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  • richardmitnick 10:30 am on May 26, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Comet Provides New Clues to Origins of Earth's Oceans", , , , , JPL-Caltech, NASA/DLR SOFIA   

    From JPL-Caltech: “Comet Provides New Clues to Origins of Earth’s Oceans” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From JPL-Caltech

    May 23, 2019
    Nicholas Veronico
    SOFIA Science Center
    Ames Research Center, Silicon Valley, California
    650-604-4589 / 650-224-8726
    nicholas.a.veronico@nasa.gov

    Elizabeth Landau
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    818-359-3241
    elandau@jpl.nasa.gov

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

    1
    Comet Provides New Clues to Origins of Earth’s Oceans
    Illustration of a comet, ice grains and Earth’s oceans. SOFIA found clues in Comet Wirtanen’s ice grains that suggest water in comets and Earth’s oceans may share a common origin.Credit: NASA/SOFIA/L. Cook/L. Proudfit

    The mystery of why Earth has so much water, allowing our “blue marble” to support an astounding array of life, is clearer with new research into comets. Comets are like snowballs of rock, dust, ice, and other frozen chemicals that vaporize as they get closer to the Sun, producing the tails seen in images. A new study reveals that the water in many comets may share a common origin with Earth’s oceans, reinforcing the idea that comets played a key role in bringing water to our planet billions of years ago.

    The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, the world’s largest airborne observatory, observed Comet Wirtanen as it made its closest approach to Earth in December 2018.

    NASA/DLR SOFIA

    Data collected from the high-flying observatory found that this comet contains “ocean-like” water. Comparing this with information about other comets, scientists suggest in a new study that many more comets than previously thought could have delivered water to Earth. The findings were published in Astronomy and Astrophysics Letters.

    “We have identified a vast reservoir of Earth-like water in the outer reaches of the solar system,” said Darek Lis, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, California, and lead author of the study. “Water was crucial for the development of life as we know it. We not only want to understand how Earth’s water was delivered, but also if this process could work in other planetary systems.”

    Dirty Snowballs

    Planets form from debris orbiting in a disk shape around a star; small pieces of debris can stick together and grow larger over time. Leftover debris remains in regions of our own solar system like the Kuiper Belt, beyond Neptune, or the Oort Cloud, far past Pluto.

    Kuiper Belt. Minor Planet Center

    Oort Cloud NASA

    Comets come from these areas, but we can only see them when their orbits bring them closer to the Sun. The heat from the Sun causes some of the dirty snow to vaporize, creating the fuzzy halo or “coma” of water vapor, dust and ice grains seen in comet images.

    Scientists predict that the water in Earth’s oceans came from water-carrying bodies in the early solar system that collided with our planet, similar to today’s ice-rich asteroids or comets. But scientists do not know where in the formative disk these objects originated.

    Water Types

    Water is also known by its chemical name H2O because it’s made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. But using special instruments, scientists can detect two types: regular water, H2O, and heavy water, HDO, which has an extra neutrally-charged particle called a neutron inside one of the hydrogen atoms. Scientists compare the amount of heavy to regular water in comets. If comets have the same ratio of these water types as Earth’s oceans, it indicates that the water in both may share a common origin.

    But measuring this ratio is difficult. Ground and space telescopes can study this level of detail in comets only when they pass near Earth, and missions to visit comets, like Rosetta, are rare.

    ESA/Rosetta spacecraft, European Space Agency’s legendary comet explorer Rosetta

    Scientists have only been able to study this ratio in about a dozen comets since the 1980s. Additionally, it is difficult to study a comet’s water from the ground because water in Earth’s atmosphere blocks its signatures.

    New Observations

    Observing at high altitudes above much of the Earth’s atmospheric water allowed SOFIA to accurately measure the ratio of regular to heavy water in Comet Wirtanen. The data showed that Comet Wirtanen’s water ratio is the same as the Earth’s oceans.

    When the team compared the new SOFIA data with previous studies of comets, they found a surprising commonality. The ratio of regular to heavy water was not linked to the origin of the comets – whether they were from the Oort Cloud or the Kuiper Belt. Instead, it was related to how much water was released from ice grains in the comet’s coma compared to directly from the snowy surface. This could imply that all comets could have a heavy-to-regular water ratio similar to Earth’s oceans, and that they could have delivered a large fraction of water to Earth.

    “This is the first time we could relate the heavy-to-regular water ratio of all comets to a single factor,” noted Dominique Bockelée-Morvan, scientist at the Paris Observatory and the French National Center for Scientific Research and second author of the paper. “We may need to rethink how we study comets because water released from the ice grains appears to be a better indicator of the overall water ratio than the water released from surface ice.”

    More studies are needed to see if these findings hold true for other comets. The next time a comet is forecast to fly close enough for this type of study will be in November 2021.

    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 SOFIA GREAT [German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies]

    NASA/DLR SOFIA Forcast

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

    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 Building 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.

    Caltech Logo

    NASA image

     
  • richardmitnick 12:14 pm on May 17, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , NASA/DLR SOFIA   

    From AAS NOVA: “Focus on SOFIA: HAWC+” 

    AASNOVA

    From AAS NOVA

    17 May 2019
    Susanna Kohler

    1
    This composite, false-color image shows the starburst galaxy Messier 82 as seen by Kitt Peak Observatory, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and SOFIA. The magnetic field detected by SOFIA, shown as streamlines, appears to be dragged along by the winds flowing from the poles of this galaxy. [NASA/SOFIA/E. Lopez-Rodriguez/Spitzer/J. Moustakas et al.]

