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Archive for August, 2013

Scientists Detect Magmatic Water On Moon’s Surface

August 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Scientists have detected magmatic water — water that originates from deep within the Moon’s interior — on the surface of the Moon. These findings, published in the August 25 issue of Nature Geoscience, represent the first such remote detection of this type of lunar water, and were arrived at using data from NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper.

“For many years, researchers believed that the rocks from the Moon were ‘bone dry’ and that any water detected in the Apollo samples had to be contamination from Earth,” said Klima, a member of the NASA Lunar Science Institute’s (NLSI) Scientific and Exploration Potential of the Lunar Poles team. “About five years ago, new laboratory techniques used to investigate lunar samples revealed that the interior of the Moon is not as dry as we previously thought. Around the same time, data from orbital spacecraft detected water on the lunar surface, which is thought to be a thin layer formed from solar wind hitting the lunar surface.”

Full Story: http://www.jhuapl.edu/newscenter/pressreleases/2013/130826.asp

New Gamma-Ray Observatory Begins Operations At Sierra Negra Volcano In The State Of Puebla, Mexico

August 27, 2013 Leave a comment

The High-Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) Gamma Ray Observatory has begun formal operations at its site in Mexico. HAWC is designed to study the origin of very high-energy cosmic rays and observe the most energetic objects in the known universe. This extraordinary observatory, using a unique detection technique that differs from the classical astronomical design of mirrors, lenses, and antennae, is a significant boost to international scientific and technical knowledge.

“The HAWC observatory will search for signals from dark matter and to study some of the most extreme objects in the universe, such as supermassive black holes and exploding stars,” said Brenda Dingus, principal investigator and a research fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Dingus is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and in 2000 was a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

HAWC will be more than 15 times more sensitive than Milagro was, and it will detect many new sources of high-energy photons. Los Alamos also studies these high-energy phenomena through complex computer simulations to understand the physical mechanisms that accelerate particles to energies millions of times greater than man-made accelerators,” Dingus said.

Full Story: http://www.lanl.gov/newsroom/news-releases/2013/August/08.21-new-gamma-ray-observatory.php

UA Astronomers Take Sharpest Photos Ever Of The Night Sky

August 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Orion nebula's central region. Photo: Adam Block/UA SkyCenter

Orion nebula’s central region. Photo: Adam Block/UA SkyCenter

Astronomers at the University of Arizona, the Arcetri Observatory near Florence, Italy and the Carnegie Observatory have developed a new type of camera that allows scientists to take sharper images of the night sky than ever before. The team has been developing this technology for more than 20 years at observatories in Arizona, most recently at the Large Binocular Telescope, or LBT, and has now deployed the latest version of these cameras in the high desert of Chile at the Magellan 6.5-meter telescope.

“It was very exciting to see this new camera make the night sky look sharper than has ever before been possible,” said UA astronomy professor Laird Close, the project’s principal scientist. “We can, for the first time, make long-exposure images that resolve objects just 0.02 arcseconds across – the equivalent of a dime viewed from more than a hundred miles away. At that resolution, you could see a baseball diamond on the moon.”

Full Story: http://uanews.org/story/ua-astronomers-take-sharpest-photos-ever-of-the-night-sky

A Fluffy Disk Around A Baby Star

August 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Artist’s rendition. Credit: NAOJ

Artist’s rendition. Credit: NAOJ

An international team of astronomers that are members of the Strategic Exploration of Exoplanets and Disks with Subaru Telescope (SEEDS) Project has used Subaru Telescope’s High Contrast Instrument for the Subaru Next Generation Adaptive Optics (HiCIAO) to observe a disk around the young star RY Tau (Tauri). The team’s analysis of the disk shows that a “fluffy” layer above it is responsible for the scattered light observed in the infrared image. Detailed comparisons with computer simulations of scattered light from the disk reveal that this layer appears to be a remnant of material from an earlier phase of stellar and disk development, when dust and gas were falling onto the disk.

