Showing posts with label Space Science. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Space Science. Show all posts

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Hubble Captures Chameleon Cloud I

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, K. Luhman and T. Esplin (Pennsylvania State University), et al., and ESO; Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)
Hi-Res Zoomable Image

This NASA Hubble Space Telescope image captures one of three segments that comprise a 65-light-year wide star-forming region named the Chamaeleon Cloud Complex. The segment in this Hubble composite image, called Chamaeleon Cloud I (Cha I), reveals dusty-dark clouds where stars are forming, dazzling reflection nebulae glowing by the light of bright-blue young stars, and radiant knots called Herbig-Haro objects.

Herbig-Haro objects are bright clumps and arcs of interstellar gas shocked and energized by jets expelled from infant “protostars” in the process of forming. The white-orange cloud at the bottom of the image hosts one of these protostars at its center. Its brilliant white jets of hot gas are ejected in narrow torrents from the protostar’s poles, creating the Herbig-Haro object HH 909A.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Expanded University of Hawaiʻi asteroid tracking system can monitor entire sky

Left: Sutherland ATLAS station during construction in South Africa.
Credit: Willie Koorts (SAAO)
Right: Chilean engineers and astronomers installing the ATLAS telescope at El Sauce Observatory.

A state-of-the-art asteroid alert system operated by the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy (IfA) can now scan the entire dark sky every 24 hours for dangerous bodies that could plummet toward Earth.

The NASA-funded Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) has expanded its reach to the southern hemisphere, from two existing northern-hemisphere telescopes on Haleakalā and Maunaloa. Construction is now complete and operations are underway on two additional telescopes in South Africa and Chile.

Telescope unit on Haleakalā, Maui.
Photo credit: Henry Weiland

Chemist Identifies New Way of Finding Extraterrestrial Life

SDSU researchers Chris Harrison and Jessica Torres, seen above in Harrison's lab, are using lasers and liquids to detect amino acids in extraterrestrial rocks. In the background, an image of Mars.
Source: San Diego State University

Have we been looking for extraterrestrials in all the wrong places? San Diego State University chemists are developing methods to find signs of life on other planets by looking for the building blocks of proteins in a place they've never been able to test before: inside rocks.

After collaborating with researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in La Cañada Flintridge in 2019, Jessica Torres, a doctoral student studying chemistry at SDSU, is experimenting with ways to extract amino acids from porous rocks that could be used on future rovers.

Previous research has looked for evidence of other life forms in water and soil, but not from solid materials.

Current methods for identifying amino acids can’t differentiate versions created by a living organism from those formed through random chemical reactions. And existing techniques usually require water — which would freeze or evaporate if placed on a space probe traveling to Mars or Europa, the ice-covered saltwater moon of Jupiter that some regard as a prime candidate for extraterrestrial life because of its subsurface ocean.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Nearly 1,000 mysterious strands revealed in Milky Way’s center

An image showing the spectral index for filaments.
Credit: Northwestern University/SAORO/Oxford University

An unprecedented new telescope image of the Milky Way galaxy’s turbulent center has revealed nearly 1,000 mysterious strands, inexplicably dangling in space.

Stretching up to 150 light years long, the one-dimensional strands (or filaments) are found in pairs and clusters, often stacked equally spaced, side by side like strings on a harp. Using observations at radio wavelengths, Northwestern University’s Farhad Yusef-Zadeh discovered the highly organized, magnetic filaments in the early 1980s. The mystifying filaments, he found, comprise cosmic ray electrons gyrating the magnetic field at close to the speed of light. But their origin has remained an unsolved mystery ever since.

Now, the new image has exposed 10 times more filaments than previously discovered, enabling Yusef-Zadeh and his team to conduct statistical studies across a broad population of filaments for the first time. This information potentially could help them finally unravel the long-standing mystery.

The study is now available online and has been accepted for publication by The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

“We have studied individual filaments for a long time with a myopic view,” said Yusef-Zadeh, the paper’s lead author. “Now, we finally see the big picture — a panoramic view filled with an abundance of filaments. Just examining a few filaments makes it difficult to draw any real conclusion about what they are and where they came from. This is a watershed in furthering our understanding of these structures.”

Yusef-Zadeh is a professor of physics and astronomy at Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA).

