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  • richardmitnick 11:47 am on July 17, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , NASA/DLR SOFIA,   

    From University of Maryland Computer Mathematics and Natural Sciences (US): “First Clear View of a Boiling Cauldron Where Stars are Born” 

    From University of Maryland Computer Mathematics and Natural Sciences (US)

    June 23, 2021 [Just now in social media.]

    Media Relations Contact:
    Kimbra Cutlip
    301-405-9463
    kcutlip@umd.edu

    UMD-led team used NASA’s SOFIA telescope to capture high-resolution details of a star nursery in the Milky Way.

    University of Maryland researchers created the first high-resolution image of an expanding bubble of hot plasma and ionized gas where stars are born. Previous low-resolution images did not clearly show the bubble or reveal how it expanded into the surrounding gas.

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    The RCW 49 galactic nebula pictured above is one of the brightest star-forming regions in the Milky Way. By analyzing the movement of carbon atoms in an expanding bubble of gas surrounding the Westerlund 2 star cluster within RCW 49, a UMD-led team of researchers have created the clearest image to date of a stellar-wind driven bubble where stars are born. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltec (US)/E.Churchwell (University of Wisconsin (US)).

    The researchers used data collected by the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) telescope to analyze one of the brightest, most massive star-forming regions in the Milky Way galaxy. Their analysis showed that a single, expanding bubble of warm gas surrounds the Westerlund 2 star cluster and disproved earlier studies suggesting there may be two bubbles surrounding Westerlund 2. The researchers also identified the source of the bubble and the energy driving its expansion. Their results were published in The Astrophysical Journal on June 23, 2021.

    “When massive stars form, they blow off much stronger ejections of protons, electrons and atoms of heavy metal, compared to our sun,” said Maitraiyee Tiwari, a postdoctoral associate in the UMD Department of Astronomy and lead author of the study. “These ejections are called stellar winds, and extreme stellar winds are capable of blowing and shaping bubbles in the surrounding clouds of cold, dense gas. We observed just such a bubble centered around the brightest cluster of stars in this region of the galaxy, and we were able to measure its radius, mass and the speed at which it is expanding.”

    The surfaces of these expanding bubbles are made of a dense gas of ionized carbon, and they form a kind of outer shell around the bubbles. New stars are believed to form within these shells. But like soup in a boiling cauldron, the bubbles enclosing these star clusters overlap and intermingle with clouds of surrounding gas, making it hard to distinguish the surfaces of individual bubbles.

    Tiwari and her colleagues created a clearer picture of the bubble surrounding Westerlund 2 by measuring the radiation emitted from the cluster across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from high-energy X-rays to low-energy radio waves. Previous studies, which only radio and submillimeter wavelength data, had produced low-resolution images and did not show the bubble. Among the most important measurements was a far-infrared wavelength emitted by a specific ion of carbon in the shell.

    “We can use spectroscopy to actually tell how fast this carbon is moving either towards or away from us,” said Ramsey Karim (M.S. ’19, astronomy), a Ph.D. student in astronomy at UMD and a co-author of the study. “This technique uses the Doppler effect, the same effect that causes a train’s horn to change pitch as it passes you. In our case, the color changes slightly depending on the velocity of the carbon ions.”

    By determining whether the carbon ions were moving toward or away from Earth and combining that information with measurements from the rest of the electromagnetic spectrum, Tiwari and Karim were able to create a 3D view of the expanding stellar-wind bubble surrounding Westerlund 2.

    In addition to finding a single, stellar wind-driven bubble around Westerlund 2, they found evidence of new stars forming in the shell region of this bubble. Their analysis also suggests that as the bubble expanded, it broke open on one side, releasing hot plasma and slowing expansion of the shell roughly a million years ago. But then, about 200,000 or 300,000 years ago, another bright star in Westerlund 2 evolved, and its energy re-invigorated the expansion of the Westerlund 2 shell.

