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Topic: SOFIA

NASA’s Lunar Trailblazer Satellite to examine Moon’s Surface, locate Water

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – A small-satellite mission to understand the lunar water cycle – detecting and mapping water on the lunar surface in order to investigate how its form, abundance, and location relate to geology – has received NASA approval to proceed with the next phase of its development.

On November 24th, 2020, the Lunar Trailblazer, a mission selected under NASA’s Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx) program, passed its Key Decision Point-C (KDP-C) milestone, obtaining agency-level endorsement to begin final design of hardware and build. The milestone also provides the project’s official schedule and budget determination.

Peering into the Moon's permanently shadowed regions, Lunar Trailblazer will detect signatures of water ice in reflected light, and it will pinpoint the locations of micro-cold traps less than a football field in size. (Lockheed Martin)

Peering into the Moon’s permanently shadowed regions, Lunar Trailblazer will detect signatures of water ice in reflected light, and it will pinpoint the locations of micro-cold traps less than a football field in size. (Lockheed Martin)

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NASA discovers Galaxy that is surviving Black Hole’s Feast, continues forming Stars

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA says the hungriest of black holes are thought to gobble up so much surrounding material they put an end to the life of their host galaxy.

This feasting process is so intense that it creates a highly energetic object called a quasar – one of the brightest objects in the universe – as the spinning matter is sucked into the black hole’s belly. Now, researchers have found a galaxy that is surviving the black hole’s ravenous forces by continuing to birth new stars – about 100 Sun-sized stars a year.   

Illustration of the galaxy called CQ4479. The extremely active black hole at the galaxy’s center is consuming material so fast that the material is glowing as it spins into the black hole’s center, forming a luminous quasar. Quasars create intense energy that was thought to halt all star birth and drive a lethal blow to a galaxy’s growth. (NASA/ Daniel Rutter)

Illustration of the galaxy called CQ4479. The extremely active black hole at the galaxy’s center is consuming material so fast that the material is glowing as it spins into the black hole’s center, forming a luminous quasar. Quasars create intense energy that was thought to halt all star birth and drive a lethal blow to a galaxy’s growth. (NASA/ Daniel Rutter)

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NASA’s SOFIA finds Water on the Moon

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has confirmed, for the first time, water on the sunlit surface of the Moon. This discovery indicates that water may be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to cold, shadowed places.

SOFIA has detected water molecules (H2O) in Clavius Crater, one of the largest craters visible from Earth, located in the Moon’s southern hemisphere. Previous observations of the Moon’s surface detected some form of hydrogen, but were unable to distinguish between water and its close chemical relative, hydroxyl (OH).

This illustration highlights the Moon’s Clavius Crater with an illustration depicting water trapped in the lunar soil there, along with an image of NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) that found sunlit lunar water. (NASA/Daniel Rutter)

This illustration highlights the Moon’s Clavius Crater with an illustration depicting water trapped in the lunar soil there, along with an image of NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) that found sunlit lunar water. (NASA/Daniel Rutter)

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NASA says Massive Stars Are Factories for Ingredients to Life

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s telescope on an airplane, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, has provided a new glimpse of the chemistry in the inner region surrounding massive young stars where future planets could begin to form.

It found massive quantities of water and organic molecules in these swirling, disk-shaped clouds, offering new insights into how some of the key ingredients of life get incorporated into planets during the earliest stages of formation.

Illustration of a dusty disc rotating around a massive newborn star that’s about 40 times the size of the Sun. SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, found the inner regions of two of these kinds of discs are filled with organic molecules that are important for life as we know it. These include water, ammonia, methane, and acetylene — which is a chemical building block to larger and more complex organic molecules — illustrated in the call out. (NASA / Ames Research Center / Daniel Rutter)

Illustration of a dusty disc rotating around a massive newborn star that’s about 40 times the size of the Sun. SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, found the inner regions of two of these kinds of discs are filled with organic molecules that are important for life as we know it. These include water, ammonia, methane, and acetylene — which is a chemical building block to larger and more complex organic molecules — illustrated in the call out. (NASA / Ames Research Center / Daniel Rutter)

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NASA’s SOFIA telescope discovers Pulsing Stars ejecting Carbon Gas, Dust into Interstellar Space

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationSilicon Valley, CA – As Carl Sagan famously said, “We’re made of star stuff” — but how do stars distribute their essential “stuff” for life into space?  NASA’s telescope on an airplane, SOFIA, is finding some answers by watching pulsating stars as they expand and contract, almost like beating hearts. 

