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  • richardmitnick 5:58 pm on October 25, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA/ESA Hubble   

    From NASA Spaceflight: “Two NASA space telescopes returning to work following sick days” 

    NASA Spaceflight

    From NASA Spaceflight

    October 23, 2018
    Chris Bergin

    NASA/ESA Hubble

    Two flagship space telescopes are returning to their respective operations after they both entered safe mode around the same time earlier this month. The Hubble Space Telescope is close to moving back into normal science observations following a gyro issue, while the Chandra Space Telescope has now resumed its detections of X-ray emissions from very hot regions of the universe.
    Hubble was the first to report a problem back on October 5, relating to a backup gyroscope that was incorrectly returning extremely high rotation rates. Hubble’s gyros measure the speed at which the spacecraft is turning, and is needed to help Hubble turn and lock on to new targets.

    The Hubble Space Telescope is one of the most famous spacecraft ever launched by NASA and is closing it on its 30th anniversary since launch.

    Shuttle Discovery – STS-31 in 1990 – was Hubble’s ride into space, with her crew including former NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, reaching a 380 statute mile orbit – higher than most orbiters would normally head to in space.

    Giving birth to Hubble on orbit didn’t go as smoothly as was hoped, as one of the observatory’s solar arrays stopped as it was unfurling. The plan for such a scenario was to conduct a contingency spacewalk. However, the ground teams eventually persuaded the array to deploy.

    Hubble deployment during Discovery’s mission via L2 Historical.

    While Discovery completed her mission – and landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California on April 29 in 1990 – scientists were eagerly waiting to get their hands on the first images from the latest NASA hardware in space.

    Those first images showed Hubble had a problem.

    Ultimately, Discovery’s mission was a success, but the images revealed Hubble’s main mirror had been ground incorrectly, effectively compromising Hubble’s eyesight. A major effort was undertaken to fix the problem, via another Shuttle mission.

    It was Discovery’s younger sister that came to the rescue of Hubble in 1993, as Endeavour launched on only her fifth mission to carry out a critical service mission, with the main goal of correcting the telescope’s impaired vision.

    STS-61’s five grueling EVAs in a row successfully installed a corrective optics package – along with new solar arrays – during the highly complex 11-day mission.

    Endeavour to the rescue during repair mission to Hubble – via L2 Historical.

    Hubble was back to full health and started to provide the stunning images of the cosmos that have fascinated the entire human race ever since.

    Discovery would return to Hubble in 1997, as STS-82’s mission upgraded the telescope’s scientific instruments and increased its research capabilities. Discovery would visit her favorite telescope once again on the third servicing mission in 1999, replacing all six of Hubble’s gyroscopes – three of which had failed – along with replacing a Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS) and the telescope’s computer.

    In what was Columbia’s penultimate mission prior to her tragic loss, STS-109 carried out the fourth servicing mission in 2002, with each visit extending the life of the telescope.

    The five-EVA mission installed the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), new rigid Solar Arrays (SA3), a new Power Control Unit (PCU) and a new Cryocooler for the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS). Columbia also provided Hubble with a farewell push, as the orbiter reboosted the telescope to a higher orbit.

    NASA Hubble Advanced Camera forSurveys

    NASA/Hubble NICMOS

    However, due to Columbia’s loss the following year, NASA managers were left with a dilemma, one that was likely to result in the telescope deorbited.

    Hubble was next scheduled to be serviced in 2005, yet NASA’s own Return To Flight (RTF) rules insisted on the “safe haven” requirement, allowing for an orbiter, damaged during launch, to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) for its crew to wait for another shuttle to bring them home safe.

    Based on these rules, then-NASA Chief Sean O’Keefe resisted the calls for Hubble to be serviced, whilst noting an alternative mission using robotic assets would not be developed in time to save the telescope. Hubble’s gyroscopes were expected to fail – and its batteries to run out – no later than 2010.

    Mr. O’Keefe’s successor, Mike Griffin, noted the NASA stance was based mainly on the understandable pain associated with losing Columbia and the need to not take any unnecessary chances with the orbiters and their crews during the final era of their service.

    As it stood, NASA was expected to press ahead with a plan to deorbit Hubble into the Pacific Ocean.

    Thankfully, the Return To Flight of the Shuttle fleet showed the array of safety improvements allowed for the final Hubble Servicing Mission (SM-4) to be re-evaluated. However, the challenge of launching a mission without the Safe Haven of the ISS being available needed to be solved.

