. Scientific Frontline: Astronomy
Showing posts with label Astronomy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Astronomy. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Astronomers reveal new map of dark matter, mass in universe

Victor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope, left, at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile houses the camera used by the Dark Energy Survey.
Image Credit: Dark Energy Survey

For decades, cosmologists have mapped the distribution of mass in the universe, both visible material and the mysterious dark matter, in an effort to improve our understanding of these fundamental building blocks. Astronomer Eric Baxter from the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy co-authored new research that traces the mass distribution in the universe in three dimensions. The updated analysis was published in Physical Review D.

Baxter and his University of Chicago collaborators, Chihway Chang and Yuuki Omori, compiled data using two different sky surveying methods. This new analysis shows that there is six times as much dark matter in the universe compared to matter that is visible—a finding that was already well-known. However, the team also found that the matter is not as clumpy as previously expected when compared to the current best model of the universe.

The researchers claim the findings could add to a growing body of evidence that there may be something missing from the existing standard model of the universe.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Volcano-like rupture could have caused magnetar slowdown

An artist's impression of a magnetar eruption. 
Illustration Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

On Oct. 5, 2020, the rapidly rotating corpse of a long-dead star about 30,000 light years from Earth changed speeds. In a cosmic instant, its spinning slowed. And a few days later, it abruptly started emitting radio waves.

Thanks to timely measurements from specialized orbiting telescopes, Rice University astrophysicist Matthew Baring and colleagues were able to test a new theory about a possible cause for the rare slowdown, or “anti-glitch,” of SGR 1935+2154, a highly magnetic type of neutron star known as a magnetar.

In a study published this month in Nature Astronomy, Baring and co-authors used X-ray data from the European Space Agency’s X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission ( XMM-Newton) and NASA’s Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer ( NICER) to analyze the magnetar’s rotation. They showed the sudden slowdown could have been caused by a volcano-like rupture on the surface of the star that spewed a “wind” of massive particles into space. The research identified how such a wind could alter the star’s magnetic fields, seeding conditions that would be likely to switch on the radio emissions that were subsequently measured by China’s Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope ( FAST).

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Astronomers use novel technique to find starspots

Sunspots
Image Credit: HMI / SFLORG/ Via ESO Helioviewer

Astronomers have developed a powerful technique for identifying starspots, according to research presented this month at the 241st meeting of the American Astronomical Society, and published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Our sun is at times dotted with sunspots, cool dark regions on the stellar surface generated by strong magnetic fields, which suppress churning motions and impede the free escape of light. "On other stars, these phenomena are called starspots," said Lyra Cao, lead author of the study and a graduate student in astronomy at The Ohio State University. 

“Our study is the first to precisely characterize the spottiness of stars and use it to directly test theories of stellar magnetism,” said Cao. “This technique is so precise and broadly applicable that it can become a powerful new tool in the study of stellar physics.”

Use of the technique will soon allow Cao and her colleagues to release a catalog of starspot and magnetic field measurements for more than 700,000 stars – increasing the number of these measurements available to scientists by three orders of magnitude.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Asteroid findings from specks of space dust could save the planet

Itokawa seen in close-up
Image Credit: JAXA

Curtin University-led research into the durability and age of an ancient asteroid made of rocky rubble and dust, revealed significant findings that could contribute to potentially saving the planet if one ever hurtled toward Earth.

The international team studied three tiny dust particles collected from the surface of ancient 500-metre-long rubble pile asteroid, Itokawa, returned to Earth by the Japanese Space Agency’s Hayabusa 1 probe.

The study’s results showed asteroid Itokawa, which is 2 million kilometers from Earth and around the size of Sydney Harbour Bridge, was hard to destroy and resistant to collision.

Lead author Professor Fred Jourdan, Director of the Western Australian Argon Isotope Facility, part of the John de Laeter Centre and the School of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Curtin, said the team also found Itokawa is almost as old as the solar system itself.

“Unlike monolithic asteroids, Itokawa is not a single lump of rock, but belongs to the rubble pile family which means it’s entirely made of loose boulders and rocks, with almost half of it being empty space,” Professor Jourdan said.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Tumultuous migration on the edge of the Hot Neptune Desert

Did hot Neptunes ever exist? While astronomers observe gas giants and small rocky planets close to their stars, the SPICE DUNE project is investigating the ‘‘desert’’ of Neptune-sized planets.
Illustration Credit: © Elsa Bersier - CFPArts / ESBDi Genève

A UNIGE team reveals the eventful migration history of planets bordering the Hot Neptune Desert, these extrasolar planets that orbit very close to their star.

