What will we find when we open it up to look inside?
Space news ( October 30, 2015) –
First viewed during an examination of Voyager 1 images of Saturn taken in 1980, Titan’s little moon Pandora is only 50 miles (81 kilometers) across in this green light image taken at a distance of about 1.2 million miles (1.9 million kilometers).
Pandora has lots of craters, indicating she’s still growing in size, and her final size and shape has yet to be determined. Very irregularly shaped presently, Pandora’s craters are covered with space debris from recent collisions on geological time scales. One day, if she collects enough debris, planetary scientist think Pandora could start to look more spherical in shape.
The fourth of Saturn’s known moons, Pandora orbits at a distance of about 141,700 km from her parent planet, and is the outer shepherd moon of the F ring. Planetary scientists think its elongated shape and low density could mean it was formed when the gravity of a dense core gathered nearby ring particles onto itself.
Named after the woman bestowed upon mankind by Zeus as a punishment for using Prometheus’ gift of fire, Titan’s little moon Pandora probably doesn’t contain all the ills plaguing humankind. Teams of scientists proposing to government space agencies or private concerns a mission to open it up and take a look inside might get a few laughs.
After all, all myths have a beginning somewhere in time, and nothing is impossible, in this universe, if you wait long enough for it to happen.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if one day we drifted by and took a better look.
New programs selected will study neutron star-black hole binary systems, the expansion of space and galaxies in the early cosmos, the star formation cycle of the Milky Way and more
Space news (October 29, 2015) – NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. –
NASA’s Explorers Program was designed in the spirit of the first explorers who traveled across the deep, dark and mysterious oceans and lands in search of the unknown. Thousands of years ago, archaeologists believe ancient humans used the stars, ocean currents and waves to navigate across the seas to new lands. Today, astronauts and scientists taking part in NASA’s Explorers Program travel across space-time to stellar objects in the sky using scientific instruments and spacecraft ancient humans would perceive as God-like.
NASA’s Explorers Program began with the launch of the first spacecraft designed by engineers and scientists working for the Army Ballistic Missile Agency on January 31, 1958, making it the oldest continuously running low-cost NASA program in history.Fittingly called “Explorer”, since this first spacecraft over 90 space missions to the stars have been designed and launched as part of the Explorers Program. Space missions to the stars that have made startling discoveries about Earth’s magnetosphere and gravity field, the composition of the solar wind and solar plasma erupting from the surface of the Sun. They have traveled to other planets in the solar system and studied radio and gamma-ray astronomy, and in the future will enable the human journey to the beginning of space and time.
NASA recently announced five less-expensive Explorers Program missions designed to the fill the scientific and technical gaps their more involved and expensive space missions. The selected space missions will examine polarized X-ray emissions emitted by binary star systems composed of a neutron star and black hole and the expansion of spacetime during the early moments of the universe. They’ll also take a closer look at the formation of galaxies during the first moments of the cosmos and the birth and life cycle of stars in the Milky Way.
Located in the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, the Explorers Program provides an opportunity for human robotic-envoys to make frequent trips into space for scientific explorations of the solar system and cosmos. Relatively low-cost, small to medium size space missions requiring fewer resources and time compared to larger missions to get off the drawing board and into space.
“The Explorers Program brings out some of the most creative ideas for missions to help unravel the mysteries of the Universe,” said John Grunsfeld, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Science at NASA Headquarters, in Washington. “The program has resulted in great missions that have returned transformational science, and these selections promise to continue that tradition.”
Now, each of the three selected Small Explorers mission proposals will receive $1 million to conduct an 11-month mission concept study, while the two Missions of Opportunity proposals receive $250,000 to conduct an 11-month mission implementation concept study.
During the months ahead, NASA scientists will conduct concept studies and detailed evaluations of each proposal selected. After this, they’ll select one mission of each type to proceed to construction and launch, by 2020 at the earliest. In the end, the total cost for this part of the Explorers Program is capped at just around $190 million for the two missions selected: $125 million for each Small Explorers mission and $65 million for each Mission of Opportunity.
The three Small ExplorersProgram missions selected are:
SPHEREx explores the origin and evolution of the cosmos and galaxies in the sky and the possibility planets around other stars could harbor life.
James Bock of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California is the main scientist on this mission.
Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE)
IXPE studies the processes leading to X-ray emission in neutron stars, pulsar wind nebulae, and stellar and supermassive black holes using X-ray polarimetry, the measurement, and interpretation of the polarization of electromagnetic waves.
Martin Weisskopf of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama is the main scientist on this project.
Polarimeter for Relativistic Astrophysical X-ray Sources (PRAXyS)
PRAXyS uses X-ray polarimetry to study the geometry and behavior of X-ray sources emitted from supermassive black holes, pulsars, magnetars and supernovae.
The two Missions of Opportunity proposals selected are:
GUSTO is an observatory held aloft by a balloon designed to detect high-frequency radio emission from sources in our Milky Way and the Large MagellanicCloud in order to study the life cycle of interstellar material.
