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  • richardmitnick 8:01 am on September 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Hubble’s Contentious Constant, NASA ESA Hubble   

    From Hubble: “Hubble’s Contentious Constant” video 

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    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    Visit http://science.nasa.gov/ for more.

    There are two leading ways to measure the universe’s rate of expansion, and for fifteen years, they more or less agreed with one another. Not anymore, and that’s a big deal.
    Category
    Science & Technology
    License
    Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed)

    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 1:14 pm on September 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 288P, , , , , Hubble discovers a unique type of object in the Solar System, NASA ESA Hubble, The observations also revealed ongoing activity in the binary system, Two asteroids orbiting each other and exhibiting comet-like features   

    From Hubble: “Hubble discovers a unique type of object in the Solar System” 

    NASA Hubble Banner

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    20 September 2017
    Jessica Agarwal
    Max Planck Institute for Solar-System Research
    Göttingen, Germany
    Tel: +49 551 384 979 438
    Email: agarwal@mps.mpg.de

    Lauren Fuge
    ESA/Hubble, Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Email: lfuge@partner.eso.org

    1
    Image credit: NASA, ESA

    2
    Image of binary asteroid system 288P

    3
    This image depicts the two areas where most of the asteroids in the Solar System are found: the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and the trojans, two groups of asteroids moving ahead of and following Jupiter in its orbit around the Sun. The binary asteroid 288P is part of the asteroid belt. Credit: ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser

    With the help of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, a German-led group of astronomers have observed the intriguing characteristics of an unusual type of object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter: two asteroids orbiting each other and exhibiting comet-like features, including a bright coma and a long tail. This is the first known binary asteroid also classified as a comet. The research is presented in a paper published in the journal Nature this week.

    In September 2016, just before the asteroid 288P made its closest approach to the Sun, it was close enough to Earth to allow astronomers a detailed look at it using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope [1].

    The images of 288P, which is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, revealed that it was actually not a single object, but two asteroids of almost the same mass and size, orbiting each other at a distance of about 100 kilometres. That discovery was in itself an important find; because they orbit each other, the masses of the objects in such systems can be measured.

    But the observations also revealed ongoing activity in the binary system. “We detected strong indications of the sublimation of water ice due to the increased solar heating — similar to how the tail of a comet is created,” explains Jessica Agarwal (Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Germany), the team leader and main author of the research paper. This makes 288P the first known binary asteroid that is also classified as a main-belt comet.

    Understanding the origin and evolution of main-belt comets — asteroids orbiting between Mars and Jupiter that show comet-like activity — is a crucial element in our understanding of the formation and evolution of the whole Solar System. Among the questions main-belt comets can help to answer is how water came to Earth [2]. Since only a few objects of this type are known, 288P presents itself as an extremely important system for future studies.

    The various features of 288P — wide separation of the two components, near-equal component size, high eccentricity and comet-like activity — also make it unique among the few known wide asteroid binaries in the Solar System. The observed activity of 288P also reveals information about its past, notes Agarwal: “Surface ice cannot survive in the asteroid belt for the age of the Solar System but can be protected for billions of years by a refractory dust mantle, only a few metres thick.”

    From this, the team concluded that 288P has existed as a binary system for only about 5000 years. Agarwal elaborates on the formation scenario: “The most probable formation scenario of 288P is a breakup due to fast rotation. After that, the two fragments may have been moved further apart by sublimation torques.”

    The fact that 288P is so different from all other known binary asteroids raises some questions about whether it is not just a coincidence that it presents such unique properties. As finding 288P included a lot of luck, it is likely to remain the only example of its kind for a long time. “We need more theoretical and observational work, as well as more objects similar to 288P, to find an answer to this question,” concludes Agarwal.
    Notes

    [1] Like any object orbiting the Sun, 288P travels along an elliptical path, bringing it closer and further away to the Sun during the course of one orbit.

    [2] Current research indicates that water came to Earth not via comets, as long thought, but via icy asteroids.
    More information

    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

    The international team of astronomers in this study consists of Jessica Agarwal (Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen, Germany), David Jewitt (Department of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences and Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of California at Los Angeles, USA), Max Mutchler (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, USA), Harold Weaver (The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Maryland, USA) and Stephen Larson (Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, Tucson, USA).

    The results were released in the paper “A binary main belt comet” to be published in Nature.

    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 9:36 am on September 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA ESA Hubble, WASP-12b   

    From Hubble: “NASA’s Hubble Captures Blistering Pitch-Black Planet” 

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    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    Sep 14, 2017

    From NASA
    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

    Taylor Bell
    McGill University / Institute for Research on Exoplanets, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
    taylor.bell@mail.mcgill.ca

    From ESA
    Taylor Bell
    McGill University
    Montreal, Canada
    Email: taylor.bell@mail.mcgill.ca

    Nikolay Nikolov
    University of Exeter
    Exeter, UK
    Tel: +44 1392 726607 6607
    Email: N.K.Nikolov@exeter.ac.uk

    Lauren Fuge
    ESA/Hubble, Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Email: lfuge@partner.eso.org

    1
    Astronomers have discovered that the well-studied exoplanet WASP-12b reflects almost no light, making it appear essentially pitch black. This discovery sheds new light on the atmospheric composition of the planet and also refutes previous hypotheses about WASP-12b’s atmosphere. The results are also in stark contrast to observations of another similarly sized exoplanet.

    NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has observed a planet outside our solar system that looks as black as fresh asphalt because it eats light rather than reflecting it back into space. This light-eating prowess is due to the planet’s unique capability to trap at least 94 percent of the visible starlight falling into its atmosphere.

    The oddball exoplanet, called WASP-12b, is one of a class of so-called “hot Jupiters,” gigantic, gaseous planets that orbit very close to their host star and are heated to extreme temperatures. The planet’s atmosphere is so hot that most molecules are unable to survive on the blistering day side of the planet, where the temperature is 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, clouds probably cannot form to reflect light back into space. Instead, incoming light penetrates deep into the planet’s atmosphere where it is absorbed by hydrogen atoms and converted to heat energy.

    “We did not expect to find such a dark exoplanet,” said Taylor Bell of McGill University and the Institute for Research on Exoplanets in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, lead researcher of the Hubble study. “Most hot Jupiters reflect about 40 percent of starlight.”

    But the planet’s nighttime side is a different story. WASP-12b has a fixed day side and night side because it orbits so close to the star that it is tidally locked. The nighttime side is more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit cooler, which allows water vapor and clouds to form. Previous Hubble observations of the day/night boundary detected evidence of water vapor and possibly clouds and hazes in the atmosphere. WASP-12b is about 2 million miles away from its star and completes an orbit once a day.

    “This new Hubble research further demonstrates the vast diversity among the strange population of hot Jupiters,” Bell said. “You can have planets like WASP-12b that are 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit and some that are 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit, and they’re both called hot Jupiters. Past observations of hot Jupiters indicate that the temperature difference between the day and night sides of the planet increases with hotter day sides. This previous research suggests that more heat is being pumped into the day side of the planet, but the processes, such as winds, that carry the heat to the night side of the planet don’t keep up the pace.”

    The researchers determined the planet’s light-eating capabilities by using Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph to search in mostly visible light for a tiny dip in starlight as the planet passed directly behind the star. The amount of dimming tells astronomers how much reflected light is given off by the planet. However, the observations did not detect reflected light, meaning that the daytime side of the planet is absorbing almost all the starlight falling onto it.

    First spotted in 2008, WASP-12b circles a Sun-like star residing 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Auriga. Since its discovery, several telescopes have studied the exoplanet, including Hubble, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

    NASA/Spitzer Infrared Telescope

    NASA/Chandra Telescope

    Previous observations by Hubble’s Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) revealed that the planet may be downsizing. COS detected material from the planet’s super-heated atmosphere spilling onto the star.

    NASA Hubble Cosmic Origins Spectrograph

    The results will appear in the Sept. 14 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

    The international team of astronomers in this study consists of T. J. Bell (McGill University, Canada), N. Nikolov (University of Exeter, UK), N. B. Cowan (McGill University, Canada), J. K. Barstow (University College London, UK), T. S. Barman (University of Arizona, USA), I. J. M. Crossfield (University of California Santa Cruz, USA; Sagan Fellow), N. P. Gibson (Queen’s University Belfast, UK), T. M. Evans (University of Exeter, UK), D. K. Sing (University of Exeter, UK), H. A. Knuston (California Institute of Technology, USA), T. Kataria (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA), J. D. Lothringer (University of Arizona, USA), B. Benneke (Université de Montréal, Canada), and J. C. Schwartz (McGill University, USA).

    Image credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

    Notes From ESA

    [1] The team measured the optical geometric albedo of WASP-12b, which measures the light that is scattered back towards the source of light, and can have values above 1. This is in contrast to the Bond albedo, which describes the total amount of energy reflected across all wavelengths and always falls in the range of 0 to 1.

    [2] Earth has an average optical geometric albedo of about 0.37. Enceladus, an icy moon of Saturn, has an albedo of 1.4, the highest known albedo of any celestial body in the Solar System.

    [3] One proposed model was an aluminum-oxide atmosphere with Mie scattering while the other was a cloud-free atmosphere with Rayleigh scattering.

    See the full article here .
    See the ESA artcile 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 1:17 pm on September 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Explosive Birth of Stars Swells Galactic Cores - ALMA spots transforming disk galaxies, , NASA ESA Hubble   

    From ALMA: “Explosive Birth of Stars Swells Galactic Cores – ALMA spots transforming disk galaxies” 

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

    2017.09.11
    No writer credits

    1
    NAOJ

    Astronomers found that active star formation upswells galaxies, like yeast helps bread rise. Using three powerful telescopes on the ground and in orbit, they observed galaxies from 11 billion years ago and found explosive formation of stars in the cores of galaxies. This suggests that galaxies can change their own shape without interaction with other galaxies.

    Astronomers found that active star formation upswells galaxies, like yeast helps bread rise. Using three powerful telescopes on the ground and in orbit, they observed galaxies from 11 billion years ago and found explosive formation of stars in the cores of galaxies. This suggests that galaxies can change their own shape without interaction with other galaxies.

    “Massive elliptical galaxies are believed to be formed from collisions of disk galaxies,” said Ken-ichi Tadaki, the lead author of two research papers and a postdoctoral researcher at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). “But, it is uncertain whether all the elliptical galaxies have experienced galaxy collision. There may be an alternative path.”

    Aiming to understand galactic metamorphosis, the international team explored distant galaxies 11 billion light-years away. Because it takes time for the light from distant objects to reach us, by observing galaxies 11 billion light-years away, the team can see what the Universe looked like 11 billion years ago, 3 billion years after the Big Bang. This corresponds the peak epoch of galaxy formation; the foundations of most galaxies were formed in this epoch.

