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  • richardmitnick 3:45 pm on March 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Hubble Discovery of Runaway Star Yields Clues to Breakup of Multiple-Star System, NASA ESA Hubble   

    From Hubble: “Hubble Discovery of Runaway Star Yields Clues to Breakup of Multiple-Star System “ 

    NASA Hubble Banner

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope
    Mar 17, 2017

    Donna Weaver
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
    410-338-4493
    dweaver@stsci.edu

    Ray Villard
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
    410-338-4514
    villard@stsci.edu

    Kevin Luhman
    Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
    kluhman@astro.psu.edu

    1
    Star Is Missing Link to a System that Flew Apart Over 500 Years Ago Credits NASA, ESA, K. Luhman (Penn State University), and M. Robberto (STScI)

    As British royal families fought the War of the Roses in the 1400s for control of England’s throne, a grouping of stars was waging its own contentious skirmish — a star wars far away in the Orion Nebula.

    The stars were battling each other in a gravitational tussle, which ended with the system breaking apart and at least three stars being ejected in different directions. The speedy, wayward stars went unnoticed for hundreds of years until, over the past few decades, two of them were spotted in infrared and radio observations, which could penetrate the thick dust in the Orion Nebula.

    The observations showed that the two stars were traveling at high speeds in opposite directions from each other. The stars’ origin, however, was a mystery. Astronomers traced both stars back 540 years to the same location and suggested they were part of a now-defunct multiple-star system. But the duo’s combined energy, which is propelling them outward, didn’t add up. The researchers reasoned there must be at least one other culprit that robbed energy from the stellar toss-up.

    Now NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has helped astronomers find the final piece of the puzzle by nabbing a third runaway star. The astronomers followed the path of the newly found star back to the same location where the two previously known stars were located 540 years ago. The trio reside in a small region of young stars called the Kleinmann-Low Nebula, near the center of the vast Orion Nebula complex, located 1,300 light-years away.

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    Kleinmann-Low Nebula. NASA

    “The new Hubble observations provide very strong evidence that the three stars were ejected from a multiple-star system,” said lead researcher Kevin Luhman of Penn State University in University Park, Pennsylvania. “Astronomers had previously found a few other examples of fast-moving stars that trace back to multiple-star systems, and therefore were likely ejected. But these three stars are the youngest examples of such ejected stars. They’re probably only a few hundred thousand years old. In fact, based on infrared images, the stars are still young enough to have disks of material leftover from their formation.”

    All three stars are moving extremely fast on their way out of the Kleinmann-Low Nebula, up to almost 30 times the speed of most of the nebula’s stellar inhabitants. Based on computer simulations, astronomers predicted that these gravitational tugs-of-war should occur in young clusters, where newborn stars are crowded together. “But we haven’t observed many examples, especially in very young clusters,” Luhman said. “The Orion Nebula could be surrounded by additional fledging stars that were ejected from it in the past and are now streaming away into space.”

    The team’s results will appear in the March 20, 2017 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

    Luhman stumbled across the third speedy star, called “source x,” while he was hunting for free-floating planets in the Orion Nebula as a member of an international team led by Massimo Robberto of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. The team used the near-infrared vision of Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 to conduct the survey. During the analysis, Luhman was comparing the new infrared images taken in 2015 with infrared observations taken in 1998 by the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS). He noticed that source x had changed its position considerably, relative to nearby stars over the 17 years between Hubble images, indicating the star was moving fast, about 130,000 miles per hour.

    The astronomer then looked at the star’s previous locations, projecting its path back in time. He realized that in the 1470s source x had been near the same initial location in the Kleinmann-Low Nebula as two other runaway stars, Becklin-Neugebauer (BN) and “source I.”

    4
    BN. NASA

    BN was discovered in infrared images in 1967, but its rapid motion wasn’t detected until 1995, when radio observations measured the star’s speed at 60,000 miles per hour. Source I is traveling roughly 22,000 miles per hour. The star had only been detected in radio observations; because it is so heavily enshrouded in dust, its visible and infrared light is largely blocked.

    The three stars were most likely kicked out of their home when they engaged in a game of gravitational billiards, Luhman said. What often happens when a multiple system falls apart is that two of the member stars move close enough to each other that they merge or form a very tight binary. In either case, the event releases enough gravitational energy to propel all of the stars in the system outward. The energetic episode also produces a massive outflow of material, which is seen in the NICMOS images as fingers of matter streaming away from the location of the embedded source I star.

    Future telescopes, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, will be able to observe a large swath of the Orion Nebula. By comparing images of the nebula taken by the Webb telescope with those made by Hubble years earlier, astronomers hope to identify more runaway stars from other multiple-star systems that broke apart.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 2:11 pm on March 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Hubble Dates Black Hole’s Last Big Meal, NASA ESA Hubble, ,   

    From Hubble: “Hubble Dates Black Hole’s Last Big Meal” 

    NASA Hubble Banner

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    Mar 9, 2017

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

    Donna Weaver / Ray Villard
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
    410-338-4493 / 410-338-4514
    dweaver@stsci.edu / villard@stsci.edu

    Rongmon Bordoloi
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
    617-252-1736
    bordoloi@mit.edu

    1
    Illustration Credit: NASA, ESA, and Z. Levy (STScI)

    For the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy [Sag A*], it’s been a long time between dinners.


