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  • richardmitnick 11:38 am on June 4, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Magnetism Rules in the Milky Way’s Core", , , , , NASA SOFIA High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-Plus HAWC+ Camera, NASA/DLR SOFIA,   

    From Sky & Telescope: “Magnetism Rules in the Milky Way’s Core” 

    SKY&Telescope bloc

    From Sky & Telescope

    June 4, 2020
    Govert Schilling

    1
    A composite image of the central region of our Milky Way galaxy, known as Sagittarius A. SOFIA found that magnetic fields, shown as streamlines, are strong enough to control the material moving around the black hole, even in the presence of enormous gravitational forces.
    NASA / SOFIA / L. Proudfit / ESA / Herschel / Hubble Space Telescope

    What governs the dynamics of gas close to the center of our Milky Way galaxy? Gravity is the standard answer. After all, there’s a 4 million-solar-mass black hole hiding there.

    But new data from NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) reveal that strong magnetic fields may actually dominate, just like they do in the Sun’s corona. The new result may shed light on two outstanding questions about the galactic center.

    NASA/DLR SOFIA

    Into the Galactic Center

    SOFIA is a Boeing 747SP turned high-flying observatory. Its instrument, HAWC+, a far-infrared imaging polarimeter, studied the galactic center during flights in May 2017 and July 2018.

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

    Measurements of the far-infrared light’s polarization revealed the orientation of dust particles, which rotate to align perpendicular to magnetic field lines.

    Charles Dowell (NASA / JPL) led a team in studying the central 15 light-years of the galactic center, deducing an average magnetic field strength of 0.005 gauss. That’s about 100 times weaker than the average magnetic field strength on Earth’s surface. But since the density in the galactic center is so low, only some 10,000 atoms per cubic centimeter, the gas’s magnetic pressure is much higher than its thermal pressure.

    As a result, gravity may not be the dominant force that determines the motions of the gas. Instead, “the magnetic field may govern the kinematics and channel the plasma, just like magnetic fields dominate the physics of the solar corona,” says team member Joan Schmelz (Universities Space Research Association), who presented the preliminary results Tuesday at the virtual meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

    “The data provide the most detailed look yet at the magnetic fields surrounding our galaxy’s central black hole,” says team member David Chuss (Villanova University).

    Explaining Strange Black Hole Behavior

    Andrew Fox (Space Telescope Science Institute), who was not involved in the study, says the results are not really surprising. “The galactic center is a very energetic region full of highly ionized plasmas,” he says, “so it makes sense that magnetic fields would dominate other sources of pressure.”

    But according to Schmelz, astrophysicists generally tend to avoid including the effects of magnetic fields because they complicate the picture. “We’re now confronted with data that are so compelling that we just can’t ignore magnetic fields anymore,” she says.

    If magnetic fields govern gas motions rather than just gravity, this may explain two surprising facts about the core of our Milky Way galaxy: the low birth rate of new stars (despite the presence of huge amounts of gas) and the weak activity of the galaxy’s central black hole. Strong magnetic fields could both suppress star formation and prevent matter from falling into the black hole.

    Meanwhile, Schmelz cautions that calculating magnetic field strength from polarization data is not straightforward. “Our next step is to check if our standard techniques do apply in this turbulent environment,” she says. “So far, the observation of Zeeman effects in the Milky Way center [the splitting of spectral lines in the presence of strong magnetic fields] compares favorably with our results.”

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Sky & Telescope magazine, founded in 1941 by Charles A. Federer Jr. and Helen Spence Federer, has the largest, most experienced staff of any astronomy magazine in the world. Its editors are virtually all amateur or professional astronomers, and every one has built a telescope, written a book, done original research, developed a new product, or otherwise distinguished him or herself.

    Sky & Telescope magazine, now in its eighth decade, came about because of some happy accidents. Its earliest known ancestor was a four-page bulletin called The Amateur Astronomer, which was begun in 1929 by the Amateur Astronomers Association in New York City. Then, in 1935, the American Museum of Natural History opened its Hayden Planetarium and began to issue a monthly bulletin that became a full-size magazine called The Sky within a year. Under the editorship of Hans Christian Adamson, The Sky featured large illustrations and articles from astronomers all over the globe. It immediately absorbed The Amateur Astronomer.

