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  • richardmitnick 2:02 pm on March 5, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Galactic Wind Provides Clues to Evolution of Galaxies", "The space between galaxies is not empty" said Enrique Lopez-Rodriguez a Universities Space Research Association (USRA) scientist working on the SOFIA team. "It contains gas and dust - which are the s, Besides being a classic example of a starburst galaxy because it is forming an extraordinary number of new stars compared with most other galaxies Messier 82 also has strong winds blowing gas and dust, , NASA JPL - Caltech, , Researchers found for the first time that the galactic wind flowing from the center of the Cigar Galaxy (M82) is aligned along a magnetic field and transports a very large mass of gas and dust - the e, Researchers using the airborne observatory SOFIA found definitively that the wind from the Cigar Galaxy not only transports a huge amount of gas and dust into the intergalactic medium but also drags t, SOFIA's newest instrument- the High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-Plus or HAWC+- uses far-infrared light to observe celestial dust grains which align along magnetic field lines. From these resul, The Cigar Galaxy (also known as M82) is famous for its extraordinary speed in making new stars with stars being born 10 times faster than in the Milky Way. Now data from the Stratospheric Observatory , These observations indicate that the powerful winds associated with the starburst phenomenon could be one of the mechanisms responsible for seeding material and injecting a magnetic field into the nea   

    From JPL-Caltech: “Galactic Wind Provides Clues to Evolution of Galaxies” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From JPL-Caltech

    March 5, 2019
    Calla Cofield
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    626-808-2469
    calla.e.cofield@jpl.nasa.gov

    Written by Kassandra Bell and Arielle Moullet, USRA SOFIA Science Center

    1
    A composite image of the Cigar Galaxy (also called Messier 82), a starburst galaxy about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. The magnetic field detected by the High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-Plus instrument (known as HAWC+) on SOFIA (the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy), shown as streamlines, appears to follow the bipolar outflows (red) generated by the intense nuclear starburst. The image combines visible starlight (gray) and a tracing of hydrogen gas (red) observed from the Kitt Peak Observatory, with near-infrared and mid-infrared starlight and dust (yellow) observed by SOFIA and the Spitzer Space Telescope.

    NASA SOFIA High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-Plus HAWC+ Camera

    NASA/DLR SOFIA

    Kitt Peak National Observatory of the Quinlan Mountains in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert on the Tohono O’odham Nation, 88 kilometers 55 mi west-southwest of Tucson, Arizona, Altitude 2,096 m (6,877 ft)

    NASA/Spitzer Infrared Telescope

    The Cigar Galaxy (also known as M82) is famous for its extraordinary speed in making new stars, with stars being born 10 times faster than in the Milky Way. Now, data from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, have been used to study this galaxy in greater detail, revealing how material that affects the evolution of galaxies may get into intergalactic space.

    Researchers found, for the first time, that the galactic wind flowing from the center of the Cigar Galaxy (M82) is aligned along a magnetic field and transports a very large mass of gas and dust – the equivalent mass of 50 million to 60 million Suns.

    “The space between galaxies is not empty,” said Enrique Lopez-Rodriguez, a Universities Space Research Association (USRA) scientist working on the SOFIA team. “It contains gas and dust – which are the seed materials for stars and galaxies. Now, we have a better understanding of how this matter escaped from inside galaxies over time.”

    Besides being a classic example of a starburst galaxy, because it is forming an extraordinary number of new stars compared with most other galaxies, Messier 82 also has strong winds blowing gas and dust into intergalactic space. Astronomers have long theorized that these winds would also drag the galaxy’s magnetic field in the same direction, but despite numerous studies, there has been no observational proof of the concept.

    Researchers using the airborne observatory SOFIA found definitively that the wind from the Cigar Galaxy not only transports a huge amount of gas and dust into the intergalactic medium, but also drags the magnetic field so it is perpendicular to the galactic disc. In fact, the wind drags the magnetic field more than 2,000 light-years across – close to the width of the wind itself.

    “One of the main objectives of this research was to evaluate how efficiently the galactic wind can drag along the magnetic field,” said Lopez-Rodriguez. “We did not expect to find the magnetic field to be aligned with the wind over such a large area.”

    These observations indicate that the powerful winds associated with the starburst phenomenon could be one of the mechanisms responsible for seeding material and injecting a magnetic field into the nearby intergalactic medium. If similar processes took place in the early universe, they would have affected the fundamental evolution of the first galaxies.

    The results were published in December 2018 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

    SOFIA’s newest instrument, the High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-Plus, or HAWC+, uses far-infrared light to observe celestial dust grains, which align along magnetic field lines. From these results, astronomers can infer the shape and direction of the otherwise invisible magnetic field. Far-infrared light provides key information about magnetic fields because the signal is clean and not contaminated by emission from other physical mechanisms, such as scattered visible light.

    “Studying intergalactic magnetic fields – and learning how they evolve – is key to understanding how galaxies evolved over the history of the universe,” said Terry Jones, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis, and lead researcher for this study. “With SOFIA’s HAWC+ instrument, we now have a new perspective on these magnetic fields.”

    The HAWC+ instrument was developed and delivered to NASA by a multi-institution team led by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. JPL scientist and HAWC+ Principal Investigator Darren Dowell, along with JPL scientist Paul Goldsmith, were part of the research team using HAWC+ to study the Cigar Galaxy.

    SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 106-inch diameter telescope. It is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center, DLR. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the SOFIA program, science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart. The aircraft is maintained and operated from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Hangar 703, in Palmdale, California.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, 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 5:25 pm on February 27, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Why Do Some Galactic Unions Lead to Doom?", , , , , Galaxy mergers were more common between 6 billion and 10 billion years ago, Great Observatories All-sky LIRG Survey or GOALS, Merging galaxies in the nearby universe appear especially bright to infrared observatories like Spitzer, NASA JPL - Caltech, NGC 7752 and NGC 7753, NGC 7752 and NGC 7753 also collectively called Arp86, One of the primary processes thought to be responsible for a sudden halt in star formation inside a merged galaxy is an overfed black hole, Spitzer Infrared Array Camera (IRAC), , The survey has focused on 200 nearby objects including many galaxies in various stages of merging, These processes profoundly shaped our modern galactic landscape, This sudden burst of activity can create an unstable environment, Though the galaxies appear separate now gravity is pulling them together. Soon they will combine to form new merged galaxies., Three images from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope show pairs of galaxies on the cusp of cosmic consolidations   

    From JPL-Caltech: “Why Do Some Galactic Unions Lead to Doom?” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From JPL-Caltech

    February 27, 2019

    Calla Cofield
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    626-808-2469
    calla.e.cofield@jpl.nasa.gov

    1
    This image shows the merger of two galaxies, known as NGC 7752 (larger) and NGC 7753 (smaller), also collectively called Arp86. In these images, different colors correspond to different wavelengths of infrared light. Blue and green are wavelengths both strongly emitted by stars. Red is a wavelength mostly emitted by dust. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    2
    This image shows the merger of two galaxies, known as NGC 6786 (right) and UGC 11415 (left), also collectively called VII Zw 96. It is composed of images from three Spitzer Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) channels: IRAC channel 1 in blue, IRAC channel 2 in green and IRAC channel 3 in red. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    3
    This image shows two merging galaxies known as Arp 302, also called VV 340. In these images, different colors correspond to different wavelengths of infrared light. Blue and green are wavelengths both strongly emitted by stars. Red is a wavelength mostly emitted by dust. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    Three images from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope show pairs of galaxies on the cusp of cosmic consolidations.