    Receiving faint light which has travelled 11 billion years is tough work. The team harnessed the power of three telescopes to anatomize the ancient galaxies. First, they used NAOJ’s 8.2-m Subaru Telescope in Hawai`i and picked out 25 galaxies in this epoch.


    NAOJ/Subaru Telescope at Mauna Kea Hawaii, USA

    Then they targeted the galaxies for observations with NASA/ESA’s Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    The astronomers used HST to capture the light from stars which tells us the “current” (as of when the light was emitted, 11 billion years ago) shape of the galaxies, while ALMA observed submillimeter waves from cold clouds of gas and dust, where new stars are being formed. By combining the two, we know the shapes of the galaxies 11 billion years ago and how they are evolving.

    2
    Observation images of a galaxy 11 billion light-years away. Submillimeter waves detected with ALMA are shown in left, indicating the location of dense dust and gas where stars are being formed. Optical and infrared light seen with the Hubble Space Telescope are shown in the middle and right, respectively. A large galactic disk is seen in infrared, while three young star clusters are seen in optical light.
    Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, Tadaki et al.

    Thanks to their high resolution, HST and ALMA could illustrate the metamorphosis of the galaxies. With HST images the team found that a disk component dominates the galaxies. Meanwhile, the ALMA images show that there is a massive reservoir of gas and dust, the material of stars, so that stars are forming very actively. The star formation activity is so high that huge numbers of stars will be formed at the centers of the galaxies. This leads the astronomers to think that ultimately the galaxies will be dominated by the stellar bulge and become elliptical or lenticular galaxies.

    “Here, we obtained firm evidence that dense galactic cores can be formed without galaxy collisions. They can also be formed by intense star formation in the heart of the galaxy.” said Tadaki. The team used the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope to observe the target galaxies and confirmed that there are no indications of massive galaxy collisions.

    ESO/VLT at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    Almost 100 years ago, American astronomer Edwin Hubble invented the morphological classification scheme for galaxies. Since then, many astronomers have devoted considerable effort to understanding the origin of the variety in galaxy shapes. Utilizing the most advanced telescopes, modern astronomers have come one step closer to solving the mysteries of galaxies.

    3
    Evolution diagram of a galaxy. First the galaxy is dominated by the disk component (left) but active star formation occurs in the huge dust and gas cloud at the center of the galaxy (center). Then the galaxy is dominated by the stellar bulge and becomes an elliptical or lenticular galaxy. Credit: NAOJ

    Paper and research team
    These observation results were published as Tadaki et al. Bulge-forming Galaxies with an Extended Rotating Disk at z ~ 2 and Rotating Starburst Cores in Massive Galaxies at z = 2.5 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters in January and May 2017, respectively.

    The research team members are:
    Ken-ichi Tadaki (Max-Planck-Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics [MPE]/National Astronomical Observatory of Japan [NAOJ]), Reinhard Genzel (MPE/University of California, Berkeley), Tadayuki Kodama (NAOJ/The Graduate University for Advanced Studies [SOKENDAI], Tohoku University), Stijn Wuyts (University of Bath), Emily Wisnioski (MPE), Natascha M. Foerster Schreiber (MPE), Andreas Burkert (MPE/Ludwig Maximilian University), Phillip Lang (MPE), Linda J. Tacconi (MPE), Dieter Lutz (MPE), Sirio Belli (MPE), Richard I. Davies (MPE), Bunyo Hatsukade (The University of Tokyo), Masao Hayashi (NAOJ), Rodrigo Herrera-Camus (MPE), Soh Ikarashi (University of Groningen), Shigeki Inoue (The University of Tokyo), Kotaro Kohno (The University of Tokyo), Yusei Koyama (NAOJ), J. Trevor Mendel (MPE / Ludwig Maximilian University), Kouichiro Nakanishi (NAOJ/SOKENDAI), Rhythm Shimakawa (SOEKNDAI/University of California), Tomoko L. Suzuki (SOEKNDAI/NAOJ), Yoichi Tamura (The University of Tokyo/Nagoya University), Ichi Tanaka (NAOJ), Hannah Uebler (MPE), Dave J. Wilman (MPE/ Ludwig Maximilian University), Erica J. Nelson (MPE), Magdalena Lippa (MPE)

    This research was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the German Academic Exchange Service under the Japan-German Research Cooperative Program.

    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 12:24 pm on September 4, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: calcium-rich supernova called 2001co, NASA ESA Hubble, NGC 5559   

    From Hubble: “Mysterious supernovae” 

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    4 September 2017

    1
    NASA/ESA Hubble

    Like firecrackers lighting up the sky on New Year’s Eve, the majestic spiral arms of NGC 5559 are alight with new stars being born. NGC 5559 is a spiral galaxy, with spiral arms filled with gas and dust sweeping out around the bright galactic bulge. These arms are a rich environment for star formation, dotted with a festive array of colours including the newborn stars glowing blue as a result of their immensely high temperatures.

    NGC 5559 was discovered by astronomer William Herschel in 1785 and lies approximately 240 million light-years away in the northern constellation of Boötes (the herdsman)

    In 2001, a calcium-rich supernova called 2001co was observed in NGC 5559. Calcium-rich supernovae (Ca-rich SNe) are described as “fast-and-faint”, as they’re less luminous than other types of supernovae and also evolve more rapidly, to reveal spectra dominated by strong calcium lines. 2001co occurred within the disc of NGC 5559 near star-forming regions, but Ca-rich SNe are often observed at large distances from the nearest galaxy, raising curious questions about their progenitors.