Friday, January 21, 2022

Consistent asteroid showers rock previous thinking on Mars craters

New Curtin University research has confirmed the frequency of asteroid collisions that formed impact craters on Mars has been consistent over the past 600 million years.

The study, published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, analyzed the formation of more than 500 large Martian craters using a crater detection algorithm previously developed at Curtin, which automatically counts the visible impact craters from a high-resolution image.

Despite previous studies suggesting spikes in the frequency of asteroid collisions, lead researcher Dr Anthony Lagain, from Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, said his research had found they did not vary much at all for many millions of years.

Dr Lagain said counting impact craters on a planetary surface was the only way to accurately date geological events, such as canyons, rivers and volcanoes, and to predict when, and how big, future collisions would be.

“On Earth, the erosion of plate tectonics erases the history of our planet. Studying planetary bodies of our Solar System that still conserve their early geological history, such as Mars, helps us to understand the evolution of our planet,” Dr Lagain said.

“The crater detection algorithm provides us with a thorough understanding of the formation of impact craters including their size and quantity, and the timing and frequency of the asteroid collisions that made them.”

Sunday, January 16, 2022

The Roman Space Telescope's Simulated Ultra-Deep Field Image

This video demonstrates how Roman could expand on Hubble’s iconic Ultra Deep Field image. While a similar Roman observation would be just as sharp as Hubble’s and see equally far back in time, it could reveal an area 300 times larger, offering a much broader view of cosmic ecosystems.

Also on our You Tube channel 
Video: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center
Music: "Subterranean Secret" and "Expectant Aspect" from Universal Production Music.
Final Editing and Conversion Scientific Frontline


Friday, January 14, 2022

New research may help scientists unravel the physics of the solar wind

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, provides insight into how solar wind is generated and accelerated.
Photo credits: Cynthia Cattell, NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben

A new study led by University of Minnesota Twin Cities researchers, using data from NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, provides insight into what generates and accelerates the solar wind, a stream of charged particles released from the sun’s corona. Understanding how the solar wind works can help scientists predict “space weather,” or the response to solar activity—such as solar flares—that can impact both astronauts in space and much of the technology people on Earth depend on.

The paper is published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, a scientific journal from the American Astronomical Society (AAS) that publishes high-impact astrophysical research.

The scientists used data gathered from Parker Solar Probe, which launched in 2018 with the goal to help scientists understand what heats the Sun’s corona (the outer atmosphere of the sun) and generates the solar wind. To answer these questions, scientists need to understand the ways in which energy flows from the sun. The latest round of data was obtained in August 2021 at a distance of 4.8 million miles from the sun—the closest a spacecraft has ever been to the star.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Newly-discovered planets will be ‘swallowed’ by their stars

Artist’s rendition of what a planetary system similar to the planets discovered might look like. 
Credit: Karen Teramura/IfA

Astronomers at the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy (IfA) are part of a team that recently discovered three planets orbiting dangerously close to stars nearing the ends of their lives.

Out of the thousands of extrasolar planets found so far, these three gas giant planets, first detected by the NASA TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) Mission, have some of the shortest-period orbits around subgiant or giant stars. One of the planets, TOI-2337b, will be consumed by its host star in less than 1 million years, sooner than any other planet currently known.

These discoveries are crucial to understanding a new frontier in exoplanet studies: how planetary systems evolve over time.
Samuel Grunblatt

“These discoveries are crucial to understanding a new frontier in exoplanet studies: how planetary systems evolve over time,” explained lead author Samuel Grunblatt, a postdoctoral fellow at the American Museum of Natural History and the Flatiron Institute in New York City. Grunblatt, who earned his PhD from the IfA, added that “these observations offer new windows into planets nearing the end of their lives, before their host stars swallow them up.”

Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) Creates Largest 3D Map of the Cosmos

DESI’s three-dimensional “CT scan” of the Universe. The earth is in the lower left, looking out over 5 billion light years in the direction of the constellation Virgo. As the video progresses, the perspective sweeps toward the constellation Bootes. Each colored point represents a galaxy, which in turn is composed of hundreds of billions of stars. Gravity has pulled the galaxies into a “cosmic web” of dense clusters, filaments and voids.
Credit: D. Schlegel/Berkeley Lab using data from DESI

The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) has capped off the first seven months of its survey run by smashing through all previous records for three-dimensional galaxy surveys, creating the largest and most detailed map of the universe ever. Yet it’s only about 10% of the way through its five-year mission. Once completed, that phenomenally detailed 3D map will yield a better understanding of dark energy, and thereby give physicists and astronomers a better understanding of the past – and future – of the universe. Meanwhile, the impressive technical performance and literally cosmic achievements of the survey thus far are helping scientists reveal the secrets of the most powerful sources of light in the universe.