Since 2009, the five-year SEEDS Project (Note) has focused on direct imaging of exoplanets, i.e., planets orbiting stars outside of our Solar System, and disks around a targeted total of 500 stars. Planet formation, an exciting and active area for astronomical research, has long fascinated many scientists. Disks of dust and gas that rotate around young stars are of particular interest, because astronomers think that these are the sites where planets form–in these so-called “protoplanetary disks.”

Full Story: http://www.naoj.org/Pressrelease/2013/08/22/index.html

New Theory Points To ‘Zombie Vortices’ As Key Step In Star Formation

August 21, 2013 Leave a comment

Artist conception. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech

Artist conception. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech

A new theory by fluid dynamics experts at the University of California, Berkeley, shows how “zombie vortices” help lead to the birth of a new star.

Reporting today (Tuesday, Aug. 20) in the journal Physical Review Letters, a team led by computational physicist Philip Marcus shows how variations in gas density lead to instability, which then generates the whirlpool-like vortices needed for stars to form.

Astronomers accept that in the first steps of a new star’s birth, dense clouds of gas collapse into clumps that, with the aid of angular momentum, spin into one or more Frisbee-like disks where a protostar starts to form. But for the protostar to grow bigger, the spinning disk needs to lose some of its angular momentum so that the gas can slow down and spiral inward onto the protostar. Once the protostar gains enough mass, it can kick off nuclear fusion.

Full Story: http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2013/08/20/zombie-vortices-key-step-in-star-formation/

Rosetta-Comet Will Wake Up Early

August 21, 2013 1 comment

Two months after ESA’s space probe Rosetta starts its approach towards Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the comet will show activity. This is earlier than expected.

On its way towards the Sun comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, next year’s destination of ESA’s spacecraft Rosetta, will start emitting gas and dust earlier than previously expected. The comet’s activity should be measurable from Earth by March 2014. This is one of the results of a new study performed by a group of researchers under the lead of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany. The scientists analyzed numerous images from the comet’s past three orbits around the Sun, obtained with ground based telescopes. For the first time, they were able to reconstruct the comet’s activity in all phases of its orbit.

A comet spends the main part of its existence far from the Sun as an unchanged lump of ice and rock. When it approaches the Sun, however, a metamorphosis takes place: highly volatile substances vaporize from the nucleus carrying fountains of dust particles with them. These accumulate to form the comet’s atmosphere, the coma, and are the origin of its tail, a comet’s most characteristic feature. However, the principles governing these processes are still only poorly understood. What instances spark the ejection of gas and dust? How does this activity evolve? And which processes on the surface and within the comet’s nucleus are decisive?

Next year, ESA’s spacecraft Rosetta will try to answer these questions.

Full Story: http://www.mps.mpg.de/en/aktuelles/pressenotizen/pressenotiz_20130820.html

Naked-Eye Nova In Delphinus

August 21, 2013 1 comment

Last Wednesday a white-dwarf star erupted in the constellation Delphinus, producing the brightest nova since 2007. Currently shining at magnitude 4.9, the nova is visible to the naked eye from dark locations far from city lights, and might remain so for weeks to come.

“The nova is easy to locate north of the lovely star pattern of Delphinus. And the constellation Sagitta, the Arrow, points right toward it,” says Tony Flanders, associate editor of Sky & Telescope and host of S&T’s PBS TV show SkyWeek.

“A second advantage is the nova’s location. It’s easily visible in the eastern sky in the early evening, so it can be followed for many hours. This means that amateur skygazers and professional scientists alike can continue monitoring it for months to come,” adds Arne Henden, director of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). “The nova can be seen with binoculars even from light-polluted metropolitan areas. Hundreds of observers, many for the first time, have submitted brightness estimates of the nova to the AAVSO.”

Full Story: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/about/pressreleases/Naked-eye-Nova-in-Delphinus-220235341.html