    That solution came in the form of another Shuttle, ready to launch within days of a problem on an elaborate rescue mission.

    Administrator Griffin eventually approved SM-4 for Atlantis and STS-125, after the Space Shuttle Program (SSP) started to prove its new safety measures were working – such as the increasing the mitigation of External Tank foam loss and advances in Thermal Protection System (TPS) inspection, along with repair techniques – during the opening salvo of post-RTF missions.

    The best possible crew were assigned to Atlantis for the final rendezvous between the world-famous vehicles, led by commander Scott Altman, assisted by six crewmembers that included John Grunsfeld and Mike Massimino.

    Endeavour would also receive a co-star role by standing by as the STS-400 rescue mission, seeing her sat on Pad 39B ready to launch at short notice in the event Atlantis’ launch – from Pad 39A – suffered a major issue during the ride uphill on what proved to be a delayed launch date, as Hubble itself worked through problems on orbit.

    That contingency wasn’t required, as Atlantis and her crew conducted a flawless launch and rendezvous with Hubble in May 2009 – no easy task even under nominal conditions, as the orbiters use up nearly half of their prop capability just to reach the “height” of the telescope’s orbit and can endure higher MMOD risks.

    The 14-day mission involved five back-to-back EVAs, including its own challenges – highlighted by Massimino literally using brute force to pull off the STIS handrail from the telescope during EVA-4.

    However, the mission achieved all of its primary goals, including the installation of two new instruments, namely the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) and the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC 3), leaving Hubble in a great condition to continue its role for many years to come.

    NASA Hubble Cosmic Origins Spectrograph

    NASA/ESA Hubble WFC3

    NASA explained that a wheel inside the gyro spins at a constant rate of 19,200 revolutions per minute. This wheel is mounted in a sealed cylinder, called a float, which is suspended in a thick fluid. Electricity is carried to the motor by thin wires, approximately the size of a human hair, that are immersed in the fluid. Electronics within the gyro detect very small movements of the axis of the wheel and communicate this information to Hubble’s central computer.

    These gyros have two modes – high and low. High mode is a coarse mode used to measure large rotation rates when the spacecraft turns across the sky from one target to the next. Low mode is a precision mode used to measure finer rotations when the spacecraft locks onto a target and needs to stay very still.

    In an attempt to correct the erroneously high rates produced by the backup gyro, the Hubble operations team executed a running restart of the gyro on October 16. This procedure turned the gyro off for one second and then restarted it before the wheel spun down. The intention was to clear any faults that may have occurred during startup after the gyro had been off for more than 7.5 years. However, the resulting data showed no improvement in the gyro’s performance.

    “On October 18, the Hubble operations team commanded a series of spacecraft maneuvers, or turns, in opposite directions to attempt to clear any blockage that may have caused the float to be off-center and produce the exceedingly high rates. During each maneuver, the gyro was switched from high mode to low mode to dislodge any blockage that may have accumulated around the float,” NASA added.

    Hubble’s gyros overview – via ESA

    Following the October 18 maneuvers, the team noticed a significant reduction in the high rates, allowing rates to be measured in low mode for brief periods of time. The following day, the operations team commanded Hubble to perform additional maneuvers and gyro mode switches, which appear to have cleared the issue. Data showed the gyro rates now look normal in both high and low mode.

    Hubble then executed additional maneuvers to make sure that the gyro remained stable within operational limits as the spacecraft moved. The team saw no problems and continued to observe the gyro through the weekend to ensure that it remained stable.

    “The Hubble operations team plans to execute a series of tests to evaluate the performance of the gyro under conditions similar to those encountered during routine science observations, including moving to targets, locking on to a target, and performing precision pointing. After these engineering tests have been completed, Hubble is expected to soon return to normal science operations,” NASA said.

    Meanwhile, the Chandra X-ray Observatory has returned to science operations.

    Chandra’s launch was the most eventful element of the spacecraft’s early days, with Shuttle Columbia having several tantrums before finally lofting the spacecraft into space.

    STS-93 suffered an abort just seconds prior to the initial launch attempt, before finally launching on 23 July 1999 from KSC’s 39B. Eileen Collins became the first female shuttle Commander on this flight.

