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93 posts tagged astronomy

9th April, 2013

spaceplasma:

A Remarkable Outburst from an Old Black Hole
NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has discovered an extraordinary outburst by a black hole in the spiral galaxy M83, located about 15 million light years from Earth. Using Chandra, astronomers found a new ultraluminous X-ray source (ULX), objects that give off more X-rays than most “normal” binary systems in which a companion star is in orbit around a neutron star or black hole.
On the left is an optical image of M83 from the Very Large Telescope in Chile, operated by the European Southern Observatory. On the right is a composite image showing X-ray data from Chandra in pink and optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope in blue and yellow. The ULX is located near the bottom of the composite image (mouseover for the exact position).
In Chandra observations that spanned several years, the ULX in M83 increased in X-ray brightness by at least 3,000 times. This sudden brightening is one of the largest changes in X-rays ever seen for this type of object, which do not usually show dormant periods.
Optical images reveal a bright blue source at the position of the ULX during the X-ray outburst. Before the outburst the blue source is not seen. These results imply that the companion to the black hole in M83 is a red giant star, more than about 500 million years old, with a mass less than about four times the Sun’s. According to theoretical models for the evolution of stars, the black hole should be almost as old as its companion.
Full Article
Credit:  Left image - Optical: ESO/VLT; Close-up - X-ray: NASA/CXC/Curtin University/R.Soria et al.,

spaceplasma:

A Remarkable Outburst from an Old Black Hole

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has discovered an extraordinary outburst by a black hole in the spiral galaxy M83, located about 15 million light years from Earth. Using Chandra, astronomers found a new ultraluminous X-ray source (ULX), objects that give off more X-rays than most “normal” binary systems in which a companion star is in orbit around a neutron star or black hole.

On the left is an optical image of M83 from the Very Large Telescope in Chile, operated by the European Southern Observatory. On the right is a composite image showing X-ray data from Chandra in pink and optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope in blue and yellow. The ULX is located near the bottom of the composite image (mouseover for the exact position).

In Chandra observations that spanned several years, the ULX in M83 increased in X-ray brightness by at least 3,000 times. This sudden brightening is one of the largest changes in X-rays ever seen for this type of object, which do not usually show dormant periods.

Optical images reveal a bright blue source at the position of the ULX during the X-ray outburst. Before the outburst the blue source is not seen. These results imply that the companion to the black hole in M83 is a red giant star, more than about 500 million years old, with a mass less than about four times the Sun’s. According to theoretical models for the evolution of stars, the black hole should be almost as old as its companion.


Full Article

Credit:  Left image - Optical: ESO/VLT; Close-up - X-ray: NASA/CXC/Curtin University/R.Soria et al.,

(via A Hitchhiker's Guide to Space & Plasma Physics)

21st March, 2013

The picture above is of our galactic center with a very weak aurora in the foreground. Scientists believe there is a supermassive black hole at our galactic center. Infra-red astronomy indicates an extremely massive 3-4 million solar mass object at the center with intense radio output. The intense radio output of this object is best modeled by matter being ground up as it spirals towards a supermassive object, creating two huge jets of extremely hot material.

The picture above is of our galactic center with a very weak aurora in the foreground. Scientists believe there is a supermassive black hole at our galactic center. Infra-red astronomy indicates an extremely massive 3-4 million solar mass object at the center with intense radio output. The intense radio output of this object is best modeled by matter being ground up as it spirals towards a supermassive object, creating two huge jets of extremely hot material.

(Source: photolibrary.usap.gov)

9th February, 2013

This wide-field panorama of star formation was captured with the National Science Foundation’s Mayall 4-meter telescope on Kitt Peak. The image shows a portion of a giant molecular cloud (known as “Orion A”) in the constellation Orion, where new stars are forming. The bright object in the bottom-left corner is the reflection nebula NGC 1999, which contains the young star V380 Orionis. A small, triangle-shaped patch of dusty material is seen in silhouette against the reflection nebula. NGC 1999 lies at the center of a network of nebulous filaments, which billow out and away like the spokes of a bicycle wheel. Powerful jets of gas are often the first visible manifestations of the birth of young stars. These jets punch holes through the opaque clouds in which the star is formed, holes through which the light of the new-born stars can escape to produce what are known as reflection nebulae. Several such nebulae are seen in this image.
This wide-field panorama of star formation was captured with the National Science Foundation’s Mayall 4-meter telescope on Kitt Peak. The image shows a portion of a giant molecular cloud (known as “Orion A”) in the constellation Orion, where new stars are forming. The bright object in the bottom-left corner is the reflection nebula NGC 1999, which contains the young star V380 Orionis. A small, triangle-shaped patch of dusty material is seen in silhouette against the reflection nebula. NGC 1999 lies at the center of a network of nebulous filaments, which billow out and away like the spokes of a bicycle wheel. Powerful jets of gas are often the first visible manifestations of the birth of young stars. These jets punch holes through the opaque clouds in which the star is formed, holes through which the light of the new-born stars can escape to produce what are known as reflection nebulae. Several such nebulae are seen in this image.