 All kinds of exoplanets orbit very close to their star. Some look like the Earth, others like Jupiter. Very few, however, are similar to Neptune. Why this anomaly in the distribution of exoplanets? Researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) PlanetS have observed a sample of planets located at the edge of this Hot Neptune Desert to understand its creation. Using a technique combining the two main methods of studying exoplanets (radial velocities and transits), they were able to establish that a part of these exoplanets has migrated in a turbulent way near their star, which pushed them out of the orbital plane where they were formed. These results are published in the specialized journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Astronomers use ‘little hurricanes’ to weigh and date planets around young stars

The protoplanetary disc surrounding the young star HL Tauri. These new ALMA observations reveal substructures within the disc that have never been seen before and even show the possible positions of planets forming in the dark patches within the system. 
Image Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the Institute for Advanced Study have developed a technique, which uses observations of these ‘hurricanes’ by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to place some limits on the mass and age of planets in a young star system.

Pancake-like clouds of gases, dust and ice surrounding young stars – known as protoplanetary discs - are where the process of planet formation begins. Through a process known as core accretion, gravity causes particles in the disc to stick to each other, eventually forming larger solid bodies such as asteroids or planets. As young planets form, they start to carve gaps in the protoplanetary disc, like grooves on a vinyl record.

Even a relatively small planet – as small as one-tenth the mass of Jupiter according to some recent calculations – may be capable of creating such gaps. As these ‘super-Neptune’ planets can orbit their star at a distance greater than Pluto orbits the Sun, traditional methods of exoplanet detection cannot be used.

In addition to the grooves, observations from ALMA have shown other distinct structures in protoplanetary discs, such as banana- or peanut-shaped arcs and clumps. It had been thought that at least some of these structures were also driven by planets.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

James Webb Telescope Reveals Milky Way-like Galaxies in Young Universe

The power of JWST to map galaxies at high resolution and at longer infrared wavelengths than Hubble allows it look through dust and unveil the underlying structure and mass of distant galaxies. This can be seen in these two images of the galaxy EGS23205, seen as it was about 11 billion years ago. In the HST image (left, taken in the near-infrared filter), the galaxy is little more than a disk-shaped smudge obscured by dust and impacted by the glare of young stars, but in the corresponding JWST mid-infrared image (taken this past summer), it’s a beautiful spiral galaxy with a clear stellar bar.
Image Credit: NASA/CEERS/University of Texas at Austin

New images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveal for the first-time galaxies with stellar bars — elongated features of stars stretching from the centers of galaxies into their outer disks — at a time when the universe was a mere 25% of its present age. The finding of so-called barred galaxies, similar to our Milky Way, this early in the universe will require astrophysicists to refine their theories of galaxy evolution.

Prior to JWST, images from the Hubble Space Telescope had never detected bars at such young epochs. In a Hubble image, one galaxy, EGS-23205, is little more than a disk-shaped smudge, but in the corresponding JWST image taken this past summer, it’s a beautiful spiral galaxy with a clear stellar bar.

“I took one look at these data, and I said, ‘We are dropping everything else!’” said Shardha Jogee, professor of astronomy at The University of Texas at Austin. “The bars hardly visible in Hubble data just popped out in the JWST image, showing the tremendous power of JWST to see the underlying structure in galaxies,” she said, describing data from the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science Survey (CEERS), led by UT Austin professor, Steven Finkelstein.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Serpent in the sky captured with ESO telescope

The Sh2-54 nebula in the infrared with VISTA
This image of the spectacular Sh2-54 nebula was taken in infrared light using ESO’s VISTA telescope at Paranal Observatory in Chile. The clouds of dust and gas that are normally obvious in visible light are less evident here, and in this light, we can see the light of the stars behind the nebulae now piercing through. 
Image Credit: ESO/VVVX

A myriad of stars is revealed behind the faint orange glow of the Sh2-54 nebula in this new infrared image. Located in the constellation Serpens, this stunning stellar nursery has been captured in all its intricate detail using the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) based at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile.

When the ancients looked up at the night sky, they saw random patterns in the stars. The Greeks, for instance, named one of these “constellations” Serpens, because of its resemblance to a snake. What they wouldn’t have been able to see is that at the tail end of this constellation there is a wealth of stunning astronomical objects. These include the Eagle, the Omega and the Sh2-54 nebulae; the last of these is revealed, in a new light, in this spectacular infrared image.