    “We saw that the expansion of the bubble surrounding Westerlund 2 was reaccelerated by winds from another very massive star, and that started the process of expansion and star formation all over again,” Tiwari said. “This suggests stars will continue to be born in this shell for a long time, but as this process goes on, the new stars will become less and less massive.”

    Tiwari and her colleagues will now apply their method to other bright star clusters and warm gas bubbles to better understand these star-forming regions of the galaxy. The work is part of a multi-year NASA-supported program called FEEDBACK.

    See the full article here .

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    U Maryland Campus

    About University of Maryland Computer Mathematics and Natural Sciences (US)

    The thirst for new knowledge is a fundamental and defining characteristic of humankind. It is also at the heart of scientific endeavor and discovery. As we seek to understand our world, across a host of complexly interconnected phenomena and over scales of time and distance that were virtually inaccessible to us a generation ago, our discoveries shape that world. At the forefront of many of these discoveries is the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS).

    CMNS is home to 12 major research institutes and centers and to 10 academic departments: astronomy, atmospheric and oceanic science, biology, cell biology and molecular genetics, chemistry and biochemistry, computer science, entomology, geology, mathematics, and physics.

    Our Faculty

    Our faculty are at the cutting edge over the full range of these disciplines. Our physicists fill in major gaps in our fundamental understanding of matter, participating in the recent Higgs boson discovery, and demonstrating the first-ever teleportation of information between atoms. Our astronomers probe the origin of the universe with one of the world’s premier radio observatories, and have just discovered water on the moon. Our computer scientists are developing the principles for guaranteed security and privacy in information systems.

    Our Research

    Driven by the pursuit of excellence, the University of Maryland has enjoyed a remarkable rise in accomplishment and reputation over the past two decades. By any measure, Maryland is now one of the nation’s preeminent public research universities and on a path to become one of the world’s best. To fulfill this promise, we must capitalize on our momentum, fully exploit our competitive advantages, and pursue ambitious goals with great discipline and entrepreneurial spirit. This promise is within reach. This strategic plan is our working agenda.

    The plan is comprehensive, bold, and action oriented. It sets forth a vision of the University as an institution unmatched in its capacity to attract talent, address the most important issues of our time, and produce the leaders of tomorrow. The plan will guide the investment of our human and material resources as we strengthen our undergraduate and graduate programs and expand research, outreach and partnerships, become a truly international center, and enhance our surrounding community.

    Our success will benefit Maryland in the near and long term, strengthen the State’s competitive capacity in a challenging and changing environment and enrich the economic, social and cultural life of the region. We will be a catalyst for progress, the State’s most valuable asset, and an indispensable contributor to the nation’s well-being. Achieving the goals of Transforming Maryland requires broad-based and sustained support from our extended community. We ask our stakeholders to join with us to make the University an institution of world-class quality with world-wide reach and unparalleled impact as it serves the people and the state of Maryland.

    Our researchers are also at the cusp of the new biology for the 21st century, with bioscience emerging as a key area in almost all CMNS disciplines. Entomologists are learning how climate change affects the behavior of insects, and earth science faculty are coupling physical and biosphere data to predict that change. Geochemists are discovering how our planet evolved to support life, and biologists and entomologists are discovering how evolutionary processes have operated in living organisms. Our biologists have learned how human generated sound affects aquatic organisms, and cell biologists and computer scientists use advanced genomics to study disease and host-pathogen interactions. Our mathematicians are modeling the spread of AIDS, while our astronomers are searching for habitable exoplanets.

    Our Education

    CMNS is also a national resource for educating and training the next generation of leaders. Many of our major programs are ranked among the top 10 of public research universities in the nation. CMNS offers every student a high-quality, innovative and cross-disciplinary educational experience that is also affordable. Strongly committed to making science and mathematics studies available to all, CMNS actively encourages and supports the recruitment and retention of women and minorities.

