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Topic: SOFIA

NASA’s SOFIA airborne observatory discovers First Type of Molecule that ever formed in the Universe

 

Written by Kassandra Bell and Alison Hawkes
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA says the first type of molecule that ever formed in the universe has been detected in space for the first time, after decades of searching. Scientists discovered its signature in our own galaxy using the world’s largest airborne observatory, NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, as the aircraft flew high above the Earth’s surface and pointed its sensitive instruments out into the cosmos.

When the universe was still very young, only a few kinds of atoms existed. Scientists believe that around 100,000 years after the big bang, helium and hydrogen combined to make a molecule called helium hydride for the first time.

Illustration of planetary nebula NGC 7027 and helium hydride molecules. In this planetary nebula, SOFIA detected helium hydride, a combination of helium (red) and hydrogen (blue), which was the first type of molecule to ever form in the early universe. This is the first time helium hydride has been found in the modern universe. (NASA/SOFIA/L. Proudfit/D.Rutter)

Illustration of planetary nebula NGC 7027 and helium hydride molecules. In this planetary nebula, SOFIA detected helium hydride, a combination of helium (red) and hydrogen (blue), which was the first type of molecule to ever form in the early universe. This is the first time helium hydride has been found in the modern universe. (NASA/SOFIA/L. Proudfit/D.Rutter)

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NASA reports Galactic Wind Provides Clues to Evolution of Galaxies

 

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The Cigar Galaxy (also known as M82) is famous for its extraordinary speed in making new stars, with stars being born 10 times faster than in the Milky Way. Now, data from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, have been used to study this galaxy in greater detail, revealing how material that affects the evolution of galaxies may get into intergalactic space.

Researchers found, for the first time, that the galactic wind flowing from the center of the Cigar Galaxy (M82) is aligned along a magnetic field and transports a very large mass of gas and dust – the equivalent mass of 50 million to 60 million Suns.

The magnetic field lines of the the Cigar Galaxy (also called M82) appear in this composite image. The lines follow the bipolar outflows (red) generated by exceptionally high rates of star formation. (NASA/SOFIA/E. Lopez-Rodiguez; NASA/Spitzer/J. Moustakas et al)

The magnetic field lines of the the Cigar Galaxy (also called M82) appear in this composite image. The lines follow the bipolar outflows (red) generated by exceptionally high rates of star formation. (NASA/SOFIA/E. Lopez-Rodiguez; NASA/Spitzer/J. Moustakas et al)

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NASA’s SOFIA telescope observes Supernova Explosion

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Dust particles form as dying red giant stars throw off material and become part of interstellar clouds of various sizes, densities and temperatures. This cosmic dust is then destroyed by supernova blast waves, which propagate through space at more than 6,000 miles per second (10,000 km/sec)!

Supernova explosions are among the most powerful events in the universe, with a peak brightness equivalent to the light from billions of individual stars. The explosion also produces a blast wave that destroys almost everything in its path, including dust in the surrounding interstellar medium, the space between the stars.

Artist's concept illustrating Supernova 1987A as the powerful blast wave passes through its outer ring and destroys most of its dust, before the dust re-forms or grows rapidly. SOFIA observations reveal that dust — a building block of stars and planets — can re-form or grow immediately after the catastrophic damage caused by the supernova's blast wave. (NASA/SOFIA/Symbolic Pictures/The Casadonte Group)

Artist’s concept illustrating Supernova 1987A as the powerful blast wave passes through its outer ring and destroys most of its dust, before the dust re-forms or grows rapidly. SOFIA observations reveal that dust — a building block of stars and planets — can re-form or grow immediately after the catastrophic damage caused by the supernova’s blast wave. (NASA/SOFIA/Symbolic Pictures/The Casadonte Group)

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NASA SOFIA telescope helps scientists unravel Star Cluster Formation Mystery

 

NASA Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – The sun, like all stars, was born in a giant cold cloud of molecular gas and dust. It may have had dozens or even hundreds of stellar siblings – a star cluster – but these early companions are now scattered throughout our Milky Way galaxy.

Although the remnants of this particular creation event have long since dispersed, the process of star birth continues today within our galaxy and beyond. Star clusters are conceived in the hearts of optically dark clouds where the early phases of formation have historically been hidden from view.

Illustration of a star cluster forming from the collision of turbulent molecular clouds, which appear as dark shadows in front of the background galactic star field. (NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook)

Illustration of a star cluster forming from the collision of turbulent molecular clouds, which appear as dark shadows in front of the background galactic star field. (NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook)

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NASA’s SOFIA Telescope used to examine Star Formation in Tarantula Nebula

 

NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – To have a full picture of the lives of massive stars, researchers need to study them in all stages – from when they’re a mass of unformed gas and dust, to their often dynamic end-of-life explosions.

