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Topic: Stars

New Spacecraft being design by NASA may one day take images of Earth like Planets

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A spacecraft that looks like a giant sunflower might one day be used to acquire images of Earth-like rocky planets around nearby stars. The prototype deployable structure, called a starshade, is being developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.

The hunt is on for planets that resemble Earth in size, composition and temperature. Rocky planets with just the right temperature for liquid water — not too hot, not too cold — could be possible abodes for life outside our solar system.

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NASA says Astronomers may have solved mystery behind Planet forming Disks

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers say that magnetic storms in the gas orbiting young stars may explain a mystery that has persisted since before 2006.

Researchers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope to study developing stars have had a hard time figuring out why the stars give off more infrared light than expected. The planet-forming disks that circle the young stars are heated by starlight and glow with infrared light, but Spitzer detected additional infrared light coming from an unknown source.

Magnetic loops carry gas and dust above disks of planet-forming material circling stars, as shown in this artist's conception. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Magnetic loops carry gas and dust above disks of planet-forming material circling stars, as shown in this artist’s conception. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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Astronomers look to make bigger Telescopes like NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – More than 400 years ago, Galileo turned a primitive spyglass toward the sky, and in just a few nights learned more about the unseen heavens than all of the scientists and philosophers before him, combined.

Since then astronomers have been guided by a simple imperative: Make Bigger Telescopes. As the 21st century unfolds, the power of optics has grown a million-fold.

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Over 700 new planets discovered by NASA’s Kepler Mission

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Kepler mission announced Wednesday the discovery of 715 new planets. These newly verified worlds orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system.

Nearly 95 percent of these planets are smaller than Neptune, which is almost four times the size of Earth. This discovery marks a significant increase in the number of known small-sized planets more akin to Earth than previously identified exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system.

The artist concept depicts "multiple-transiting planet systems," which are stars with more than one planet. (NASA)

The artist concept depicts “multiple-transiting planet systems,” which are stars with more than one planet. (NASA)

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NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) helps researchers discover how Stars Blow Up

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – One of the biggest mysteries in astronomy, how stars blow up in supernova explosions, finally is being unraveled with the help of NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR).

The high-energy X-ray observatory has created the first map of radioactive material in a supernova remnant. The results, from a remnant named Cassiopeia A (Cas A), reveal how shock waves likely rip apart massive dying stars.

Untangling the Remains of Cassiopeia A: This is the first map of radioactivity in a supernova remnant, the blown-out bits and pieces of a massive star that exploded. The blue color shows radioactive material mapped in high-energy X-rays using NuSTAR. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/CXC/SAO)

Untangling the Remains of Cassiopeia A: This is the first map of radioactivity in a supernova remnant, the blown-out bits and pieces of a massive star that exploded. The blue color shows radioactive material mapped in high-energy X-rays using NuSTAR. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/CXC/SAO)

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NASA astronomers to use Hubble, Spitzer, Herschel space telescopes to examine Burned Out Elliptical Galaxies

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, and Europe’s Herschel Space Observatory, have pieced together the evolutionary sequence of compact elliptical galaxies that erupted and burned out early in the history of the universe.

Enabled by Hubble’s infrared imaging capabilities, astronomers have assembled for the first time a representative spectroscopic sampling of ultra-compact, burned-out elliptical galaxies — galaxies whose star formation was finished when the universe was only 3 billion years old, less than a quarter of its current estimated age of 13.8 billion years.

This graphic shows the evolutionary sequence in the growth of massive elliptical galaxies over 13 billion years, as gleaned from space-based and ground-based telescopic observations. The growth of this class of galaxies is quickly driven by rapid star formation and mergers with other galaxies. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Toft (Niels Bohr Institute), and A. Feild (STScI)

This graphic shows the evolutionary sequence in the growth of massive elliptical galaxies over 13 billion years, as gleaned from space-based and ground-based telescopic observations. The growth of this class of galaxies is quickly driven by rapid star formation and mergers with other galaxies. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Toft (Niels Bohr Institute), and A. Feild (STScI)

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NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) captures image of baby stars in the Trifid nebula

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A storm of stars is brewing in the Trifid nebula, as seen in this view from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. The stellar nursery, where baby stars are bursting into being, is the yellow-and-orange object dominating the picture.

Yellow bars in the nebula appear to cut a cavity into three sections, hence the name Trifid nebula.

Colors in this image represent different wavelengths of infrared light detected by WISE. The main green cloud is made up of hydrogen gas.

Radiation and winds from massive stars have blown a cavity into the surrounding dust and gas, creating the Trifid nebula, as seen here in infrared light by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA)

Radiation and winds from massive stars have blown a cavity into the surrounding dust and gas, creating the Trifid nebula, as seen here in infrared light by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope observations brings new Insight about Planets Kepler’s discovered

 

Written by Michele Johnson
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – More than three-quarters of the planet candidates discovered by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft have sizes ranging from that of Earth to that of Neptune, which is nearly four times as big as Earth. Such planets dominate the galactic census but are not represented in our own solar system. Astronomers don’t know how they form or if they are made of rock, water or gas.

The Kepler team issued a report on four years of ground-based follow-up observations targeting Kepler’s exoplanet systems at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington. These observations confirm the numerous Kepler discoveries are indeed planets and yield mass measurements of these enigmatic worlds that vary between Earth and Neptune in size.

Chart of Kepler planet candidates as of January 2014. Image (NASA Ames Research Center)

Chart of Kepler planet candidates as of January 2014. Image (NASA Ames Research Center)

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NASA reports Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) begins studying distant planets

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After nearly a decade of development, construction and testing, the world’s most advanced instrument for directly imaging and analyzing planets around other stars is pointing skyward and collecting light from distant worlds.

The instrument, called the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), was designed, built, and optimized for imaging giant planets next to bright stars, in addition to studying dusty disks around young stars.

This image taken by the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) shows a planet orbiting the star Beta Pictoris. In addition to the image, the GPI obtains spectral information from every pixel element in the field of view, allowing scientists to study the planet in great detail. (Gemini/Christian Marois, NRC Canada)

This image taken by the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) shows a planet orbiting the star Beta Pictoris. In addition to the image, the GPI obtains spectral information from every pixel element in the field of view, allowing scientists to study the planet in great detail. (Gemini/Christian Marois, NRC Canada)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope observations reveal possible Stormy Weather on Brown Dwarfs

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Cool celestial orbs called brown dwarfs may have swirling, stormy clouds present. New observations from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope suggest that most brown dwarfs are roiling with one or more planet-size storms akin to Jupiter’s “Great Red Spot.”

“As the brown dwarfs spin on their axis, the alternation of what we think are cloud-free and cloudy regions produces a periodic brightness variation that we can observe,” said Stanimir Metchev of the University of Western Ontario, Canada. “These are signs of patchiness in the cloud cover.”

This artist's concept shows what the weather might look like on cool star-like bodies known as brown dwarfs. These giant balls of gas start out life like stars, but lack the mass to sustain nuclear fusion at their cores, and instead, fade and cool with time. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Western Ontario/Stony Brook University)

This artist’s concept shows what the weather might look like on cool star-like bodies known as brown dwarfs. These giant balls of gas start out life like stars, but lack the mass to sustain nuclear fusion at their cores, and instead, fade and cool with time. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Western Ontario/Stony Brook University)

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