    Our Students

    Our students have the unique opportunity to work closely with first-class faculty in state-of-the-art labs both on and off campus, conducting real-world, high-impact research on some of the most exciting problems of modern science. 87% of our undergraduates conduct research and/or hold internships while earning their bachelor’s degree. CMNS degrees command respect around the world, and open doors to a wide variety of rewarding career options. Many students continue on to graduate school; others find challenging positions in high-tech industry or federal laboratories, and some join professions such as medicine, teaching, and law.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:57 am on April 14, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Stellar feedback and an airborne observatory; a team led by a WVU researcher determined a nebula to be much younger than previously believed", , , , , NASA/DLR SOFIA, West Virginia University (US)   

    From West Virginia University (US): “Stellar feedback and an airborne observatory; a team led by a WVU researcher determined a nebula to be much younger than previously believed” 

    1

    From West Virginia University (US)

    April 09, 2021
    Holly Legleiter

    In the southern sky, situated about 4,300 light years from Earth, lies RCW 120, an enormous glowing cloud of gas and dust. This cloud, known as an emission nebula, is formed of ionized gases and emits light at various wavelengths. An international team led by West Virginia University researchers studied RCW 120 to analyze the effects of stellar feedback, the process by which stars inject energy back into their environment. Their observations showed that stellar winds cause the region to expand rapidly, which enabled them to constrain the age of the region. These findings indicate that RCW 120 must be less than 150,000 years old, which is very young for such a nebula.

    About seven light years from the center of RCW 120 lies the boundary of the cloud, where a plethora of stars are forming. How are all of these stars being formed? To answer that question, we need to dig deep into the origin of the nebula. RCW 120 has one young, massive star in its center, which generates powerful stellar winds. The stellar winds from this star are much like those from our own Sun, in that they throw material out from their surface into space. This stellar wind shocks and compresses the surrounding gas clouds. The energy that is being input into the nebula triggers the formation of new stars in the clouds, a process known as “positive feedback” because the presence of the massive central star has a positive effect on future star formation. The team, featuring WVU postdoctoral researcher Matteo Luisi, used NASA/DLR SOFIA [Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy] (the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) to study the interactions of massive stars with their environment.

    SOFIA is an airborne observatory consisting of an 8.8-foot (2.7-meter) telescope carried by a modified Boeing 747SP aircraft. SOFIA observes in the infrared regime of the electromagnetic spectrum, which is just beyond what humans can see. For observers on the ground, water vapor in the atmosphere blocks much of the light from space that infrared astronomers are interested in measuring. However, its cruising altitude of seven miles (13 km), puts SOFIA above most of the water vapor, allowing researchers to study star-forming regions in a way that would not be possible from the ground. Overnight, the in-flight observatory observes celestial magnetic fields, star-forming regions (like RCW 120), comets and nebulae. Thanks to the new upGREAT receiver that was installed in 2015, the airborne telescope can make more precise maps of large areas of the sky than ever before.

    The observations of RCW 120 are part of the SOFIA FEEDBACK survey, an international effort led by researchers Nicola Schneider at the University of Cologne [Universität zu Köln](DE) and Alexander Tielens at the University of Maryland (US), which makes use of upGREAT to observe a multitude of star-forming regions.

    2
    Multi-color Spitzer image of RCW 120, showing hot dust (in red), warm gas (in green) and emission from stars (in blue). The contours show the spectroscopic [CII] line of ionized carbon observed with SOFIA, which indicates rapid expansion of the region toward us (blue contours) and away from us (red contours). The yellow star gives the location of the central, massive star in RCW 120. Credit: Matteo Luisi/West Virginia University.

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration(US)/Spitzer Infrared Space Telescope(US) no longer in service. Launched in 2003 and retired on 30 January 2020.

    The research team opted to observe the spectroscopic [CII] line with SOFIA, which is emitted from diffuse ionized carbon in the star-forming region. “The [CII] line is probably the best tracer of feedback on small scales, and—unlike infrared images—it gives us velocity information, meaning we can measure how the gas moves. The fact that we can now observe [CII] easily across large regions in the sky with upGREAT makes SOFIA a really powerful instrument to explore stellar feedback in more detail than was possible previously,” says Matteo.