    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

    In December, AAS Nova Editor Susanna Kohler had the opportunity to fly aboard the NASA/DLR Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). This week we’re taking a look at that flight, as well as some of the recent science the observatory produced and published in an ApJ Letters Focus Issue.

    3
    The HAWC+ instrument mounted on the SOFIA telescope. [NASA]

    Meet HAWC+

    HAWC+ is a one-of-a-kind instrument: it’s the only currently operating astronomical camera that takes images in far-infrared light. HAWC+ observes in the 50-μm to 240-μm range at high angular resolution, affording us a detailed look at low-temperature phenomena, like the early stages of star and planet formation.

    In addition to the camera, HAWC+ also includes a polarimeter, which allows the instrument to measure the alignment of incoming light waves produced by dust emission. By observing this far-infrared polarization, HAWC+ can produce detailed maps of otherwise invisible celestial magnetic fields. The insight gained with HAWC+ spans an incredible range of astronomical sources, from nearby star-forming regions to the large-scale environments surrounding other galaxies.

    4
    Artist’s conception of Cygnus A, surrounded by the torus of dust and debris with jets launching from its center. Magnetic fields are illustrated trapping dust near the supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s core. [NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook]

    Some Recent HAWC+ Science

    Cygnus A is the closest and most powerful radio-loud active galactic nucleus. At its heart, a supermassive black hole is actively accreting material, producing enormous jets — but this core is difficult to learn about, because it is heavily shrouded by dust.

    In a recent study led by Enrique Lopez-Rodriguez (SOFIA Science Center; National Astronomical Observatory of Japan), a team of scientists has used HAWC+ to observe the polarized infrared emission from aligned dust grains in the dusty torus surrounding Cygnus A’s core. Lopez-Rodriguez and collaborators find that a coherent dusty and magnetic field structure dominates the infrared emission around the nucleus, suggesting that magnetic fields confine the torus and funnel the dust in to accrete onto the supermassive black hole.

    Messier 82 and NGC 253 are two nearby starburst galaxies — galaxies with a high rate of star formation. Such galaxies often have strong outflowing galactic winds, which are thought to contribute to the enrichment of the intergalactic medium with both heavy elements and magnetic fields.

    A study led by Terry Jay Jones (University of Minnesota) uses HAWC+ to map out the magnetic field geometry in the disk and central regions of these two galaxies. M82 shows the most spectacular results, revealing clear evidence for a massive polar outflow that drags the magnetic field vertically away from the disk along with entrained gas and dust.

    4
    SOFIA/HAWC+ 89 μm detection of the gravitationally lensed starburst galaxy J1429-0028. Right: false-color composite image of J1429-0028 from Hubble and Keck. [Ma et al. 2018]

    A study led by Jingzhe Ma (University of California, Irvine) presents the HAWC+ detection of the distant, gravitationally lensed starburst galaxy HATLAS J1429-0028. This beautiful system consists of an edge-on foreground disk galaxy and a nearly complete Einstein ring of an ultraluminous infrared background galaxy. What causes this background galaxy to shine so brightly in infrared wavelengths? The HAWC+ observations suggest it’s not due to emission from an active galactic nucleus; instead, this galaxy is likely powered purely by star formation.

    5
    The G 9 region, as represented by the Digital Palomar Observatory Sky Survey. The cyan polygon represents the SOFIA HAWC+ coverage of the filamentary dark cloud GF 9. The yellow diamond marks the YSO GF 9-2. [Clemens et al. 2018]

    In a recent study examining the geometry of magnetic fields surrounding sites of massive star formation, Dan Clemens (Boston University) and collaborators obtained HAWC+ observations of a young stellar object (YSO) embedded in a molecular cloud. The polarimetric measurements of HAWC+ revealed the magnetic field configuration around the YSO, the dense core that hosts it, and the clumpy filamentary dark cloud that surrounds it, GF 9.

    Surprisingly, the observations show a remarkably uniform magnetic field threading the entire region, from the outer, diffuse cloud edge all the way down to the smallest scales of the YSO surroundings. These results contradict some models of how cores and YSOs form, providing important information that will help us better understand this process.

    Citation

    ApJL Focus issue:
    Focus on New Results from SOFIA

    HAWC+ articles:
    “The Highly Polarized Dusty Emission Core of Cygnus A,” Enrique Lopez-Rodriguez et al. 2018 ApJL 861 L23. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/aacff5
    “SOFIA Far-infrared Imaging Polarimetry of M82 and NGC 253: Exploring the Supergalactic Wind,” Terry Jay Jones et al. 2019 ApJL 870 L9. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/aaf8b9
    “SOFIA/HAWC+ Detection of a Gravitationally Lensed Starburst Galaxy at z = 1.03,” Jingzhe Ma et al. 2018 ApJ 864 60. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/aad4a0
    “Magnetic Field Uniformity Across the GF 9-2 YSO, L1082C Dense Core, and GF 9 Filamentary Dark Cloud,” Dan P. Clemens et al. 2018 ApJ 867 79. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/aae2af

    Related Journal Articles

    Polarized Mid-infrared Synchrotron Emission in the Core of Cygnus A doi: 10.1088/0004-637X/793/2/81
    The Emission and Distribution of Dust of the Torus of NGC 1068 doi: 10.3847/1538-4357/aabd7b
    Subaru Spectroscopy and Spectral Modeling of Cygnus A doi: 10.1088/0004-637X/788/1/6
    SOFIA/HAWC+ Detection of a Gravitationally Lensed Starburst Galaxy at z = 1.03 doi: 10.3847/1538-4357/aad4a0
    The Spitzer View of FR I Radio Galaxies: On the Origin of the Nuclear Mid-Infrared Continuum doi: 10.1088/0004-637X/701/2/891
    Mid-infrared Spectroscopy of High-redshift 3CRR Sources doi: 10.1088/0004-637X/717/2/766

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    1

    AAS Mission and Vision Statement

    The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the Universe.