    Problems were noted immediately after liftoff, when a gold pin – used to plug an oxidizer post in Columbia’s right engine – came loose and was violently ejected during ignition, striking the engine nozzle’s inner surface and tearing open three cooling tubes containing hydrogen – causing a leak. An electrical short in the center engine’s primary controller also kept controllers busy, before Columbia made it to orbit, albeit ending with a LOX Level Cutoff.

    The Chandra X-ray Observatory (CXO), previously known as the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF), is a Flagship-class space observatory.

    Chandra is 19 years old, which is well beyond the original design lifetime of 5 years. In 2001, NASA extended its lifetime to 10 years. It is now well into its extended mission and is expected to continue carrying out forefront science for many years to come.

    As with Hubble, a gyro was believed to be the issue relating to entering safe mode on October 10.

    Safe mode involves putting the observatory into a safe configuration, where critical hardware is swapped to backup units, the spacecraft points so that the solar panels get maximum sunlight, and the mirrors point away from the Sun.

    “Analysis of available data indicates the transition to safe mode was normal behavior for such an event. All systems functioned as expected and the scientific instruments are safe. The cause of the safe mode transition (possibly involving a gyroscope) is under investigation,” NASA noted at the time.

    An overview of Chandra – via NASA

    Five days later, the cause of Chandra’s safe mode event was understood and the Operations team successfully returned the spacecraft to its normal pointing mode. The safe mode was caused by a glitch in one of Chandra’s gyroscopes resulting in a 3-second period of bad data that in turn led the onboard computer to calculate an incorrect value for the spacecraft momentum. The erroneous momentum indication then triggered the safe mode.

    “The team has completed plans to switch gyroscopes and place the gyroscope that experienced the glitch in reserve. Once configured with a series of pre-tested flight software patches, the team will return Chandra to science operations which are expected to commence by the end of this week,” NASA added.

    That remedy appears to have worked, as on Tuesday NASA noted that Chandra had returned to science operations, with more details to follow later in the week.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 12:38 pm on December 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ESO 580-49, , NASA/ESA Hubble   

    From ESA: “Explosive tendencies” 

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    European Space Agency


    ESO 580-49. NASA/ESA Hubble. CC BY 4.0

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    Don’t be fooled! The subject of this Picture of the Week, ESO 580-49, may seem tranquil and unassuming, but this spiral galaxy actually displays some explosive tendencies.

    In October of 2011, a cataclysmic burst of high-energy gamma-ray radiation — known as a gamma-ray burst, or GRB — was detected coming from the region of sky containing ESO 580-49. Astronomers believe that the galaxy was the host of the GRB, given that the chance of a coincidental alignment between the two is roughly 1 in 10 million. At a distance of around 185 million light-years from Earth, it was the second-closest gamma-ray burst (GRB) ever detected.

    Gamma-ray bursts are among the brightest events in the cosmos, occasionally outshining the combined gamma-ray output of the entire observable Universe for a few seconds. The exact cause of the GRB that probably occurred within this galaxy, catalogued as GRB 111005A, remains a mystery. Several events are known to lead to GRBs, but none of these explanations appear to fit the bill in this case. Astronomers have therefore suggested that ESO 580-49 hosted a new type of GRB explosion — one that has not yet been characterised.

    See the full article here .

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 9:40 am on November 1, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , MACS J1149.5+2233: A Fusion of Galaxy Clusters, , , NASA/ESA Hubble   

    From Chandra: “MACS J1149.5+2233: A Fusion of Galaxy Clusters” 

    NASA Chandra Banner

    NASA Chandra Telescope

    NASA Chandra

    October 31, 2017





    Credit X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: NASA/STScI; Radio: NSF/NRAO/AUI/VLA

    The Frontier Fields is a project that combines long observations from multiple telescopes of galaxy clusters.

    Galaxy clusters contain up to thousands of galaxies and vast reservoirs of hot gas embedded in massive clouds of dark matter.

    Data from Chandra, Hubble, Spitzer and other telescopes are part of the Frontier Fields project.

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/Spitzer Infrared Telescope

    NRAO/Karl V Jansky VLA, on the Plains of San Agustin fifty miles west of Socorro, NM, USA

    This Frontier Fields galaxy cluster, known as MACS J1149.5+2233, is located about 5 billion light years from Earth.