    Using their [CII] observations from SOFIA, the research team found that RCW 120 is expanding at 33,000 mph (15 km/s), which is incredibly fast for a nebula. From this expansion speed, the team was able to put an age limit on the cloud and found that RCW 120 is much younger than previously believed. With the age estimate, they were able to infer the time it took for the star formation at the boundary of the nebula to kick in after the central star had been formed. These findings suggest that positive feedback processes occur on very short timescales and point to the idea that these mechanisms could be responsible for the high star formation rates that occurred during the early stages of the universe.

    Looking forward, the team hopes to expand this type of analysis to the study of more star forming regions. Matteo says, “The other regions we are looking at with the FEEDBACK survey are in different stages of evolution, have different morphologies, and some have many high-mass stars in them, as opposed to only one in RCW 120. We can then use this information to determine what processes primarily drive triggered star formation and how feedback processes differ between various types of star-forming regions.”

    Collaborators on this project include researchers from West Virginia University, the Green Bank Observatory (US), the University of Cologne [Universität zu Köln](DE), the MPG Institute for Radio Astronomy [MPG Institut für Radioastronomie](DE), Aix-Marseille University [Aix-Marseille Université] (FR), Pennsylvania State University (US), the University of Maryland and Leiden University [Universiteit Leiden] (NL).

    Science paper:
    Stellar feedback and triggered star formation in the prototypical bubble RCW 120
    Science Advances

    See the full article here.

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    2

     
  • richardmitnick 4:46 pm on January 14, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Magnetic 'Highway' Channels Materials out of Cigar Galaxy Messier 82", , , , , , NASA/DLR SOFIA, Starburst galaxy,   

    From Universities Space Research Association: “Magnetic ‘Highway’ Channels Materials out of Cigar Galaxy Messier 82” 

    usra-bloc

    From Universities Space Research Association

    January 14, 2021

    Suraiya Farukhi, Ph.D.
    Director, External Communications
    sfarukhi@usra.edu
    443-812-6945

    What’s fueling the massive ejection of gas and dust out of the Cigar galaxy, otherwise known at Messier 82?

    1
    Magnetic fields in Messier 82, or the Cigar galaxy, are shown as lines over a visible light and infrared composite image of the galaxy from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope.

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope.

    NASA/Spitzer Infrared telescope no longer in service. Launched in 2003 and retired on 30 January 2020. Credit: NASA.

    Stellar winds streaming from hot new stars form a galactic super wind that is blasting out plumes of hot gas (red) and a huge halo of smoky dust (yellow/orange) perpendicular to the narrow galaxy (white). Researchers used the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy magnetic field data and tools that have been used extensively to study the physics around the Sun to extrapolate the magnetic field’s strength 20,000 lights-years around the galaxy. They appear to extend indefinitely into intergalactic space, like the Sun’s solar wind, and may help explain how the gas and dust have traveled so far away from the galaxy. Credit: NASA, SOFIA, L. Proudfit; NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team; NASA, JPL-Caltech, C. Engelbracht

    NASA/DLR SOFIA modified Boeing 747 aircraft.

    We know that thousands of stars bursting into existence are driving a powerful super-wind that’s blowing matter into intergalactic space. New research shows that magnetic fields are also contributing to the expulsion of material from Messier 82, a well-known example of a starburst galaxy with a distinctive, elongated shape.

    The findings from NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, help explain how dust and gas can move from inside galaxies into intergalactic space, offering clues to how galaxies formed. This material is enriched with elements like carbon and oxygen that support life and are the building blocks for future galaxies and stars. The research was presented at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

    SOFIA, a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center, DLR, previously studied the direction of magnetic fields close to the core of Messier 82, as the Cigar galaxy is officially known. This time the team applied tools that have been used extensively to study the physics around the Sun, known as heliophysics, to understand the magnetic field’s strength surrounding the galaxy at a distance 10 times larger than before.

