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Topic: Milky Way

NASA answers the question, “What is an ‘Exoplanet?”

 

Written by Calla Cofield
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Step outside on a clear night, and you can be sure of something our ancestors could only imagine: Every star you see likely plays host to at least one planet.

The worlds orbiting other stars are called “exoplanets,” and they come in a wide variety of sizes, from gas giants larger than Jupiter to small, rocky planets about as big around as Earth or Mars. They can be hot enough to boil metal or locked in deep freeze. They can orbit their stars so tightly that a “year” lasts only a few days; they can orbit two suns at once. Some exoplanets are sunless rogues, wandering through the galaxy in permanent darkness.

The Milky Way, our own galaxy, stretches across the sky above the La Silla telescope in Chile. Hidden inside our own galaxy are trillions of planets, most waiting to be found. (ESO/S. Brunier)

The Milky Way, our own galaxy, stretches across the sky above the La Silla telescope in Chile. Hidden inside our own galaxy are trillions of planets, most waiting to be found. (ESO/S. Brunier)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope discovers ancient Relic Galaxy

 

Written by Ray Villard
Space Telescope Science Institute

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationBaltimore, MD – Astronomers have put NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope on an Indiana Jones-type quest to uncover an ancient “relic galaxy” in our own cosmic backyard.

The very rare and odd assemblage of stars has remained essentially unchanged for the past 10 billion years. This wayward stellar island provides valuable new insights into the origin and evolution of galaxies billions of years ago.

The galaxy, NGC 1277, started its life with a bang long ago, ferociously churning out stars 1,000 times faster than seen in our own Milky Way today. But it abruptly went quiescent as the baby boomer stars aged and grew ever redder.

This is a Hubble Space Telescope image of galaxy NGC 1277. The galaxy is unique in that it is considered a relic of what galaxies were like in the early universe. The galaxy is composed exclusively of aging stars that were born 10 billion years ago. But unlike other galaxies in the local universe, it has not undergone any further star formation. (NASA, ESA, and M. Beasley (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias))

This is a Hubble Space Telescope image of galaxy NGC 1277. The galaxy is unique in that it is considered a relic of what galaxies were like in the early universe. The galaxy is composed exclusively of aging stars that were born 10 billion years ago. But unlike other galaxies in the local universe, it has not undergone any further star formation. (NASA, ESA, and M. Beasley (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias))

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NASA tracks cigar-shaped Interstellar Asteroid as it passes through our Solar System

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Astronomers recently scrambled to observe an intriguing asteroid that zipped through the solar system on a steep trajectory from interstellar space-the first confirmed object from another star.

Now, new data reveal the interstellar interloper to be a rocky, cigar-shaped object with a somewhat reddish hue. The asteroid, named ‘Oumuamua by its discoverers, is up to one-quarter mile (400 meters) long and highly-elongated-perhaps 10 times as long as it is wide. That aspect ratio is greater than that of any asteroid or comet observed in our solar system to date.

Artist's concept of interstellar asteroid 1I/2017 U1 ('Oumuamua) as it passed through the solar system after its discovery in October 2017. The aspect ratio of up to 10:1 is unlike that of any object seen in our own solar system. (European Southern Observatory / M. Kornmesser)

Artist’s concept of interstellar asteroid 1I/2017 U1 (‘Oumuamua) as it passed through the solar system after its discovery in October 2017. The aspect ratio of up to 10:1 is unlike that of any object seen in our own solar system. (European Southern Observatory / M. Kornmesser)

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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 looks back at accomplishments of Herschel Space Observatory

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – To celebrate the legacy of ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory, which had significant NASA contributions, the European Space Agency (ESA) has designated this week as Herschel Week, highlighting some of the mission’s accomplishments.

Herschel is the largest observatory ever launched that explored the universe in infrared wavelengths, a spectrum of light that is invisible to the naked eye.

This view of the Cygnus-X star-formation region by Herschel highlights chaotic networks of dust and gas that point to sites of massive star formation. (ESA/PACS/SPIRE/Martin Hennemann & Frederique Motte, Laboratoire AIM Paris-Saclay, CEA/Irfu -- CNRS/INSU -- Univ. Paris Diderot, France)

This view of the Cygnus-X star-formation region by Herschel highlights chaotic networks of dust and gas that point to sites of massive star formation. (ESA/PACS/SPIRE/Martin Hennemann & Frederique Motte, Laboratoire AIM Paris-Saclay, CEA/Irfu — CNRS/INSU — Univ. Paris Diderot, France)

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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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