    Despite initial success, by 1939 the planetarium found itself unable to continue financial support of The Sky. Charles A. Federer, who would become the dominant force behind Sky & Telescope, was then working as a lecturer at the planetarium. He was asked to take over publishing The Sky. Federer agreed and started an independent publishing corporation in New York.

    “Our first issue came out in January 1940,” he noted. “We dropped from 32 to 24 pages, used cheaper quality paper…but editorially we further defined the departments and tried to squeeze as much information as possible between the covers.” Federer was The Sky’s editor, and his wife, Helen, served as managing editor. In that January 1940 issue, they stated their goal: “We shall try to make the magazine meet the needs of amateur astronomy, so that amateur astronomers will come to regard it as essential to their pursuit, and professionals to consider it a worthwhile medium in which to bring their work before the public.”

     
  • richardmitnick 11:39 am on April 16, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , NASA/DLR SOFIA, Texas Echelon-Cross-Echelle Spectrograph   

    From AAS NOVA: “Observations of Betelgeuse’s Dimming from the Stratosphere” 

    AASNOVA

    From AAS NOVA

    1
    Artist’s impression of the roiling surface and strong stellar winds of Betelgeuse, a red supergiant star. [ESO/L. Calçada]

    2
    This plot of V-band brightness shows Betelgeuse’s regular ~420-day pulsations, as well as the unprecedented dip in recent months. Red filled circles show the times of the three SOFIA/EXES observations compared in this study. [Harper et al. 2020]

    The unprecedented dimming of the red supergiant star Betelgeuse has been making headlines since late last year. To find out what’s causing it, an airplane-borne telescope took to the skies.

    A Dramatic Decline

    In October 2019, Betelgeuse — identifiable as the bright, massive red supergiant lying at the left shoulder of the constellation Orion — began declining in brightness. By February 2020, it had dimmed to less than 40% of its average luminosity, leading some to speculate that this star might be preparing to end its life as a dramatic supernova.

    But Betelgeuse doesn’t appear to be going anywhere just yet. In February 2020, the star stopped dimming and started to climb in brightness again — and yet we still don’t know what caused its remarkable drop.

    3
    Betelgeuse, shown here in an infrared image from the Herschel Space Observatory, is a luminous red supergiant star located about 700 light-years away. [ESA/Herschel/PACS/L. Decin et al.]

    The Role of Red Supergiants

    Why do we want to understand what’s happening with Betelgeuse? Red supergiants like this one represent a late evolutionary stage of massive stars. In this phase, strong winds flow off of the star, carrying away mass and populating the surrounding area with enriched stellar material.

    But despite the important role these stars play in shaping galaxies and populating them with elements, the red supergiant stage is poorly understood, and there’s a lot we don’t know about the atmosphere, outflows, and timing of a star’s behavior during this phase. By tracking the evolution of Betelgeuse, a conveniently bright and nearby laboratory, we can further explore these processes.

    A Telescope in Flight

    Scientists have proposed two main explanations for Betelgeuse’s recent dimming: either it’s an intrinsic cooling of the star’s photosphere, or Betelgeuse has thrown off dust that’s now lying between it and us, blocking some of its light.

    4
    NASA/DLR SOFIA carrying a 2.7-m telescope.

    Because infrared observations will be critical to exploring these options, NASA-DLR’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) planned an extensive campaign to look at Betelgeuse and its environment.

    SOFIA consists a telescope mounted on an airplane that flies above 99% of the Earth’s infrared-blocking atmosphere. Observations of Betelgeuse were planned throughout winter/spring 2020 with all the instruments scheduled to fly on SOFIA. Now the first of these results, from the Echelon Cross-Echelle Spectrograph (EXES) instrument, have been published in a new study led by Graham Harper (University of Colorado Boulder).