    “This is old physics for studying the Sun, but new for galaxies,” said Joan Schmelz, an associate director at the Universities Space Research Association based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, and co-author of the upcoming paper about this research. “It’s helping us understand how the space between stars and galaxies became so rich with matter for future cosmic generations.”

    Located 12 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Ursa Major, the Cigar galaxy is undergoing an exceptionally high rate of star formation called a starburst. The star formation is so intense that it creates a “super wind” that blows material out of the galaxy. As SOFIA previously found using the instrument called the High-Resolution Airborne Wideband Camera, the wind drags the magnetic field near the galaxy’s core so that it’s perpendicular to the plane of the galaxy across 2,000 light-years.

    NASA/DLR SOFIA High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-Plus HAWC+ Camera.

    Researchers wanted to learn if the magnetic field lines would extend indefinitely into intergalactic space like the magnetic environment in the solar wind, or turn over to form structures similar coronal loops that are found in active regions of the Sun. They calculate that the galaxy’s magnetic fields extend out like the solar wind, allowing the material blown by the super wind to escape into intergalactic space.

    These extended magnetic fields may help explain how gas and dust spotted by space telescopes have traveled so far away from the galaxy. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope detected dusty material 20,000 lightyears beyond the galaxy, but it was unclear why it had spread so far away from the stars in both directions instead of in a cone-shaped jet.

    “The magnetic fields may be acting like a highway, creating lanes for galactic material to spread far and wide into intergalactic space,” said Jordan Guerra Aguilera, a postdoctoral researcher at Villanova University in Pennsylvania and co-author on the upcoming paper.

    With rare exceptions, the magnetic field in the solar corona cannot be measured directly. So, about 50 years ago, scientists developed methods to accurately extrapolate magnetic fields from the Sun’s surface into interplanetary space, known in heliophysics as the potential field extrapolation. Using SOFIA’s existing observations of central magnetic fields, the research team modified this method to estimate the magnetic field 25,000 light-years around the Cigar galaxy.

    “We can’t easily measure the magnetic fields at scales this large, but we can extrapolate it with these tools from heliophysics,” said Enrique Lopez-Rodriguez, a Universities Space Research Association scientist for SOFIA based at Ames and lead author on the study. “This new, interdisciplinary method gives us the larger perspective that we need to understand starburst galaxies.”

    SOFIA 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 at the University of Stuttgart. The aircraft is maintained and operated by NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Building 703, in Palmdale, California. The High-Resolution Airborne Wideband Camera instrument was developed and delivered to NASA by a multi-institution team led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    USRA is an independent, nonprofit research corporation where the combined efforts of in-house talent and university-based expertise merge to advance space science and technology.

    SIGNIFICANCE & PURPOSE

    USRA was founded in 1969, near the beginning of the Space Age, driven by the vision of two individuals, James Webb (NASA Administrator 1961-1968) and Frederick Seitz (National Academy of Sciences President 1962-1969). They recognized that the technical challenges of space would require an established research base to develop novel concepts and innovative technologies. Together, they worked to create USRA to satisfy not only the ongoing need for innovation in space, but also the need to involve society more broadly so the benefits of space activities would be realized.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:31 am on December 28, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Shaping a Spiral Galaxy", , , , NASA/DLR SOFIA, NGC 1068 also known as Messier 77 a spiral galaxy   

    From NASA/DLR SOFIA: “Shaping a Spiral Galaxy” 

    NASA SOFIA Banner

    NASA SOFIA
    From NASA/DLR SOFIA

    Dec. 28, 2020
    Editor: Yvette Smith

    1
    Credit: NASA/SOFIA; NASA/JPL-Caltech/Roma Tre Univ.

    Magnetic fields in NGC 1068, or Messier 77, are shown as streamlines over a visible light and X-ray composite image of the galaxy from the Hubble Space Telescope, NuSTAR or the Nuclear Spectroscopic Array, and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope.

