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.
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.
“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.”
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.
The human journey to the beginning of space and time begins
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.
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.
Space Exploration will be far more challenging than life on earth
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.
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.
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?
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.
The stars can’t wait
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 heliosphere is interacting with the galaxy more than we thought
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.
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.