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  • richardmitnick 8:46 am on October 15, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Foreground asteroid passing the Crab Nebula", , , , , , Hubble Asteroid Hunter project, Zooniverse   

    From European Space Agency: “Foreground asteroid passing the Crab Nebula” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    NASA/ESA Hubble, M. Thévenot (@AstroMelina); CC BY 4.0
    Foreground asteroid passing the Crab Nebula
    Released 14/10/2019

    When astronomers use the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to study the deep sky, asteroids from our Solar System can leave their marks on the captured pictures of far-away galaxies or nebulae. But rather than be annoyed at the imprinted trails in Hubble images, astronomers realised they could use them to find out more about the asteroids themselves.

    To do this, a team of ESA astronomers and software engineers started the Hubble Asteroid Hunter citizen science project in June, enlisting the public to help them find asteroids observed by chance in Hubble archival images. Through this project, over 1900 volunteers have identified more than 300 000 asteroid trails in nearly 11 000 images in only 1.5 months, completing the project with swiftness and enthusiasm that exceeded the team’s expectations.

    Astronomy-enthusiast Melina Thévenot from Germany was one of the project’s keen volunteers. While analysing Hubble data, she found an asteroid trail on the foreground of a 2005 image of the Crab Nebula, one of the night sky’s most famous objects.

    Inspired by this impressive combination, Melina decided to process the original Hubble image combining views taken in blue, green and red filters, to create the stunning colour scene portrayed here. The faint trail of 2001 SE101, a main-belt asteroid discovered by the ground-based LINEAR survey in 2001, appears as a curved streak that crosses the image from bottom left to top right, near the nebula’s centre.

    The Crab Nebula, also known as Messier 1 or M1, was the first object recorded by French astronomer Charles Messier in his famous catalogue of deep-sky objects. It is the expanding remnant of a bright supernova explosion observed by astronomers in 1054. Aside from the swirling cloud of gas and dust, the explosion left behind a rapidly rotating neutron star at the centre of the nebula, also visible in this image as the leftmost star in the bright pair at the centre of the picture.

    While the chance alignment of a relatively nearby object – the asteroid – with the distant nebula is fascinating, it is not completely unexpected. In fact, the Crab Nebula, which has been observed by Hubble on nearly 300 occasions, fortuitously lies close to the ecliptic – the orbital plane where most asteroids reside in the Solar System – so it was only a matter of time before one of them ‘photobombed’ an observation of this iconic supernova remnant.

    Now that volunteers have perused the platform to spot and mark asteroid trails, it is astronomers’ turn to get to work. Knowing the date and time when the Hubble images were taken, they can use the trails marked in the pictures to infer asteroids’ positions and velocities. This means they can determine the orbits and future trajectories of known and previously unknown asteroids with greater precision than before.

    This knowledge is especially important for near-Earth objects: precisely determining the orbits of these asteroids can help protect our planet from possible impacts.

    Meanwhile, the ESA team is planning to add new data to the Hubble Asteroid Hunter project soon, so users will have another chance to inspect Hubble images in search of passing asteroids. Stay tuned!

    This stunning scene and the Hubble Asteroid Hunter project were made possible thanks to Zooniverse, the world’s largest citizen-science platform. The project was initiated by ESA research fellow Sandor Kruk, graduate student Max Mahlke, software engineers Elena Racero and Fabrizio Giordano from the ESAC Science Data Centre (ESDC) near Madrid, Spain, and Bruno Merín, head of the ESDC.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    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 9:16 am on January 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Citizen Science Exoplanet Explorers, , , K2-138, Music of the spheres: chain of planets rotates at “perfect fifth” intervals, Zooniverse   

    From COSMOS Magazine: “Music of the spheres: chain of planets rotates at “perfect fifth” intervals” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    COSMOS Magazine

    15 January 2018
    Richard A Lovett

    In 1619 Johannes Kepler calculated the “divine” musical scales of the planets in the solar system. Now citizen science has found a strong musical equivalence in a chain of newly discovered exoplanets. Photo 12/UIG via Getty Images.

    With the help of citizen scientists, exoplanet hunters have made one of their most unusual discoveries yet: a system called K2-138 that contains five planets orbiting in near-perfect resonances so close to their star that all five orbits are less than 13 days.

    Orbital resonances occur when planetary orbits are spaced so that they circle their star in numerically related patterns. In the case of K2-138, this resonance is close to 3:2, which means that each planet makes three circuits of the star in the time it takes the next one out to make two. That is, the outer planet’s orbit is 50% longer than the inner one’s.

