SpaceJibe

May 28, 2014

21-year-old makes astronomy breakthrough

Filed under: Black Holes, Cool, Cosmology, Outer Solar System — bferrari @ 11:53 am
This stock photo shows a dense swarm of stars. (AP PHOTO/NASA-ESA)

This stock photo shows a dense swarm of stars. (AP PHOTO/NASA-ESA)

At just 21 years old, a California college student has made an incredible discovery: Michael Sandoval and his astrophysics professor at San Jose State have spotted what they believe is one galaxy that was swallowed up by another.

The result is a dense system of stars—apparently the densest ever found. They’re calling it a “hypercompact cluster,” since no word for the object currently exists, theSan Jose Mercury News reports.

The finding occurred as Sandoval took the first course he’d ever taken on the subject, NBC Bay Area reports. “Some people take years and never find” such space phenomena, says astrophysics professor Aaron Romanowsky.

Sandoval took about a week to find it, inspired by the work of a classmate who’d found what had previously appeared to be the densest known bunch of stars.

To make the story even more impressive, Sandoval’s find came as he grieved for his mother, who died in October. He’d been living at home in recent years to take care of her during an illness, sometimes having to take her to the ER before heading to class the next day.

“I didn’t want to be sitting home, feeling sorry for myself,” Sandoval says. “That’s not what she would have wanted, anyway.” (Another recent space discovery involves an ancient space collision.)

Source

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May 23, 2014

Supernova discovery reveals how the biggest, brightest stars die

Filed under: Black Holes, Cool, Gamma Ray Bursts — bferrari @ 11:28 am
A brilliant supernova (right) explodes in the galaxy UGC 9379, located about 360 million light-years from Earth, in this before-and-after view. The left image was taken by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, while the right image was obtained with aAVISHAY GAL-YAM, WEIZMANN INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE

A brilliant supernova (right) explodes in the galaxy UGC 9379, located about 360 million light-years from Earth, in this before-and-after view. The left image was taken by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, while the right image was obtained with aAVISHAY GAL-YAM, WEIZMANN INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE

The most massive and luminous stars were long suspected to explode when they die, and astronomers now have the most direct evidence yet that these cosmic behemoths go out with a bang.

These findings shed light on the star explosions that provide the universe with the ingredients for planets and life, the researchers added.

With a mass more than 330,000 times that of Earth, the sun accounts for 99.86 percent of the solar system’s total mass. But as stars go, the sun is a lightweight. The largest and most luminous stars in the universe are Wolf-Rayet stars, which are more than 20 times as massive as the sun and at least five times as hot. Only a few hundred of these titan stars are known to astronomers.

[Biggest Star Mysteries of All Time]

The intense heat of Wolf-Rayet stars forces their matter apart, making them extraordinarily windy stars. They usually lose the mass equivalent to that of the Earth each year, blowing winds at up to 5.6 million mph.

How giant stars die

Astronomers long suspected that Wolf-Rayet stars violently self-destructed as supernovas, the most powerful stellar explosions in the universe. These outbursts are bright enough to momentarily outshine their entire galaxies, and enrich galaxies with heavy elements that eventually become the building blocks for planets and life.

However, the gigantic amounts of matter these stars blow out usually obscure them completely, so scientists weren’t sure how they form, live and die.

“Finding what kind of star exploded, after it already exploded, is, of course, a hard problem, since the explosion destroys much of the information,” said study author Avishay Gal-Yam, an astrophysicist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

Some researchers even raised doubts as to whether Wolf-Rayet stars detonated as supernovas at all. “Some modelers predict that massive Wolf-Rayet stars will collapse into a black hole ‘quietly,’ without making a luminous supernova,” Gal-Yam told Space.com.

Now, for the first time, scientists have direct confirmation that a Wolf-Rayet star died in a supernova. They detail their findings in the May 22 issue of the journal Nature.

The researchers focused on a supernova named SN 2013cu, which exploded about 360 million light-years away from Earth in the Bootes constellation. This explosion was a Type IIb supernova, meaning it took place after the core of its star ran out of fuel, collapsing into an extraordinarily dense nugget in a fraction of a second and rebounding with a blast outward. What is left over after such supernovas is either a neutron star or a black hole.