    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 2:19 pm on August 18, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Brown dwarf binaries, , , Goal was to measure the masses of the objects in these binaries, , NASA ESA Hubble   

    From CFHT: “Astronomers prove what separates true stars from wannabes” 

    CFHT icon
    Canada France Hawaii Telescope

    June 5, 2017 [Just presented in social media.]

    Dr. Roy Gal
    University of Hawaii at Manoa
    +1 301-728-8637
    rgal@ifa.hawaii.edu

    Dr. Trent Dupuy
    The University of Texas at Austin
    +1 318-344-0975
    tdupuy@astro.as.utexas.edu

    Dr. Michael Liu
    University of Hawaii at Manoa
    +1 808-956-6666
    mliu@ifa.hawaii.edu

    “When we look up and see the stars shining at night, we are seeing only part of the story,” said Trent Dupuy of the University of Texas at Austin and a graduate of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “Not everything that could be a star ‘makes it,’ and figuring out why this process sometimes fails is just as important as understanding when it succeeds.”

    1
    Professor Michael Liu stands in front of WIRCam, CFHT’s infrared camera that was used for this decade long study.

    Dupuy is the lead author of the study and will present his research today in a news conference at the semi-annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin.

    Stars form when a cloud of gas and dust collapses due to gravity, and the resulting ball of matter becomes hot enough and dense enough to sustain nuclear fusion at its core. Fusion produces huge amounts of energy — it’s what makes stars shine. In the Sun’s case, it’s what makes most life on Earth possible.

    But not all collapsing gas clouds are created equal. Sometimes, the collapsing cloud makes a ball that isn’t dense enough to ignite fusion. These ‘failed stars’ are known as brown dwarfs.

    This simple division between stars and brown dwarfs has been used for a long time. In fact, astronomers have had theories about how massive the collapsing ball has to be in order to form a star (or not) for over 50 years. However, the dividing line in mass has never been confirmed by experiment.

    Now, astronomers Dupuy and Michael Liu of the University of Hawaii, who is a co-author of the study, have done just that. They found that an object must weigh at least 70 Jupiters in order to start hydrogen fusion. If it weighs less, the star does not ignite and becomes a brown dwarf instead.

    How did they reach that conclusion? For a decade, the two studied 31 faint brown dwarf binaries (pairs of these objects that orbit each other) using two powerful telescopes in Hawaii — the W. M. Keck Observatory and Canada-France-Hawaii telescopes — as well as data from the Hubble Space Telescope.


    Keck Observatory, Maunakea, Hawaii, USA

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    Their goal was to measure the masses of the objects in these binaries, since mass defines the boundary between stars and brown dwarfs. Astronomers have been using binaries to measure masses of stars for more than a century. To determine the masses of a binary, one measures the size and speed of the stars’ orbits around an invisible point between them where the pull of gravity is equal (known as the “center of mass”). However, binary brown dwarfs orbit much more slowly than binary stars, due to their lower masses. And because brown dwarfs are dimmer than stars, they can only be well studied with the world’s most powerful telescopes.

    To measure masses, Dupuy and Liu collected images of the brown-dwarf binaries over several years, tracking their orbital motions using high-precision observations. They used the 10-meter Keck Observatory telescope, along with its laser guide star adaptive optics system, and the Hubble Space Telescope, to obtain the extremely sharp images needed to distinguish the light from each object in the pair.

    However, the price of such zoomed-in, high-resolution images is that there is no reference frame to identify the center of mass. Wide-field images from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope containing hundreds of stars provided the reference grid needed to measure the center of mass for every binary. The precise positions needed to make these measurements are one of the specialties of WIRCam, the wide field infrared camera at CFHT. “Working with Trent Dupuy and Mike Liu over the last decade has not only benefited their work but our understanding of what is possible with WIRCam as well” says Daniel Devost, director of science operations at CFHT. “This is one of the first programs I worked on when I started at CFHT so this makes this discovery even more exciting.”

    The result of the decade-long observing program is the first large sample of brown dwarf masses. The information they have assembled has allowed them to draw a number of conclusions about what distinguishes stars from brown dwarfs.

    Objects heavier than 70 Jupiter masses are not cold enough to be brown dwarfs, implying that they are all stars powered by nuclear fusion. Therefore 70 Jupiters is the critical mass below which objects are fated to be brown dwarfs. This minimum mass is somewhat lower than theories had predicted but still consistent with the latest models of brown dwarf evolution.

    In addition to the mass cutoff, they discovered a surface temperature cutoff. Any object cooler than 1,600 Kelvin (about 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit) is not a star, but a brown dwarf.

    This new work will help astronomers understand the conditions under which stars form and evolve — or sometimes fail. In turn, the success or failure of star formation has an impact on how, where, and why solar systems form.

    “As they say, good things come to those who wait. While we’ve had many interesting brown dwarf results over the past 10 years, this large sample of masses is the big payoff. These measurements will be fundamental to understanding both brown dwarfs and stars for a very long time,” concludes Liu.

    This research will be published in The Astrophysical Journal Supplement.

    See the full article here .
    See the U Hawaii press release here .

