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Topic: Stars

NASA picks Six Explorers Program proposals to study our Solar System

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA has selected six astrophysics Explorers Program proposals for concept studies. The proposed missions would study gamma-ray and X-ray emissions from clusters of galaxies and neutron star systems, as well as infrared emissions from galaxies in the early universe and atmospheres of exoplanets, which are planets outside of our solar system.

Three of these proposed missions, called FINESSE, SPHEREx and CASE, are managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. FINESSE and CASE additionally have their principal investigator based at JPL.

NASA is exploring our solar system and beyond to understand the workings of the universe, searching for water and life among the stars. (NASA)

NASA is exploring our solar system and beyond to understand the workings of the universe, searching for water and life among the stars. (NASA)

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NASA explains What Happens During a Total Solar Eclipse

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – It might be the hottest event of the summer: On Monday, the U.S. will see the first solar eclipse visible across both coasts in nearly a century.

The path of totality — where the view of the Sun will be totally blocked by the Moon’s shadow — will cross from Oregon to South Carolina. The event has turned small towns like Twin Falls, Idaho, and Madras, Oregon, into prime vacation destinations. NASA is hosting events in a number of these locations, as well as encouraging teachers to share science with their students.

Jim Lux, a telecommunications specialist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has traveled far and wide to view total eclipses in the past.

Below, he describes what makes them unique experiences.

A total solar eclipse gives scientists a rare opportunity to study the lower regions of the Sun's corona. These observations can help us understand solar activity, as well as the unexpectedly high temperatures in the corona. (S. Habbal, M. Druckmüller and P. Aniol)

A total solar eclipse gives scientists a rare opportunity to study the lower regions of the Sun’s corona. These observations can help us understand solar activity, as well as the unexpectedly high temperatures in the corona. (S. Habbal, M. Druckmüller and P. Aniol)

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NASA reports TRAPPIST-1 is nearly twice as Old as our Solar System

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – If we want to know more about whether life could survive on a planet outside our solar system, it’s important to know the age of its star. Young stars have frequent releases of high-energy radiation called flares that can zap their planets’ surfaces.

If the planets are newly formed, their orbits may also be unstable. On the other hand, planets orbiting older stars have survived the spate of youthful flares, but have also been exposed to the ravages of stellar radiation for a longer period of time.

This illustration shows what the TRAPPIST-1 system might look like from a vantage point near planet TRAPPIST-1f (at right). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration shows what the TRAPPIST-1 system might look like from a vantage point near planet TRAPPIST-1f (at right). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Voyager Spacecrafts broke new ground during 40 years exploration

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Few missions can match the achievements of NASA’s groundbreaking Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft during their 40 years of exploration. Here’s a short list of their major accomplishments to date. The Voyager spacecrafts made a lot of planetary firsts

Launched in 1977, the Voyagers delivered many surprises and discoveries from their encounters with the gas giants of the outer solar system: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

This montage of images of the planets visited by Voyager 2 was prepared from an assemblage of images taken by the 2 Voyager spacecraft. (NASA/JPL)

This montage of images of the planets visited by Voyager 2 was prepared from an assemblage of images taken by the 2 Voyager spacecraft. (NASA/JPL)

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NASA says second Star in System can make Planets look smaller

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In the search for planets similar to our own, an important point of comparison is the planet’s density. A low density tells scientists a planet is more likely to be gaseous like Jupiter, and a high density is associated with rocky planets like Earth. But a new study suggests some are less dense than previously thought because of a second, hidden star in their systems.

As telescopes stare at particular patches of sky, they can’t always differentiate between one star and two. A system of two closely orbiting stars may appear in images as a single point of light, even from sophisticated observatories such as NASA’s Kepler space telescope.

This cartoon explains why the reported sizes of some exoplanets may need to be revised in cases where there is a second star in the system. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This cartoon explains why the reported sizes of some exoplanets may need to be revised in cases where there is a second star in the system. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA gets ready Total Solar Eclipse on August 21st

 

Written by Karen Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – For the first time in 99 years, a total solar eclipse will occur across the entire continental United States, and NASA is preparing to share this experience of a lifetime on August 21st, 2017.

Viewers around the world will be provided a wealth of images captured before, during, and after the eclipse by 11 spacecraft, at least three NASA aircraft, more than 50 high-altitude balloons, and the astronauts aboard the International Space Station – each offering a unique vantage point for the celestial event.

This image of the moon crossing in front of the sun was captured on Jan. 30, 2014, by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory observing an eclipse from its vantage point in space. (NASA)

This image of the moon crossing in front of the sun was captured on Jan. 30, 2014, by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory observing an eclipse from its vantage point in space. (NASA)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope spots Clumps of New Stars in Distant Galaxy

 

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – When it comes to the distant universe, even the keen vision of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope can only go so far. Teasing out finer details requires clever thinking and a little help from a cosmic alignment with a gravitational lens.

By applying a new computational analysis to a galaxy magnified by a gravitational lens, astronomers have obtained images 10 times sharper than what Hubble could achieve on its own. The results show an edge-on disk galaxy studded with brilliant patches of newly formed stars.

In this Hubble photograph of a distant galaxy cluster, a spotty blue arc stands out against a background of red galaxies. That arc is actually three separate images of the same background galaxy. The background galaxy has been gravitationally lensed, its light magnified and distorted by the intervening galaxy cluster. On the right: How the galaxy would look to Hubble without distortions. (NASA, ESA, and T. Johnson (University of Michigan)

In this Hubble photograph of a distant galaxy cluster, a spotty blue arc stands out against a background of red galaxies. That arc is actually three separate images of the same background galaxy. The background galaxy has been gravitationally lensed, its light magnified and distorted by the intervening galaxy cluster. On the right: How the galaxy would look to Hubble without distortions. (NASA, ESA, and T. Johnson (University of Michigan)

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NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory photo shows merger of Two Galaxies

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – What would happen if you took two galaxies and mixed them together over millions of years? A new image including data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory reveals the cosmic culinary outcome.

Arp 299 is a system located about 140 million light years from Earth. It contains two galaxies that are merging, creating a partially blended mix of stars from each galaxy in the process.

However, this stellar mix is not the only ingredient. New data from Chandra reveals 25 bright X-ray sources sprinkled throughout the Arp 299 concoction.

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory image reveals two galaxies that are merging. (NASA)

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory image reveals two galaxies that are merging. (NASA)

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NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer examines how Red Dwarf Flares effect Orbiting Planets

 

Written by Christine Pulliam
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Cool dwarf stars are hot targets for exoplanet hunting right now. The discoveries of planets in the habitable zones of the TRAPPIST-1 and LHS 1140 systems, for example, suggest that Earth-sized worlds might circle billions of red dwarf stars, the most common type of star in our galaxy.

But, like our own sun, many of these stars erupt with intense flares. Are red dwarfs really as friendly to life as they appear, or do these flares make the surfaces of any orbiting planets inhospitable?

To address this question, a team of scientists has combed 10 years of ultraviolet observations by NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) spacecraft looking for rapid increases in the brightness of stars due to flares.

This illustration shows a red dwarf star orbited by a hypothetical exoplanet. (NASA/ESA/G. Bacon (STScI))

This illustration shows a red dwarf star orbited by a hypothetical exoplanet. (NASA/ESA/G. Bacon (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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