SN 2014J is the newest supernova to be discovered by NASA

NASA’s Spitzer Telescope Stares into the Chaos of Supernova M82

SN 2014J is the newest supernova to be discovered by NASA
NASA’s Spitzer Telescope peers into the heart of chaos in Cigar Galaxy M82

Astronomy news (February 26, 2014)

The human journey to the beginning of space and time recently viewed the closest Type IA supernova found during modern times. The new supernova, called SN 2014J, is about 12 million light-years distant in the Cigar Galaxy M82, which is in the constellation Ursa Major.

This image of supernova SN 2014J taken by the Hubble Space telescope is stunning
The Hubble Space Telescope took this stunning image of SN2014J in M82

NASA’s Spitzer Telescope, along with legions of ground-based and orbiting telescopes, are currently peering directly into the heart of this supernova. Spitzer can peer through the dust and other debris between Earth and the new supernova, using specially designed infrared detectors and cameras. Combined with the data from the legions of ground-based and orbiting telescopes, NASA should be able to provide us with a stunning view of SN 2014J.

This image of M82 shows arrows pointing to supernova SN2014J
The arrows show where supernova SN2014J is located. This supernova is already brighter than the galaxy in which it resides

“At this point in the supernova’s evolution, observations in infrared let us look the deepest into the event,” said Mansi Kasliwal, Hubble Fellow and Carnegie-Princeton Fellow at the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science and the principal investigator for the Spitzer observations. “Spitzer is really good for bypassing the dust and nailing down what’s going on in and around the star system that spawned this supernova.”

Follow the arrow to find supenova SN 2014J in the chaos of M82
Follow the arrow to find supernova SN 2014J in the chaos of M82

First viewed on January 21, 2014, by students and staff from University College London, SN 2014J is a Type IA supernova, which astronomers believe is a binary star system. Type IA supernovae are thought by astronomers to occur due to two possible scenarios. Either a white dwarf star pulls matter from a companion star until it reaches a threshold and explodes, or two white dwarf stars slowly spiral inward toward each other until they collide, creating a supernova explosion.

Type IA supernovae are important because they explode with almost the same amount of energy and with a uniform peak brightness. Astronomers use Type IA supernovae as standard candles, which allows them to measure distances to nearby galaxies more accurately. Further study of supernova SN 2014J will help astronomers understand the processes producing this type of supernova and determine interesting facts concerning other types of supernovas.

NASA astronomers are currently using the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-Ray Observatory, Nuclear Spectroscopy Telescope Array (NuSTAR), Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and Swift Gamma Ray Burst Explorer to take a closer look at supernova SN 2014J.

The Spitzer Space Telescope is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC. You can read the full article here.

Watch this YouTube video on thirty years of NASA’s Spitzer Telescope

Read this article on the search for life Beyond Earth

Read this article on the images sent back by the Cassini Spacecraft of the solar system

Read this article on the year ahead for the human journey to the beginning of space and time

All images and diagrams used with permission of NASA.

Space Exploration: To Boldly Go Where We Have Never Gone Before

The human journey to the beginning of space and time begins

A comparison of the sizes of the stars in the Alpha Centauri system and our own Sun
A comparison of the sizes of the stars in the Alpha Centauri system and our own Sun

Astronomers watch the greatest show on Earth every night

Astronomy News ( 2013-10-15) – Walk out to the darkest star viewing spot you can find at dusk and take a seat, “The greatest show on Earth is about to begin!” Lay back on your cold seat and you become lost-in-space as you stare upwards at one of the first sights to greet human consciousness onto the stage upon awakening during the distant past. Close your eyes and let your mind boldly fly off into the night sky in search of new lands of promise warmed by alien suns. Stand upon undreamed landscapes straight out of the Twilight Zone and record ideas and thoughts that could alter the course of human history and open up avenues to undreamed of events. Human beings have looked skyward in wonder and awe for thousands of years and dreamed of voyaging to the lights in the night sky. Today humans dream of traveling to the nearest star in our sky and standing on alien landscapes which will alter human beings as a race and create history unlike anything dreamed of by science fiction writers.

