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  • richardmitnick 9:52 am on January 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Infant stars generate stellar winds that can blow away the seed material required to form new stars- a process called “feedback.”, NASA/DLR SOFIA, , Stellar wind   

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

    From NASA/DLR SOFIA
    NASA SOFIA Banner

    NASA SOFIA

    Orion Nebula M. Robberto NASA ESA Space Telescope Science Institute Hubble

    The stellar wind from a newborn star in the Orion Nebula is preventing more new stars from forming nearby, according to new research using NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). These results were reported in the Jan. 7, 2019, issue of the journal Nature.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    NASA/SOFIA Forcast

    See the full article here .

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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 5:24 pm on November 6, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Cosmic Collisions: SOFIA Unravels the Mysterious Formation of Star Clusters, , NASA/DLR SOFIA   

    From NASA/DLR SOFIA: “Cosmic Collisions: SOFIA Unravels the Mysterious Formation of Star Clusters” 

    From NASA/DLR SOFIA
    NASA SOFIA Banner

    NASA SOFIA

    Nov. 6, 2018

    Nicholas A. Veronico
    Nicholas.A.Veronico@nasa.gov
    SOFIA Science Center
    NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California

    1
    llustration of a star cluster forming from the collision of turbulent molecular clouds, which appear as dark shadows in front of the background galactic star field.
    Credits: NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook

    The sun, like all stars, was born in a giant cold cloud of molecular gas and dust. It may have had dozens or even hundreds of stellar siblings – a star cluster – but these early companions are now scattered throughout our Milky Way galaxy. Although the remnants of this particular creation event have long since dispersed, the process of star birth continues today within our galaxy and beyond. Star clusters are conceived in the hearts of optically dark clouds where the early phases of formation have historically been hidden from view. But these cold, dusty clouds shine brightly in the infrared, so telescopes like the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, can begin to reveal these long-held secrets.

    Traditional models claim that the force of gravity may be solely responsible for the formation of stars and star clusters. More recent observations suggest that magnetic fields, turbulence, or both are also involved and may even dominate the creation process. But just what triggers the events that lead to the formation of star clusters?

    Astronomers using SOFIA’s instrument, the German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies, known as GREAT, have found new evidence that star clusters form through collisions between giant molecular clouds.

    The results were published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society [MNRAS].

    “Stars are powered by nuclear reactions that create new chemical elements,” said Thomas Bisbas, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, and the lead author on the paper describing these new results. “The very existence of life on earth is the product of a star that exploded billions of years ago, but we still don’t know how these stars — including our own sun — form.”

    Researchers studied the distribution and motion of ionized carbon around a molecular cloud where stars can form. There appear to be two distinct components of molecular gas colliding with each other at speeds of more than 20,000 miles per hour. The distribution and velocity of the molecular and ionized gases are consistent with simulations of cloud collisions, which indicate that star clusters form as the gas is compressed in the shock wave created as the clouds collide.

    “These star formation models are difficult to assess observationally,” said Jonathan Tan, a professor at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, and the University of Virginia, and a lead researcher on the paper. “We’re at a fascinating point in the project, where the data we are getting with SOFIA can really test the simulations.”

    2
    Illustration of the molecular clouds surrounded by atomic envelopes, in green, which have been detected by SOFIA via emission from ionized carbon. The spatial offset and motions of these envelopes confirm predictions of simulations of cloud collisions. Credits: NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook

    While there is not yet scientific consensus on the mechanism responsible for driving the creation of star clusters, these SOFIA observations have helped scientists take an important step toward unraveling the mystery. This field of research remains an active one, and these data provide crucial evidence in favor of the collision model. The authors expect future observations will test this scenario to determine if the process of cloud collisions is unique to this region, more widespread, or even a universal mechanism for the formation of star clusters.

