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Topic: Astronomers

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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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft examination of Jupiter will help us better understand far off worlds

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Our galaxy is home to a bewildering variety of Jupiter-like worlds: hot ones, cold ones, giant versions of our own giant, pint-sized pretenders only half as big around.

Astronomers say that in our galaxy alone, a billion or more such Jupiter-like worlds could be orbiting stars other than our sun. And we can use them to gain a better understanding of our solar system and our galactic environment, including the prospects for finding life.

It turns out the inverse is also true — we can turn our instruments and probes to our own backyard, and view Jupiter as if it were an exoplanet to learn more about those far-off worlds.

Comparing Jupiter with Jupiter-like planets that orbit other stars can teach us about those distant worlds, and reveal new insights about our own solar system's formation and evolution. (Illustration) (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Comparing Jupiter with Jupiter-like planets that orbit other stars can teach us about those distant worlds, and reveal new insights about our own solar system’s formation and evolution. (Illustration) (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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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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