Archive

Archive for January 10, 2013

Vela Pulsar Jet: New Chandra Movie Features Neutron Star Action

January 10, 2013 Leave a comment

Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ of Toronto/M.Durant et al; Optical: DSS/Davide De Martin

Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ of Toronto/M.Durant et al; Optical: DSS/Davide De Martin

This movie from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory shows a fast moving jet of particles produced by a rapidly rotating neutron star , and may provide new insight into the nature of some of the densest matter in the universe.

The star of this movie is the Vela pulsar, a neutron star that was formed when a massive star collapsed. The Vela pulsar is about 1,000 light years from Earth, spans about 12 miles in diameter, and makes over 11 complete rotations every second, faster than a helicopter rotor. As the pulsar whips around, it spews out a jet of charged particles that race out along the pulsar’s rotation axis at about 70% of the speed of light.

The Chandra data shown in the movie, containing 8 images obtained between June and September 2010, suggest that the pulsar may be slowly wobbling, or precessing, as it spins. The shape and the motion of the Vela jet look strikingly like a rotating helix, a shape that is naturally explained by precession. If the evidence for precession of the Vela pulsar is confirmed, it would be the first time that a jet from a neutron star has been found to be precessing in this way.

Full Story: http://chandra.si.edu/photo/2013/vela/
Also: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/chandra/news/vela_pulsar.html

Advertisements

NASA’s NuSTAR Catches Black Holes In Galaxy Web

January 10, 2013 Leave a comment

High-energy X-ray data from NuSTAR have been translated to the color magenta. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/DSS

High-energy X-ray data from NuSTAR have been translated to the color magenta. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/DSS

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, set its X-ray eyes on a spiral galaxy and caught the brilliant glow of two black holes lurking inside.

“These new images showcase why NuSTAR is giving us an unprecedented look at the cosmos,” said Lou Kaluzienski, NuSTAR program scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington. “With NuSTAR’s greater sensitivity and imaging capability, we’re getting a wealth of new information on a wide array of cosmic phenomena in the high-energy X-ray portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.”

Launched last June, NuSTAR is the first orbiting telescope with the ability to focus high-energy X-ray light. It can view objects in considerably greater detail than previous missions operating at similar wavelengths. Since launch, the NuSTAR team has been fine-tuning the telescope, which includes a mast the length of a school bus connecting the mirrors and detectors.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-008

NASA’s Big Mars Rover Makes First Use Of Its Brush

January 10, 2013 Leave a comment

Patch of rock cleaned. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Patch of rock cleaned. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has completed first-time use of a brush it carries to sweep dust off rocks. Nearing the end of a series of first-time uses of the rover’s tools, the mission has cleared dust away from a targeted patch on a flat Martian rock using the Dust Removal Tool.

The tool is a motorized, wire-bristle brush designed to prepare selected rock surfaces for enhanced inspection by the rover’s science instruments. It is built into the turret at the end of the rover’s arm. In particular, the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer and the Mars Hand Lens Imager, which share the turret with the brush and the rover’s hammering drill, can gain information after dust removal that would not be accessible from a dust-blanketed rock.

Choosing an appropriate target was crucial for the first-time use of the Dust Removal Tool. The chosen target, called “Ekwir_1,” is on a rock in the “Yellowknife Bay” area of Mars’ Gale Crater. The rover team is also evaluating rocks in that area as potential targets for first use of the rover’s hammering drill in coming weeks.

Full Story/Links to Photos: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-009

Mapping The Milky Way: Radio Telescopes Give Clues To Structure, History

January 10, 2013 Leave a comment

Red areas mark locations of a string of newly-discovered HII regions. CREDIT: HRDS Survey Team, NRAO/AUI/NSF (radio); Axel Mellinger (optical)

Red areas mark locations of a string of newly-discovered HII regions. CREDIT: HRDS Survey Team, NRAO/AUI/NSF (radio); Axel Mellinger (optical)

Astronomers have discovered hundreds of previously-unknown sites of massive star formation in the Milky Way, including the most distant such objects yet found in our home Galaxy. Ongoing studies of these objects promise to give crucial clues about the structure and history of the Milky Way.

where massive young stars or clusters of such stars are forming. These regions, which astronomers call HII (H-two) regions, serve as markers of the Galaxy’s structure, including its spiral arms and central bar.

“We’re vastly improving the census of our Galaxy, and that’s a key to understanding both its current nature and its past history, including the history of possible mergers with other galaxies,” said Thomas Bania, of Boston University.

Full Story and Video Link: http://www.nrao.edu/pr/2013/mwcensus/

At Least One In Six Stars Has An Earth-Sized Planet

January 10, 2013 Leave a comment

The quest for a twin Earth is heating up. Using NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, astronomers are beginning to find Earth-sized planets orbiting distant stars. A new analysis of Kepler data shows that about 17 percent of stars have an Earth-sized planet in an orbit closer than Mercury. Since the Milky Way has about 100 billion stars, there are at least 17 billion Earth-sized worlds out there.

Kepler detects planetary candidates using the transit method, watching for a planet to cross its star and create a mini-eclipse that dims the star slightly. The first 16 months of the survey identified about 2,400 candidates. Astronomers then asked, how many of those signals are real, and how many planets did Kepler miss?

“There is a list of astrophysical configurations that can mimic planet signals, but altogether, they can only account for one-tenth of the huge number of Kepler candidates. All the other signals are bona-fide planets,” says Francois Fressin, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

Full Story: http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2013/pr201301.html