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  • richardmitnick 8:54 pm on November 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , The theory of Panspermia, Universe Today   

    From Universe Today: “Galactic Panspermia: Interstellar Dust Could Transport Life from Star to Star” 

    universe-today

    Universe Today

    22 Nov , 2017
    Matt Williams

    1
    A new study from the University of Edinburgh suggests that life could be distributed throughout the cosmos by interstellar dust. Credit: ESO/R. Fosbury (ST-ECF)

    The theory of Panspermia states that life exists through the cosmos, and is distributed between planets, stars and even galaxies by asteroids, comets, meteors and planetoids. In this respect, life began on Earth about 4 billion years ago after microorganisms hitching a ride on space rocks landed on the surface. Over the years, considerable research has been devoted towards demonstrating that the various aspects of this theory work.

    The latest comes from the University of Edinburgh, where Professor Arjun Berera offers another possible method for the transport of life-bearing molecules. According to his recent study, space dust that periodically comes into contact with Earth’s atmosphere could be what brought life to our world billions of years ago. If true, this same mechanism could be responsible for the distribution of life throughout the Universe.

    For the sake of his study, which was recently published in Astrobiology under the title Space Dust Collisions as a Planetary Escape Mechanism, Prof. Berera examined the possibility that space dust could facilitate the escape of particles from Earth’s atmosphere. These include molecules that indicate the presence of life on Earth (aka. biosignatures), but also microbial life and molecules that are essential to life.

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    The theory of Panspermia states that life is distributed throughout the Universe by microbes traveling on objects between star system. Credit: NASA/Jenny Mottor

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 5:36 pm on November 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Messier 60, Universe Today   

    From Universe Today: “Messier 60 – the NGC 4649 Galaxy” 

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    Universe Today

    20 Nov , 2017
    Tammy Plotner

    1
    Messier 60. Credit: Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona

    U Arizona Mt Lemon Sky Center, in the Santa Catalina Mountains approximately 28 kilometers (17 mi) northeast of Tucson, Arizona (USA)

    Welcome back to Messier Monday! Today, we continue in our tribute to our dear friend, Tammy Plotner, by looking at the elliptical galaxy known as Messier 60.

    In the 18th century, while searching the night sky for comets, French astronomer Charles Messier kept noting the presence of fixed, diffuse objects he initially mistook for comets. In time, he would come to compile a list of approximately 100 of these objects, hoping to prevent other astronomers from making the same mistake. This list – known as the Messier Catalog – would go on to become one of the most influential catalogs of Deep Sky Objects.

    One of the notable objects in this catalog is Messier 60, an elliptical galaxy located approximately 55 million light-years away in the Virgo constellation. Measuring some 60,000 light years across, this galaxy is only about half as large as the Milky Way. However, it still manages to pack in an estimated 400 billion stars which, depending on which estimates you go by, is between four times and the same amount as our own.
    What You Are Looking At:

    Located about 60 million light years away and spanning about 120 million light years of space, M60 is the third brightest elliptical in the Virgo group and and is the dominant member of a subcluster of four galaxies, which is the closest-known isolated compact group of galaxies. In larger telescopes, you’ll see another nearby galaxy – NGC 4647 – which might first be taken for a interactor, but may very well lay at a different distance since there is no tidal evidence so far found.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 10:40 am on November 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A Brown Dwarf Prevented a Regular Star from Going Through its Full Life Cycle, , , , , Eclipsing binary star systems, Universe Today   

    From Universe Today: “A Brown Dwarf Prevented a Regular Star from Going Through its Full Life Cycle” 

    universe-today

    Universe Today

    8 Nov , 2017
    Matt Williams

    1
    A team of Brazilian scientists recently observed a binary star system consisting of a white dwarf and a brown dwarf companion. Credit: FAPESP

    Eclipsing binary star systems are relatively common in our Universe. To the casual observer, these systems look like a single star, but are actually composed of two stars orbiting closely together. The study of these systems offers astronomers an opportunity to directly measure the fundamental properties (i.e. the masses and radii) of these systems respective stellar components.

