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Archive for May 24, 2013

Most Detailed Observations Ever Of The Ring Nebula


Image credit: NASA, ESA, and C. Robert O’Dell

Image credit: NASA, ESA, and C. Robert O’Dell

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has produced the most detailed observations ever of the Ring Nebula (Messier 57). This image reveals intricate structure only hinted at in previous observations, and has allowed scientists to construct a model of the nebula in 3D — showing the true shape of this striking object.

Formed by a star throwing off its outer layers as it runs out of fuel, the Ring Nebula is an archetypal planetary nebula [1]. It is both relatively close to Earth and fairly bright, and so was first recorded in the late 18th century. As is common with astronomical objects, its precise distance is not known, but it is thought to lie just over 2000 light-years from Earth.

From Earth’s perspective, the nebula looks roughly elliptical. However, astronomers have combined ground-based data with new observations using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to observe the nebula again, hunting for clues about its structure, evolution, physical conditions and motion.

It turns out that the nebula is shaped like a distorted doughnut. We are gazing almost directly down one of the poles of this structure, with a brightly coloured barrel of material stretching away from us.

Full Story and Images: http://www.spacetelescope.org/news/heic1310/
Also: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2013/13

Astronomers Team Up With The Public To Solve Decade Old Puzzle


An extremely precise measurement of the distance to a star system has finally allowed astronomers to solve a decade-old puzzle, confirming understanding of the way exotic objects like black holes interact with nearby stars.

Published today in prestigious journal Science, a team of astronomers headed by Dr James Miller-Jones from the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), have measured the distance to star system SS Cygni to be 372 light years, much closer than a previous measurement made by the Hubble Space Telescope in the 1990s.

The measurement was made possible by amateur astronomers from the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) who alerted the team to changes in the compact star system, triggering the team to start observations with two of the world’s most accurate radio telescopes.

If you hold your finger out at arm’s length and move your head from side to side, you should see your finger appear to wobble against the background. If you move your finger closer to your head, you’ll see it starts to wobble more. We did the exact same thing with SS Cygni – we measured how far it moved against some very distant galaxies as the Earth moved around the Sun,” Dr James Miller-Jones said.

Full Story: http://www.icrar.org/home/astronomers-team-up-with-the-public-to-solve-decade-old-puzzle
Also: http://www.nrao.edu/pr/2013/sscyg/
Also: http://news.ualberta.ca/newsarticles/2013/may/ualberta-teams-with-citizen-scientists-to-solve-space-mystery