For thousands of years, mankind has stood on the tip of the cosmic iceberg and dreamed of reaching for the stars. During the next century, mankind will venture out into the solar system and the unknown. The exoplanet in this Hubble image is Epsilon Eridani (HD 22049 one of the closest to Earth at 10.5 light-years. A voyage to this Jupiter-size planet’s going to take considerably longer than traveling to the Alpha Centauri system. Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble


Will human adventures travel across outer space to distant suns in search of answers to questions pondered throughout human history? Will human beings one day journey through the universe seeking the origins of human life or a suitable planet to call home? As Mr. Roddenberry points out, space will be one of the last frontiers of humankind. At the current rate of technological growth, it could be only a matter of time before human beings have the ability to travel across interstellar space looking for non-terrestrial life and the resources humans need to survive and prosper.

A true visionary, Star Trek’s one of the most popular television shows in history. His dream for the future of mankind is truly inspiring. Credit:


Space Exploration will be far more challenging than life on earth

Frosty white water ice clouds and swirling orange dust clouds above a rusty landscape show Mars has a dynamic, often chaotic environment in this Hubble image. Even a 43 million miles, it can see details as small as ten miles across. A large amount of seasonal dust storm activity can be seen above the northern polar region (top), with smaller storms nearby, and a large one spilling out of the giant Hellas impact crater in the Southern Hemisphere (bottom right). Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble


Traveling across the vast stretches of outer space between Earth and a nearby star system will be far more challenging and dangerous to undertake then climbing the tallest mountain or sailing an unexplored ocean. The distances in both space and time involved in such voyages will require human beings to surmount technological and social obstacles unlike any experienced during life on planet Earth. During the past century, humans have designed and engineered mechanized devices capable of launching into outer space and crossed the short stellar distance between Earth and its moon. We have started to become acquainted with life-in-space and the challenges involved in space travel. During the next fifty years, mankind will travel into the solar system and start to develop the technology required to successfully travel to nearby star systems to begin life again under an alien sun.


A Global Mars Map
The image seen here was made by combining four hemisphere views of the Hubble Space Telescope during the Red Planet’s closest approach to Earth into a full-color global map – called a Mollweide projection -. The resolution of Hubble is 12 miles per pixel near the equator. Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble


Does mankind presently have the technology, will power, and resources to journey to a nearby star system? The answer at this point in human history is a realistic and resounding, “No!” Using a reaction engine similar to the liquid oxygen/hydrogen main engine of the space shuttle to travel to the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, would require over 100 years and fuel tanks too big to carry. Nuclear powered propulsion using fusion or fission requires technology and radiation shielding presently unavailable in order for human beings to survive the journey. Doctors also have questions concerning the possible medical problems associated with long-term exposure to acceleration and deep space radiation, and the drag forces involved using this form of propulsion still have to be addressed. The often dreamed of, but at this point unrealized, warp drive will probably never make it off the pages of science fiction books and into the cold of deep space. Instead, it will be replaced by an undreamed of propulsion system allowing us to travel closer to the speed of light, or circumvent the universe’s speed limit using a new idea, yet to be conceived.

Fly over the craters and canyons of Mars watching this Hubble video.

The distances between the stars in the Centauri system are extreme, but it's possible for planets to exist
The distances between the stars in the Centauri system are extreme, but it’s possible for planets to exist

Proxima Centauri or bust

If mankind made traveling to the nearest star system the top priority during the years ahead what would be needed to make the journey a success? The answer to this question continues to change as scientists and engineers study the goal more. The closest alien sun to Earth is the Red Dwarf Proxima Centauri, which on average is the short stellar distance of just 4.22 light-years (24.7 trillion miles or 29.9 km) away. Traveling at the estimated speed of Voyager 1, around 37,000 mph, it would take a spaceship over 76,000 years to complete the journey. During this length of time, human beings would have long enough to evolve significantly in the new and alien environment of deep space. Would we recognize our human ancestors after 76,000 years evolving during a trip through outer space?