Nebulae are vast clouds of gas and dust from which stars are born. Telescopes have allowed astronomers to identify and analyze these rather faint objects in exquisite detail. The nebula shown here, located about 6000 light-years away, is officially called Sh2-54; the “Sh” refers to the US astronomer Steward Sharpless, who catalogued more than 300 nebulae in the 1950s.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Alien Planet Found Spiraling to its Doom around an Aging Star

An artist's concept of the Kepler-1658 system. Kepler-1658b, orbiting with a period of just 3.8 days, was the first exoplanet candidate discovered by Kepler. 
Illustration Credit: Gabriel Perez Diaz/Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias

For the first time, astronomers have spotted an exoplanet whose orbit is decaying around an evolved, or older, host star. The stricken world appears destined to spiral closer and closer to its maturing star until collision and ultimate obliteration.

The discovery offers new insights into the long-winded process of planetary orbital decay by providing the first look at a system at this late stage of evolution. Death-by-star is a fate thought to await many worlds and could be the Earth's ultimate adios billions of years from now as our Sun grows older.

"We've previously detected evidence for exoplanets inspiraling toward their stars, but we have never before seen such a planet around an evolved star," says Shreyas Vissapragada, a 51 Pegasi b Fellow at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian and lead author of a new study describing the results. "Theory predicts that evolved stars are very effective at sapping energy from their planets' orbits, and now we can test those theories with observations."

Friday, December 16, 2022

Astronomers discover clues about stellar ‘glitching’

Stars that experience structural "glitches" during their lifetimes may be more common than first thought.

Astronomers have found a way to peer into the physics of some of the brightest stars in the sky.

Using data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, an international team of researchers has found new evidence that red giants, dying stars that have exhausted their supply of hydrogen and are in the final stages of stellar evolution, often experience large-scale structural variations, or what are known as “glitches” deep inside their inner core.

The stellar glitches popularized in the media have to do with a star’s rotation, but lead author Mathieu Vrard studies a different kind of defect. The glitches in this study can affect a star’s oscillations, or the frequencies and paths that sound waves travel when passing through a star.

Red clump stars, helium-core burning objects, are often used in astrophysical studies as probes of distance to measure aspects like galaxy density, and to learn more about the physical processes behind stellar chemical evolution. So, it’s vital that scientists understand why these discontinuities happen, said Vrard, a postdoctoral research associate in astronomy at the Ohio State University.

“By analyzing these variations, we can use them to obtain not only the global parameters of the star, but also information on the precise structure of those objects,” he said.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

NASA’s Webb Unveils Young Stars in Early Stages of Formation

Image of the Cosmic Cliffs, a region at the edge of a gigantic, gaseous cavity within NGC 3324, captured by Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), with compass arrows, scale bar, and color key for reference.  The north and east compass arrows show the orientation of the image on the sky. Note that the relationship between north and east on the sky (as seen from below) is flipped relative to direction arrows on a map of the ground (as seen from above).  The scale bar is labeled in light-years, which is the distance that light travels in one Earth-year. It takes 2 years for light to travel a distance equal to the length of the bar. One light-year is equal to about 5.88 trillion miles or 9.46 trillion kilometers.  This image shows invisible near-infrared wavelengths of light that have been translated into visible-light colors. The color key shows which NIRCam filters were used when collecting the light. The color of each filter name is the visible light color used to represent the infrared light that passes through that filter.  Webb’s NIRCam was built by a team at the University of Arizona and Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Center. 
Hi-Res Zoomable Image
Credits SCIENCE: Megan Reiter (Rice University) IMAGE: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI IMAGE PROCESSING: Joseph DePasquale (STScI), Anton M. Koekemoer (STScI)

Scientists taking a “deep dive” into one of Webb’s iconic first images have discovered dozens of energetic jets and outflows from young stars previously hidden by dust clouds. The discovery marks the beginning of a new era of investigating how stars like our Sun form, and how the radiation from nearby massive stars might affect the development of planets.

The Cosmic Cliffs, a region at the edge of a gigantic, gaseous cavity within the star cluster NGC 3324, has long intrigued astronomers as a hotbed for star formation. While well-studied by the Hubble Space Telescope, many details of star formation in NGC 3324 remain hidden at visible-light wavelengths. Webb is perfectly primed to tease out these long-sought-after details since it is built to detect jets and outflows seen only in the infrared at high resolution. Webb’s capabilities also allow researchers to track the movement of other features previously captured by Hubble.

