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Topic: Astronomers

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory detects X-Ray Light Echoes of far away Neutron Star

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have discovered the largest and brightest set of rings from X-ray light echoes ever observed.

These extraordinary rings, produced by an intense flare from a neutron star, provide astronomers a rare chance to determine how far across the Milky Way galaxy the star is from Earth.

The rings appear as circles around Circinus X-1, a double star system in the plane of our galaxy containing a neutron star, the dense remnant of a massive star pulverized in a supernova explosion.

A light echo in X-rays detected by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has provided a rare opportunity to precisely measure the distance to an object on the other side of the Milky Way galaxy. The rings exceed the field-of-view of Chandra’s detectors, resulting in a partial image of X-ray data. (NASA/CXC/U. Wisconsin/S. Heinz)

A light echo in X-rays detected by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has provided a rare opportunity to precisely measure the distance to an object on the other side of the Milky Way galaxy. The rings exceed the field-of-view of Chandra’s detectors, resulting in a partial image of X-ray data.
(NASA/CXC/U. Wisconsin/S. Heinz)

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NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) hears the possible sounds of Dead Stars

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Peering into the heart of the Milky Way galaxy, NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) has spotted a mysterious glow of high-energy X-rays that, according to scientists, could be the “howls” of dead stars as they feed on stellar companions.

“We can see a completely new component of the center of our galaxy with NuSTAR’s images,” said Kerstin Perez of Columbia University in New York, lead author of a new report on the findings in the journal Nature. “We can’t definitively explain the X-ray signal yet — it’s a mystery. More work needs to be done.”

NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has captured a new high-energy X-ray view (magenta) of the bustling center of our Milky Way galaxy. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has captured a new high-energy X-ray view (magenta) of the bustling center of our Milky Way galaxy. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope discovers gas planet in the far reaches of the Milky Way Galaxy

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has teamed up with a telescope on the ground to find a remote gas planet about 13,000 light-years away, making it one of the most distant planets known.

The discovery demonstrates that Spitzer — from its unique perch in space — can be used to help solve the puzzle of how planets are distributed throughout our flat, spiral-shaped Milky Way galaxy. Are they concentrated heavily in its central hub, or more evenly spread throughout its suburbs?

This artist's map of the Milky Way shows the location of one of the farthest known exoplanets, lying 13,000 light-years away. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s map of the Milky Way shows the location of one of the farthest known exoplanets, lying 13,000 light-years away. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports Planck and Herschel Space Telescopes used to find Galaxy Clusters

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – One telescope finds the treasure chest, and the other narrows in on the gold coins. Data from two European Space Telescope missions, Planck and Herschel, have together identified some of the oldest and rarest clusters of galaxies in the distant cosmos.

Planck’s all-sky images revealed the clumps of bright galaxies, while Herschel data allowed researchers to inspect the galactic gems more closely and confirm the discovery.

This map of the entire sky was captured by the European Space Agency's Planck mission. The band running through the middle corresponds to dust in our Milky Way galaxy. The black dots indicate the location of galaxy cluster candidates identified by Planck and subsequently observed by the European Space Agency's Herschel mission. (ESA and the Planck Collaboration/ H. Dole, D. Guéry & G. Hurier, IAS/University Paris-Sud/CNRS/CNES)

This map of the entire sky was captured by the European Space Agency’s Planck mission. The band running through the middle corresponds to dust in our Milky Way galaxy. The black dots indicate the location of galaxy cluster candidates identified by Planck and subsequently observed by the European Space Agency’s Herschel mission. (ESA and the Planck Collaboration/ H. Dole, D. Guéry & G. Hurier, IAS/University Paris-Sud/CNRS/CNES)

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NASA looks into the mystery of the Sun’s Nanoflares

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – When you attach the prefix “nano” to something, it usually means “very small.” Solar flares appear to be the exception.

Researchers are studying a type of explosion on the sun called a ‘nanoflare.’  A billion times less energetic than ordinary flares, nanoflares have a power that belies their name.

“A typical ‘nanoflare’ has the same energy as 240 megatons of TNT,” says physicist David Smith of UC Santa Cruz. “That would be something like 10,000 atomic fission bombs.”

