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  • richardmitnick 9:43 am on September 18, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    From Universe Today: “New Study Indicates that Planet 9 Likely Formed in the Solar System” 

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    Universe Today

    17 Sept , 2017
    Matt Williams

    1
    Artist’s impression of Planet Nine, blocking out the Milky Way. The Sun is in the distance, with the orbit of Neptune shown as a ring. Credit: ESO/Tomruen/nagualdesign

    In January of 2016, astronomers Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin published the first evidence that there might be another planet in our Solar System. Known as “Planet 9”, this hypothetical body was believed to orbit at an extreme distance from our Sun. Since that time, multiple studies have been produced that have had tried to address the all-important question of where Planet 9 could have come from.

    Whereas some studies have suggested that the planet moved to the edge of the Solar System after forming closer to the Sun, others have suggested that it might be an exoplanet that was captured early in the Solar System’s history. A recent study by a team of astronomers has cast doubt on this latter possibility, however, and indicates that Planet 9 likely formed closer to the Sun and migrated outward during its history.

    Their study, titled Was Planet 9 Captured in the Sun’s Natal Star-Forming Region?, recently appeared in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The team was led by Dr. Richard Parker from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, with colleagues from ETH Zürich. Together, they conducted simulations that cast doubt on the “capture” scenario.

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    The six most distant known objects in the solar system with orbits exclusively beyond Neptune (magenta) all mysteriously line up in a single direction. Credit: Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC); [Diagram created using WorldWide Telescope.]

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 12:35 pm on September 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    From Universe Today: “Cassini: The Mission That Will Live Forever” 

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    Universe Today

    14 Sept , 2017
    Nancy Atkinson

    1
    Artist rendition of the Cassini spacecraft over Saturn. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Kevin M. Gill.

    “With Cassini, we had a rare opportunity and we seized it,” said Linda Spilker, Cassini Mission Scientist.

    And on Friday, September 15, we say goodbye to this incredible spacecraft.

    Since 2004, Cassini has been orbiting Saturn, exploring the magnificent gas giant planet while weaving through an incredibly diverse assortment of 60-plus icy moons, and skimming along the edges of the complex but iconic icy rings.

    Cassini’s findings have revolutionized our understanding of the entire Saturn system, providing intriguing insights on Saturn itself as well as revealing secrets held by moons such as Enceladus, which should be a big iceball but instead is one of the most geothermally active places in our solar system. And thanks to the Huygens lander, we now know Saturn’s largest moon, Titan is eerily Earthlike, but yet totally alien.

    “The lasting story of Cassini will likely be its longevity and the monumental amount of scientific discovery,” Cassini Project Manager Earl Maize told me last year. “It was absolutely the right spacecraft in the right place at the right time to capture a huge array of phenomena at Saturn.”

    2
    Diagram of Cassini’s final week, showing some of the milestones as the spacecraft heads for its plunge into Saturn. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 5:55 pm on September 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Gliese 9827, Three Possible Super-Earths Discovered Around Nearby Sun-Like Star, Universe Today   

    From Universe Today: “Three Possible Super-Earths Discovered Around Nearby Sun-Like Star” 

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    Universe Today

    13 Sept , 2017
    Matt Williams

    1
    Artist’s impression of a Super-Earth planet orbiting a Sun-like star. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

    Since it was launched in 2009, NASA’s Kepler mission has continued to make important exoplanet discoveries. Even after the failure of two reaction wheels, the space observatory has found new life in the form of its K2 mission. All told, this space observatory has detected 5,017 candidates and confirmed the existence of 2,494 exoplanets using the Transit Method during its past eight years in service.

    The most recent discovery was made by an international team of astronomers around Gliese 9827 (GJ 9827), a late K-type dwarf star located about 100 light-years from Earth. Using data provided by the K2 mission, they detected the presence of three Super-Earths. This star system is the closest exoplanet-hosting star discovered by K2 to date, which makes these planets well-suited for follow-up studies.

    The study which describes their findings, titled A System of Three Super Earths Transiting the Late K-Dwarf GJ 9827 at Thirty Parsecs, was recently published online.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 4:32 pm on September 11, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    From Universe Today: “Gravitational Waves will let us see Inside Stars as Supernovae Happen” 

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    Universe Today

    11 Sept , 2017
    Matt Williams

    1
    Artistic representation of the material around the supernova 1987A. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

    On February 11th, 2016, scientists at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) announced the first detection of gravitational waves.


    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation


    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA

    Cornell SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project


    Gravitational waves. Credit: MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger-Zib

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

    This development, which confirmed a prediction made by Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity a century ago, has opened up new avenues of research for cosmologists and astrophysicists. Since that time, more detections have been made, all of which were said to be the result of black holes merging.