    The Society, through its publications, disseminates and archives the results of astronomical research. The Society also communicates and explains our understanding of the universe to the public.
    The Society facilitates and strengthens the interactions among members through professional meetings and other means. The Society supports member divisions representing specialized research and astronomical interests.
    The Society represents the goals of its community of members to the nation and the world. The Society also works with other scientific and educational societies to promote the advancement of science.
    The Society, through its members, trains, mentors and supports the next generation of astronomers. The Society supports and promotes increased participation of historically underrepresented groups in astronomy.
    The Society assists its members to develop their skills in the fields of education and public outreach at all levels. The Society promotes broad interest in astronomy, which enhances science literacy and leads many to careers in science and engineering.

    Adopted June 7, 2009

     
  • richardmitnick 12:40 pm on May 16, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Focus on SOFIA: EXES", , , , , , NASA/DLR SOFIA   

    From AAS NOVA: “Focus on SOFIA: EXES” 

    AASNOVA

    From AAS NOVA

    6 May 2019
    Susanna Kohler

    1
    This false-color infrared image, captured by NASA’s WISE telescope, reveals young, massive stars (pink objects near center) forming in the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex. SOFIA’s EXES spectrograph is well suited for studying the chemistry of massive star formation. [NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team]

    In December, AAS Nova Editor Susanna Kohler had the opportunity to fly aboard the NASA/DLR Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). This week we’re taking a look at that flight, as well as some of the recent science the observatory produced and published in an ApJ Letters Focus Issue.

    One of SOFIA’s great strengths is that the instruments mounted on this flying telescope can be easily swapped out, allowing for a broad range of infrared observations. Three of SOFIA’s instruments are featured in science recently published in the ApJ Letters Focus Issue: the Far Infrared Field-Imaging Line Spectrometer (FIFI-LS), the High-Resolution Airborne Wideband Camera Plus (HAWC+), and the Echelon-Cross-Echelle Spectrograph (EXES).

    2
    The EXES instrument mounted on the SOFIA telescope. [NASA/SOFIA/EXES/Matthew Richter]

    Meet EXES

    EXES is used for high-resolution spectroscopy at mid-infrared wavelengths — from 4.5 to 28.3 µm — to study molecular gas in dense, quiescent clouds and protostellar disks. EXES uses a special coarsely-ruled aluminum reflection grating to spread light into a spectrum, allowing scientists to identify specific spectral lines associated with emission from different molecules.

    The instrument’s high spectral resolution enables the study of molecular hydrogen, water vapor, and methane from sources like molecular clouds, protoplanetary disks, interstellar shocks, circumstellar shells, and planetary atmospheres. For many sources, EXES is able to achieve comparable sensitivity even to space-based observatories like Spitzer.

    NASA/Spitzer Infrared Telescope

    3
    Image from the Subaru telescope showing the location of the Becklin-Neugebauer object in Orion. [NAOJ/Subaru Telescope]


    NAOJ/Subaru Telescope at Mauna Kea Hawaii, USA,4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    Some Recent EXES Science

    A young, massive star dubbed the Becklin-Neugebauer object is irrationally speeding through the Orion nebular cluster at a relative speed of ~30 km/s! One proposed explanation for this object’s unusual velocity is that it was caught in a three-body dynamical interaction inside a nebula, during which it was violently ejected.

    If true, we could expect that the Becklin-Neugebauer object might have dragged some of the hot, dense molecular gas along with it when it was ejected. A team of scientists led by Nick Indriolo (Space Telescope Science Institute) used EXES to search for signs of hot water molecules moving along with the Becklin-Neugebauer object, and came up empty-handed — adding one more perplexing clue to the mystery of this strange source.

    Hot molecular cores are compact regions of dense gas that represent an intermediary stage of massive star formation; once a protostar forms in a collapsing cloud, it heats its surroundings and drives an outflow of evaporating material.

    A study led by Andrew Barr (Leiden University, the Netherlands) explores the composition of the hot molecular core AFGL 2591 using EXES infrared observations. The authors detect carbon monosulfide (CS), a molecule that can be used to probe the physical conditions deep in the innermost parts of the hot core near the base of the outflow.

    4
    Hubble image of a nearby Young Stellar Object, V1331Cyg. [ESA/NASA/Hubble/K. Stapelfeldt/B. Stecklum/A. Choudhary]

    In another look at sulfur chemistry in massive star formation, Ryan Dungee (Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii) and collaborators observed warm sulfur dioxide gas (SO2) near the massive young stellar object (YSO) MonR2 IRS3, a collapsing protostar still embedded in a molecular cloud. The high resolution of EXES’s observations allowed the authors to identify the most likely source of the gas: sublimating ices in the hot core close to the massive young stellar object. These observations help us to understand the underlying chemistry of the birth of massive stars.

    5
    Composite image of Europa from Galileo and Voyager, superimposed on Hubble data that suggests the presence of plumes of water vapor at roughly the 7 o’clock position off Europa’s limb. [NASA/ESA/W. Sparks (STScI)/USGS Astrogeology Science Center]

    NASA/Galileo 1989-2003

    NASA/Voyager 1

    Does Jupiter’s moon Europa host plumes of water erupting from its surface? So suggest Hubble images from 2012 and recently re-analyzed data from NASA’s Galileo spacecraft. To test this theory, a team led by William Sparks (SETI Institute and Space Telescope Science Institute) used SOFIA/EXES to search for direct evidence of the presence of water vapor erupting from Europa’s surface.

