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Topic: Astronomers

NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft photos reveal details of Dwarf Planet Ceres over 200 years since it’s discovery

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – New Year’s Day, 1801, the dawn of the 19th century, was a historic moment for astronomy, and for a space mission called Dawn more than 200 years later. That night, Giuseppe Piazzi pointed his telescope at the sky and observed a distant object that we now know as Ceres.

Today, NASA’s Dawn mission allows us to see Ceres in exquisite detail. From the images Dawn has taken over the past year, we know Ceres is a heavily cratered body with diverse features on its surface that include a tall, cone-shaped mountain and more than 130 reflective patches of material that is likely salt. But on that fateful evening in 1801, Piazzi wasn’t sure what he was seeing when he noticed a small, faint light through his telescope.

Giuseppe Piazzi used this instrument, called a Ramsden Circle, to discover Ceres on January 1, 1801. The telescope is on display at the Palermo Observatory in Sicily. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Palermo Observatory)

Giuseppe Piazzi used this instrument, called a Ramsden Circle, to discover Ceres on January 1, 1801. The telescope is on display at the Palermo Observatory in Sicily. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Palermo Observatory)

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NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) observes one of the Brightest Galaxies destroying itself

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In a far-off galaxy, 12.4 billion light-years from Earth, a ravenous black hole is devouring galactic grub. Its feeding frenzy produces so much energy, it stirs up gas across its entire galaxy.

“It is like a pot of boiling water being heated up by a nuclear reactor in the center,” said Tanio Diaz-Santos of the Universidad Diego Portales in Santiago, Chile, lead author of a new study about this galaxy.

This artist's rendering shows a galaxy called W2246-0526, the most luminous galaxy known. New research suggests there is turbulent gas across its entirety, the first example of its kind. (NRAO/AUI/NSF; Dana Berry / SkyWorks; ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO))

This artist’s rendering shows a galaxy called W2246-0526, the most luminous galaxy known. New research suggests there is turbulent gas across its entirety, the first example of its kind. (NRAO/AUI/NSF; Dana Berry / SkyWorks; ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO))

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NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes discovers two massive stars in Eta Carinae system

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Eta Carinae, the most luminous and massive stellar system within 10,000 light-years of Earth, is best known for an enormous eruption seen in the mid-19th century that hurled at least 10 times the sun’s mass into space.

This expanding veil of gas and dust , which still shrouds Eta Carinae, makes it the only object of its kind known in our galaxy. Now a study using archival data from NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes has found five objects with similar properties in other galaxies for the first time.

Hubble view of M83 -- the only galaxy known to host two potential "Eta twins." Its high rate of star formation increases the chances of finding massive stars that have recently undergone an Eta Carinae-like outburst. Bottom: Hubble data showing the locations of M83's Eta twins. (NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) and R. Khan (GSFC and ORAU))

Hubble view of M83 — the only galaxy known to host two potential “Eta twins.” Its high rate of star formation increases the chances of finding massive stars that have recently undergone an Eta Carinae-like outburst. Bottom: Hubble data showing the locations of M83’s Eta twins. (NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) and R. Khan (GSFC and ORAU))

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NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) observes Andromeda Galaxy in X-Ray Vision

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has captured the best high-energy X-ray view yet of a portion of our nearest large, neighboring galaxy, Andromeda. The space mission has observed 40 “X-ray binaries” — intense sources of X-rays comprised of a black hole or neutron star that feeds off a stellar companion.

The results will ultimately help researchers better understand the role of X-ray binaries in the evolution of our universe. According to astronomers, these energetic objects may play a critical role in heating the intergalactic bath of gas in which the very first galaxies formed.

NASA's Nuclear Spectroscope Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has imaged a swath of the Andromeda galaxy -- the nearest large galaxy to our own Milky Way galaxy. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC)

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscope Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has imaged a swath of the Andromeda galaxy — the nearest large galaxy to our own Milky Way galaxy. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC)

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NASA lists Milky Way Galaxy planets that are remarkably similar to those in the Star Wars universe

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The fantasy creations of the “Star Wars” universe are strikingly similar to real planets in our own Milky Way galaxy. A super Earth in deep freeze? Think ice-planet “Hoth.” And that distant world with double sunsets can’t help but summon thoughts of sandy “Tatooine.”