    “Our next step is to use SOFIA to observe a larger number of molecular clouds that are forming star clusters,” added Tan. “Only then can we understand how common cloud collisions are for triggering star birth in our galaxy.”

    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

     
  • richardmitnick 9:04 am on October 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Collimated jets, , Cygnus A, , Magnetic Fields May Be the Key to Black Hole Activity, NASA/DLR SOFIA,   

    From NASA/DLR SOFIA: “Magnetic Fields May Be the Key to Black Hole Activity” 

    From NASA/DLR SOFIA

    NASA SOFIA Banner

    NASA SOFIA

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

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

    NASA/SOFIA Forcast

    1
    Artist’s conception of the core of Cygnus A, including the dusty donut-shaped surroundings, called a torus, and jets launching from its center. Magnetic fields are illustrated trapping the dust in the torus. These magnetic fields could be helping power the black hole hidden in the galaxy’s core by confining the dust in the torus and keeping it close enough to be gobbled up by the hungry black hole.
    Credits: NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook

    Collimated jets provide astronomers with some of the most powerful evidence that a supermassive black hole lurks in the heart of most galaxies. Some of these black holes appear to be active, gobbling up material from their surroundings and launching jets at ultra-high speeds, while others are quiescent, even dormant. Why are some black holes feasting and others starving? Recent observations from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, are shedding light on this question.

    SOFIA data indicate that magnetic fields are trapping and confining dust near the center of the active galaxy, Cygnus A, and feeding material onto the supermassive black hole at its center.

    The unified model, which attempts to explain the different properties ­of active galaxies, states that the core is surrounded by a donut-shaped dust cloud, called a torus. How this obscuring structure is created and sustained has never been clear, but these new results from SOFIA indicate that magnetic fields may be responsible for keeping the dust close enough to be devoured by the hungry black hole. In fact, one of the fundamental differences between active galaxies like Cygnus A and their less active cousins, like our own Milky Way, may be the presence or absence of a strong magnetic field around the black hole.

    Although celestial magnetic fields are notoriously difficult to observe, astronomers have used polarized light — optical light from scattering and radio light from accelerating electrons — to study magnetic fields in galaxies. But optical wavelengths are too short and the radio wavelengths are too long to observe the torus directly. The infrared wavelengths observed by SOFIA are just right, allowing scientists, for the first time, to target and isolate the dusty torus.

    SOFIA’s new instrument, the High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-plus (HAWC+), is especially sensitive to the infrared emission from aligned dust grains. This has proven to be a powerful technique to study magnetic fields and test a fundamental prediction of the unified model: the role of the dusty torus in the active-galaxy phenomena.

    “It’s always exciting to discover something completely new,” noted Enrique Lopez-Rodriguez, a scientist at the SOFIA Science Center, and the lead author on the report of this new discovery. “These observations from HAWC+ are unique. They show us how infrared polarization can contribute to the study of galaxies.”

    2
    Two images of Cygnus A layered over each other to show the galaxy’s jets glowing with radio radiation (shown in red). Quiescent galaxies, like our own Milky Way, do not have jets like this, which may be related to magnetic fields. The yellow image shows background stars and the center of the galaxy shrouded in dust when observed with visible light. The area SOFIA observed is inside the small red dot in the center.
    Credits: Optical Image: NASA/STSiC Radio Image: NSF/NRAO/AUI/VLA

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NRAO/Karl V Jansky Expanded Very Large Array, on the Plains of San Agustin fifty miles west of Socorro, NM, USA, at an elevation of 6970 ft (2124 m)

    Recent observations of the heart of Cygnus A made with HAWC+ show infrared radiation dominated by a well-aligned dusty structure. Combining these results with archival data from the Herschel Space Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope and the Gran Telescopio Canarias, the research team found that this powerful active galaxy, with its iconic large-scale jets, is able to confine the obscuring torus that feeds the supermassive black hole using a strong magnetic field.

