow beams.

    NASA NuSTAR
    NASA/NuSTAR

    ESA XMM Newton
    ESA/XMM-Newton

    With the shape and extent of the winds known, the researchers were able to determine the winds’ strength. The high-speed winds are powerful enough to shut down star formation throughout a galaxy.

    The artwork is based on an image of the Pinwheel galaxy (Messier 101) taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble

    2
    The galaxy Messier 101 (M101, also known as NGC 5457 and also nicknamed the Pinwheel Galaxy) lies in the northern circumpolar constellation, Ursa Major (The Great Bear), at a distance of about 21 million light-years from Earth. This is one of the largest and most detailed photo of a spiral galaxy that has been released from Hubble. The galaxy’s portrait is actually composed of 51 individual Hubble exposures, in addition to elements from images from ground-based photos [CFHT image: Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope/J.-C. Cuillandre/Coelum NOAO image: George Jacoby, Bruce Bohannan, Mark Hanna/NOAO/AURA/NSF.

    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.

    2
    This plot of data from two space telescopes, NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) XMM-Newton determines for the first time the shape of ultra-fast winds from supermassive black holes, or quasars. The winds blow in every direction, in a nearly spherical fashion, coming from both sides of a galaxy (only one side is shown here).

    The plot shows the brightness of X-ray light from an extremely luminous quasar called PDS 456, with the highest-energy rays on the right. XMM-Newton sees lower-energy X-rays, and NuSTAR, higher. XMM Newton had previously observed the extremely luminous quasar, called PDS 456, on its own in 2001. At that time, it had measured the X-rays up to an energy level of 11 kiloelectron volts. From those data, researchers detected a dip in the X-ray light, called an absorption feature (see dip in plot). The dip is caused by iron atoms — which are carried by the winds along with other matter — absorbing the X-ray light of a particular energy. What’s more, the absorption feature is ‘blueshifted,” meaning that the winds are speeding toward us (like a train’s whistle shifting to higher frequencies as it races toward you).

    In other words, the 2001 XMM-Newton data had told researchers that at least some of the winds were blowing toward us — but they didn’t reveal whether those winds were confined to a narrow beam along our line of sight, or were blowing in all directions. That’s because XMM-Newton had only detected absorption features, which by definition occur in front of a light source, in this case, the quasar. To probe what was happening to at sides of the quasar, the astronomers needed to find a different type of feature called an emission feature. These occur when iron scatters X-ray light at a particular energy in all directions, not only toward the observer.

    Enter NuSTAR to the X-ray astronomy scene, a high-energy X-ray telescope that was launched in 2012. NuSTAR and XMM-Newton teamed up to observe PDS 456 simultaneously in 2013 and 2014. The results are shown in this plot. NuSTAR data are represented as orange circles and XMM-Newton as blue squares. The NuSTAR data reveal the baseline of the “continuum” quasar light (see gray line) — or what the quasar would look like without any winds. What stands out is the bump to the left of the dips. That’s an iron emission signature, the telltale sign that the black hole winds blow to the sides and in all directions.

    XMM-Newton might have seen the emission feature before, but the feature couldn’t be identified until NuSTAR’s elucidated the baseline quasar light. For example, had the X-ray winds been confined to a beam, then NuSTAR would have seen more brightness at the higher end of the X-ray spectrum, and there would have been no iron emission feature.

    The results demonstrate that, in some cases, two telescopes are better than one at solving tricky problems. By observing the entire X-ray energy range, the astronomers were able to get a more complete picture of what is happening around the quasar.

    “We know black holes in the centers of galaxies can feed on matter, and this process can produce winds. This is thought to regulate the growth of the galaxies,” said Fiona Harrison of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California. Harrison is the principal investigator of NuSTAR and a co-author on a new paper about these results appearing in the journal Science. “Knowing the speed, shape and size of the winds, we can now figure out how powerful they are.”

    Supermassive black holes blast matter into their host galaxies, with X-ray-emitting winds traveling at up to one-third the speed of light. In the new study, astronomers determined PDS 456, an extremely bright black hole known as a quasar more than 2 billion light-years away, sustains winds that carry more energy every second than is emitted by more than a trillion suns.

    “Now we know quasar winds significantly contribute to mass loss in a galaxy, driving out its supply of gas, which is fuel for star formation,” said the study’s lead author, Emanuele Nardini of Keele University in England.

    “This is a great example of the synergy between XMM-Newton and NuSTAR,” said Norbert Schartel, XMM-Newton project scientist at ESA. “The complementarity of these two X-ray observatories is enabling us to unveil previously hidden details about the powerful side of the universe.”