NASA’s flying telescope, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, is particularly well-suited for studying the pre-natal stage of stellar development in star-forming regions, such as the Tarantula Nebula, a giant mass of gas and dust located within the Large Magellanic Cloud, or LMC.  

The Tarantula Nebula as seen on SOFIA’s visible light guide camera during observations from Christchurch, New Zealand. (NASA/SOFIA/Nicholas A. Veronico)

The Tarantula Nebula as seen on SOFIA’s visible light guide camera during observations from Christchurch, New Zealand. (NASA/SOFIA/Nicholas A. Veronico)

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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 SOFIA Observatory to study atmosphere of Neptune’s moon Triton

 

NASA Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – Researchers on the flying observatory SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, are preparing for a two-minute opportunity to study the atmosphere of Neptune’s moon Triton as it casts a faint shadow on Earth’s surface. This is the first chance to investigate Triton’s atmosphere in 16 years.

On October 5th, as Triton passes in front of a faraway star it will block the star’s light in an eclipse-like event called an occultation. During the celestial alignment, the team aboard the specially equipped Boeing 747SP aircraft will make observations of the distant star’s light as it passes through Triton’s atmosphere.

The borders of Triton's shadow across Earth's surface are indicated by black lines on this map, while the orange line is the path of the shadow's center. SOFIA’s flight path is represented by the red line; the point of the crucial, two-minute observation of Triton as it aligns with the star is marked by the airplane. The red and blue dots represent the ground-based telescopes that will also observe Triton. (DSI/ Karsten Schindler (Map data, Google))

The borders of Triton’s shadow across Earth’s surface are indicated by black lines on this map, while the orange line is the path of the shadow’s center. SOFIA’s flight path is represented by the red line; the point of the crucial, two-minute observation of Triton as it aligns with the star is marked by the airplane. The red and blue dots represent the ground-based telescopes that will also observe Triton. (DSI/ Karsten Schindler (Map data, Google))

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NASA’s New Horizons Team catches glimpse of primitive solar system object

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – A primitive solar system object that’s more than four billion miles (6.5 billion kilometers) away passed in front of a distant star as seen from Earth. Just before midnight Eastern Time Sunday (12:50am local time July 17th), several telescopes deployed by the New Horizons team in a remote part of Argentina were in precisely the right place at the right time to catch its fleeting shadow — an event that’s known as an occultation.

In a matter of seconds, NASA’s New Horizons team captured new data on its elusive target, an ancient Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69. Weary but excited team members succeeded in detecting the spacecraft’s next destination, in what’s being called the most ambitious and challenging ground occultation observation campaign in history.

NASA’s New Horizons team captured new data on its elusive target, an ancient Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69. (NASA)

NASA’s New Horizons team captured new data on its elusive target, an ancient Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69. (NASA)

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NASA’s SOFIA to Study Kuper Belt Object for Next New Horizons Flyby

 

NASA Ames Research Center

SOFIA Science Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – On July 10th, researchers using NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, will attempt to study the environment around a distant Kuiper Belt Object, 2014 MU69, which is the next flyby target for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft.

When New Horizons flies by it, MU69 will be the most distant object ever explored by a spacecraft, over a billion miles farther from our sun than Pluto. This ancient Kuiper Belt object is not well understood because it is faint, small (likely 12-25-mile (20-40-kilometer across, or possibly even smaller according to recent ground-based observations), and very far away (approximately 4.1 billion miles from Earth).

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 New Horizons spacecraft’s next target already revealing surprises

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft doesn’t zoom past its next science target until New Year’s Day 2019, but the Kuiper Belt object, known as 2014 MU69, is already revealing surprises.

Scientists have been sifting through data gathered from observing the object’s quick pass in front of a star – an astronomical event known as an occultation – on June 3rd.

More than 50 mission team members and collaborators set up telescopes across South Africa and Argentina, along a predicted track of the narrow shadow of MU69 that the occultation would create on Earth’s surface, aiming to catch a two-second glimpse of the object’s shadow as it raced across the Earth.

Four members of the New Horizons’ South African observation team scan the sky while waiting for the start of the 2014 MU69 occultation, early on the morning of June 3rd, 2017. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Henry Throop)

Four members of the New Horizons’ South African observation team scan the sky while waiting for the start of the 2014 MU69 occultation, early on the morning of June 3rd, 2017. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Henry Throop)

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