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

    NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has found that the black hole ate its last big meal about 6 million years ago, when it consumed a large clump of infalling gas. After the meal, the engorged black hole burped out a colossal bubble of gas weighing the equivalent of millions of suns, which now billows above and below our galaxy’s center.

    The immense structures, dubbed the Fermi Bubbles, were first discovered in 2010 by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.


    NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope

    But recent Hubble observations of the northern bubble have helped astronomers determine a more accurate age for the bubbles and how they came to be.

    “For the first time, we have traced the motion of cool gas throughout one of the bubbles, which allowed us to map the velocity of the gas and calculate when the bubbles formed,” said lead researcher Rongmon Bordoloi of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. “What we find is that a very strong, energetic event happened 6 million to 9 million years ago. It may have been a cloud of gas flowing into the black hole, which fired off jets of matter, forming the twin lobes of hot gas seen in X-ray and gamma-ray observations. Ever since then, the black hole has just been eating snacks.”

    The new study is a follow-on to previous Hubble observations that placed the age of the bubbles at 2 million years old.

    A black hole is a dense, compact region of space with a gravitational field so intense that neither matter nor light can escape. The supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy has compressed the mass of 4.5 million sun-like stars into a very small region of space.

    Material that gets too close to a black hole is caught in its powerful gravity and swirls around the compact powerhouse until it eventually falls in. Some of the matter, however, gets so hot it escapes along the black hole’s spin axis, creating an outflow that extends far above and below the plane of a galaxy.

    The team’s conclusions are based on observations by Hubble’s Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS), which analyzed ultraviolet light from 47 distant quasars. Quasars are bright cores of distant active galaxies.


    NASA Hubble Cosmic Origins Spectrograph

    Imprinted on the quasars’ light as it passes through the Milky Way bubble is information about the speed, composition, and temperature of the gas inside the expanding bubble.

    The COS observations measured the temperature of the gas in the bubble at approximately 17,700 degrees Fahrenheit. Even at those sizzling temperatures, this gas is much cooler than most of the super-hot gas in the outflow, which is 18 million degrees Fahrenheit, seen in gamma rays. The cooler gas seen by COS could be interstellar gas from our galaxy’s disk that is being swept up and entrained into the super-hot outflow. COS also identified silicon and carbon as two of the elements being swept up in the gaseous cloud. These common elements are found in most galaxies and represent the fossil remnants of stellar evolution.

    The cool gas is racing through the bubble at 2 million miles per hour. By mapping the motion of the gas throughout the structure, the astronomers estimated that the minimum mass of the entrained cool gas in both bubbles is equivalent to 2 million suns. The edge of the northern bubble extends 23,000 light-years above the galaxy.

    “We have traced the outflows of other galaxies, but we have never been able to actually map the motion of the gas,” Bordoloi said. “The only reason we could do it here is because we are inside the Milky Way. This vantage point gives us a front-row seat to map out the kinematic structure of the Milky Way outflow.”

    The new COS observations build and expand on the findings of a 2015 Hubble study by the same team, in which astronomers analyzed the light from one quasar that pierced the base of the bubble.

    “The Hubble data open a whole new window on the Fermi Bubbles,” said study co-author Andrew Fox of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. “Before, we knew how big they were and how much radiation they emitted; now we know how fast they are moving and which chemical elements they contain. That’s an important step forward.”

    The Hubble study also provides an independent verification of the bubbles and their origin, as detected by X-ray and gamma-ray observations.

    “This observation would be almost impossible to do from the ground because you need ultraviolet spectroscopy to detect the fingerprints of these elements, which can only be done from space,” Bordoloi said. “Only with COS do you have the wavelength coverage, the sensitivity, and the spectral resolution coverage to make this observation.”

    The Hubble results appeared in the January 10, 2017, edition of The Astrophysical Journal.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 10:48 am on March 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA ESA Hubble   

    From Hubble: “Hubblecast 98: Hubble’s biggest discoveries — part 1 “ 

    Published on Feb 24, 2017

    Since its launch in 1990, Hubble has revolutionised our knowledge of astronomy. From imaging the most stunning phenomena in the cosmos, to the study of the invisible parts of the Universe, to observing the most distant objects ever seen. Hubble’s sharp eye has been at the forefront of astronomical exploration. This new Hubblecast is the first part of an exploration of some of Hubble’s most important discoveries in its almost 27-year history.