    “For an astronomer, studying PDS 456 is like a paleontologist being given a living dinosaur to study,” said study co-author Daniel Stern of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. “We are able to investigate the physics of these important systems with a level of detail not possible for those found at more typical distances, during the ‘Age of Quasars.'”

    NuSTAR is a Small Explorer mission led by Caltech and managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

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

    See the full article here .

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    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 [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 10:23 am on August 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Centre of the Milky Way Galaxy, ESA XMM-Newton   

    From ESA: “The tumultuous heart of our Galaxy” 

    ESASpaceForEuropeBanner
    European Space Agency

    1
    X-ray view of the Galactic Centre

    20 August 2015

    This new image of powerful remnants of dead stars and their mighty action on the surrounding gas from ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray observatory reveals some of the most intense processes taking place at the centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way.

    ESA XMM Newton
    XMM-Newton

    The bright, point-like sources that stand out across the image trace binary stellar systems in which one of the stars has reached the end of its life, evolving into a compact and dense object – a neutron star or black hole. Because of their high densities, these compact remnants devour mass from their companion star, heating the material up and causing it to shine brightly in X-rays.

    The central region of our galaxy also contains young stars and stellar clusters, and some of these are visible as white or red sources sprinkled throughout the image, which spans about one thousand light-years.

    Most of the action is occurring at the centre, where diffuse clouds of gas are being carved by powerful winds blown by young stars, as well as by supernovas, the explosive demise of massive stars.

    The supermassive black hole sitting at the centre of the Galaxy is also responsible for some of this action. Known as Sagittarius A*, this black hole has a mass a few million times that of our Sun, and it is located within the bright, fuzzy source to the right of the image centre.

    3
    Sagittarius A* Credits: X-ray: NASA/UMass/D.Wang et al., IR: NASA/STScI

    While black holes themselves do not emit light, their immense gravitational pull draws in the surrounding matter that, in the process, emits light at many wavelengths, most notably X-rays. In addition, two lobes of hot gas can be seen extending above and below the black hole.

    Astronomers believe that these lobes are caused either directly by the black hole, which swallows part of the material that flows onto it but spews out most of it, or by the cumulative effect of the numerous stellar winds and supernova explosions that occur in such a dense environment.

    This image, showing us an unprecedented view of the Milky Way’s energetic core, was put together in a new study by compiling all observations of this region that were performed with XMM-Newton, adding up to about one and a half months of monitoring in total.

    2
    The Galactic Centre through the emission of heavy elements

    The large, elliptical structure to the lower right of Sagittarius A* is a super-bubble of hot gas, likely puffed up by the remnants of several supernovas at its centre. While this structure was already known to astronomers, this study confirms for the first time that it consists of a single, gigantic bubble rather than the superposition of several, individual supernova remnants along the line of sight.

    Another huge pocket of hot gas, designated the ‘Arc Bubble‘ due to its crescent-like shape, can be seen close to the image centre, to the lower left of the supermassive black hole. It is being inflated by the forceful winds of stars in a nearby stellar cluster, as well as by supernovae; the remnant of one of these explosions, a candidate pulsar wind nebula, was detected at the core of the bubble.

    The rich data set compiled in this study contains observations that span the full range of X-ray energies covered by XMM-Newton; these include some energies corresponding to the light emitted by heavy elements such as silicon, sulphur and argon, which are produced primarily in supernova explosions. By combining these additional information present in the data, the astronomers obtained another, complementary view of the Galactic Centre, which reveals beautifully the lobes and bubbles described earlier on.

    In addition, this alternative view also displays the emission, albeit very faint, from warm plasma in the upper and lower parts of the image. This warm plasma might be the collective macroscopic effect of outflows generated by star formation throughout this entire central zone.

    Another of the possible explanations for such emission links it to the turbulent past of the now not-so-active supermassive black hole. Astronomers believe that, earlier on in the history of our galaxy, Sagittarius A* was accreting and ejecting mass at a much higher rate, like the black holes found at the centre of many galaxies, and these diffuse clouds of warm plasma could be a legacy of its ancient activity.

    Related scientific papers:
    The XMM-Newton view of the central degrees of the Milky Way, by G. Ponti et al.

    The Galactic Centre XMM-Newton monitoring project is supported by the Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Technologie/Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (BMWI/DLR, FKZ 50 OR 1408) and the Max Planck Society.