DESI is an international science collaboration managed by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) with primary funding for construction and operations from DOE’s Office of Science.

‘Slushy’ magma ocean led to formation of the Moon’s crust

Magma ocean and first rocky crust on the Moon 
Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
The scientists, from the University of Cambridge and the Ecole normale supérieure de Lyon, have proposed a new model of crystallization, where crystals remained suspended in liquid magma over hundreds of millions of years as the lunar ‘slush’ froze and solidified. The results are reported in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Over fifty years ago, Apollo 11 astronauts collected samples from the lunar Highlands. These large, pale regions of the Moon – visible to the naked eye – are made up of relatively light rocks called anorthosites. Anorthosites formed early in the history of the Moon, between 4.3 and 4.5 billion years ago.

Similar anorthosites, formed through the crystallization of magma, can be found in fossilized magma chambers on Earth. Producing the large volumes of anorthosite found on the Moon, however, would have required a huge global magma ocean.

"Cooling of the early magma ocean drove such vigorous convection that crystals remained suspended as a slurry, like the crystals in a slushy machine." 
Jerome Neufeld

Scientists believe that the Moon formed when two protoplanets, or embryonic worlds, collided. The larger of these two protoplanets became the Earth, and the smaller became the Moon. One of the outcomes of this collision was that the Moon was very hot – so hot that its entire mantle was molten magma, or a magma ocean.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Scientists move a step closer to understanding the “cold spot” in the cosmic microwave background

Observations for the Dark Energy Survey were carried out, using the Blanco Telescope in the Andes mountains of Chile. Scientists used its data to create a map of dark matter in the region of sky that contains the Eridanus supervoid and CMB Cold Spot.
Photo: Reidar Hahn, Fermilab

After the Big Bang, the universe, glowing brightly, was opaque and so hot that atoms could not form. Eventually cooling down to about minus 454 degrees Fahrenheit (-270 degrees Celsius), much of the energy from the Big Bang took the form of light. This afterglow, known as the cosmic microwave background, can now be seen with telescopes at microwave frequencies invisible to human eyes. It has tiny fluctuations in temperature that provide information about the early universe.

Now scientists might have an explanation for the existence of an especially cold region in the afterglow, known as the CMB Cold Spot. Its origin has been a mystery so far but might be attributed to the largest absence of galaxies ever discovered.

Scientists used data collected by the Dark Energy Survey to confirm the existence of one of the largest supervoids known to humanity, the Eridanus supervoid, as reported in a paper published in December 2021. This once-hypothesized but now-confirmed void in the cosmic web might be a possible cause for the anomaly in the CMB.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Circumbinary Planet Discovered by TESS Validates New Detection Technique

The newly discovered planet, TIC 172900988b, is roughly the radius of Jupiter, and several times more massive, but it orbits its two stars in less than one year. This world is hot and unlike anything in our Solar System. 
Credit: PSI/Pamela L. Gay.

A new technique developed in part by Planetary Science Institute Senior Scientist Nader Haghighipour has allowed astronomers to quickly detect a transiting circumbinary planet orbiting around two suns, according to a new Astronomical Journal paper on which Haghighipour is an author.

Circumbinary planets are planetary bodies that rotate around two stars. Although for years, they were merely a matter of science fiction, thanks to the successful operation of NASA’s Kepler and Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) telescopes, an all-sky survey mission designed to discover thousands of exoplanets around nearby bright stars, a team of astronomers, including Haghighipour, have detected 14 such bodies.

“Detecting circumbinary planets is much more complicated than detecting planets orbiting single stars. The most promising technique for detecting circumbinary planets is transit photometry, which measures drops in starlight caused by those planets whose orbits are oriented in space such that they periodically pass between their stars and the telescope. In this technique, the measurements of the decrease in the intensity of the light of a star is used to infer the existence of a planet,” Haghighipour said. “To determine the orbit of the planet, precisely, at least three transit events are required. This becomes complicated when a planet orbits a double-star system because transits will not happen with the same interval over the same star. The planet may transit one star and then transit the other before transiting the first star again, and so on.”