    Texas Echelon-Cross-Echelle Spectrograph

    Going with the Flow

    Harper and collaborators explored Betelgeuse’s circumstellar envelope, the sphere of stellar material that flows off of and surrounds the star. In particular, the SOFIA/EXES observations are of two gas emission lines: singly ionized iron, and neutral sulfur. The authors compare observations of these lines from February 2020, when Betelgeuse was at its dimmest, to observations from 2015 and 2017, when Betelgeuse was at its normal brightness.

    5
    SOFIA/EXES observations of the ionized iron emission line around Betelgeuse during Cycle 2 (2015; yellow), Cycle 5 (2017; red) and Cycle 7 (February 2020; blue). [Harper et al. 2020]

    The team finds that the lines from the different observing cycles are very nearly the same, suggesting that Betelgeuse’s circumstellar flow has not been affected by whatever caused the star to dim — whether that’s changes in the photosphere or the presence of new dust in the sightline to the star. The observations also indicate that the heating from the stellar wind didn’t change during the dimming.

    These results are one more piece in the puzzle of Betelgeuse’s strange behavior. And with additional observations from other SOFIA instruments soon to be analyzed, we can anticipate more news to come!

    Citation

    “SOFIA-EXES Observations of Betelgeuse during the Great Dimming of 2019/2020,” Graham M. Harper et al 2020 ApJL 893 L23.
    https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/2041-8213/ab84e6

    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 3:09 pm on March 6, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "SOFIA’s Infrared View of the Skies", , , , , NASA/DLR SOFIA   

    From NASA/DLR SOFIA: “SOFIA’s Infrared View of the Skies” 

    From From NASA/DLR SOFIA
    NASA SOFIA Banner

    NASA SOFIA
    NASA/DLR SOFIA

    March 6, 2020
    Felicia Chou
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-0257
    felicia.chou@nasa.gov

    The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, studies the universe with infrared light. That’s a range of wavelengths on the infrared spectrum, from those measuring about 700 nanometers, too small to see with the naked eye, to about 1 millimeter, which is about the size of the head of a pin. Other observatories, such as the Spitzer Space Telescope and Herschel Space Observatory, also studied infrared light.

    NASA/Spitzer Infrared Telescope. No longer in service.

    ESA/Herschel spacecraft active from 2009 to 2013

    But each telescope observes different wavelengths of infrared light, filling in puzzle pieces that are essential to learning what makes the universe tick.

    1
    Composite image of W51A, the largest star-forming region in our galaxy. Dozens of massive stars that are more than eight times the size of our Sun are forming there. They create intense radiation pressure that has pushed dust out of the star’s natal cocoon, creating arcs and bubbles that glow brightly at infrared wavelengths of at 37 and 70 microns, shown in green and red in this false color image. Hot gas remains inside these features, which is shown in the 20-micron view in blue.Diving into Star Formation The background star field from Spitzer is shown in white.
    Credits: NASA/SOFIA/Wanggi Lim, James De Buizer; NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    Spitzer studied exoplanets (planets outside our solar system), distant galaxies, and cold matter found in the space between stars using infrared wavelengths between 3.6-160 microns until 2009 when it ran out of coolant. After the coolant was depleted, it studied wavelengths between 0.3-0.9 microns, which are primarily near infrared wavelengths, during its so called “warm mission.”

    SOFIA studies wavelengths of mid- and far-infrared light between 0.4-612 microns, letting scientists tackle big questions of how previously unseen forces shape the cosmos. With its 45,000-foot-high view of the night skies, the formation of planets and stars, the strange behavior of magnetic fields, and the chemistry of galaxies are all becoming clearer.

    The discoveries from SOFIA often build on what previous observatories learned and illustrate the distinct yet complementary infrared perspective provided by different telescopes.

    Diving into Star Formation

    SOFIA found many newborn massive stars that had not been seen before in the largest star forming region in our galaxy, called W51A. Massive stars can weigh more than eight times our Sun, but it’s not well understood how they form and how they affect the birth of their stellar neighbors.

    “Seeing regions like W51A in great detail gives us a better understanding of how stars actually form — surrounded by many others,” said James De Buizer a senior scientist at the SOFIA Science Center at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “We can learn how the presence of nearby stars, or environmental differences, change how a cluster of massive stars forms and evolves over time.”

