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Archive for September, 2011

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

NASA Spacecraft Reveals New Details Of Planet Mercury

September 27, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA will host a media teleconference at 2 p.m. EDT on Thursday, Sept. 29, to discuss new data and images from the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury.

NASA’s MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft conducted fifteen laps through the inner solar system for more than six years before achieving the historic orbit insertion on March 18.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/sep/HQ_M11-207_MESSENGER_Telecon.html

NASA Announces California Tweetup To Tour Airborne Observatory

September 27, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA will host a Tweetup for 50 of its Twitter followers on Oct. 14 at the agency’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. The Tweetup includes a tour of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) aircraft, which will visit Ames.

SOFIA is a highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft that carries a telescope with a 100-inch reflecting mirror to conduct astronomy research not possible with ground-based telescopes. SOFIA is housed at NASA’s Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif.

In addition to climbing aboard SOFIA, the Tweetup guests will speak with NASA officials, managers and SOFIA scientists. The Tweetup will include a session where participants can mingle with fellow Tweeps and the staff behind the tweets on @NASA, @NASAAmes and @SOFIATelescope.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/sep/HQ_11-325_SOFIA_Tweetup.html

NASA Partners Uncover New Hypothesis on Crater Debris

September 27, 2011 Leave a comment

A team of researchers partnered with the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI) has developed a new hypothesis for the origin of crater ejecta–debris that is launched out of a crater during meteorite impacts.

These findings may help scientists target samples for extraction during future missions to asteroids and terrestrial bodies such as Mercury, Venus, the moon and Mars. The results are published in the Sept. 21, 2011, issue of the Elsevier journal, Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

The science team, led by professor Gordon Osinski at The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, compared observations of ejecta from all terrestrial planets. The observations showed that ejecta deposits all contained more than one layer.

Full Story: http://www.astronews.us/2011-09-27-0129.html

NASA To Host News Conference On Asteroid Search Findings

September 26, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA will hold a news conference at 1 p.m. EDT on Thurs., Sept. 29, to reveal near-Earth asteroid findings and implications for future research. The briefing will take place in the NASA Headquarters James E. Webb Auditorium, located at 300 E St. SW in Washington.

NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission, launched in December 2009, captured millions of images of galaxies and objects in space. During the news conference, panelists will discuss results from an enhancement of WISE called Near-Earth Object WISE (NEOWISE) that hunted for asteroids.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/sep/HQ_M11-206_NEOWISE_Briefing.html

US Space Program ‘Embarrassing,’ Says Armstrong

September 24, 2011 3 comments

The first man to walk on the moon had some strong words for the U.S. space program on Thursday, telling the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology that the retirement of the space shuttle has left it in an “embarrassing” state, according to AFP reports.

“We will have no American access to, and return from, low Earth orbit and the International Space Station for an unpredictable length of time in the future,” former astronaut Neil Armstrong, one of four space experts testifying before the committee, said, according to a September 22 report by Kerry Sheridan of the French news agency.

“For a country that has invested so much for so long to achieve a leadership position in space exploration and exploitation, this condition is viewed by many as lamentably embarrassing and unacceptable,” the 81-year-old Apollo 11 commander said.

Full Story: http://www.redorbit.com/news/space/1112387884/us-space-program-embarrassing-says-armstrong/index.html