NASA’s Fermi Satellite Finds Hints Of Starquakes In Magnetar ‘Storm’

October 24, 2014 Leave a comment

Image Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Wiessinger

Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Wiessinger

NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope detected a rapid-fire “storm” of high-energy blasts from a highly magnetized neutron star, also called a magnetar, on Jan. 22, 2009. Now astronomers analyzing this data have discovered underlying signals related to seismic waves rippling throughout the magnetar.

Such signals were first identified during the fadeout of rare giant flares produced by magnetars. Over the past 40 years, giant flares have been observed just three times — in 1979, 1998 and 2004 — and signals related to starquakes, which set the neutron stars ringing like a bell, were identified only in the two most recent events.

“Fermi’s Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) has captured the same evidence from smaller and much more frequent eruptions called bursts, opening up the potential for a wealth of new data to help us understand how neutron stars are put together,” said Anna Watts, an astrophysicist at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands and co-author of a new study about the burst storm. “It turns out that Fermi’s GBM is the perfect tool for this work.”

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Dark Matter Half What We Thought, Say Scientists

October 9, 2014 Leave a comment

A new measurement of dark matter in the Milky Way has revealed there is half as much of the mysterious substance as previously thought.

Australian astronomers used a method developed almost 100 years ago to discover that the weight of dark matter in our own galaxy is 800 000 000 000 (or 8 x 1011) times the mass of the Sun.

They probed the edge of the Milky Way, looking closely, for the first time, at the fringes of the galaxy about 5 million trillion kilometres from Earth.

Astrophysicist Dr Prajwal Kafle, from The University of Western Australia node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, said we have known for a while that most of the Universe is hidden.

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An Unprecedented View Of Two Hundred Galaxies Of The Local Universe

October 2, 2014 Leave a comment

Galaxies are the result of an evolutionary process started thousands of million years ago, and their history is coded in their distinct components. The CALIFA project is intended to decode the galaxies’ history in a sort of galactic archaeology, through the 3D observations of a sample of six hundred galaxies. With this second data release corresponding to two hundred galaxies, the project reaches its halfway point with important results behind.

The CALIFA Project allows not only to inspect the galaxies in detail, but it also provides with data on the evolution of each particular galaxy with time: how much gas and when was it converted into stars along each phase of the galaxy’s life, and how did each region of the galaxies evolve along the more than ten thousand million years of cosmic evolution.

Thanks to the CALIFA data, the astronomers have been able to deduce the history of the mass, luminosity and chemical evolution of the CALIFA sample of galaxies, and thus they have found that more massive galaxies grow faster than less massive ones, and that they form their central regions before the external ones (inside-out mass assembly).

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UK Leads New International Solar Storm Tracking Initiative

October 2, 2014 Leave a comment

UK scientists have unveiled a new £2.5 million (€3.2 million) project that will improve forecasts of solar storms, including their arrival time and impact on the Earth. The three year project will provide the most comprehensive set of information to date about the Sun’s influence on interplanetary space and the effects space weather can have on the Earth. The project will enable governments to improve their strategies to lessen the potential negative impacts from the Sun.

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NASA Mission Points To Origin of “Ocean Of Storms” On Earth’s Moon

October 2, 2014 Leave a comment

Using data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), mission scientists have solved a lunar mystery almost as old as the moon itself.

Early theories suggested the craggy outline of a region of the moon’s surface known as Oceanus Procellarum, or the Ocean of Storms, was caused by an asteroid impact. If this theory had been correct, the basin it formed would be the largest asteroid impact basin on the moon. However, mission scientists studying GRAIL data believe they have found evidence the craggy outline of this rectangular region — roughly 1,600 miles (2,600 kilometers) across — is actually the result of the formation of ancient rift valleys.

“The nearside of the moon has been studied for centuries, and yet continues to offer up surprises for scientists with the right tools,” said Maria Zuber, principal investigator of NASA’s GRAIL mission, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. “We interpret the gravity anomalies discovered by GRAIL as part of the lunar magma plumbing system — the conduits that fed lava to the surface during ancient volcanic eruptions.”

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The Astronomical Almanac (2015-2019) is Now Available On Amazon

September 18, 2014 Leave a comment

Originally posted on The Astronomical Year:

The Astronomical Almanac (2015-2019)

The Astronomical Almanac (2015-2019)

Designed for astronomers of all levels, the almanac provides details of thousands of astronomical events from 2015 through to 2019.

Written by a former freelance writer for Astronomy magazine, the guide includes almost daily data and information on the Moon and planets, as well as Pluto, Ceres, Pallas, Juno and Vesta.

  • The phases of the Moon
  • Conjunctions between the Moon, planets and asteroids (including angular separation for conjunctions involving the planets and asteroids.)
  • Lunar and Solar eclipses
  • Annual summaries of when to observe the planets and asteroids
  • Annual summaries of notable close planetary conjunctions
  • Peak dates for the major meteor showers with moon phase
  • Dates of perihelion, aphelion, perigee and apogee for the planets and asteroids
  • Inferior and Superior conjunction for Mercury and Venus
  • Greatest Eastern and Western elongation for Mercury and Venus
  • Opposition and solar conjunction dates for the outer planets and asteroids
  • Apparent diameter…

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UNH Scientific Balloon Set To Measure Gamma Rays From The Crab Pulsar

September 11, 2014 Leave a comment

Starting today at NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, space scientists from the University of New Hampshire will attempt to launch a football-field-sized balloon carrying a one-ton instrument payload that will measure gamma rays from the Crab Pulsar – the remains of a 1054 A.D. supernova explosion 6,500 light years from Earth. The measurements, taken 130,000 feet above Earth, could eventually provide a window into the universal, poorly understood process of particle acceleration.

The Gamma Ray Polarimeter Experiment (GRAPE), which was designed and built at the Space Science Center (SSC) within the UNH Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, is an effort to apply a new type of detector technology to the study of celestial gamma rays. The launch is highly dependent on weather and upper atmospheric wind conditions. The launch window closes at the end of this month.

The specific goal of the GRAPE mission is to study the polarization of gamma rays from celestial sources. “Polarized” radiation vibrates in a preferred direction, and the extent of that polarization can provide clues to how the radiation was generated, in essence serving as a probe of the source.

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