    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 11:54 am on July 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESA XMM-Newton, Planetary Nebulas   

    From ESA: “Born-again planetary nebula” 

    ESASpaceForEuropeBanner
    European Space Agency

    27/07/2015
    No Writer Credit

    1

    Beneath the vivid hues of this eye-shaped cloud, named Abell 78, a tale of stellar life and death is unfolding. At the centre of the nebula, a dying star – not unlike our Sun – which shed its outer layers on its way to oblivion has, for a brief period of time, come back to echo its past glory.

    Releasing their outer shells is the usual fate for any star with a mass of 0.8–8 times that of the Sun. Having exhausted the nuclear fuel in their cores after burning for billions of years, these stars collapse to become dense, hot white dwarf stars. Around them, the ejected material strikes the ambient gas and dust, creating beautiful clouds known as ‘planetary nebulas’. This curious name was adopted by 18th-century astronomers who discovered these ‘puffing’ stars and thought their round shape similar to that of planets.

    However, the resurgence to life seen in this image is an exceptional event for a planetary nebula. Only a handful of such born-again stars have been discovered, and here the intricate shape of the cloud’s glowing material gives away its turbulent history.

    Although nuclear burning of hydrogen and helium had ceased in the core of the dying star, causing it to collapse under its own weight and its envelope to expand into a bubble, some of the star’s outer layers became so dense that fusion of helium resumed there.

    The renewed nuclear activity triggered another, much faster wind, blowing more material away. The interplay between old and new outflows has shaped the cloud’s complex structure, including the radial filaments that can be seen streaming from the collapsing star at the centre.

    The interaction between slow and fast winds gusting in the environment of Abell 78 heated the gas to over a million degrees, making it shine brightly in X-rays. Astronomers detected this hot gas with ESA’s XMM-Newton space observatory, revealing striking similarities with another born-again planetary nebula, Abell 30.

    ESA XMM Newton
    XMM-Newton

    This three-colour image combines X-ray data collected in 2013 by XMM-Newton (blue) with optical observations obtained using two special filters that reveal the glow of oxygen (green) and helium (red). The optical data were gathered in 2014 with the Andalusian Faint Object Spectrograph and Camera at the Nordic Optical Telescope on La Palma, in the Canary Islands. A study of the X-ray emission from Abell 78 is presented in a paper by J.A. Toalá et al. 2015.

    Nordic Optical Telescope
    Nordic Opitcal Telescope Interior
    Nordic Optical telescope

    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 6:15 pm on February 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESA XMM-Newton, , ,   

    From NASA: “NASA, ESA Telescopes Give Shape to Furious Black Hole Winds” 

    NASA

    NASA

    February 19, 2015

    Felicia Chou
    Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-0257
    felicia.chou@nasa.gov

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

    1
    Supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies blast out radiation and ultra-fast winds, as illustrated in this artist’s conception. NASA’s NuSTAR and ESA’s XMM-Newton telescopes show that these winds, containing highly ionized atoms, blow in a nearly spherical fashion. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and ESA’s (European Space Agency) XMM-Newton telescope are showing that fierce winds from a supermassive black hole blow outward in all directions — a phenomenon that had been suspected, but difficult to prove until now.

    2
    NuSTAR

    2
    XMM-Newton

    “We know black holes in the centers of galaxies can feed on matter, and this process can produce winds. This is thought to regulate the growth of the galaxies,” said Fiona Harrison of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California. Harrison is the principal investigator of NuSTAR and a co-author on a new paper about these results appearing in the journal Science. “Knowing the speed, shape and size of the winds, we can now figure out how powerful they are.”

    Supermassive black holes blast matter into their host galaxies, with X-ray-emitting winds traveling at up to one-third the speed of light. In the new study, astronomers determined PDS 456, an extremely bright black hole known as a quasar more than 2 billion light-years away, sustains winds that carry more energy every second than is emitted by more than a trillion suns.

    “Now we know quasar winds significantly contribute to mass loss in a galaxy, driving out its supply of gas, which is fuel for star formation,” said the study’s lead author Emanuele Nardini of Keele University in England.

    NuSTAR and XMM-Newton simultaneously observed PDS 456 on five separate occasions in 2013 and 2014. The space telescopes complement each other by observing different parts of the X-ray light spectrum: XMM-Newton views low-energy and NuSTAR views high-energy.

    Previous XMM-Newton observations had identified black hole winds blowing toward us, but could not determine whether the winds also blew in all directions. XMM-Newton had detected iron atoms, which are carried by the winds along with other matter, only directly in front of the black hole, where they block X-rays. Combining higher-energy X-ray data from NuSTAR with observations from XMM-Newton, scientists were able to find signatures of iron scattered from the sides, proving the winds emanate from the black hole not in a beam, but in a nearly spherical fashion.

