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Topic: Astronomers

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, Smithsonian’s Submillimeter Array observes new Star being born

 

Written by Molly Porter
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – A snapshot of the stellar life cycle has been captured in a new portrait from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Smithsonian’s Submillimeter Array (SMA).  

A cloud that is giving birth to stars has been observed to reflect X-rays from Cygnus X-3, a source of X-rays produced by a system where a massive star is slowly being eaten by its companion black hole or neutron star. This discovery provides a new way to study how stars form. 

A small cloud of dust and gas containing a new star being formed about 20,000 light years from Earth. (X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/M.McCollough et al, Radio: ASIAA/SAO/SMA)

A small cloud of dust and gas containing a new star being formed about 20,000 light years from Earth. (X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/M.McCollough et al, Radio: ASIAA/SAO/SMA)

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NASA’s Swift and NuSTAR Space Telescopes observes huge Flare erupt from Supermassive Black Hole

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The baffling and strange behaviors of black holes have become somewhat less mysterious recently, with new observations from NASA’s Explorer missions Swift and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR.

The two space telescopes caught a supermassive black hole in the midst of a giant eruption of X-ray light, helping astronomers address an ongoing puzzle: How do supermassive black holes flare?

The results suggest that supermassive black holes send out beams of X-rays when their surrounding coronas — sources of extremely energetic particles — shoot, or launch, away from the black holes.

NASA's Swift and NuSTAR Space Telescopes observes huge Flare erupt from Supermassive Black Hole

NASA’s Swift and NuSTAR Space Telescopes observes huge Flare erupt from Supermassive Black Hole

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NASA reports number of known Near-Earth Asteroids now over 15,000

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The number of discovered near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) now tops 15,000, with an average of 30 new discoveries added each week. This milestone marks a 50 percent increase in the number of known NEAs since 2013, when discoveries reached 10,000 in August of that year.

Surveys funded by NASA’s Near Earth Object (NEO) Observations Program (NEOs include both asteroids and comets) account for more than 95 percent of discoveries so far.

The 15,000th near-Earth asteroid is designated 2016 TB57.

The 15,000th near-Earth asteroid discovered is designated 2016 TB57. It was discovered on Oct. 13, 2016, by observers at the Mount Lemmon Survey, an element of the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey in Tucson, Arizona. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The 15,000th near-Earth asteroid discovered is designated 2016 TB57. It was discovered on Oct. 13, 2016, by observers at the Mount Lemmon Survey, an element of the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey in Tucson, Arizona. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports Herschel Space Observatory data reveals Ultraviolet Light plays role in creating Life Molecules

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Life exists in a myriad of wondrous forms, but if you break any organism down to its most basic parts, it’s all the same stuff: carbon atoms connected to hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and other elements. But how these fundamental substances are created in space has been a longstanding mystery.

Now, astronomers better understand how molecules form that are necessary for building other chemicals essential for life. Thanks to data from the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory, scientists have found that ultraviolet light from stars plays a key role in creating these molecules, rather than “shock” events that create turbulence, as was previously thought.

The dusty side of the Sword of Orion is illuminated in this striking infrared image from ESA's Hershel Space Observatory. Within the inset image, the emission from ionized carbon atoms (C+) is overlaid in yellow. (ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The dusty side of the Sword of Orion is illuminated in this striking infrared image from ESA’s Hershel Space Observatory. Within the inset image, the emission from ionized carbon atoms (C+) is overlaid in yellow. (ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope observes Superhot Balls of Gas ejected from dying Star

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Great balls of fire! NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has detected superhot blobs of gas, each twice as massive as the planet Mars, being ejected near a dying star.

The plasma balls are zooming so fast through space it would take only 30 minutes for them to travel from Earth to the moon. This stellar “cannon fire” has continued once every 8.5 years for at least the past 400 years, astronomers estimate.

The fireballs present a puzzle to astronomers, because the ejected material could not have been shot out by the host star, called V Hydrae.