The red dwarf sun Proxima Centauri could have planets which could serve as a new cradle for human life to begin anew
The red dwarf sun Proxima Centauri could have planets which could serve as a new cradle for human life to begin anew

Proxima Centauri also has no known planets upon which humans could begin life again under an alien sun. This Red Dwarf star is also significantly cooler than our own sun, so the habitability of any existing alien worlds would be questionable at best. Optimistic humans point out that Proxima Centauri is part of a bigger star system, containing other possible candidates which could have habitable planets. This dim star is considered by many to be part of the bigger Alpha Centauri system, which includes the binary stars Alpha Centauri A and B, just 4.4 light-years from Earth. Astronomers and scientists have their doubts about the possibility of other habitable planets in this star system at this point. Instead, they point to star systems further out in deep space, which seem to offer a better possibility of habitable planets.

At 4 light-years, Proxima Centauri isn’t visible in the night sky because of its low luminosity and small size at 1/8th the size of Sol. Even though it’s considered a close neighbor this sun is only a pin-like source even with the eagle eye of the Hubble Space Telescope. Considered a flare star, Proxima Centauri occasionally puts on a show. This stellar production of the Milky Way’s expected to have periodic shows throughout the life of the star, an estimated 4 trillion years or over 300 times the age estimate of the cosmos. Better get comfortable. The next show could be awhile! Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble


The stars can’t wait

The International Space Station will be the first stop for mankind on its way deeper into the solar system. From here we’ll make bigger better stations and travel to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Credit: NASA

If humans move to a new home circling an alien sun, we’ll do it in stages, beginning with the exploration of the solar system. The International Space Station will be the staging point for the next phase of the exploration of the solar system. From here we can reach outward into the solar system to see what mysteries and discoveries await us just beyond the visible horizon. We’ll need time to develop the technology required for interstellar space travel and the terraforming of alien worlds. In the meantime, we’ll continue to send out envoys and ambassadors in the form of unmanned spacecraft to nearby star systems within our reach. The first of these envoys of the human race, Voyager 1, has traveled a distance of around 11 billion miles during 35 years of continuous space travel. This puts Voyager 1 still firmly within the boundaries of the known solar system, which reaches some 4.6 trillion miles into cold space and the Oort Cloud on the fringes of our system of planets. Eventually, Voyager 1 will travel beyond the boundaries of the solar system and into interstellar space, and this is when the real human journey to the beginning of space and time begins.

Click this link to watch a YouTube video on the search for earth-like planets.

The search for earth-like planets

Click this link to watch a YouTube video on finding a new cradle for human civilization.
New Earth: A new cradle for human life

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion

Feeling Isolated? The Universe is Closer Than You Think

 The heliosphere is interacting with the galaxy more than we thought 

IBEX recently completed a six-month job. The sky map below is the result.


The human journey to the beginning of space and time continues

 Astronomy News – Mankind is preparing to journey to the outer solar system in the decades ahead and part of the preparation is using NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, spacecraft to take a look at conditions on the edge of the solar system to get an idea of the environment humans and the spacecraft we send to the edge of the solar system will have to withstand to survive. NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer has just finished producing a new set of maps of the dynamic conditions that exist near the boundary between the local interstellar medium of the galaxy and our own heliosphere. The Interstellar Boundary Explorer spacecraft creates sky maps of the outer solar system by counting and measuring particles astronomers call energetic neutral atoms that are created near the interstellar boundary region in collisions between charged particles emanating from Sol and star-dust between the stars. These collisions send energetic neutral atoms towards Sol at velocities ranging from 100,000 to 2.4 million miles per hour.
Six months of observations later, this is the result

Dynamic universe

Astronomers looking at the edge of the solar system using the Interstellar Boundary Explorer recently announced that their views of the edge of the solar system over a six month period have revealed the outer solar system is a lot more dynamic than scientists first thought. That interaction between the solar wind and the interstellar medium on the other side of the interstellar boundary region are constantly changing as we move through space and time. The first map produced indicates an unpredicted bright ribbon of energetic neutral atoms emanating toward Sol from the edge of the solar system. A bright ribbon that currently has scientists studying the heliosphere scratching their heads in a confused manner because this scenario doesn’t fit any of the preconceived models they had created of the conditions and environment near the outer solar system.
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