A Wolf-Rayet smoking gun

By surveying the sky with the intermediate Palomar Transient Factory (iPTF), a project that charts the sky with a telescope mounted with a robotic observing system, the researchers discovered the supernova very soon after it happened.

“We now send high-quality supernova alerts to astronomers all around the globe in less than 40 minutes,” said study co-author Peter Nugent, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.

The scientists next rallied ground- and space-based telescopes across the world to observe the infant supernova approximately 5.7 hours and 15 hours after it detonated.

“Newly developed observational capabilities now enable us to study exploding stars in ways we could only dream of before,” Gal-Yam said. “We are moving towards real-time studies of supernovae.”

The explosion ionized surrounding molecules in an ultraviolet flash, giving them an electric charge. The ionized material that surrounded the star emits light that “tells us the elemental composition of the wind, and hence the surface composition of the star as it was just before it exploded,” Gal-Yam said. “That is a very powerful clue about the nature of the exploding star and how it evolved before it exploded, and this is the first time we managed to get this information.”

That opportunity lasts only for a day before the supernova blast wave sweeps the ionization away, Gal-Yam added.

This light suggested the precursor of the supernova was a nitrogen-rich Wolf-Rayet star. “This is the smoking gun,” Nugent said. “For the first time, we can directly point to an observation and say that this type of Wolf-Rayet star leads to this kind of Type IIb supernova.”

“When I identified the first example of a Type IIb supernova in 1987, I dreamed that someday we would have direct evidence of what kind of star exploded,” said study co-author Alex Filippenko, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. “It’s refreshing that we can now say that Wolf-Rayet stars are responsible, at least in some cases.”

Future studies could analyze more Wolf-Rayet stars, to see if these violent deaths are standard for them.

“If we can show that this is the norm for such massive stars, it would mean that new theories will have to be developed to explain how you can make a black hole and still throw out a lot of material and a lot of energy to make a luminous supernova,” Gal-Yam said.

Source

May 22, 2014

Ever wonder what a cross-section of Transatlantic Cable looks like?

Filed under: Cool, Gadgets — bferrari @ 7:15 pm

Enjoy!

 

Cross-section of Trans-Atlantic cable

Cross-section of Trans-Atlantic cable

May 21, 2014

On-board Camera of the Rocket Launch: Mesmerizing

Filed under: Cool, Earth, Gadgets, Inner Solar System, Military, Space Ships — bferrari @ 12:19 am

Watch Sentinel-1 Soyuz Rocket Launch On-board Camera View!
“The on-board camera provides a unique perspective on Arianespace’s successful Flight VS07 which deployed Sentinel-1A to Sun-synchronous orbit — gave the world a front-row seat in space.”

May 12, 2014

Solar siblings? Astronomers discover sun’s long-lost brother

Filed under: Cool, Cosmology, Saturn — bferrari @ 6:55 am
The star HD 162826 is probably a

The star HD 162826 is probably a “solar sibling,” that is, a star born in the same star cluster as the sun. It was identified by University of Texas at Austin astronomer Ivan Ramirez, in the process of honing a technique to find more solar siblings in the future, and eventually to determine how and where in the Milky Way galaxy the sun formed. (IVAN RAMIREZ/TIM JONES/MCDONALD OBSERVATORY)

It turns out that the sun has a long-lost brother — and now astronomers are racing to map a solar family tree.

new study from researchers at the University of Texas provides clues as to how our sun was formed, whether there are other “solar siblings” in our universe and, perhaps, a better understanding of how life in the universe was formed billions of years ago.

The finding, which will be published next month in The Astrophysical Journal, identifies a star that was almost certainly born from the same cloud of gas and dust as the sun. Located 110 light years away in the constellation Hercules, the star, called HD 162826, is 15 percent more massive than our sun, and can be seen with low-power binoculars.

“We want to know where we were born,” University of Texas at Austin astronomer Ivan Ramirez said in a news release from McDonald Observatory. “If we can figure out in what part of the galaxy the sun formed, we can constrain conditions on the early solar system. That could help us understand why we are here.”