    ESA/Herschel spacecraft active from 2009 to 2013

    Gran Telescopio Canarias at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on the island of La Palma, in the Canaries, Spain, sited on a volcanic peak 2,267 metres (7,438 ft) above sea level

    The results of this study were published in the July 10th issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

    Cygnus A is in the perfect location to learn about the role magnetic fields play in confining the dusty torus and channeling material onto the supermassive black hole because it is the closest and most powerful active galaxy. More observations of different types of galaxies are necessary to get the full picture of how magnetic fields affect the evolution of the environment surrounding supermassive black holes. If, for example, HAWC+ reveals highly polarized infrared emission from the centers of active galaxies but not from quiescent galaxies, it would support the idea that magnetic fields regulate black hole feeding and reinforce astronomers’ confidence in the unified model of active 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 100-inch diameter telescope. SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The aircraft is based at and the program is managed from NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center’s facility in Palmdale, California. NASA’s Ames Research Center, manages the SOFIA science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart.

    NASA image

    DLR Bloc

     
  • richardmitnick 9:32 am on May 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Guantum cascade laser, NASA/DLR SOFIA   

    From ETH Zürich: “From a quantum laboratory to the stratosphere” 

    ETH Zurich bloc

    From ETH Zürich

    23.05.2018
    Felix Würsten

    ETH physicists have developed a quantum cascade laser that can be used to visualise weak infrared signals from space. It is now being put to use on a flight of the world’s largest airborne observatory.

    1
    SOFIA enables special astronomic measurements in the infrared range. The open cavity where the 2.5-meter telescope is housed can be seen in the rear of the plane. (Photograph: NASA/USRA)

    Lorenzo Bosco, doctoral student with Jérôme Faist, a professor at the Institute for Quantum Electronics, is taking an unusual flight: he travels to the stratosphere in a special NASA aircraft, a converted Boeing 747SP, to contribute to astrophysical measurements. The crew of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), as the aircraft is officially named, measured infrared signals from cooling gases. The astrophysicists hope to thereby gain new insights into how stars form in our galaxy.

    Additional device makes signals visible

    Although Faist’s research is focused on futuristic quantum-optical systems rather than stars, his involvement in the astrophysics mission is for a good reason: together with his team, he has developed a special laser that makes these measurements possible in the first place. The infrared signals that will be measured on this flight are so weak that they can only be measured using a trick.

    The frequency of the incident light is changed using a local oscillator, so that it can be better distinguished from the background noise. This principle is also used in fields such as telecommunications, to improve the reception of radio broadcasts. Since the astrophysicists wanted to measure signals in the far infrared range on this flight, they needed to use a laser that provides a corresponding additional signal in the terahertz region as a local oscillator.

    Practical application for an innovative device

    This is just what the quantum cascade lasers that Faist and his group have been developing for several years are able to do. Although the principle of these lasers was first implemented in the 1990s, those operating in the terahertz range have so far hardly been applied. One reason for this is that they have to be cooled down to very low temperatures during operation.

    For the current SOFIA mission, Faist and his team developed a quantum cascade laser specifically tailored to the astrophysicists’ requirements. “The challenge was to develop a device that provides a precise and powerful signal with a clearly definable frequency,” explains Faist. He is very satisfied that this laser concept now has a practical application after so many years of development.

    The ETH professor hopes that the mission will also provide indications of how they can continue to improve the laser so that the astrophysicists can conduct further infrared measurements with higher resolutions on their flights.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
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    Stem Education Coalition

    ETH Zurich campus
    ETH Zürich is one of the leading international universities for technology and the natural sciences. It is well known for its excellent education, ground-breaking fundamental research and for implementing its results directly into practice.

    Founded in 1855, ETH Zürich today has more than 18,500 students from over 110 countries, including 4,000 doctoral students. To researchers, it offers an inspiring working environment, to students, a comprehensive education.