    But seeing these massive stars is not easy. They are hidden deep inside celestial clouds. SOFIA’s infrared camera called FORCAST, the Faint Object Infrared Camera for the SOFIA Telescope [below], can peer inside the obscuring clouds, revealing how these enormous stars are changing their surroundings.

    Using the new details, researchers calculated the age of W51A’s different regions and found that many of the stellar clusters are each made of multiple generations of star birth. Moreover, some of the objects that had previously been identified as massive newborn stars by other telescopes, including Spitzer, had been misclassified. SOFIA’s new view indicates that some are actually older or smaller, less massive stars.

    Areas like W51A are so intensely bright at far-infrared wavelengths that many details could not be seen by most space telescopes because their detectors were saturated, like an overexposed photo. Near-infrared observations by Spitzer were contaminated by bright emission from smoke-like carbon molecules present in star-forming environments, which made it difficult to determine the stars’ properties. But SOFIA’s detectors work at wavelengths that are free from this smoky environmental contamination, revealing previously hidden details — including those needed to accurately classify the stars’ sizes and ages.

    Combining the data from both SOFIA and space telescopes like Spitzer and the Herschel Space Observatory is helping researchers understand the complete star formation history of W51A. In some areas, the most massive stars have triggered the birth of younger generations, but in others they have slowed it. Based on all the data, they expect the next generation of stars to form near the center of W51A.

    The team created the image by combining new SOFIA data with existing data from Spitzer and Herschel Space Observatory. It shows arcs and bubbles blown by adolescent massive stars, as the intense radiation pressure from the largest stars pushes dust from their natal cocoons out in all directions. The heat from the dust in these features glows brightly at infrared wavelengths of 37 and 70 microns, which are green and red. Although the adolescent stars have cleared dust from inside the bubbles, there is still hot and excited gas inside, which can be seen in the 20-micron infrared view that is traced in blue. Together, the multifaceted infrared view gives scientists a more complete understanding of how the most massive stars in our galaxy are born and how they affect their neighbors.

    Uncovering Magnetic Fields

    3
    Composite image of the Cigar Galaxy, a starburst galaxy about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. The magnetic field detected by SOFIA, 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) from the Kitt Peak Observatory, with near-infrared and mid-infrared starlight and dust from SOFIA (orange) and the Spitzer Space Telescope (yellow).
    Credits: NASA/SOFIA/Enrique Lopez-Rodriguez; NASA/JPL-Caltech

    SOFIA newest instrument, the High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-Plus (HAWC+) [below], can study celestial magnetic fields. The Cigar galaxy, Messier 82, is famous for its extraordinary speed in making new stars, something astronomers call the “starburst phenomenon.” The high rate of star birth is generating a stellar wind flowing out of the galaxy that drags material with it.

    Spitzer’s wide view found that the wind is blowing dust 20,000 light-years around the galaxy — far beyond where stars are forming. But scientists were not sure why the dust reached so far. Subsequent observations with SOFIA peered closed to the galaxy’s core, revealing that the wind is also dragging the galaxy’s magnetic field.

    Magnetic fields are usually parallel to the plane of the galaxy, but the wind is dragging it so it’s perpendicular. Generally, magnetic fields are powerful enough to resist stellar winds, but the Cigar galaxy’s wind is so strong that it’s dragging the magnetic field with it. This supports Spitzer’s initial findings that the starburst-driven wind is transporting a huge amount of material and shows that it’s an ongoing route for material to escape from inside the galaxy.

    Together with other, complementary telescopes, SOFIA’s infrared view of the skies is expanding scientists’ understanding of the universe by revealing more than human eyes can see.

    The Spitzer Space Telescope was decommissioned on Jan. 30, 2020, after operating for more than 16 years. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, 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. Space operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at IPAC at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

    4
    This infrared image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows Messier 82, or the “Cigar galaxy,” smothered in smoky dust particles (red) blown out into space by the galaxy’s hot stars (blue).
    Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    See the full article here .