This four-panel graphic illustrates how the binary-star system V Hydrae is launching balls of plasma into space. (NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI))

This four-panel graphic illustrates how the binary-star system V Hydrae is launching balls of plasma into space. (NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI))

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope completes Frontier Fields project observations

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In the ongoing hunt for the universe’s earliest galaxies, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has wrapped up its observations for the Frontier Fields project. This ambitious project has combined the power of all three of NASA’s Great Observatories — Spitzer, the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory — to delve as far back in time and space as current technology can allow.

Even with today’s best telescopes, it is difficult to gather enough light from the very first galaxies, located more than 13 billion light years away, to learn much about them beyond their approximate distance.

This image of galaxy cluster Abell 2744, also called Pandora's Cluster, was taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope. The cluster is also being studied by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-Ray Observatory in a collaboration called the Frontier Fields project. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This image of galaxy cluster Abell 2744, also called Pandora’s Cluster, was taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope. The cluster is also being studied by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-Ray Observatory in a collaboration called the Frontier Fields project. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope spots what may be water vapor plumes on Jupiter’s moon Europa

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have imaged what may be water vapor plumes erupting off the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. This finding bolsters other Hubble observations suggesting the icy moon erupts with high altitude water vapor plumes.

The observation increases the possibility that missions to Europa may be able to sample Europa’s ocean without having to drill through miles of ice.

“Europa’s ocean is considered to be one of the most promising places that could potentially harbor life in the solar system,” said Geoff Yoder, acting associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “These plumes, if they do indeed exist, may provide another way to sample Europa’s subsurface.”

This composite image shows suspected plumes of water vapor erupting at the 7 o'clock position off the limb of Jupiter's moon Europa. The plumes, photographed by NASA's Hubble's Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, were seen in silhouette as the moon passed in front of Jupiter. (NASA/ESA/W. Sparks (STScI)/USGS Astrogeology Science Center)

This composite image shows suspected plumes of water vapor erupting at the 7 o’clock position off the limb of Jupiter’s moon Europa. The plumes, photographed by NASA’s Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, were seen in silhouette as the moon passed in front of Jupiter. (NASA/ESA/W. Sparks (STScI)/USGS Astrogeology Science Center)

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APSU physics student Jacob Robertson discovers Quasar while visiting Fermilab

 

Austin Peay State University - APSUClarksville, TN – Quasars—massive black holes that emit large amounts of radiation—are among the brightest objects in the universe, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to identify.

For centuries, they’ve been mistaken for other shining celestial objects, and in recent years, astronomers had yet to accurately identify a certain one of these brilliant specks in the southern sky.

Austin Peay physics student Jacob Robertson

Austin Peay physics student Jacob Robertson

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NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) data gives new insights into Black Holes devouring Stars

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Supermassive black holes, with their immense gravitational pull, are notoriously good at clearing out their immediate surroundings by eating nearby objects. When a star passes within a certain distance of a black hole, the stellar material gets stretched and compressed — or “spaghettified” — as the black hole swallows it.

A black hole destroying a star, an event astronomers call “stellar tidal disruption,” releases an enormous amount of energy, brightening the surroundings in an event called a flare. In recent years, a few dozen such flares have been discovered, but they are not well understood.

This illustration shows a glowing stream of material from a star as it is being devoured by a supermassive black hole in a tidal disruption flare. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration shows a glowing stream of material from a star as it is being devoured by a supermassive black hole in a tidal disruption flare. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA Astronomers puzzle over age of distant Star

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – For years, astronomers have puzzled over a massive star lodged deep in the Milky Way that shows conflicting signs of being extremely old and extremely young.

Researchers initially classified the star as elderly, perhaps a red supergiant. But a new study by a NASA-led team of researchers suggests that the object, labeled IRAS 19312+1950, might be something quite different — a protostar, a star still in the making.

“Astronomers recognized this object as noteworthy around the year 2000 and have been trying ever since to decide how far along its development is,” said Martin Cordiner, an astrochemist working at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. He is the lead author of a paper in the Astrophysical Journal describing the team’s findings, from observations made using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory.

An age-defying star called IRAS 19312+1950 exhibits features characteristic of a very young star and a very old star. It is the bright red star at the center of this image. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

An age-defying star called IRAS 19312+1950 exhibits features characteristic of a very young star and a very old star. It is the bright red star at the center of this image. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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