    MACS J1149.5+2233 (MACS J1149 for short) is a system of merging galaxy clusters located about 5 billion light years from Earth. This galaxy cluster was one of six that have been studied as part of the “Frontier Fields” project. This research effort included long observations of galaxy clusters with powerful telescopes that detected different types of light, including NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

    Frontier Fields

    Astronomers are using the Frontier Fields data to learn more about how galaxy clusters grow via collisions. Galaxy clusters are enormous collections of hundreds or even thousands of galaxies and vast reservoirs of hot gas embedded in massive clouds of dark matter, invisible material that does not emit or absorb light but can be detected through its gravitational effects.

    This new image of MACS J1149 combines X-rays from Chandra (diffuse blue), optical data from Hubble (red, green, blue), and radio emission from the Very Large Array (pink). The image is about four million light years across at the distance of MACS J1149.

    The Chandra data reveal gas in the merging clusters with temperatures of millions of degrees. The optical data show galaxies in the clusters and other, more distant, galaxies lying behind the clusters. Some of these background galaxies are highly distorted because of gravitational lensing, the bending of light by massive objects. This effect can also magnify the light from these objects, enabling astronomers to study background galaxies that would otherwise be too faint to detect. Finally, the structures in the radio data trace enormous shock waves and turbulence. The shocks are similar to sonic booms, and are generated by the mergers of smaller clusters of galaxies.

    See the full article here .

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    NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra’s science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.

  • richardmitnick 6:30 am on September 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , From microwaves to megamasers, NASA/ESA Hubble   

    From Hubble: “From microwaves to megamasers” 

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    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, CC BY 4.0

    Phenomena across the Universe emit radiation spanning the entire electromagnetic spectrum — from high-energy gamma rays, which stream out from the most energetic events in the cosmos, to lower-energy microwaves and radio waves.

    Microwaves, the very same radiation that can heat up your dinner, are produced by a multitude of astrophysical sources, including strong emitters known as masers (microwave lasers), even stronger emitters with the somewhat villainous name of megamasers, and the centres of some galaxies. Especially intense and luminous galactic centres are known as active galactic nuclei. They are in turn thought to be driven by the presence of supermassive black holes, which drag surrounding material inwards and spit out bright jets and radiation as they do so.

    The two galaxies shown here, imaged by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, are named MCG+01-38-004 (the upper, red-tinted one) and MCG+01-38-005 (the lower, blue-tinted one). MCG+01-38-005 is a special kind of megamaser; the galaxy’s active galactic nucleus pumps out huge amounts of energy, which stimulates clouds of surrounding water. Water’s constituent atoms of hydrogen and oxygen are able to absorb some of this energy and re-emit it at specific wavelengths, one of which falls within the microwave regime. MCG+01-38-005 is thus known as a water megamaser!

    Astronomers can use such objects to probe the fundamental properties of the Universe. The microwave emissions from MCG+01-38-005 were used to calculate a refined value for the Hubble constant, a measure of how fast the Universe is expanding.

    This constant is named after the astronomer whose observations were responsible for the discovery of the expanding Universe and after whom the Hubble Space Telescope was named, Edwin Hubble.

    See the full article here .

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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 1:35 pm on August 31, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA/ESA Hubble,   

    From Hubble: “Hubble delivers first hints of possible water content of TRAPPIST-1 planets” 

    NASA Hubble Banner

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    31 August 2017
    Vincent Bourrier
    Observatoire de l’Université de Genève
    Sauverny, Switzerland
    Tel: +41 22 379 24 49
    Email: vincent.bourrier@unige.ch

    Julien de Wit
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Cambridge, USA
    Tel: +1 617 258 0209
    Email: jdewit@mit.edu

    Mathias Jäger
    ESA/Hubble, Public Information Officer
    Garching bei Múnchen, Germany
    Tel: +49 176 62397500
    Email: mjaeger@partner.eso.org

    An international team of astronomers used the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to estimate whether there might be water on the seven earth-sized planets orbiting the nearby dwarf star TRAPPIST-1. The results suggest that the outer planets of the system might still harbour substantial amounts of water. This includes the three planets within the habitable zone of the star, lending further weight to the possibility that they may indeed be habitable.

    Trappist-1 System

    Comparison between the Sun and the ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1

    On 22 February 2017 astronomers announced the discovery of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting the ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1, 40 light-years away [1]. This makes TRAPPIST-1 the planetary system with the largest number of Earth-sized planets discovered so far.