Monday, December 12, 2022

SwRI Study Describes First Ultraviolet Imaging of Sun's Middle Corona

Video Credit: Courtesy of SwRI/NOAA A

A team of researchers from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), NASA and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) have discovered web-like plasma structures in the Sun’s middle corona. The researchers describe their innovative new observation method, imaging the middled corona in ultraviolet (UV) wavelength, in a new study published in Nature Astronomy. The findings could lead to a better understanding of the solar wind’s origins and its interactions with the rest of the solar system.

Since 1995, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has observed the Sun’s corona with the Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph (LASCO) stationed aboard the NASA and European Space Agency Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft to monitor space weather that could affect the Earth. But LASCO has a gap in observations that obscures our view of the middle solar corona, where the solar wind originates.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Surprise kilonova upends established understanding of long gamma-ray bursts

This Gemini North image, superimposed on an image taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, shows the telltale near-infrared afterglow of a kilonova produced by a long GRB (GRB 211211A). This discovery challenges the prevailing theory that long GRBs exclusively come from supernovae, the end-of-life explosions of massive stars.
Image Credit: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/M. Zamani; NASA/ESA

For nearly two decades, astrophysicists have believed that long gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) resulted solely from the collapse of massive stars. Now, a new study upends that long-established and long-accepted belief.

Led by Northwestern University, a team of astrophysicists has uncovered new evidence that at least some long GRBs can result from neutron star mergers, which were previously believed to produce only short GRBs.

After detecting a 50-second-long GRB in December 2021, the team began searching for the long GRB’s afterglow, an incredibly luminous and fast-fading burst of light that often precedes a supernova. But, instead, they uncovered evidence of a kilonova, a rare event that only occurs after the merger of a neutron star with another compact object (either another neutron star or a black hole).

In addition to challenging long-established beliefs about how long GRBs are formed, the new discovery also leads to new insights into the mysterious formation of the heaviest elements in the universe.

The research was published today (Dec. 7) in the journal Nature.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Mysteriously bright flash is a black hole jet pointing straight toward Earth, astronomers say

Caption:Astronomers identified an extremely bright black hole jet, halfway across the universe, pointing straight toward Earth.
Illustration Credit: Dheeraj Pasham, Matteo Lucchini, and Margaret Trippe.

Earlier this year, astronomers were keeping tabs on data from the Zwicky Transient Facility, an all-sky survey based at the Palomar Observatory in California, when they detected an extraordinary flash in a part of the sky where no such light had been observed the night before. From a rough calculation, the flash appeared to give off more light than 1,000 trillion suns.

The team, led by researchers at NASA, Caltech, and elsewhere, posted their discovery to an astronomy newsletter, where the signal drew the attention of astronomers around the world, including scientists at MIT. Over the next few days, multiple telescopes focused on the signal to gather more data across multiple wavelengths in the X-ray, ultraviolet, optical, and radio bands, to see what could possibly produce such an enormous amount of light.

Now, the MIT astronomers along with their collaborators have determined a likely source for the signal. In a study appearing in Nature Astronomy, the scientists report that the signal, named AT 2022cmc, likely comes from a relativistic jet of matter streaking out from a supermassive black hole at close to the speed of light. They believe the jet is the product of a black hole that suddenly began devouring a nearby star, releasing a huge amount of energy in the process.

Most distant detection of a black hole swallowing a star

This artist’s impression illustrates how it might look when a star approaches too close to a black hole, where the star is squeezed by the intense gravitational pull of the black hole. Some of the star’s material gets pulled in and swirls around the black hole forming the disc that can be seen in this image. In rare cases, such as this one, jets of matter and radiation are shot out from the poles of the black hole. In the case of the AT2022cmc event, evidence of the jets was detected by various telescopes including the VLT, which determined this was the most distant example of such an event. 
Illustration Credit: ESO/M.Kornmesser

Earlier this year, the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT) was alerted after an unusual source of visible light had been detected by a survey telescope. The VLT, together with other telescopes, was swiftly repositioned towards the source: a supermassive black hole in a distant galaxy that had devoured a star, expelling the leftovers in a jet. The VLT determined it to be the furthest example of such an event to have ever been observed. Because the jet is pointing almost towards us, this is also the first time it has been discovered with visible light, providing a new way of detecting these extreme events.