    Twenty-one Nobel Laureates have studied, taught or conducted research at ETH Zürich, underlining the excellent reputation of the university.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:58 am on January 11, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA/DLR SOFIA, New SOFIA Observations Help Unravel Mysteries of the Birth of Colossal Suns, SOFIA Massive (SOMA) Star Formation Survey   

    From SOFIA: “New SOFIA Observations Help Unravel Mysteries of the Birth of Colossal Suns” 

    NASA SOFIA Banner

    NASA SOFIA

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

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

    NASA/SOFIA Forcast

    SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy)

    Jan. 10, 2018
    Nicholas A. Veronico
    NVeronico@sofia.usra.edu
    SOFIA Science Center
    NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California

    Astronomers are observing star-forming regions in our galaxy with NASA’s flying telescope, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, to understand the processes and environments required to create the largest known stars, which tip the scales at ten times the mass of our own Sun or more.

    The research team, led by James M. De Buizer, SOFIA senior scientist and Jonathan Tan at Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden and the University of Virginia, has published observations of eight extremely massive and young stars located within our Milky Way Galaxy. SOFIA’s powerful camera, the Faint Object infraRed Camera for the SOFIA Telescope, known as FORCAST, allowed the team to probe warm, dusty regions that are heated by light from luminous, massive stars that are still forming. SOFIA’s airborne location, flying above more than 99 percent of Earth’s infrared-blocking water vapor coupled with its powerful instruments, make it the only observatory that can study the stars at the wavelengths, sensitivity, and resolution necessary to see inside the dense dust clouds from which these stars are born.

    The research is part of the ongoing SOFIA Massive (SOMA) Star Formation Survey by Tan and his collaborators. As part of this survey, they are studying a large sample of newborn stars, known as “protostars,” that have different masses, are at varying evolutionary stages, and within different environments. The team hopes to gain insight into the overall process of how massive stars form and to help test and refine new theoretical models of star formation.

    Massive stars end their lives in violent supernova explosions, expelling the elements at their centers into the interstellar medium. Over millions or billions of years, these elements are recycled into newly forming stars and their solar systems.

    2
    The massive forming star Cepheus A shown at three infrared wavelengths of 8, 19 and 37 microns. The location of the star is marked by the green dot in each panel. Light from the outflow cavity facing toward the telescope is indicated with the blue arrows, while light from the cavity facing away from the telescope is indicated with the red arrows. As part of the formation process, a disk around the star launches magnetized winds that clear a path through the dense, dusty cloud, making it easier to see the hot, glowing dust near star. The 8 micron image only reveals light from the outflow cavity facing the telescope, but in the 37 micron image, the hot dust from both cavities becomes apparent. Credits: NASA/SOFIA/J. De Buizer/J. Tan

    “If it weren’t for massive stars, we wouldn’t have the essential elements needed to create our solar system, our planet, or even the basic building blocks needed for life,” says De Buizer. “It’s not clear whether massive stars form in a similar environment, or even in the same ways, as our Sun formed. That’s the reason we study massive stars, and their birth processes.”

    There is no scientific consensus about the mechanism responsible for driving the creation of massive stars. This SOMA Survey reveals that massive star formation is accompanied by the launching of powerful, magnetized winds that flow out from above and below a swirling disk of gas that is feeding the growing star. These winds blow cavities through the dense, dusty cloud, which allowed researchers to see more clearly into the stellar nursery. By measuring how much light escapes from these cavities at different wavelengths, researchers can learn about the structure of protostars and can test different theoretical models of their formation.

    “Understanding the birth process of massive stars is one of the most important unsolved problems of modern astrophysics, since these stars are so influential throughout our galaxy and beyond.” says Tan. “The unique ability of the SOFIA telescope to see at infrared wavelengths – wavelengths that are 100 times longer than those of visible light — is crucial for progress on this research, since this is the part of the spectrum where the stars emit most of their energy.”