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, examined several types of pulsating stars in our Milky Way galaxy, watching as some spewed carbon, a key ingredient of life as we know it, into interstellar space. 

Image of a carbon star known as CW Leonis or IRC+10216 taken by the Herschel Space Observatory. SOFIA found that some carbon stars with especially strong pulsations, called Mira variables, distribute large amounts of carbon to interstellar space where it can be used as a building block for life and other complex structures. (ESA/PACS/SPIRE/ Consortia)

Image of a carbon star known as CW Leonis or IRC+10216 taken by the Herschel Space Observatory. SOFIA found that some carbon stars with especially strong pulsations, called Mira variables, distribute large amounts of carbon to interstellar space where it can be used as a building block for life and other complex structures. (ESA/PACS/SPIRE/ Consortia)

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NASA’s SOFIA Telescope observes Magnetic Fields affecting Middle of Milky Way Galaxy

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The area around the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy is dominated by gravity, but it’s not the only force at play. According to new research from NASA’s airborne telescope, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, magnetic fields may be strong enough to control material moving around the black hole. 

The research, presented this week at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society, could help answer longstanding mysteries about why our black hole is relatively quiet compared to others, and why the formation of new stars in our galaxy’s core is lower than expected. 

A composite image of the central region of our Milky Way galaxy, known as Sagittarius A. SOFIA found that magnetic fields, shown as streamlines, are strong enough to control the material moving around the black hole, even in the presence of enormous gravitational forces. (NASA/SOFIA/L. Proudfit; ESA/Herschel; Hubble Space Telescope)

A composite image of the central region of our Milky Way galaxy, known as Sagittarius A. SOFIA found that magnetic fields, shown as streamlines, are strong enough to control the material moving around the black hole, even in the presence of enormous gravitational forces. (NASA/SOFIA/L. Proudfit; ESA/Herschel; Hubble Space Telescope)

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NASA’s SOFIA Telescope examines the Haze around Pluto

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – When the New Horizons spacecraft passed by Pluto in 2015, one of the many fascinating features its images revealed was that this small, frigid world in the distant solar system has a hazy atmosphere. Now, new data helps explain how Pluto’s haze is formed from the faint light of the Sun 3.7 billion miles away as it moves through an unusual orbit.

Remote observations of Pluto by NASA’s telescope on an airplane, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, show that the thin haze enshrouding Pluto is made of very small particles that remain in the atmosphere for prolonged periods of time rather than immediately falling to the surface.

Still image from an animation illustrating Pluto passing in front of a star during an eclipse-like event known as an occultation. SOFIA observed the dwarf planet as it was momentarily backlit by a star on June 29, 2015 to analyze its atmosphere. (NASA)

Still image from an animation illustrating Pluto passing in front of a star during an eclipse-like event known as an occultation. SOFIA observed the dwarf planet as it was momentarily backlit by a star on June 29, 2015 to analyze its atmosphere. (NASA)

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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 discovers how Swan Nebula was born

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA says one of the brightest and most massive star-forming regions in our galaxy, the Omega or Swan Nebula, came to resemble the shape resembling a swan’s neck we see today only relatively recently.

New observations reveal that its regions formed separately over multiple eras of star birth. The new image from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, is helping scientists chronicle the history and evolution of this well-studied nebula.

“The present-day nebula holds the secrets that reveal its past; we just need to be able to uncover them,” said Wanggi Lim, a Universities Space Research Association scientist at the SOFIA Science Center at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

Composite image of the Swan Nebula. SOFIA detected the blue areas (20 microns) near the center, revealing gas as it’s heated by massive stars located at the center and the green areas (37 microns) that trace dust as it’s warmed both by massive stars and nearby newborn stars. (NASA/SOFIA/De Buizer/Radomski/Lim; NASA/JPL-Caltech; ESA/Herschel)

Composite image of the Swan Nebula. SOFIA detected the blue areas (20 microns) near the center, revealing gas as it’s heated by massive stars located at the center and the green areas (37 microns) that trace dust as it’s warmed both by massive stars and nearby newborn stars. (NASA/SOFIA/De Buizer/Radomski/Lim; NASA/JPL-Caltech; ESA/Herschel)

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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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