Archive

Archive for August 29, 2011

Uncovering the Secrets of the Great Supernova

August 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Credit: Peter Nugent and the Palomar Transient Factory

Credit: Peter Nugent and the Palomar Transient Factory

A once-in-a-lifetime nearby stellar explosion now unfolding in a neighboring galaxy has astronomers at the W. M. Keck Observatory scrambling to ask questions that can’t be answered at any other ground-based telescope in the world. The first big question: What causes this pivotally important type of stellar cataclysm?

Observing this spectacular supernova, dubbed PTF11kly, began on August 24, with the detection of the explosion in the nearby Pinwheel Galaxy, a.k.a. M101, by the automated Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) survey. That survey is designed to detect short-lived astronomical events as they happen.

Full Story: http://keckobservatory.org/news/secrets_of_supernova/

Cassini Closes in on Saturn’s Tumbling Moon Hyperion

August 29, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA's Cassini spacecraft obtained this unprocessed image of Saturn's moon Hyperion on Aug. 25, 2011. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captured new views of Saturn’s oddly shaped moon Hyperion during its encounter with this cratered body on Thursday, Aug. 25. Raw images were acquired as the spacecraft flew past the moon at a distance of about 15,500 miles (25,000 kilometers), making this the second closest encounter.
Hyperion is a small moon — just 168 miles (270 kilometers) across. It has an irregular shape and surface appearance, and it rotates chaotically as it tumbles along in orbit. This odd rotation prevented scientists from predicting exactly what terrain the spacecraft’s cameras would image during this flyby.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-266

40-Year-Old Mariner 5 Solar-Wind Problem Finds Answer

August 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Credit: European Space Agency

Credit: European Space Agency

Research led by astrophysicists at the University of Warwick has resolved a 40 year old problem with observations of turbulence in the solar wind first made by the probe Mariner Five. The research resolves an issue with what is by far the largest and most interesting natural turbulence lab accessible to researchers today.

Our current understanding tells us that turbulence in the solar wind should not be affected by the speed and direction of travel of that solar wind. However when the first space probes attempted to measure that turbulence they found their observations didn’t quite match that physical law. The first such data to be analysed from Mariner 5 in 1971 found a small but nonetheless irritatingly clear pattern in the turbulence perpendicular to both the direction of the travel and the magnetic field the solar wind was travelling through.

Full Story: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/40_year_old