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Topic: Black Holes

NASA’s Kepler spacecraft begins Campaign 18 observing Clusters of Stars

 

NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationSilicon Valley, CA – NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft began the 18th observing campaign of its extended mission, K2, on May 12th, 2018. For the next 82 days, Kepler will stare at clusters of stars, faraway galaxies, and a handful of solar system objects, including comets, objects beyond Neptune, and an asteroid. The Kepler spacecraft is expected to run out of fuel within several months.

Campaign 18 is a familiar patch of space, as it’s approximately the same region of sky that Kepler observed during Campaign 5 in 2015. One of the advantages of observing a field over again is that planets outside the solar system, called exoplanets, may be found orbiting farther from their stars. Astronomers hope to not only discover new exoplanets during this campaign, but also to confirm candidates that were previously identified.

NASA's Kepler spacecraft campaign. (NASA/Ames Research Center/Ann Marie Cody)

NASA’s Kepler spacecraft campaign. (NASA/Ames Research Center/Ann Marie Cody)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope finds farthest Star on record

 

Space Telescope Science Institute

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationBaltimore, MD – More than halfway across the universe, an enormous blue star nicknamed Icarus is the farthest individual star ever seen. Normally, it would be much too faint to view, even with the world’s largest telescopes.

But through a quirk of nature that tremendously amplifies the star’s feeble glow, astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope were able to pinpoint this faraway star and set a new distance record. They also used Icarus to test one theory of dark matter, and to probe the make-up of a foreground galaxy cluster.

Icarus, whose official name is MACS J1149+2223 Lensed Star 1, is the farthest individual star ever seen. It is only visible because it is being magnified by the gravity of a massive galaxy cluster, located about 5 billion light-years from Earth. Called MACS J1149+2223, this cluster, shown at left, sits between Earth and the galaxy that contains the distant star. The panels at the right show the view in 2011, without Icarus visible, compared with the star's brightening in 2016. (NASA, ESA, and P. Kelly (University of Minnesota))

Icarus, whose official name is MACS J1149+2223 Lensed Star 1, is the farthest individual star ever seen. It is only visible because it is being magnified by the gravity of a massive galaxy cluster, located about 5 billion light-years from Earth. Called MACS J1149+2223, this cluster, shown at left, sits between Earth and the galaxy that contains the distant star. The panels at the right show the view in 2011, without Icarus visible, compared with the star’s brightening in 2016. (NASA, ESA, and P. Kelly (University of Minnesota))

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NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy observes Magnetic Fields in the Universe

 

Written by Nicholas A. Veronico
NASA Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, is preparing for its 2018 observing campaign, which will include observations of celestial magnetic fields, star-forming regions, comets, Saturn’s giant moon Titan and more.

This will be the fourth year of full operations for SOFIA, with observations planned between February 2018 and January 2019. Research flights will be conducted primarily from SOFIA’s home base at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center.

HAWC+ performed polarization measurements at 89 μm to capture the structure of the magnetic field in the Orion star forming region. Each line segment represents the orientation of the magnetic field at that location, overlaid on an image of the total intensity at the same wavelength. (NASA/SOFIA/Caltech/Darren Dowell)

HAWC+ performed polarization measurements at 89 μm to capture the structure of the magnetic field in the Orion star forming region. Each line segment represents the orientation of the magnetic field at that location, overlaid on an image of the total intensity at the same wavelength. (NASA/SOFIA/Caltech/Darren Dowell)

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NASA’s NuSTAR Space Telescope examines Black Hole Plasma Jet

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Black holes are famous for being ravenous eaters, but they do not eat everything that falls toward them. A small portion of material gets shot back out in powerful jets of hot gas, called plasma, that can wreak havoc on their surroundings.

Along the way, this plasma somehow gets energized enough to strongly radiate light, forming two bright columns along the black hole’s axis of rotation. Scientists have long debated where and how this happens in the jet.

Astronomers have new clues to this mystery.

This artist's concept shows a black hole with an accretion disk -- a flat structure of material orbiting the black hole - and a jet of hot gas, called plasma. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows a black hole with an accretion disk — a flat structure of material orbiting the black hole – and a jet of hot gas, called plasma. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA discovers Dual Supermassive Black Holes

 

Written by Molly Porter
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – Astronomers have identified a bumper crop of dual supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies. This discovery could help astronomers better understand how giant black holes grow and how they may produce the strongest gravitational wave signals in the Universe.

The new evidence reveals five pairs of supermassive black holes, each containing millions of times the mass of the Sun. These black hole couples formed when two galaxies collided and merged with each other, forcing their supermassive black holes close together.

Illustration of supermassive black hole pair. (NASA/CXC/A.Hobart)

Illustration of supermassive black hole pair. (NASA/CXC/A.Hobart)

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NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy discovers thick dust surrounding active Black Holes

 

SOFIA Science Center
NASA Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – Researchers at the University of Texas San Antonio using observations from NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, found that the dust surrounding active, ravenous black holes is much more compact than previously thought.

Most, if not all, large galaxies contain a supermassive black hole at their centers. Many of these black holes are relatively quiet and inactive, like the one at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. However, some supermassive black holes are currently consuming significant amounts of material that are being drawn into them, resulting in the emission of huge amounts of energy. These active black holes are called active galactic nuclei.

Artist illustration of the thick ring of dust that can obscure the energetic processes that occur near the supermassive black hole of an active galactic nuclei. The SOFIA studies suggest that the dust distribution is about 30 percent smaller than previously thought. (NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook)

Artist illustration of the thick ring of dust that can obscure the energetic processes that occur near the supermassive black hole of an active galactic nuclei. The SOFIA studies suggest that the dust distribution is about 30 percent smaller than previously thought. (NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook)

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A Look at NASA’s NuSTAR Spacecraft’s first five years

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
Caltech

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Five years ago, on June 13th, 2012, Caltech’s Fiona Harrison, principal investigator of NASA’s NuSTAR mission, watched with her team as their black-hole-spying spacecraft was launched into space aboard a rocket strapped to the belly of an aircraft.

The launch occurred over the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Many members of the team anxiously followed the launch from the mission’s operations center at the University of California, Berkeley, anxious to see what NuSTAR would find.

This artist's concept shows NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) spacecraft on orbit. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) spacecraft on orbit. (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 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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NASA’s NuSTAR Spacecraft discovers two nearby Black Holes that have been hidden until now

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Monster black holes sometimes lurk behind gas and dust, hiding from the gaze of most telescopes. But they give themselves away when material they feed on emits high-energy X-rays that NASA’s NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) mission can detect.

That’s how NuSTAR recently identified two gas-enshrouded supermassive black holes, located at the centers of nearby galaxies.

“These black holes are relatively close to the Milky Way, but they have remained hidden from us until now,” said Ady Annuar, a graduate student at Durham University in the United Kingdom, who presented the results at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Grapevine, Texas. “They’re like monsters hiding under your bed.”

NGC 1448, a galaxy with an active galactic nucleus hidden by gas and dust, is seen in this image. (Carnegie-Irvine Galaxy Survey/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NGC 1448, a galaxy with an active galactic nucleus hidden by gas and dust, is seen in this image. (Carnegie-Irvine Galaxy Survey/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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