    The result? If plumes are indeed present on Europa, they can’t be carrying much water vapor. EXES saw no evidence of plumes, placing an upper limit on the amount of water ejected from the moon in this way during SOFIA’s observations. This limit is lower than the amount of water implied by the previous Hubble observations — leaving yet another mystery unsolved and deepening the question of whether Europa has what it takes to support life.

    Citation

    ApJL Focus issue:
    Focus on New Results from SOFIA

    EXES articles:
    “High Spectral Resolution Observations toward Orion BN at 6 μm: No Evidence for Hot Water,” Nick Indriolo et al. 2018 ApJL 865 L18. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/aae1ff
    “Infrared Detection of Abundant CS in the Hot Core AFGL 2591 at High Spectral Resolution with SOFIA/EXES ,” Andrew G. Barr et al. 2018 ApJL 868 L2. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/aaeb23
    “High-resolution SOFIA/EXES Spectroscopy of SO2 Gas in the Massive Young Stellar Object MonR2 IRS3: Implications for the Sulfur Budget,” Ryan Dungee et al. 2018 ApJL 868 L10. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/aaeda9
    “A Search for Water Vapor Plumes on Europa using SOFIA,” W. B. Sparks et al. 2019 ApJL 871 L5. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/aafb0a

    See the full article here .


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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    1

    AAS Mission and Vision Statement

    The mission of the American Astronomical Societyis to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the Universe.

    The Society, through its publications, disseminates and archives the results of astronomical research. The Society also communicates and explains our understanding of the universe to the public.
    The Society facilitates and strengthens the interactions among members through professional meetings and other means. The Society supports member divisions representing specialized research and astronomical interests.
    The Society represents the goals of its community of members to the nation and the world. The Society also works with other scientific and educational societies to promote the advancement of science.
    The Society, through its members, trains, mentors and supports the next generation of astronomers. The Society supports and promotes increased participation of historically underrepresented groups in astronomy.
    The Society assists its members to develop their skills in the fields of education and public outreach at all levels. The Society promotes broad interest in astronomy, which enhances science literacy and leads many to careers in science and engineering.

    Adopted June 7, 2009

     
  • richardmitnick 12:22 pm on May 13, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "My GREAT Experience with SOFIA: Part 1", , , , , , , NASA/DLR SOFIA   

    From AAS NOVA: “My GREAT Experience with SOFIA: Part 1” 

    AASNOVA

    From AAS NOVA

    13 May 2019
    Susanna Kohler

    1
    AAS Nova editor Susanna Kohler spent a night in the stratosphere flying aboard SOFIA, a modified Boeing 747SP carrying a 2.7-m telescope. [NASA]

    In December, AAS Nova Editor Susanna Kohler had the opportunity to fly aboard the NASA/DLR Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) with the German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies (GREAT) instrument. This week we’re taking a look at that flight, as well as some of the recent science the observatory produced and published in an AAS Journal Focus Issue.

    What’s more exciting than jetting through the stratosphere over the Pacific Ocean? Doing so with an opening the size of a garage door gaping in the side of your airplane — while observing the universe! Such is the bizarre experience of flying aboard the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA.

    Unusual Plane for an Unusual Payload

    More than a year ago, I walked onto the tarmac at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, California, and caught my first glimpse of SOFIA. I was visiting to tour the observatory and its support facilities at the invitation of the SOFIA program.

    The Boeing 747SP gleamed in the sunlight, looking oddly stubby compared to its more familiar commercial-jetliner cousins. Of course, its short body is the least unusual thing about SOFIA; the giant, 18-by-13.5-foot door cut near the tail on its port side is unusual as well — not to mention the telescope pointed out of it.

    NASA purchased the plane from United Airlines in 1997 and developed SOFIA as a joint project with the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The goal? To convert the plane into a flying infrared observatory vastly more capable than the venerable Kuiper Airborne Observatory (KAO) it was replacing.

    2
    Kuiper Airborne Observatory.Lockheed C-141 Starlifter

    SOFIA nominally observes from 0.3 µm to 1.6 mm, a window that is largely difficult to access with ground-based observatories due to the high atmospheric opacity.

    Challenge of Observing an Infrared Universe

    Infrared light is a powerful tool for observing the universe. Not only do many objects shine in infrared — more than half of all starlight is emitted at infrared wavelengths! — but we can also use infrared light to probe environments obscured by gas and dust. Infrared astronomy teaches us about everything from stellar birth to celestial magnetic fields, newly forming solar systems, and even black holes lurking at the centers of galaxies.

    Infrared observations are foiled by water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere, which is why most infrared telescopes are located in space. But once a telescope is in space, it’s difficult to make repairs or upgrades. SOFIA is a neat solution to this problem: the observatory is able to climb higher than 41,000 feet — above 99% of the Earth’s infrared-blocking atmosphere. After a night of taking data from the stratosphere, however, SOFIA returns to the ground, where it can receive repairs or upgrades as needed.

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

    Even better, SOFIA scientists aren’t constrained to a single instrument mounted on the telescope. SOFIA’s instruments — which include cameras, spectrometers, and polarimeters — are interchangeable, and they’re swapped out 25–30 times each year. This allows the observatory to make a variety of measurements across the infrared spectrum, with a versatility completely unlike any space telescope.

    NASA SOFIA GREAT [German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies]

    Engineering a Flying Telescope

    As I boarded SOFIA, it was immediately obvious that the interior had been completely redesigned since the plane’s time with United. Instead of rows of cramped seats, SOFIA’s cabin contained workstations with computer monitors and communication ports. In places, the interior walls were missing the usual plastic facade, leaving the guts of the plane visible. Most prominent of all, the rear of the plane was sealed off by a solid bulkhead with complex machinery jutting through it.

    3
    A cutaway view of SOFIA labeling the observatory’s primary components.[SOFIA]

    SOFIA’s 2.7-m telescope mirror (three times the diameter of the KAO’s 0.9-m mirror) is just behind this wall in the depressurized rear of the plane, where it points out the open door during flight. The business end of the telescope assembly extends through the bulkhead and into the pressurized cabin; the chosen instrument for the current flight is mounted here, where the scientists in the cabin can access it.

    You’ve probably experienced for yourself the turbulence that comes from flying on an airplane. How is SOFIA able to make steady observations of sources mid-flight? As my guides, SOFIA team members Zaheer Ali and Jason Disbrow, walked me through the observatory, they explained some of the remarkable engineering involved.

    SOFIA’s telescope and instrument are not attached directly to the structure of the plane; instead, they are mounted to the bulkhead via a moving gimbal system. Rubber bladders, gyroscopes, and a spherical shell of pressurized oil all work together to buffer the plane’s motion and allow the telescope to float, locked on its target. While the plane may move around the telescope, the telescope itself remains stable.

    Planning a Science Flight

    After exploring SOFIA, I was escorted back through the hangar to the building that houses SOFIA’s roughly 80 onsite staff members — from software experts to aerospace engineers to scientists. The other half of SOFIA’s team is located at the SOFIA Program Office at NASA’s Ames Research Center about 350 miles to the north.

    While meeting with members of SOFIA’s operational staff, I learned more about the complexities of operating a flying telescope. SOFIA’s altitude coordinate can be controlled by tilting the telescope up or down, but its azimuth coordinate is set by the direction the plane is flying. This necessitates intense in-flight coordination to successfully lock on to sources.

    What’s more, SOFIA’s outings require careful pre-flight planning. After observing proposals for SOFIA are approved, they are painstakingly pieced together: the target observations must form complementary legs of flights roughly 10 hours long, starting and ending in Palmdale. Further adding to the challenge, each flight plan must also avoid restricted air space and be flexible enough that pilots can cooperate with any other Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) constraints that arise.

    An Opportunity to Fly

    By the end of my tour, I was hooked on SOFIA’s story: a crazy idea with significant technical challenges had somehow been made into a successful reality. Now I desperately wanted to experience SOFIA during a science flight, to better understand how this was possible.

    I was in luck. A year later, I was aboard SOFIA again — but this time, I was seeing the science in action.

    Check back tomorrow to read the story of my flight!

    See the full article here .


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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    1

    AAS Mission and Vision Statement

    The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the Universe.

    The Society, through its publications, disseminates and archives the results of astronomical research. The Society also communicates and explains our understanding of the universe to the public.
    The Society facilitates and strengthens the interactions among members through professional meetings and other means. The Society supports member divisions representing specialized research and astronomical interests.
    The Society represents the goals of its community of members to the nation and the world. The Society also works with other scientific and educational societies to promote the advancement of science.
    The Society, through its members, trains, mentors and supports the next generation of astronomers. The Society supports and promotes increased participation of historically underrepresented groups in astronomy.
    The Society assists its members to develop their skills in the fields of education and public outreach at all levels. The Society promotes broad interest in astronomy, which enhances science literacy and leads many to careers in science and engineering.

    Adopted June 7, 2009

     
  • richardmitnick 4:19 pm on April 23, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , GREAT-The proof was obtained using the German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies a far-infrared spectrometer carried on board SOFIA, NASA/DLR SOFIA, The helium hydride ion to give HeH+ its full name once posed something of a dilemma for science.   

    From NASA/DLR SOFIA: “SOFIA uncovers ones of the building blocks of the early Universe” 

    From From NASA/DLR SOFIA
    NASA SOFIA Banner

    NASA SOFIA

    Airborne observatory brings the long search to a successful conclusion.

    1
    The early development of the Universe would have been impossible without a small ion known as HeH+.
    Previously, scientists had been unable to detect this ion in space.
    Thanks to the GREAT far-infrared spectrometer on board the SOFIA airborne observatory, an international team of researchers has now succeeded in obtaining proof of its presence.

    The helium hydride ion, to give HeH+ its full name, once posed something of a dilemma for science. Although its existence has been known from laboratory studies for almost 100 years, it had not been found in space, despite extensive searches. As a result, the chemical model calculations associated with it were called into question. But an international team of researchers led by Rolf Güsten of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn has now succeeded in clearly detecting this ion in the direction of the planetary nebula NGC 7027.

    2
    NGC 7027. William B. Latter (SIRTF Science Center/Caltech) and NASA.


    Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy Bonn Germany

    The proof was obtained using the German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies (GREAT) [image below], a far-infrared spectrometer carried on board the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). SOFIA is a joint project by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and NASA, the US space agency. The results were published in the 18 April 2019 issue of the scientific journal Nature.

    “Over the last decade, people have had great hopes for space observatories such as Spitzer (NASA, launched 2003) and Herschel (ESA, launched 2009), but none of these telescopes were able to detect this ion.

    NASA/Spitzer Infrared Telescope

    ESA/Herschel spacecraft active from 2009 to 2013

    SOFIA has provided us with proof that this ion really can form in planetary nebulae. At present, there is no other telescope capable of observing at these wavelengths, so this observation platform will remain unique for many years to come,” says Anke Pagels-Kerp, Head of the Space Science Department at the DLR Space Administration in Bonn.

    In the late 1970s, astrochemical models suggested that a detectable quantity of HeH+ might be present within nebulae in the Milky Way. It was thought most likely to be found in what are known as planetary nebulae, which are shells of gas and dust that have been ejected from a Sun-like star in the last phase of their lifecycle. The high-energy radiation generated by the central star drives ionisation fronts into the envelope of ejected material. According to the model calculations, it is precisely here that the HeH+ ions are supposed to form. Yet despite its undisputed importance in the history of the early Universe, it had long proven impossible to find the HeH+ ion in interstellar space. Although it has been known to exist since 1925, specific searches for it in space have been unsuccessful over recent decades.

    The molecule emits its strongest spectral line at a characteristic wavelength of 149.1 micrometres (corresponding to a frequency of 2.01 terahertz). Earth’s atmosphere blocks all radiation in this wavelength range, preventing searches by ground-based observatories; therefore, the search must be conducted either from space or using high-flying observatories such as SOFIA. At an altitude of 13 to 14 kilometres, SOFIA operates above the absorbing layers of the lower atmosphere.

    “SOFIA offers a unique opportunity to use the very latest technologies at any given time. The ongoing German-led development of the GREAT instrument has now made the detection of helium hydride possible. This underlines the importance of such instruments and the potential that their development holds for SOFIA in future,” explains Heinz Hammes, SOFIA Project Manager at the DLR Space Administration.

    After the Big Bang, chemistry began in the Universe

    The HeH+ ion is very important by virtue of its role in the formation of the Universe; all chemistry began approximately 300,000 years after the Big Bang. Although the Universe was still in its early stages, the temperature had already fallen to under approximately 3700 degrees Celsius. The elements that formed in the Big Bang – such as hydrogen, helium, deuterium and traces of lithium – were ionised at first, due to the high temperatures. As the Universe cooled, they recombined with free electrons to create the first neutral atoms. This happened first with helium. At this point, hydrogen was still ionised and was present in the form of free protons, or hydrogen nuclei. These combined with the helium atoms to form the helium hydride ion HeH+, making it one of the very first molecular compounds in the Universe. As recombination advanced, HeH+ reacted with the newly-formed neutral hydrogen atoms, thus paving the way for the formation of molecular hydrogen and thus the chemical origins of the Universe.

    “Thanks to recent advances in terahertz technology, it is now possible to perform high-resolution spectroscopy at the required far-infrared wavelengths,” explains Rolf Güsten, Lead Author of the article. As a result of measurements performed using the GREAT spectrometer on board the SOFIA airborne observatory, the team can now announce the unambiguous detection of the HeH+ ion in the direction of the planetary nebula NGC 7027.

    NASA SOFIA GREAT [German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies]

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

    NASA/SOFIA Forcast

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition
    SOFIA 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.
    NASA image

    DLR Bloc

     
  • richardmitnick 8:46 am on April 18, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The First Molecular Bond in The Universe Has Finally Been Detected in Space", , , , , , Helium hydride ion HeH+ in the planetary nebula NGC 7027, NASA/DLR SOFIA,   

    From NASA/DLR SOFIA via Science Alert: “The First Molecular Bond in The Universe Has Finally Been Detected in Space” 

    From NASA/DLR SOFIA

    NASA SOFIA Banner

    NASA SOFIA
    NASA/DLR SOFIA

    Via

    ScienceAlert

    Science Alert

    17 APR 2019
    PETER DOCKRILL

    1
    NGC 7027 (Hubble/NASA/ESA/Judy Schmidt)

    After decades of searching, scientists have finally detected in space the first molecular bond that would have formed in the early Universe after the Big Bang.

    The unambiguous discovery of the helium hydride ion HeH+ in the planetary nebula NGC 7027 brings to a close an epic hunt to locate the elusive molecule in outer space, and cements theoretical predictions of the chemistry that essentially makes the Universe as we know it possible.

    “The lack of evidence of the very existence of helium hydride in the local Universe has called into question our understanding of the chemistry in the early Universe,” astronomer Rolf Güsten told ScienceAlert.

    “The detection reported now resolves such doubts.”

    Once the early Universe cooled down following the Big Bang almost 14 billion years ago, theory suggests that the ions of light elements began to recombine with one another.

    At a temperature somewhere below 4,000 Kelvin, the early Universe bore witness to what researchers say was the dawn of chemistry, and the whole process – according to science – depended on one pivotal step.

    “In this metal-free and low-density environment, neutral helium atoms formed the Universe’s first molecular bond in the helium hydride ion HeH+ through radiative association with protons,” Güsten and fellow researchers explain in a new paper [Nature].

    On an understandably smaller scale, scientists replicated the basic chemistry in the lab almost as far back as a century ago – but one considerable hurdle remained.

    That hurdle was that helium hydride – this most elementary of elementary compounds – was never seen in the wild. By wild, we mean space, and by space, we mean planetary nebulae.

    Planetary nebulae are glowing, expanding clouds of ionised gas that are expelled in the last stages of a star’s life – and they’re one of the closest astronomical analogues we have for post-Big Bang chemistry, at least as far as HeH+ is concerned.

    Scientists predicted HeH+ might form in planetary nebulae back in the 1970s, but up until now we’d still never been able to detect it.

    According to the researchers, that’s because Earth’s atmosphere is essentially a brick wall for ground-based spectrometers trying to perceive the molecule at the specific infra-red wavelength where it would be viewable.

    In addition, previous technological limitations in comparative low-resolution spectrometry made any observations of HeH+ ambiguous at best.

    Güsten’s team was able to overcome these two barriers in unison, thanks to the capabilities of the German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies (GREAT) when flown aboard NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) aircraft.

    According to Güsten, GREAT is the only instrument worldwide that can perform these kinds of observations, and it would only ever be capable of seeing helium hydride in space if it were airborne first.

    “One cannot perform this search from ground-based observatories because at [the] 149 μm wavelength, Earth’s atmosphere is totally opaque,” Güsten says.

    “So you need to go into space or operate your instrument from a high-flying platform like SOFIA, cruising above the absorbing lower atmosphere.”

    And that’s what they did.

    Over three flights in May 2016, the team used their high-resolution spectrometer to observe the planetary nebula NGC 7027, and the readings gave the scientists exactly what they were looking for: the first unambiguous signal of the first ever molecule in space (after the Big Bang at least).

    Güsten says, with the new NGC 7027 results in hand, we can now put constraints on the chemical reactions that control the formation and destruction of the helium hydride molecule.

    “The respective rates are difficult to measure/to calculate, and in the literature have changed by factor of 10 in recent years,” Güsten told ScienceAlert.

    “Our observations will help to ‘calibrate’ these rates, and this will feed-back into the chemical ‘networks’ of the early Universe.”

    NASA SOFIA GREAT [German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies]

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

    NASA/SOFIA Forcast

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition
    SOFIA 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.
    NASA image

    DLR Bloc

     
  • richardmitnick 10:07 am on April 3, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "SOFIA Captures Cosmic Light Show of Star Formation", A giant celestial cloud called W51, , , , , FORCAST-Faint Object infraRed CAmera for the SOFIA Telescope, NASA/DLR SOFIA   

    From NASA/DLR SOFIA: “SOFIA Captures Cosmic Light Show of Star Formation” 

    From NASA/DLR SOFIA
    NASA SOFIA Banner

    NASA SOFIA
    NASA/DLR SOFIA

    March 29, 2019

    When massive stars — many times larger than our Sun— are born, they shine hot and bright before eventually exploding as supernovas. They release so much energy that they can affect the evolution of galaxies. But, unlike stars like our Sun, astronomers know much less about how these enormous stars form.

    “Massive stars like this represent less than one percent of all stars, but they can affect the formation of their stellar siblings,” said Jim De Buizer, Universities Space Research Association senior scientist at the SOFIA Science Center. “Stars like our Sun have much quieter and humbler origins, and because there are so many of them, we understand their birth properties more thoroughly.”

    To learn more, researchers used the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, to study a giant celestial cloud, called W51. Located almost 17,000 light years away and made mostly of hydrogen, it’s a place where rare, gigantic stars are forming. But they are born deep inside the cloud, invisible to the light our eyes can see. Using SOFIA’s airborne telescope and sensitive infrared camera, the research team peered inside the dense cloud. They captured a cosmic light show sparked by the forming stars, including many that have never been seen before.

    The infrared camera, called Faint Object infraRed CAmera for the SOFIA Telescope, or FORCAST [see below], has sensitive detectors and powerful magnification that let the researchers discover the enormous stars right after their birth. Learning how massive stars form in our Milky Way Galaxy helps scientists understand how these stars form in distant galaxies that are too far away to see in detail.

    “This is the best resolution currently available using these wavelengths of infrared light,” said Wanggi Lim, Universities Space Research Association scientist at the SOFIA Science Center. “Not only does this reveal areas that we could not see before, but it’s critical to understanding the physical properties and relative age of the stars and their parental clouds.”

    Researchers combined the SOFIA data with data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and Herschel Space Observatory to analyze the stars. They found that while they are all young, some are more evolved, and others are the youngest, most recently-created stars in the cloud.

    NASA/Spitzer Infrared Telescope

    ESA/Herschel spacecraft active from 2009 to 2013

    One may be exceptionally large — estimated to have the equivalent mass of 100 Suns. If future observations confirm it is indeed a single, colossal star, rather than multiple stellar siblings clustered together, it would be one of the most massive forming stars in our galaxy.

    These are the first results from a survey that will reveal how young, massive stars are lighting up other parts of our Milky Way Galaxy.

    1
    A cosmic light show sparked by the formation of massive stars in the stellar nursery, called W51, glows over on a star field image (white) from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The oldest and most evolved massive star is in the upper left of the image, shown at the middle of yellowish bubble. The youngest generations are typically found in areas near the center of this figure, near the brightest ball at the slight left from the middle. Massive stars like these emit so much energy that they play a critical role in the evolution of our galaxy.
    Credits: NASA/SOFIA/Lim and De Buizer et al. and Sloan Digital Sky Survey

    SDSS Telescope at Apache Point Observatory, near Sunspot NM, USA, Altitude2,788 meters (9,147 ft)

    NASA SOFIA GREAT [German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies]

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

    NASA/SOFIA Forcast

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition
    SOFIA 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.
    NASA image

    DLR Bloc

     
  • richardmitnick 3:41 pm on March 11, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Featured Image: A Birthplace for Massive Stars", , , , , , NASA/DLR SOFIA, W51A a giant H II region of star formation   

    From AAS NOVA: “Featured Image: A Birthplace for Massive Stars” 

    AASNOVA

    From AAS NOVA

    1

    The image above is a false-color, three-wavelength infrared look at an enormous ionized cloud in which new, large stars are just beginning to form. When young, massive stars are first born within a cloud of gas and dust, they eventually become hot enough to ionize a bubble of gas around them. When stars form near each other, as in a massive cluster, the individual bubbles can combine, producing large ionized regions known as giant H II regions. In a new survey, scientists are using the FORCAST instrument on the Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) to map out all of the Milky Way giant H II regions in the mid-infrared, in order to better understand the earliest stages of massive and clustered star formation.

