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Archive for January, 2013

CSIRO Telescope Takes Temperature Of Universe

January 26, 2013 Leave a comment

Astronomers using a CSIRO radio telescope have taken the Universe’s temperature, and have found that it has cooled down just the way the Big Bang theory predicts.

Using the CSIRO Australia Telescope Compact Array near Narrabri, NSW, an international team from Sweden, France, Germany and Australia has measured how warm the Universe was when it was half its current age.

“This is the most precise measurement ever made of how the Universe has cooled down during its 13.77 billion year history,” said Dr Robert Braun, Chief Scientist at CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science.

According to the Big Bang theory, the temperature of the cosmic background radiation drops smoothly as the Universe expands. “That’s just what we see in our measurements. The Universe of a few billion years ago was a few degrees warmer than it is now, exactly as the Big Bang Theory predicts,” said research team leader Dr Sebastien Muller of Onsala Space Observatory at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden.

Full Story: http://www.csiro.au/Portals/Media/CSIRO-telescope-takes-temperature-of-Universe

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Super-TIGER Shatters Scientific Balloon Record In Antarctica

January 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Before he left for Antarctica in November, W. Robert Binns, PhD, research scientist at Washington University in St. Louis and principal investigator for Super-TIGER, said that he would be deliriously happy if the balloon carrying the cosmic-ray detector stayed up 30 days.

It has now been up 45 days, floating serenely in the polar vortex registering hits by cosmic rays. Over the weekend it shattered the previous record of 42 days set by Cream I, another cosmic ray experiment that flew during the winter of 2004-2005.

The Super-TIGER record will be hard to break. The experiment was launched from the Ross Ice Shelf on Dec. 9, 2012 and has circled the South Pole two and a half times at an altitude of about 130,000 feet, three or four times higher than passenger planes cruise.

Full Story: https://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/24828.aspx

Space Instrument Adds Big Piece To The Solar Corona Puzzle

January 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

The Sun’s visible surface, or photosphere, is 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. As you move outward from it, you pass through a tenuous layer of hot, ionized gas or plasma called the corona. The corona is familiar to anyone who has seen a total solar eclipse, since it glimmers ghostly white around the hidden Sun.

But how can the solar atmosphere get hotter, rather than colder, the farther you go from the Sun’s surface? This mystery has puzzled solar astronomers for decades. A suborbital rocket mission that launched in July 2012 has just provided a major piece of the puzzle.

The High-resolution Coronal Imager, or Hi-C, revealed one of the mechanisms that pumps energy into the corona, heating it to temperatures up to 7 million degrees F. The secret is a complex process known as magnetic reconnection.

“This is the first time we’ve had images at high enough resolution to directly observe magnetic reconnection,” explained Smithsonian astronomer Leon Golub (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics). “We can see details in the corona five times finer than any other instrument.”

Full Story: http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2013/pr201303.html
Also: http://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/news/press-releases/2013/january/0123-ss-atc.html

Betelgeuse Braces For A Collision

January 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/L. Decin et al

Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/L. Decin et al

Betelgeuse rides on the shoulder of the constellation Orion the Hunter. It can easily be seen with the naked eye in the northern hemisphere winter night sky as the orange–red star above and to the left of Orion’s famous three-star belt.

Roughly 1,000 times the diameter of our Sun and shining 100,000 times more brightly, Betelgeuse’s impressive statistics come with a cost. For this star is likely on its way to a spectacular supernova explosion, having already swelled into a red supergiant and shed a significant fraction of its outer layers.

The new far-infrared view from Herschel shows how the star’s winds are crashing against the surrounding interstellar medium, creating a bow shock as the star moves through space at speeds of around 30 km/s.

Full Story: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Betelgeuse_braces_for_a_collision

New Evidence Indicates Auroras Occur Outside Our Solar System

January 25, 2013 Leave a comment

University of Leicester planetary scientists have found new evidence suggesting auroras – similar to Earth’s Aurora Borealis – occur on bodies outside our solar system.

Auroras occur on several planets within our solar system, and the brightest – on Jupiter – are 100 times brighter than those on Earth. However, no auroras have yet been observed beyond Neptune.

A new study led by University of Leicester lecturer Dr Jonathan Nichols has shown that processes strikingly similar to those which power Jupiter’s auroras could be responsible for radio emissions detected from a number of objects outside our solar system.

In addition, the radio emissions are powerful enough to be detectable across interstellar distances – meaning that auroras could provide an effective way of observing new objects outside our solar system.

Full Story: http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/press/press-releases/2013/january/new-evidence-indicates-auroras-occur-outside-our-solar-system

Setting The Dark On Fire

January 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Credit: ESO/APEX (MPIfR/ESO/OSO)/T. Stanke et al./Digitized Sky Survey 2

Credit: ESO/APEX (MPIfR/ESO/OSO)/T. Stanke et al./Digitized Sky Survey 2

A new image from the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope in Chile shows a beautiful view of clouds of cosmic dust in the region of Orion. While these dense interstellar clouds seem dark and obscured in visible-light observations, APEX’s LABOCA camera can detect the heat glow of the dust and reveal the hiding places where new stars are being formed. But one of these dark clouds is not what it seems.

In order to better understand star formation, astronomers need telescopes that can observe at longer wavelengths, such as the submillimetre range, in which the dark dust grains shine rather than absorb light. APEX, on the Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes, is the largest single-dish submillimetre-wavelength telescope operating in the southern hemisphere, and is ideal for astronomers studying the birth of stars in this way.

Located in the constellation of Orion (The Hunter), 1500 light-years away from Earth, the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex is the closest region of massive star formation to Earth, and contains a treasury of bright nebulae, dark clouds and young stars. The new image shows just part of this vast complex in visible light, with the APEX observations overlaid in brilliant orange tones that seem to set the dark clouds on fire.

Full Story: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1304/

Groundwater-Fed Martian Lake Could Contain Clues To A Subsurface Biosphere

January 24, 2013 Leave a comment

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

The subsurface environment on Mars may hold clues to the origin of life, scientists argue in a recently published research article led by Planetary Science Institute’s Joseph Michalski. A large fraction of the life on Earth may exist as microbes deep underground on our home planet. The same could have been true in the past on Mars.

“Recent results produced by several authors using data from the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars instrument aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have shown that the subsurface of Mars was widely altered by subsurface water” Michalski said. “Here, we argue that all of the ingredients for life existed in the subsurface, and it may have been the most habitable part of Mars.”

Full Story: http://www.psi.edu/news/press-releases#michalskilake
Also: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-028
Images: http://www.psi.edu/news/press-releases/michalski_012013