Christopher Walker of the University of Arizona in Tucson is the main scientists on this mission.
LiteBIRD is a Japanese space mission with US contributions designed to map polarized fluctuations in the Cosmic Microwave Background in order to search for signs of gravitation waves created during inflation in an effort to better understand the events that occurred during the first moments of the cosmos.
Adrian Lee of the University of California at Berkeley is a main scientist on this mission.
For more information on NASA’s Explorers Program, go here.
To learn more about NASA’s mandate to travel to the stars and beyond visit here.
Learn more about the Goddard Space Flight Center here.
Discover and explore the Marshall Space Flight Center here.
No need not worry, according to planetary scientists, the majority of potential cradles for a new human Genesis have yet to be born
Space news (October 24, 2015) – The journey to Mars –
Earthlings thinking about moving to Mars, or another planet, with the first spacecraft leaving, can breathe a sigh of relief. Peter Behroozi and Molly Peeples of NASA’s Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) have completed a studyof the percentage of Earth-like planets created during the life of the universe, so far, andaccording to estimates, the majority of Earth-like planets have yet to be born.
“Our main motivation was understanding the Earth’s place in the context of the rest of the universe,” said study author Peter Behroozi of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, “Compared to all the planets that will ever form in the universe, the Earth is actually quite early.”
“There is enough remaining material [after the big bang] to produce even more planets in the future, in the Milky Way and beyond,” added co-investigator Molly Peeples of STScI.
By Earth-like we mean an exoplanet the right distance from its parent star for water to exist in liquid form and the Genesis of life to take place. Earth is the only planet we know life exists on, but considering estimates of the size of the cosmos, one would certainly expect life has popped its head up somewhere else. If their estimates of the amount of gas left over for the formation of new stars is correct, the Milky Way and universe will be making new stars for a very long time.
There’s still lots of time to invent, or order on the uni-net (Universal Internet), a faster-than-light spacecraft to help in your search for a new home. Current estimates indicate there are at least 1 billion Earth-sized planets in the Milky Way. How many are suitable homes you can live on? Maybe by the time you get the spacecraft you need, they’ll have a better estimate of exactly how many are Earth-like.
You still have time to prepare!
Unless you’re a time traveler from the future, you have time to prepare, and this team of intrepid astronomers has time to refine their estimate. Hopefully, by then, we’ll be permanently connected to the uni-net, and you can just look online for the best property on an exoplanet far, far away.
You can learn more about NASA’s mandate to travel to the stars here.
Two white dwarfs shed outer layers of mass to form winding blue clouds of hot gas
Space news (October 16, 2015) – light-years away in the southern constellation Norma –
Firstdiscovered during modern times by noted astronomer Donald Menzel in 1922, planetary nebula PK 329-02.2 or Menzel 2 (Mz 2), is composed of a central star and companion suncocooned in stunning, hot clouds of glowing gas ejected in complex shapes that will fade into the cosmos over the next few thousands of years.
Astrophysicists believe the star at the upper right of the two centralstars shining brightly in this Hubble image is the main star of planetary nebula PK 329-02.2. The star just to the lower left of this central star astronomers believe is the companion sun, which is gravitationally tied to the main star.
Over tens of thousands of years, this pair of stars is expected to be cocooned in stunning clouds of hot, glowing gas. Swirling clouds forming a goodbye wave as the main star enters the final stages of its life cycle and starts to enjoy retirement as a white dwarf star.
You can discover more about the journey of the Hubble Space Telescope here.
Unlike anything seen during the human journey to the beginning of space and time
October 15, 2015 – 32 light-years toward the southern constellation Microscopium
Astrophysicists viewing four years of data provided by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope in Chile have discovered something unlike anything is ever seen before. Fast-moving, wave-like structures hidden within the dusty disk orbiting young star AU Microscopii (AU Mic), where they have been looking for clues to the processes leading to the formation of young planets.
Moving across the 40 billion-mile wide disk orbiting young star AU Microscopii at 22,000 mph, the string of ripples in the images above are moving at different speeds. Astronomers believe the features further away from AU Microscopii are moving faster than the ones closer to the star. At least, three are moving at a velocity which will result in them leaving the gravitational influence of the young star.
“The images from SPHERE show a set of unexplained features in the disk, which have an arc-like, or wave-like structure unlike anything that has ever been observed before,” said Anthony Boccaletti of the Paris Observatory, the paper’s lead author.
“We ended up with enough information to track the movement of these strange features over a four-year period,” explained team member Christian Thalmann of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. “By doing this, we found that the arches are racing away from the star at speeds of up to 10 kilometers per second (22,000 miles per hour)! “ Co-investigator Carol Grady of Eureka Scientific in Oakland, California, added, “Because nothing like this has been observed or predicted in theory we can only hypothesize when it comes to what we are seeing and how it came about.”