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    The CFH observatory hosts a world-class, 3.6 meter optical/infrared telescope. The observatory is located atop the summit of Mauna Kea, a 4200 meter, dormant volcano located on the island of Hawaii. The CFH Telescope became operational in 1979. The mission of CFHT is to provide for its user community a versatile and state-of-the-art astronomical observing facility which is well matched to the scientific goals of that community and which fully exploits the potential of the Mauna Kea site.

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  • richardmitnick 10:38 am on August 12, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Dwarf galaxy NGC 5949, , NASA ESA Hubble   

    From Hubble via ESA: “Small but significant” 

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    Credits: NASA/ESA Hubble CC BY 4.0

    The subject of this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is a dwarf galaxy named NGC 5949. Thanks to its proximity to Earth — it sits at a distance of around 44 million light-years from us, placing it within the Milky Way’s cosmic neighbourhood — NGC 5949 is a perfect target for astronomers to study dwarf galaxies.

    With a mass of about a hundredth that of the Milky Way, NGC 5949 is a relatively bulky example of a dwarf galaxy. Its classification as a dwarf is due to its relatively small number of constituent stars, but the galaxy’s loosely-bound spiral arms also place it in the category of barred spirals. This structure is just visible in this image, which shows the galaxy as a bright yet ill-defined pinwheel. Despite its small proportions, NGC 5949’s proximity has meant that its light can be picked up by fairly small telescopes, something that facilitated its discovery by the astronomer William Herschel in 1801.

    Astronomers have run into several cosmological quandaries when it comes to dwarf galaxies like NGC 5949. For example, the distribution of dark matter within dwarfs is quite puzzling (the “cuspy halo” problem), and our simulations of the Universe predict that there should be many more dwarf galaxies than we see around us (the “missing satellites” problem).

    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 2:19 pm on July 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA ESA Hubble,   

    From Hubble: “The Dawn of a New Era for Supernova 1987A” 

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    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    Feb 24, 2017 [Just found this cosmic gem in Hubble’s current social media.]
    Donna Weaver
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
    dweaver@stsci.edu
    410-338-4493

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

    Megan Watzke
    Chandra X-ray Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts
    mwatzke@cfa.harvard.edu
    617-496-7998

    1
    In February 1987, on a mountaintop in Chile, telescope operator Oscar Duhalde stood outside the observatory at Las Campanas and looked up at the clear night sky. There, in a hazy-looking patch of brightness in the sky — the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a neighboring galaxy – was a bright star he hadn’t noticed before.

    That same night, Canadian astronomer Ian Shelton was at Las Campanas observing stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud. As Shelton was studying a photographic plate of the LMC later that night, he noticed a bright object that he initially thought was a defect in the plate. When he showed the plate to other astronomers at the observatory, he realized the object was the light from a supernova. Duhalde announced that he saw the object too in the night sky. The object turned out to be Supernova 1987A, the closest exploding star observed in 400 years. Shelton had to notify the astronomical community of his discovery. There was no Internet in 1987, so the astronomer scrambled down the mountain to the nearest town and sent a message to the International Astronomical Union’s Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, a clearing house for announcing astronomical discoveries.

    Since that finding, an armada of telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope, has studied the supernova. Hubble wasn’t even in space when SN 1987A was found. The supernova, however, was one of the first objects Hubble observed after its launch in 1990. Hubble has continued to monitor the exploded star for nearly 30 years, yielding insight into the messy aftermath of a star’s violent self-destruction. Hubble has given astronomers a ring-side seat to watch the brightening of a ring around the dead star as the supernova blast wave slammed into it.

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    Supernova 1987A over time
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    This montage shows the evolution of the supernova 1987A between 1994 and 2016, as seen by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
    Credit: NASA, ESA, and R. Kirshner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation) and P. Challis (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)


    Feb 1994


    2017

    Three decades ago, astronomers spotted one of the brightest exploding stars in more than 400 years. The titanic supernova, called Supernova 1987A (SN 1987A), blazed with the power of 100 million suns for several months following its discovery on Feb. 23, 1987.

    Since that first sighting, SN 1987A has continued to fascinate astronomers with its spectacular light show. Located in the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud, it is the nearest supernova explosion observed in hundreds of years and the best opportunity yet for astronomers to study the phases before, during, and after the death of a star.

    To commemorate the 30th anniversary of SN 1987A, new images, time-lapse movies, a data-based animation based on work led by Salvatore Orlando at INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Palermo, Italy, and a three-dimensional model are being released. By combining data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory, as well as the international Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), astronomers — and the public — can explore SN 1987A like never before.

    NASA/Chandra Telescope

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

    Hubble has repeatedly observed SN 1987A since 1990, accumulating hundreds of images, and Chandra began observing SN 1987A shortly after its deployment in 1999. ALMA, a powerful array of 66 antennas, has been gathering high-resolution millimeter and submillimeter data on SN 1987A since its inception.

    “The 30 years’ worth of observations of SN 1987A are important because they provide insight into the last stages of stellar evolution,” said Robert Kirshner of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in Palo Alto, California.

    The latest data from these powerful telescopes indicate that SN 1987A has passed an important threshold. The supernova shock wave is moving beyond the dense ring of gas produced late in the life of the pre-supernova star when a fast outflow or wind from the star collided with a slower wind generated in an earlier red giant phase of the star’s evolution. What lies beyond the ring is poorly known at present, and depends on the details of the evolution of the star when it was a red giant.

    “The details of this transition will give astronomers a better understanding of the life of the doomed star, and how it ended,” said Kari Frank of Penn State University who led the latest Chandra study of SN 1987A.