    NASA/Spitzer Infrared Telescope

    Though the galaxies appear separate now, gravity is pulling them together, and soon they will combine to form new, merged galaxies. Some merged galaxies will experience billions of years of growth. For others, however, the merger will kick off processes that eventually halt star formation, dooming the galaxies to wither prematurely.

    Only a few percent of galaxies in the nearby universe are merging, but galaxy mergers were more common between 6 billion and 10 billion years ago, and these processes profoundly shaped our modern galactic landscape. For more than 10 years, scientists working on the Great Observatories All-sky LIRG Survey, or GOALS, have been using nearby galaxies to study the details of galaxy mergers and to use them as local laboratories for that earlier period in the universe’s history. The survey has focused on 200 nearby objects, including many galaxies in various stages of merging. The images above show three of those targets, imaged by Spitzer.

    In these images, different colors correspond to different wavelengths of infrared light, which are not visible to the human eye. Blue corresponds to 3.6 microns, and green corresponds to 4.5 microns – both strongly emitted by stars. Red corresponds to 8.0 microns, a wavelength mostly emitted by dust.

    One of the primary processes thought to be responsible for a sudden halt in star formation inside a merged galaxy is an overfed black hole. At the center of most galaxies lies a supermassive black hole – a powerful beast millions to billions of times more massive than the Sun. During a galactic merger, gas and dust are driven into the center of the galaxy, where they help make young stars and also feed the central black hole.

    But this sudden burst of activity can create an unstable environment. Shockwaves or powerful winds produced by the growing black hole can sweep through the galaxy, ejecting large quantities of gas and shutting down star formation. Sufficiently powerful or repetitive outflows can hinder the galaxy’s ability to make new stars.

    The relationship between mergers, bursts of star formation, and black hole activity is complex, and scientists are still working to understand it fully. One of the newly merged galaxies is the subject of a detailed study with the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, in which GOALS scientists searched for galactic shockwaves driven by the central active galactic nucleus, an extremely bright object powered by a supermassive black hole feeding on material around it.


    Keck Observatory, Maunakea, Hawaii, USA.4,207 m (13,802 ft), above sea level,

    The lack of shock signatures suggests that the role of active galactic nuclei in shaping galaxy growth during a merger may not be straightforward.

    Merging galaxies in the nearby universe appear especially bright to infrared observatories like Spitzer. GOALS studies have also relied on observations of the target galaxies by other space-based observatories, including NASA’s Hubble and Chandra space telescopes, the European Space Agency’s Herschel satellite, as well as facilities on the ground, including the Keck Observatory, the National Science Foundation’s Very Large Array and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array.

    JPL manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech in Pasadena, California. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at IPAC at Caltech.

    More information about the GOALS survey is available at the following site:

    http://goals.ipac.caltech.edu/

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, 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 5:59 pm on February 25, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Creation of amino acids and alpha hydroxy acids in the lab is the culmination of nine years of research into the origins of life, Exoplanets - worlds beyond our reach but still within the realm of our telescopes - may have signatures of life in their atmospheres that could be revealed in the future., Future Mars missions could return samples from the Red Planet's rusty surface which may reveal evidence of amino acids formed by iron minerals and ancient water, JPL's Origins and Habitability Lab in Pasadena California, NASA JPL - Caltech, NASA Study Reproduces Origins of Life on Ocean Floor", Their research focuses on how the building blocks of life form in hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, They also removed the oxygen from the mixture because unlike today early Earth had very little oxygen in its ocean. The team additionally used the mineral iron hydroxide- "green rust" which was abunda, They combined water minerals and the "precursor" molecules pyruvate and ammonia which are needed to start the formation of amino acids, To re-create hydrothermal vents in the lab the team made their own miniature seafloors by filling beakers with mixtures that mimic Earth's primordial ocean, Understanding how far you can go with just organics and minerals before you have an actual cell is really important for understanding what types of environments life could emerge from   

    From JPL-Caltech: “NASA Study Reproduces Origins of Life on Ocean Floor” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From JPL-Caltech

    February 25, 2019

    Arielle Samuelson
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-354-0307
    arielle.a.samuelson@jpl.nasa.gov

    1
    NASA Study Reproduces Origins of Life on Ocean Floor
    A time-lapse video of a miniature hydrothermal chimney forming in the lab, as it would in early Earth’s ocean. The chimney grows from reactions with minerals found in the ocean. Natural vents can continue to form for thousands of years and grow to tens of yards (meters) in height.Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Flores

    2
    NASA Study Reproduces Origins of Life on Ocean Floor
    Laurie Barge, left, and Erika Flores, right, in JPL’s Origins and Habitability Lab in Pasadena, California.Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    Scientists have reproduced in the lab how the ingredients for life could have formed deep in the ocean 4 billion years ago. The results of the new study offer clues to how life started on Earth and where else in the cosmos we might find it.

    Astrobiologist Laurie Barge and her team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are working to recognize life on other planets by studying the origins of life here on Earth. Their research focuses on how the building blocks of life form in hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor.

    To re-create hydrothermal vents in the lab, the team made their own miniature seafloors by filling beakers with mixtures that mimic Earth’s primordial ocean. These lab-based oceans act as nurseries for amino acids, organic compounds that are essential for life as we know it. Like Lego blocks, amino acids build on one another to form proteins, which make up all living things.


    Hydrothermal vents are places in the seafloor where warm water from under the Earth’s crust mixes with near-freezing seawater. These vents form natural chimneys, which play host to all kinds of ocean life. Image Credit: MARUM/University of Bremen/NOAA-Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory.

    “Understanding how far you can go with just organics and minerals before you have an actual cell is really important for understanding what types of environments life could emerge from,” said Barge, the lead investigator and the first author on the new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Also, investigating how things like the atmosphere, the ocean and the minerals in the vents all impact this can help you understand how likely this is to have occurred on another planet.”