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

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

    NASA/SOFIA Forcast

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    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 8:54 pm on January 7, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "SOFIA Reveals How the Swan Nebula Hatched", , , , NASA/DLR SOFIA   

    From NASA JPL-Caltech and SOFIA: “SOFIA Reveals How the Swan Nebula Hatched” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From NASA JPL-Caltech

    and

    NASA/DLR SOFIA
    NASA SOFIA Banner

    NASA SOFIA
    NASA/DLR SOFIA

    January 7, 2020

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

    Written by Kassandra Bell
    USRA SOFIA Science Center

    1
    In this composite image of the Omega, or Swan, Nebula, SOFIA detected the blue areas near the center and the green areas. The white star field was detected by Spitzer. SOFIA’s view reveals evidence that parts of the nebula formed separately to create the swan-like shape seen today.Credit: NASA/SOFIA/Lim, De Buizer, & Radomski et al.; ESA/Herschel; NASA/JPL-Caltech

    NASA/Spitzer Infrared Telescope

    ESA/Herschel spacecraft active from 2009 to 2013

    One of the brightest and most massive star-forming regions in our galaxy, the Omega, or Swan, Nebula, came to resemble the shape resembling a swan’s neck we see today only relatively recently. New observations reveal that its regions formed separately over multiple eras of star birth. The new image from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, is helping scientists chronicle the history and evolution of this well-studied nebula.

    “The present-day nebula holds the secrets that reveal its past; we just need to be able to uncover them,” said Wanggi Lim, a Universities Space Research Association scientist at the SOFIA Science Center at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “SOFIA lets us do this, so we can understand why the nebula looks the way it does today.”

    Uncovering the nebula’s secrets is no simple task. It’s located more than 5,000 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius. Its center is filled with more than 100 of the galaxy’s most massive young stars. These stars may be many times the size of our Sun, but the youngest generations are forming deep in cocoons of dust and gas, where they are very difficult to see, even with space telescopes. Because the central region glows very brightly, the detectors on space telescopes were saturated at the wavelengths SOFIA studied, similar to an overexposed photo.

    SOFIA’s infrared camera called FORCAST, the Faint Object Infrared Camera for the SOFIA Telescope, however, can pierce through these cocoons.

    NASA/DLR SOFIA Forcast

    The new view reveals nine protostars, areas where the nebula’s clouds are collapsing and creating the first step in the birth of stars, that had not been seen before. Additionally, the team calculated the ages of the nebula’s different regions. They found that portions of the swan-like shape were not all created at the same time, but took shape over multiple eras of star formation.

    The central region is the oldest, most evolved and likely formed first. Next, the northern area formed, while the southern region is the youngest. Even though the northern area is older than the southern region, the radiation and stellar winds from previous generations of stars has disturbed the material there, preventing it from collapsing to form the next generation.

    “This is the most detailed view of the nebula we have ever had at these wavelengths,” said Jim De Buizer, a senior scientist also at the SOFIA Science Center. “It’s the first time we can see some of its youngest, massive stars and start to truly understand how it evolved into the iconic nebula we see today.”

    Massive stars, like those in the Swan Nebula, release so much energy that they can change the evolution of entire galaxies. But less than 1% of all stars are this enormous, so astronomers know very little about them. Previous observations of this nebula with space telescopes studied different wavelengths of infrared light, which did not reveal the details SOFIA detected.

    SOFIA’s image shows gas in blue as it’s heated by massive stars located near the center, and dust in green that is warmed both by existing massive stars and nearby newborn stars. The newly-detected protostars are located primarily in the southern areas. The red areas near the edge represent cold dust that was detected by the Herschel Space Telescope, while the white star field was detected by the Spitzer Space Telescope.

    The Spitzer Space Telescope will be decommissioned on Jan. 30, 2020, after operating for more than 16 years. SOFIA continues exploring the infrared universe, building on Spitzer’s legacy. SOFIA studies wavelengths of mid- and far-infrared light with high resolution that are not accessible to other telescopes, helping scientists understand star and planet formation, the role magnetic fields play in shaping our universe, and the chemical evolution of galaxies.

    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 Building 703, in Palmdale, California.