No indications of life have yet been detected on any of the nearly 2,000 scientifically confirmed exoplanets, so we don’t know if any of them are inhabited by Wookiees or mynocks, or play host to exotic alien bar scenes (or even bacteria, for that matter).

Still, a quick spin around the real exoplanet universe offers tantalizing similarities to several Star Wars counterparts.

The glittering city lights of Coruscant, the Star Wars core world, might have evolved on an older, near Earth-size planet like Kepler-452b. This real-life Earth cousin exists in a system 1.5 billion years older than Earth, giving any theoretical life plenty of time to develop an advanced technological civilization. (NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

The glittering city lights of Coruscant, the Star Wars core world, might have evolved on an older, near Earth-size planet like Kepler-452b. This real-life Earth cousin exists in a system 1.5 billion years older than Earth, giving any theoretical life plenty of time to develop an advanced technological civilization. (NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Spitzer and Kepler space telescopes discover star with storm cloud similar to Jupiter’s Red Spot

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers have discovered what appears to be a tiny star with a giant, cloudy storm, using data from NASA’s Spitzer and Kepler space telescopes. The dark storm is akin to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot: a persistent, raging storm larger than Earth.

“The star is the size of Jupiter, and its storm is the size of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot,” said John Gizis of the University of Delaware, Newark. “We know this newfound storm has lasted at least two years, and probably longer.” Gizis is the lead author of a new study appearing in The Astrophysical Journal.

This illustration shows a cool star, called W1906+40, marked by a raging storm near one of its poles. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration shows a cool star, called W1906+40, marked by a raging storm near one of its poles. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA Space Telescopes discover Giant Galaxy Cluster

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers have discovered a giant gathering of galaxies in a very remote part of the universe, thanks to NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). The galaxy cluster, located 8.5 billion light-years away, is the most massive structure yet found at such great distances.

Galaxy clusters are gravitationally bound groups of thousands of galaxies, which themselves each contain hundreds of billions of stars. The clusters grow bigger and bigger over time as they acquire new members.

The galaxy cluster called MOO J1142+1527 can be seen here as it existed when light left it 8.5 billion years ago. The red galaxies at the center of the image make up the heart of the galaxy cluster. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Gemini/CARMA)

The galaxy cluster called MOO J1142+1527 can be seen here as it existed when light left it 8.5 billion years ago. The red galaxies at the center of the image make up the heart of the galaxy cluster. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Gemini/CARMA)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope discovers atmosphere evaporating from Neptune sized Planet

 

Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. But what about planets?

Take Neptune for example. For many years, especially since 1989 when Voyager 2 flew past Neptune and measured its gravity field, astronomers have known that the blue giant harbors a secret world inside. Hidden deep below the azure cloud tops lies a rocky core not much larger than Earth. Uranus has one, too! These “worlds within worlds” could have exotic properties including scorching hot oceans and diamond rain.

If only researchers could peel back the clouds for a closer look….

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NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array and Swift telescopes observe Black Hole eruption of X-Ray Light

 

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.

This diagram shows how a shifting feature, called a corona, can create a flare of X-rays around a black hole. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This diagram shows how a shifting feature, called a corona, can create a flare of X-rays around a black hole. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports Comet Lovejoy releasing Alcohol into Space

 

Written by Bill Steigerwald
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Comet Lovejoy lived up to its name by releasing large amounts of alcohol as well as a type of sugar into space, according to new observations by an international team. The discovery marks the first time ethyl alcohol, the same type in alcoholic beverages, has been observed in a comet.

The finding adds to the evidence that comets could have been a source of the complex organic molecules necessary for the emergence of life.

Picture of the comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) on 12 February 2015 from 50km south of Paris. (Fabrice Noel)

Picture of the comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) on 12 February 2015 from 50km south of Paris. (Fabrice Noel)

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