    Found around cracks in the seafloor, hydrothermal vents are places where natural chimneys form, releasing fluid heated below Earth’s crust. When these chimneys interact with the seawater around them, they create an environment that is in constant flux, which is necessary for life to evolve and change. This dark, warm environment fed by chemical energy from Earth may be the key to how life could form on worlds farther out in our solar system, far from the heat of the Sun.

    “If we have these hydrothermal vents here on Earth, possibly similar reactions could occur on other planets,” said JPL’s Erika Flores, co-author of the new study.

    Barge and Flores used ingredients commonly found in early Earth’s ocean in their experiments. They combined water, minerals and the “precursor” molecules pyruvate and ammonia, which are needed to start the formation of amino acids. They tested their hypothesis by heating the solution to 158 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius) – the same temperature found near a hydrothermal vent – and adjusting the pH to mimic the alkaline environment. They also removed the oxygen from the mixture because, unlike today, early Earth had very little oxygen in its ocean. The team additionally used the mineral iron hydroxide, or “green rust,” which was abundant on early Earth.

    The green rust reacted with small amounts of oxygen that the team injected into the solution, producing the amino acid alanine and the alpha hydroxy acid lactate. Alpha hydroxy acids are byproducts of amino acid reactions, but some scientists theorize they too could combine to form more complex organic molecules that could lead to life.

    “We’ve shown that in geological conditions similar to early Earth, and maybe to other planets, we can form amino acids and alpha hydroxy acids from a simple reaction under mild conditions that would have existed on the seafloor,” said Barge.

    Barge’s creation of amino acids and alpha hydroxy acids in the lab is the culmination of nine years of research into the origins of life. Past studies looked at whether the right ingredients for life are found in hydrothermal vents, and how much energy those vents can generate (enough to power a light bulb). But this new study is the first time her team has watched an environment very similar to a hydrothermal vent drive an organic reaction. Barge and her team will continue to study these reactions in anticipation of finding more ingredients for life and creating more complex molecules. Step by step, she’s slowly inching her way up the chain of life.

    This line of research is important as scientists study worlds in our solar system and beyond that may host habitable environments. Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus, for example, could have hydrothermal vents in oceans beneath their icy crusts. Understanding how life could start in an ocean without sunlight would assist scientists in designing future exploration missions, as well as experiments that could dig under the ice to search for evidence of amino acids or other biological molecules.

    Future Mars missions could return samples from the Red Planet’s rusty surface, which may reveal evidence of amino acids formed by iron minerals and ancient water. Exoplanets – worlds beyond our reach but still within the realm of our telescopes – may have signatures of life in their atmospheres that could be revealed in the future.

    “We don’t have concrete evidence of life elsewhere yet,” said Barge. “But understanding the conditions that are required for life’s origin can help narrow down the places that we think life could exist.”

    This research was supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, JPL Icy Worlds team.

    For more information on astrobiology at NASA, please visit:

    https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, 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 2:35 pm on February 20, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "In Colliding Galaxies a Pipsqueak Shines Bright", A much smaller object is competing with the two behemoths, , , At the center of each galaxy is a supermassive black hole millions of times more massive than the Sun, , Collectively known as Messier 51 the two galaxies are merging, , NASA JPL - Caltech, , Neither black hole is radiating as brightly in the X-ray range as scientists would expect during a merger, , The neutron star found in Messier 51 is even brighter than average and belongs to a newly discovered class known as ultraluminous neutron stars, The small X-ray source is a neutron star, Two supermassive black holes heat up and devour surrounding material, Whirlpool galaxy a.k.a. Messier 51a M51 and NGC 5194 and its companion galaxy Messier 51b   

    From JPL-Caltech: “In Colliding Galaxies, a Pipsqueak Shines Bright” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From JPL-Caltech

    February 20, 2019

    Calla Cofield
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    626-808-2469
    calla.e.cofield@jpl.nasa.gov

    1
    Bright green sources of high-energy X-ray light captured by NASA’s NuSTAR mission are overlaid on an optical-light image of the Whirlpool galaxy a.k.a. Messier 51a, M51a, and NGC 5194 (in the center of the image) and its companion galaxy, Messier 51b (the bright greenish-white spot above the Whirlpool), taken by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech, IPAC

    NASA/DTU/ASI NuSTAR X-ray telescope

    SDSS 2.5 meter Telescope at Apache Point Observatory, near Sunspot NM, USA, Altitude 2,788 meters (9,147 ft)

    In the nearby Whirlpool galaxy and its companion galaxy, Messier 51b, two supermassive black holes heat up and devour surrounding material. These two monsters should be the most luminous X-ray sources in sight, but a new study using observations from NASA’s NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) mission shows that a much smaller object is competing with the two behemoths.

    The most stunning features of the Whirlpool galaxy – officially known as Messier 51a – are the two long, star-filled “arms” curling around the galactic center like ribbons. The much smaller Messier 51b clings like a barnacle to the edge of the Whirlpool. Collectively known as Messier 51, the two galaxies are merging.

    At the center of each galaxy is a supermassive black hole millions of times more massive than the Sun. The galactic merger should push huge amounts of gas and dust into those black holes and into orbit around them. In turn, the intense gravity of the black holes should cause that orbiting material to heat up and radiate, forming bright disks around each that can outshine all the stars in their galaxies.

    But neither black hole is radiating as brightly in the X-ray range as scientists would expect during a merger. Based on earlier observations from satellites that detect low-energy X-rays, such as NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, scientists believed that layers of gas and dust around the black hole in the larger galaxy were blocking extra emission. But the new study, published in The Astrophysical Journal, used NuSTAR’s high-energy X-ray vision to peer below those layers and found that the black hole is still dimmer than expected.

    “I’m still surprised by this finding,” said study lead author Murray Brightman, a researcher at Caltech in Pasadena, California. “Galactic mergers are supposed to generate black hole growth, and the evidence of that would be strong emission of high-energy X-rays. But we’re not seeing that here.”

    Brightman thinks the most likely explanation is that black holes “flicker” during galactic mergers rather than radiate with a more or less constant brightness throughout the process.

    “The flickering hypothesis is a new idea in the field,” said Daniel Stern, a research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and the project scientist for NuSTAR. “We used to think that the black hole variability occurred on timescales of millions of years, but now we’re thinking those timescales could be much shorter. Figuring out how short is an area of active study.”

    Small but Brilliant

    Along with the two black holes radiating less than scientists anticipated in Messier 51a and Messier 51b, the former also hosts an object that is millions of times smaller than either black hole yet is shining with equal intensity. The two phenomena are not connected, but they do create a surprising X-ray landscape in Messier 51.