    Recently, a team of Brazilian astronomers observed a rare sight in the Milky Way – an eclipsing binary composed of a white dwarf and a low-mass brown dwarf. Even more unusual was the fact that the white dwarf’s life cycle appeared to have been prematurely cut short by its brown dwarf companion, which caused its early death by slowly siphoning off material and “starving” it to death.

    The study which detailed their findings, titled HS 2231+2441: an HW Vir system composed by a low-mass white dwarf and a brown dwarf, was recently published the MNRAS. The team was led by Leonardo Andrade de Almeida, a postdoctoral fellow from the University of São Paolo’s Institute of Astronomy, Geophysics, and Atmospheric Sciences (IAG-USP), along with members from the National Institute for Space Research (MCTIC), and the State University of Feira de Santana.

    For the sake of their study, the team conducted observations of a binary star system between 2005 and 2013 using the Pico dos Dias Observatory in Brazil.

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    Pico dos Dias Observatory located in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais 37 kilometers (23 mi) from the city of Itajubá. altitude 1,864 m (6,115 ft)

    This data was then combined with information from the William Herschel Telescope, which is located in the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos on the island of La Palma. This system, known as of HS 2231+2441, consists of a white dwarf star and a brown dwarf companion.

    ING 4 meter William Herschel Telescope at Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on La Palma in the Canary Islands, 2,396 m (7,861 ft)

    Roque de los Muchachos Observatory is an astronomical observatory located in the municipality of Garafía on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, at an altitude of 2,396 m (7,861 ft)

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 2:45 pm on November 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Asteroid 2012 TC4 a small and oblong-shaped NEO that was first spotted in 2012 during a close flyby of Earth, , , , , First international exercise to test global responses to an impending asteroid strike., Universe Today   

    From Universe Today: “Astronomers Practice Responding to a Killer Asteroid” 

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    Universe Today

    8 Nov , 2017
    Matt Williams

    1
    Artist’s concept of a large asteroid passing by the Earth-Moon system. Credit: A combination of ESO/NASA images courtesy of Jason Major/Lights in the Dark.

    Beyond the Earth-Moon system, thousands of asteroids known as Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are known to exist. These rocks periodically cross Earth’s orbit and make close a flyby of Earth. Over the course of millions of years, some even collide with the Earth, causing mass extinctions. Little wonder then why NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) is dedicated to monitoring the larger objects that occasionally come close to our planet.

    One of these objects is 2012 TC4, a small and oblong-shaped NEO that was first spotted in 2012 during a close flyby of Earth. During its most recent flyby – which took place on Thursday, October 12th,2017 – an international team of astronomers led by NASA scientists used the opportunity to conduct the first international exercise to test global responses to an impending asteroid strike.

    This exercise was known as the “TC4 Observation Campaign“, which began this past July and concluded with the asteroid flyby. It all began when astronomers at the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Paranal Observatory in Chile used the Very Large Telescope (VLT) to recover 2012 TC4. When the asteroid made its final close approach to Earth in mid-October, it passed Earth by at a distance of 43,780 km (27,200 mi).

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    ESO Cerro Paranel Observatory at 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO/VLT at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

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    Diagram showing 2012 TC4’s heliocentric orbit, which has changed due to the 2012 and 2017 close encounters with Earth. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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  • richardmitnick 4:27 pm on November 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Universe Today, Using Atmospheric Beacons to Search for Signs of Extra-Terrestrial Life   

    From Universe Today: “Using Atmospheric Beacons to Search for Signs of Extra-Terrestrial Life” 

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    Universe Today

    2 Nov , 2017
    Matt Williams

    1
    This illustration shows a star’s light illuminating the atmosphere of a planet. Credits: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    Despite the thousands of exoplanets that have been discovered by astronomers in recent years, determining whether or not any of them are habitable is a major challenge. Since we cannot study these planets directly, scientists are forced to look for indirect indications. These are known as biosignatures, which consist of the chemical byproducts we associate with organic life showing up in a planet’s atmosphere.