Ramirez and his eight-person team discovered HD 162826’s relation to the sun by following up on 30 possible candidates found by several groups around the world looking for solar siblings. Ramirez’s team studied 23 stars in-depth at McDonald Observatory and several stars, visible only from the southern hemisphere, using the Clay Magellan Telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. Both observations required the use of high-resolution spectorscopy to understand the stars’ chemical makeup.

There’s even a small chance these solar siblings could host life-sustaining planets. When these stars were born, collisions could have knocked chunks off planets, and these fragments could have traveled between solar systems — perhaps bringing primitive life to Earth. Conversely, fragments from Earth could have sent life to planets orbiting other stars.

“It could be argued that solar siblings are the key candidates in the search for extraterrestrial life,” Ramirez said.

Next, Ramirez’s team wants to create a road map for how to identify solar siblings, operating on the theory that the sun was born in a cluster with up to 100,000 stars. That cluster, however, formed more than 4.5 billion years ago, and has long since broken up, spreading the stars out to different parts of the Milky Way galaxy. Finding more solar siblings will provide the best clues toward discovering our sun’s origin, and Ramirez’s discovery is an important step in streamlining the identification process when it comes to tracking down stars with the same galactic DNA, he told FoxNews.com on Friday.

“Already, we’re getting a lot of data from a number of surveys,” Ramirez told FoxNews.com on Friday. “In five to 10 years from now, we’re going to be able to analyze 10,000 times more stars than what we’re able to do right now.”

Source

May 6, 2014

First potentially habitable Earth-sized planet confirmed: It may have liquid water

Filed under: Cool, Cosmology, Exoplanets, Extraterrestrial Life, Life — bferrari @ 3:41 pm
The artist's concept depicts Kepler-186f, the first validated Earth-size planet orbiting a distant star in the habitable zone—a range of distances from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet. The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms that Earth-size planets exist in the habitable zone of other stars and signals a significant step closer to finding a world similar to Earth. The artistic concept of Kepler-186f is the result of scientists and artists collaborating to help imagine the appearance of these distant worlds. (Danielle Futselaar)

The artist’s concept depicts Kepler-186f, the first validated Earth-size planet orbiting a distant star in the habitable zone—a range of distances from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet. The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms that Earth-size planets exist in the habitable zone of other stars and signals a significant step closer to finding a world similar to Earth. The artistic concept of Kepler-186f is the result of scientists and artists collaborating to help imagine the appearance of these distant worlds. (Danielle Futselaar)

The first Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting within the habitable zone of another star has been confirmed by observations with both the W. M. Keck Observatory and the Gemini Observatory. The initial discovery, made by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, is one of a handful of smaller planets found by Kepler and verified using large ground-based telescopes. It also confirms that Earth-sized planets do exist in the habitable zone of other stars.

“What makes this finding particularly compelling is that this Earth-sized planet, one of five orbiting this star, which is cooler than the Sun, resides in a temperate region where water could exist in liquid form,” says Elisa Quintana of the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center who led the paper published in the current issue of the journal Science. The region in which this planet orbits its star is called the habitable zone, as it is thought that life would most likely form on  with liquid water.

Steve Howell, Kepler’s Project Scientist and a co-author on the paper, adds that neither Kepler (nor any telescope) is currently able to directly spot an exoplanet of this size and proximity to its . “However, what we can do is eliminate essentially all other possibilities so that the validity of these planets is really the only viable option.”

With such a small host star, the team employed a technique that eliminated the possibility that either a background star or a stellar companion could be mimicking what Kepler detected. To do this, the team obtained extremely high spatial resolution observations from the eight-meter Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawai`i using a technique called speckle imaging, as well as adaptive optics (AO) observations from the ten-meter Keck II telescope, Gemini’s neighbor on Mauna Kea. Together, these data allowed the team to rule out sources close enough to the star’s line-of-sight to confound the Kepler evidence, and conclude that Kepler’s detected signal has to be from a small planet transiting its host star.