    The small X-ray source is a neutron star, an incredibly dense nugget of material left over after a massive star explodes at the end of its life. A typical neutron star is hundreds of thousands of times smaller in diameter than the Sun – only as wide as a large city – yet has one to two times the mass. A teaspoon of neutron star material would weigh more than 1 billion tons.

    Despite their size, neutron stars often make themselves known through intense light emissions. The neutron star found in M51 is even brighter than average and belongs to a newly discovered class known as ultraluminous neutron stars. Brightman said some scientists have proposed that strong magnetic fields generated by the neutron star could be responsible for the luminous emission; a previous paper by Brightman and colleagues about this neutron star supports that hypothesis. Some of the other bright, high-energy X-ray sources seen in these two galaxies could also be neutron stars.

    NuSTAR is a Small Explorer mission led by Caltech and managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. NuSTAR was developed in partnership with the Danish Technical University and the Italian Space Agency (ASI). The spacecraft was built by Orbital Sciences Corporation in Dulles, Virginia (now part of Northrop Grumman). NuSTAR’s mission operations center is at UC Berkeley, and the official data archive is at NASA’s High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center. ASI provides the mission’s ground station and a mirror archive.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA JPL Campus

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

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  • richardmitnick 10:19 am on February 14, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA JPL - Caltech, Space research,   

    From JPL-Caltech: “NASA Selects New Mission to Explore Origins of Universe” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From JPL-Caltech

    February 13, 2019

    Calla Cofield
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    626-808-2469
    calla.e.cofield@jpl.nasa.gov

    Steve Cole
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-0918
    stephen.e.cole@nasa.gov

    NASA’s SPHEREx Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer depiction

    NASA has selected a new space mission that will help astronomers understand both how our universe evolved and how common are the ingredients for life in our galaxy’s planetary systems.

    The Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission is a planned two-year mission funded at $242 million (not including launch costs) and targeted to launch in 2023.

    “I’m really excited about this new mission,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Not only does it expand the United States’ powerful fleet of space-based missions dedicated to uncovering the mysteries of the universe, it is a critical part of a balanced science program that includes missions of various sizes.”

    SPHEREx will survey the sky in optical as well as near-infrared light which, though not visible to the human eye, serves as a powerful tool for answering cosmic questions. Astronomers will use the mission to gather data on more than 300 million galaxies, as well as more than 100 million stars in our own Milky Way.

    “This amazing mission will be a treasure trove of unique data for astronomers,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “It will deliver an unprecedented galactic map containing ‘fingerprints’ from the first moments in the universe’s history. And we’ll have new clues to one of the greatest mysteries in science: What made the universe expand so quickly less than a nanosecond after the big bang?”

    SPHEREx will survey hundreds of millions of galaxies near and far, some so distant their light has taken 10 billion years to reach Earth. In the Milky Way, the mission will search for water and organic molecules – essentials for life, as we know it – in stellar nurseries, regions where stars are born from gas and dust, as well as disks around stars where new planets could be forming.

    Every six months, SPHEREx will survey the entire sky using technologies adapted from Earth satellites and Mars spacecraft. The mission will create a map of the entire sky in 96 different color bands, far exceeding the color resolution of previous all-sky maps. It also will identify targets for more detailed study by future missions, such as NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    NASA/WFIRST

    NASA’s Astrophysics Explorers Program requested proposals for new missions in September 2016. Nine proposals were submitted, and two mission concepts were selected for further study in August 2017. After a detailed review by a panel of NASA and external scientists and engineers, NASA determined that the SPHEREx concept study offered the best science potential and most feasible development plan.

    The mission’s principal investigator is James Bock of Caltech in Pasadena, California. Caltech will work with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to develop the mission payload. JPL will also manage the mission.

    Ball Aerospace in Broomfield, Colorado, will provide the SPHEREx spacecraft and mission integration. The Korea Astronomy & Space Science Institute in Daejeon, Republic of Korea, will contribute test equipment and science analysis.

    NASA’s Explorer program, managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is the agency’s oldest continuous program, designed to provide frequent, low-cost access to space using principal investigator-led space science investigations relevant to the Astrophysics and Heliophysics programs in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

    The program has launched more than 90 missions, beginning in 1958 with Explorer 1, which discovered the Earth’s radiation belts. Another Explorer mission, theCosmic Background Explorer, which launched in 1989, led to a Nobel Prize.

    More information about the Explorer program is available online at:

    https://explorers.gsfc.nasa.gov

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, 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.

    Caltech Logo

    NASA image

     
  • richardmitnick 12:49 pm on January 24, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA JPL - Caltech, Saturn-What time is it and how long is a day, The answer it turned out was hidden in the rings.   

    From JPL-Caltech: “Scientists Finally Know What Time It Is on Saturn” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From JPL-Caltech

    January 18, 2019

    Gretchen McCartney
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-393-6215
    gretchen.p.mccartney@jpl.nasa.gov

    JoAnna Wendel
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1003
    joanna.r.wendel@nasa.gov

    1
    A view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows Saturn’s northern hemisphere in 2016 as that part of the planet nears its northern hemisphere summer solstice. A year on Saturn is 29 Earth years; days only last 10:33:38, according to a new analysis of Cassini data. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

    Using new data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, researchers believe they have solved a longstanding mystery of solar system science: the length of a day on Saturn. It’s 10 hours, 33 minutes and 38 seconds.

    NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens Spacecraft

    The figure has eluded planetary scientists for decades, because the gas giant has no solid surface with landmarks to track as it rotates, and it has an unusual magnetic field that hides the planet’s rotation rate.

    The answer, it turned out, was hidden in the rings.

    During Cassini’s orbits of Saturn, instruments examined the icy, rocky rings in unprecedented detail. Christopher Mankovich, a graduate student in astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, used the data to study wave patterns within the rings.

    His work determined that the rings respond to vibrations within the planet itself, acting similarly to the seismometers used to measure movement caused by earthquakes. The interior of Saturn vibrates at frequencies that cause variations in its gravitational field. The rings, in turn, detect those movements in the field.

    “Particles throughout the rings can’t help but feel these oscillations in the gravity field,” Mankovich said. “At specific locations in the rings these oscillations catch ring particles at just the right time in their orbits to gradually build up energy, and that energy gets carried away as an observable wave.”

    Mankovich’s research, published Jan. 17 by The Astrophysical Journal, describes how he developed models of Saturn’s internal structure that would match the rings’ waves. That allowed him to track the movements of the interior of the planet – and thus, its rotation.

    The rotation rate of 10:33:38 that the analysis yielded is several minutes faster than previous estimates in 1981, which were based on radio signals from NASA’s Voyager spacecraft.

