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Topic: Herschel Space Observatory

NASA’s SOFIA Observatory sees Universe in Infrared Light

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, studies the universe with infrared light. That’s a range of wavelengths on the infrared spectrum, from those measuring about 700 nanometers, too small to see with the naked eye, to about 1 millimeter, which is about the size of the head of a pin.

Other observatories, such as the Spitzer Space Telescope and Herschel Space Observatory, also studied infrared light. But each telescope observes different wavelengths of infrared light, filling in puzzle pieces that are essential to learning what makes the universe tick.

Composite image of W51A, the largest star-forming region in our galaxy. Dozens of massive stars that are more than eight times the size of our Sun are forming there. (NASA/SOFIA/Wanggi Lim, James De Buizer; NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Composite image of W51A, the largest star-forming region in our galaxy. Dozens of massive stars that are more than eight times the size of our Sun are forming there. (NASA/SOFIA/Wanggi Lim, James De Buizer; NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s SOFIA telescope captures image of center of Milky Way Galaxy

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA has captured an extremely crisp infrared image of the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Spanning a distance of more than 600 light-years, this panorama reveals details within the dense swirls of gas and dust in high resolution, opening the door to future research into how massive stars are forming and what’s feeding the supermassive black hole at our galaxy’s core.

Among the features coming into focus are the jutting curves of the Arches Cluster containing the densest concentration of stars in our galaxy, as well as the Quintuplet Cluster with stars a million times brighter than our Sun. Our galaxy’s black hole takes shape with a glimpse of the fiery-looking ring of gas surrounding it. 

Composite infrared image of the center of our Milky Way galaxy. It spans 600+ light-years across and is helping scientists learn how many massive stars are forming in our galaxy’s center. (NASA/SOFIA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/Herschel)

Composite infrared image of the center of our Milky Way galaxy. It spans 600+ light-years across and is helping scientists learn how many massive stars are forming in our galaxy’s center. (NASA/SOFIA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/Herschel)

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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 looks back at accomplishments of Herschel Space Observatory

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – To celebrate the legacy of ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory, which had significant NASA contributions, the European Space Agency (ESA) has designated this week as Herschel Week, highlighting some of the mission’s accomplishments.

Herschel is the largest observatory ever launched that explored the universe in infrared wavelengths, a spectrum of light that is invisible to the naked eye.

This view of the Cygnus-X star-formation region by Herschel highlights chaotic networks of dust and gas that point to sites of massive star formation. (ESA/PACS/SPIRE/Martin Hennemann & Frederique Motte, Laboratoire AIM Paris-Saclay, CEA/Irfu -- CNRS/INSU -- Univ. Paris Diderot, France)

This view of the Cygnus-X star-formation region by Herschel highlights chaotic networks of dust and gas that point to sites of massive star formation. (ESA/PACS/SPIRE/Martin Hennemann & Frederique Motte, Laboratoire AIM Paris-Saclay, CEA/Irfu — CNRS/INSU — Univ. Paris Diderot, France)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope discovers Moon circling Dwarf Planet

 

Written by John Stansberry
Space Telescope Science Institute

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationBaltimore, MD – The combined power of three space observatories, including NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, has helped astronomers uncover a moon orbiting the third largest dwarf planet, catalogued as 2007 OR10. The pair resides in the frigid outskirts of our solar system called the Kuiper Belt, a realm of icy debris left over from our solar system’s formation 4.6 billion years ago.

With this discovery, most of the known dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt larger than 600 miles across have companions. These bodies provide insight into how moons formed in the young solar system.

Hubble spots a moon around the dwarf planet 2007 OR10. These two images, taken a year apart, reveal a moon orbiting the dwarf planet 2007 OR10. Each image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3, shows the companion in a different orbital position around its parent body. 2007 OR10 is the third-largest known dwarf planet, behind Pluto and Eris, and the largest unnamed world in the solar system. (NASA, ESA, C. Kiss (Konkoly Observatory), and J. Stansberry (STScI)

Hubble spots a moon around the dwarf planet 2007 OR10. These two images, taken a year apart, reveal a moon orbiting the dwarf planet 2007 OR10. Each image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3, shows the companion in a different orbital position around its parent body. 2007 OR10 is the third-largest known dwarf planet, behind Pluto and Eris, and the largest unnamed world in the solar system. (NASA, ESA, C. Kiss (Konkoly Observatory), and J. Stansberry (STScI)

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NASA study suggests Dwarf Planet Ceres’ Atmosphere linked to Sun’s Behavior

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists have long thought that Ceres may have a very weak, transient atmosphere, but mysteries lingered about its origin and why it’s not always present. Now, researchers suggest that this temporary atmosphere appears to be related to the behavior of the sun, rather than Ceres’ proximity to the sun.