    Following up on the discovery, an international team of scientists led by the Swiss astronomer Vincent Bourrier from the Observatoire de l’Université de Genève, used the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) on the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to study the amount of ultraviolet radiation received by the individual planets of the system. “Ultraviolet radiation is an important factor in the atmospheric evolution of planets,” explains Bourrier. “As in our own atmosphere, where ultraviolet sunlight breaks molecules apart, ultraviolet starlight can break water vapour in the atmospheres of exoplanets into hydrogen and oxygen.”

    While lower-energy ultraviolet radiation breaks up water molecules — a process called photodissociation — ultraviolet rays with more energy (XUV radiation) and X-rays heat the upper atmosphere of a planet, which allows the products of photodissociation, hydrogen and oxygen, to escape.

    As it is very light, hydrogen gas can escape the exoplanets’ atmospheres and be detected around the exoplanets with Hubble, acting as a possible indicator of atmospheric water vapour [2]. The observed amount of ultraviolet radiation emitted by TRAPPIST-1 indeed suggests that the planets could have lost gigantic amounts of water over the course of their history.

    This is especially true for the innermost two planets of the system, TRAPPIST-1b and TRAPPIST-1c, which receive the largest amount of ultraviolet energy. “Our results indicate that atmospheric escape may play an important role in the evolution of these planets,” summarises Julien de Wit, from MIT, USA, co-author of the study.

    The inner planets could have lost more than 20 Earth-oceans-worth of water during the last eight billion years. However, the outer planets of the system — including the planets e, f and g which are in the habitable zone — should have lost much less water, suggesting that they could have retained some on their surfaces [3]. The calculated water loss rates as well as geophysical water release rates also favour the idea that the outermost, more massive planets retain their water. However, with the currently available data and telescopes no final conclusion can be drawn on the water content of the planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1.

    “While our results suggest that the outer planets are the best candidates to search for water with the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, they also highlight the need for theoretical studies and complementary observations at all wavelengths to determine the nature of the TRAPPIST-1 planets and their potential habitability,” concludes Bourrier.

    Science paper:

    See the full article here .

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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 2:11 pm on August 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Hubble Detects Exoplanet with Glowing Water Atmosphere, NASA/ESA Hubble, WASP121b   

    From Hubble: “Hubble Detects Exoplanet with Glowing Water Atmosphere” 

    NASA Hubble Banner

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    Aug 2, 2017

    Elizabeth Landau
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

    Ray Villard
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland

    Scorching “Hot Jupiter” Has a Stratospheric Layer
    Only when we fly in a commercial jet at an altitude of about 33,000 feet do we enter Earth’s stratosphere, a cloudless layer of our atmosphere that blocks ultraviolet light. Astronomers were fascinated to find evidence for a stratosphere on a planet orbiting another star. As on Earth, the planet’s stratosphere is a layer where temperatures increase with higher altitudes, rather than decrease. However, the planet (WASP-121b) is anything but Earth-like. The Jupiter-sized planet is so close to its parent star that the top of the atmosphere is heated to a blazing 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit (2,500 degrees Celsius), hot enough to rain molten iron! This new Hubble Space Telescope observation allows astronomers to compare processes in exoplanet atmospheres with the same processes that happen under different sets of conditions in our own solar system.

    Scientists have discovered the strongest evidence to date for a stratosphere on a planet outside our solar system, or exoplanet. A stratosphere is a layer of atmosphere in which temperature increases with higher altitudes.

    “This result is exciting because it shows that a common trait of most of the atmospheres in our solar system — a warm stratosphere — also can be found in exoplanet atmospheres,” said Mark Marley, study co-author based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “We can now compare processes in exoplanet atmospheres with the same processes that happen under different sets of conditions in our own solar system.”

    Reporting in the journal Nature, scientists used data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to study WASP-121b, a type of exoplanet called a “hot Jupiter.” Its mass is 1.2 times that of Jupiter, and its radius is about 1.9 times Jupiter’s — making it puffier. But while Jupiter revolves around our sun once every 12 years, WASP-121b has an orbital period of just 1.3 days. This exoplanet is so close to its star that if it got any closer, the star’s gravity would start ripping it apart. It also means that the top of the planet’s atmosphere is heated to a blazing 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit (2,500 degrees Celsius), hot enough to boil some metals. The WASP-121 system is estimated to be about 900 light-years from Earth — a long way, but close by galactic standards.