    More information and download options: http://www.spacetelescope.org/videos/…

    Subscribe to Hubblecast in iTunes! https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/h…

    Receive future episodes on YouTube by pressing the Subscribe button above or follow us on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/hubbleesa

    Watch more Hubblecavideo.web_category.allst episodes: http://www.spacetelescope.org/videos/…

    Credit:
    Directed by: Mathias Jäger
    Visual design and editing: Martin Kornmesser
    Written by: Tom Barratt, Lauren Fuge, Mathias Jäger
    Narration: Sara Mendes da Costa
    Images: NASA, ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser, HST Frontier Fields team (STScI), HUDF09 Team, HUDF Team, Hubble Deep Field Team (STScI)
    Videos: NASA, ESA/Hubble,CLUES – Constrained Local Universe Evolution Simulation
    Animations: NASA, ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser, L. Calçada, WordlWideTelescope, G. Bacon (STScI)
    Music: Johan B. Monell (www.johanmonell.com)
    Web and technical support: Mathias André and Raquel Yumi Shida
    Executive producer: Lars Lindberg Christensen

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    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

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    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 10:59 pm on March 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ALMA adds a new dimension to a Hubble Space Telescope result, , , , , LL Pegasi, NASA ESA Hubble   

    From ALMA: “ALMA adds a new dimension to a Hubble Space Telescope result” 

    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array
    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres
    ALMA

    02 March 2017
    Dr. Hyosun Kim
    ASIAA
    Tel: +886-2-2366-5418
    Email: hkim@asiaa.sinica.edu.tw

    Dr. Sheng-Yuan Liu
    ASIAA
    Tel: +886-2-2366-5440
    Email: syliu@asiaa.sinica.edu.tw

    Nicolás Lira T.
    Press Coordinator
    Joint ALMA Observatory
    Santiago, Chile
    Tel: +56 2 24 67 65 19
    Cell: +56 9 94 45 77 26
    Email: nicolas.lira@alma.cl

    Masaaki Hiramatsu
    Education and Public Outreach Officer, NAOJ Chile
    Observatory
Tokyo, Japan

    Tel: +81 422 34 3630

    E-mail: hiramatsu.masaaki@nao.ac.jp

    Richard Hook
    Public Information Officer, ESO

    Garching bei München, Germany

    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655

    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    Charles E. Blue
    Public Information Officer
    National Radio Astronomy Observatory
    Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
    Tel: +1 434 296 0314
    Cell: +1 202 236 6324
    E-mail: cblue@nrao.edu

    1
    An international team of astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have unraveled the elliptical nature of the binary orbit of the old star LL Pegasi and its companion. The figure shows the composite image of molecular gas around LL Pegasi. By comparing this gas distribution depicted in exquisite detail by ALMA with theoretical simulations, the team concluded that the bifurcation of the spiral-shell pattern is resulted from a highly elliptical binary system. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO) / Hyosun Kim et al.

    An international team of astronomers, led by Hyosun Kim in Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASIAA, Taiwan), has found a way of deriving the orbital shape of binary stars that have orbital periods too long to be directly measured. This new technique was possible thanks to an observation toward the old star LL Pegasi (also known as AFGL 3068) using the state-of-the-art telescope, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).

    9
    This remarkable picture from the Advanced Camera for Surveys [ACS] on the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows one of the most perfect geometrical forms created in space. It captures the formation of an unusual pre-planetary nebula, known as IRAS 23166+1655, around the star LL Pegasi (also known as AFGL 3068) in the constellation of Pegasus (the Winged Horse).

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA Hubble ACS
    “NASA Hubble/ACS

    “It is exciting to see such a beautiful spiral-shell pattern in the sky. Our observations have revealed the exquisitely ordered three-dimensional geometry of this spiral-shell pattern, and we have produced a very satisfying theory to account for its details,” says Hyosun Kim.

    The new ALMA images reveal the detailed features of spiral-shell pattern imprinted in the gas material continuously ejected from LL Pegasi. A comparison of this observation with computer simulations led the team, for the first time, to the conclusion that a binary system with a highly elliptical orbit is responsible for its morphology of gas distribution. In particular, the bifurcation of the spiral-shell pattern, which is clearly visible in the ALMA images, is a unique characteristic of elliptical binaries. This quintessential object opens a new window on the nature of central binaries through the repetitive patterns that reside far from the star at distances of a few thousand the stellar radii.

    “The exquisite sensitivity and ability of ALMA to image with high precision such complex spiral patterns were essential for this study. We are delighted to see the crisp images translated into rich results and their implications in binary research,” says Alfonso Trejo (ASIAA, Taiwan), a co-author of the study.

    Binaries in elliptical orbits for stars in late stellar evolutionary phases may be ubiquitous over an extensive period range. Many planetary nebulae (stars that are in the next stage of stellar evolution) consist of nearly spherical structures in the outer part and highly-asymmetric structures in the inner part. Near-spherical patterns include those appearing like spirals, shells, and arcs, while highly non-spherical features are bipolar- or multipolar-like. The coexistence of such geometrically distinct structures is enigmatic because it hints at the simultaneous presence of both wide and close binary interactions.

    3
    An international team of astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have unraveled the elliptical nature of the binary orbit of the old star LL Pegasi and its companion. The figure shows the composite image of molecular gas around LL Pegasi. By comparing this gas distribution depicted in exquisite detail by ALMA with theoretical simulations, the team concluded that the bifurcation of the spiral-shell pattern (indicated by a white box) is resulted from a highly elliptical binary system. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO) / Hyosun Kim et al.

    This phenomenon has been attributed to the binary stars with elliptical orbits. As indicated by the current research, the orbital parameters of central binaries can be obtained by a careful inspection of the outer recurrent patterns, which hint at the origin of the transition from the near-spherical to asymmetric structures.