    NASA/DTU/ASI NuSTAR X-ray telescope.

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

    Apache Point Observatory, near Sunspot, New Mexico Altitude 2,788 meters (9,147 ft).

    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, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, 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.

    Learn more: How to Shape a Spiral Galaxy

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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

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

    NASA/SOFIA Forcast

    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.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:56 pm on November 29, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Galaxy Survives Black Hole’s Feast – For Now", , , , , NASA/DLR SOFIA, The galaxy CQ4479   

    From NASA/DLR SOFIA: “Galaxy Survives Black Hole’s Feast – For Now” 

    NASA SOFIA Banner

    NASA SOFIA
    From NASA/DLR SOFIA

    Nov. 27, 2020

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

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

    1
    Illustration of the galaxy called CQ4479. The extremely active black hole at the galaxy’s center is consuming material so fast that the material is glowing as it spins into the black hole’s center, forming a luminous quasar. Quasars create intense energy that was thought to halt all star birth and drive a lethal blow to a galaxy’s growth. But SOFIA found that the galaxy CQ4479 is surviving these monstrous forces, holding on to enough cold gas, shown around the edges in brown, to birth about 100 Sun-sized stars a year, shown in blue. The discovery is causing scientists to re-think their theories of galactic evolution.
    Credit: NASA/ Daniel Rutter.

    The hungriest of black holes are thought to gobble up so much surrounding material they put an end to the life of their host galaxy. This feasting process is so intense that it creates a highly energetic object called a quasar – one of the brightest objects in the universe – as the spinning matter is sucked into the black hole’s belly. Now, researchers have found a galaxy that is surviving the black hole’s ravenous forces by continuing to birth new stars – about 100 Sun-sized stars a year.

    The discovery from NASA’s telescope on an airplane, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, can help explain how massive galaxies came to be, even though the universe today is dominated by galaxies that no longer form stars. The results are published in The Astrophysical Journal.

    “This shows us that the growth of active black holes doesn’t stop star birth instantaneously, which goes against all the current scientific predictions,” said Allison Kirkpatrick, assistant professor at the University of Kansas in Lawrence Kansas and co-author on the study. “It’s causing us to re-think our theories on how galaxies evolve.”

    SOFIA, a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center, DLR, studied an extremely distant galaxy, located more than 5.25 billion light years away called CQ4479. At its core is a special type of quasar that was recently discovered by Kirkpatrick called a “cold quasar.” In this kind of quasar, the active black hole is still feasting on material from its host galaxy, but the quasar’s intense energy has not ravaged all of the cold gas, so stars can keep forming and the galaxy lives on. This is the first time researchers have a detailed look at a cold quasar, directly measuring the black hole’s growth, star birth rate, and how much cold gas remains to fuel the galaxy.

    “We were surprised to see another oddball galaxy that defies current theories,” said Kevin Cooke, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, and lead author of this study. “If this tandem growth continues both the black hole and the stars surrounding it would triple in mass before the galaxy reaches the end of its life.”

    As one of the brightest and most distant objects in the universe, quasars, or “quasi-stellar radio sources,” are notoriously difficult to observe because they often outshine everything around them. They form when an especially active black hole consumes huge amounts of material from its surrounding galaxy, creating strong gravitational forces. As more and more material spins faster and faster toward the center of the black hole, the material heats up and glows brightly. A quasar produces so much energy that it often outshines everything around it, blinding attempts to observe its host galaxy. Current theories predict that this energy heats up or expels the cold gas needed to create stars, stopping star birth and driving a lethal blow to a galaxy’s growth. But SOFIA reveals there is a relatively short period when the galaxy’s star birth can continue while the black hole’s feast goes on powering the quasar’s powerful forces.

    Rather than directly observing the newborn stars, SOFIA used its 9-foot telescope to detect the infrared light radiating from the dust heated by the process of star formation. Using data collected by SOFIA’s High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-Plus, or HAWC+ instrument, scientists were able to estimate the amount of star formation over the past 100 million years.