    The first SOMA study was published in The Astrophysical Journal in 2017. Observations in the SOMA study will continue on board SOFIA in summer 2018, with plans to observe about fifty regions of massive star formation throughout our galaxy.

    “Our recent and upcoming observations will yield a large enough sample to discover the general principles of how massive stars are born,” said Tan.

    The research team involves a large international collaboration that includes Chalmers University and University of Virginia students, postdocs and faculty, along with collaborators from California, Wisconsin, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Japan and Italy. The SOMA Survey involves publication and release of the data for use by the whole astronomical community, with this being just the first data release.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    SOFIA is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 100-inch diameter telescope. SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The aircraft is based at and the program is managed from NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center’s facility in Palmdale, California. NASA’s Ames Research Center, manages the SOFIA science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart.

    NASA image

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  • richardmitnick 9:17 am on October 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , NASA/DLR SOFIA,   

    From NASA SOFIA: “Catching the Shadow of a Neptunian Moon” 

    NASA SOFIA Banner

    NASA SOFIA

    SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy)

    Researchers on the flying observatory SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, are preparing for a two-minute opportunity to study the atmosphere of Neptune’s moon Triton as it casts a faint shadow on Earth’s surface.

    2
    Triton. NASA

    This is the first chance to investigate Triton’s atmosphere in 16 years.

    On Oct. 5, as Triton passes in front of a faraway star it will block the star’s light in an eclipse-like event called an occultation. During the celestial alignment, the team aboard the specially equipped Boeing 747SP aircraft will make observations of the distant star’s light as it passes through Triton’s atmosphere.

    Triton has not passed in front of bright stars for many years, making occultation observations difficult. Now, as Triton passes in front of a bright star, the data collected by SOFIA’s 100-inch (2.5-meter) on board telescope and three powerful instruments will enable researchers to better study and characterize the moon’s atmosphere, including its temperature, pressure and density.

    Previous observations, including those from NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft taken in 1989 and a previous occultation observation in 2001, indicate that Triton’s atmosphere is made mostly of nitrogen and is distorted at different locations by its high winds and strong tides.

    NASA/Voyager 2

    These new occultation data may also provide details about how the atmosphere varies at different altitudes, enabling researchers to examine if the atmosphere has changed since it was last studied.

    Catching a Shadow

    Catching Triton’s shadow as it races across Earth’s surface at more than 37,000 mph (17 km/s) while the aircraft is traveling at Mach 0.85 (approximately 652 mph), is no small feat. To ensure that they are in the right place at the right time, researchers have made advanced observations of Triton and the star with multiple telescopes to determine the location of their shadow. From these precise calculations, SOFIA’s flight planners have designed a flight plan that will put the flying observatory in the center of the shadow for approximately two minutes as Triton aligns in front of the star.

    “SOFIA is the only observatory able to position itself directly in the shadow’s centerline while avoiding any obscuring clouds,” said Ted Dunham, astronomer from the Lowell Observatory in Arizona and instrument scientist for the High Speed Photometer for Occultations (HIPO). “With the dedicated SOFIA team and three onboard instruments, we can make the precise measurements necessary to study Triton’s atmosphere in great detail.”

    Though challenging, SOFIA’s team has previously used this method to make successful observations of Pluto’s atmosphere with SOFIA in 2011 and 2015. Additionally, researchers on SOFIA’s predecessor, the Kuiper Airborne Observatory, discovered Uranus’ rings while studying an occultation by that planet in 1977.

    Ground and Air Observations Take Shape

    Triton has strong tides because it is close to Neptune, much closer than our moon is to Earth. These powerful tides combined with its strong winds, change the shape of its atmosphere. To measure the overall shape of Triton’s atmosphere, the researchers are also teaming with more than 30 ground-based telescopes across the Eastern United States and Europe. Most of these telescopes are not located where the center of the shadow will fall, but they will make simultaneous observations of different areas of Triton’s atmosphere to get a global view of its shape. The data from across Earth, combined with that collected onboard SOFIA, will help researchers understand how these forces influence the atmosphere.