25th January, 2013

Jan. 24, 2013 — An insect with a tiny brain and minimal computing power has become the first animal proven to use the Milky Way for orientation. Scientists from South Africa and Sweden have published findings showing the link between dung beetles and the spray of stars which comprises our galaxy.
Although their eyes are too weak to distinguish individual constellations, dung beetles use the gradient of light to dark provided by the Milky Way to ensure they keep rolling their balls in a straight line and don’t circle back to competitors at the dung pile.
"The dung beetles don’t care which direction they’re going in; they just need to get away from the bun fight at the poo pile," said Professor Marcus Byrne from Wits University.
Full Story

Jan. 24, 2013 — An insect with a tiny brain and minimal computing power has become the first animal proven to use the Milky Way for orientation. Scientists from South Africa and Sweden have published findings showing the link between dung beetles and the spray of stars which comprises our galaxy.

Although their eyes are too weak to distinguish individual constellations, dung beetles use the gradient of light to dark provided by the Milky Way to ensure they keep rolling their balls in a straight line and don’t circle back to competitors at the dung pile.

"The dung beetles don’t care which direction they’re going in; they just need to get away from the bun fight at the poo pile," said Professor Marcus Byrne from Wits University.

Full Story

20th January, 2013

Above: NASA Infrared Telescope Facility
NASA employs the use of cryogenics for a variety of reasons, and researchers are constantly exploring new methods and applications in the hopes of continuously improving the technology. Here are just a few examples of how NASA utilizes cryogenics:


Infrared Sensors: infrared rays, also called “heat rays” are given off by all warm objects. Infrared telescopes must be cold so that their own radiation doesn’t swamp the weak infrared signals from faraway astronomical objects. There will be infrared telescopes on the airborne infrared observatory SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy.




Electronics: all sensors require electronics. Cooling electronics reduces the noise in the circuits and thus allows them to study weaker signals.




X-rays: the sensors for XRS, the X-Ray Spectrometer measure temperature changes induced by incoming x-rays. When the sensors are colder, the induced temperature changes are larger and easier to measure.

Above: NASA Infrared Telescope Facility


NASA employs the use of cryogenics for a variety of reasons, and researchers are constantly exploring new methods and applications in the hopes of continuously improving the technology. Here are just a few examples of how NASA utilizes cryogenics:

  • Infrared Sensors: infrared rays, also called “heat rays” are given off by all warm objects. Infrared telescopes must be cold so that their own radiation doesn’t swamp the weak infrared signals from faraway astronomical objects. There will be infrared telescopes on the airborne infrared observatory SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy.
  • Electronics: all sensors require electronics. Cooling electronics reduces the noise in the circuits and thus allows them to study weaker signals.
  • X-rays: the sensors for XRS, the X-Ray Spectrometer measure temperature changes induced by incoming x-rays. When the sensors are colder, the induced temperature changes are larger and easier to measure.

12th January, 2013

we-are-star-stuff:

Astronomers searching for the building blocks of life in a giant dust cloud at the heart of the Milky Way have concluded that it would taste vaguely of raspberries.
The unanticipated discovery follows years of work by astronomers who trained their 30m radio telescope on the enormous ball of dust and gas in the hope of spotting complex molecules that are vital for life.
Finding amino acids in interstellar space is a Holy Grail for astrobiologists, as this would raise the possibility of life emerging on other planets after being seeded with the molecules.
In the latest survey, astronomers sifted through thousands of signals from Sagittarius B2, a vast dust cloud at the centre of our galaxy. While they failed to find evidence for amino acids, they did find a substance called ethyl formate, the chemical responsible for the flavour of raspberries.
“It does happen to give raspberries their flavour, but there are many other molecules that are needed to make space raspberries,” Arnaud Belloche, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, told the Guardian.
Curiously, ethyl formate has another distinguishing characteristic: it also smells of rum.
The astronomers used the IRAM telescope in Spain to analyse electromagnetic radiation emitted by a hot and dense region of Sagittarius B2 that surrounds a newborn star.
Radiation from the star is absorbed by molecules floating around in the gas cloud, which is then re-emitted at different energies depending on the type of molecule.
While scouring their data, the team also found evidence for the lethal chemical propyl cyanide in the same cloud. The two molecules are the largest yet discovered in deep space.
Dr Belloche and his colleague Robin Garrod at Cornell University in New York have collected nearly 4,000 distinct signals from the cloud but have only analysed around half of these.
“So far we have identified around 50 molecules in our survey, and two of those had not been seen before,” said Belloche.
Last year, the team came tantalisingly close to finding amino acids in space with the discovery of a molecule that can be used to make them, called amino acetonitrile.
The latest discoveries have boosted the researchers’ morale because the molecules are as large as the simplest amino acid, glycine. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and are widely seen as being critical for complex life to exist anywhere in the universe.
“The difficulty in searching for complex molecules is that the best astronomical sources contain so many different molecules that their ‘fingerprints’ overlap and are difficult to disentangle,” Belloche said.
The molecules are thought to form when chemicals that already exist on some dust grains, such as ethanol, link together to make more complex chains.
“There is no apparent limit to the size of molecules that can be formed by this process, so there’s good reason to expect even more complex organic molecules to be there,” said Garrod.

