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Topic: Astronomers

NASA’s WISE spacecraft reveals nearly five times more comets have passed the Sun then previously predicted

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Comets that take more than 200 years to make one revolution around the Sun are notoriously difficult to study. Because they spend most of their time far from our area of the solar system, many “long-period comets” will never approach the Sun in a person’s lifetime.

In fact, those that travel inward from the Oort Cloud — a group of icy bodies beginning roughly 186 billion miles (300 billion kilometers) away from the Sun — can have periods of thousands or even millions of years.

NASA’s WISE spacecraft, scanning the entire sky at infrared wavelengths, has delivered new insights about these distant wanderers.

This illustration shows how scientists used data from NASA's WISE spacecraft to determine the nucleus sizes of comets. They subtracted a model of how dust and gas behave in comets in order to obtain the core size. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration shows how scientists used data from NASA’s WISE spacecraft to determine the nucleus sizes of comets. They subtracted a model of how dust and gas behave in comets in order to obtain the core size. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope spots Clumps of New Stars in Distant Galaxy

 

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – When it comes to the distant universe, even the keen vision of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope can only go so far. Teasing out finer details requires clever thinking and a little help from a cosmic alignment with a gravitational lens.

By applying a new computational analysis to a galaxy magnified by a gravitational lens, astronomers have obtained images 10 times sharper than what Hubble could achieve on its own. The results show an edge-on disk galaxy studded with brilliant patches of newly formed stars.

In this Hubble photograph of a distant galaxy cluster, a spotty blue arc stands out against a background of red galaxies. That arc is actually three separate images of the same background galaxy. The background galaxy has been gravitationally lensed, its light magnified and distorted by the intervening galaxy cluster. On the right: How the galaxy would look to Hubble without distortions. (NASA, ESA, and T. Johnson (University of Michigan)

In this Hubble photograph of a distant galaxy cluster, a spotty blue arc stands out against a background of red galaxies. That arc is actually three separate images of the same background galaxy. The background galaxy has been gravitationally lensed, its light magnified and distorted by the intervening galaxy cluster. On the right: How the galaxy would look to Hubble without distortions. (NASA, ESA, and T. Johnson (University of Michigan)

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NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory photo shows merger of Two Galaxies

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – What would happen if you took two galaxies and mixed them together over millions of years? A new image including data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory reveals the cosmic culinary outcome.

Arp 299 is a system located about 140 million light years from Earth. It contains two galaxies that are merging, creating a partially blended mix of stars from each galaxy in the process.

However, this stellar mix is not the only ingredient. New data from Chandra reveals 25 bright X-ray sources sprinkled throughout the Arp 299 concoction.

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory image reveals two galaxies that are merging. (NASA)

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory image reveals two galaxies that are merging. (NASA)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope data helps astronomers calculate Mass of a White Dwarf

 

Written by Kailash Sahu
Space Telescope Science Institute

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationBaltimore, MD – Astronomers have used the sharp vision of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to repeat a century-old test of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. The Hubble team measured the mass of a white dwarf, the burned-out remnant of a normal star, by seeing how much it deflects the light from a background star.

This observation represents the first time Hubble has witnessed this type of effect created by a star. The data provide a solid estimate of the white dwarf’s mass and yield insights into theories of the structure and composition of the burned-out star.

Looks can be deceiving. In this Hubble Space Telescope image, the white dwarf star Stein 2051B and the smaller star below it appear to be close neighbors. The stars, however, reside far away from each other. Stein 2051B is 17 light-years from Earth; the other star is about 5,000 light-years away. Stein 2051B is named for its discoverer, Dutch Roman Catholic priest and astronomer Johan Stein. (NASA, ESA, and K. Sahu (STScI))

Looks can be deceiving. In this Hubble Space Telescope image, the white dwarf star Stein 2051B and the smaller star below it appear to be close neighbors. The stars, however, reside far away from each other. Stein 2051B is 17 light-years from Earth; the other star is about 5,000 light-years away. Stein 2051B is named for its discoverer, Dutch Roman Catholic priest and astronomer Johan Stein. (NASA, ESA, and K. Sahu (STScI))

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NASA reports discovery of Hottest Planet so far

 

Written with Pam Frost Gorder

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – A newly discovered Jupiter-like world is so hot, it’s being vaporized by its own star.

With a dayside temperature of more than 7,800 degrees Fahrenheit (4,600 Kelvin), KELT-9b is a planet that is hotter than most stars. But its blue A-type star, called KELT-9, is even hotter — in fact, it is probably unraveling the planet through evaporation.

“This is the hottest gas giant planet that has ever been discovered,” said Scott Gaudi, astronomy professor at The Ohio State University in Columbus, who led a study on the topic. He worked on this study while on sabbatical at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

This artist's concept shows planet KELT-9b orbiting its host star, KELT-9. It is the hottest gas giant planet discovered so far. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows planet KELT-9b orbiting its host star, KELT-9. It is the hottest gas giant planet discovered so far. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports LIGO detects Third Gravitational Wave

 

Written by Molly Porter
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – About 3 billion years ago, a pair of orbiting black holes collided to form a single object with 49 times the mass of our sun. The event unleashed powerful gravitational waves—ripples in the very fabric of space and time—that reached Earth seconds before 4:12am CST on January 4th, 2017.