    The ground-based campaign augments both the visible and infrared data from SOFIA, to give us a global perspective of Triton’s atmosphere,” Kimberly Ennico Smith, SOFIA project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

    The center of Triton’s shadow, which is predicted to fall over the Eastern United States, the Atlantic Ocean, and Europe, is far from SOFIA’s home base at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, California. For this flight, the flying observatory will operate from a temporary base in Daytona Beach, Florida, to complete these observations. From Florida, SOFIA can reach the shadow’s center and return during a single, nine-hour observing flight.

    Follow along on social media with @SOFIAtelescope and #NeptunesMoon as SOFIA chases Triton’s shadow, and join the mission crew live with NASA on Snapchat on Oct. 5.

    For more information about SOFIA visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/sofiahttp://www.dlr.de/en/sofia

    For more information about SOFIA’s science misson and scientific instruments visit: http://www.sofia.usra.eduhttp://www.dsi.uni-stuttgart.de/index.en.html

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    SOFIA is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 100-inch diameter telescope. SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The aircraft is based at and the program is managed from NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center’s facility in Palmdale, California. NASA’s Ames Research Center, manages the SOFIA science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart.

    NASA image

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  • richardmitnick 8:39 pm on June 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA/DLR SOFIA, SOFIA Finds Cool Dust Around Energetic Active Black Holes   

    NASA SOFIA Banner

    NASA SOFIA

    SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy)

    June 13, 2017
    Nicholas A. Veronico
    NVeronico@sofia.usra.edu
    SOFIA Science Center
    NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California

    1
    Artist illustration of the thick ring of dust that can obscure the energetic processes that occur near the supermassive black hole of an active galactic nuclei. The SOFIA studies suggest that the dust distribution is about 30 percent smaller than previously thought.
    Credits: NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook

    Researchers at the University of Texas San Antonio using observations from NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, found that the dust surrounding active, ravenous black holes is much more compact than previously thought.

    Most, if not all, large galaxies contain a supermassive black hole at their centers. Many of these black holes are relatively quiet and inactive, like the one at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. However, some supermassive black holes are currently consuming significant amounts of material that are being drawn into them, resulting in the emission of huge amounts of energy. These active black holes are called active galactic nuclei.

    Previous studies have suggested that all active galactic nuclei have essentially the same structure. Models indicate that active galactic nuclei have a donut-shaped dust structure, known as a torus, surrounding the supermassive black hole. Using the instrument called the Faint Object infraRed CAmera for the SOFIA Telescope, FORCAST, the team observed the infrared emissions around 11 supermassive black holes in active galactic nuclei located at distances of 100 million light years and more, and determined the size, opacity, and distribution of dust in each torus.

    In a paper published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the team reports that the tori are 30 percent smaller than predicted and that the peak infrared emission is at even longer infrared wavelengths than previously estimated. The implication is that the dust obscuring the central black hole is more compact that previously thought.

    They also indicate that active galactic nuclei radiate most of their energy at wavelengths that are not observable from the ground because the energy is absorbed by water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere. SOFIA flies above 99 percent of the Earth’s water vapor, enabling the research group to characterize the properties of the torus-shaped dust structures at far-infrared wavelengths.

    “Using SOFIA, we were able to obtain the most spatially detailed observations possible at these wavelengths, allowing us to make new discoveries on the characterization of active galactic nuclei dust tori,” said Lindsay Fuller, graduate student at the University of Texas San Antonio and lead author of the published paper.