    4
    (Left) HST image of LL Pegasi publicized in 2010. Credit: ESA/NASA & R. Sahai. (Right) ALMA image of LL Pegasi. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO) / Hyosun Kim et al.

    LL Pegasi is a mass-losing giant star with a size of 200 times or more that of the Sun. Among the stellar evolutionary phases, it is currently on the asymptotic giant branch, which reflects the future of the Sun a few billion years from now. This star was spotlighted about ten years ago due to a picture of an almost-perfect spiral taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope (HST) [1]. The presence of a spiral surrounding an old star had never been reported before the discovery of this object.

    6
    Visualizing the ALMA image cube of LL Pegasi. Each frame of the video shows the molecular gas material surrounding LL Pegasi for a different line-of-sight velocity. This velocity, advancing 1 km/s per frame, is given at the top-right corner. The field size is 20,000 times the distance between the Sun and the Earth. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO) / Hyosun Kim et al.

    “This unusually ordered system opens the door to understanding how the orbits of such systems evolve with time, since each winding of the spiral samples a different orbit in a different period,” says Mark Morris (UCLA, USA), a co-author of the study.

    The regularity of the pattern was quite surprising, leading to being considered as a binary system in a circular orbit. It is now equally striking that this best-characterized, unambiguous, and complete spiral is influenced by an elliptical-orbit binary.

    “While the HST image shows us the beautiful spiral structure, it is a 2D projection of a 3D shape, which becomes fully revealed in the ALMA data,” says Raghvendra Sahai (JPL, USA), a co-author of the study. The new ALMA images reveal the spatiokinematic information of dense molecular gas in the spiral-shell pattern, unveiling the dynamics of the mass loss from the giant star modulated by its orbital motion.

    7
    Zooming into the old star LL Pegasi in the constellation of Pegasus. Credit: Hyosun Kim (ASIAA)

    “The exquisite sensitivity and ability of ALMA to image with high precision such complex spiral patterns were essential for this study. We are delighted to see the crisp images translated into rich results and their implications in binary research,” says Alfonso Trejo (ASIAA, Taiwan), a co-author of the study.

    “The interval of spiral arms yields the orbital period of LL Pegasi to be about 800 years, at which the binary motion can be barely detected even with continuous observations over several human lifetimes. Decoding the spiral-shell pattern is a clever way to trace back the history of orbital motion,” adds Sheng-Yuan Liu (ASIAA, Taiwan), a co-author of the study.

    “By putting this striking spiral-shell on display, nature has left us some clear messages. Deciphering those messages to determine the dynamics of the central stars is the challenge that astronomers are facing,” remarks Hyosun Kim.

    Notes

    [1] The HST results are reported in Morris et al. 2006 (Proceeding of the International Astronomical Union Symposium 234, pp. 469-470) and Mauron & Huggins 2006 (Astronomy and Astrophysics 452, pp. 257-268).

    This research was presented in a paper “The Large-Scale Nebular Pattern of a Superwind Binary in an Eccentric Orbit,” by Kim et al. to appear in the journal Nature Astronomy.

    The team is composed of Hyosun Kim (ASIAA, Taiwan; East Asian Core Observatories Association Fellow), Alfonso Trejo (ASIAA, Taiwan), Sheng-Yuan Liu (ASIAA, Taiwan), Raghvendra Sahai (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA), Ronald E. Taam (ASIAA, Taiwan; Northwestern University, USA), Mark R. Morris (University of California, Los Angeles, USA), Naomi Hirano (ASIAA, Taiwan), and I-Ta Hsieh (ASIAA, Taiwan).

    See the full article here .

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    The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded in Europe by the European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO), in North America by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC) and in East Asia by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan.

    ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), which is managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI) and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.

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  • richardmitnick 12:09 am on February 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Hubble Witnesses Massive Comet-Like Object Pollute Atmosphere of a White Dwarf, NASA ESA Hubble   

    From Hubble: “Hubble Witnesses Massive Comet-Like Object Pollute Atmosphere of a White Dwarf” 

    NASA Hubble Banner

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope
    Hubble

    Feb 9, 2017
    Ann Jenkins
    jenkins@stsci.edu
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
    410-338-4488

    Ray Villard
    villard@stsci.edu
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
    410-338-4514

    Siyi Xu
    European Southern Observatory, Garching, Germany
    011-49-89-3200-6298
    sxu@eso.org

    1
    Astronomers have found the first evidence of the remains of a comet-like object scattered around a burned-out star. They used NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to detect the debris, which has polluted the atmosphere of a compact star known as a white dwarf. The icy object, which has been ripped apart, is similar to Halley’s Comet in chemical composition, but it is 100,000 times more massive and has a much higher amount of water. It is also rich in the elements essential for life, including nitrogen, carbon, oxygen, and sulfur. These findings are evidence for a belt of comet-like bodies similar to our solar system’s Kuiper Belt orbiting the white dwarf. This is the first evidence of comet-like material polluting a white dwarf’s atmosphere. The results also suggest the presence of unseen, surviving planets around the burned-out star.
    Illustration Credit: NASA, ESA, and Z. Levy (STScI)

    For the first time, scientists using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have witnessed a massive object with the makeup of a comet being ripped apart and scattered in the atmosphere of a white dwarf, the burned-out remains of a compact star. The object has a chemical composition similar to Halley’s Comet, but it is 100,000 times more massive and has a much higher amount of water. It is also rich in the elements essential for life, including nitrogen, carbon, oxygen, and sulfur.

