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Archive for November, 2014

Supercomputer For Astronomy “ATERUI” Upgraded To Double Its Speed

November 29, 2014 Leave a comment

The Center for Computational Astrophysics (CfCA) of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan upgraded the supercomputer Cray XC30 system “ATERUI”. By introducing state-of-the-art CPUs, the theoretical peak performance increased from 502 Tflops to 1.058 Pflops, which means that ATERUI made the leap to become a petaflops computer. The new ATERUI will expand the horizons for simulations to understand the Universe and astrophysical phenomena.

Data obtained by observations are snapshots of astronomical phenomena. To understand these data, we need to construct theories based on physics, and conduct experiments based on those theories. However, virtually no astronomical phenomena can be reconstructed in a laboratory due to the spatial and time scales involved. On the other hand, theoretical astronomy tries to understand astronomical phenomena by solving equations. In some cases, it is not easy to solve the equations by hand, so powerful computers assist astronomers.

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Huge Sunspots And Their Magnetic Structure Observed By “Hinode”

November 29, 2014 Leave a comment

Credit: Solar Flare Telescope of the Solar Observatory/NAOJ

Credit: Solar Flare Telescope of the Solar Observatory/NAOJ

In the latter half of October, huge sunspots were observed on the surface of the Sun. These sunspots appeared at the east limb of the Sun on Oct. 16, and moved to the west as the Sun rotated. They rotated out of view after Oct. 30. On Oct. 26, the total area of these sunspots became almost 66 times larger than the Earth’s cross section. This was the largest sunspot area in this solar cycle, and the largest observed in the last 24 years (since Nov. 18, 1990). In the middle of November, these sunspots appeared again at the east limb, as the Sun’s rotation brought them back into view.

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Yale Finds A Low-Density Planet That Won’t Stick To A Schedule

November 3, 2014 Leave a comment

For their latest discovery, Yale astronomers and the Planet Hunter program have found a low-mass, low-density planet with a punctuality problem.

The new planet, called PH3c, is located 2,300 light years from Earth and has an atmosphere loaded with hydrogen and helium. It is described in the Oct. 29 online edition of The Astrophysical Journal.

The elusive orb nearly avoided detection. This is because PH3c has a highly inconsistent orbit time around its sun, due to the gravitational influence of other planets in its system. “On Earth, these effects are very small, only on the scale of one second or so,” said Joseph Schmitt, a Yale graduate student and first author of the paper. “PH3c’s orbital period changed by 10.5 hours in just 10 orbits.”

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UCLA Astronomers Solve Puzzle About Bizarre Object At The Center Of Our Galaxy

November 3, 2014 Leave a comment

For years, astronomers have been puzzled by a bizarre object in the center of the Milky Way that was believed to be a hydrogen gas cloud headed toward our galaxy’s enormous black hole.

Having studied it during its closest approach to the black hole this summer, UCLA astronomers believe that they have solved the riddle of the object widely known as G2.

A team led by Andrea Ghez, professor of physics and astronomy in the UCLA College, determined that G2 is most likely a pair of binary stars that had been orbiting the black hole in tandem and merged together into an extremely large star, cloaked in gas and dust — its movements choreographed by the black hole’s powerful gravitational field. The research is published today in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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