Stars that wander too close to a black hole are ripped apart by the incredible tidal forces of the black hole in what is known as a tidal disruption event (TDE). Approximately 1% of these cause jets of plasma and radiation to be ejected from the poles of the rotating black hole. In 1971, the black hole pioneer John Wheeler[1] introduced the concept of jetted-TDEs as “a tube of toothpaste gripped tight about its middle,” causing the system to “squirt matter out of both ends.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Webb Reveals an Exoplanet Atmosphere as Never Seen Before

The atmospheric composition of the hot gas giant exoplanet WASP-39 b has been revealed by the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope. This graphic shows four transmission spectra from three of Webb’s instruments operated in four instrument modes. All are plotted on a common scale extending from 0.5 to 5.5 microns.  A transmission spectrum is made by comparing starlight filtered through a planet’s atmosphere as it moves in front of the star, to the unfiltered starlight detected when the planet is beside the star. Each of the data points (white circles) on these graphs represents the amount of a specific wavelength of light that is blocked by the planet and absorbed by its atmosphere. Wavelengths that are preferentially absorbed by the atmosphere appear as peaks in the transmission spectrum.  The blue line is a best-fit model that takes into account the data, the known properties of WASP-39 b and its star (e.g., size, mass, temperature), and assumed characteristics of the atmosphere. Researchers can vary the parameters in the model – changing unknown characteristics like cloud height in the atmosphere and abundances of various gases – to get a better fit and further understand what the atmosphere is really like.  At upper left, data from NIRISS shows fingerprints of potassium (K), water (H2O), and carbon monoxide (CO). At upper right, data from NIRCam shows a prominent water signature. At lower left, data from NIRSpec indicates water, sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon dioxide (CO2), and carbon monoxide (CO). At lower right, additional NIRSpec data reveals all of these molecules as well as sodium (Na). 
Full Size Original
Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, J. Olmsted (STScI)

The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope just scored another first: a molecular and chemical portrait of a distant world’s skies. While Webb and other space telescopes, including the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, have previously revealed isolated ingredients of this heated planet’s atmosphere, the new readings provide a full menu of atoms, molecules, and even signs of active chemistry and clouds. The latest data also give a hint of how these clouds might look up close: broken up rather than as a single, uniform blanket over the planet.

The telescope’s array of highly sensitive instruments was trained on the atmosphere of WASP-39 b, a “hot Saturn” (a planet about as massive as Saturn but in an orbit tighter than Mercury) orbiting a star some 700 light-years away. This Saturn-sized exoplanet was one of the first examined by the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope when it began regular science operations. The results have excited the exoplanet science community. Webb’s exquisitely sensitive instruments have provided a profile of WASP-39 b’s atmospheric constituents and identified a plethora of contents, including water, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, sodium and potassium.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Study of ‘polluted’ white dwarfs finds that stars and planets grow together

Study of ‘polluted’ white dwarfs finds that stars and planets grow together 
Credit: Amanda Smith

A team of astronomers have found that planet formation in our young Solar System started much earlier than previously thought, with the building blocks of planets growing at the same time as their parent star.

A study of some of the oldest stars in the Universe suggests that the building blocks of planets like Jupiter and Saturn begin to form while a young star is growing. It had been thought that planets only form once a star has reached its final size, but new results, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, suggest that stars and planets ‘grow up’ together.

The research, led by the University of Cambridge, changes our understanding of how planetary systems, including our own Solar System, formed, potentially solving a major puzzle in astronomy.

“We have a pretty good idea of how planets form, but one outstanding question we’ve had is when they form: does planet formation start early, when the parent star is still growing, or millions of years later?” said Dr Amy Bonsor from Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy, the study’s first author.

To attempt to answer this question, Bonsor and her colleagues studied the atmospheres of white dwarf stars – the ancient, faint remnants of stars like our Sun – to investigate the building blocks of planet formation. The study also involved researchers from the University of Oxford, the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, the University of Groningen and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Gottingen.

“Some white dwarfs are amazing laboratories, because their thin atmospheres are almost like celestial graveyards,” said Bonsor.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

The Cone Nebula as seen by the VLT

The Cone Nebula is part of a star-forming region of space, NGC 2264, about 2500 light-years away. Its pillar-like appearance is a perfect example of the shapes that can develop in giant clouds of cold molecular gas and dust, known for creating new stars. This dramatic new view of the nebula was captured with the FOcal Reducer and low dispersion Spectrograph 2 (FORS2) instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), and released on the occasion of ESO’s 60th anniversary.
Full Size Image
Credit: ESO

For the past 60 years the European Southern Observatory (ESO) has been enabling scientists worldwide to discover the secrets of the Universe. We mark this milestone by bringing you a spectacular new image of a star factory, the Cone Nebula, taken with ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT).

