This week in space

Sorry for not doing one of these in a while folks.


SpaceX private rocket blasts off for space station

I've been waiting for this launch for quite some time. I'm glad it finally launched, once it reaches the ISS in a few days new history will be made, private space exploration (well ok not exploring anything but it is a step in the right direction).

The SpaceX company made history as its Falcon 9 rocket rose from its seaside launch pad and pierced the pre-dawn sky, aiming for a rendezvous later this week with the space station. The rocket carried into orbit a capsule named Dragon that is packed with 1,000 pounds of space station provisions.

It is the first time a private company has launched a vessel to the space station. That's something only major governments have done - until the present test flight. Launch controllers applauded when the Dragon reached orbit 9 minutes into the flight.

Read more HERE


Three-telescope interferometry allows astrophysicists to observe how black holes are fueled

I don't really see any practical use for this, understanding black holes isn't really something we need to know right now but something cool might be discovered with this instrument.

By combining the light of three powerful infrared telescopes, an international research team has observed the active accretion phase of a supermassive black hole in the center of a galaxy tens of millions of light years away, a method that has yielded an unprecedented amount of data for such observations. The resolution at which they were able to observe this highly luminescent active galactic nucleus (AGN) has given them direct confirmation of how mass accretes onto black holes in centers of galaxies.

Read more HERE


Kepler satellite telescope reveals hundreds of superflares on distant stars

A BILLION times as powerful as those are sun produces... wow.

Here on Earth we are occasionally concerned about solar flares due to the impact they can have on our electrical systems. But our solar flares are puny when compared to so-called superflares that occur with other stars. A new research study by a team from Japan’s Kyoto University has found after studying one patch of sky over a 120 day period in 1990 using data from the Kepler telescope, that superflares are rather common, and as they describe in their paper published in the journal Nature, some are a billion times as powerful as those that occur with our own sun.

Read more HERE


Hubble spies edge-on beauty

Here is your beautiful image of the week!

Visible in the constellation of Andromeda, NGC 891 is located approximately 30 million light-years away from Earth. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope turned its powerful wide field Advanced Camera for Surveys towards this spiral galaxy and took this close-up of its northern half. The galaxy's central bulge is just out of the image on the bottom left.

Read more HERE

This week in space

New map of the universe reveals its history for the past six-billion years


Just thought this was a neat bit of information.

The scientists of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), including astronomers at Penn State, have produced a new map of the universe that is in full color, covers more than one quarter of the entire sky, and is full of so much detail that you would need five-hundred-thousand high-definition TVs to view it all. The map consists of more than one-trillion pixels measured by meticulously scanning the sky with a special-purpose telescope located in New Mexico. This week, at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas, the SDSS scientists announced results of four separate studies of this new map that, taken together, provide a history of the universe over the last six-billion years.

Read more HERE


Earthly machine recreates star's sizzling-hot surface

That's just incredible.

Since we can't go to the stars yet, let's bring the stars to us. In a giant X-ray-producing facility, astronomers and plasma physicists have heated a cigar-sized sample of gas to over 17,000 degrees Fahrenheit in order to replicate the surface of stars called white dwarfs.

Read more HERE


Loss of planetary tilt could doom alien life

That earthquake a few Decembers back actually changed the tilt of Earth. Big earthquakes often do, so not only is this a threat to life on other planets, but on our own.

Although winter now grips much of the Northern Hemisphere, those who dislike the cold weather can rest assured that warmer months shall return. This familiar pattern of spring, summer, fall and winter does more than merely provide variety, however. The fact that life can exist at all on Earth is closely tied to seasonality, which is a sign of global temperature moderation.

Read more HERE


The Milky Way contains at least 100 billion planets according to survey

Oh wait, what was it they said just a few decades ago... oh right, that only our system had planets. Idiots.

Our Milky Way galaxy contains a minimum of 100 billion planets according to a detailed statistical study based on the detection of three extrasolar planets by an observational technique called microlensing.

Read more HERE


New class of planetary systems: Astronomers find two new planets orbiting double suns

Star Wars. *snicker*

Kepler-35 planet system, in which a Saturn-size planet orbits a pair of stars. The larger star is similar to the size of the Sun, while the smaller star is 79 percent of the Sun's radius. The stars orbit and eclipse each other every 21 days, but the eclipses do not occur exactly periodically. This variation in the times of the eclipses motivated the search for the planet, which was discovered to transit the stars as it orbits the pair every 131 days. Analogous events led to the discovery of the planet Kepler-34. The discovery of these two new systems establishes a new class of 'circumbinary' planets, and suggests there are many millions of such giant planets in our Galaxy. Using data from NASA’s Kepler Mission, astronomers announced the discovery of two new transiting “circumbinary” planet systems -- planets that orbit two stars. This work establishes that such “two sun” planets are not rare exceptions, but are in fact common with many millions existing in our Galaxy. The work is published today in the journal Nature and presented at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Austin, TX.