    These findings are evidence for a belt of comet-like bodies orbiting the white dwarf, similar to our solar system’s Kuiper Belt. These icy bodies apparently survived the star’s evolution as it became a bloated red giant and then collapsed to a small, dense white dwarf.

    As many as 25 to 50 percent of white dwarfs are known to be polluted with infalling debris from rocky, asteroid-like objects, but this is the first time a body made of icy, comet-like material has been seen polluting a white dwarf’s atmosphere.

    The results also suggest the presence of unseen, surviving planets which may have perturbed the belt and worked as a “bucket brigade” to draw the icy objects into the white dwarf. The burned-out star also has a companion star which may disturb the belt, causing objects from the belt to travel toward the burned-out star.

    Siyi Xu of the European Southern Observatory in Garching, Germany led the team that made the discovery. According to Xu, this was the first time that nitrogen was detected in the planetary debris that falls onto a white dwarf. “Nitrogen is a very important element for life as we know it,” Xu explained. “This particular object is quite rich in nitrogen, more so than any object observed in our solar system.”

    Our own Kuiper Belt, which extends outward from Neptune’s orbit, is home to many dwarf planets, comets, and other small bodies left over from the formation of the solar system. Comets from the Kuiper Belt may have been responsible for delivering water and the basic building blocks of life to Earth billions of years ago.

    The new findings are observational evidence supporting the idea that icy bodies are also present in other planetary systems, and have survived throughout the history of the star’s evolution.

    To study the white dwarf’s atmosphere, the team used both Hubble and the W. M. Keck Observatory. The measurements of nitrogen, carbon, oxygen, silicon, sulfur, iron, nickel, and hydrogen all come from Hubble, while Keck provides the calcium, magnesium, and hydrogen. The ultraviolet vision of Hubble’s Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) allowed the team to make measurements that are very difficult to do from the ground.

    This is the first object found outside our solar system that is akin to Halley’s Comet in composition. The team used the famous comet for comparison because it has been so well studied.

    The white dwarf is roughly 170 light-years from Earth in the constellation Boötes, the Herdsman. It was first recorded in 1974 and is part of a wide binary system, with a companion star separated by 2,000 times the distance that the Earth is from the sun.

    The science paper by S. Xu et al. (PDF document)

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 9:15 am on February 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Faintest galaxies yet seen in the early universe, , , NASA ESA Hubble,   

    From U Texas at Austin: “Astronomers Find Faintest Early Galaxies Yet, Probe How the Early Universe Lit Up” 

    U Texas Austin bloc

    University of Texas at Austin

    08 February 2017
    No writer credit

    Astronomers at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a new technique to discover the faintest galaxies yet seen in the early universe —10 times fainter than any previously seen.

    1
    A Hubble Space Telescope view of the galaxy cluster Abell 2744.

    These galaxies will help astronomers probe a little-understood, but important period in cosmic history. Their new technique helps probe the time a billion years after the Big Bang, when the early, dark universe was flooded with light from the first galaxies.

    Rachael Livermore and Steven Finkelstein of the UT Austin Astronomy Department, along with Jennifer Lotz of the Space Telescope Science Institute, went looking for these faint galaxies in images from Hubble Space Telescope’s Frontier Fields survey.

    2
    A Hubble Space Telescope view of the galaxy cluster MACS 0416 is annotated in cyan and magenta to show how it acts as a ‘gravitational lens,’ magnifying more distant background galaxies.

    “These galaxies are actually extremely common,” Livermore said. “It’s very satisfying being able to find them.”

    These faint, early galaxies gave rise to the Epoch of Reionization, when the energetic radiation they gave off bombarded the gas between all galaxies in the universe. This caused the atoms in this diffuse gas to lose their electrons (that is, become ionized).

    Finkelstein explained why finding these faint galaxies is so important. “We knew ahead of time that for our idea of galaxy-powered reionization to work, there had to be galaxies a hundred times fainter than we could see with Hubble,” he said, “and they had to be really, really common.” This was why the Hubble Frontier Fields program was created, he said.

    Lotz leads the Hubble Frontier Fields project, one of the telescope’s largest to date. In it, Hubble photographed several large galaxy clusters. These were selected to take advantage of their enormous mass which causes a useful optical effect, predicted by Albert Einstein. A galaxy cluster’s immense gravity bends space, which magnifies light from more-distant galaxies behind it as that light travels toward the telescope. Thus the galaxy cluster acts as a magnifying glass, or a “gravitational lens,” allowing astronomers to see those more-distant galaxies — ones they would not normally be able to detect, even with Hubble.

    Even then, though, the lensed galaxies were still just at the cusp of what Hubble could detect.