we-are-star-stuff:

Astronomers searching for the building blocks of life in a giant dust cloud at the heart of the Milky Way have concluded that it would taste vaguely of raspberries.

The unanticipated discovery follows years of work by astronomers who trained their 30m radio telescope on the enormous ball of dust and gas in the hope of spotting complex molecules that are vital for life.

Finding amino acids in interstellar space is a Holy Grail for astrobiologists, as this would raise the possibility of life emerging on other planets after being seeded with the molecules.

In the latest survey, astronomers sifted through thousands of signals from Sagittarius B2, a vast dust cloud at the centre of our galaxy. While they failed to find evidence for amino acids, they did find a substance called ethyl formate, the chemical responsible for the flavour of raspberries.

“It does happen to give raspberries their flavour, but there are many other molecules that are needed to make space raspberries,” Arnaud Belloche, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, told the Guardian.

Curiously, ethyl formate has another distinguishing characteristic: it also smells of rum.

The astronomers used the IRAM telescope in Spain to analyse electromagnetic radiation emitted by a hot and dense region of Sagittarius B2 that surrounds a newborn star.

Radiation from the star is absorbed by molecules floating around in the gas cloud, which is then re-emitted at different energies depending on the type of molecule.

While scouring their data, the team also found evidence for the lethal chemical propyl cyanide in the same cloud. The two molecules are the largest yet discovered in deep space.

Dr Belloche and his colleague Robin Garrod at Cornell University in New York have collected nearly 4,000 distinct signals from the cloud but have only analysed around half of these.

“So far we have identified around 50 molecules in our survey, and two of those had not been seen before,” said Belloche.

Last year, the team came tantalisingly close to finding amino acids in space with the discovery of a molecule that can be used to make them, called amino acetonitrile.

The latest discoveries have boosted the researchers’ morale because the molecules are as large as the simplest amino acid, glycine. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and are widely seen as being critical for complex life to exist anywhere in the universe.

“The difficulty in searching for complex molecules is that the best astronomical sources contain so many different molecules that their ‘fingerprints’ overlap and are difficult to disentangle,” Belloche said.

The molecules are thought to form when chemicals that already exist on some dust grains, such as ethanol, link together to make more complex chains.

“There is no apparent limit to the size of molecules that can be formed by this process, so there’s good reason to expect even more complex organic molecules to be there,” said Garrod.

(via Δ S > 0)

11th January, 2013

spaceplasma:


thescienceofreality:
NASA’s Galex Reveals the Largest-Known Spiral Galaxy
The second image shows computer simulations of the collision between NGC 6872 and IC 4970 reproduce the basic features of the galaxies as we see them today. They indicate that IC 4970’s closest encounter occurred 130 million years ago and that the smaller galaxy followed a path (dashed curve) close to the plane of the spiral’s disk and in the same direction it rotates. Image credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/ESO/JPL-Caltech/DSS, C. Horellou (Onsala Space Observatory) and B. Koribalski (ATNF)
“The spectacular barred spiral galaxy NGC 6872 has ranked among the biggest stellar systems for decades. Now a team of astronomers from the United States, Chile and Brazil has crowned it the largest known spiral, based on archival data from NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) mission, which has since been loaned to the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. 
Measuring tip-to-tip across its two outsized spiral arms, NGC 6872 spans more than 522,000 light-years, making it more than five times the size of our Milky Way galaxy. “Without GALEX’s ability to detect the ultraviolet light of the youngest, hottest stars, we would never have recognized the full extent of this intriguing system,” said lead scientist Rafael Eufrasio, a research assistant at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., who is a doctoral student at Catholic University of America in Washington. He presented the findings Thursday at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Long Beach, Calif. The galaxy’s unusual size and appearance stem from its interaction with a much smaller disk galaxy named IC 4970, which has only about one-fifth the mass of NGC 6872. The odd couple is located 212 million light-years from Earth in the southern constellation Pavo.”
 Continue Reading…

