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Topic: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes observe Dying Star reborn into a Black Hole

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers have watched as a massive, dying star was likely reborn as a black hole. It took the combined power of the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT), and NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes to go looking for remnants of the vanquished star, only to find that it disappeared out of sight.

It went out with a whimper instead of a bang.

The star, which was 25 times as massive as our sun, should have exploded in a very bright supernova. Instead, it fizzled out — and then left behind a black hole.

This illustration shows the final stages in the life of a supermassive star that fails to explode as a supernova, but instead implodes to form a black hole. (NASA/ESA/P. Jeffries (STScI))

This illustration shows the final stages in the life of a supermassive star that fails to explode as a supernova, but instead implodes to form a black hole. (NASA/ESA/P. Jeffries (STScI))

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft observes Saturn’s Solstice

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft still has a few months to go before it completes its mission in September, but the veteran Saturn explorer reaches a new milestone today. Saturn’s solstice — that is, the longest day of summer in the northern hemisphere and the shortest day of winter in the southern hemisphere — arrives today for the planet and its moons.

The Saturnian solstice occurs about every 15 Earth years as the planet and its entourage slowly orbit the sun, with the north and south hemispheres alternating their roles as the summer and winter poles.

These natural color views from Cassini show how the color of Saturn's north-polar region changed between June 2013 and April 2017, as the northern hemisphere headed toward summer solstice. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton Univ.)

These natural color views from Cassini show how the color of Saturn’s north-polar region changed between June 2013 and April 2017, as the northern hemisphere headed toward summer solstice. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton Univ.)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope identifies details of TRAPPIST-1h orbits

 

Written by Michele Johnson
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – Scientists using NASA’s Kepler space telescope identified a regular pattern in the orbits of the planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system that confirmed suspected details about the orbit of its outermost and least understood planet, TRAPPIST-1h.

TRAPPIST-1 is only eight percent the mass of our sun, making it a cooler and less luminous star. It’s home to seven Earth-size planets, three of which orbit in their star’s habitable zone — the range of distances from a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of a rocky planet. The system is located about 40 light-years away in the constellation of Aquarius. The star is estimated to be between 3 billion and 8 billion years old.

This artist's concept shows TRAPPIST-1h, one of seven Earth-size planets in the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system. NASA's Kepler spacecraft, operating in its K2 mission, obtained data that allowed scientists to determine that the orbital period of TRAPPIST-1h is 19 days. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows TRAPPIST-1h, one of seven Earth-size planets in the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system. NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, operating in its K2 mission, obtained data that allowed scientists to determine that the orbital period of TRAPPIST-1h is 19 days. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity to study Perseverance Valley

 

Written by Guy Webster / Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has reached the main destination of its current two-year extended mission — an ancient fluid-carved valley incised on the inner slope of a vast crater’s rim.

As the rover approached the upper end of “Perseverance Valley” in early May, images from its cameras began showing parts of the area in greater resolution than what can be seen in images taken from orbit above Mars.

“The science team is really jazzed at starting to see this area up close and looking for clues to help us distinguish among multiple hypotheses about how the valley formed,” said Opportunity Project Scientist Matt Golombek of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

"Perseverance Valley" lies just on the other side of the dip in the crater rim visible in this view from the Navigation Camera (Navcam) on NASA's long-lived Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, which arrived at this destination in early May 2017 in preparation for driving down the valley. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

“Perseverance Valley” lies just on the other side of the dip in the crater rim visible in this view from the Navigation Camera (Navcam) on NASA’s long-lived Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, which arrived at this destination in early May 2017 in preparation for driving down the valley. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes discover Planet with Hydrogen, Helium Atmosphere

 

Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD –  A study combining observations from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes reveals that the distant planet HAT-P-26b has a primitive atmosphere composed almost entirely of hydrogen and helium. Located about 437 light-years away, HAT-P-26b orbits a star roughly twice as old as the sun.

The analysis is one of the most detailed studies to date of a “warm Neptune,” or a planet that is Neptune-sized and close to its star. The researchers determined that HAT-P-26b’s atmosphere is relatively clear of clouds and has a strong water signature, although the planet is not a water world. This is the best measurement of water to date on an exoplanet of this size.

The atmosphere of the distant "warm Neptune" HAT-P-26b, illustrated here, is unexpectedly primitive, composed primarily of hydrogen and helium. (NASA/GSFC)

The atmosphere of the distant “warm Neptune” HAT-P-26b, illustrated here, is unexpectedly primitive, composed primarily of hydrogen and helium. (NASA/GSFC)

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NASA Observatories used to create detailed image of Crab Nebula

 

Space Telescope Science Institute

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationBaltimore, MD – Astronomers have produced a highly detailed image of the Crab Nebula, by combining data from telescopes spanning nearly the entire breadth of the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves seen by the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) to the powerful X-ray glow as seen by the orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory.

And, in between that range of wavelengths, the Hubble Space Telescope’s crisp visible-light view, and the infrared perspective of the Spitzer Space Telescope.

This image of the Crab Nebula combines data from five different telescopes. (NASA, ESA, G. Dubner (IAFE, CONICET-University of Buenos Aires) et al.; A. Loll et al.; T. Temim et al.; F. Seward et al.; VLA/NRAO/AUI/NSF; Chandra/CXC; Spitzer/JPL-Caltech; XMM-Newton/ESA; and Hubble/STScI)

This image of the Crab Nebula combines data from five different telescopes. (NASA, ESA, G. Dubner (IAFE, CONICET-University of Buenos Aires) et al.; A. Loll et al.; T. Temim et al.; F. Seward et al.; VLA/NRAO/AUI/NSF; Chandra/CXC; Spitzer/JPL-Caltech; XMM-Newton/ESA; and Hubble/STScI)

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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 releases Video showing Cassini Spacecraft’s trip across Saturn

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new movie sequence of images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows the view as the spacecraft swooped over Saturn during the first of its Grand Finale dives between the planet and its rings on April 26th.

The movie comprises one hour of observations as the spacecraft moved southward over Saturn. It begins with a view of the swirling vortex at the planet’s north pole, then heads past the outer boundary of the hexagon-shaped jet stream and beyond.

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft discovers little dust between Saturn and it’s Rings

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft prepares to shoot the narrow gap between Saturn and its rings for the second time in its Grand Finale, Cassini engineers are delighted, while ring scientists are puzzled, that the region appears to be relatively dust-free. This assessment is based on data Cassini collected during its first dive through the region on April 26th.

With this information in hand, the Cassini team will now move forward with its preferred plan of science observations.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is shown diving through the gap between Saturn and its rings in this artist's depiction. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is shown diving through the gap between Saturn and its rings in this artist’s depiction. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reviews plans for Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST)

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA is initiating an independent, external review over the next several months on the scope of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) project to help ensure it would provide compelling scientific capability with an appropriate, affordable cost and a reliable schedule.
 
“Developing large space missions is difficult,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This is the right time for us to pause for an independent look at our plans to make sure we understand how long it will take, and how much it will cost, to build WFIRST.”

NASA's next generation telescope, the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). (NASA)

NASA’s next generation telescope, the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). (NASA)

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