    “SOFIA lets us see into this brief window of time where the two processes can co-exist,” said Cooke. “It’s the only telescope capable of studying star birth in this galaxy without being overwhelmed by the intensely luminous quasar.”

    The short window of joint black hole and star growth represents an early phase in the death of a galaxy, wherein the galaxy has not yet succumbed to the devastating effects of the quasar. Continued research with SOFIA is needed to learn if many other galaxies go through a similar stage with joint black hole and star growth before ultimately reaching the end of life. Future observations with the James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled to launch in 2021, could uncover how quasars affect the overall shape of their host galaxies.

    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 SOFIA GREAT [German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies]

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

    NASA/SOFIA Forcast

     
  • richardmitnick 12:05 pm on October 27, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "NASA’s SOFIA Discovers Water on Sunlit Surface of Moon", , NASA/DLR SOFIA   

    From NASA/DLR SOFIA: “NASA’s SOFIA Discovers Water on Sunlit Surface of Moon” 

    NASA SOFIA Banner

    NASA SOFIA

    From NASA/DLR SOFIA

    Oct. 26, 2020

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

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

    1
    This illustration highlights the Moon’s Clavius Crater with an illustration depicting water trapped in the lunar soil there, along with an image of NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) that found sunlit lunar water.
    Credits: NASA/Daniel Rutter.

    NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has confirmed, for the first time, water on the sunlit surface of the Moon. This discovery indicates that water may be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to cold, shadowed places.

    SOFIA has detected water molecules (H2O) in Clavius Crater, one of the largest craters visible from Earth, located in the Moon’s southern hemisphere. Previous observations of the Moon’s surface detected some form of hydrogen, but were unable to distinguish between water and its close chemical relative, hydroxyl (OH). Data from this location reveal water in concentrations of 100 to 412 parts per million – roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of water – trapped in a cubic meter of soil spread across the lunar surface. The results are published in the latest issue of Nature Astronomy.

    “We had indications that H2O – the familiar water we know – might be present on the sunlit side of the Moon,” said Paul Hertz, director of the Astrophysics Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Now we know it is there. This discovery challenges our understanding of the lunar surface and raises intriguing questions about resources relevant for deep space exploration.”

    As a comparison, the Sahara desert has 100 times the amount of water than what SOFIA detected in the lunar soil. Despite the small amounts, the discovery raises new questions about how water is created and how it persists on the harsh, airless lunar surface.

    Water is a precious resource in deep space and a key ingredient of life as we know it. Whether the water SOFIA found is easily accessible for use as a resource remains to be determined. Under NASA’s Artemis program, the agency is eager to learn all it can about the presence of water on the Moon in advance of sending the first woman and next man to the lunar surface in 2024 and establishing a sustainable human presence there by the end of the decade.

    SOFIA’s results build on years of previous research examining the presence of water on the Moon. When the Apollo astronauts first returned from the Moon in 1969, it was thought to be completely dry. Orbital and impactor missions over the past 20 years, such as NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, confirmed ice in permanently shadowed craters around the Moon’s poles.

    NASA/ LCROSS

    Meanwhile, several spacecraft – including the Cassini mission and Deep Impact comet mission, as well as the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-1 mission – and NASA’s ground-based Infrared Telescope Facility, looked broadly across the lunar surface and found evidence of hydration in sunnier regions.

    NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens Spacecraft.

    NASA Deep Impact spacecraft.

    ISRO Chandrayaan 2.

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

    Yet those missions were unable to definitively distinguish the form in which it was present – either H2O or OH.

    “Prior to the SOFIA observations, we knew there was some kind of hydration,” said Casey Honniball, the lead author who published the results from her graduate thesis work at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa in Honolulu. “But we didn’t know how much, if any, was actually water molecules – like we drink every day – or something more like drain cleaner.”