    Previous research found possible signs of a stratosphere on the exoplanet WASP-33b as well as some other hot Jupiters. The new study presents the best evidence yet because of the signature of hot water molecules that researchers observed for the first time.

    “Theoretical models have suggested stratospheres may define a distinct class of ultra-hot planets, with important implications for their atmospheric physics and chemistry,” said Tom Evans, lead author and research fellow at the University of Exeter, United Kingdom. “Our observations support this picture.”

    To study the stratosphere of WASP-121b, scientists analyzed how different molecules in the atmosphere react to particular wavelengths of light, using Hubble’s capabilities for spectroscopy. Water vapor in the planet’s atmosphere, for example, behaves in predictable ways in response to certain wavelengths of light, depending on the temperature of the water.

    Starlight is able to penetrate deep into a planet’s atmosphere, where it raises the temperature of the gas there. This gas then radiates its heat into space as infrared light. However, if there is cooler water vapor at the top of the atmosphere, the water molecules will prevent certain wavelengths of this light from escaping to space. But if the water molecules at the top of the atmosphere have a higher temperature, they will glow at the same wavelengths.

    “The emission of light from water means the temperature is increasing with height,” said Tiffany Kataria, study co-author based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “We’re excited to explore at what longitudes this behavior persists with upcoming Hubble observations.”

    The phenomenon is similar to what happens with fireworks, which get their colors from chemicals emitting light. When metallic substances are heated and vaporized, their electrons move into higher energy states. Depending on the material, these electrons will emit light at specific wavelengths as they lose energy: sodium produces orange-yellow and strontium produces red in this process, for example. The water molecules in the atmosphere of WASP-121b similarly give off radiation as they lose energy, but in the form of infrared light, which the human eye is unable to detect.

    In Earth’s stratosphere, ozone gas traps ultraviolet radiation from the sun, which raises the temperature of this layer of atmosphere. Other solar system bodies have stratospheres, too; methane is responsible for heating in the stratospheres of Jupiter and Saturn’s moon Titan, for example.

    In solar system planets, the change in temperature within a stratosphere is typically around 100 degrees Fahrenheit (about 56 degrees Celsius). On WASP-121b, the temperature in the stratosphere rises by 1,000 degrees (560 degrees Celsius). Scientists do not yet know what chemicals are causing the temperature increase in WASP-121b’s atmosphere. Vanadium oxide and titanium oxide are candidates, as they are commonly seen in brown dwarfs, “failed stars” that have some commonalities with exoplanets. Such compounds are expected to be present only on the hottest of hot Jupiters, as high temperatures are needed to keep them in a gaseous state.

    “This super-hot exoplanet is going to be a benchmark for our atmospheric models, and it will be a great observational target moving into the Webb era,” said Hannah Wakeford, study co-author who worked on this research while at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.

    See the full article here .

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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 4:55 pm on July 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Gravitational lens helps reveal "fireworks" in the early universe, , Hubble Pushed Beyond Limits to Spot Clumps of New Stars in Distant Galaxy, NASA/ESA Hubble   

    From Hubble: “Hubble Pushed Beyond Limits to Spot Clumps of New Stars in Distant Galaxy” 

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    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

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    Jul 6, 2017


    Christine Pulliam
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland

    Ray Villard
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland

    Dr. Jane Rigby
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
    301-286-1507 (office) / 240-475-3917 (cell)

    Traci Johnson
    University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

    Gravitational lens helps reveal “fireworks” in the early universe
    When the universe was young, stars formed at a much higher rate than they do today. By peering across billions of light-years of space, Hubble can study this early era. But at such distances, galaxies shrink to smudges that hide key details. Astronomers have teased out those details in one distant galaxy by combining Hubble’s sharp vision with the natural magnifying power of a gravitational lens. The result is an image 10 times better than what Hubble could achieve on its own, showing dense clusters of brilliant, young stars that resemble cosmic fireworks.


    When it comes to the distant universe, even the keen vision of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope can only go so far. Teasing out finer details requires clever thinking and a little help from a cosmic alignment with a gravitational lens.

    By applying a new computational analysis to a galaxy magnified by a gravitational lens, astronomers have obtained images 10 times sharper than what Hubble could achieve on its own. The results show an edge-on disk galaxy studded with brilliant patches of newly formed stars.

    “When we saw the reconstructed image we said, ‘Wow, it looks like fireworks are going off everywhere,’” said astronomer Jane Rigby of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

    The galaxy in question is so far away that we see it as it appeared 11 billion years ago, only 2.7 billion years after the big bang. It is one of more than 70 strongly lensed galaxies studied by the Hubble Space Telescope, following up targets selected by the Sloan Giant Arcs Survey, which discovered hundreds of strongly lensed galaxies by searching Sloan Digital Sky Survey imaging data covering one-fourth of the sky.

    The gravity of a giant cluster of galaxies between the target galaxy and Earth distorts the more distant galaxy’s light, stretching it into an arc and also magnifying it almost 30 times. The team had to develop special computer code to remove the distortions caused by the gravitational lens, and reveal the disk galaxy as it would normally appear.

    The resulting reconstructed image revealed two dozen clumps of newborn stars, each spanning about 200 to 300 light-years. This contradicted theories suggesting that star-forming regions in the distant, early universe were much larger, 3,000 light-years or more in size.

    “There are star-forming knots as far down in size as we can see,” said doctoral student Traci Johnson of the University of Michigan, lead author of two of the three papers describing the research.

    Without the magnification boost of the gravitational lens, Johnson added, the disk galaxy would appear perfectly smooth and unremarkable to Hubble. This would give astronomers a very different picture of where stars are forming.

    While Hubble highlighted new stars within the lensed galaxy, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will uncover older, redder stars that formed even earlier in the galaxy’s history. It will also peer through any obscuring dust within the galaxy.

    “With the Webb Telescope, we’ll be able to tell you what happened in this galaxy in the past, and what we missed with Hubble because of dust,” said Rigby.

    These findings appear in a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters[http://imgsrc.hubblesite.org/hvi/uploads/science_paper/file_attachment/241/Rigby_2017_ApJ_843_79_published_July_10.pdf], and two additional papers published in The Astrophysical Journal [http://imgsrc.hubblesite.org/hvi/uploads/science_paper/file_attachment/240/T_Johnson_published_ApJ_paper_July_10.pdf] and [http://imgsrc.hubblesite.org/hvi/uploads/science_paper/file_attachment/242/T_Johnson_published_ApJL_July_10.pdf].

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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 9:06 am on May 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Galaxy 318-13, , NASA/ESA Hubble   

    From Manu: “A galaxy resplendent, a view of the galaxy 318-13” 

    Manu Garcia, a friend from IAC.

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

    Glitter galaxy — An edge-on view of the ESO 318-13 galaxy, NASA/ESA Hubble

    The Waterfall of bright stars through the middle of this picture is the galaxy that 318-13 as noted by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope at. Despite being located to millions of light years from earth, the stars captured in this image are so bright and clear that one could almost try to count them.

    Although that 318-13 is the main event in this picture, there is sandwich between a large collection of bright celestial objects. Several stars near and far dazzle in comparison with the polished pulverized contained within the galaxy. One that stands out in particular is located near the center of the image, and resembles a extremely bright star located within the galaxy. This is, however, a trick of perspective. The Star is located in the Milky Way, our own galaxy, and shines so brightly because it’s much closer to us than the galaxy that 318-13.

    Milky Way NASA/JPL-Caltech /ESO R. Hurt

    There are also a number of brilliant record small scattered the framework which are most distant galaxies. In the upper right corner, an elliptical galaxy can be seen clearly, a galaxy that is much bigger but more distant than that 318-13. What’s more interesting, see through that 318-13, near the right edge of The image, is a spiral galaxy distant.

    Galaxies are composed largely of empty space, the stars inside them only occupy a small volume, and provide a galaxy is not too dusty, can be largely transparent to the light coming from the bottom. This makes the overlapping galaxies as they are fairly common. A particularly dramatic example of this phenomenon is the pair of galaxies NGC 3314.

    Esa / Hubble & NASA

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  • richardmitnick 2:18 pm on May 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , NASA/ESA Hubble, tar V838 Monocerotis (V838 Mon)   

    From Manu Garcia: ” the light is still resonating three years after a starburst, v838 mon” 


    The last image from the hubble space telescope at NASA / Esa Estrela V838 Monocerotis (V838 Mon) reveals dramatic changes in the lighting cloud structures surrounding dusty. The effect, called light echo has been revealing, dust pattern never seen before since the star lit up suddenly for several weeks in early 2002.