    A new study by a team of NASA scientists proposes a new method to search for potential signs of life beyond our Solar System. The key, they recommend, is to takes advantage of frequent stellar storms from cool, young dwarf stars. These storms hurl huge clouds of stellar material and radiation into space, interacting with exoplanet atmospheres and producing biosignatures that could be detected.

    The study, titled Atmospheric Beacons of Life from Exoplanets Around G and K Stars, recently appeared in Nature Scientific Reports. Led by Vladimir S. Airapetian, a senior astrophysicist with the Heliophysics Science Division (HSD) at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the team included members from NASA’s Langley Research Center, the Science Systems and Applications Incorporated (SSAI), and the American University.

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    Beacons of life could help researchers identify potentially habitable worlds. Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary Pat Hrybyk

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  • richardmitnick 5:16 am on November 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AGN-Active Galatic Nuclei”, , , , , New Method for Researching Activity Around Quasars and Black Holes, Universe Today   

    From Universe Today: “New Method for Researching Activity Around Quasars and Black Holes” 

    universe-today

    Universe Today

    1 Nov , 2017
    Matt Williams

    1
    An artist’s impression of the accretion disc around the supermassive black hole that powers an active galaxy. Credit: NASA/Dana Berry, SkyWorks Digital

    Ever since the discovery of Sagittarius A* at the center of our galaxy, astronomers have come to understand that most massive galaxies have a Supermassive Black Hole (SMBH) at their core.

    SGR A* NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory

    These are evidenced by the powerful electromagnetic emissions produced at the nuclei of these galaxies – which are known as “Active Galatic Nuclei” (AGN) – that are believed to be caused by gas and dust accreting onto the SMBH.

    For decades, astronomers have been studying the light coming from AGNs to determine how large and massive their black holes are. This has been difficult, since this light is subject to the Doppler effect, which causes its spectral lines to broaden. But thanks to a new model developed by researchers from China and the US, astronomers may be able to study these Broad Line Regions (BLRs) and make more accurate estimates about the mass of black holes.

    The study, Tidally disrupted dusty clumps as the origin of broad emission lines in active galactic nuclei, recently appeared in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy. The study was led by Jian-Min Wang, a researcher from the Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, with assistance from the University of Wyoming and the University of Nanjing.

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  • richardmitnick 3:08 pm on October 30, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Astronomers Find Comets Orbiting a Star 800 Light-Years Away, , , , , Universe Today   

    From Universe Today: “Astronomers Find Comets Orbiting a Star 800 Light-Years Away” 

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    Universe Today

    30 Oct , 2017
    Matt Williams

    1
    An artist’s conception of a view from within the Exocomet system KIC 3542116.. Credit: Danielle Futselaar

    In the past thirty years, thousands of extra-solar planets have been discovered beyond our Solar System. For the most part, they have been detected by the Kepler Space Telescope using a technique called Transit Photometry.

    NASA/Kepler Telescope

    Planet transit. NASA/Ames

    For this method, astronomers measure periodic dips in a star’s brightness – which are the result of planets passing in front of them relative to an observer – to confirm the presence of planets.

    Thanks to a new research effort conducted by a team of professional and amateur astronomers, something much smaller than planets were recently detected orbiting a distant star. According to a new study published by the research team, six exocomets were observed orbiting around KIC 3542116, a spectral type F2V star located 800 light years from Earth. These comets are the smallest objects to date detecting the Transit Photometry method.

    The study which details their findings, titled Likely Transiting Exocomets Detected by Kepler, recently appeared in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Led by Saul Rappaport of MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, the team also consisted of amateur astronomers, members of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), the University of Texas, Northeastern University, and NASA’s Ames Research Center.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 8:23 pm on October 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Astronomers Start Mapping the Structure of the Far Side of the Milky Way, , , , , , Universe Today   

    From Universe Today: “Astronomers Start Mapping the Structure of the Far Side of the Milky Way” 

    universe-today

    Universe Today

    27 Oct , 2017
    Matt Williams

    1
    Artist’s impression of the spiral structure of the Milky Way with two major stellar arms and a bar. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESO/R. Hurt

    Since the 18th century, astronomers have been aware that our Solar System is embedded in a vast disk of stars and gas known as the Milky Way Galaxy. Since that time, the greatest scientific minds have been attempting to obtain accurate distance measurements in order to determine just how large the Milky Way is. This has been no easy task, since the fact that we are embedded in our galaxy’s disk means that we cannot view it head-on.

    But thanks to a time-tested technique called trigonometric parallax, a team of astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn, Germany, and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) were recently able o directly measure the distance to the opposite side of the Milky Way Galaxy. Aside from being an historic first, this feat has nearly doubled the previous record for distance measurements within our galaxy.

    The study which described this accomplishment, titled “Mapping Spiral Structure on the far side of the Milky Way“, recently appeared in the journal Science. Led by Alberto Sanna, a researcher from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, the team consulted data from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) to determine the distance to a star-forming region on the other side of our galaxy.

    NRAO VLBA


    NRAO/VLBA

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    Artist’s view of the Milky Way with the location of the Sun and the star forming region at the opposite side in the Scutum-Centaurus spiral arm. Credit: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF; Robert Hurt, NASA.

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  • richardmitnick 12:29 pm on October 26, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Universe Today, Water Worlds Don’t Stay Wet for Very Long   

    From Universe Today: “Water Worlds Don’t Stay Wet for Very Long” 

    universe-today

    Universe Today

    25 Oct , 2017
    Matt Williams

    1
    Artist’s depiction of a waterworld. A new study suggests that Earth is in a minority when it comes to planets, and that most habitable planets may be greater than 90% ocean. Credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA)

    When hunting for potentially habitable exoplanets, one of the most important things astronomers look for is whether or not exoplanet candidates orbit within their star’s habitable zone. This is necessary for liquid water to exist on a planet’s surface, which in turn is a prerequisite for life as we know it. However, in the course of discovering new exoplanets, scientists have become aware of an extreme case known as “water worlds“.

    Water worlds are essentially planets that are up to 50% water in mass, resulting in surface oceans that could be hundreds of kilometers deep. According to a new study by a team of astrophysicists from Princeton, the University of Michigan and Harvard, water worlds may not be able to hang on to their water for very long. These findings could be of immense significance when it comes to the hunt for habitable planets in our neck of the cosmos.

    This most recent study, titled The Dehydration of Water Worlds via Atmospheric Losses, recently appeared in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Led by Chuanfei Dong from the Department of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University, the team conducted computer simulations that took into account what kind of conditions water worlds would be subject to.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 8:15 pm on October 25, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Neptune-Sized Exomoon Found Orbiting a Jupiter-Sized Planet?, Universe Today   

    From Universe Today: “Neptune-Sized Exomoon Found Orbiting a Jupiter-Sized Planet?” 

    universe-today

    Universe Today

    25 Oct , 2017
    Matt Williams

    1
    An artist’s conception of a habitable exomoon orbiting a gas giant. Credit: NASA

    Finding planets beyond our Solar System is already tough, laborious work. But when it comes to confirmed exoplanets, an even more challenging task is determining whether or not these worlds have their own satellites – aka. “exomoons”. Nevertheless, much like the study of exoplanets themselves, the study of exomoons presents some incredible opportunities to learn more about our Universe.

    Of all possible candidates, the most recent (and arguably, most likely) one was announced back in July 2017. This moon, known as Kepler-1625 b-i, orbits a gas giant roughly 4,000 light years from Earth. But according to a new study, this exomoon may actually be a Neptune-sized gas giant itself. If true, this will constitute the first instance where a gas giant has been found orbiting another gas giant.

    The study, titled The Nature of the Giant Exomoon Candidate Kepler-1625 b-i, recently appeared in the scientific journal Astronomy and Astrophysics. The study was conducted by René Heller, an astrophysicist from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, who examined lightcurves obtained by the Kepler mission to place constraints on the exomoon’s mass and determine its true nature.

    See the full article here .

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