On 5 October 1962 five countries signed the convention to create ESO. Now, six decades later and supported by 16 Member States and strategic partners, ESO brings together scientists and engineers from across the globe to develop and operate advanced ground-based observatories in Chile that enable breakthrough astronomical discoveries.​

On the occasion of ESO’s 60th anniversary we are releasing this remarkable new image of the Cone Nebula, captured earlier this year with one of ESO’s telescopes and selected by ESO staff. This is part of a campaign marking ESO's 60th anniversary and taking place in late 2022, both on social media under the #ESO60years hashtag, and with local events in the ESO Member States and other countries.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Largest Potentially Hazardous Asteroid Detected in Eight Years

Twilight observations with the U.S. Department of Energy-fabricated Dark Energy Camera at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, a program of NSF’s NOIRLab, have enabled astronomers to spot three near-Earth asteroids, or NEAs, hiding in the glare of the sun. These NEAs are part of an elusive population that lurks inside the orbits of Earth and Venus. One of the asteroids is the largest object that is potentially hazardous to Earth to be discovered in the last eight years.
Image Credit: DOE/FNAL/DECam/CTIO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva/Spaceengine

Twilight observations with the US Department of Energy-fabricated Dark Energy Camera at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, a Program of NSF's NOIRLab, have enabled astronomers to spot three near-Earth asteroids (NEA) hiding in the glare of the Sun. These NEAs are part of an elusive population that lurks inside the orbits of Earth and Venus. One of the asteroids is the largest object that is potentially hazardous to Earth to be discovered in the last eight years.

An international team using the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) mounted on the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, a Program of NSF’s NOIRLab, has discovered three new near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) hiding in the inner Solar System, the region interior to the orbits of Earth and Venus. This is a notoriously challenging region for observations because asteroid hunters have to contend with the glare of the Sun.

By taking advantage of the brief yet favorable observing conditions during twilight, however, the astronomers found an elusive trio of NEAs. One is a 1.5-kilometer-wide asteroid called 2022 AP7, which has an orbit that may someday place it in Earth’s path. The other asteroids, called 2021 LJ4 and 2021 PH27, have orbits that safely remain completely interior to Earth’s orbit. Also, of special interest to astronomers and astrophysicists, 2021 PH27 is the closest known asteroid to the Sun. As such, it has the largest general-relativity effects [1] of any object in our Solar System and during its orbit its surface gets hot enough to melt lead.

Ghost of a giant star

This image shows a spectacular view of the orange and pink clouds that make up what remains after the explosive death of a massive star — the Vela supernova remnant. This detailed image consists of 554 million pixels, and is a combined mosaic image of observations taken with the 268-million-pixel OmegaCAM camera at the VLT Survey Telescope, hosted at ESO’s Paranal Observatory.   OmegaCAM can take images through several filters that each let the telescope see the light emitted in a distinct color. To capture this image, four filters have been used, represented here by a combination of magenta, blue, green and red. The result is an extremely detailed and stunning view of both the gaseous filaments in the remnant and the foreground bright blue stars that add sparkle to the image. 
Hi-Res Zoomable Image
Credit: ESO/VPHAS+ team. Acknowledgement: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit

A spooky spider web, magical dragons or wispy trails of ghosts? What do you see in this image of the Vela supernova remnant? This beautiful tapestry of colors shows the ghostly remains of a gigantic star, and was captured here in incredible detail with the VLT Survey Telescope, hosted at the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO’s) Paranal site in Chile.

The wispy structure of pink and orange clouds is all that remains of a massive star that ended its life in a powerful explosion around 11 000 years ago. When the most massive stars reach the end of their life, they often go out with a bang, in an outburst called a supernova. These explosions cause shock waves that move through the surrounding gas, compressing it and creating intricate thread-like structures. The energy released heats the gaseous tendrils, making them shine brightly, as seen in this image.

In this 554-million-pixel image, we get an extremely detailed view of the Vela supernova remnant, named after the southern constellation Vela (The Sails). You could fit nine full Moons in this entire image, and the whole cloud is even larger. At only 800 light-years away from Earth, this dramatic supernova remnant is one of the closest known to us.

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