Velocities reaching 22,000 miles per hour rule out the possibility of proto-planets within the dusty disk causing the gravitational disturbance detected. Calculations also indicate this phenomenon isn’t related to a collision between two massive bodies or unknown gravitational instabilities in the system of AU Mic. This team of astronomers is currently testing other theories in order to rule out other possibilities, but at this time, they’re just as mystified as the rest of us.
“One explanation for the strange structure links them to the star’s flares. AU Mic is a star with high flaring activity — it often lets off huge and sudden bursts of energy from on or near its surface,” said co-author Glenn Schneider of Steward Observatory in Phoenix, Arizona. “One of these flares could perhaps have triggered something on one of the planets — if there are planets — like a violent stripping of material, which could now be propagating through the disk, propelled by the flare’s force.”
Astronomers now plan on additional observations of the AU Mic system using the Hubble Space Telescope, the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope and other ground and space-based telescopes. To look for answers to the mystery surrounding fast-moving, wave-like structures hidden within the dusty disk surrounding young star AU Microscopii.
You can read more about this in the Oct. 8 edition of the British science journal Nature.
You can discover more about AU Microscopii and the Hubble Space Telescope here.
Journey across the cosmos with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope here.
You can learn about NASA’s mandate to travel to the stars here.
Erupting X-ray flares every day, a ten-fold increase in bright flares from previous observations of Sagittarius A
Space news (October 01, 2015) – 26,000 light-years from Earth, near the center of the Milky Way
Astrophysicists combining the telescopic talents of NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and Swift spacecraft, with the European Space Agency’s X-ray Space Observatory XMM-Newton, recently detected an increase in X-ray flares erupting from the supermassive black hole (Sagittarius A) at the center of the Milky Way.
By analyzing data collected during extensive periods of monitoring by all three spacecraft, space scientists determined the Monster of the Milky Way – the supermassive black hole at the center with more than 4 million times the mass of Sol– has been more active during the past 15 years than first thought.
Erupting a bright X-ray flare every ten days, the Monster of the Milky Way has been eating hot gas falling into its gravity pool. Even more interesting, Sagittarius A during the past year has been erupting ten times as much, producing a bright X-ray flare every day. A discovery that has astrophysicists going over the data looking for a reason for the sudden increase.
“For several years, we’ve been tracking the X-ray emission from Sgr A*. This includes also the close passage of this dusty object” said Gabriele Ponti of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany. “A year or so ago, we thought it had absolutely no effect on Sgr A*, but our new data raise the possibility that that might not be the case.”
The mystery started late in 2013, as G2 passed close to the supermassive black hole. At this time, there wasn’t any apparent change in G2 as it approached Sagittarius A, other than being slightly stretched by the gravity pool of the black hole.
Originally astronomers thought G2 was a stretched cloud of gas and dust, but this finding has led scientists to the possibility it could be a dense body embedded in a dusty cocoon. Currently, there’s no consensus among astronomers on the identity of this mysterious object. But the recent ten-fold increase in X-ray flares as G2 passed near the supermassive black hole suggests there could be a connection of some kind.
“There isn’t universal agreement on what G2 is,” said Mark Morris of the University of California at Los Angeles. “However, the fact that Sgr A* became more active not long after G2 passed by suggests that the matter coming off of G2 might have caused an increase in the black hole’s feeding rate.”
At this point, astronomers don’t know if the increase in X-ray flares from the supermassive black hole is common or unusual in nature. These emissions could be part of the normal life cycle of supermassive black holes and totally unrelated to the passage of G2. The ten-fold increase in X-ray flares could also be due to changing solar winds from nearby massive stars feeding gas and dust into the black hole.
Scientists will keep observing Sagittarius A over the next little while to see what pops up next in this mystery. Hopefully, they can shed some light on the reason the Monster of the Milky Way, suddenly started emitting X-ray flares once a day.
“It’s too soon to say for sure, but we will be keeping X-ray eyes on Sgr A* in the coming months,” said co-author Barbara De Marco, also of Max Planck. “Hopefully, new observations will tell us whether G2 is responsible for the changed behavior or if the new flaring is just part of how the black hole behaves.”
A very asymmetric galaxy resembling a titanic island universe of glowing gas and dark dust
Space news ( October 11, 2015) – 35 million light-years from Earth toward the constellation Leo the Lion –
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope recently took this stunning image of Messier 96, a spiral galaxy approximately the same volume and mass as our Milky Way. First viewed by Pierre Mechain in 1781, this island universe is unusual in many aspects compared to other spiral galaxies. The gas and dust in the spiral arms of Messier 96 are unevenly spread, due at least partially to the gravitational influence of nearby galaxies in the Leo I Galaxy Group. The core of this asymmetric island universe is also slightly off center, a fact that has scientists scratching their heads and wondering, why?
You can view more images and learn more about Messier 96 here.