    The Illumination of the interstellar dust comes from the red supergiant star in the center of the image, which issued a pulse of light three years ago, something similar to the launch of a lightbulb in a dark room. The dust surrounding v838 mon may have been expelled from the star during a previous explosion, similar to the event of 2002.

    The Echo of light through space is similar to the sound echoing through the air. As the light of the stellar explosion continues to spread outwards, they light up different parts of the dust, the same way that an echo sound bounces of objects around the fountain, and later objects farther away from the source. Eventually, when the light from the back of the nebula starts to arrive, the echo of the light will give the illusion of contract, and finally disappear.

    V838 Mon is located about 20.000 light-years from earth in the direction of the constellation monoceros, placing the star on the outer edge of our galaxy of the milky way. The Hubble Telescope has visualized v838 mon and his light echo several times since the outbreak of the star. Every time the hubble gazes at the event, they look different thin sections of dust when the pulse of enlightenment is continuing to spread away from the star at the speed of light, producing a constantly changing appearance. During the outbreak whose light came to earth in 2002, the star normally weak suddenly brightened up, becoming 600.000 times brighter than our sun.

    Progress of the star and dusty structure around it.

    The last image from the hubble space telescope of the Star V838 Monocerotis (V838 Mon) reveals dramatic changes in the lighting cloud structures surrounding dusty. The effect, called light echo has been revealing, dust pattern never seen before since the star lit up suddenly for several weeks in early 2002.

    The new image of v838 mon, taken in October 2004 with Hubble’s advanced camera for surveys, prepared from images obtained through filters that insulate light blue, green and infrared. These images have been combined to produce a full color image that approximates the true colors of the echo of the light and the red star very near downtown.

    Photo Credit:
    NASA, esa, and the team of Hubble’s inheritance (Stsci / Aura)

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  • richardmitnick 1:46 pm on May 16, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: NASA/ESA Hubble, NYPR, Paola Prestini, The Hubble Contata   

    From NYPR: “The Shimmering Nebulae of Paola Prestini’s ‘Hubble Cantata'” 

    Q2 is the 24/7 New Music Stream from New York Public Radio


    May 15, 2017
    Daniel Stephen Johnson

    Paola Prestini

    Paola Prestini is more than a composer. Co-founder of the production company VisionIntoArt (VIA) and its recording offshoot VIA Records, her latest institutional triumph is National Sawdust, the audiophile listening venue in Williamsburg that instantly became Brooklyn’s not-just-classical hotspot.

    And her new VIA Records release, The Hubble Cantata, is a more than a piece of music. It is a new kind of collaboration: a nexus of art and science.

    Mario Livio answering questions from the crowd after speaking about his new book Brilliant Blunders on the National Mall in Washington DC at the 2013 National Book Festival. Livio spoke from 12:00pm-12:45 pm in the Contemporary Life pavilion.
    Date 22 September 2013, 12:39:46
    Source Own work
    Author Jason Quinn

    On the scientific side, the piece features spoken narration by astrophysicist Mario Livio, exploring the place of Earth and its passengers among the stars and generally asking the Big Questions provoked by our view of the heavens. A stereo recording, unfortunately, cannot fully convey the 3D virtual reality sound – designed by Arup, the same firm that created the acoustics of National Sawdust and, among other high-profile projects, New York’s new Second Avenue Subway – that accompany live performances of the work, but vestiges of the experience remain in the atmospheric electronic elements of the score.

    And the project’s other collaborators are no less – and there is no other word for them – stellar. The libretto is by Royce Vavrek, the wordsmith behind the 21st-century’s most acclaimed American operas (Breaking the Waves, Dog Days), and soprano Jessica Rivera’s passionate solos transmute the scientific stuff of the text into pure theater. Baritone Nathan Gunn’s voice reminds you why he is one of opera’s biggest names, and Julian Wachner steers not only his own Washington Chorus and Novus NY but also the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and the Norwegian string ensemble 1B1 through Prestini’s shimmering nebulae of sound.

    For a piece that explicitly takes as its subject the seeming insignificance of mankind against the sublime and infinite expanses of outer space, The Hubble Cantata’s focus is very much on the human. This studio recording is not awash in reverb but as raw and clear as a live recording, allowing us to hear the minutest details of these terrestrial voices as they lead us on a voyage through the stars.

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