    However, according to a team of astronomers from Glasgow and Arizona, astronomers need not limit themselves to detecting waves caused by massive gravitational mergers. According to a study they recently produced, the Advanced LIGO, GEO 600, and Virgo gravitational-wave detector network could also detect the gravitational waves created by supernova. In so doing, astronomers will able to see inside the hearts of collapsing stars for the first time.

    The study, titled Inferring the Core-Collapse Supernova Explosion Mechanism with Three-Dimensional Gravitational-Wave Simulations, recently appeared online. Led by Jade Powell, who recently finished her PhD at the Institute for Gravitational Research at the University of Glasgow, the team argue that current gravitational wave experiments should be able to detect the waves created by Core Collapse Supernovae (CSNe).

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 10:03 am on September 11, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Messier 56, Universe Today   

    From Universe Today: “Messier 56 – the NGC 6779” 

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    Universe Today

    11 Sep , 2017
    Tammy Plotner

    Welcome back to Messier Monday! We continue our tribute to our dear friend, Tammy Plotner, by looking at the the globular star cluster known as Messier 56. Enjoy!

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    Messier 56 and Messier 57 (the Ring Nebula). Credit: Wikisky

    In the 18th century, while searching the night sky for comets, French astronomer Charles Messier kept noting the presence of fixed, diffuse objects in the night sky. In time, he would come to compile a list of approximately 100 of these objects, with the purpose of making sure that astronomers did not mistake them for comets. However, this list – known as the Messier Catalog – would go on to serve a more important function.

    One of these objects is Messier 56, a globular star cluster located in the small northern constellation of Lyra, roughly 32,900 light years from Earth. Measuring roughly 84 light-years in diameter, this cluster has an estimated age of 13.70 billion years. It is also relatively easy to spot because of its proximity to well-known asterisms like the celestial Swan, the Northern Cross, and the bright star Vega.

    2
    NASA/ESA Hubble image of the globular star cluster known as Messier 56. Credit: NASA/ESA/HST/Gilles Chapdelaine

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 12:54 pm on September 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    From Universe Today: “Chinese Astronomers Spot Two New Hypervelocity Stars” 

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    Universe Today

    8 Sept , 2017
    Matt Williams

    Most stars in our galaxy behave predictably, orbiting around the center of the Milky Way at speeds of about 100 km/s (62 mi/s). But some stars achieve velocities that are significantly greater, to the point that they are even able to escape the gravitational pull of the galaxy. These are known as hypervelocity stars (HVS), a rare type of star that is believed to be the result of interactions a with supermassive black hole (SMBH).

    The existence of HVS is something that astronomers first theorized in the late 1980s, and only 20 have been identified so far. But thanks to a new study by a team of Chinese astronomers, two new hypervelocity stars have been added to that list. These stars, which have been designated LAMOST-HVS2 and LAMOST-HVS3, travel at speeds of up to 1,000 km/s (620 mi/s) and are thought to have originated in the center of our galaxy.

    The study which describes the team’s findings, titled “Discovery of Two New Hypervelocity Stars From the LAMOST Spectroscopic Surveys“, recently appeared online. Led by Yang Huang of the South-Western Institute for Astronomy Research at Yunnan University in Kunming, China, the team relied on data from Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fibre Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST) to detect these two new hypervelocity stars.

    LAMOST telescope LAMOST telescope located in Xinglong Station, Hebei Province, China

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    Footprint of the LAMOST pilot survey and the first three years’ general survey. Credit: LAMOST

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 4:47 am on September 7, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , The Orbit of Earth will be Hiding Earth 2.0, Universe Today   

    From Universe Today: “The Orbit of Earth will be Hiding Earth 2.0” 

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    Universe Today

    6 Sep , 2017
    Matt Williams

    In the hunt for extra-solar planets, astronomers and enthusiasts can be forgiven for being a bit optimistic. In the course of discovering thousands of rocky planets, gas giants, and other celestial bodies, is it too much to hope that we might someday find a genuine Earth-analog? Not just an “Earth-like” planet (which implies a rocky body of comparable size) but an actual Earth 2.0?

    This has certainly been one of the goals of exoplanet-hunters, who are searching nearby star systems for planets that are not only rocky, but orbit within their star’s habitable zone, show signs of an atmosphere and have water on their surfaces. But according to a new study by Alexey G. Butkevich – a astrophysicist from the Pulkovo Observatory in St. Petersburg, Russia – our attempts to discover Earth 2.0 could be hindered by Earth itself!