    SOFIA Discovers Water on a Sunlit Surface of the Moon
    Scientists using NASA’s telescope on an airplane, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, discovered water on a sunlit surface of the Moon for the first time. SOFIA is a modified Boeing 747SP aircraft that allows astronomers to study the solar system and beyond in ways that are not possible with ground-based telescopes. Molecular water, H2O, was found in Clavius Crater, one of the largest craters visible from Earth in the Moon’s southern hemisphere. This discovery indicates that water may be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to cold, shadowed places.
    Credits: NASA/Ames Research Center.

    SOFIA offered a new means of looking at the Moon. Flying at altitudes of up to 45,000 feet, this modified Boeing 747SP jetliner with a 106-inch diameter telescope reaches above 99% of the water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere to get a clearer view of the infrared universe. Using its Faint Object infraRed CAmera for the SOFIA Telescope (FORCAST), SOFIA was able to pick up the specific wavelength unique to water molecules, at 6.1 microns, and discovered a relatively surprising concentration in sunny Clavius Crater.

    “Without a thick atmosphere, water on the sunlit lunar surface should just be lost to space,” said Honniball, who is now a postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Yet somehow we’re seeing it. Something is generating the water, and something must be trapping it there.”

    Several forces could be at play in the delivery or creation of this water. Micrometeorites raining down on the lunar surface, carrying small amounts of water, could deposit the water on the lunar surface upon impact. Another possibility is there could be a two-step process whereby the Sun’s solar wind delivers hydrogen to the lunar surface and causes a chemical reaction with oxygen-bearing minerals in the soil to create hydroxyl. Meanwhile, radiation from the bombardment of micrometeorites could be transforming that hydroxyl into water.

    How the water then gets stored – making it possible to accumulate – also raises some intriguing questions. The water could be trapped into tiny beadlike structures in the soil that form out of the high heat created by micrometeorite impacts. Another possibility is that the water could be hidden between grains of lunar soil and sheltered from the sunlight – potentially making it a bit more accessible than water trapped in beadlike structures.

    For a mission designed to look at distant, dim objects such as black holes, star clusters, and galaxies, SOFIA’s spotlight on Earth’s nearest and brightest neighbor was a departure from business as usual. The telescope operators typically use a guide camera to track stars, keeping the telescope locked steadily on its observing target. But the Moon is so close and bright that it fills the guide camera’s entire field of view. With no stars visible, it was unclear if the telescope could reliably track the Moon. To determine this, in August 2018, the operators decided to try a test observation.

    “It was, in fact, the first time SOFIA has looked at the Moon, and we weren’t even completely sure if we would get reliable data, but questions about the Moon’s water compelled us to try,” said Naseem Rangwala, SOFIA’s project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “It’s incredible that this discovery came out of what was essentially a test, and now that we know we can do this, we’re planning more flights to do more observations.”

    SOFIA’s follow-up flights will look for water in additional sunlit locations and during different lunar phases to learn more about how the water is produced, stored, and moved across the Moon. The data will add to the work of future Moon missions, such as NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER), to create the first water resource maps of the Moon for future human space exploration.

    In the same issue of Nature Astronomy, scientists have published a paper using theoretical models and NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter data, pointing out that water could be trapped in small shadows, where temperatures stay below freezing, across more of the Moon than currently expected. The results can be found here.

    “Water is a valuable resource, for both scientific purposes and for use by our explorers,” said Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. “If we can use the resources at the Moon, then we can carry less water and more equipment to help enable new scientific discoveries.”

    B-roll footage related to this finding is available at:

    https://go.nasa.gov/2TnDWSd

    Participate in a Reddit Ask Me Anything on our Moon exploration activities at 1 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Oct. 27:

    http://reddit.com/r/space

    Learn more about SOFIA at:

    https://www.nasa.gov/sofia

    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.

    DLR Bloc

     
  • richardmitnick 11:38 am on June 4, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Magnetism Rules in the Milky Way’s Core", , , , , , 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 .

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

    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 .


    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 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

    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 8:54 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.

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