spaceplasma:


thescienceofreality:
NASA’s Galex Reveals the Largest-Known Spiral Galaxy
The second image shows computer simulations of the collision between NGC 6872 and IC 4970 reproduce the basic features of the galaxies as we see them today. They indicate that IC 4970’s closest encounter occurred 130 million years ago and that the smaller galaxy followed a path (dashed curve) close to the plane of the spiral’s disk and in the same direction it rotates. Image credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/ESO/JPL-Caltech/DSS, C. Horellou (Onsala Space Observatory) and B. Koribalski (ATNF)
“The spectacular barred spiral galaxy NGC 6872 has ranked among the biggest stellar systems for decades. Now a team of astronomers from the United States, Chile and Brazil has crowned it the largest known spiral, based on archival data from NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) mission, which has since been loaned to the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. 
Measuring tip-to-tip across its two outsized spiral arms, NGC 6872 spans more than 522,000 light-years, making it more than five times the size of our Milky Way galaxy. “Without GALEX’s ability to detect the ultraviolet light of the youngest, hottest stars, we would never have recognized the full extent of this intriguing system,” said lead scientist Rafael Eufrasio, a research assistant at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., who is a doctoral student at Catholic University of America in Washington. He presented the findings Thursday at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Long Beach, Calif. The galaxy’s unusual size and appearance stem from its interaction with a much smaller disk galaxy named IC 4970, which has only about one-fifth the mass of NGC 6872. The odd couple is located 212 million light-years from Earth in the southern constellation Pavo.”
 Continue Reading…

spaceplasma:

thescienceofreality:

NASA’s Galex Reveals the Largest-Known Spiral Galaxy

The second image shows computer simulations of the collision between NGC 6872 and IC 4970 reproduce the basic features of the galaxies as we see them today. They indicate that IC 4970’s closest encounter occurred 130 million years ago and that the smaller galaxy followed a path (dashed curve) close to the plane of the spiral’s disk and in the same direction it rotates. Image credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/ESO/JPL-Caltech/DSS, C. Horellou (Onsala Space Observatory) and B. Koribalski (ATNF)

The spectacular barred spiral galaxy NGC 6872 has ranked among the biggest stellar systems for decades. Now a team of astronomers from the United States, Chile and Brazil has crowned it the largest known spiral, based on archival data from NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) mission, which has since been loaned to the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. 

Measuring tip-to-tip across its two outsized spiral arms, NGC 6872 spans more than 522,000 light-years, making it more than five times the size of our Milky Way galaxy. 

“Without GALEX’s ability to detect the ultraviolet light of the youngest, hottest stars, we would never have recognized the full extent of this intriguing system,” said lead scientist Rafael Eufrasio, a research assistant at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., who is a doctoral student at Catholic University of America in Washington. He presented the findings Thursday at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Long Beach, Calif. 

The galaxy’s unusual size and appearance stem from its interaction with a much smaller disk galaxy named IC 4970, which has only about one-fifth the mass of NGC 6872. The odd couple is located 212 million light-years from Earth in the southern constellation Pavo.”

 Continue Reading…

(via A Hitchhiker's Guide to Space & Plasma Physics)

31st December, 2012

thenewenlightenmentage:

Should We Expect Other Earth-like Planets At All?
This year has been a spectacular one for exoplanets. New discoveries and new insights have truly pushed the gateway to other worlds even further open.
In the past 12 months we’ve gained increasingly good statistics on the incredible abundance of planets around other stars and their multiplicity. We also finally seem to have evidence that our neighboring star Alpha Centauri B does indeed harbor at least one world. It is by any set of standards, a great haul.
Continue Reading

thenewenlightenmentage:

Should We Expect Other Earth-like Planets At All?

This year has been a spectacular one for exoplanets. New discoveries and new insights have truly pushed the gateway to other worlds even further open.

In the past 12 months we’ve gained increasingly good statistics on the incredible abundance of planets around other stars and their multiplicity. We also finally seem to have evidence that our neighboring star Alpha Centauri B does indeed harbor at least one world. It is by any set of standards, a great haul.

Continue Reading

(via The New Enlightenment Age)