    Supernovas such as SN 1987A can stir up the surrounding gas and trigger the formation of new stars and planets. The gas from which these stars and planets form will be enriched with elements such as carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and iron, which are the basic components of all known life. These elements are forged inside the pre-supernova star and during the supernova explosion itself, and then dispersed into their host galaxy by expanding supernova remnants. Continued studies of SN 1987A should give unique insight into the early stages of this dispersal.

    Some highlights from studies involving these telescopes include:

    Hubble studies have revealed that the dense ring of gas around the supernova is glowing in optical light, and has a diameter of about a light-year. The ring was there at least 20,000 years before the star exploded. A flash of ultraviolet light from the explosion energized the gas in the ring, making it glow for decades.

    The central structure visible inside the ring in the Hubble image has now grown to roughly half a light-year across. Most noticeable are two blobs of debris in the center of the supernova remnant racing away from each other at roughly 20 million miles an hour.

    From 1999 until 2013, Chandra data showed an expanding ring of X-ray emission that had been steadily getting brighter. The blast wave from the original explosion has been bursting through and heating the ring of gas surrounding the supernova, producing X-ray emission.

    In the past few years, the ring has stopped getting brighter in X-rays. From about February 2013 until the last Chandra observation analyzed in September 2015 the total amount of low-energy X-rays has remained constant. Also, the bottom left part of the ring has started to fade. These changes provide evidence that the explosion’s blast wave has moved beyond the ring into a region with less dense gas. This represents the end of an era for SN 1987A.

    Beginning in 2012, astronomers used ALMA to observe the glowing remains of the supernova, studying how the remnant is actually forging vast amounts of new dust from the new elements created in the progenitor star. A portion of this dust will make its way into interstellar space and may become the building blocks of future stars and planets in another system.

    These observations also suggest that dust in the early universe likely formed from similar supernova explosions.

    Astronomers also are still looking for evidence of a black hole or a neutron star left behind by the blast. They observed a flash of neutrinos from the star just as it erupted. This detection makes astronomers quite certain a compact object formed as the center of the star collapsed — either a neutron star or a black hole — but no telescope has uncovered any evidence for one yet.

    These latest visuals were made possible by combining several sources of information including simulations by Salvatore Orlando and collaborators that appear in this paper: https://arxiv.org/abs/1508.02275. The Chandra study by Frank et al. can be found online at http://lanl.arxiv.org/abs/1608.02160. Recent ALMA results on SN 87A are available at https://arxiv.org/abs/1312.4086.

    The Chandra program is managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra’s science and flight operations.

    ALMA is a partnership of ESO (representing its member states), NSF (USA) and NINS (Japan), together with NRC (Canada), NSC and ASIAA (Taiwan), and KASI (Republic of South Korea), in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. The Joint ALMA Observatory is operated by ESO, AUI/NRAO and NAOJ.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    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 8:40 am on July 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA ESA Hubble, NGC 1510,   

    From Hubble: “Galactic David and Goliath” and “Hubble unveils a galaxy in living colour” 

    NASA Hubble Banner

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    27 July 2017
    Mathias Jäger
    ESA/Hubble, Public Information Officer
    Garching, Germany
    Tel: +49 176 62397500
    Email: mjaeger@partner.eso.org

    1
    The gravitational dance between two galaxies in our local neighbourhood has led to intriguing visual features in both as witnessed in this new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image. The tiny NGC 1510 and its colossal neighbour NGC 1512 are at the beginning of a lengthy merger, a crucial process in galaxy evolution. Despite its diminutive size, NGC 1510 has had a significant effect on NGC 1512’s structure and amount of star formation.

    Galaxies come in a range of shapes and sizes, and astronomers use this fact to classify them based on their appearance. NGC 1512, the large galaxy to the left in this image, is classified as a barred spiral, named after the bar composed of stars, gas and dust slicing through its centre. The tiny NGC 1510 to the right, on the other hand, is a dwarf galaxy. Despite their very different sizes, each galaxy affects the other through gravity, causing slow changes in their appearances.

    The bar in NGC 1512 acts as a cosmic funnel, channelling the raw materials required for star formation from the outer ring into the heart of the galaxy. This pipeline of gas and dust in NGC 1512 fuels intense star birth in the bright, blue, shimmering inner disc known as a circumnuclear starburst ring, which spans 2400 light-years.

    Both the bar and the starburst ring are thought to be at least in part the result of the cosmic scuffle between the two galaxies — a merger that has been going on for 400 million years.

    NGC 1512, which has been observed by Hubble in the past [see below], is also home to a second, more serene, star-forming region in its outer ring. This ring is dotted with dozens of HII regions, where large swathes of hydrogen gas are subject to intense radiation from nearby, newly formed stars. This radiation causes the gas to glow and creates the bright knots of light seen throughout the ring.

    Remarkably, NGC 1512 extends even further than we can see in this image — beyond the outer ring — displaying malformed, tendril-like spiral arms enveloping NGC 1510. These huge arms are thought to be warped by strong gravitational interactions with NGC 1510 and the accretion of material from it. But these interactions are not just affecting NGC 1512; they have also taken their toll on the smaller of the pair.

    The constant tidal tugging from its neighbour has swirled up the gas and dust in NGC 1510 and kick-started star formation that is even more intense than in NGC 1512. This causes the galaxy to glow with the blue hue that is indicative of hot new stars.