    The analysis of Voyager data, which estimated the day to be 10:39:23, was based on magnetic field information. Cassini used magnetic field data, too, but earlier estimates ranged from 10:36 all the way to 10:48.

    Scientists often rely on magnetic fields to measure planets’ rotation rates. Jupiter’s magnetic axis, like Earth’s, is not aligned with its rotational axis. So it swings around as the planet rotates, enabling scientists to measure a periodic signal in radio waves to get the rotation rate. However, Saturn is different. Its unique magnetic field is nearly perfectly aligned with its rotational axis.

    This is why the rings finding has been key to homing in on the length of day. Saturn scientists are elated to have the best answer yet to such a central question about the planet.

    “The researchers used waves in the rings to peer into Saturn’s interior, and out popped this long-sought, fundamental characteristic of the planet. And it’s a really solid result,” said Cassini Project Scientist Linda Spilker. “The rings held the answer.”

    The idea that Saturn’s rings could be used to study the seismology of the planet was first suggested in 1982, long before the necessary observations were possible.

    Co-author Mark Marley, now at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, subsequently fleshed out the idea for his Ph.D. thesis in 1990. Along with showing how the calculations could be done, he predicted where signatures in Saturn’s rings would be. He also noted that the Cassini mission, then in the planning stages, would be able to make the observations needed to test the idea.

    “Two decades later, in the final years of the Cassini mission, scientists analyzed mission data and found ring features at the locations of Mark’s predictions,” said co-author Jonathan Fortney, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and a member of the Cassini team. “This current work aims to make the most of these observations.”

    Cassini’s mission ended in September 2017 when, low on fuel, the spacecraft was deliberately plunged into Saturn’s atmosphere by the mission team, which wanted to avoid crashing the craft onto the planet’s moons.

    The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter. The radar instrument was built by JPL and the Italian Space Agency, working with team members from the U.S. and several European countries.

    More information about Cassini can be found here:

    https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/cassini

    See the full article here .

    See also from smithsonian.com We Finally Know How Long a Day on Saturn Is here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, 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 12:01 pm on January 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Citizen Scientists Find New World with NASA Telescope, , NASA JPL - Caltech, The newfound planet K2-288Bb   

    From JPL-Caltech: “Citizen Scientists Find New World with NASA Telescope” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From JPL-Caltech

    January 7, 2019

    Alison Hawkes
    Ames Research Center, California’s Silicon Valley
    650-604-4789
    alison.hawkes@nasa.gov

    Calla Cofield
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    626-808-2469
    calla.e.cofield@jpl.nasa.gov

    By Francis Reddy
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    1
    The newfound planet K2-288Bb, illustrated here, is slightly smaller than Neptune. Located about 226 light-years away, it orbits the fainter member of a pair of cool M-type stars every 31.3 days. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Francis Reddy

    Using data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, citizen scientists have discovered a planet roughly twice the size of Earth located within its star’s habitable zone, the range of orbital distances where liquid water may exist on the planet’s surface.

    NASA/Kepler Telescope

    The new world, known as K2-288Bb, could be rocky or could be a gas-rich planet similar to Neptune. Its size is rare among exoplanets – planets beyond our solar system.

    “It’s a very exciting discovery due to how it was found, its temperate orbit and because planets of this size seem to be relatively uncommon,” said Adina Feinstein, a University of Chicago graduate student who discussed the discovery on Monday, Jan. 7, at the 233rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle. She is also the lead author of a paper describing the new planet accepted for publication by The Astronomical Journal.

    Located 226 light-years away in the constellation Taurus, the planet lies in a stellar system known as K2-288, which contains a pair of dim, cool M-type stars separated by about 5.1 billion miles (8.2 billion kilometers) – roughly six times the distance between Saturn and the Sun. The brighter star is about half as massive and large as the Sun, while its companion is about one-third the Sun’s mass and size. The new planet, K2-288Bb, orbits the smaller, dimmer star every 31.3 days.

    In 2017, Feinstein and Makennah Bristow, an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina Asheville, worked as interns with Joshua Schlieder, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. They searched Kepler data for evidence of transits, the regular dimming of a star when an orbiting planet moves across the star’s face.

    Examining data from the fourth observing campaign of Kepler’s K2 mission, the team noticed two likely planetary transits in the system. But scientists require a third transit before claiming the discovery of a candidate planet, and there wasn’t a third signal in the observations they reviewed.

    As it turned out, though, the team wasn’t actually analyzing all of the data.

    In Kepler’s K2 mode, which ran from 2014 to 2018, the spacecraft repositioned itself to point at a new patch of sky at the start of each three-month observing campaign. Astronomers were initially concerned that this repositioning would cause systematic errors in measurements.

    “Re-orienting Kepler relative to the Sun caused miniscule changes in the shape of the telescope and the temperature of the electronics, which inevitably affected Kepler’s sensitive measurements in the first days of each campaign,” said co-author Geert Barentsen, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley and the director of the guest observer office for the Kepler and K2 missions.

    To deal with this, early versions of the software that was used to prepare the data for planet-finding analysis simply ignored the first few days of observations – and that’s where the third transit was hiding.

    As scientists learned how to correct for these systematic errors, this trimming step was eliminated – but the early K2 data Barstow studied had been clipped.

    “We eventually re-ran all data from the early campaigns through the modified software and then re-ran the planet search to get a list of candidates, but these candidates were never fully visually inspected,” explained Schlieder, a co-author of the paper. “Inspecting, or vetting, transits with the human eye is crucial because noise and other astrophysical events can mimic transits.”

    Instead, the re-processed data were posted directly to Exoplanet Explorers, a project where the public searches Kepler’s K2 observations to locate new transiting planets. In May 2017, volunteers noticed the third transit and began an excited discussion about what was then thought to be an Earth-sized candidate in the system, which caught the attention of Feinstein and her colleagues.

    “That’s how we missed it – and it took the keen eyes of citizen scientists to make this extremely valuable find and point us to it,” Feinstein said.

    The team began follow-up observations using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, the Keck II telescope at the W. M. Keck Observatory and NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility (the latter two in Hawaii), and also examined data from ESA’s (the European Space Agency’s) Gaia mission.

    NASA/Spitzer Infrared Telescope

    Keck Observatory, Maunakea, Hawaii, USA.4,207 m (13,802 ft), above sea level,

    NASA Infrared Telescope facility Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA, 4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    ESA/GAIA satellite

    Estimated to be about 1.9 times Earth’s size, K2-288Bb is half the size of Neptune. This places the planet within a recently discovered category called the Fulton gap, or radius gap. Among planets that orbit close to their stars, there’s a curious dearth of worlds between about 1.5 and two times Earth’s size. This is likely the result of intense starlight breaking up atmospheric molecules and eroding away the atmospheres of some planets over time, leaving behind two populations. Since K2-288Bb’s radius places it in this gap, it may provide a case study of planetary evolution within this size range.

