Archive for September 5, 2012

SKA Organisation Appoints New Director General For World’s Largest Telescope Project

September 5, 2012 Leave a comment

The SKA (The Square Kilometre Array) Organisation Board of Directors is very pleased to announce the appointment of Professor Philip Diamond as Director General of the SKA Organisation.

Professor Diamond will provide overall leadership for the SKA Organisation, the international coordinating body for the SKA telescope. The SKA will be the largest and most sensitive radio telescope ever built; it will enable astronomers to glimpse the formation and evolution of the very first stars and galaxies after the Big Bang, investigate the nature of gravity, and possibly even discover life beyond Earth.

“The SKA telescope is now moving from technology concept to the final detailed design. I am humbled to have the opportunity to lead the SKA Organisation during this exciting time and to work with colleagues around the world to realise the science vision of the SKA.” said Professor Diamond, commenting on his appointment.

Full Story:

Discovery Of The “Pigtail” Molecular Cloud

September 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Image Credit: Kebo University, NAOJ

A research team of the Department of Physics, Keio University, has discovered a molecular cloud with a peculiar helical structure by observation with the NRO 45m Telescope at Nobeyama Radio Observatory (NAOJ), National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. The team led by Shinji Matsumura, a second year Ph. D. candidate, and Tomoharu Oka, an Associate Professor, named it a “pigtail” molecular cloud from its morphology. The “pigtail” molecular cloud is located in the Galactic center, approximately 30,000 light years away from the solar system. Giant molecular clouds in this region are orbit around the Galactic center along two closed orbits. At the bottom of the pigtail molecular cloud, these two orbits intersect. The research team analyzed multiple molecular spectral lines in detail. The researchers have revealed that the two giant molecular clouds collide with one another at exactly the bottom of the “pigtail” molecular cloud. These findings suggest that the helical structure of the “pigtail” molecular cloud formed when the two molecular clouds with different orbits frictionally collided and the magnetic tube was twisted.

Full Story:

Explosion Of Galaxy Formation Lit Up Early Universe

September 5, 2012 Leave a comment

The South Pole Telescope recorded temperature fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background. Image Credit: South Pole Telescope Collaboration

New data from the South Pole Telescope indicates that the birth of the first massive galaxies that lit up the early universe was an explosive event, happening faster and ending sooner than suspected.

Extremely bright, active galaxies formed and fully illuminated the universe by the time it was 750 million years old, or about 13 billion years ago, according to Oliver Zahn, a postdoctoral fellow at the Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics (BCCP) at the University of California, Berkeley, who led the data analysis.

The data provide new constraints on the universe’s first era of galaxy formation, called the Epoch of Reionization.

“We find that the Epoch of Reionization lasted less than 500 million years and began when the universe was at least 250 million years old,” Zahn said. “Before this measurement, scientists believed that reionization lasted 750 million years or longer, and had no evidence as to when reionization began.”

Full Story:

To Planets And Beyond: Voyager Celebrates 35 Years

September 5, 2012 Leave a comment

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory celebrates the 35-anniversary of the Voyager mission, whose twin spacecraft conducted a Grand Tour of the planets and are now headed into interstellar space. A panel discussion in JPL’s von Karman auditorium will highlight insider stories about designing the planetary tour, Voyager’s post-launch “anxiety attack,” Voyager 2’s encounter with Neptune, and the Golden Record.

Full Story and Video:

NASA Announces Asteroid Naming Contest For Students

September 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Students worldwide have an opportunity to name an asteroid from which an upcoming NASA mission will return samples to Earth.

Scheduled to launch in 2016, the mission is called the Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx). Samples returned from the primitive surface of the near-Earth asteroid currently called (101955) 1999 RQ36 could hold clues to the origin of the solar system and organic molecules that may have seeded life on Earth. NASA also is planning a crewed mission to an asteroid by 2025. A closer scientific study of asteroids will provide context and help inform this mission.

The competition is open to students under age 18 from anywhere in the world. Each contestant can submit one name, up to 16 characters long. Entries must include a short explanation and rationale for the name. Submissions must be made by an adult on behalf of the student. The contest deadline is Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012.

Full Story:

Rapidly Rotating White Dwarf Stars Can Solve The Missing Companion Problem For Type IA Supernovae

September 5, 2012 Leave a comment

The research group of Izumi Hachisu (The University of Tokyo), Mariko Kato (Keio University) and Ken’ichi Nomoto (Kavli IPMU, The Univiersity of Tokyo) discovered that a Type Ia supernova occurs after its companion star evolves into a faint helium white dwarf in many cases, given the fact that the white dwarf is spinning in the progenitor system.

Supernovae are brilliant explosions of stars. Among them, Type Ia supernovae have been used as “standard candles”, which has led to the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe. Type Ia supernovae are also important to study as they are the main producer of iron group elements in the Universe.

Some recent observations have provided indications of the progenitor binary star systems just before the explosions.

Full Story:

The Mystery Of Dark Matter May Be Near To Being Deciphered

September 5, 2012 Leave a comment

The ESA satellite Planck was launched on the 14th
of May 2009.

The universe is comprised of a large amount of invisible matter, dark matter. It fills the space between the galaxies and between the stars in the galaxies. Since the prediction of the existence of dark matter more than 70 years ago, all sorts of researchers – astronomers, cosmologists and particle physicists have been looking for answers to what it could be. With the latest observations from the Planck satellite, researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute, among others, may be closer than ever to a solution to the origin of the mysterious dark matter.

The Planck satellite, which was launched in 2009, has extremely sensitive instruments that can map microwave radiation in the entire sky with great precision. The latest data from the Planck mission reveals unusual radiation from our own galaxy, which open a new direction in understanding the most fundamental properties of the space, time and matter in the Universe.

It has simply not been possible to observe this radiation in such detail before, as previous instruments have not been sensitive enough. But with Planck, this unusual radiation is seen very clearly.

Full Story:

A Cluster With A Secret

September 5, 2012 Leave a comment

The globular star cluster Messier 4

A new image from ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile shows the spectacular globular star cluster Messier 4. One of its stars has strange and unexpected properties, apparently possessing the secret of eternal youth.

New results for the stars in Messier 4 have been surprising. The stars in globular clusters are old and hence not expected to be rich in the heavier chemical elements. This is what is found, but one of the stars in a recent survey was also found to have much more of the rare light element lithium than expected. The source of this lithium is mysterious. Normally this element is gradually destroyed over the billions of years of a star’s life, but this one star amongst thousands seems to have the secret of eternal youth. It has either somehow managed to retain its original lithium, or it has found a way to enrich itself with freshly made lithium.

Full Story: