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Topic: Astronomers

NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope sees stars spinning like Dancers in Pleiades Cluster

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Like cosmic ballet dancers, the stars of the Pleiades cluster are spinning. But these celestial dancers are all twirling at different speeds. Astronomers have long wondered what determines the rotation rates of these stars.

By watching these stellar dancers, NASA’s Kepler space telescope during its K2 mission has helped amass the most complete catalog of rotation periods for stars in a cluster. This information can help astronomers gain insight into where and how planets form around these stars, and how such stars evolve.

This image shows the famous Pleiades cluster of stars as seen through the eyes of WISE, or NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA)

This image shows the famous Pleiades cluster of stars as seen through the eyes of WISE, or NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope data used to create list of Planets that may be similar to Earth

 

Written by Michele Johnson
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Using public data collected by NASA’s Kepler mission, astronomers have catalogued the planet candidates that may be similar to our third rock from the sun. The tabulation of candidates will help astronomers focus their research efforts in the search for life.

The analysis, led by Stephen Kane, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at San Francisco State University in California, highlights 20 candidates in the Kepler trove that are less than twice the size of Earth and orbit their star in the conservative habitable zone — the range of distances where liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting planet.

The artistic concept of Kepler-186f is the result of scientists and artists collaborating to imagine the appearance of these distant worlds. (NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech)

The artistic concept of Kepler-186f is the result of scientists and artists collaborating to imagine the appearance of these distant worlds. (NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft data used to map Gravity of Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In the tens of thousands of photos returned by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, the interior of Ceres isn’t visible. But scientists have powerful data to study Ceres’ inner structure: Dawn’s own motion.

Since gravity dominates Dawn’s orbit at Ceres, scientists can measure variations in Ceres’ gravity by tracking subtle changes in the motion of the spacecraft. Using data from Dawn, scientists have mapped the variations in Ceres’ gravity for the first time in a new study in the journal Nature, which provides clues to the dwarf planet’s internal structure.

This artist's concept shows a diagram of how the inside of Ceres could be structured, based on data about the dwarf planet's gravity field from NASA's Dawn mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This artist’s concept shows a diagram of how the inside of Ceres could be structured, based on data about the dwarf planet’s gravity field from NASA’s Dawn mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and WISE explorer observe growth of lone Young Star

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Alone on the cosmic road, far from any known celestial object, a young, independent star is going through a tremendous growth spurt.

The unusual object, called CX330, was first detected as a source of X-ray light in 2009 by NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory while it was surveying the bulge in the central region of the Milky Way. Further observations indicated that this object was emitting optical light as well. With only these clues, scientists had no idea what this object was.

An unusual celestial object called CX330 was first detected as a source of X-ray light in 2009. It has been launching "jets" of material into the gas and dust around it. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

An unusual celestial object called CX330 was first detected as a source of X-ray light in 2009. It has been launching “jets” of material into the gas and dust around it. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Kepler Spacecraft discovers 104 Planets outside our Solar System

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – An international team of astronomers has discovered and confirmed a treasure trove of new worlds using NASA’s Kepler spacecraft on its K2 mission. Out of 197 initial planet candidates, scientists have confirmed 104 planets outside our solar system. Among the confirmed is a planetary system comprising four promising planets that could be rocky.

These four planets, all between 20 and 50 percent larger than Earth by diameter, are orbiting the M dwarf star K2-72, found 181 light-years away in the direction of the Aquarius constellation. The host star is less than half the size of the sun and less bright.

This artist's concept shows NASA's Kepler Space Telescope on its K2 mission. In July 2016, an international team of astronomers announced they had discovered more than 100 new planets using this telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope on its K2 mission. In July 2016, an international team of astronomers announced they had discovered more than 100 new planets using this telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports discovery of a Gravitational Vortex around a Black Hole

 

Written by Karen O’Flaherty
European Space Agency

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The European Space Agency’s orbiting X-ray observatory, XMM-Newton, has proved the existence of a “gravitational vortex” around a black hole. The discovery, aided by NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) mission, solves a mystery that has eluded astronomers for more than 30 years, and will allow them to map the behavior of matter very close to black holes. It could also open the door to future investigations of Albert Einstein’s general relativity.

