Archive

Archive for February 15, 2012

NASA Completes Publication of Boris Chertok’s Rockets and People Memoir Series

February 15, 2012 1 comment

NASA’s History Program Office has released the fourth volume of the English translation of Russian space pioneer Boris Chertok’s highly acclaimed memoirs, Rockets and People: The Moon Race.

Much has been written in the West on the history of the Soviet space program but few Westerners have read direct first-hand accounts of the men and women who were behind the many Russian accomplishments in exploring space. The memoirs of academician Chertok, who worked under the legendary Sergey Korolev, fill that gap.

Covering the dramatic years of the Soviet human space program from 1968-1974, this fourth volume addresses the development of the mammoth N-1 booster – the Soviet competitor to the U.S. Saturn V moon rocket. Chertok also discusses the origins of the Soviet space station program, from Salyut to Mir. In addition, he examines the tragic Soyuz 11 mission and provides an overview of the birth of the Energiya-Buran space shuttle program. His account provides a fascinating inside look at the political, technological, and personal conflicts at a time when the Soviet space program was at its zenith.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/feb/HQ_12-054_Chertok_Rockets_and_People.html

Black Hole Came from Shredded Galaxy

February 15, 2012 Leave a comment

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and S. Farrell (Sydney Institute for Astronomy, University of Sydney)

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and S. Farrell (Sydney Institute for Astronomy, University of Sydney)

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have found a cluster of young, blue stars encircling the first intermediate-mass black hole ever discovered. The presence of the star cluster suggests that the black hole was once at the core of a now-disintegrated dwarf galaxy. The discovery of the black hole and the star cluster has important implications for understanding the evolution of supermassive black holes and galaxies.

“For the first time, we have evidence on the environment, and thus the origin, of this middle-weight black hole,” said Mathieu Servillat, who worked at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics when this research was conducted.

Astronomers know how massive stars collapse to form stellar-mass black holes (which weigh about 10 times the mass of our sun), but it’s not clear how supermassive black holes (like the four million solar-mass monster at the center of the Milky Way) form in the cores of galaxies. One idea is that supermassive black holes may build up through the merger of smaller, intermediate-mass black holes weighing hundreds to thousands of suns.

Full Story: http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2012/pr201203.html

Astronomers Watch Delayed Broadcast of a Rare Celestial Eruption

February 15, 2012 Leave a comment

Eta Carinae, one of the most massive stars in our Milky Way galaxy, unexpectedly increased in brightness in the 19th century. For ten years in the mid-1800s it was the second-brightest star in the sky. (Now it is not even in the top 100.) The increase in luminosity was so great that it earned the rare title of Great Eruption. New research from a team including Carnegie’s Jose Prieto, now at Princeton University, has used a “light echo” technique to demonstrate that this eruption was much different than previously thought. Their work is published Feb. 16 in Nature.

Eta Carinae is a Luminous Blue Variable (LBV), meaning it has periods of dimness followed by periods of brightness. The variations in brightness of an LBV are caused by increased instability and loss of mass. The Great Eruption was an extreme and unique event in which the star, which is more than 100 times the mass of the Sun, lost several times the mass of the Sun. Scientists have believed that this rare type of eruption was caused by a stellar wind.

The team of scientists, led by Armin Rest of the Space Telescope Science Institute, used images of Eta Carinae over 8 years to study light echoes of the Great Eruption. For the first time, they observed light from the eruption that bounced, or echoed, off interstellar dust tens of light years from the star. Those extra tens of light years mean that the light is reaching Earth now rather than in the 1800s when people on Earth observed the light that traveled here directly.

Full Story: http://carnegiescience.edu/news/astronomers_watch_delayed_broadcast_rare_celestial_eruption

APEX Turns Eye to Dark Clouds in Taurus

February 15, 2012 Leave a comment

Image Credit: ESO/APEX (MPIfR/ESO/OSO)/A. Hacar et al./Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgment: Davide De Martin.

Image Credit: ESO/APEX (MPIfR/ESO/OSO)/A. Hacar et al./Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgment: Davide De Martin.

A new image from the APEX (Atacama Pathfinder Experiment) telescope in Chile shows a sinuous filament of cosmic dust more than ten light-years long. In it, newborn stars are hidden, and dense clouds of gas are on the verge of collapsing to form yet more stars. It is one of the regions of star formation closest to us. The cosmic dust grains are so cold that observations at wavelengths of around one millimetre, such as these made with the LABOCA camera on APEX, are needed to detect their faint glow.

The Taurus Molecular Cloud, in the constellation of Taurus (The Bull), lies about 450 light-years from Earth. This image shows two parts of a long, filamentary structure in this cloud, which are known as Barnard 211 and Barnard 213. Their names come from Edward Emerson Barnard’s photographic atlas of the “dark markings of the sky”, compiled in the early 20th century. In visible light, these regions appear as dark lanes, lacking in stars. Barnard correctly argued that this appearance was due to “obscuring matter in space”.

Full Story: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1209/