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Astronomers capture red supergiant’s death throes

Artistic illustrations of a red supergiant exploding.
Credit: W.M. Keck Observatory/Adam Makarenko.

For the first time ever, astronomers have imaged in real time the dramatic end to a red supergiant’s life — watching the massive star’s rapid self-destruction and final death throes before collapsing into a type II supernova.

Led by researchers at Northwestern University and the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), the team observed the red supergiant during its last 130 days leading up to its deadly detonation.

The discovery defies previous ideas of how red supergiant stars evolve right before exploding. Earlier observations showed that red supergiants were relatively quiescent before their deaths — with no evidence of violent eruptions or luminous emissions. The new observations, however, detected bright radiation from a red supergiant in the final year before exploding. This suggests at least some of these stars must undergo significant changes in their internal structure, which then result in the tumultuous ejection of gas moments before they collapse.

“This is a breakthrough in our understanding of what massive stars do moments before they die,” said Wynn Jacobson-Galán, the study’s lead author. “Direct detection of pre-supernova activity in a red supergiant star has never been observed before in an ordinary type II supernova. For the first time, we watched a red supergiant star explode.”

The Largest Suite of Cosmic Simulations for AI Training

The CAMELS project (Cosmology and Astrophysics with MachinE Learning Simulations) combines over 4,000 cosmological simulations, millions of galaxies, and 350 terabytes of data to decipher secrets of the universe.

Totaling 4,233 universe simulations, millions of galaxies and 350 terabytes of data, a new release from the CAMELS project is a treasure trove for cosmologists. CAMELS — which stands for Cosmology and Astrophysics with MachinE Learning Simulations — aims to use those simulations to train artificial intelligence models to decipher the universe’s properties.

Scientists are already using the data, which is free to download, to power new research, says project co-leader Francisco Villaescusa-Navarro, a research scientist with the Simons Foundation’s CMB (Cosmic Microwave Background) Analysis and Simulation group.

Villaescusa-Navarro leads the project with associate research scientists at the Flatiron Institute’s Center for Computational Astrophysics (CCA) Shy Genel and Daniel Anglés-Alcázar, who is also a UConn Associate Professor of Physics.

“Machine learning is revolutionizing many areas of science, but it requires a huge amount of data to exploit,” says Anglés-Alcázar. “The CAMELS public data release, with thousands of simulated universes covering a broad range of plausible physics, will provide the galaxy formation and cosmology communities with a unique opportunity to explore the potential of new machine-learning algorithms to solve a variety of problems.”

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Scientists, students will utilize newly launched James Webb Space Telescope for solar system research

The flight mirrors for the James Webb Space Telescope undergo cryogenic testing at NASA Marshall. Credit: Ball Aerospace

In one of the most exciting developments in astronomy in the 21st century, NASA is launching the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) today—and Northern Arizona University astronomers, planetary astronomers and their students will use the massive observatory to expand their research and advance our understanding of the solar system.

“Webb is NASA’s newest premier space science observatory—destined to be a household name, like its predecessor, Hubble,” NASA announced. “This is an Apollo moment for NASA science—Webb will fundamentally alter our understanding of the universe. It can observe all of the cosmos, from planets to stars to nebulae to galaxies and beyond—helping scientists uncover secrets of the distant universe as well as exoplanets closer to home. Webb can explore our own solar system’s residents with exquisite new detail and search for faint signals from the first galaxies ever made. From new forming stars to devouring black holes, Webb will reveal all this and more.”

The JWST, which NASA calls “a feat of human ingenuity,” is being launched in a global partnership with the European Space Agency and Canadian Space Agency. The mission has evolved over the past 20 years with contributions from thousands of scientists, engineers and other professionals from more than 14 countries and 29 U.S. states, including professor David Trilling, professor Josh Emery and assistant professor Cristina Thomas of NAU’s Department of Astronomy and Planetary Science.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

ESO telescopes help uncover largest group of rogue planets

This artist’s impression shows an example of a rogue planet with the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex visible in the background. Rogue planets have masses comparable to those of the planets in our Solar System but do not orbit a star, instead roaming freely on their own. 
Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Rogue planets are elusive cosmic objects that have masses comparable to those of the planets in our Solar System but do not orbit a star, instead roaming freely on their own. Not many were known until now, but a team of astronomers, using data from several European Southern Observatory (ESO) telescopes and other facilities, have just discovered at least 70 new rogue planets in our galaxy. This is the largest group of rogue planets ever discovered, an important step towards understanding the origins and features of these mysterious galactic nomads.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

New class of galac­tic nebulae disco­vered

Image: Discovery image of the nebula. For this image, 120 individual exposures had to be combined to obtain a total exposure time of 20 hours. The images were taken over several months from Brazil. Credit: Maicon Germiniani

An international team of astronomers led by Stefan Kimeswenger from the Department of Astro and Particle Physics, together with scientific amateurs, has identified a new class of galactic nebulae. This provides an important building block in the understanding of stellar evolution and shows the importance of international collaboration between university research and community science.

For the first time, scientists, starting from a discovery by scientific amateurs, have succeeded in providing evidence for a fully developed shell of a common-envelope-system (CE) – the phase of the common envelope of a binary star system. “Toward the end of their lives, normal stars inflate into red giant stars. Since a very large fraction of stars are in binary stars, this affects the evolution at the end of their lives. In close binary systems, the inflating outer part of a star merges as a common envelope around both stars. However, inside this gas envelope the cores of the two stars are practically undisturbed and follow their evolution like independent single stars,” explains astrophysicist Stefan Kimeswenger. The researchers have now published their results in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Ground-breaking sensors aboard NASA’s historic space telescope

After NASA launches the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) on a historic mission this December, scientists anticipate their first glimpse of the most distant objects ever seen in the universe. Technology developed and tested at the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy (IfA) and on Maunakea are behind JWST’s ability to gaze deeper into space than ever before.

Sixteen near-infrared (NIR) sensors known as HAWAII-2RGs are part of JWST’s science instruments, enabling it to capture near-infrared light from deep space, far surpassing the capability of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. These sensors are the culmination of years of research and development by IfA scientists and engineers. Early prototypes were developed and tested by UH astronomers Don Hall, Klaus Hodapp, and Doug Simons, along with IfA instrumentation engineer Shane Jacobson.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Carbon Dioxide Cold Traps Offer Potential Lunar Resource

South polar region of the Moon. Areas that act as CO2 cold traps are colored. Black contours show the boundaries of H2O cold traps. The background map is shaded relief. 
Credit: Norbert Schorghofer.

The existence of carbon dioxide (CO2) cold traps on the Moon has been confirmed, offering a potential resource for future exploration of the lunar surface, according to a new paper by Planetary Science Institute Senior Scientist Norbert Schorghofer.

“After water, carbon is probably the most important resource on the Moon. It can be used for the production of rocket fuel, but also for biomaterials and steel. If we have to bring carbon or fuel from earth, it drives up the cost of sustained presence. It's part of ‘living off the land,’ or in-situ resource utilization,” said Schorghofer, lead author of “Carbon Dioxide Cold Traps on the Moon” that appears in Geophysical Research Letters. PSI’s Matthew A. Siegler is a co-author on the paper.

Various volatiles can be cold-trapped in permanently shadowed craters near the lunar poles. The existence of carbon dioxide cold traps has previously been surmised, but the required temperatures are near the lowest surface temperatures that have been reliably measured.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Coronal rain on a cold star

Coronal rain on the sun with Earth superimposed for scale. New high-resolution spectrographic observations of a flare on a faint distant star using the Penn State Habitable-zone Planet Finder could contain the first evidence of a similar phenomenon on an ultracool, small M-dwarf star.
Credit: NASA/SDO

High-resolution spectroscopic observations of a stellar flare on a small, cool star indicate the possibility of coronal rain, a phenomenon that has been observed on our sun but not yet confirmed on a star of this size. This faint star, known as vB 10, which is about a tenth the size of the sun and produces less than 1% of the sun’s energy, was studied using the Penn State Habitable-zone Planet Finder (HPF) at the large Hobby Eberly Telescope (with its 10 m mirror). These observations with the HPF spectrograph allowed researchers to measure a shift in the wavelength of certain atomic lines from the flare that are consistent with hot plasma raining back down on the star’s surface and are similar to observations of coronal rain from the sun.

A paper describing the observations, by a team led by Penn State scientists, includes a time-series analysis of the flare and could help astronomers put constraints on the energy and frequency of such events. The paper has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal and is available online.

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