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NASA reports Space Telescopes reveal fierce winds coming from Black Hole

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and ESA’s (European Space Agency) XMM-Newton telescope are showing that fierce winds from a supermassive black hole blow outward in all directions — a phenomenon that had been suspected, but difficult to prove until now.

This discovery has given astronomers their first opportunity to measure the strength of these ultra-fast winds and prove they are powerful enough to inhibit the host galaxy’s ability to make new stars.

Supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies blast radiation and ultra-fast winds outward, as illustrated in this artist's conception. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies blast radiation and ultra-fast winds outward, as illustrated in this artist’s conception. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA researchers may have discovered why Comets have a hard outer crust

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers tinkering with ice and organics in the lab may have discovered why comets are encased in a hard, outer crust.

Using an icebox-like instrument nicknamed Himalaya, the researchers show that fluffy ice on the surface of a comet would crystalize and harden as the comet heads toward the sun and warms up. As the water-ice crystals form, becoming denser and more ordered, other molecules containing carbon would be expelled to the comet’s surface. The result is a crunchy comet crust sprinkled with organic dust.

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is seen here in an image captured by the Rosetta spacecraft. The mission's Philae lander hit the surface with a big bounce, demonstrating the comet's surface is hard. (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is seen here in an image captured by the Rosetta spacecraft. The mission’s Philae lander hit the surface with a big bounce, demonstrating the comet’s surface is hard. (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

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NASA says Early Universe Gravitational Waves hard to find

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A joint analysis of data from the Planck space mission and the ground-based experiment BICEP2 has found no conclusive evidence of gravitational waves from the birth of our universe, despite earlier reports of a possible detection.

The collaboration between the teams has resulted in the most precise knowledge yet of what signals from the ancient gravitational waves should look like, aiding future searches.

Planck is a European Space Agency mission with significant NASA contributions. BICEP2 and its sister project, the Keck Array, are based at the South Pole and funded by the National Science Foundation, also with NASA contributions.

The color scale in this image from the Planck mission represents the emission from dust, a minor but crucial component that pervades our Milky Way galaxy. The texture indicates the orientation of the galactic magnetic field. It is based on measurements of the direction of the polarized light emitted by the dust. (ESA/Planck Collaboration)

The color scale in this image from the Planck mission represents the emission from dust, a minor but crucial component that pervades our Milky Way galaxy. The texture indicates the orientation of the galactic magnetic field. It is based on measurements of the direction of the polarized light emitted by the dust. (ESA/Planck Collaboration)

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NASA’s Near Earth Object Program reports Asteroid to Safely Fly By on January 26th, 2015

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – An asteroid, designated 2004 BL86, will safely pass about three times the distance of Earth to the moon on January 26th. From its reflected brightness, astronomers estimate that the asteroid is about a third of a mile (0.5 kilometers) in size.

The flyby of 2004 BL86 will be the closest by any known space rock this large until asteroid 1999 AN10 flies past Earth in 2027.

At the time of its closest approach on January 26th, the asteroid will be approximately 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Earth.

This graphic depicts the passage of asteroid 2004 BL86, which will come no closer than about three times the distance from Earth to the moon on Jan. 26th, 2015. Due to its orbit around the sun, the asteroid is currently only visible by astronomers with large telescopes who are located in the southern hemisphere. But by Jan. 26th, the space rock's changing position will make it visible to those in the northern hemisphere. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This graphic depicts the passage of asteroid 2004 BL86, which will come no closer than about three times the distance from Earth to the moon on Jan. 26th, 2015. Due to its orbit around the sun, the asteroid is currently only visible by astronomers with large telescopes who are located in the southern hemisphere. But by Jan. 26th, the space rock’s changing position will make it visible to those in the northern hemisphere. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports Astronomers now using Machines to learn about Stars

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers are enlisting the help of machines to sort through thousands of stars in our galaxy and learn their sizes, compositions and other basic traits.

The research is part of the growing field of machine learning, in which computers learn from large data sets, finding patterns that humans might not otherwise see. Machine learning is in everything from media-streaming services that predict what you want to watch, to the post office, where computers automatically read handwritten addresses and direct mail to the correct zip codes.

Astronomers have turned to a method called "machine learning" to help them understand the properties of large numbers of stars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Astronomers have turned to a method called “machine learning” to help them understand the properties of large numbers of stars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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