    On Oct. 30, 2018, Kepler ran out of fuel and ended its mission after nine years, during which it discovered 2,600 confirmed planets around other stars – the bulk of those now known – along with thousands of additional candidates astronomers are working to confirm. And while NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is the newest space-based planet hunter, this new finding shows that more discoveries await scientists in Kepler data.

    NASA/MIT TESS

    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 operated 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

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, 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 9:55 am on December 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Holiday Asteroid Imaged with NASA Radar, , NASA JPL - Caltech, near-Earth asteroid 2003 SD220   

    From JPL-Caltech via Manu Garcia: “Holiday Asteroid Imaged with NASA Radar” 


    From Manu Garcia, a friend from IAC.

    The universe around us.
    Astronomy, everything you wanted to know about our local universe and never dared to ask.

    NASA JPL Banner

    From JPL-Caltech

    December 21, 2018

    News Media Contact
    DC Agle
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-393-9011
    agle@jpl.nasa.gov

    Dwayne Brown
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1726
    dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov

    JoAnna Wendel
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1003
    joanna.r.wendel@nasa.gov

    Charles Blue
    National Radio Astronomy Observatory
    434-296-0314
    cblue@nrao.edu

    Ricardo Correa
    Arecibo Observatory
    787-878-2612 – ext. 615
    rcorrea@naic.edu

    1
    These three radar images of near-Earth asteroid 2003 SD220 were obtained on Dec. 15-17, by coordinating observations with NASA’s 230-foot (70-meter) antenna at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California and the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) 330-foot (100-meter) Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR/NSF/GBO

    The December 2018 close approach by the large, near-Earth asteroid 2003 SD220 has provided astronomers an outstanding opportunity to obtain detailed radar images of the surface and shape of the object and to improve the understanding of its orbit.

    The asteroid will fly safely past Earth on Saturday, Dec. 22, at a distance of about 1.8 million miles (2.9 million kilometers). This will be the asteroid’s closest approach in more than 400 years and the closest until 2070, when the asteroid will safely approach Earth slightly closer.

    The radar images reveal an asteroid with a length of at least one mile (1.6 kilometers) and a shape similar to that of the exposed portion of a hippopotamus wading in a river. They were obtained Dec. 15-17 by coordinating the observations with NASA’s 230-foot (70-meter) antenna at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California, the National Science Foundation’s 330-foot (100-meter) Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Arecibo Observatory’s 1,000-foot (305-meter) antenna in Puerto Rico.

    NASA DSCC Goldstone Antenna California in the Mojave Desert, USA

    Green Bank Radio Telescope, West Virginia, USA


    NAIC Arecibo Observatory operated by University of Central Florida, Yang Enterprises and UMET, Altitude 497 m (1,631 ft).

    The Green Bank Telescope was the receiver for the powerful microwave signals transmitted by either Goldstone or the NASA-funded Arecibo planetary radar in what is known as a “bistatic radar configuration.” Using one telescope to transmit and another to receive can yield considerably more detail than would one telescope, and it is an invaluable technique to obtain radar images of closely approaching, slowly rotating asteroids like this one.

    “The radar images achieve an unprecedented level of detail and are comparable to those obtained from a spacecraft flyby,” said Lance Benner of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and the scientist leading the observations from Goldstone. “The most conspicuous surface feature is a prominent ridge that appears to wrap partway around the asteroid near one end. The ridge extends about 330 feet [100 meters] above the surrounding terrain. Numerous small bright spots are visible in the data and may be reflections from boulders. The images also show a cluster of dark, circular features near the right edge that may be craters.”

    The images confirm what was seen in earlier “light curve” measurements of sunlight reflected from the asteroid and from earlier radar images by Arecibo: 2003 SD220 has an extremely slow rotation period of roughly 12 days. It also has what seems to be a complex rotation somewhat analogous to a poorly thrown football. Known as “non-principal axis” rotation, it is uncommon among near-Earth asteroids, most of which spin about their shortest axis.

    With resolutions as fine as 12 feet (3.7 meters) per pixel, the detail of these images is 20 times finer than that obtained during the asteroid’s previous close approach to Earth three years ago, which was at a greater distance. The new radar data will provide important constraints on the density distribution of the asteroid’s interior – information that is available on very few near-Earth asteroids.

    “This year, with our knowledge about 2003 SD220’s slow rotation, we were able to plan out a great sequence of radar images using the largest single-dish radio telescopes in the nation,” said Patrick Taylor, senior scientist with Universities Space Research Association (USRA) at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) in Houston.

    “The new details we’ve uncovered, all the way down to 2003 SD220’s geology, will let us reconstruct its shape and rotation state, as was done with Bennu, target of the OSIRIS-REx mission,” said Edgard Rivera-Valentín, USRA scientist at LPI. “Detailed shape reconstruction lets us better understand how these small bodies formed and evolved over time.”

    Patrick Taylor led the bistatic radar observations with Green Bank Observatory, home of the Green Bank Telescope, the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope. Rivera-Valentín will be leading the shape reconstruction of 2003 SD220 and led the Arecibo Observatory observations.

    Asteroid 2003 SD220 was discovered on Sept. 29, 2003, by astronomers at the Lowell Observatory Near-Earth-Object Search (LONEOS) in Flagstaff, Arizona – an early Near-Earth Object (NEO) survey project supported by NASA that is no longer in operation. It is classified as being a “potentially hazardous asteroid” because of its size and close approaches to Earth’s orbit. However, these radar measurements further refine the understanding of 2003 SD220’s orbit, confirming that it does not pose a future impact threat to Earth.

    The Arecibo, Goldstone and USRA planetary radar projects are funded through NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program within the Planetary Defense Coordination Office(PDCO), which manages the Agency’s Planetary Defense Program. The Arecibo Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by the University of Central Florida, Yang Enterprises and Universidad Metropolitana. GBO is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under a cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.

    JPL hosts the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) for NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program.