    Artist’s concept of a top-down view of the K2-138 system discovered by citizen scientists, showing the orbits and relative sizes of the five known planets. Orbital periods of the five planets, shown to scale, fall close to a series of 3:2 mean motion resonances. This indicates that the planets orbiting K2-138, which likely formed much farther away from the star, migrated inward slowly and smoothly.
    Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

    Such resonances are common in the planetary systems discovered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope (which seeks exoplanets by looking for dips in the brightness of distant stars that occur when planets cross in front of them, blocking part of their light). That’s because Kepler has discovered a great many compact planetary systems, in which planets would gravitationally interfere with each other if their orbits were not somehow synchronised.

    But K2-138 is the most dramatic example of this yet, with five planets — all between 1.6 and 3.3 times the size of the Earth — moving like clockwork in a succession of 3:2 resonances. Specifically, their orbits are 2.35, 3.56, 5.40, 8.26, and 12.76 days, forming an unbroken chain of close-to-3:2 resonances — the longest such chain ever discovered. Moreover, there are hints of a sixth planet, which, if it exists, would orbit in about 42 days.

    That’s particularly interesting, says Jessie Christiansen, an astronomer from California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, US, who presented her findings last week at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in National Harbor, Maryland, because 42 days falls into the same resonance chain.

    That raises the possibility that there might be as-yet unobserved planets in the gaps between 12.76 days and 42. “If you continue the chain it would be 19, 27, and 42,” she says. “So it could be that the longest chain could get longer yet.”

    It’s an exciting discovery, says Steve Bryson, an exoplanet-hunting astronomer at NASA Ames Research Centre at Mountain View in California, who was not a member of Christiansen’s team. “It gives us a deeper understanding of how planetary systems form.”

    Christiansen agrees. The fact that the planets wound up in such a smooth arrangement, she says, suggests that they migrated inward to their present positions very sedately, rather than via chaotic gravitational interactions. “They had no fights,” she says.

    It’s also intriguing because the 3:2 interval between these planets’ orbits is what musicians call a perfect fifth. “You can find them everywhere in music,” Christiansen says, citing the first two notes of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star as an example.

    Even more interestingly, the orbits aren’t quite perfect fifths, but are just ever so slightly off, she says. That is, instead of having orbital resonances that are exactly in a 3:2 ratio (or 1.5 to 1), they are 1.513, 1.518, 1.528, and 1.544. That’s intriguing, she says, because musicians actually tune their instruments to be just slightly off from perfect-fifth intervals to avoid the irritating “beat” phenomena that happens when tuning is too perfect.

    Possibly, she says, K2-138’s planets may have wound up in orbits just slightly off from perfect in order to avoid being destabilised by a similar phenomena due to too-perfect synchronisation.

    But even more exciting than the science, says Bryson, is the way in which the find was made. It came via a project called Exoplanet Explorers carried out on a website called zooniverse.org.

    The goal of that project, says Christiansen, is to recruit volunteers to examine any data in which the computer found a blip that might be a planet.

    “They’re doing the vetting,” she says. “Looking through and saying, ‘This is junk; this is real.’

    “It’s really hard to tell the computer to find everything that looks like a blip, but not ‘that’ kind of blip or ‘that’ kind of blip or ‘that’ kind of blip. So we just tell the computer to find all the blips and we’ll check.”

    But with thousands of stars involved, and a desire to have at least 10 people look at everything that might be interesting, that involves a tremendous amount of person-power.

    “We just uploaded 55,000 new potential planetary signals,” Christiansen says. “We would never be able to get through all of the signals we have without our volunteers.”

    Meg Schwamb, an astronomer at the Gemini Observatory in Hilo, Hawaii, agrees.

    “In our Internet age, online citizen science is enabling scientists to enlist the help of the general public from around the globe to perform data sorting and analysis tasks that are impossible to automate, or would be insurmountable for a single person or small group to undertake,” she says.

    “With so many eyes looking at the data, these projects can find hidden gems that may have gone missed in today’s large datasets.”

    “One of the things I love about astronomy,” adds Bryson, “is that it’s the one science where everyone can relate to it. Everyone knows what it’s like to look up at the stars.”

    Caltech article is posted here:

    Christiansen’s study is in the online edition of The Astronomical Journal.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

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