    NGC 1510 is not the only galaxy to have experienced the massive gravitational tidal forces of NGC 1512. Observations made in 2015 showed that the outer regions of the spiral arms of NGC 1512 were indeed once part of a separate, older galaxy. This galaxy was ripped apart and absorbed by NGC 1512, just as it is doing now to NGC 1510.

    Together, the pair demonstrate how interactions between galaxies, even if they are of very different sizes, can have a significant influence on their structures, changing the dynamics of their constituent gas and dust and even triggering starbursts. Such interactions between galaxies, and galaxy mergers in particular, play a key role in galactic evolution.

    Hubble unveils a galaxy in living colour

    31 May 2001
    Lars Lindberg Christensen
    Hubble European Space Agency Information Centre (Garching, Germany)
    Phone: +49-(0)89-3200-6306
    Cellular (24 hr): +49-(0)173-38-72-621
    E-mail: lars@eso.org

    Dan Maoz
    School of Physics and Astronomy, and Wise Observatory Tel-Aviv University, Israel
    Temporary address:
    Department of Astronomy, Columbia University, USA Phone: +1-212-854-6899
    Email: dani@astro.columbia.edu

    Ray Villard
    Office of Public Outreach, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, USA
    Phone: +001 410 338 4514
    E-mail: villard@stsci.edu

    2
    An extensive, multi-wavelength study with the Hubble Space Telescope has shown the many faces of the galaxy NGC 1512. Hubble’s unique vantage point high above the atmosphere allows scientists to see objects over a broad range of wavelengths from the ultraviolet to the infrared.

    In this view of the centre of the magnificent barred spiral galaxy NGC 1512, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s broad spectral vision reveals the galaxy at all wavelengths from ultraviolet through to infrared. The colours (which indicate differences in light intensity) map where newly born star clusters exist in both ‘dusty’ and ‘clean’ regions of the galaxy.

    This colour composite image was created from seven images, taken with three different Hubble cameras, the Faint Object Camera (FOC), the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) and the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS).

    NASA/Hubble WFPC2. No longer in service.

    NASA/Hubble NICMOS

    NGC 1512 is a barred spiral galaxy in the southern constellation of Horologium. Located 30 million light years away, relatively ‘nearby’ as galaxies go, it is bright enough to be seen with amateur telescopes. The galaxy spans 70 000 light years, nearly as much as our own Milky Way galaxy.

    The galaxy’s core is unique for its stunning 2400 light year wide circle of infant star clusters, called a ‘circumnuclear’ starburst ring. Starbursts are episodes of vigorous formation of new stars and are found in a variety of galaxy environments.

    Taking advantage of Hubble’s sharp vision, as well as its unique wavelength coverage, a team of Israeli and American astronomers performed one of the broadest and most detailed studies ever of such star-forming regions. The results, which will be published in the June issue of The Astronomical Journal , show that in NGC 1512 newly born star clusters exist in both dusty and clean environments. The clean clusters are readily seen in ultraviolet and visible light, appearing as bright, blue clumps in the image. However the dusty clusters are revealed only by the glow of the gas clouds in which they are hidden, as detected in red and infrared wavelengths by the Hubble cameras. This glow can be seen as red light permeating the dark, dusty lanes in the ring.

    ‘The dust obscuration of clusters appears to be an on-off phenomenon’ says Dan Maoz, who headed the collaboration. ‘The clusters are either completely hidden, enshrouded in their birth clouds, or almost completely exposed.’ The scientists believe that stellar winds and powerful radiation from the bright, newly born stars have cleared away the original natal dust cloud in a fast and efficient ‘cleansing’ process.

    Aaron Barth, a co-investigator on the team, adds: ‘It is remarkable how similar the properties of this starburst are to those of other nearby starbursts that have been studied in detail with Hubble.’ This similarity gives the astronomers the hope that, by understanding the processes occurring in nearby galaxies, they can better interpret observations of very distant and faint starburst galaxies. Such distant galaxies formed the first generations of stars, when the Universe was a fraction of its current age.

    See the full article [http://www.spacetelescope.org/news/heic1712/] here .
    See the full article [https://www.spacetelescope.org/news/heic0106/] here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    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 5:08 pm on July 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , NASA ESA Hubble, ,   

    From Webb: “Birth of Stars & Protoplanetary Systems” 

    NASA Webb Header

    NASA Webb Telescope

    James Webb Space Telescope

    1
    The Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula captured in visible light by Hubble. Stellar nurseries are hidden within the towers of dust and gas. Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)/J. Hester, P. Scowen (Arizona State U.)

    Inside the Pillars of Creation

    While this image is spectacular, there are actually stars that Hubble can’t see inside those pillars of dust. And that’s because the visible light emitted by those stars is being obscured by the dust. But what if we used a telescope sensitive to infrared light to look at this nebula?

    The next image is another Hubble view, but this time in near-infrared. In the infrared more structure within the dust clouds is revealed and hidden stars have now become apparent. (And if Hubble, which is optimized for visible light, can capture a near-infrared image like this, imagine what JWST, which is optimized for near-infrared and 100x more powerful than Hubble, will do!)

    Another nebula, the “Mystic Mountains” of the Carina Nebula, shown in two Hubble images, one in visible light (left) and one in infrared (right).
    In the infrared image, we can see more stars that just weren’t visible before. Why is this?