    Butkevich’s study, titled “Astrometric Exoplanet Detectability and the Earth Orbital Motion“, was recently published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. For the sake of his study, Dr. Butkevich examined how changes in the Earth’s own orbital position could make it more difficult to conduct measurements of a star’s motion around its system’s barycenter.

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    Artist’s impression of how an Earth-like planet might look from space. Credit: ESO.

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    Kepler-22b, an exoplanet with an Earth-like radius that was discovery within the habitable zone of its host star. Credit: NASA

    3
    Future surveys for exoplanets could be complicated by the Sun’s own motion around its barycenter. Credit: NASA

    The hunt for exoplanets is also expected to benefit greatly from deployment of next-generation instruments like the James Webb Space Telescope, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), and others.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    NASA/TESS

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 7:20 pm on September 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    From Universe Today: “Supermassive Black Holes or Their Galaxies? Which Came First?” 

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    Universe Today

    6 Sep , 2017
    Fraser Cain

    There’s a supermassive black hole at the center of almost every galaxy in the Universe. How did they get there? What’s the relationship between these monster black holes and the galaxies that surround them?

    Every time astronomers look farther out in the Universe, they discover new mysteries. These mysteries require all new tools and techniques to understand. These mysteries lead to more mysteries. What I’m saying is that it’s mystery turtles all the way down.

    One of the most fascinating is the discovery of quasars, understanding what they are, and the unveiling of an even deeper mystery, where do they come from?

    As always, I’m getting ahead of myself, so first, let’s go back and talk about the discovery of quasars.

    Back in the 1950s, astronomers scanned the skies using radio telescopes, and found a class of bizarre objects in the distant Universe. They were very bright, and incredibly far away; hundreds of millions or even billion of light-years away. The first ones were discovered in the radio spectrum, but over time, astronomers found even more blazing in the visible spectrum.

    In 1974, astronomers discovered a radio source at the center of the Milky Way emitting radiation. It was titled Sagittarius A*, with an asterisk that stands for “exciting”, well, in the “excited atoms” perspective.

    SGR A* NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 7:09 pm on September 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    From Universe Today: “Now We Know When Stars Will Be Passing Through the Oort Cloud” 

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    Universe Today

    6 Sep , 2017
    Matt Williams

    To our Solar System, “close-encounters” with other stars happen regularly – the last occurring some 70,000 years ago and the next likely to take place 240,000 to 470,000 years from now. While this might sound like a “few and far between” kind of thing, it is quite regular in cosmological terms. Understanding when these encounters will happen is also important since they are known to cause disturbances in the Oort Cloud, sending comets towards Earth.

    Thanks to a new study by Coryne Bailer-Jones, a researcher from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, astronomers now have refined estimates on when the next close-encounters will be happening. After consulting data from the ESA’s Gaia spacecraft, he concluded that over the course of the next 5 million years, that the Solar System can expect 16 close encounters, and one particularly close one!

    ESA/GAIA satellite

    For the sake of the study – which recently appeared in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics under the titleThe Completeness-Corrected Rate of Stellar Encounters with the Sun From the First Gaia Data Release – Dr. Bailer Jones used Gaia data to track the movements of more than 300,000 stars in our galaxy to see if they would ever pass close enough to the Solar System to cause a disturbance.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:31 am on August 31, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    From Universe Today: “Breakthrough Detects Repeating Fast Radio Bursts Coming from Distant Galaxy” 

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    Universe Today

    30 Aug , 2017
    Matt Williams

    In July of 2015, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced the creation of Breakthrough Listen, a decade-long project that would conduct the largest survey to date for signs of extra-terrestrial communications (ETI).

    Breakthrough Listen Project

    As part of his non-profit organization, Breakthrough Initiatives, this survey would rely on the latest in instrumentation and software to observe the 1,000,000 closest stars and 100 closest galaxies.

    Using the Green Bank Radio Telescope in West Virginia, the Listen science team at UC Berkeley has been observing distant stars for over a year now.



    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA

    And less than a week ago, they observed 15 Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) coming from a dwarf galaxy located three billion light-years away. According to a study that described their findings, this was the first time that repeating FRBs have been seen coming from this source at these frequencies.

    The team’s study, titled FRB 121102: Detection at 4 – 8 GHz band with Breakthrough Listen backend at Green Bank, was recently published in The Astronomers Telegraph. Led by Dr. Vishal Gajjar – a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley – the team conducted a detailed survey of FRB 121102. This repeating FRB source is located in a dwarf galaxy in Auriga constellation, some 3 billion light-years from Earth.

    See the full article here .

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