    NASA/DLR SOFIA Forcast

    NASA/DLR SOFIA

    W51A, shown above in two FORCAST wavelengths (20 µm shown in blue, 37 µm in green) and one Herschel (70 µm, shown in red), is one of the largest and brightest giant H 11 regions in our galaxy, and one of the first regions observed as part of the survey. A recent publication by SOFIA scientists Wanggi Lim and James De Buizer details what we’ve learned so far; check out the article below for more information, and keep an eye on AAS Nova for more on SOFIA science soon!

    Citation

    “Surveying the Giant H ii Regions of the Milky Way with SOFIA. I. W51A,” Wanggi Lim and James M. De Buizer 2019 ApJ 873 51.
    https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/1538-4357/ab0288/meta

    See the full article here .


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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    1

    AAS Mission and Vision Statement

    The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the Universe.

    The Society, through its publications, disseminates and archives the results of astronomical research. The Society also communicates and explains our understanding of the universe to the public.
    The Society facilitates and strengthens the interactions among members through professional meetings and other means. The Society supports member divisions representing specialized research and astronomical interests.
    The Society represents the goals of its community of members to the nation and the world. The Society also works with other scientific and educational societies to promote the advancement of science.
    The Society, through its members, trains, mentors and supports the next generation of astronomers. The Society supports and promotes increased participation of historically underrepresented groups in astronomy.
    The Society assists its members to develop their skills in the fields of education and public outreach at all levels. The Society promotes broad interest in astronomy, which enhances science literacy and leads many to careers in science and engineering.

    Adopted June 7, 2009

     
  • 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/DLR SOFIA, 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 .


    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 1:23 pm on January 28, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Lifting the Veil on Star Formation in the Orion Nebula, NASA/DLR SOFIA   

    From NASA/DLR SOFIA: “Lifting the Veil on Star Formation in the Orion Nebula” 

    From NASA/DLR SOFIA
    NASA SOFIA Banner

    NASA SOFIA

    1
    The powerful wind from the newly formed star at the heart of the Orion Nebula is creating the bubble (black) and preventing new stars from forming in its neighborhood. At the same time, the wind is pushing molecular gas (color) to the edges, creating a dense shell around the bubble where future generations of stars can form. Credits: NASA/SOFIA/Pabst et. al

    The stellar wind from a newborn star in the Orion Nebula is preventing more new stars from forming nearby, according to new research using NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).

    This is surprising because until now, scientists thought that other processes, such as exploding stars called supernovas, were largely responsible for regulating the formation of stars. But SOFIA’s observations suggest that infant stars generate stellar winds that can blow away the seed material required to form new stars, a process called “feedback.”

    The Orion Nebula is among the best observed and most photographed objects in the night sky. It is the closest stellar nursery to Earth, and helps scientists explore how stars form. A veil of gas and dust makes this nebula extremely beautiful, but also shrouds the entire process of star birth from view. Fortunately, infrared light can pierce through this cloudy veil, allowing specialized observatories like SOFIA to reveal many of the star-formation secrets that would otherwise remain hidden.

    At the heart of the nebula lies a small grouping of young, massive and luminous stars. Observations from SOFIA’s instrument, the German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies, known as GREAT, revealed, for the first time, that the strong stellar wind from the brightest of these baby stars, designated Theta1 Orionis C (θ1 Ori C), has swept up a large shell of material from the cloud where this star formed, like a snow plow clearing a street by pushing snow to the road’s edges.

    “The wind is responsible for blowing an enormous bubble around the central stars,” explained Cornelia Pabst, a Ph.D. student at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands and the lead author on the paper. “It disrupts the natal cloud and prevents the birth of new stars.”

    These results were reported in the January 7, 2019 issue of the journal Nature.

    Researchers used the GREAT instrument on SOFIA to measure the spectral line – which is like a chemical fingerprint – of ionized carbon. Because of SOFIA’s airborne location, flying above 99 percent of the water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere that blocks infrared light, researchers were able to study the physical properties of the stellar wind.

    “Astronomers use GREAT like a police officer uses a radar gun,” explained Alexander Tielens, an astronomer at Leiden Observatory and a senior scientist on the paper. “The radar bounces off your car, and the signal tells the officer if you’re speeding.”

    Similarly, astronomers use the ionized carbon’s spectral signature to determine the speed of the gas at all positions across the nebula and study the interactions between massive stars and the clouds where they were born. The signal is so strong that it reveals critical details and nuances of the stellar nurseries that are otherwise hidden. But this signal can only be detected with specialized instruments — like GREAT— that can study far-infrared light.

    At the center of the Orion Nebula, the stellar wind from θ1 Ori C forms a bubble and disrupts star birth in its neighborhood. At the same time, it pushes molecular gas to the edges of the bubble, creating new regions of dense material where future stars might form.

    These feedback effects regulate the physical conditions of the nebula, influence the star formation activity, and ultimately drive the evolution of the interstellar medium, the space between stars filled with gas and dust. Understanding how star formation interacts with the interstellar medium is key to understanding the origins of the stars we see today, and those that may form in the future

    NASA SOFIA GREAT [German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies]

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

    NASA/SOFIA Forcast

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition
    SOFIA 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.
    NASA image

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