    “This is a great example of the synergy between XMM-Newton and NuSTAR,” said Norbert Schartel, XMM-Newton project scientist at ESA. “The complementarity of these two X-ray observatories is enabling us to unveil previously hidden details about the powerful side of the universe.”

    With the shape and extent of the winds known, the researchers could then determine the strength of the winds and the degree to which they can inhibit the formation of new stars.

    Astronomers think supermassive black holes and their home galaxies evolve together and regulate each other’s growth. Evidence for this comes in part from observations of the central bulges of galaxies — the more massive the central bulge, the larger the supermassive black hole.

    This latest report demonstrates a supermassive black hole and its high-speed winds greatly affect the host galaxy. As the black hole bulks up in size, its winds push vast amounts of matter outward through the galaxy, which ultimately stops new stars from forming.

    Because PDS 456 is relatively close, by cosmic standards, it is bright and can be studied in detail. This black hole gives astronomers a unique look into a distant era of our universe, around 10 billion years ago, when supermassive black holes and their raging winds were more common and possibly shaped galaxies as we see them today.

    “For an astronomer, studying PDS 456 is like a paleontologist being given a living dinosaur to study,” said study co-author Daniel Stern of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena. “We are able to investigate the physics of these important systems with a level of detail not possible for those found at more typical distances, during the ‘Age of Quasars.'”

    NuSTAR is a Small Explorer mission led by Caltech and managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

    For more information, visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/nustar

    and

    http://www.nustar.caltech.edu/

    This discovery has given astronomers their first opportunity to measure the strength of these ultra-fast winds and prove they are powerful enough to inhibit the host galaxy’s ability to make new stars.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:18 pm on February 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESA XMM-Newton,   

    From ESA: “XMM-Newton and Hubble view of Jupiter’s Ghost” 

    ESASpaceForEuropeBanner
    European Space Agency

    02/02/2015
    No Writer Credit

    1

    Copyright ESA/XMM-Newton & Y.-H. Chu/R.A. Gruendl/M.A. Guerrero/N. Ruiz (X-ray); NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope & A. Hajian/B. Balick (optical)

    ESA XMM Newton
    ESA/XMM-Newton

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA HUbble

    Names of astronomical objects are often ambiguous, especially when the historical designation of a certain class of celestial body preceded their physical understanding and was based on their appearance in the sky.

    A notoriously abstruse case of nomenclature is that of planetary nebulas, the picturesque remains of low- and intermediate-mass stars. In contrast to what happens to their more massive counterparts, stars with masses from 0.8 to 8 times that of the Sun do not end their life exploding as powerful supernovas but peacefully puff up, releasing their outer layers in the surrounding space and creating beautifully shaped clouds in the process.

    Although these stellar demises have nothing to do with planets, astronomers in the 18th century, who first noticed them, were baffled by their roundish appearance, and gave them the misleading name of planetary nebulas.

    And just to make it more complicated, the planetary nebula shown in this image carries an even more peculiar name. Since it spans a disc on the sky roughly as large as that covered by the planet Jupiter, it received the curious moniker Jupiter’s Ghost. Of course, this object is also known through its catalogue designations, the most recent of which, since the late 19th century, is NGC 3242.

    The image reveals how mighty winds released by the dying star – the white dwarf star at the centre – are shaping the double-shell structure of the nebula. The blue glow filling the inner bubble represents X-ray emission from hot gas, heated up to over two million degrees by shocks in the fast stellar winds, gusting at about 2400 km/s against the ambient gas.

    The green glow marks cooler concentrations of gas seen in optical light through the emission of oxygen, revealing the edge of the inner shell in contrast to the more diffuse gas making up the outer shell. The two flame-shaped features, visible in red to the upper right and lower left of the inner bubble, are pockets of even cooler gas, seen also in optical light through the emission of nitrogen.

    Jupiter’s Ghost lies some 3000 light-years away, and it is visible in the southern constellation Hydra, the water snake.

    This image combines X-ray data collected in 2003 by ESA’s XMM-Newton (blue) with optical observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope (green and red). It was first published on the XMM-Newton image gallery.

    See the full article here.

    Another view:

    2
    A Hubble Space Telescope (HST) image of NGC 3242
    17 December 1997
    Author Bruce Balick and Jason Alexander (University of Washington), Arsen Hajian (U.S. Naval Observatory), Yervant Terzian (Cornell University ), , Mario Perinotto (University of Florence), Patrizio Patriarchi (Arcetri Observatory) and NASA/ESA

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    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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