Topic: Milky Way Galaxy
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – The Planck space telescope has been turned off after spending nearly 4.5 years soaking up the relic radiation from the Big Bang and studying the evolution of stars and galaxies throughout the history of the universe.
Planck is a European Space Agency (ESA) mission with significant contributions from NASA.
Mission controllers at ESA’s operations center in Darmstadt, Germany sent the final command to the Planck satellite today, marking the end of operations for what some like to call a “time machine.”
Pasadena, CA – NASA reports that Astronomers, including a team member from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, have detected the first population of radio bursts known to originate from galaxies beyond our own Milky Way.
The sources of the light bursts are unknown, but cataclysmic events, such as merging or exploding stars, are likely the triggers.
A radio burst is a quick surge of light from a point on the sky, made up of longer wavelengths in the radio portion of the light spectrum. A single radio burst was detected about six years ago, but researchers were unclear about whether it came from within or beyond our galaxy.
Pasadena, CA – NASA has decommissioned its Galaxy Evolution Explorer after a decade of operations in which the venerable space telescope used its ultraviolet vision to study hundreds of millions of galaxies across 10 billion years of cosmic time.
“GALEX is a remarkable accomplishment,” said Jeff Hayes, NASA’s GALEX program executive in Washington. “This small Explorer mission has mapped and studied galaxies in the ultraviolet, light we cannot see with our own eyes, across most of the sky.”
Greenbelt, MD – This striking NASA Hubble Space Telescope image, which shows what looks like the profile of a celestial bird, belies the fact that close encounters between galaxies are a messy business.
This interacting galaxy duo is collectively called Arp 142. The pair contains the disturbed, star-forming spiral galaxy NGC 2936, along with its elliptical companion, NGC 2937 at lower left.
Pasadena, CA – NuSTAR has been busy studying the most energetic phenomena in the universe. Recently, a few high-energy events have sprung up, akin to “things that go bump in the night.”
When one telescope catches a sudden outpouring of high-energy light in the sky, NuSTAR and a host of other telescopes stop what they were doing and take a better look.
For example, in early April, the blazar Markarian 421 had an episode of extreme activity, brightening by more than 50 times its typical level. Blazars are a special class of galaxies with accreting, or “feeding,” supermassive black holes at their centers.
Pasadena, CA – Newly formed stars shine brightly, practically crying out, “Hey, look at me!” But not everything in our Milky Way galaxy is easy to see. The bulk of material between the stars in the galaxy — the cool hydrogen gas from which stars spring — is nearly impossible to find.
A new study from the Herschel Space Observatory, a European Space Agency mission with important NASA participation, is shining a light on these hidden pools of gas, revealing their whereabouts and quantities. In the same way that dyes are used to visualize swirling motions of transparent fluids, the Herschel team has used a new tracer to map the invisible hydrogen gas.
Pasadena, CA – Nearly a decade ago, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory caught signs of what appeared to be a black hole snacking on gas at the middle of the nearby Sculptor galaxy. Now, NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), which sees higher-energy X-ray light, has taken a peek and found the black hole asleep.
“Our results imply that the black hole went dormant in the past 10 years,” said Bret Lehmer of the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. “Periodic observations with both Chandra and NuSTAR should tell us unambiguously if the black hole wakes up again. If this happens in the next few years, we hope to be watching.” Lehmer is lead author of a new study detailing the findings in the Astrophysical Journal.
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope gets unique chance to hunt Earth-sized planets during Rare Alignment with Proxima Centauri
Greenbelt, MD – During the next few years, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope will have two opportunities to hunt for Earth-sized planets around the red dwarf Proxima Centauri.
The opportunities will occur in October 2014 and February 2016 when Proxima Centauri, the star nearest to our sun, passes in front of two other stars. Astronomers plotted Proxima Centauri’s precise path in the heavens and predicted the two close encounters using data from Hubble.
NASA reports Herschel Space Observatory sees Hot Gases falling into Super Black Hole at center of Milky Way Galaxy
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – The Herschel space observatory has made detailed observations of surprisingly hot gas that may be orbiting or falling towards the supermassive black hole lurking at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Herschel is a European Space Agency mission with important NASA participation.
“The black hole appears to be devouring the gas,” said Paul Goldsmith, the U.S. project scientist for Herschel at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA. “This will teach us about how supermassive black holes grow.”
Greenbelt, MD – NASA’s Jennifer Wiseman is the senior project scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, where the mission is managed.
The following questions and answers were provided in April 2013 about the history and the status of the Hubble.
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