    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. Space operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at IPAC at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

    Herschel is a European Space Agency mission, with science instruments provided by consortia of European institutes and with important participation by NASA. While the observatory stopped making science observations in April 2013, after running out of liquid coolant as expected, scientists continue to analyze its data. NASA’s Herschel Project Office is based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. JPL contributed mission-enabling technology for two of Herschel’s three science instruments. The NASA Herschel Science Center, part of IPAC, supports the U.S. astronomical community. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

    See the full article here .


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    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, 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 10:18 am on December 12, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , NASA/DLR SOFIA,   

    From NASA: “How to Shape a Spiral Galaxy” 

    From NASA

    Dec. 10, 2019
    Felicia Chou
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-0257
    felicia.chou@nasa.gov

    1
    Magnetic fields in NGC 1086, or M77, are shown as streamlines over a visible light and X-ray composite image of the galaxy from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Nuclear Spectroscopic Array, and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The magnetic fields align along the entire length of the massive spiral arms — 24,000 light years across (0.8 kiloparsecs) — implying that the gravitational forces that created the galaxy’s shape are also compressing the its magnetic field. This supports the leading theory of how the spiral arms are forced into their iconic shape known as “density wave theory.” SOFIA studied the galaxy using far-infrared light (89 microns) to reveal facets of its magnetic fields that previous observations using visible and radio telescopes could not detect. Credits: NASA/SOFIA; NASA/JPL-Caltech/Roma Tre Univ.

    Our Milky Way galaxy has an elegant spiral shape with long arms filled with stars, but exactly how it took this form has long puzzled scientists. New observations of another galaxy are shedding light on how spiral-shaped galaxies like our own get their iconic shape.

    Magnetic fields play a strong role in shaping these galaxies, according to research from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA.

    NASA/DLR SOFIA

    Scientists measured magnetic fields along the spiral arms of the galaxy called NGC 1068, or Messier 77. The fields are shown as streamlines that closely follow the circling arms.

    Magnetic fields are invisible, but they may influence the evolution of a galaxy,” said Enrique Lopez-Rodriguez, a Universities Space Research Association scientist at the SOFIA Science Center at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “We have a pretty good understanding of how gravity affects galactic structures, but we’re just starting to learn the role magnetic fields play.”

    The Messier 77 galaxy is located 47 million light years away in the constellation Cetus. It has a supermassive active black hole at its center that is twice as massive as the black hole at the heart of our Milky Way galaxy. The swirling arms are filled with dust, gas and areas of intense star formation called starbursts.

    SOFIA’s infrared observations reveal what human eyes cannot: magnetic fields that closely follow the newborn-star-filled spiral arms. This supports the leading theory of how these arms are forced into their iconic shape known as “density wave theory.” It states that dust, gas and stars in the arms are not fixed in place like blades on a fan. Instead, the material moves along the arms as gravity compresses it, like items on a conveyor belt.

    The magnetic field alignment stretches across the entire length of the massive, arms — approximately 24,000 light years across. This implies that the gravitational forces that created the galaxy’s spiral shape are also compressing its magnetic field, supporting the density wave theory. The results are published in The Astrophysical Journal

    “This is the first time we’ve seen magnetic fields aligned at such large scales with current star birth in the spiral arms,” said Lopez-Rodriquez. “It’s always exciting to have observational evidence that supports theories.”

    Celestial magnetic fields are notoriously difficult to observe. SOFIA’s newest instrument, the High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-Plus, or HAWC+, uses far-infrared light to observe celestial dust grains, which align perpendicular to magnetic field lines.

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

    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 not contaminated by emission from other mechanisms, such as scattered visible light and radiation from high-energy particles. SOFIA’s ability to study the galaxy with far infrared light, specifically at the wavelength of 89 microns, revealed previously unknown facets of its magnetic fields.

    Further observations are necessary to understand how magnetic fields influence the formation and evolution of other types of galaxies, such as those with irregular shapes.

    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 Building 703, in Palmdale, California. The HAWC+ instrument was developed and delivered to NASA by a multi-institution team led by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

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

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

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

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

     
  • richardmitnick 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 .


    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 12:14 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 .


    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 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.

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    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.

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    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 .

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    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

     
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