Read more HERE


Spacecraft completes biggest maneuver

As I've said before I can't wait for this mission to arrive at Mars!

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft successfully refined its flight path Wednesday with the biggest maneuver planned for the mission's journey between Earth and Mars.

Read more HERE


China, India to jump forward with Hawaii telescope

It'll be awesome to have a 30 meter optical telescope!!!

China and India are catapulting to the forefront of astronomy research with their decision to join as partners in a Hawaii telescope that will be the world's largest when it's built later this decade.

Read more HERE


Hubble zooms in on double nucleus in Andromeda galaxy

Here is the pretty picture of the week.

A new Hubble Space Telescope image centers on the 100-million-solar-mass black hole at the hub of the neighboring spiral galaxy M31, or the Andromeda galaxy, the only galaxy outside the Milky Way visible to the naked eye and the only other giant galaxy in the local group.

Read more HERE


Scientists gear up to take a picture of a black hole

Awesome. Awesome, awesome, awesome!!!

On Wednesday, Jan. 18, astronomers, physicists and scientists from related fields will convene in Tucson, Ariz. from across the world to discuss an endeavor that only a few years ago would have been regarded as nothing less than outrageous. The conference is organized by Dimitrios Psaltis, an associate professor of astrophysics at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory, and Daniel Marrone, an assistant professor of astronomy at Steward Observatory.

Read more HERE



This week in space

Cosmic crashes forging gold: Nuclear reactions in space do produce the heaviest elements

Collisions of neutron stars produce the heaviest elements such as gold or lead. The cosmic site where the heaviest chemical elements such as lead or gold are formed has most likely been identified: Ejected matter from neutron stars merging in a violent collision provides ideal conditions. In detailed numerical simulations, scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics and affiliated to the Excellence Cluster Universe and of the Free University of Brussels have verified that the relevant reactions of atomic nuclei do take place in this environment, producing the heaviest elements in the correct abundances.

Now, to figure out how to exploit this to produce large amounts of gold and other heavy elements for the manufacturing industry.

 Read about it HERE


Fermi's latest gamma-ray census highlights cosmic mysteries

Every three hours, NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope scans the entire sky and deepens its portrait of the high-energy universe. Every year, the satellite's scientists reanalyze all of the data it has collected, exploiting updated analysis methods to tease out new sources. These relatively steady sources are in addition to the numerous transient events Fermi detects, such as gamma-ray bursts in the distant universe and flares from the sun.

Read about it HERE


Research team pinpoints location of elusive black hole using radio jets

A team of Japanese astrophysicists and space scientists have found a way to more precisely describe where in space a very large, but distant black hole lies. In their paper published in Nature, the team describes how they’ve used data from a large array of radio telescopes spread across the Pacific ocean to measure high energy emissions that are ejected from areas inside the galaxy M87 due to the actions of the massive black hole that lies somewhere near its center.

This should actually give us a way to detect ones we just don't see in the data at the moment.

 Read about it HERE


Supernova 'brightens up' September 7-8

The nearest supernova of its type to be discovered for 40 years is predicted to be at its brightest 7-8 September and will be visible through a good pair of binoculars.

Sorry I reported this to you all a few days late, I missed the best viewing of it myself though if it makes you any less upset.

 Read about it HERE



A blazar is a galaxy which, like a quasar, has an intensely bright central nucleus containing a supermassive black hole. In a blazar, however, the emitted light sometimes includes extremely high energy gamma rays, sometimes over a hundred million times more energetic than the highest energy X-rays that the Chandra X-ray Observatory can study. The overall emission has several other unique properties as well, including that its intensity can vary dramatically with time.

Sounds like we need to make an instrument better than Chandra to study these things, and then I imagine it'll show us something it can't study that's even more impressiveve.

 Read about it HERE


Our galaxy might hold thousands of ticking 'time bombs'

In the Hollywood blockbuster "Speed," a bomb on a bus is rigged to blow up if the bus slows down below 50 miles per hour. The premise - slow down and you explode - makes for a great action movie plot, and also happens to have a cosmic equivalent.

It's stuff like this that keeps me up at night... well this and millions of other things out there in space that could cease our existence in the blink of an eye. Basically with this one a new theory suggest that white dwarfs might be held up by their rapid spins and when they slow down enough... big bada boom

Read about it HERE