    “The main motivation for the Frontier Fields project was to search for these extremely faint galaxies during this critical period in the universe’s history,” Lotz said. “However, the primary difficulty with using the Frontier Field clusters as an extra magnifying glass is how to correct for the contamination from the light of the cluster galaxies.”

    Livermore elaborates: “The problem is, you’re trying to find these really faint things, but you’re looking behind these really bright things. The brightest galaxies in the universe are in clusters, and those cluster galaxies are blocking the background galaxies we’re trying to observe. So what I did was come up with a method of removing the cluster galaxies” from the images.

    Her method uses modeling to identify and separate light from the foreground galaxies (the cluster galaxies) from the light coming from the background galaxies (the more-distant, lensed galaxies).

    According to Lotz, “This work is unique in its approach to removing this light. This has allowed us to detect more and fainter galaxies than seen in previous studies, and to achieve the primary goal for the Frontier Fields survey.”

    Livermore and Finkelstein have used the new method on two of the galaxy clusters in the Frontier Fields project: Abell 2744 and MACS 0416. It enabled them to identify faint galaxies seen when the universe was about a billion years old, less than 10 percent of its current age — galaxies 100 times fainter than those found in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, for instance, which is the deepest image of the night sky yet obtained.

    Their observations showed that these faint galaxies are extremely numerous, consistent with the idea that large numbers of extremely faint galaxies were the main power source behind reionization.

    There are four Frontier Fields clusters left, and the team plans to study them all with Livermore’s method. In future, she said, they would like to use the James Webb Space Telescope to study even fainter galaxies.

    The work is published in a recent issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

    See the full article here .

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    U Texas Arlington Campus

    In 1839, the Congress of the Republic of Texas ordered that a site be set aside to meet the state’s higher education needs. After a series of delays over the next several decades, the state legislature reinvigorated the project in 1876, calling for the establishment of a “university of the first class.” Austin was selected as the site for the new university in 1881, and construction began on the original Main Building in November 1882. Less than one year later, on Sept. 15, 1883, The University of Texas at Austin opened with one building, eight professors, one proctor, and 221 students — and a mission to change the world. Today, UT Austin is a world-renowned higher education, research, and public service institution serving more than 51,000 students annually through 18 top-ranked colleges and schools.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:55 pm on February 5, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "cosmic lenses", Cluster Lensing And Supernova survey with Hubble (CLASH), , NASA ESA Hubble, Supernova Cosmology Project   

    From Hubble: “Hubble Astronomers Check the Prescription of a Cosmic Lens” From May 1, 2014 

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    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    1
    If you need to check whether the prescription for your eye glasses or contact lenses is still accurate, you visit an ophthalmologist for an eye exam. The doctor will ask you to read an eye chart, which tests your visual acuity. Your score helps the doctor determine whether to change your prescription.

    Astronomers don’t have a giant eye chart to check the prescription for natural cosmic lenses, created by galaxy clusters. The gravity of these cosmic lenses warps space around them, magnifying and brightening the light from distant objects behind them. Without these lenses, background objects would be too dim to be detected by even NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. But how do astronomers know whether the prescription for these zoom lenses, which tells them how much an object will be magnified, is accurate? Astronomers using the Hubble telescope have discovered the next best thing to a giant cosmic eye chart: the light from distant exploding stars behind galaxy clusters.

    Donna Weaver
    dweaver@stsci.edu
    Space Science Telescope Institute, Baltimore, Md.
    410-338-4493

    Ray Villard
    villard@stsci.edu
    Space Science Telescope Institute, Baltimore, Md.
    410-338-4514

    Photo Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Perlmutter (UC Berkeley, LBNL), A. Koekemoer (STScI), M. Postman (STScI), A. Riess (STScI/JHU), J. Nordin (LBNL, UC Berkeley), D. Rubin (Florida State University), and C. McCully (Rutgers University)

    2

    What could be more exciting than watching the fireworks of cataclysmic stellar explosions outshining entire galaxies of stars? How about watching them through the funhouse lens of a massive cluster of galaxies whose powerful gravity warps space around it?

    In fact, distant exploding stars observed by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope are providing astronomers with a powerful tool to check the prescription of these natural “cosmic lenses,” which are used to provide a magnified view of the remote universe.

    Two teams of astronomers working independently have found three such exploding stars, called supernovae, far behind massive clusters of galaxies. Their light was amplified and brightened by the immense gravity of the foreground clusters in a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. First predicted by Albert Einstein, this effect is similar to a glass lens bending light to form an image. Astronomers use the gravitational-lensing technique to search for distant objects that might otherwise be too faint to see, even with today’s largest telescopes.

    Astronomers from the Supernova Cosmology Project and the Cluster Lensing And Supernova survey with Hubble (CLASH), are using these supernovae in a new method to check the predicted magnification, or prescription, of the gravitational lenses. Luckily, two and possibly all three of the supernovae appear to be a special type of exploding star called Type Ia supernovae, prized by astronomers because they provide a consistent level of peak brightness that makes them reliable for making distance estimates.

