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Topic: Milky Way

NASA’s Voyager Spacecrafts continue exploration after 40 Years

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau / Jia-Rui Cook
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Humanity’s farthest and longest-lived spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2, achieve 40 years of operation and exploration this August and September. Despite their vast distance, they continue to communicate with NASA daily, still probing the final frontier.

Their story has not only impacted generations of current and future scientists and engineers, but also Earth’s culture, including film, art and music. Each spacecraft carries a Golden Record of Earth sounds, pictures and messages. Since the spacecraft could last billions of years, these circular time capsules could one day be the only traces of human civilization.

An artist concept depicting one of the twin Voyager spacecraft. Humanity's farthest and longest-lived spacecraft are celebrating 40 years in August and September 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

An artist concept depicting one of the twin Voyager spacecraft. Humanity’s farthest and longest-lived spacecraft are celebrating 40 years in August and September 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports Gamma-ray Telescopes discover concentration of Energy in Center of Milky Way

 

Written by Francis Reddy
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – A combined analysis of data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.), a ground-based observatory in Namibia, suggests the center of our Milky Way contains a “trap” that concentrates some of the highest-energy cosmic rays, among the fastest particles in the galaxy.

“Our results suggest that most of the cosmic rays populating the innermost region of our galaxy, and especially the most energetic ones, are produced in active regions beyond the galactic center and later slowed there through interactions with gas clouds,” said lead author Daniele Gaggero at the University of Amsterdam. “Those interactions produce much of the gamma-ray emission observed by Fermi and H.E.S.S.”  

An illustration of NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope orbiting Earth. ( NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab)

An illustration of NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope orbiting Earth. ( NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab)

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NASA Scientists find Iceball Planet using Microlensing

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists have discovered a new planet with the mass of Earth, orbiting its star at the same distance that we orbit our sun. The planet is likely far too cold to be habitable for life as we know it, however, because its star is so faint. But the discovery adds to scientists’ understanding of the types of planetary systems that exist beyond our own.

“This ‘iceball’ planet is the lowest-mass planet ever found through microlensing,” said Yossi Shvartzvald, a NASA postdoctoral fellow based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and lead author of a study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

This artist's concept shows OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb, a planet discovered through a technique called microlensing. (NASA)

This artist’s concept shows OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb, a planet discovered through a technique called microlensing. (NASA)

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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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NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, Smithsonian’s Submillimeter Array observes new Star being born

 

Written by Molly Porter
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – A snapshot of the stellar life cycle has been captured in a new portrait from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Smithsonian’s Submillimeter Array (SMA).  

A cloud that is giving birth to stars has been observed to reflect X-rays from Cygnus X-3, a source of X-rays produced by a system where a massive star is slowly being eaten by its companion black hole or neutron star. This discovery provides a new way to study how stars form. 

A small cloud of dust and gas containing a new star being formed about 20,000 light years from Earth. (X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/M.McCollough et al, Radio: ASIAA/SAO/SMA)

A small cloud of dust and gas containing a new star being formed about 20,000 light years from Earth. (X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/M.McCollough et al, Radio: ASIAA/SAO/SMA)

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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 Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope looks for Dark Matter

 

Written by Francis Reddy
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Dark matter, the mysterious substance that constitutes most of the material universe, remains as elusive as ever. Although experiments on the ground and in space have yet to find a trace of dark matter, the results are helping scientists rule out some of the many theoretical possibilities.

Three studies published earlier this year, using six or more years of data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, have broadened the mission’s dark matter hunt using some novel approaches.

The Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), at center, is the second-largest satellite galaxy orbiting our own. This image superimposes a photograph of the SMC with one half of a model of its dark matter (right of center). Lighter colors indicate greater density and show a strong concentration toward the galaxy's center. Ninety-five percent of the dark matter is contained within a circle tracing the outer edge of the model shown. (Dark matter, R. Caputo et al. 2016; background, Axel Mellinger, Central Michigan University)

The Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), at center, is the second-largest satellite galaxy orbiting our own. This image superimposes a photograph of the SMC with one half of a model of its dark matter (right of center). Lighter colors indicate greater density and show a strong concentration toward the galaxy’s center. Ninety-five percent of the dark matter is contained within a circle tracing the outer edge of the model shown. (Dark matter, R. Caputo et al. 2016; background, Axel Mellinger, Central Michigan University)

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NASA reports Kepler Spacecraft now stable after entering emergency safe mode

 

Written by Charlie Sobeck​, Kepler and K2 mission manager

NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – NASA mission operations engineers have successfully recovered the Kepler spacecraft from Emergency Mode (EM). On Sunday morning, the spacecraft reached a stable state with the communication antenna pointed toward Earth, enabling telemetry and historical event data to be downloaded to the ground. The spacecraft is operating in its lowest fuel-burn mode.

The mission has cancelled the spacecraft emergency, returning the Deep Space Network ground communications to normal scheduling.

Artist's concept of NASA's Kepler space telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist’s concept of NASA’s Kepler space telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) begins fourth year of studying objects in Space

 

Written by Nicholas A. Veronico
SOFIA Science Center, NASA Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – NASA’s “flying” telescope, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) aboard a highly modified Boeing 747SP jetliner, began its fourth series of science flights on February 3rd, 2016.

This operational period, known as “Cycle 4,” is a one-year-long observing period in which SOFIA is scheduled for 106 flights between now and the end of January 2017.

NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) takes off from Palmdale, California at sunset. SOFIA is a partnership of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR); NASA and DLR have collaborated on a range of activities and signed agreements on June 16 to work together to reduce aircraft noise and advance research into rotorcraft. (NASA / Greg Perryman)

NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) takes off from Palmdale, California at sunset. SOFIA is a partnership of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR); NASA and DLR have collaborated on a range of activities and signed agreements on June 16 to work together to reduce aircraft noise and advance research into rotorcraft. (NASA / Greg Perryman)

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NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes find Faintest Galaxy ever discovered

 

Written by Ray Villard
Space Telescope Science Institute

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationBaltimore, MD – Astronomers harnessing the combined power of NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes have found the faintest object ever seen in the early universe. It existed about 400 million years after the big bang, 13.8 billion years ago.

The team has nicknamed the object Tayna, which means “first-born” in Aymara, a language spoken in the Andes and Altiplano regions of South America.

Though Hubble and Spitzer have detected other galaxies that are record-breakers for distance, this object represents a smaller, fainter class of newly-forming galaxies that until now have largely evaded detection.

This is a Hubble Space Telescope view of a very massive cluster of galaxies, MACS J0416.1-2403, located roughly 4 billion light-years away and weighing as much as a million billion suns. The inset is an image of an extremely faint and distant galaxy that existed only 400 million years after the big bang. Hubble captured it because the gravitational lens makes the galaxy appear 20 times brighter than normal. (NASA, ESA, and L. Infante (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile))

This is a Hubble Space Telescope view of a very massive cluster of galaxies, MACS J0416.1-2403, located roughly 4 billion light-years away and weighing as much as a million billion suns. The inset is an image of an extremely faint and distant galaxy that existed only 400 million years after the big bang. Hubble captured it because the gravitational lens makes the galaxy appear 20 times brighter than normal. (NASA, ESA, and L. Infante (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile))

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