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150 Of NASA’s Twitter Followers Will Be Invited To Mars Rover Launch

September 28, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA will host a two-day launch Tweetup for 150 of its Twitter followers on Nov. 23 and 25 at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Tweetup is expected to culminate in the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The launch window open is scheduled to open at 10:21 a.m. EDT on Nov. 25.

The Tweetup will provide NASA’s social media followers with the opportunity to tour Kennedy Space Center; speak with scientists and engineers; and, if all goes as scheduled, view the spacecraft launch. The event also will provide participants the opportunity to meet fellow tweeps and members of NASA’s social media team.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/sep/HQ_11-327_Curiosity_Tweetup.html

Giant Star Expels Multiple Dust Shells, Researchers Find

September 28, 2011 Leave a comment

An international team led by Leen Decin, a K.U.Leuven astronomer, has discovered a series of dust shells in the vicinity of CW Leonis, a dying giant star. The star expelled the shells in the course of its long life: the most distant shell was expelled 16,000 years ago and, in that time, has drifted more than 7,000 billion kilometres from the star.

CW Leonis is an evolved star in the Leo constellation, 500 light-years from Earth. The dying star has become a carbon-rich red giant star: “Until recently, it was thought that giant star’s surroundings were homogenous: evenly distributed matter without any exceptionally large clumps, but there are more and more indicators suggesting that this is not a reliable picture,” says Leen Decin. “New images from the Herschel satellite confirm this in a spectacular way: We discovered more than a dozen shells expelled throughout the star’s life as a giant. The weakest shell we found is 7,000 billion kilometres from the star.”

Full Story: http://www.astronews.us/2011-09-28-0230.html

Feast Your Eyes on the Fried Egg Nebula: ESO’s VLT Spots a Rare Treat

September 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Credit: ESO/E. Lagadec

Credit: ESO/E. Lagadec

Astronomers have used ESO’s Very Large Telescope to image a colossal star that belongs to one of the rarest classes of stars in the Universe, the yellow hypergiants. The new picture is the best ever taken of a star in this class and shows for the first time a huge dusty double shell surrounding the central hypergiant. The star and its shells resemble an egg white around a yolky centre, leading the astronomers to nickname the object the Fried Egg Nebula.

The monster star, known to astronomers as IRAS 17163-3907, has a diameter about a thousand times bigger than our Sun. At a distance of about 13 000 light-years from Earth, it is the closest yellow hypergiant found to date and new observations show it shines some 500 000 times more brightly than the Sun.

This object was known to glow brightly in the infrared but, surprisingly, nobody had identified it as a yellow hypergiant before,” said Eric Lagadec (European Southern Observatory), who led the team that produced the new images.

Full Story: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1136/

Light From Galaxy Clusters Confirm Theory of Relativity

September 28, 2011 1 comment

All observations in astronomy are based on light emitted from stars and galaxies and, according to the general theory of relativity, the light will be affected by gravity. At the same time all interpretations in astronomy are based on the correctness of the theory of relatively, but it has never before been possible to test Einstein’s theory of gravity on scales larger than the solar system. Now astrophysicists at the Dark Cosmology Centre at the Niels Bohr Institute have managed to measure how the light is affected by gravity on its way out of galaxy clusters. The observations confirm the theoretical predictions. The results have been published in the prestigious scientific journal, Nature.

Observations of large distances in the universe are based on measurements of the redshift, which is a phenomenon where the wavelength of the light from distant galaxies is shifted more and more towards the red with greater distance. The redshift indicates how much the universe has expanded from when the light left until it was measured on Earth. Furthermore, according to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, the light and thus the redshift is also affected by the gravity from large masses like galaxy clusters and causes a gravitational redshift of the light. But the gravitational influence of light has never before been measured on a cosmological scale.

Full Story: http://www.astronews.us/2011-09-28-1300.html