    “Here we have found Type Ia supernovae that can be used like an eye chart for each lensing cluster,” explained Saurabh Jha of Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J., a member of the CLASH team. “Because we can estimate the intrinsic brightness of the Type Ia supernovae, we can independently measure the magnification of the lens, unlike for other background sources.”

    Having a precise prescription for a gravitational lens will help astronomers probe objects in the early universe and better understand a galaxy cluster’s structure and its distribution of dark matter, say researchers. Dark matter cannot be seen directly but is believed to make up most of the universe’s matter.

    How much a gravitationally lensed object is magnified depends on the amount of matter in a cluster, including dark matter, which is the source of most of a cluster’s gravity. Astronomers develop maps that estimate the location and amount of dark matter in a cluster based on theoretical models and on the observed amplification and bending of light from sources behind the cluster. The maps are the lens prescriptions that predict how distant objects behind the cluster are magnified when their light passes through it.

    “Building on our understanding of these lensing models also has implications for a wide range of key cosmological studies,” explained Supernova Cosmology Project leader Saul Perlmutter of the E.O. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California, Berkeley. “These lens prescriptions yield measurements of the cluster masses, allowing us to probe the cosmic competition between gravity and dark energy as matter in the universe gets pulled into galaxy clusters.” Dark energy is a mysterious, invisible energy that is accelerating the universe’s expansion.

    The three supernovae in the Hubble study were each gravitationally lensed by a different cluster. The teams measured the brightnesses of the lensed supernovae and compared them to the explosions’ intrinsic brightnesses to calculate how much they were magnified due to gravitational lensing. One supernova in particular stood out, appearing to be about twice as bright as would have been expected if not for the cluster’s magnification power.

    The supernovae were discovered in the CLASH survey, a Hubble census that probed the distribution of dark matter in 25 galaxy clusters. Two of the supernovae were found in 2012, the other in 2010. The three supernovae exploded between 7 billion and 9 billion years ago, when the universe was slightly less than half its current age of 13.8 billion years old.

    To perform their analyses, both teams of astronomers used observations in visible light from Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys and in infrared light from the Wide Field Camera 3. The research teams also obtained spectra from both space and ground-based telescopes that provided independent estimates of the distances to these exploding stars. In some cases the spectra allowed direct confirmation of a Type Ia pedigree. In other cases the supernova spectrum was weak or overwhelmed by the light of its parent galaxy. In those cases the astronomers also used different colored filters on Hubble to help establish the supernova type.

    Each team then compared its results with independent theoretical models of the clusters’ dark-matter content, concluding that the predictions fit the models.

    “It is encouraging that the two independent studies reach quite similar conclusions,” explained Supernova Cosmology Project team member Jakob Nordin of Berkeley Lab and the University of California, Berkeley. “These pilot studies provide very good guidelines for making future observations of lensed supernovae even more accurate.” Nordin also is the lead author on the team’s science paper describing the findings.

    Now that the researchers have proven the effectiveness of this method, they need to find more Type Ia supernovae behind behemoth lensing galaxy clusters. In fact, the astronomers estimate they need about 20 supernovae spread out behind a cluster so they can map the entire cluster field and ensure that the lens model is correct.

    They are optimistic that Hubble and future telescopes, including NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, an infrared observatory, will nab more of these unique exploding stars.

    “Hubble is already hunting for them in the Frontier Fields, a three-year Hubble survey of the distant universe using massive galaxy clusters as gravitational lenses,” said CLASH team member Brandon Patel of Rutgers University, the lead author on the science paper announcing the CLASH team’s results. Steven Rodney of Johns Hopkins University, and co-leader of the CLASH supernova team, will direct the search for Type Ia supernovae in the Frontier Fields data.

    The CLASH team’s results will appear in the May 1 issue of The Astrophysical Journal and the Supernova Cosmology Project’s findings in the May 1 edition of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

    The CLASH survey is led by Marc Postman of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md. The CLASH supernova project is co-led by Rodney and Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute and Johns Hopkins University. Aiding with the analysis on the Hubble study are Curtis McCully of Rutgers University, Or Graur of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and Julian Merten and Adi Zitrin of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

    Other members of the Supernova Cosmology Project who worked on the supernova analysis are David Rubin of Florida State University in Tallahassee and Greg Aldering of Berkeley Lab. The project’s galaxy cluster models were created by Johan Richard of the University of Lyon in France and Jean-Paul Kneib of École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland.

    See the full article here .

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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 8:51 am on February 4, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Calabash Nebula, NASA ESA Hubble   

    From Hubble: “The Calabash clash” 

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    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    03/02/2017
    1
    NASA/ESA Hubble

    The Calabash Nebula, pictured here — which has the technical name OH 231.8+04.2 — is a spectacular example of the death of a low-mass star like the Sun. This image taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the star going through a rapid transformation from a red giant to a planetary nebula, during which it blows its outer layers of gas and dust out into the surrounding space. The recently ejected material is spat out in opposite directions with immense speed — the gas shown in yellow is moving close to a million kilometres an hour.

    Astronomers rarely capture a star in this phase of its evolution because it occurs within the blink of an eye — in astronomical terms. Over the next thousand years the nebula is expected to evolve into a fully fledged planetary nebula.

    The nebula is also known as the Rotten Egg Nebula because it contains a lot of sulphur, an element that, when combined with other elements, smells like a rotten egg — but luckily, it resides over 5000 light-years away in the constellation of Puppis (The Poop deck).

    See the full article here .

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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 11:03 am on January 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Dwarf Planet 2007 OR10, , NASA ESA Hubble, ,   

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

    NASA JPL Banner

    JPL-Caltech

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

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

    Written by Preston Dyches
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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

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

    Pluto is a prime example of this elusiveness. Before NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft visited it in 2015, the largest of the dwarf planets had appeared as little more than a fuzzy blob, even to the keen-eyed Hubble Space Telescope.

    NASA/New Horizons spacecraft
    NASA/New Horizons spacecraft

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    Given the inherent challenges in trying to observe these far-flung worlds, astronomers often need to combine data from a variety of sources in order to tease out basic details about their properties.

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


    Access mp4 video here .
    NASA’s Kepler spacecraft observed dwarf planet 2007 OR10 for 19 days in late 2014. The object’s apparent movement (indicated by the arrow) against the stars is caused by Kepler’s changing position as it orbits the sun. The diffuse light at right is from Mars, which was near the field of view. Credits: Konkoly Observatory/László Molnár and András Pál

    NASA/Kepler Telescope
    NASA/Kepler Telescope

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

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

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

    ESA/Herschel spacecraft
    ESA/Herschel spacecraft

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

    Like its predecessor mission, K2 searches for the change in brightness of distant objects. The tiny, telltale dip in the brightness of a star can be the signature of a planet passing, or transiting, in front. But, closer to home, K2 also looks out into our solar system to observe small bodies such as comets, asteroids, moons and dwarf planets. Because of its exquisite sensitivity to small changes in brightness, Kepler is an excellent instrument for observing the brightness of distant solar system objects and how that changes as they rotate.

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

    Enter the dynamic duo of Kepler and Herschel.

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

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

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

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

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

    Caltech Palomar  Samuel Oschin 48 inch Telescope
    Caltech Palomar  Samuel Oschin 48 inch Telescope Interior with Edwin Hubble
    Caltech Palomar Samuel Oschin 48 inch Telescope

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

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

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

    http://www.nasa.gov/kepler

    More information about Herschel is online at:

    http://www.nasa.gov/herschel

    See the full article here .

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

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  • richardmitnick 9:29 am on January 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , NASA ESA Hubble, New Hubble Image Captures the Collision of Two Galaxies,   

    From Smithsonian: “New Hubble Image Captures the Collision of Two Galaxies” 

    smithsonian
    Smithsonian.com

    A beautiful look at a violent event

    1
    NASA/ESA Hubble

    January 12, 2017
    Danny Lewis

    More than a billion light years away from Earth, two galaxies are locked in a slow-motion collision, throwing countless stars out of whack and whirling about the void of deep space.

    This week, NASA shared a new album of images recently taken by the Hubble spacecraft—one of which captures this slow galactic collision, Christine Lunsford reports for Space.com. Known as IRAS 14348-1447, this whirling object appears to be just a glittery smudge of star stuff.

    2
    IRAS 14348-1447 http://inspirehep.net/record/1226780/plots

    “This doomed duo approached one another too closely in the past, gravity causing them to affect and tug at each other and slowly, destructively, merge into one,” NASA says in a statement.

    The two galaxies forming IRAS 14348-1447 are packed with gas, meaning that it has plenty of fuel to feed the massive emissions radiating from the event—enough to qualify it as an ultraluminous infrared galaxy, Brooks Hays reports for United Press International. In fact, nearly 95 percent of the energy emitted is in the far-IR range, Hays reports. The energy released by these gases also contributes to the object’s swirling appearance, as wisps of gas spiral out from the collision’s epicenter.

    “It is one of the most gas-rich examples known of an ultraluminous infrared galaxy, a class of cosmic objects that shine characteristically—and incredibly—brightly in the infrared part of the spectrum,” NASA says in a statement.

    While witnessing two galaxies collide in such great detail is a fascinating sight, it’s not a rarity in the cosmos. Galaxies collide all the time, with larger ones consuming smaller ones and incorporating new stars into their makeup. While galaxies are often destroyed in the process, these collisions can also fuel the creation of new stars, though that comes at a cost of depleting gas reserves, Matt Williams reports for Universe Today. In fact, this is the same fate our own Milky Way will face billions of years from now, when it eventually collides with the ever-nearing Andromeda Galaxy.

    NAOJ Milky Way merger with Andromeda
    Depiction of Milky Way merger with Andromeda. NAOJ.

    These collisions are dramatic, but it’s unlikely that individual stars are smashing together. Though galaxies may look solid from afar, stars, planets and other matter is so distantly distributed within them that they more often than not simply glide past each other, Williams reports. But even from this distance, the drama of watching two galaxies collide is undeniable.

    See the full article here .

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    Smithsonian magazine and Smithsonian.com place a Smithsonian lens on the world, looking at the topics and subject matters researched, studied and exhibited by the Smithsonian Institution — science, history, art, popular culture and innovation — and chronicling them every day for our diverse readership.

     
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