    More information about CNEOS, asteroids and near-Earth objects can be found at:

    https://cneos.jpl.nasa.gov

    https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch

    For more information about NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, visit:

    https://www.nasa.gov/planetarydefense

    More information about the National Science Foundation’s Arecibo Observatory can be found at:

    http://www.naic.edu/ao/

    For asteroid and comet news and updates, follow AsteroidWatch on Twitter:

    twitter.com/AsteroidWatch

    You can find more information about CNEOS, asteroids and near-Earth objects:
    https://cneos.jpl.nasa.gov
    https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch

    For more information about the Office for the Coordination of Planetary Defense of NASA, visit:
    https://www.nasa.gov/planetarydefense

    You can find more information about the Arecibo Observatory of the National Science Foundation at:
    http://www.naic.edu/ao/

    For news and updates asteroids and comets, follow AsteroidWatch on Twitter:
    twitter.com/AsteroidWatch

    See the full article by Manu here .
    See the full JPL article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, 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 12:27 pm on December 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: NASA JPL - Caltech, The Cold Atom Lab (CAL), The Coolest Experiment in the Universe   

    From JPL-Caltech: “The Coolest Experiment in the Universe” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From JPL-Caltech

    December 20, 2018

    Calla Cofield
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    626-808-2469
    calla.e.cofield@jpl.nasa.gov

    1
    The International Space Station, shown here in 2018, is home to many scientific experiments, including NASA’s Cold Atom Laboratory. Credit: NASA

    2
    The Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) consists of two standardized containers that will be installed on the International Space Station. The larger container holds CAL’s physics package, or the compartment where CAL will produce clouds of ultracold atoms. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    CAL Boards Cygnus
    3
    The Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL), packaged in a protective layer, is loaded onto a Northrop Grumman (formerly Orbital ATK) Cygnus spacecraft for its trip to the International Space Station. The facility launched in May 2018 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

    CAL Astronaut Installation
    5
    Astronaut Ricky Arnold assists with the installation of NASA’s Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) on the International Space Station

    4
    The Coolest Experiment in the Universe
    Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) physicist David Aveline works in the CAL test bed, which is a replica of the CAL facility that stays on Earth. Scientists use the test bed to run tests and understand what is happening inside CAL while it is operating on the International Space Station.Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    What’s the coldest place you can think of? Temperatures on a winter day in Antarctica dip as low as -120ºF (-85ºC). On the dark side of the Moon, they hit -280ºF (-173ºC). But inside NASA’s Cold Atom Laboratory on the International Space Station, scientists are creating something even colder.

    The Cold Atom Lab (CAL) is the first facility in orbit to produce clouds of “ultracold” atoms, which can reach a fraction of a degree above absolute zero: -459ºF (-273ºC), the absolute coldest temperature that matter can reach. Nothing in nature is known to hit the temperatures achieved in laboratories like CAL, which means the orbiting facility is regularly the coldest known spot in the universe.

    NASA’s Cold Atom Laboratory on the International Space Station is regularly the coldest known spot in the universe. But why are scientists producing clouds of atoms a fraction of a degree above absolute zero? And why do they need to do it in space? Quantum physics, of course.

    Seven months after its May 21, 2018, launch to the space station from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, CAL is producing ultracold atoms daily. Five teams of scientists will carry out experiments on CAL during its first year, and three experiments are already underway.

    Why cool atoms to such an extreme low? Room-temperature atoms typically zip around like hyperactive hummingbirds, but ultracold atoms move much slower than even a snail. Specifics vary, but ultracold atoms can be more than 200,000 times slower than room-temperature atoms. This opens up new ways to study atoms as well as new ways to use them for investigations of other physical phenomena. CAL’s primary science objective is to conduct fundamental physics research – to try to understand the workings of nature at the most fundamental levels.

    “With CAL we’re starting to get a really thorough understanding of how the atoms behave in microgravity, how to manipulate them, how the system is different than the ones we use on Earth,” said Rob Thompson, a cold atom physicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and the mission scientist for CAL. “This is all knowledge that is going to build a foundation for what I hope is a long future of cold atom science in space.”

    Laboratories on Earth can produce ultracold atoms, but on the ground, gravity pulls on the chilled atom clouds and they fall quickly, giving scientists only fractions of a second to observe them. Magnetic fields can be used to “trap” the atoms and hold them still, but that restricts their natural movement. In microgravity, the cold atom clouds float for much longer, giving scientists an extended view of their behavior.

    The process to create the cold atom clouds starts with lasers that begin to lower the temperature by slowing the atoms down. Radio waves cut away the warmest members of the group, further lowering the average temperature. Finally, the atoms are released from a magnetic trap and allowed to expand. This causes a drop in pressure that, in turn, naturally causes another drop in the cloud’s temperature (the same phenomenon that causes a can of compressed air to feel cold after use). In space, the cloud has longer to expand and thus reach even lower temperatures than what can be achieved on Earth – down to about one ten billionth of a degree above absolute zero, perhaps even lower.

    Ultracold atom facilities on Earth typically occupy an entire room, and in most, the hardware is left exposed so that scientists can adjust the apparatus if need be. Building a cold atom laboratory for space posed several design challenges, some of which change the fundamental nature of these facilities. First, there was the matter of size: CAL flew to the station in two pieces – a metal box a little larger than a minifridge and a second one about the size of a carry-on suitcase. Second, CAL was designed to be operated remotely from Earth, so it was built as a fully enclosed facility.

    CAL also features a number of technologies that have never been flown in space before, such as specialized vacuum cells that contain the atoms, which have to be sealed so tightly that almost no stray atoms can leak in. The lab needed to be able to withstand the shaking of launch and extreme forces experienced during the flight to the space station. It took the teams several years to develop unique hardware that could meet the precise needs for cooling atoms in space.

    “Several parts of the system required redesigning, and some parts broke in ways we’d never seen before,” said Robert Shotwell, chief engineer for JPL’s Astronomy, Physics and Space Technology Directorate and CAL project manager. “The facility had to be completely torn apart and reassembled three times.”

    All the hard work and problem solving since the mission’s inception in 2012 turned the CAL team’s vision into reality this past May. CAL team members talked via live video with astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel aboard the International Space Station for the installation of the Cold Atom Laboratory, the second ultracold atom facility ever operated in space, the first to reach Earth orbit and the first to remain in space for more than a few minutes. Along the way, CAL has also met the minimum requirements NASA set to deem the mission a success and is providing a unique tool for probing nature’s mysteries.

    Designed and built at JPL, CAL is sponsored by the International Space Station Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, and the Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications (SLPSRA) Division of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, 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 9:37 am on December 10, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , NASA JPL - Caltech, , , ,   

    From JPL-Caltech: “NASA’s Voyager 2 Probe Enters Interstellar Space” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From JPL-Caltech

    Dec. 10, 2018

    Dwayne Brown
    Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1726 / 301-286-6284
    dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov

    Karen Fox
    Headquarters, Washington
    301-286-6284
    karen.c.fox@nasa.gov

    Calla Cofield
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    626-808-2469
    calla.e.cofield@jpl.nasa.gov

    1
    This illustration shows the position of NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes, outside of the heliosphere, a protective bubble created by the Sun that extends well past the orbit of Pluto.

