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Topic: Whitney Clavin

Volunteers scanning NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope images lead Astronomers to new Discovery

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Sometimes it takes a village to find new and unusual objects in space. Volunteers scanning tens of thousands of starry images from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, using the Web-based Milky Way Project, recently stumbled upon a new class of curiosities that had gone largely unrecognized before: yellow balls.

The rounded features are not actually yellow — they just appear that way in the infrared, color-assigned Spitzer images.

Volunteers using the web-based Milky Way Project brought star-forming features nicknamed "yellowballs" to the attention of researchers, who later showed that they are a phase of massive star formation. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Volunteers using the web-based Milky Way Project brought star-forming features nicknamed “yellowballs” to the attention of researchers, who later showed that they are a phase of massive star formation. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports Astronomers now using Machines to learn about Stars

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers are enlisting the help of machines to sort through thousands of stars in our galaxy and learn their sizes, compositions and other basic traits.

The research is part of the growing field of machine learning, in which computers learn from large data sets, finding patterns that humans might not otherwise see. Machine learning is in everything from media-streaming services that predict what you want to watch, to the post office, where computers automatically read handwritten addresses and direct mail to the correct zip codes.

Astronomers have turned to a method called "machine learning" to help them understand the properties of large numbers of stars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Astronomers have turned to a method called “machine learning” to help them understand the properties of large numbers of stars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports possible Black Hole Merger

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The central regions of many glittering galaxies, our own Milky Way included, harbor cores of impenetrable darkness — black holes with masses equivalent to millions, or even billions, of suns.

What’s more, these supermassive black holes and their host galaxies appear to develop together, or “co-evolve.” Theory predicts that as galaxies collide and merge, growing ever more massive, so too do their dark hearts.

An artist's conception of a black hole binary in a heart of a quasar, with the data showing the periodic variability superposed. (Santiago Lombeyda, Center for Data-Driven Discovery, Caltech)

An artist’s conception of a black hole binary in a heart of a quasar, with the data showing the periodic variability superposed. (Santiago Lombeyda, Center for Data-Driven Discovery, Caltech)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope discovers it’s 1,000th Exoplanet

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – How many stars like our sun host planets like our Earth? NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope continuously monitored more than 150,000 stars beyond our solar system, and to date has offered scientists an assortment of more than 4,000 candidate planets for further study — the 1,000th of which was recently verified.

Using Kepler data, scientists reached this millenary milestone after validating that eight more candidates spotted by the planet-hunting telescope are, in fact, planets. The Kepler team also has added another 554 candidates to the roll of potential planets, six of which are near-Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of stars similar to our sun.

Of the more than 1,000 verified planets found by NASA's Kepler, eight are less than twice Earth-size and in their stars' habitable zone. All eight orbit stars cooler and smaller than our sun. The search continues for Earth-size habitable zone worlds around sun-like stars. (NASA Ames/W Stenzel)

Of the more than 1,000 verified planets found by NASA’s Kepler, eight are less than twice Earth-size and in their stars’ habitable zone. All eight orbit stars cooler and smaller than our sun. The search continues for Earth-size habitable zone worlds around sun-like stars. (NASA Ames/W Stenzel)

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NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) takes High-Energy X-Ray of our Sun

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – For the first time, a mission designed to set its eyes on black holes and other objects far from our solar system has turned its gaze back closer to home, capturing images of our sun.

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has taken its first picture of the sun, producing the most sensitive solar portrait ever taken in high-energy X-rays.

“NuSTAR will give us a unique look at the sun, from the deepest to the highest parts of its atmosphere,” said David Smith, a solar physicist and member of the NuSTAR team at University of California, Santa Cruz.

X-rays stream off the sun in this image showing observations from by NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, overlaid on a picture taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC)

X-rays stream off the sun in this image showing observations from by NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, overlaid on a picture taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope captures image of Horsehead Nebula

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Sometimes a horse of a different color hardly seems to be a horse at all, as, for example, in this newly released image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The famous Horsehead nebula makes a ghostly appearance on the far right side of the image, but is almost unrecognizable in this infrared view.

In visible-light images, the nebula has a distinctively dark and dusty horse-shaped silhouette, but when viewed in infrared light, dust becomes transparent and the nebula appears as a wispy arc.

The famous Horsehead nebula of visible-light images (inset) looks quite different when viewed in infrared light, as seen in this newly released image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESO)

The famous Horsehead nebula of visible-light images (inset) looks quite different when viewed in infrared light, as seen in this newly released image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESO)

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NASA’s Kepler spacecraft discovers it’s first Exoplanet during new mission

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA -NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft makes a comeback with the discovery of the first exoplanet found using its new mission — K2.

The discovery was made when astronomers and engineers devised an ingenious way to repurpose Kepler for the K2 mission and continue its search of the cosmos for other worlds.

“Last summer, the possibility of a scientifically productive mission for Kepler after its reaction wheel failure in its extended mission was not part of the conversation,” said Paul Hertz, NASA’s astrophysics division director at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “Today, thanks to an innovative idea and lots of hard work by the NASA and Ball Aerospace team, Kepler may well deliver the first candidates for follow-up study by the James Webb Space Telescope to characterize the atmospheres of distant worlds and search for signatures of life.”

The artistic concept shows NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle)

The artistic concept shows NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle)

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NASA’s Spitzer, Hubble and Herschel Space Telescopes observes Warm Gases stopping Galaxy from making new Stars

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Some like it hot, but for creating new stars, a cool cosmic environment is ideal. As a new study suggests, a surge of warm gas into a nearby galaxy — left over from the devouring of a separate galaxy — has extinguished star formation by agitating the available chilled gas.

The unique findings illustrate a new dimension to galaxy evolution, and come courtesy of the European Space Agency’s Herschel space observatory, in which NASA played a key role, and NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes.

A new feature in the evolution of galaxies has been captured in this image of galactic interactions. (NASA/CFHT/NRAO/JPL-Caltech/Duc/Cuillandre)

A new feature in the evolution of galaxies has been captured in this image of galactic interactions. (NASA/CFHT/NRAO/JPL-Caltech/Duc/Cuillandre)

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NASA uses Keck Observatory telescopes to determine dust will likely not to block images of star’s Planets

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Planet hunters received some good news recently. A new study concluded that, on average, sun-like stars aren’t all that dusty. Less dust means better odds of snapping clear pictures of the stars’ planets in the future.

These results come from surveying nearly 50 stars from 2008 to 2011 using the Keck Interferometer, a former NASA key science project that combined the power of the twin W. M. Keck Observatory telescopes atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

A dusty planetary system (left) is compared to another system with little dust in this artist's conception. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A dusty planetary system (left) is compared to another system with little dust in this artist’s conception. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA researchers discover dusty star system similar to our solar system

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Researchers studying what appears to be a beefed-up version of our solar system have discovered that it is encased in a halo of fine dust. The findings are based on infrared data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory, in which NASA is a partner.

The dusty star system, called HD 95086, is located 295 light-years from Earth in the constellation Carina. It is thought to include two belts of dust, which lie within the newfound outer dust halo.

This artist's concept depicts giant planets circling between belts of dust. Scientists think the star system HD 95068 may have a planetary architecture similar to this. While the star system's two dust belts are known, along with one massive planet, more giant planets may lurk unseen. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept depicts giant planets circling between belts of dust. Scientists think the star system HD 95068 may have a planetary architecture similar to this. While the star system’s two dust belts are known, along with one massive planet, more giant planets may lurk unseen. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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