Matter falling into a black hole heats up as it plunges to its doom. Before it passes into the black hole and is lost from view forever, it can reach millions of degrees. At that temperature it shines X-rays into space.

This artist's impression depicts the accretion disc surrounding a black hole, in which the inner region of the disc precesses.

This artist’s impression depicts the accretion disc surrounding a black hole, in which the inner region of the disc precesses.

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APSU College of Education prepares local teachers for 2017 Solar Eclipse

 

Austin Peay State University - APSUClarksville, TN – On June 21st, Austin Peay State Univeristy (APSU) hosted an educational summit, “Preparing for the Big Event,” which provided elementary and middle school teachers from across Middle Tennessee with strategies on how to incorporate the eclipse into subjects such as science, mathematics, language arts, art and music.

More than 4,000 years ago, Chung K’ang, the fourth emperor of the Hea dynasty in China, reportedly executed two astronomers named Hi and Ho because they didn’t predict a solar eclipse.

Tennessee State Representative Joe Pitts tries out a pair of solar glasses during a recent educational summit at APSU.

Tennessee State Representative Joe Pitts tries out a pair of solar glasses during a recent educational summit at APSU.

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NASA reports discovery of Wind Nebula around Ultra-Magnetic Neutron Star

 

Written by Francis Reddy
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Astronomers have discovered a vast cloud of high-energy particles called a wind nebula around a rare ultra-magnetic neutron star, or magnetar, for the first time. The find offers a unique window into the properties, environment and outburst history of magnetars, which are the strongest magnets in the universe.

A neutron star is the crushed core of a massive star that ran out of fuel, collapsed under its own weight, and exploded as a supernova. Each one compresses the equivalent mass of half a million Earths into a ball just 12 miles (20 kilometers) across, or about the length of New York’s Manhattan Island.

This illustration compares the size of a neutron star to Manhattan Island in New York, which is about 13 miles long. A neutron star is the crushed core left behind when a massive star explodes as a supernova and is the densest object astronomers can directly observe. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)

This illustration compares the size of a neutron star to Manhattan Island in New York, which is about 13 miles long. A neutron star is the crushed core left behind when a massive star explodes as a supernova and is the densest object astronomers can directly observe. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope discovers newly formed Exoplanet

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers have discovered the youngest fully formed exoplanet ever detected. The discovery was made using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope and its extended K2 mission, as well as the W. M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Exoplanets are planets that orbit stars beyond our sun.

The newfound planet, K2-33b, is a bit larger than Neptune and whips tightly around its star every five days. It is only 5 to 10 million years old, making it one of a very few newborn planets found to date.

K2-33b, shown in this illustration, is one of the youngest exoplanets detected to date. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

K2-33b, shown in this illustration, is one of the youngest exoplanets detected to date. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA Telescopes reveal star FU Orionis continues to devour gas around it

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In 1936, the young star FU Orionis began gobbling material from its surrounding disk of gas and dust with a sudden voraciousness. During a three-month binge, as matter turned into energy, the star became 100 times brighter, heating the disk around it to temperatures of up to 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit (7,000 Kelvin). FU Orionis is still devouring gas to this day, although not as quickly.

This brightening is the most extreme event of its kind that has been confirmed around a star the size of the sun, and may have implications for how stars and planets form. The intense baking of the star’s surrounding disk likely changed its chemistry, permanently altering material that could one day turn into planets.

The brightness of outbursting star FU Orionis has been slowly fading since its initial flare-up in 1936. Researchers found that it has dimmed by about 13 percent in short infrared wavelengths from 2004 (left) to 2016 (right). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The brightness of outbursting star FU Orionis has been slowly fading since its initial flare-up in 1936. Researchers found that it has dimmed by about 13 percent in short infrared wavelengths from 2004 (left) to 2016 (right). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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