    2
    The Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula captured in infrared light by Hubble. The light from young stars being formed pierce the clouds of dust and gas in the infrared. Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

    3
    Comparison of the Carina Nebula in visible light (left) and infrared (left), both images by Hubble. Credit: NASA/ESA/M. Livio & Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI)

    How Do Infrared Cameras Work?

    We can try a thought experiment. What if you were to put your arm into a garbage bag? Your arm is hidden. Invisible.

    But what if you looked at your arm and the garbage bag with an infrared camera? Remember that infrared light is essentially heat. And that while your eyes may not be able to pick up the warmth of your arm underneath the cooler plastic of the bag, an infrared camera can. An infrared camera can see right through the bag!

    4
    5

    6
    ALMA image of the young star HL Tau and its protoplanetary disk. This best image ever of planet formation reveals multiple rings and gaps that herald the presence of emerging planets as they sweep their orbits clear of dust and gas. Credit: ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ); C. Brogan, B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

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

    The Dusty Cocoons of Star and Planet Formation

    JWST’s amazing imaging and spectroscopy capabilities will allow us to study stars as they are forming in their dusty cocoons. Additionally, it will be able to image disks of heated material around these young stars, which can indicate the beginnings of planetary systems, and study organic molecules that are important for life to develop.

    _________________________________________________________________
    Key Questions

    JWST will address several key questions to help us unravel the story of the star and planet formation:

    How do clouds of gas and dust collapse to form stars?
    Why do most stars form in groups?
    Exactly how do planetary systems form?
    How do stars evolve and release the heavy elements they produce back into space for recycling into new generations of stars and planets?

    7
    Infrared Spitzer image of a star-forming region. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ Harvard-Smithsonian CfA

    NASA/Spitzer Telescope

    JWST’s Role in Answering These Questions

    To unravel the birth and early evolution of stars and planets, we need to be able to peer into the hearts of dense and dusty cloud cores where star formation begins. These regions cannot be observed at visible light wavelengths as the dust would make such regions opaque and must be observed at infrared wavelengths.

    Stars, like our Sun, can be thought of as “basic particles” of the Universe, just as atoms are “basic particles” of matter. Groups of stars make up galaxies, while planets and ultimately life arise around stars. Although stars have been the main topic of astronomy for thousands of years, we have begun to understand them in detail only in recent times through the advent of powerful telescopes and computers.

    A hundred years ago, scientists did not know that stars are powered by nuclear fusion, and 50 years ago they did not know that stars are continually forming in the Universe. Researchers still do not know the details of how clouds of gas and dust collapse to form stars, or why most stars form in groups, or exactly how planetary systems form. Young stars within a star-forming region interact with each other in complex ways. The details of how they evolve and release the heavy elements they produce back into space for recycling into new generations of stars and planets remains to be determined through a combination of observation and theory.

    8
    The stages of solar system formation. Credit: Shu et al. 1987

    The stages of solar system formation are illustrated to the right: starting with a protostar embedded in a gas cloud (upper left of diagram), to an early star with a circumstellar disk (upper right), to a star surrounded by small “planetesimals” which are starting to clump together (lower left) to a solar system like ours today.

    The continual discovery of new and unusual planetary systems has made scientists re-think their ideas and theories about how planets are formed. Scientists realize that to get a better understanding of how planets form, they need to have more observations of planets around young stars, and more observations of leftover debris around stars, which can come together and form planets.

    _________________________________________________________________

    Related Content
    More Comparison Images

    Here’s is another stunning comparison of visible versus infrared light views of the same object – the gorgeous Horsehead Nebula:

    9
    The Horsehead Nebula in visible light, captured by the Canada-France Hawaii Telescope. Credit: NASA

    Visible Light Horsehead Nebula


    CFHT Telescope, Maunakea, Hawaii, USA

    Infrared Light Horsehead Nebula

    9
    The Horsehead Nebula in infrared light, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA/Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI)

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    Related Video

    This video shows how JWST will peer inside dusty knots where the youngest stars and planets are forming.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The James Webb Space Telescope will be a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror. Launch is planned for later in the decade.

    Webb telescope will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System.

    Webb telescope was formerly known as the “Next Generation Space Telescope” (NGST); it was renamed in Sept. 2002 after a former NASA administrator, James Webb.

    Webb is an international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is managing the development effort. The main industrial partner is Northrop Grumman; the Space Telescope Science Institute will operate Webb after launch.

    Several innovative technologies have been developed for Webb. These include a folding, segmented primary mirror, adjusted to shape after launch; ultra-lightweight beryllium optics; detectors able to record extremely weak signals, microshutters that enable programmable object selection for the spectrograph; and a cryocooler for cooling the mid-IR detectors to 7K.

    There will be four science instruments on Webb: the Near InfraRed Camera (NIRCam), the Near InfraRed Spectrograph (NIRspec), the Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI), and the Fine Guidance Sensor/ Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (FGS-NIRISS). Webb’s instruments will be designed to work primarily in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum, with some capability in the visible range. It will be sensitive to light from 0.6 to 28 micrometers in wavelength.
    Webb has four main science themes: The End of the Dark Ages: First Light and Reionization, The Assembly of Galaxies, The Birth of Stars and Protoplanetary Systems, and Planetary Systems and the Origins of Life.

    Launch is scheduled for later in the decade on an Ariane 5 rocket. The launch will be from Arianespace’s ELA-3 launch complex at European Spaceport located near Kourou, French Guiana. Webb will be located at the second Lagrange point, about a million miles from the Earth.

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