That’s when they were detected by the ground-based twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) facilities in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana.

The event, known as GW170104, after the date, is the third detection of gravitational waves by LIGO. Located at a distance of about 3 billion light-years, the coalesced black hole is twice as far away as both of the two mergers previously detected.

This artist illustration shows two black holes (black spheres) of nearly equal mass as they spiral together and merge. (NASA)

This artist illustration shows two black holes (black spheres) of nearly equal mass as they spiral together and merge. (NASA)

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NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes observe Dying Star reborn into a Black Hole

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers have watched as a massive, dying star was likely reborn as a black hole. It took the combined power of the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT), and NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes to go looking for remnants of the vanquished star, only to find that it disappeared out of sight.

It went out with a whimper instead of a bang.

The star, which was 25 times as massive as our sun, should have exploded in a very bright supernova. Instead, it fizzled out — and then left behind a black hole.

This illustration shows the final stages in the life of a supermassive star that fails to explode as a supernova, but instead implodes to form a black hole. (NASA/ESA/P. Jeffries (STScI))

This illustration shows the final stages in the life of a supermassive star that fails to explode as a supernova, but instead implodes to form a black hole. (NASA/ESA/P. Jeffries (STScI))

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope identifies details of TRAPPIST-1h orbits

 

Written by Michele Johnson
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – Scientists using NASA’s Kepler space telescope identified a regular pattern in the orbits of the planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system that confirmed suspected details about the orbit of its outermost and least understood planet, TRAPPIST-1h.

TRAPPIST-1 is only eight percent the mass of our sun, making it a cooler and less luminous star. It’s home to seven Earth-size planets, three of which orbit in their star’s habitable zone — the range of distances from a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of a rocky planet. The system is located about 40 light-years away in the constellation of Aquarius. The star is estimated to be between 3 billion and 8 billion years old.

This artist's concept shows TRAPPIST-1h, one of seven Earth-size planets in the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system. NASA's Kepler spacecraft, operating in its K2 mission, obtained data that allowed scientists to determine that the orbital period of TRAPPIST-1h is 19 days. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows TRAPPIST-1h, one of seven Earth-size planets in the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system. NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, operating in its K2 mission, obtained data that allowed scientists to determine that the orbital period of TRAPPIST-1h is 19 days. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA Observatories used to create detailed image of Crab Nebula

 

Space Telescope Science Institute

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationBaltimore, MD – Astronomers have produced a highly detailed image of the Crab Nebula, by combining data from telescopes spanning nearly the entire breadth of the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves seen by the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) to the powerful X-ray glow as seen by the orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory.

And, in between that range of wavelengths, the Hubble Space Telescope’s crisp visible-light view, and the infrared perspective of the Spitzer Space Telescope.

This image of the Crab Nebula combines data from five different telescopes. (NASA, ESA, G. Dubner (IAFE, CONICET-University of Buenos Aires) et al.; A. Loll et al.; T. Temim et al.; F. Seward et al.; VLA/NRAO/AUI/NSF; Chandra/CXC; Spitzer/JPL-Caltech; XMM-Newton/ESA; and Hubble/STScI)

This image of the Crab Nebula combines data from five different telescopes. (NASA, ESA, G. Dubner (IAFE, CONICET-University of Buenos Aires) et al.; A. Loll et al.; T. Temim et al.; F. Seward et al.; VLA/NRAO/AUI/NSF; Chandra/CXC; Spitzer/JPL-Caltech; XMM-Newton/ESA; and Hubble/STScI)

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NASA’s NuSTAR Telescope shows Gas, Dust from Merging Galaxies falling into Black Hole

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Black holes get a bad rap in popular culture for swallowing everything in their environments. In reality, stars, gas and dust can orbit black holes for long periods of time, until a major disruption pushes the material in.

A merger of two galaxies is one such disruption. As the galaxies combine and their central black holes approach each other, gas and dust in the vicinity are pushed onto their respective black holes. An enormous amount of high-energy radiation is released as material spirals rapidly toward the hungry black hole, which becomes what astronomers call an active galactic nucleus (AGN).

This illustration compares growing supermassive black holes in two different kinds of galaxies. A growing supermassive black hole in a normal galaxy would have a donut-shaped structure of gas and dust around it (left). In a merging galaxy, a sphere of material obscures the black hole (right). (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan)

This illustration compares growing supermassive black holes in two different kinds of galaxies. A growing supermassive black hole in a normal galaxy would have a donut-shaped structure of gas and dust around it (left). In a merging galaxy, a sphere of material obscures the black hole (right). (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan)

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