The diagram compares the planets of the inner solar system to Kepler-186, a five-planet system about 500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. The five planets of Kepler-186 orbit a star classified as a M1 dwarf, measuring half the size and mass of the sun. The Kepler-186 system is home to Kepler-186f, the first validated Earth-size planet orbiting a distant star in the habitable zone—a range of distances from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet. The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms that Earth-size planets exist in the habitable zone of other stars and signals a significant step closer to finding a world similar to Earth. Kepler-186f is less than ten percent larger than Earth in size, but its mass and composition are not known. Kepler-186f orbits its star once every 130-days and receives one-third the heat energy that Earth does from the sun, placing it near the outer edge of the habitable zone. The inner four companion planets all measure less than fifty percent the size of Earth. Kepler-186b, Kepler-186c, Kepler-186d, and Kepler-186e, orbit every three, seven, 13, and 22 days, respectively, making them very hot and inhospitable for life as we know it. The Kepler space telescope, which simultaneously and continuously measured the brightness of more than 150,000 stars, is NASA’s first mission capable of detecting Earth-size planets around stars like our sun. Kepler does not directly image the planets it detects. The space telescope infers their existence by the amount of starlight blocked when the orbiting planet passes in front of a distant star from the vantage point of the observer. The artistic concept of Kepler-186f is the result of scientists and artists collaborating to help imagine the appearance of these distant Credit: (NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-CalTech.)

“The Keck and Gemini data are two key pieces of this puzzle,” says Quintana. “Without these complementary observations we wouldn’t have been able to confirm this Earth-sized planet.”

The Gemini “speckle” data directly imaged the system to within about 400 million miles (about 4 AU, approximately equal to the orbit of Jupiter in our solar system) of the host star and confirmed that there were no other stellar size objects orbiting within this radius from the star. Augmenting this, the Keck AO observations probed a larger region around the star but to fainter limits. According to Quintana,

“These Earth-sized planets are extremely hard to detect and confirm, and now that we’ve found one, we want to search for more. Gemini and Keck will no doubt play a large role in these endeavors.”

The host star, Kepler-186, is an M1-type dwarf star relatively close to our solar system, at about 500 light years and is in the constellation of Cygnus. The star is very dim, being over half a million times fainter than the faintest stars we can see with the naked eye. Five small planets have been found orbiting this star, four of which are in very short-period orbits and are very hot. The planet designated Kepler-186f, however, is earth-sized and orbits within the star’s . The Kepler evidence for this planetary system comes from the detection of planetary transits. These transits can be thought of as tiny eclipses of the host star by a planet (or planets) as seen from the Earth. When such planets block part of the star’s light, its total brightness diminishes. Kepler detects that as a variation in the star’s total light output and evidence for planets. So far more than 3,800 possible planets have been detected by this technique with Kepler.

Source

May 5, 2014

Wow Pic: Daya Bay Neutrino Observatory

Filed under: Big Bang, Cool, Cosmology, Gadgets — bferrari @ 7:27 pm

 

What caused the big bang? What happened to the material generated by it? These questions could be answered by work done in an underground laboratory to be built in Kaiping City.

 

A news conference was held in Jiangmen on Wednesday to announce that a neutrino observatory will be built 700 metres underground with an investment of 100 million yuan to help physicists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences study some of the biggest astronomical mysteries facing mankind,Guangzhou Daily reports. Wang Yifang of the academy’s Institute of High Energy Physics will be in charge of the project.

 

The observatory in Kaiping will be China’s largest underground laboratory and China’s second neutrino observatory. The other is one in nearby Daya Bay which gained international recognition in 2012 for “discovering a new neutrino oscillation model” and “opening a major door in the development of neutrino physics.”

Neutrinos are tiny and prolific subatomic particles that are born in nuclear reactions, including those that occur inside stars. According to the Nobel Prize website, 2001 to 2003 were the golden years of solar neutrino research. But research into neutrinos is still very much at the forefront of particle physics. Anunprecedented neutrino discovery in the South Pole two months ago was described as a “Nobel Prize in the making.”

The location of the new observatory, underneath Jinji Town and Chishui Town took over a year to select. The laboratory will be completed in 2019 and the project will last at least 20 years. According to Wang Yifang, research done in the laboratory really could answer questions like “what happened to the material generated by the big bang?”

 

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