The study was conducted by scientists from NASA’s Dawn mission and others who previously identified water vapor at Ceres using other observatories.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft determined the hydrogen content of the upper yard, or meter, of Ceres' surface. Blue indicates where hydrogen content is higher, near the poles, while red indicates lower content at lower latitudes. Vesta on the left, Ceres on the right. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft determined the hydrogen content of the upper yard, or meter, of Ceres’ surface. Blue indicates where hydrogen content is higher, near the poles, while red indicates lower content at lower latitudes. Vesta on the left, Ceres on the right. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

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NASA reports Herschel Space Observatory data reveals Ultraviolet Light plays role in creating Life Molecules

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Life exists in a myriad of wondrous forms, but if you break any organism down to its most basic parts, it’s all the same stuff: carbon atoms connected to hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and other elements. But how these fundamental substances are created in space has been a longstanding mystery.

Now, astronomers better understand how molecules form that are necessary for building other chemicals essential for life. Thanks to data from the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory, scientists have found that ultraviolet light from stars plays a key role in creating these molecules, rather than “shock” events that create turbulence, as was previously thought.

The dusty side of the Sword of Orion is illuminated in this striking infrared image from ESA's Hershel Space Observatory. Within the inset image, the emission from ionized carbon atoms (C+) is overlaid in yellow. (ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The dusty side of the Sword of Orion is illuminated in this striking infrared image from ESA’s Hershel Space Observatory. Within the inset image, the emission from ionized carbon atoms (C+) is overlaid in yellow. (ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft data reveals new insights about the Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A lonely 3-mile-high (5-kilometer-high) mountain on Ceres is likely volcanic in origin, and the dwarf planet may have a weak, temporary atmosphere. These are just two of many new insights about Ceres from NASA’s Dawn mission published this week in six papers in the journal Science.

“Dawn has revealed that Ceres is a diverse world that clearly had geological activity in its recent past,” said Chris Russell, principal investigator of the Dawn mission, based at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Ceres' lonely mountain, Ahuna Mons, is seen in this simulated perspective view. The elevation has been exaggerated by a factor of two. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

Ceres’ lonely mountain, Ahuna Mons, is seen in this simulated perspective view. The elevation has been exaggerated by a factor of two. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

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NASA Astronomers puzzle over age of distant Star

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – For years, astronomers have puzzled over a massive star lodged deep in the Milky Way that shows conflicting signs of being extremely old and extremely young.

Researchers initially classified the star as elderly, perhaps a red supergiant. But a new study by a NASA-led team of researchers suggests that the object, labeled IRAS 19312+1950, might be something quite different — a protostar, a star still in the making.

“Astronomers recognized this object as noteworthy around the year 2000 and have been trying ever since to decide how far along its development is,” said Martin Cordiner, an astrochemist working at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. He is the lead author of a paper in the Astrophysical Journal describing the team’s findings, from observations made using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory.

An age-defying star called IRAS 19312+1950 exhibits features characteristic of a very young star and a very old star. It is the bright red star at the center of this image. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

An age-defying star called IRAS 19312+1950 exhibits features characteristic of a very young star and a very old star. It is the bright red star at the center of this image. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope discovers biggest unnamed dwarf planet in our Solar System

 

Written by Michele Johnson
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – Dwarf planets tend to be a mysterious bunch. With the exception of Ceres, which resides in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, all members of this class of minor planets in our solar system lurk in the depths beyond Neptune.

They are far from Earth – small and cold – which makes them difficult to observe, even with large telescopes. So it’s little wonder astronomers only discovered most of them in the past decade or so.

Pluto is a prime example of this elusiveness. Before NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft visited it in 2015, the largest of the dwarf planets had appeared as little more than a fuzzy blob, even to the keen-eyed Hubble Space Telescope.

New K2 results peg 2007 OR10 as the largest unnamed body in our solar system and the third largest of the current roster of about half a dozen dwarf planets. The dwarf planet Haumea has an oblong shape that is wider on its long axis than 2007 OR10, but its overall volume is smaller. (Konkoly Observatory/András Pál, Hungarian Astronomical Association/Iván Éder, NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

New K2 results peg 2007 OR10 as the largest unnamed body in our solar system and the third largest of the current roster of about half a dozen dwarf planets. The dwarf planet Haumea has an oblong shape that is wider on its long axis than 2007 OR10, but its overall volume is smaller. (Konkoly Observatory/András Pál, Hungarian Astronomical Association/Iván Éder, NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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