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Archive for October 25, 2013

Watch Live On October 28: The Making Of Dark Universe With Neil Tyson

October 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Tyson, the narrator of Dark Universe, will discuss what goes into the Space Show with astrophysicist Mordecai-Mark Mac Low, who curated the Space Show; Carter Emmart, who oversees astrovisualization at the Museum and served as the Space Show’s director; Vivian Trakinski, who produced Dark Universe; Timothy Ferris, author of Coming of Age in the Milky Way and other acclaimed books, who wrote the Dark Universe script; and composer Robert Miller, whose previous collaborations with the Museum included the score for the Space Show Journey to the Stars.

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A Rare Snapshot Of A Planetary Construction Site

October 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Credit: Á. Kóspál (ESA) and A. Moór (Konkoly Observatory)

Credit: Á. Kóspál (ESA) and A. Moór (Konkoly Observatory)

When a star similar to our Sun is born, it is surrounded by a disk of dust and gas. Within that disk, the star’s planetary system begins to form: The dust grains stick together to build larger, solid, kilometer-sized bodies known as planetesimals. Those either survive in the form of asteroids and comets, or clump together further to form solid planets like our Earth, or the cores of giant gas planets.

Current models of planet formation predict that, as a star reaches the planetesimal stage, the original gas should quickly be depleted. Some of the gas falls into the star, some is caught up by what will later become giant gas planets like Jupiter, and the rest is dispersed into space, driven by the young star’s intense radiation. After 10 million years or so, all the original gas should be gone.

But now a team of astronomers from the Netherlands, Hungary, Germany, and the US has found what appears to be a rare hybrid disk, which contains plenty of original gas, but also dust produced much later in the collision of planetesimals. As such, it qualifies as a link between an early and a late phase of disk evolution: the primordial disk and a later debris phase.

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Last Command Sent To ESA’s Planck Space Telescope

October 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Credit: ESA and the Planck Collaboration - D. Ducros

Credit: ESA and the Planck Collaboration – D. Ducros

ESA’s Planck space telescope has been turned off after nearly 4.5 years soaking up the relic radiation from the Big Bang and studying the evolution of stars and galaxies throughout the Universe’s history.

Project scientist Jan Tauber sent the final command to the Planck satellite this afternoon at 12:10:27 UT, marking the end of operations for ESA’s ‘time machine’.

Launched in 2009, Planck was designed to tease out the faintest relic radiation from the Big Bang – the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). The CMB preserves a picture of the Universe as it was about 380 000 years after the Big Bang, and provides details of the initial conditions that led to the Universe we live in today.

“Planck has provided us with more insight into the evolution of the Universe than any mission has before,” says Alvaro Giménez, ESA’s Director of Science and Robotic Exploration.

“Planck’s picture of the CMB is the most accurate ‘baby photo’ of the Universe yet, but the wealth of data still being scrutinised by our cosmologists will provide us with even more details.”

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