    For the second time in history, a human-made object has reached the space between the stars. NASA’s Voyager 2 probe now has exited the heliosphere – the protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields created by the Sun.

    NASA/Voyager 2

    Members of NASA’s Voyager team will discuss the findings at a news conference at 11 a.m. EST (8 a.m. PST) today at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in Washington. The news conference will stream live on the agency’s website.

    Comparing data from different instruments aboard the trailblazing spacecraft, mission scientists determined the probe crossed the outer edge of the heliosphere on Nov. 5. This boundary, called the heliopause, is where the tenuous, hot solar wind meets the cold, dense interstellar medium. Its twin, Voyager 1, crossed this boundary in 2012, but Voyager 2 carries a working instrument that will provide first-of-its-kind observations of the nature of this gateway into interstellar space.

    NASA/Voyager 1

    Voyager 2 now is slightly more than 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) from Earth. Mission operators still can communicate with Voyager 2 as it enters this new phase of its journey, but information – moving at the speed of light – takes about 16.5 hours to travel from the spacecraft to Earth. By comparison, light traveling from the Sun takes about eight minutes to reach Earth.

    2
    Artist’s concept of Voyager 2 with 9 facts listed around it. Image Credit: NASA

    The most compelling evidence of Voyager 2’s exit from the heliosphere came from its onboard Plasma Science Experiment (PLS), an instrument that stopped working on Voyager 1 in 1980, long before that probe crossed the heliopause. Until recently, the space surrounding Voyager 2 was filled predominantly with plasma flowing out from our Sun. This outflow, called the solar wind, creates a bubble – the heliosphere – that envelopes the planets in our solar system. The PLS uses the electrical current of the plasma to detect the speed, density, temperature, pressure and flux of the solar wind. The PLS aboard Voyager 2 observed a steep decline in the speed of the solar wind particles on Nov. 5. Since that date, the plasma instrument has observed no solar wind flow in the environment around Voyager 2, which makes mission scientists confident the probe has left the heliosphere.

    3
    Animated gif showing the plasma data. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    “Working on Voyager makes me feel like an explorer, because everything we’re seeing is new,” said John Richardson, principal investigator for the PLS instrument and a principal research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. “Even though Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause in 2012, it did so at a different place and a different time, and without the PLS data. So we’re still seeing things that no one has seen before.”

    In addition to the plasma data, Voyager’s science team members have seen evidence from three other onboard instruments – the cosmic ray subsystem, the low energy charged particle instrument and the magnetometer – that is consistent with the conclusion that Voyager 2 has crossed the heliopause. Voyager’s team members are eager to continue to study the data from these other onboard instruments to get a clearer picture of the environment through which Voyager 2 is traveling.

    “There is still a lot to learn about the region of interstellar space immediately beyond the heliopause,” said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist based at Caltech in Pasadena, California.

    Together, the two Voyagers provide a detailed glimpse of how our heliosphere interacts with the constant interstellar wind flowing from beyond. Their observations complement data from NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX), a mission that is remotely sensing that boundary. NASA also is preparing an additional mission – the upcoming Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP), due to launch in 2024 – to capitalize on the Voyagers’ observations.

    “Voyager has a very special place for us in our heliophysics fleet,” said Nicola Fox, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters. “Our studies start at the Sun and extend out to everything the solar wind touches. To have the Voyagers sending back information about the edge of the Sun’s influence gives us an unprecedented glimpse of truly uncharted territory.”

    While the probes have left the heliosphere, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 have not yet left the solar system, and won’t be leaving anytime soon. The boundary of the solar system is considered to be beyond the outer edge of the Oort Cloud, a collection of small objects that are still under the influence of the Sun’s gravity.

    Oort Cloud NASA

    The width of the Oort Cloud is not known precisely, but it is estimated to begin at about 1,000 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun and to extend to about 100,000 AU. One AU is the distance from the Sun to Earth. It will take about 300 years for Voyager 2 to reach the inner edge of the Oort Cloud and possibly 30,000 years to fly beyond it.

    The Voyager probes are powered using heat from the decay of radioactive material, contained in a device called a radioisotope thermal generator (RTG). The power output of the RTGs diminishes by about four watts per year, which means that various parts of the Voyagers, including the cameras on both spacecraft, have been turned off over time to manage power.

    “I think we’re all happy and relieved that the Voyager probes have both operated long enough to make it past this milestone,” said Suzanne Dodd, Voyager project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “This is what we’ve all been waiting for. Now we’re looking forward to what we’ll be able to learn from having both probes outside the heliopause.”

    Voyager 2 launched in 1977, 16 days before Voyager 1, and both have traveled well beyond their original destinations. The spacecraft were built to last five years and conduct close-up studies of Jupiter and Saturn. However, as the mission continued, additional flybys of the two outermost giant planets, Uranus and Neptune, proved possible. As the spacecraft flew across the solar system, remote-control reprogramming was used to endow the Voyagers with greater capabilities than they possessed when they left Earth. Their two-planet mission became a four-planet mission. Their five-year lifespans have stretched to 41 years, making Voyager 2 NASA’s longest running mission.

    The Voyager story has impacted not only generations of current and future scientists and engineers, but also Earth’s culture, including film, art and music. Each spacecraft carries a Golden Record of Earth sounds, pictures and messages.

    NASA Voyager Golden Record

    Since the spacecraft could last billions of years, these circular time capsules could one day be the only traces of human civilization.

    Voyager’s mission controllers communicate with the probes using NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN), a global system for communicating with interplanetary spacecraft. The DSN consists of three clusters of antennas in Goldstone, California; Madrid, Spain; and Canberra, Australia.

    NASA Deep Space Network dish, Goldstone, CA, USA

    NASA Canberra, AU, Deep Space Network

    NASA Deep Space Network Madrid Spain

    The Voyager Interstellar Mission is a part of NASA’s Heliophysics System Observatory, sponsored by the Heliophysics Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL built and operates the twin Voyager spacecraft. NASA’s DSN, managed by JPL, is an international network of antennas that supports interplanetary spacecraft missions and radio and radar astronomy observations for the exploration of the solar system and the universe. The network also supports selected Earth-orbiting missions. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia’s national science agency, operates both the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, part of the DSN, and the Parkes Observatory, which NASA has been using to downlink data from Voyager 2 since Nov. 8.

    For more information about the Voyager mission, visit:

    https://www.nasa.gov/voyager

    More information about NASA’s Heliophysics missions is available online at:

    https://www.nasa.gov/sunearth

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, 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.

    Caltech Logo

    NASA image

     
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