    Future observations are necessary to determine whether or not all of the observed emission originates with the tori, or if there is some other component adding to the total emission of the active galactic nuclei. Enrique Lopez-Rodriguez, principal investigator of this project and Universities Space Research Association staff scientist at the SOFIA Science Center said, “Next, our goal will be to use SOFIA to observe a larger sample of active galactic nuclei, and at longer wavelengths. That will allow us to put tighter constraints on the physical structure of the dusty environment surrounding the active galactic nuclei.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    SOFIA is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 100-inch diameter telescope. SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The aircraft is based at and the program is managed from NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center’s facility in Palmdale, California. NASA’s Ames Research Center, manages the SOFIA science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart.

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  • richardmitnick 12:27 pm on May 24, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Galaxy IC 342, NASA/DLR SOFIA   

    From SOFIA: “Understanding Star Formation in the Nucleus of Galaxy IC 342” 

    NASA SOFIA Banner

    NASA SOFIA

    SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy)

    May 23, 2017
    Nicholas A. Veronico
    NVeronico@sofia.usra.edu
    SOFIA Science Center
    NASA Ames Research Center
    Moffett Field, California

    1
    A BIMA-SONG radio map of the IC 342 central molecular zone; dots indicate locations of SOFIA/GREAT observations.
    Credits: Röllig et al.

    An international team of researchers used NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, to make maps of the ring of molecular clouds that encircles the nucleus of galaxy IC 342. The maps determined the proportion of hot gas surrounding young stars as well as cooler gas available for future star formation. The SOFIA maps indicate that most of the gas in the central zone of IC 342, like the gas in a similar region of our Milky Way Galaxy, is heated by already-formed stars, and relatively little is in dormant clouds of raw material.

    At a distance of about 13 million light years, galaxy IC 342 is considered relatively nearby. It is about the same size and type as our Milky Way Galaxy, and oriented face-on so we can see its entire disk in an undistorted perspective. Like our galaxy, IC 342 has a ring of dense molecular gas clouds surrounding its nucleus in which star formation is occurring. However, IC 342 is located behind dense interstellar dust clouds in the plane of the Milky Way, making it difficult to study by optical telescopes.

    The team of researchers from Germany and the Netherlands, led by Markus Röllig of the University of Cologne, Germany, used the German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz frequencies, GREAT, onboard SOFIA to scan the center of IC 342 at far-infrared wavelengths to penetrate the intervening dust clouds. Röllig’s group mapped the strengths of two far-infrared spectral lines – one line, at a wavelength of 158 microns, is emitted by ionized carbon, and the other, at 205 microns, is emitted by ionized nitrogen.

    The 158-micron line is produced both by cold interstellar gas that is the raw material for new stars, and also by hot gas illuminated by stars that have already finished forming. The 205-micron spectral line is only emitted by the hot gas around already-formed young stars. Comparison of the strengths of the two spectral lines allows researchers to determine of the amount of warm gas versus cool gas in the clouds.

    Röllig’s team found that most of the ionized gas in IC 342’s central molecular zone (CMZ) is in clouds heated by fully formed stars rather than in cooler gas found farther out in the zone, like the situation in the Milky Way’s CMZ. The team’s research was published in Astronomy and Astrophysics, volume 591.

    “SOFIA and its powerful GREAT instrument allowed us to map star formation in the center of IC 342 in unprecedented detail,” said Markus Röllig of the University of Cologne, Germany, “These measurements are not possible from ground-based telescopes or existing space telescopes.”

    Researchers previously used SOFIA’s GREAT spectrometer for a corresponding study of the Milky Way’s CMZ. That research, published in 2015 by principal investigator W.D. Langer, et. al, appeared in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics 576, A1; an overview of that study can be found here.

    For more information about SOFIA, visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/sofiahttp://www.dlr.de/en/sofia

    For information about SOFIA’s science mission and scientific instruments, visit:

    http://www.sofia.usra.eduhttp://www.dsi.uni-stuttgart.de/index.en.html

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The aircraft is based at and the program is managed from NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center’s facility in Palmdale, California. NASA’s Ames Research Center, manages the SOFIA science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart.

    NASA image

    DLR Bloc

     
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